Your Purebred Puppy, Honest Advice About Dogs and Dog Breeds

Questions and answers about Labrador Retriever temperament, personality, behavior, physical traits and characteristics, feeding, health care, buying, adoption, puppies and adult dogs.

Labrador Retriever dog breed

Labrador Retriever FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Labrador Retriever Dogs

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014



How big are Labrador Retrievers?

About 21-25 inches at the shoulder, with males usually in the higher half of that range, and females usually in the lower half. Weight can be as low as 55 pounds, but is usually 65-80 pounds.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be for heavier and heavier Labs, with a lot of individuals topping 90 pounds. I say unfortunately because heavier weight isn't good for their joints.




Where does the Labrador Retriever come from, and why was the breed developed?

You'd never guess it from his name, but he actually originated in the Canadian province of Newfoundland as a hunting dog who retrieved shot ducks from the water.




What kind of temperament and personality does the Labrador Retriever have?

To get an idea of what a breed might be like, always look at what he was developed to do (see the question above). Many of the Labrador Retriever's characteristics -- his strong body, his energy level and enthusiasm, his love of swimming and retrieving, his strong desire to carry things around in his mouth -- are hardwired into his genes, because they were needed for a retriever to do his work.

I give you my honest opinions about Labrador Retriever temperament and personality -- positives AND negatives -- in my dog breed review, Labrador Retriever Temperament (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).




What colors do Labrador Retrievers come in? My neighbor says she has a Golden Lab.

Labrador Retrievers come in black, yellow, chocolate, and silver (gray).

Color names like Golden Lab or Fox Red Lab or White Lab are often used, erroneously, to refer to yellow Labs whose shade of yellow happens to be golden or reddish or whitish. But whatever the shade, it should be called, simply, yellow.




I heard that silver isn't an accepted color in Labrador Retrievers.

It depends on what you mean by accepted. The official Labrador Retriever clubs, and breeders who show their dog in the conformation ring, assert that silver is a disqualified color for showing and breeding purposes, and that silver Labrador Retrievers aren't purebred. Their position is that the silver gene probably became part of the breed's gene pool by crossbreeding Labrador Retrievers with Weimaraners.

I think they're probably right, that one or more Weimaraner crosses probably did introduce the gene into the Labrador's gene pool at some point. However, since genetic diversity is such a good thing in living creatures, I don't view cross-breeding as evil (read my article, The Truth About Crossbred Dogs).

So if there are some Weimaraner genes in the silver Labrador's gene pool, that wouldn't bother me. (Though if I wanted a silver who could be counted on to look and act like a Lab, I would avoid breeders who, by the looks of some of the puppies they're producing, are still using Weimaraners in their breeding program.) But in general, as long as a breeder can meet my 15 Family Companion Guidelines (read my article How To Find a Good Dog Breeder, I don't much care whether a particular color is approved by a club or not.

There is no doubt that silver Labrador Retrievers are here to stay. The AKC accepts them for registration, but registers the silver shade as Chocolate and the charcoal shade as Black. This is because they consider silver to be a dilute form of Chocolate and charcoal to be a dilute form of Black. My guess is that eventually the silvers will become more familiar and therefore more accepted by the Labrador Retriever community.




How much grooming do Labrador Retrievers need?

Just occasional brushing to keep dirt and dust out of their dense coat. During shedding season (see the next question), you should brush your Labrador Retriever every day to pull out the worst of the dead hair so less of it ends up on your floor and furniture.




How much do Labrador Retrievers shed?

On the high side of average. They shed some hairs here and there throughout the year, with the bulk of their shedding occurring twice a year, for three weeks in the spring as their winter coat switches over to a cooler summer coat, and three weeks in the fall as their summer coat switches over to a thicker winter coat.




Do Labrador Retrievers have a doggy odor?

Somewhat, but it's not as strong as that of a Golden Retriever!




Are there different builds in Labrador Retrievers? My brother has a hunting Lab, which looks a lot different than the Labs on the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Yes, breeders who show their dogs in the conformation ring produce Labrador Retrievers who look quite different from the Labrador Retrievers produced by breeders who specialize in hunting and field trials. Labs from show lines are stockier and heavier-boned, with a large blocky head and dense coat. Hunting/field lines are lankier, more athletic and agile, and more energetic, with a narrower head, longer muzzle, and sleeker coat.

Even within show lines there are variations, with so-called "English" show lines having the shortest muzzle, shortest legs, and chunkiest build. These dogs don't really look like Labrador Retrievers to me -- I always worry that if they jumped into a rowboat for a day of hunting, it might sink! -- but they tend to be very sweet dogs with mellow temperaments that fit very well into many families.




How long do Labrador Retrievers live, and what health problems do they have?

Typically 10-12 years. Some reach 13-14 years . . . but many others don't even make it to age 10. This is a sobering reality, and you should definitely read my full article, How Long Do Labrador Retrievers Live?




Do crossbred or mixed breed Labs make good pets? What about "Labradoodles"?

They do make good pets, yes, but first you need to know what a purebred dog really is -- and what crossbred and mixed breed dogs really are. You might think you know, but I bet you'll be surprised by my articles: The Truth About Purebred Dogs, The Truth About Crossbred Dogs, and The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs.




Can you help me decide whether the Labrador Retriever is the best breed for me?

Yes, I offer personal consultations on choosing the best breed for your family and lifestyle. Learn more about my Dog Breed Consulting Service.




Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Labrador Retrievers have pros and cons, and female Labrador Retrievers have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs




If I just want a dog for a pet, not for showing or breeding, does it matter whether he has AKC registration papers?

First you need to know what registration papers really mean -- and don't mean. You might THINK you know -- but you might be wrong! Find out the truth about AKC Registered Puppies: Are AKC Papers Important?.




There's an adorable Labrador Retriever puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No. There are no responsible Labrador Retriever breeders who would ever place one of their Labrador Retriever puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.




How do I find a good Labrador Retriever breeder?

It's hard! The sad truth is that the vast majority of people offering Labrador Retriever puppies for sale are unknowledgeable, irresponsible, completely clueless -- or all of the above. Visit Dog Breeders: How To Find a Good Breeder.




How do I pick the best Labrador Retriever puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.




I'm interested in adopting a dog rather than buying from a dog breeder. How do I find Labrador Retriever dogs for adoption?

You can find Labrador Retrievers available for adoption from dog rescue groups or from the animal shelter. Visit Adopting a Dog From Rescue and Adopting a Dog From The Animal Shelter.




I just got a new Labrador Retriever. Which pages should I read first?

  • Labrador Retriever Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Labrador Retriever puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off RIGHT is essential!
  • Training Labrador Retrievers, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Labrador Retriever puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.



What's a good training schedule for training Labrador Retriever puppies? What things should I teach, and when?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Labrador Retrievers: Puppy Training Schedule.




How do I housebreak my Labrador Retriever?

The key to housebreaking your Labrador Retriever is confinement, confinement, confinement. Visit Housebreaking Your Puppy or Adult Dog.




My Labrador Retriever has some behavior problems I'd like to solve.

Respect training solves behavior problems much better than obedience training. Visit Respect Training For Puppies and Adult Dogs.




What's the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers?

Homemade dog food. Visit The Best Dog Food For Your Dog. If you can't feed homemade dog food, there are only a few (very few!) commercial dog food brands I recommend. Visit The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Dog.




I have to take my Labrador Retriever to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically -- but most vets are not telling you the truth about this! Don't let your vet give your Labrador Retriever any more shots until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.




What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Labrador Retriever, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.




My vet doesn't agree with some of the things you've written about health care.

My advice is based on the latest research by veterinary immunologists, and it's the same advice given by most licensed veterinarians who belong to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. If this advice sounds different from what your own veterinarian is telling you, it's a good bet that he or she does not belong to the AHVMA. Visit Think Your Veterinarian's Good? Here's How To Tell.




I have a question about Labrador Retrievers that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books: