The Labrador Retriever, best known as simply the Labrador or Lab, is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. And with good reason: their gentle nature, devotion, and intelligence make these doggies very popular for both their pleasant company and their capacity for hard work. Often used as guide dogs and police dogs, Labs have a foolproof sense of smell that is great for detecting drugs or explosives.
A Brief History
Originally from the Canadian province of Labrador, this dog is said to be a descendant of St John's water dog. Used by Newfoundland fishermen to fetch their nets and search for escaped fish (hence the name "retriever"), these dogs quickly became popular in England due to their ability to hunt. The breed was named by one of the early patrons of the breed, the Earl of Malmesbury. Breeding began in 1880 and the breed was officially recognised by The Kennel Club in 1903.
Labrador Retriever Physical Characteristics
Close in size to its cousins the Golden Retriever and the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Labrador is a medium to large-sized dog. There is a slight difference in size between males and females. An adult dog measures between 56 and 63cm at the withers and weighs between 29 and 36kg. The bitch measures between 54 and 60cm at the withers and weighs between 25 and 32kg.
The Kennel Club classifies Labrador Retrievers in The Gundog Group, which consists of dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded.
Body: The Labrador’s body is well built with a level topline. The chest is wide and deep, with well-sprung barreled ribs. The loins are wide, short-coupled, and strong.
Head: The Labrador has a large head with pronounced eyebrows. The skull is broad with a well-marked stop. The muzzle is medium-length and not too slender, with a powerful jaw that hangs slightly.
Ears: The ears hang close to the head, set quite far back. They are neither large nor particularly heavy.
Eyes: The eyes are almond-shaped, medium, and brown or hazel in colour.
Tail: The tail is thick, medium length, and gradually tapered towards the tip.
Coat: The coat is short and dense, but not stiff. Being slightly dry and oily, it has the advantage of being waterproof.
Colour: The Kennel Club breed standard only accepts three colours for the Labrador’s coat: black, yellow, and chocolate. The coat should be whole-coloured.
The Labrador Retriever is the very definition of the perfect dog! Labs are known for their exceptionally gentle, docile, and loyal temperament. They are very affectionate and playful, which makes them excellent companion dogs and great playmates for children. The Labrador is also known to be very intelligent and determined, without ever being stubborn. This dog breed is also known for its use as a working dog in roles such as guide dog, search and rescue dog, detection dog, or police dog.
Do Labradors Get Along Well with Others?
As very sociable dogs who never show any signs of aggression, Labradors can easily coexist with other animals, including cats or other male dogs, without trying to dominate them. They are also loving playmates for children, and they never get tired of games! But remember, the Labrador is still a hunting dog, with a strong predatory instinct. As such, it's important to socialise your pooch from an early age. The Labrador is not suspicious of strangers and therefore not intended for use as a guard dog.
Is a Labrador Retriever the Right Dog for Me?
This is the perfect dog for all types of owners. Labradors can be just as happy in a family with children as in the company of an elderly person or an athletic owner who lives in the city. Their only requirement is that you give them a lot of love and attention; Labs don't tolerate loneliness very well, and may even adopt destructive behaviours if they feel bored or anxious.
Labrador Retriever Health Problems
The Labrador enjoys fairly robust health and an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years. However, this dog breed is prone to some health problems, the most notable of which is canine obesity. Labs are also affected by health problems common to large dogs, such as hip and elbow dysplasia and stomach twisting. They are not immune to eye problems either, for example, progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts. Lastly, the Labrador is one of the dog breeds affected by epilepsy.
Ideal Living Conditions for a Labrador
More cut out for life in the great outdoors, the ideal living conditions for this large breed dog are a big house in the countryside. Nonetheless, the Labrador is an adaptable dog who can live quite happily in an apartment so long as you take good care of it. Set aside enough time each day to take your pooch for a long walk and play some fun games together. Labs are not particularly known for barking, which is good news for urbanites. However, like all dogs, if your Labrador feels neglected, they may develop problematic behaviours such as compulsive barking and chewing the furniture. This situation can quite arise even if you live in a large house with a garden, though. Labradors don’t handle being alone very well; they need human interaction to feel happy and fulfilled.
The Labrador dog breed is renowned for being one of the easiest dog breeds to train. And not for nothing! Indeed, the Labrador is very receptive to dog training, which must always be done without violence of any kind. Adopt a positive approach based on rewards, not punishment. The Labrador is an intelligent and docile dog, who likes to please. Make the most of this quality! The ease of training a Labrador makes it well-suited for a first-time owner.
Diet: What to Feed Your Labrador Retriever
What you feed your Labrador Retriever plays a vital role in their health. As such, your Labrador’s dog food must be capable of meeting all their nutritional needs. One of the golden rules of dog food is to avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets, as much as possible. This is because it tends to be very poor in quality and made from a primarily plant protein base. Opt for dog food rich in animal protein - remember that dogs are opportunistic carnivores who need meat to survive!
Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog and be sure to choose a healthy composition, without added preservatives or sweeteners. If you have the time and want to control all the ingredients in your dog's bowl, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet - just be sure to check with your vet first! Keep in mind that your Labrador Retriever's dietary needs are likely to change over time, depending on their age and health condition. Don’t hesitate to use food supplements for dogs, such as quality fish oil or prebiotics and probiotics, upon veterinary advice. Lastly, be careful with the dog treats! Your Labrador is prone to weight gain and obesity.
Labrador Care and Maintenance
Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters
Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food
Monthly budget: minimum £105 per month
Maintaining your Labrador is not particularly time-consuming, nor will it cost you a lot of money. This handsome, short-haired pooch just needs a good brushing once or twice a week outside of shedding periods. During these periods, in spring and autumn, brush your dog daily to get rid of dead hair and debris. Use a brush suited to your Lab’s coat and skin, to avoid hurting them. Give your dog a bath once or twice a year. Again, be sure to use the right products (never use human shampoo on a dog!). Round out your dog grooming with basic care common to all dog breeds: regular vaccine booster shots, deworming and antiparasitic treatments, cleaning the eyes, ears, and teeth, and trimming the nails. If you're worried about grooming your Labrador Retriever yourself, you can always call your vet or take your dog to a professional dog groomer.
The average price for a Labrador Retriever puppy in the UK is between £1000 and £3000. The price of a puppy may vary according to several criteria. For example, breeders can ask for higher prices if the dog is intended for exhibition or reproduction, or if it comes from an exceptional line. Finally, you have to take the laws of supply and demand into account. The Labrador is a popular breed and there are often more potential adopters than available puppies. A breeder, therefore, has more latitude to charge higher prices. Adopting a purebred puppy always requires a significant budget, but try not to be tempted by cheaper prices on the internet. Instead, visit your local animal shelter, where you may find a purebred adult dog in need of a home.
If you want your dog to sleep outside in the garden, you will need to buy them a suitable kennel. The dimensions of your Labrador’s kennel must be perfectly adapted to the size of the dog: neither too big nor too small. Your pooch should be able to stand and turn around without touching the walls. If you’d prefer to have your pup sleep inside your home, be sure to choose a dog bed suited to their size instead. If your Lab has a tendency to chew on the furniture, opt for a plastic dog bed, which is sturdier than leather or fabric. Add some cosy cushions and blankets to create a soft, warm sleeping area.
Games and Physical Activities for Your Labrador
The Labrador Retriever is a very energetic dog. Like all good hunting dogs, Labs need to exercise every day on a long walk or run, during which they can also discover new smells. Your dog will enjoy accompanying you on a jog, bike ride or forest hike, as well. Thanks to their intelligent nature, Labradors can also participate in canine activities such as agility or tracking. Buy enough toys and games for your Labrador to keep them occupied while you’re out at work, so your pooch doesn't get bored. Puzzles are great for these doggies, youtube careful with treat-based toys like the Kong. These should only be given sparingly because the Labrador can very quickly gain weight, which often leads to obesity. Instead, opt for healthy dog treats, like fruit and vegetables. Some of these are excellent for the health of our furry friends!
Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Labrador
In the UK, there is no legal requirement to have pet insurance for your dog. However, as the owner of a Labrador, you would be held responsible for any damage they caused to a third party by an accident, be it material damage or bodily harm. The Labrador is an energetic breed and accidents can and often will happen. This is where pet insurance comes in. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. Additionally, there are four main types of pet insurance available in the UK, which cover your pet in the event of accident or illness: Accident-Only, Time-Limited, Maximum Benefit, and Lifetime insurance.
Although the Labrador is a pretty robust dog breed in general, it is still susceptible to some diseases. Getting your dog insured from an early age guarantees them the necessary care they need at every point throughout their life. Health insurance for your Labrador works the same way as it does for you: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. Veterinary costs are not standardised in the UK, which means they can be very high and vary substantially. Consequently, sometimes the cheapest solution for a sick dog is, unfortunately, euthanasia. So don't wait for your Labrador to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance or you may risk them not being properly taken care of; we always recommend getting your dog insured from an early age.
In any case, before deciding on a contract, take the time to shop around for quotes and assess the terms and conditions that best suit your circumstance. The average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 was £436 per year or just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as your dog's age and breed, may cause prices to vary. Lifetime dog insurance is the most comprehensive and expensive type of cover, which you can expect to cost around £80 per month. However, this type of insurance will certainly give your much greater peace of mind.