Labrador Retriever

  • Everyone knows this breed. That’s why they’ve been ranked the most popular dog in the U.S. for 28 years in a row, by the American Kennel Club! Now that’s staying power.
  • Time for a geography lesson. Newfoundland and Labrador is a province of Canada, made up of the island of Newfoundland and the mainland Labrador. Ironically, the Labrador Retriever is a descendant of the working water dogs from Newfoundland and not Labrador.
  • Labs are used to create the designer breed Goldadors (also called Glabs), a cross between two similar breeds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers.
  • They’re eco-friendly! A Lab holds the Guinness World Record for the most plastic bottles recycled by a dog. Tubby, a Labrador living in the U.K., helped recycle an estimated 26,000 bottles by picking them up on his walks, crushing and giving them to his owner.

Breed Summary



10 to 12 years




Males: 65 - 80 pounds

Females: 55 - 70 pounds

Energy level

Energy level


Breed Group

Breed Group



Labrador Retriever details



What does a Labrador Retriever look like?

Labrador Retrievers are known for their big blocky heads. They also have “otter” tails that act as a rudder and, believe it or not, webbing between their toes, making them excellent swimmers.

Labs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. But there are technically two “styles” of Labrador Retriever: English show Labs and American field Labs. American field Labs are bred to be more energetic and agile, with longer limbs and a narrower head. On the other hand, English show Labs have a stockier build, with blocky heads, shorter legs, and a broader chest. Both are the same breed, but due to geographical breeding for certain qualities, there tend to be more field Labs in America and more show Labs in the United Kingdom. And don’t let the labels fool you — both styles can be sporting or show dogs.

Unique personality

We all know at least one goofy Labrador. It’s one of their most lovable characteristics. As a breed, they’re just plain happy. They live life to the fullest as loyal, friendly dogs, eager to please. They also have big brains and love to use them. These qualities, combined with a tremendous willingness to work, make them great support animals. You’ll see Labs doing search and rescue, working as guide dogs for the blind, and a host of other amazing support roles.

Similar breeds to the Labrador Retriever

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Golden Retriever

History of the Labrador Retriever

Labs have a long and interesting history. They are descendants of the St. John’s dog, traced back to the early settlers of the island of Newfoundland in the 1500s. They remained in Canada until the early 1800s when the Earl of Malmesbury reportedly saw them working in the water, retrieving fish tossed from boats. He snatched up a few and brought them back to England; sure they’d make perfect sporting companions and waterfowl retrievers. Over the years, they were crossbred with a variety of breeds, threatening to dilute the original breed lines permanently.

But how did we get from the St. John’s dog to the lovable Labs we have today? It’s all thanks to the Duke of Beccleuch’s breeding kennel in Scotland. The Earl of Malmesbury sent the Duke some of his St. John’s dogs in 1885. Duke Beccleuch tried to keep the bloodlines pure, even importing a few of the last Canadian purebreds in the 1930s for his breeding program. Sadly, the St. John’s dog was extinct by the 1980s, when the last known purebred pair passed away.

North American history of the Labrador Retriever

The good news is, we have an amazing dog in the modern-day Labrador Retriever, recognized as an official breed by the Kennel Club in England in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917.

In 1991 the Labrador Retriever was the most popular dog breed in the United States, based on AKC registrations, and has held the top spot since!

Labrador Retriever behavior and training

Labrador Retrievers were originally bred as waterfowl retrievers but have found their place in a variety of roles. They make wonderful family pets, can keep up with an active family, and love being a part of an adventure. Often described as goofy and ready-for-anything, they make a great teammate and companion for running, hiking, a day at the lake. They thrive in an environment with regular, dedicated training.

Do Labradors play well with others?

While Labs are known as a very social breed, proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills.

Labs do well with children and can enjoy the companionship of other animals in the home as long as they’ve been properly introduced and socialized from puppyhood. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

Trainer tip

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet, so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

Exercise requirements

Labs are an energetic breed needing lots of daily exercise. If left to their own devices, they will follow their noses, happy to eat anything they find (including your couch!).

Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate exercise for a Lab puppy. Until they are full-grown (bone growth plates typically all close by around 1 year of age), avoid strenuous or repetitive activities like jogging or running — as this can increase their risk of damage to the growing bone and cartilage, causing pain and future joint issues.

Veterinarian tip

While a tired dog might be a good dog, puppy exercise shouldn’t be forced or “pushed” in any way. Follow your puppy’s lead in the amount of activity they are able to do. If they stop and sit down, it’s time for some rest and recovery. In some cases, they might try to “keep up” with an adult dog, so make sure not to let them push too far and over-exercise themselves.

Mental enrichment needs

Mental enrichment is essential to keep this intelligent breed entertained and their brains sharp. Puzzle bowls and interactive toys are a great way to keep them engaged and slow down their eating, as Labs can be quite voracious kibble vacuums at mealtime! (This may also help prevent bloat or GDV, a dangerous health emergency.)

Working a Lab’s nose is a great way to provide mental enrichment. Consider taking long, sniff-focused walks in different environments or enrolling in nosework or tracking classes.

Common behavioral issues

Labs are an exuberant breed and love new faces. As a result, they sometimes need training around greeting people and animals politely. Work with a positive reinforcement trainer to teach them to stand or sit patiently when saying hi to new people.

As mentioned previously, Labs are also known to eat any and everything. Teaching a solid Leave It or Drop It helps keep them safe and prevent them from inhaling food or other items that might be unsafe or cause gastrointestinal issues, such as foreign body obstruction. They really will eat the craziest things — in 2014, a Lab named Lucy in Illinois ate a pocketknife whole!

Fun activities for the Labrador Retriever

Beyond basic training and socialization, Labrador Retrievers excel in a variety of dog sports and activities, including:

  • Dock Diving
  • Hunting
  • Trail Hiking
  • Therapy Work
  • Agility
  • Rally Obedience

Grooming and care

Yellow Labrador Retriever standing outside with tongue out.


Labs have a double-coat with a water-repellent undercoat and smooth topcoat — and boy, do they shed!

The official breed standard includes three different colors of Lab: yellow, black, and chocolate. You might even see all three colors in one litter of puppies! Yellow labs go a step further, with variations from a pale cream to a darker “red fox” color. There’s even what’s called a “silver” Lab, but this is not an official or recognized color of the breed – occurring due to a genetic mutation of chocolate Labs.

While you may have heard the Labrador Retriever’s colors coincide with different temperaments or personalities, science has yet to prove this. However, they have found links between certain health issues and life expectancy based on color within the breed.

Labrador Retrievers need a minimum of weekly brushing and occasional baths. While they shed year-round, there is an uptick in shedding twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, as their coat changes for either summer or winter weather. Introduce your Lab puppy to the grooming experience from a young age to create a positive association that will make future grooming easy.

Best brush for Labrador Retrievers: Slicker brush, undercoat rake, Pin brush

Labrador Retriever health risks

As with all dog breeds, Labs are prone to some health conditions more than others. The good news is that the Labrador Retriever is considered a health dog breed overall. The Lab's gene pool has become quite expansive over the years, which means a diverse array of genes that can help protect the dogs from being overly susceptible to genetic disorders and certain illnesses. 

Commonly seen health conditions in Labrador Retrievers include the following:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Luxating patella
  • Canine cataracts
  • Ear infections

Labs in pop culture

Famous owners of the Labrador Retriever

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer Player)
  • Sarah McLachlan (Musician)
  • Steve Martin (Actor)
  • Prince Charles
  • Donna Karan (Fashion Designer)
  • Miranda Lambert (Musician)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (Actor, Former Governor)
  • Bill Clinton (Former President)
  • Kevin Costner (Actor)

Famous Labrador Retrievers

Jake was a courageous rescue dog famous for his search and rescue work at the World Trade Center during the 9-11 attacks. He later continued his heroic efforts as a rescue dog during Hurricane Katrina.

Labrador Retrievers in books, movies and TV

Marley, from Marley & Me

Vincent on Lost


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