In our Dog Breed Corner this month, we feature the Labrador! Check out the Labrador’s stats, personality, trainability, health, grooming and more! Need a Labrador-friendly Pet Sitter to care for your furry friend? We’ve got what you need!
Height – 55 – 62cm
Weight – 25 – 36 kg
Lifespan – 10 – 12 years
Country of origin: Canada
Breed type – Working dog
- Families with children
- Owners with active lifestyles
- Households with other pets
Labrador Breed History ♜
They’ve often been called the world’s favourite dogs, but where exactly did Labradors come from? As much as we adore this breed, no one’s really sure when or how they popped up. The most widely accepted story is that Labs came from the Newfoundland breed. From there, the theories branch out in a few different directions.
As far as the name goes, Labradors are probably named after the province in Canada far in the Northeast – Newfoundland and Labrador, which sits on the Labrador Sea. During the 1800s, this was an important region for fishing, with Portuguese and British ships making their way in and out of seaside harbours constantly.
On these boats, fishermen needed the help of strong and hardy doggos to help pull in the fishing nets. The thick fur of the Newfoundland was perfect to protect the dogs from freezing temperatures, but their size was a deterrent. The sailors needed a more compact pooch that wouldn’t take up so much space on the ship. So, they miniaturised the Newfoundland and created the Labrador.
Another theory suggests that Labradors might have been bred separately from Newfoundlands instead of descended from them! In this alternative tale, Labs might have come from another breed, the St. John’s Dog, which was smaller and had a shorter coat. Followers of this theory believe that the St. John’s Dog was the ancestor for both the Labrador and the Newfoundland breeds. In other words, Newfoundlands and Labs were more like friendly cousins than parent and pup.
Regardless of how exactly they came into being, the Labrador soon made a name for itself as a water dog. These pups were always ready to jump in the frigid waters to help pull in ropes and lines, and they would also gladly retrieve fish that had wiggled or fallen out of the net.
Soon, Labradors were being taken back to Europe as well as farther south to the U.S. These working dogs may not have been showing off their skills on fishing boats in their new homes, but they took on a new role as hunting dogs. By 1903, Labs had gained recognition by the Kennel Club in England. And just a few years later, in 1917, they were added to the American Kennel Club.
Today, Labradors frequently rank among the most popular dog breed in many different countries, including Australia. Not only are they sought-after family dogs, but they’re often trained as search-and-rescue dogs, police dogs, and service dogs for people with disabilities.
Personality Traits ★
There’s a reason why Labradors have topped the popularity charts for so many years: they have wonderful personalities. Friendly, social, adaptable – these doggos are people-pleasing to the extreme.
If you’re looking for a pup who will be by your side for a day of hard work, a Labrador will be thrilled to show you what they’ve been bred for. In fact, these dogs are such workaholics that you have to be careful to monitor them. They’ll work themselves to exhaustion with a big smile on their faces before quitting on their own.
As working dogs, they’re also highly intelligent and intuitive. Hunting and fishing environments require focus, precision, and self-control, all skills that are coded in the Labrador’s DNA. After all, without a Labrador’s patience and diligence, they would probably be romping around scaring all the birds and letting all of the fish get away.
Even if you’re not looking for a working dog, the Labrador’s personality makes this dog perfect for any family setting. They’re loyal, happy-go-lucky and relaxed when you’re looking for some quality cuddling time. Or, with more active owners, they’re tirelessly ready for adventure. With proper socialisation, Labradors can be affectionate and gentle with children, dogs, and even cats and other animals. That’s why they made top of the list in our article on the Best Dog Breeds for Families.
Whether they’re at the home of their devoted Pet Sitter, or they’re walking along saying hi to new friends, Labradors are super social. In fact, although Labradors are great at barking to let the family know a stranger is approaching, they probably won’t do anything more than greet the unfamiliar person with licks and tail wags.
As with any working dog, Labradors need the opportunity to expend their energy, daily. Without proper exercise, these dogs can become bored, restless and anxious – and your home may pay the price. And it isn’t just your furniture or window coverings that will let you know your Lab needs more outside time. When they haven’t gone for their daily jog or playtime, Labradors will do whatever they can to get your attention. This ranges from running around the house, to scratching at the door, to nudging your elbow every five seconds.
On the other hand, when Labs have the chance to get all the exercise they need, get ready to cuddle. These dogs will want to be on your lap, in your bed, or even leaning up against you no matter where you are.
Trainability & Training Tips
Working dogs are wonderfully easy to train, and the Labrador might be among the easiest of them all. Their people-pleasing personalities make them present and committed to learning, and their intelligence sets them apart as trainable doggos.
According to the Smart Canine, Labradors are part of the small group of breeds that can learn a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions. Most dogs might learn a new trick after you’ve said the command somewhere between 25 and 40 repetitions. That means a Lab has the ability to learn multiple commands in the same time that it takes a dog of average intelligence to master one.
Another key part of a Lab’s trainability is its obedience. If you tell your Lab to do something once, there’s a 95% chance that your dog will follow your command. Other dogs may need a few reminders, but not this highly trainable doggo. As long as training is consistent, your Lab will obey your commands much more readily than many other dog breeds.
So, when it comes to setting up a training routine for your Lab, don’t stop at the basic commands. Instead, when your Labrador breezes through the foundational stuff, you can keep them motivated with increasingly challenging activities. For example, maybe today you’re teaching your Labrador to retrieve a ball. Next week, you might be teaching them to find a ball that you’ve hidden in the backyard. A few weeks from now, you might be teaching them to retrieve the ball and then do an obstacle course on their way back to you.
This kind of brick-by-brick training is perfect for dogs like Labradors who are bred to retrieve. Because sure, you can stand outside with your Lab for an hour a day throwing the ball and having them bring it back to you. They’ll be happy to do it, and you’ll be helping them to get all that working dog energy out. But, playing an hour-long game of fetch every day will be boring for you, and it won’t tap into your Labrador’s intelligence.
If you make a training program with your Labrador, they’ll amaze you with what they can do.
Labradors are not the kinds of dogs that will be happy staying home during the day while their Owner goes off to work. They would much rather be with you, proving that they are, in fact, the best coworker you’ve ever had. So, while they can tolerate alone time, it’s best not to leave them home for long stretches of time.
For this reason, households with large families or other animals are ideal for Labradors because it maximises their social time.
As far as house size goes, this is a fairly large doggo. A small apartment may only be appropriate if you’re able to take your Labrador with you to work or give them plenty of time outside to stretch their legs. But you may notice your Lab knocking things off shelves with their notorious tail swing.
On the other hand, if you do have a large outdoor space for your Labrador to roam, make sure to keep an eye on them. Labs are both intelligent and food-motivated, and they’ll search your backyard shed, rubbish bin, and anywhere else their nose guides them.
Labrador Grooming ✄
At first glance, a Labrador looks like it doesn’t need any grooming. But that short, shiny coat is deceptive. For the Labrador to stay warm and dry while swimming, its coat needed to be dense and water-resistant. As a result, Labs have a thicker outer coat to keep the water out, and a soft undercoat for warmth. So, while you may not have to worry about tangles and matting, you do have to worry about one thing: shedding.
To keep up with a Labrador’s shedding habits, you’ll need to have a brush on hand pretty much at all times. The shedding will get worse a couple of times a year, so be ready for that. De-shedding brushes are essential, because they’ll be able to reach through the thick outer coat and pull out loose fur from the undercoat. If you want to maintain that Labrador shine and softness, you can also brush every few days with a soft bristle horse brush. You can learn more tips from our article on Three Ways to Minimise Your Dog’s Shedding.
When it comes to bathing, this is also a breed that may require more than you think. In fact, Labradors have evolved to seek out and dive into whatever water mass they find. If you live in an area with mud or some less-than-pleasant smelling water sources, you’re likely going to have frequent bath times with your Labrador.
With their floppy ears and love for water, Labs are also prone to ear infections, so make sure to wipe their ears dry after they’ve been splashing around.
We mentioned that Labradors are food-motivated, right? Yep, these doggos can eat! Alas, this trait could lead to some health problems. It can be tempting to train your Labrador with a handful of treats, but make sure to keep a close eye on their daily caloric intake. Labs won’t stop eating when they’re full, and obesity is a big problem with this breed.
Because of their attraction to water, it’s also important to keep an eye on your Labrador when they’re outside. Thankfully, cases of Leptospirosis have thankfully been on the decline. However, it’s still a good idea to keep your Lab away from areas where they’ll want to roll around in the mud. To learn more about the disease, read our recent article on how to keep your dog safe from Leptospirosis.
As with many large breed dogs, elbow and hip dysplasia can be common. Heart disease is another genetic concern. To avoid these issues, make sure to adopt your Labrador from a responsible source and have a vet look them over thoroughly to watch for early signs.
Fun fact about the Labrador ♥
As it turns out, though, colour has very little to do with personality and working ability in Labradors. They’re all pretty much equally willing to work, willing to play, and willing to curl up in your lap for a good snuggle. And in any one litter, there’s a good chance of a mix of different coat colours.
So coat colour? Not a good predictor of personality.
Final Thoughts on the Labrador
If you’re ready to bring a Labrador home, keep in mind that popular doesn’t necessarily mean easy. This is a dog that has a lot of energy and will demand playtime every day. Keep them engaged in the training process, keep your grooming brush on hand at all times, and keep throwing that tennis ball. The result will be one incredible pup.