The Labrador Retriever

descriptive textDog breed info
Labrador Retriever
Weight: 55 — 75 lbs
Height: 21” — 25”
AKC Rank 2008 #1
Life Span: 10—12 yrs
Group Sporting
Origin Canada

Dog Breed Info - Labrador Retriever

A Yellow Lab resting in a corn field
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Breed Overview

The Labrador, medium sized, not only retrieves game, but fish and pulls small fishing boats through icy water and helps the fishermen with any task involving swimming.

The breed continued to grow in popularity in America. It reached #1 in 1991. The AKC registered the Lab in 1917. Labs are strong, energetic, water-loving, hunting dogs with high energy that will bring anything back that you might throw for them. They are the #1 family dog in America and have been so since the 1990’s. Today, Labs come in black, chocolate and yellow.

Labs are excellent swimmers. They have webbed toes to help move the water and a water-resistant coat so they just slid through the water.


Highly intelligent, EASY to train, eager to please, loves his dog training sessions, a joy to work with. Use clicker training and positive reinforcement for excellent results with this dog.

Labrador Retrievers are trained as guide dogs for the blind and as therapy dogs in nursing homes. Due to the dog’s intelligence, it is very versatile as well as popular as a pet.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Labrador Retriever puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

Labrador Retriever puppies are fairly easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


A Chocolate Lab giving the "HIGH FIVE."
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This is a fun loving, high spirited, mostly non-aggressive dog and does well if he is given plenty of exercise every day.

If you happen to get a Lab with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Generally gets on with other dogs. Not many enemies.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Yes. Family pets are part of HIS family too.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Yes. Loves people and will get along with all your guests and friends.

12 year old Yellow Labrador
Retriever with a happy face.

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Yes! This dog LOVES to play, and play hard! His energy level is high and he’s a fun loving guy.


Yes! Labrador Retrievers are very affectionate and need people-affection. They return the same. This is a serious family dog.

Good with children

Yes, but—Be careful. The Labrador Retriever is a quick, powerful dog. If the kids are 6 years or older, OK. Under 6, you could be looking for trouble. Labs are active and frisky with long legs. Most are gentle and mean well, but they can easily knock a 2 year old over on his skull and crack it open by accident. Close supervision necessary for young children.

Good with Seniors over 65?

NO. Labs have too much energy, need too much exercise and are too heavy for some seniors to manage.

A Labrador Retriever puppy
trots down a long boardwalk alone.

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Living environment

Needs space to work off energy. House with a medium to large fenced yard is ideal. Farm or ranch is even better.

The Lab needs enough room to chase a ball or Frisbee and play a brisk game of fetch without fear of running off.

Energy level


Exercise needs, daily

Moderate to high. Romp in back yard with a ball or Frisbee, chase sticks into the ocean, take long walks or hike, swim in the lake. That’s a Labrador Retriever! He MUST have exercise.


Yes, fairly good. A lab is curious and will investigate strangers.

Guard dog

Fair. Not the best, but can appear protective toward family members. Labs are a bit too friendly to kill an intruder.

A Labrador puppy and his best friend!
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Yes, some.


None. Brush him twice a week—he’ll love the attention!



Suggested Reading For The Labrador Retriever

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference book for every dog owner and I keep a copy handy. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.

The famous "Black Lab"
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Oct 09 Please visit our recently added Dog Book and DVD Store.


Labrador Retriever Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Labrador Retriever puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training. Check your local dog pounds and other kennels as Labs often turn up there.
Labrador Retriever Breeders with puppies for sale.

Labrador Retriever Rescue Groups

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of a Labrador Retriever and are looking for a rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue -- Nationwide
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site that may give you some ideas.

Dog Health Issues For The Labrador Retriever
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Labrador Retriever by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical problems this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back legs act lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, it's all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts when the Labrador Retriever is a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Elbow Dysplasia—This, as with hip dysplasia, is something the Labrador Retriever was probably born with. Wear and time in the front legs (elbow joints) cause lameness by the time the Labrador Retriever is roughly a year old. If you have a dog prone to this disease, have an early x-ray to see if surgery to the joints will stave off further damage to the joints. Typically, there has been no cure, but recently doctors have come up with some ideas. 1) Keep the weight of your dog down. 2) Use anti-inflammatory medication. 3) Look into injections of stem-cells to help regenerate bone-covering cartilage to cause the bones to line up properly again. (This is new research and some vets may not know about it so ask around.)

  • Lick granuloma - (Acral)_A skin condition caused by the dog licking excessively on the same spot. Cause not certain, but possibly separation anxiety, boredom, allergy, and so on. The lesion is licked almost to the bone and can not heal. Anti-anxiety drugs have been tried. A cast over the lesion does not work because the dog starts a NEW location. Vets are now trying laser surgery for healing. Talk to you vet to learn if any new ideas have come up regarding stopping the licking itselfThe Labrador Retriever is prone to this so keep er busy and occupied.

  • Osteocondrosis dissecans—A painful joint problem. Weakened cartilage becomes elevated because of joint fluids between it and surrounding bone, eventually causing degenerative joint disease and lameness Sometimes these “flaps” of loose cartilage break loose and float around causing even more pain around the joint “capsule.” Movement is compromised.

  • Obesity - Don't overfeed. Keep you eye on the food bowl and amount of treats.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. If your Labrador Retriever has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

  • Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament - The tearing of the cruciate ligament and NO weight can be applied to the affected leg with the torn ligament. Even sitting can be a painful problem This will cause lameness that may be severe. Knee surgery with total restriction of activity is the only answer.

  • Osteochondritis dissecans—A common type of elbow dysplasia except it can occur in any joint including the shoulder of the Labrador Retriever. Flaps of cartilage run against tissue causing irritation, pain, lameness and in time, joint degeneration disease. Pieces can break loose and float around limiting movement, or getting lodged or wedged inside the joint itself. Look for lameness, pain and swelling in joints. Treatments include Non-steroid anti-inflammatory meds, weight loss, confinement to rest the joints, and dietary supplements for joint health. Surgery is the last option for very severe cases.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision, similar to humans and can lead to blindness if not corrected.

  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia—Hereditary. Malformation of the tricuspid valve in the heart allowing a backflow of blood, or “tricuspid regurgitation. Narrowing of the valve is also possible. The heart is working inefficiently. The dog may have cold limbs, no tolerance for exercise and a distended abdomen as the liver enlarges and may collapse. In severe cases, the dog may develop right-sided heart failure. Mainly a problem for the breeder of Labrador Retrievers.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Retinal dysplasia—Caused by trauma, hereditary or damage from an infection. Abnormal development of the retina with folds in the outer layers. The folds are small and may not bother the dog, however, larger obstructions can lead to blindness. Retinal dysplasia is a congenital problem that does not necessarily worsen with age.

  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy—Orthopedic bone disease in large dogs, 2 to 6 months old such as Labrador Retrievers. Very painful and possibly caused by poor nutrition. There will be pain and swelling in the affected legs. Look for lameness or a desire not to move at all, and loss of appetite plus a high fever may also occur. Medication, bed rest and a special diet are usually given. The disease can be fatal.

  • Hemangiosarcoma—An incurable tumor in the blood vessels. It is a highly malignant and aggressive cancer that lines the blood vessels. In the early stages, this cancer shows no signs is painless and develops slowly. A lot of dogs die from internal bleeding before there is even a diagnosis. This is one deadly, stealthy disease.

  • Interdigital dermatitis - An infection occurs between the "toes" of the Labrador Retriever's web feet and sacs fill with pus which bothers the dog. She licks and bites at the bothersome infections and after a few days, they break open and drain, giving relief to the dog. Al;l you will see is the dog limping around. Clean and cleanse the infected feet well, see a vet for medication to prevent returning infections and that should do it.

  • Epilepsy - A serious seizure disorder that shows up at around 2 to 4 or 5 years of age in the dog.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Perianal fistulas—Abnormal openings around the dog's anal area. These openings quickly get badly infected and are painful. The dog may “scoot” on his rear end and a foul odor may be omitted. This is a SERIOUS disease. Early detection and treatment is vital.

  • Lymphosarcoma—Cancer of the lymph glands which amounts to “cancer everywhere in the body.” Middle age and older dogs are the likely candidates. No appetite, weight loss, no energy and increased thirst and urination are signs of the disease. When a lymph node become cancerous, you can begin to feel the hardness of the node at the angle of the jaws and in front of the shoulder blades, for example because the nodes become enlarged. There are many other nodes you can’t feel. With chemotherapy, the dog may have a year to live. Without chemotherapy, she has up to 6 weeks to live. About 45% of all dogs in the USA will die of cancer by age 10 and only a third will die of old age. (Current statistics) Common to the Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and Rottweiler.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision and if not treated leads to blindness.

  • Glaucoma - Painful pressure builds in the eyes and leads to blindness.

  • Diabetes—The pancreas manufactures the hormone INSULIN. If the pancreas stops making, or makes less than the normal amount of insulin, or if the tissues in the body become resistant to the insulin, the result is called “diabetes.” The dog can NOT control her blood sugar without injections of insulin on a regular basis, but given the insulin, the dog can live a normal life like a human can. If the Labrador Retriever does not receive the insulin injections at the same time each day of her life, the dog will go into a coma and she will die. Some causes of diabetes may be chronic pancreatitis, heredity, obesity or old age, but no one is sure. Symptoms are excess drinking and urination, dehydration, weight loss, increased appetite, weight gain, and cataracts may develop suddenly. Treatment is in the form of the insulin injections daily and a strict diet low in carbohydrates and sugars. Home cooking may be suggested in some cases. Frequent trips to the vet for blood monitoring will be needed but diabetes is not a death sentence.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief overview of the problem.
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Cushing’s disease—(Hyperadrenocorticism) Too much glucocorticoid is produced by the adrenal or pituitary glands at which time symptoms occur such as hair loss, increased drinking and urination, increased appetite and enlarged abdomen. The disease progresses slowly and the dog can be sick 1 to 6 years without anyone noticing any symptoms. Some dogs may have just one symptom, usually hair loss and owners often contribute the dog's condition to “old age.”. This is not a young dog’s illness. There are several treatments available including surgery which might save the dog’s life depending on the existence of cancerous tumors.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Atopic dermatitis's—Atopy. Hereditary. Shows at 1 to 3 years age. Skin allergy triggered by dust mites, pollen, poor quality foods and other garbage we put into the dog’s environment. Many breeds are prone to this. The dog will lick, rub, chew and scratch the infected areas. Allergens can also come from fleas, bacteria and yeast infections. See your vet. There are many treatments ranging from medicines, antihistamines, diets, bathing, cleansing the house of dust mites and so on.

  • Distichiasis—Eye problem - An eye condition involving the cornea. Eyelashes, growing improperly on the inner surface of the eyelid cause corneal ulcers due to the constant rubbing and irritation. The problem is fixed by having the vet remove the lashes if the ulcers don’t heal.

  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia—Inherited heart problem found in larger dog breeds. Malformation of the right atrioventricular valve causes backflow of blood into the right atrium, or tricuspid regurgitation. The heart works harder and inefficiently.

  • Mast Cell Tumors—Mast cells are found throughout the body and help maintain the Labrador Retriever's normal immune response, health and body functions. The tumors in question are CANCEROUS and spread through the body. There is no known cause for mast cell cancer and no cure, other than surgery for early-detected, low degree tumors that haven't spread too far. The best formula is to keep the dog as healthy as possible and be aware of any signs of tumors or poor health. Whether the dog survives or not depends on how advanced and fast moving the malignant tumor is.

  • Laryngeal paresis— A paralysis of the larynx. Found in middle aged and older, larger dogs like Labrador Retrievers, St. Bernard's, and other retrievers. It’s a malfunction or weakness of the muscles of the larynx or the controlling nerves. The larynx does not function properly causing difficulty breathing. This can also be caused by an injury to the larynx, illness and other factors. If you notice a change in voice, trouble breathing, coughing, gagging, fainting or any other odd symptom, get to the vet right away.

Other health problems could occur with your Labrador Retriever. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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