The Labrador Retriever is one of the world’s best loved dog breeds, known for their friendly nature and willingness to look after their human companions. Originally from the North Atlantic, these hard working dogs were historically used to help fishermen haul in their nets and their thick, furry coats make them able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Famous Labrador Retrievers include Old Yeller in the eponymous tear jerker, Marley from Marley and Me and Bouncer in Neighbours- not forgetting the cheeky puppies on the well-known loo roll ads!
Because of their easy going nature and high levels of intelligence, Labrador Retrievers often work as guide dogs, with the police or in the military. Many have gone on to receive medals and awards for bravery such as Jake, a US Government rescue dog who famously searched for survivors in the red hot rubble after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre as well as rescuing victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Labrador Retrievers have been pets in the UK and Ireland since the early 1800s, officially recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1903- and their popularity in the UK and Ireland has continued to grow ever since. They were originally known as St John’s dogs or Newfoundland dogs, only receiving the name we now know them by in 1887 following a letter written by the Earl of Malmesbury.
Size and Weight
A fully grown Labrador Retriever weighs in at 25-36 kg and can stand up to 2 feet tall (shoulder height)
Labrador Retrievers love humans and are generally good natured, helpful and affectionate. Because of their friendly nature, they don’t always make the best guard dogs (they’re more likely to ask the burglar for a treat than scare them off) but they are exceptionally obedient and good with children. They’re often used as therapy dogs and are happy to sit with sick or elderly patients for hours, and they’re one of the most devoted dog breeds you’ll find- some say the term “man’s best friend” was invented for Labrador Retrievers because of the love and commitment they show to their humans.
Training and Temperament
Highly intelligent, Labrador Retrievers respond well to training and can learn lots of complicated tasks- that’s why they make great assistance and rescue dogs. They’ve got great memories and are fiercely loyal, and if their owner is in trouble they can be relied upon to do their best to help. Enrolling your puppy in training classes early will enable you to get the most out of your dog as it will help them learn good manners. They can learn simple tricks and often enjoy taking part in doggy obstacle courses.
In terms of Labrador Retriever temperament, they’re usually extremely gentle souls who like nothing better than a cosy bed and a nice cuddle from their owners.
Children and Other Pets
Labrador Retrievers are usually great with kids, and tend to get on ok with other dogs. If raised together they can even make friends with cats- but it goes without saying that any introductions to other pets should be gradual to make things as easy and stress free as possible for all involved. Because they tend to be quite bouncy, you’ll need to take care with very small children or elderly, unsteady visitors as sometimes their over enthusiastic natures can lead them to accidentally knock people over.
Nutrition and Feeding
Because Labrador Retrievers are large dogs they do take quite a lot of feeding, and this is something you’ll need to take into consideration especially if you’re on a tight budget. Just like us humans, every dog is an individual and some get more hungry than others- but as a rule you should expect to feed a dog of this size around 3-4 cups of food a day, split into two mealtimes (one in the morning and one at night). Choose quality foods that have high levels of vitamins and nutrients, and offer a combination of wet and dry food. Labrador Retrievers do have a tendency to become overweight easily, so keep an eye on what they’re eating, give them plenty of exercise and arrange regular check-ups with your vet.
Coat and Grooming
Labrador Retrievers make amazing pets, but one downside is that they do have a tendency to shed hair from their thick, dense coats. If you’re squeamish about dog fur, you may want to consider getting another dog OR investing in a good, strong lint brush to de-fur your clothes and furniture. They require regular grooming and washing to keep their coats in tip-top condition and to avoid that dreaded “doggy smell” that can cling to the air and on your hands.
You’ll need to pay attention to their claws and teeth, taking them for regular dental checks and trimming their nails about once every four weeks. Getting a good dental chew toy is a tasty, appealing way to keep your dog’s teeth in good condition between check-ups.
Because of their high intelligence levels, Labrador Retrievers tend to get bored easily and need plenty of exercise and attention to lessen the risk of them going on a chewing spree. Many owners have been known to come home to chewed up furniture, carpets, leads and clothes so it’s important to be sure you can offer a dog like this everything it needs to avoid boredom. Regular exercise is absolutely essential for Labrador Retrievers, especially given the fact that they’re prone to obesity- so if you can’t give them at least two walks a day and commit to going out in all weathers you may want to think about a less high maintenance pet.
The average life span of a Labrador Retriever is around 10-12 years, although one incredible labrador in the US, Bella, made it to a record breaking 28 years. They can be prone to illness, with blindness, joint problems, seizures, dermatitis and ear infections being common complaints especially in older dogs. Make sure your dog has regular veterinary checks and ask for professional advice if you notice anything unusual. On the whole you can expect a Labrador Retriever to be part of your family for around ten years- that’s a whole decade of love and devotion!