Labrador Retriever

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Labrador Retriever (black). Photo copyright © MyDogPhoto. All rights reserved.

Labrador Retriever (black). Photo copyright © MyDogPhoto. All rights reserved.

Labrador Retriever (chocolate). Photo copyright © MyDogPhoto. All rights reserved.

Labrador Retriever (chocolate). Photo copyright © MyDogPhoto. All rights reserved.

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed in the United States. Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, the Labrador was trained to jump overboard into icy waters and haul fishermen’s nets to shore. Specimens were brought to England where the Labrador’s fine retrieving instincts were honed and developed. One of the best family dogs and canine companions because of his gentle, loving disposition, the highly trainable Labrador also excels in drug detection, as a guide for the blind, and as a service dog for the disabled. The breed is also an outstanding obedience and field trial competitor.


A solid, muscular dog, slightly longer than tall, with a short, hard, easy-care, water-resistant double coat. Comes in solid black, yellow, or chocolate. The head is broad and the muzzle fairly wide. The medium-sized ears are pendant. The nose should be black on black dogs and yellow dogs, and brown on chocolate dogs. A scissors bite is preferred. The eyes should have a kindly expression. The chest should extend down to the elbows, but not farther. The otter tail is strong, thick near the body then tapering, and completely covered with hair. The webbed feet aid in swimming.

Key Facts

  • Height:  22-1/2 to 24-1/2 in. (male); 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  65 to 80 lbs. (male); 55 to 70 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Very popular
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, police work, narcotics detection, search and rescue, carting, agility, competitive obedience, service, and therapy


The Labrador Retriever is a generally healthy and robust breed. Beware of hip dysplasia, PRA, and eye disorders. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Exercise-induced collapse (ELC) is a recently identified condition in the Labrador Retriever and several other sporting breeds. ELC causes the dog to collapse after only about 5 to 15 minutes of strenuous exercise. A DNA test is now available for this condition. If you plan to use your Lab for field work, be sure the sire and dam have been tested for ELC.
Labs can become destructive if left too much to their own devices. A big eater, the Labrador needs regular exercise and moderate rations to avoid a tendency to become overweight. Train Labradors early not to pull on the leash, as they have very strong necks. Show lines are generally heavier and more easygoing than field lines. Field lines tend to be very energetic. Often the best pets are from combination show/field stock. The Labrador loves to swim. Labrador Retrievers are very popular, leading to the sale of many poorly bred animals. Buy only from a reputable breeder.


Loving, lovable, and very patient. Highly intelligent, eager to please, and high spirited. Lively and good-natured. Loves to play, especially in water. Not aggressive with people or other animals. Field Labs tend to be much more high-strung and active than show Labs. A bit more dominant and independent than the Golden Retriever. Some may be reserved with strangers unless very well-socialized as puppies.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Very easy to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Not generally dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Short coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Labrador Retriever Breed Standard

Labrador Retriever Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever Gifts