Close up of chocolate labrador retriever laying on green rug

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Renowned for its friendly demeanor, the labrador retriever is recognized for its intelligence, loyalty, and amiable nature. This breed has secured its place as a cherished companion in countless households. 

Keep reading to learn more about the labrador retriever, key characteristics, care requirements, and the endearing qualities that make this breed an ideal choice for families and individuals alike. 

History & Origin of Labrador Retrievers

Labrador retrievers can trace their roots back to Newfoundland, Canada, where they were initially known as St. John's Dogs or Lesser Newfoundland dogs. In the 19th century, these dogs were bred by fishermen for their exceptional retrieving abilities, making them invaluable for hauling nets and fishing gear from the cold North Atlantic waters. These early labs were then brought to England, where the breed gained prominence and underwent further refinement.1 

In England, the Earl of Malmesbury played a crucial role in refining and establishing the breed. The labrador retriever's friendly temperament, intelligence, and strong work ethic made them ideal for retrieving game during hunts.1 

The Labrador Retriever was voted the United States most popular dog for 30 years

The breed's popularity soared from there, leading to its recognition by The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom in 1905. Eventually, labradors made their way to the United States, where they quickly became one of the most favored breeds, excelling as hunting companions, loyal family pets, and versatile working dogs.1 

Today, these dogs are celebrated worldwide for their amiable nature, intelligence, and adaptability.1 They remained the most popular purebred dog for 30 years before the French Bulldog took over the top spot in 2022.2 

Physical Attributes of Labrador Retrievers

Physical Attributes of Labrador Retrievers

  • Height: 21.5-24.5 inches
  • Weight: 55-80 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years3

Labrador retrievers are medium -to large-sized dogs with distinctive physical attributes that contribute to their versatility and functionality. These dogs have strong, athletic builds with a broad head and a distinctive "otter" tail. Their bodies are well-balanced, conveying strength and agility. 

This breed has a short, dense, water-resistant double coat that helps insulate them in various weather conditions. The coat can come in three standard colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. 

The eyes of the labrador retriever are a distinctive feature. They're round, expressive, and convey warmth. Their eye color usually complements the coat color. 

Labs are also known for their distinctive tails, which are thick at the base and gradually taper toward the tip.3

Remember that labrador and golden retrievers are not the same breed. To compare golden retrievers vs. labrador retrievers, both are known for their friendly demeanor and intelligence. However, golden retrievers are known for their luscious golden coats, compared to the labrador retriever’s shorter coat. Golden retrievers also hail from Scotland rather than Canada. 

Behavioral Characteristics of Labrador Retrievers

The labrador retriever's personality is what makes them stand out. Labrador retrievers are renowned for their friendly personalities, making them one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide.1 While individual temperament can vary, some general behavioral characteristics are associated with the breed. 

For instance, labs are known to be sociable. They usually enjoy interacting with people, including family members, friends, and strangers. They're also commonly described as good family dogs and are often patient and gentle with children.5 However, it's crucial to supervise interactions between any pet and young children to ensure safety for both. 

Labs are also known for being one of the smartest dog breeds. Their eagerness to please and quick learning ability makes them relatively easy to train.4 This trait has led to their success in various roles, including assistance work, search and rescue, and guide dogs.  

Keep in mind that labs are typically energetic and playful, especially labrador retriever puppies.4 Regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential to keep them happy and prevent boredom-related behaviors. 

Luckily, labradors often enjoy the company of other dogs and pets. Their sociable nature can make them a good fit for households with multiple animals. These characteristics combined make them one of the best dogs for first-time pet parents 

The breed also has a strong affinity for water. Their love for swimming and retrieving makes them excellent water dogs. This trait likely stems from their original purpose as waterfowl retrievers.4 

While labs are generally friendly, they can exhibit protective instincts, alerting their owners to potential threats.5 However, their friendly nature often means they're more likely to greet strangers with enthusiasm rather than hostility. 

It's important to note that individual differences exist within any breed. Various factors, including genetics, early socialization, training, and environmental influences, will influence your dog's behavior. 

Labrador Retriever Health Risks

Labrador retrievers are a generally healthy breed, but they can be prone to certain health issues. You should be aware of the potential health risks and work with your veterinarian to ensure your lab leads a healthy life. Some common health concerns for labrador retrievers include: 

  • Hip dysplasia: Like many large breeds, labrador retrievers can be susceptible to hip dysplasia, a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn't properly develop. This can lead to arthritis and lameness, but it is manageable. 
  • Elbow dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia is a similar developmental problem affecting the elbows. It can cause pain and lameness. 
  • Dermatitis: Labs have dense double coats, which can make them prone to dermatitis. Environmental factors, allergies, or underlying skin conditions can contribute to dermatitis. 
  • Ear infections: Labradors' floppy ears can be prone to ear infections, especially if not kept clean and dry. Regular ear cleanings can help prevent infections. 
  • Exercise-induced collapse (EIC): Some labrador retrievers may carry a genetic mutation leading to EIC. This condition is characterized by muscle control and coordination loss after intense exercise. While affected dogs can live normal lives with appropriate management, avoiding excessive exercise is crucial. 
  • Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that can affect labrador retrievers. It often develops in the blood vessels and can be difficult to detect early. 
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM): DCM is a heart condition that can affect labs. Regular vet exams, a healthy diet, and awareness of symptoms like lethargy and coughing can help manage cardiac health.6 

Caring For a Labrador Retriever

Caring for a labrador retriever is similar to caring for any other high-energy breed. Diet, exercise, and grooming are essential. 

Feed your dog a balanced and high-quality dog food appropriate for their age, size, and activity level. You should monitor their weight and adjust portions accordingly to prevent weight gain. 

Your lab also needs lots of exercise. They're an energetic breed, so aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical daily activity, including walks, playtime, and activities like fetching.  

For grooming, brush their coat regularly to minimize shedding and keep it clean. Labs have a dense coat that benefits from regular grooming. Since they're prone to ear infections, you should also check and clean their ears regularly to prevent infections, especially if they love water activities. Don't forget to trim their nails as needed, which is typically every few weeks for most dogs. 

Labs are highly intelligent and trainable. Begin obedience training early with labrador retriever puppies, focusing on basic dog commands like sit, stay, and recall. Socialize your lab with various environments, people, and other animals from a young age to prevent behavioral issues. 

Schedule regular veterinary visits for vaccinations, preventive care, and health assessments. Preventing health issues is much more affordable and easier than treating them. Discuss preventive measures with your vet for common labrador retriever health issues like hip and elbow dysplasia to reduce the costs of pet ownership and prevent your dog from experiencing any discomfort or distress. 


What are the pros and cons of owning a labrador?

Labs are popular pets known for their friendly nature. However, it's essential to consider individual differences. Pros may include their affectionate temperament and intelligence. Cons might involve their high energy levels. Each lab is unique, so understanding your dog's specific needs and characteristics is crucial for providing them with the best possible care. 

Are labrador retrievers good family dogs?

Labrador retrievers are often considered excellent family dogs due to their friendly and outgoing nature. They typically get along well with children and are known for being gentle and patient. 

However, individual personalities can vary, so it's essential to assess each dog's specific temperament and behavior. Proper training, socialization, and supervision are key factors to make sure your dog integrates well into your family. 

Are labrador retrievers high-maintenance?

All dogs can be considered high-maintenance; it really depends on the pet parent and what they consider to be high-maintenance. While labs have a relatively low maintenance coat, regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential to keep them happy and healthy. 

Labrador retrievers may require more attention, training, and exercise than some other breeds due to their energetic nature. However, with proper care and commitment, many find the joy of having a lab far outweighs any additional maintenance they may require.

Young redheaded girl brushing yellow lab’s fur

Final Notes

The labrador retriever is one of the most popular and beloved breeds — and for good reason! They're cherished for their friendliness, intelligence, and adaptability, making them great family pets. 

Try Dutch online pet care for your lab for comprehensive and convenient pet care. We make it easy for you to get care for your dog from the comfort of your home. A Dutch membership also comes with free doorstep delivery from our online pet pharmacy. Explore the benefits of accessible vet care today. 



  1. “Labrador Retriever.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 25 Jan. 2023,

  2. Thomas, Heather. “America’s Popular Dog Breeds, 1900-1960: Headlines & Heroes.” The Library of Congress, 9 May 2023,

  3. “Labrador Retriever.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 31 Jan. 2024,

  4. Robins, Mary. “Labrador Retriever Facts: 8 Things to Know about This Dog Breed.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 5 June 2023,

  5. “Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club,

  6. “Labrador Retriever.” PetMD,

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.