The sturdy, well-balanced Labrador Retriever can, depending on the sex, stand from 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds. The dense, hard coat comes in yellow, black, and a luscious chocolate. The head is wide, the eyes glimmer with kindliness, and the thick, tapering “otter tail” seems to be forever signaling the breed’s innate eagerness.
Labs are famously friendly. They are companionable housemates who bond with the whole family, and they socialize well with neighbor dogs and humans alike. But don’t mistake his easygoing personality for low energy: The Lab is an enthusiastic athlete that requires lots of exercise, like swimming and marathon games of fetch, to keep physically and mentally fit.
With the Lab’s physical strength and high energy level, early socialization and puppy training classes are vital. Gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations between the ages of 7 weeks and 4 months and beginning obedience training early on will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult.
Puppy training classes serve as part of the socialization process and help the owner learn to recognize and correct any bad habits that may be developing. Labs are devoted, intelligent, and enthusiastic companions who need to be included in family activities.
Labs are healthy dogs overall, and a responsible breeder screens breeding stock for conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disorders, hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness), and eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy. A condition called exercise induced collapse (EIC) can occur in some young adult Labs; a DNA test allows breeders to identify carriers and plan breeding to avoid producing the disease. Like other large, deep-chested dogs, Labs can develop a life-threatening stomach condition called bloat.
Owners should educate themselves about the symptoms that indicate this is occurring, and what to do if so.
Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:
The Labrador Retriever is an exuberant, very energetic breed that needs lots of exercise every day. A Lab who doesn’t get enough exercise is likely to engage in hyperactive and/or destructive behavior to release pent-up energy. The breed’s favorite activities are retrieving and swimming.
Labs also love to burn up energy on hunting trips or at field trials, as well as by participating in canine sports such as agility, obedience, tracking, and dock diving. Many Labs also work hard in important roles such as search-and-rescue, drug and bomb detection, and as service and assistance dogs.
The Labrador Retriever should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity.
Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.