Labrador Retriever

The eternally happy, lovable, high energy Labrador is the ideal family friendly pet and is very easy to train.

Labradors at a Glance

Labrador Retrievers, more commonly known as Labradors or ‘Labs’, love to be with their family. They are high energy dogs that need lots of exercise and training, particularly when they are young. Being one of the most popular breeds Labradors wear many ‘hats’ from working dog to companion animal. As a breed they are fun-loving, even-tempered and ideal for families that consider their dog to be part of every day life.

Labradors are generally a fairly robust dog but they are prone to hip dysplasia and obesity. They tend to have an insatiable appetite for food, life and affection, so they would suit a high energy family who has time to take long walks. Labradors also love to swim and trips to the beach.

Labradors are very responsive to training, which is why they are often used as sniffer dogs and guide or companion dogs. This highly loveable breed is probably not the best guard dog, as they would more likely greet an intruder with a friendly lick and tail wag.

Lifespan 10-12 years
Weight 25-45kg
Height at Shoulder 55-57 cm

Who is a Labrador looking for?

I’m looking for a family who spends lots of time outdoors, whether it’s the park, beach or backyard. I’m smart, so don’t expect me to always amuse myself, I flourish with training and being kept busy. If you love to run, take me with you. If you like dog parks, I do too.

If you have kids, great, I love them too. In fact I pretty much love everything, just don’t let me get bored. If you aren’t home a lot, I’m happy to have a dog buddy to play with during the day.

PERSONALITY

Excitable. Labradors are a fun-loving breed. They love to play and are high energy dogs that rely on getting lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They are often very boisterous dogs if not given limits and love people and other dogs.

Intelligent. These intelligent dogs are very trainable and need at least 2 hours a day of exercise and training when young and continuing on into adult-hood. Without mental stimulation and training they become easily bored and sometimes destructive.

Affectionate. Labradors love absolutely everyone and thrive in a family where they get lots of attention. They love cuddles, brushing and play and need to be with another dog or their family rather than being left alone for long periods.

Playful. Life is just a game to your average Labrador. They love chase, ball-games, playing with other dogs and lots of activity. As they get older they can become a little lazy, but if kept at a healthy weight will often stay playful into middle age.

EXERCISE & TRAINING

Labradors are high energy dogs. They require lots of exercise to keep them mentally stimulated, fit and to ward off their tendency towards obesity. As puppies they need up to 2 hours of training and exercise each day. As adults they are very sociable and are happy with families where they can join in on daily outings.

Labradors abilities as sniffer dogs, guide dogs and assistance dogs attest to their high level of intelligence and ease of training. They are very food motivated and love to play, so to them training is a great game and something they love to do.

Labradors tend to like to swim, due to their origins as waterfowl hunting companion and also love to chase and retrieve. They are sociable with other dogs, so will need regular play-dates at the park and would not be suitable for long periods of solitude. For working families a second dog would be ideal.

Labradors ideally need a large yard for activity but are also happy spending their time inside with the family so long as they get a nice long walk and a big play session every day.

Exercise Requirements High – 1-2 hours per day
Training Requirements High – 1-2 hours per day
Apartment Friendly? Low – Not well suited

GROOMING

Labradors have a coat that is short and thick that is designed to dry quickly. Anyone who has lived with a Labrador knows that with this coast comes a strong propensity to shed.

You can reduce hair-fall with daily brushing and ensuring their diet is rich in proteins and oils to support skin health and promote hair retention. Apart from daily brushing Labradors are considered relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming.

That being said, Labradors do have a tendency to roll in the grass or find a muddy pool when outside, so they can get a little smelly. Baths on a weekly to monthly basis can make them a little easier to live with but make sure you use dog shampoos that are pH balanced to their skin to reduce irritation and prevent dryness.

Coat Type Short
Hair Fall High Shed
Hypoallergenic No
Brushing Daily
Groomer Trips No, easy care at home
Tick Friendly? Yes, Tick Checks are easy
Chocolate Labrador

Labradors come in three colours – yellow, black and chocolate (pictured here)

FAMILY SITUATION

Labradors are ideal family pets. As puppies and adolescents they can be very high energy and boisterous, so while they would not deliberately hurt a child they can easily bowl over a toddler.

Labradors love people and thrive in a busy family. Their fun-loving nature means they are excellent with other animals whether they be cats or other dogs and in some cases with supervision they can live with the smaller exotic pets (rabbits, reptiles and ferrets), so long as interactions are supervised closely.

Labradors also love to play with other dogs, so would suit a multi-dog household or someone who can organise regular play-dates at the park. The one thing Labradors don’t like is being left alone for long periods of time.

Family Friendly High – Good with children of any age
Pet Friendly High – Good with other animals
Sociability High – Loves people and dogs

EXPENSES

Labradors can be a costly pet when food and parasites protection needs are taken into account, as their size means you will spend more than on a smaller dog.

Labradors can also be a little accident prone due to their high-energy, enthusiastic personality. This enthusiasm extends towards sometimes eating unusual things around the home or at the park, with a high risk of gastroenteritis or surgery for foreign bodies.

Labradors propensity towards obesity means they can often get secondary health problems and orthopaedic diseases such as cruciate ligament rupture. Pet insurance and a healthy bank balance are recommended just in case.

Avg. Yearly Expense Medium – $1500-$2000
Avg. Veterinary Expense High – $300-$500+
Weekly Food Expense High – $20-30+

HEALTH & WELLBEING

MAJOR HEALTH CONCERNS

Hip Displaysia. Labradors are prone to hip dysplasia, and while more breeders are hip scoring in an attempt to breed out this devastating disease, in some cases it can still occur, particularly with overfeeding at a young age.

Elbow Dysplasia. This common cause of fore-limb lameness occurs in many large breeds and is caused by several possible defects, including osteochondrosis and an incongruous growth rate between the radius and ulnar of the fore-arm. This disorder is another reason not to overfeed a growing Labrador.

Exercise Induced Collapse. This syndrome causes collapse on exertion in young dogs and can be tested for on a DNA test.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This disease causes progressive blindness and is common in many breeds. There is a DNA test to detect carriers of the faulty gene.

Cruciate Ligament Rupture. A common disease in Labradors who gain weight and love to run, but can occur at a young age secondary to trauma.

PREVENTATIVE CARE & WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Weight Management. Labradors are prone to overeating which can lead to a higher risk of orthopaedic disease (such as a cruciate ligament tear that will set you back $3000-$5000 for surgery) and a shortened life span.

Ear Care. Being a short eared dog Labradors are prone to ear infections which can easily be prevented by regular ear cleaning.

Foraging. Watch your Labrador when out and about at the park, as they are inclined to experiment and eat all kinds of unusual things on their walks.

Hip Management. Ask your vet to check your dog’s hips regularly, particularly when under anaesthesia for desexing and only buy a dog from a breeder who hip scores for hip dysplasia.

BREED ORIGIN AND INTERESTING FACTS

Labradors rather than being from Labrador, originated from Newfoundland. They were originally companions to fishermen in the cold Canadian seas where their short, dense coat was an advantage as it would not attract ice during those freezing winters. When they were brought to the UK they were bred as waterfowl retrievers and were very popular among hunters.

Today Labradors are used by Australian Customs and Border Protection as sniffer dogs and are trained to detect firearms, ammunition, explosives, chemical precursors and narcotics. Labradors are also used by the Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and State police.

It is not only their amazing sense of smell (which can be 10, 000- 100,000 times more sensitive than ours), but their love of a game, intelligence, willingness to please and ability to be constantly motivated by food rewards that makes the Labrador such an ideal working dog.

Labradors are also well known for their role as guide dogs and assistance dogs, where they undergo vigorous training to become companion dogs for blind, mobility impaired or ill humans. Guide Dogs undergo years of training to be able to guide those that are blind or vision impaired.

Labrador Puppy

Training to become a Guide Dog starts from a very early age

Assistance dogs undertake roles where they may help their caregivers pick up dropped items, answer the phone, alert if their owner is in trouble, unload the washing machine and press the pedestrian button at traffic lights. Assistance Dogs Australia also has a program where they work with inmates in corrective services to train dogs in a program called Pups in Prison.

Labradors have semi-webbed feet to help them swim and a great water-resistant, dense coat that helps to keep them warm when swimming.

The genes responsible for coat colour in Labradors mean that black dogs can throw yellow puppies, black puppies or chocolate puppies. If two yellow dogs are mated, they will always have yellow puppies, but if two brown dogs are mated they can have yellow or brown puppies but not black. Often breeders have their dogs genotyped to identify which genes each dog carries, so they can get certain colours. The chocolate colour is the most difficult to get and therefore the rarest of colours.

RESCUE A LABRADOR

  • Labradog Rescue is based in NSW and works to rescue and rehome Labradors to loving ‘furever’ homes
  • Rescue Labrador is a leading forster network with Labradors available for adoption all over Australia
  • Luv-A-Lab is based in Victoria and works to rescue, adopts and fosters Labradors in need
  • Pet Rescue is Australia’s largest pet rescue service and their website regularly has Labradors and cross-breed Labrador adult and puppies available for adoption
  • The RSPCA often has Labradors  for adoption, try doing an advanced search on their adoption page