Getting to Know the Labrador Retriever

Our first entry in our Getting to Know Your Breed Series is the dog breed recognized as the most popular dog breed for the last 26 years in the U.S, Canada and England - the Labrador Retriever.

Life expectancy: Labs are big dogs and their average lifespan is between 11-12.5 years. Adjutant, the oldest known Lab, lived to be 27 years old!

Size: Females generally range from 55-70 lbs and males range from 65-80 lbs. They typically stand between 21-24 inches at the withers.

Color: The standard color for Labrador’s is black, chocolate or yellow (ranging from an almost white to fox red). And it’s possible to get puppies of all three colors in the same litter.

Origins: Labradors were first identified in Newfoundland, Canada and first recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1917. The forbearer of today’s modern Labrador was the St. John’s Dog, a smaller mixed breed combining Portuguese, English and Irish working dogs. They were used by fisherman to pull in fishing nets. Today’s Labrador is utilized as a hunting dog to retrieve ducks and other fowl in the field or in water.

Personality: Labradors are friendly, easy going, fun loving dogs. They are water dogs and love to swim or play in mud puddles. They are great family dogs because of their gentle nature and eagerness to please. They are gentle with children and make excellent running or hiking partners. Because of their intelligence and keen senses, Labs are also widely used as service and search and rescue dogs.


Health Issues: Due to their active and exuberant nature, Labradors can be prone to orthopedic injuries which may lead to torn ligaments or arthritis. In addition, Labradors are prone to hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia, a degeneration of those joints that may require surgery and physical therapy. Labradors also tend to overeat, or eat whatever is put in front of them and they can pack on the pounds. Owners should be careful to keep their Labs at a healthy weight to guard against weight related health issues like diabetes.

Fitness/energy level: Labs are sporting dogs and their energy level is high. Daily exercise of 30-60 minutes is best to keep their energy level and appetite under control. Being a retriever, they love to play fetch, but be aware that a 10-minute game of fetch in the backyard will not put a dent in their energy level. Labs are also very smart, so games that test their mental attention, like nose work or hide and seek also help keep them even keeled.

Native foods for the Labrador Retriever: An example of the Labrador’s native foods would have been moose, salmon and maybe some cloudberries, apples and squash. Many of these foods can be found in commercially available dog foods with possibly a few substitutions, like elk for moose and blueberries for the ‘cloudberries’ although they sound heavenly, don’t they?

Good Foods to Feed a Labrador Retriever: Based on the Labrador’s origin, here are a few foods that contain some of the key ingredients that the original Labs would have likely eaten. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather provide ‘food for thought’.

  • Wild Calling™ Rocky Mountain Medley Duck, Salmon Meal & Lamb Meal Recipe
  • Instinct™ Original Original Real Rabbit
  • Instinct™ Original Original Real Salmon
102_Lounging Lab

Fun Fact About Labrador Retrievers: Not only are Labs the most widely used guide dogs for the blind (70%), the first dog to detect diabetic episodes was a Lab named Armstrong. He was trained in 2003 to smell the chemical changes that happen when hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs in the body.

Watch for the next post in our series: Getting to Know Your German Shepherd.

Wikipedia - Labrador Retriever
American Kennel Club
Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) a centralized canine health database sponsored by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
Canine Inherited Disease Database, University of Prince Edwards Island
Newfoundland & Labrador


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