Labradors are the most-popular dog breed in the world.
Described as a sweet-faced, lovable dog by the American Kennel Club, the Labrador is more popular with Americans than the French Bulldog and the Golden Retriever.
This member of the sporting group is an active dog that can slot seamlessly into family life and become much-loved canine companions for 10-12 years (and sometimes more).
The AKC lists three key personality traits where the Labrador is concerned – friendly, active and outgoing. These are characteristics that we’ll touch upon in this article.
Seeing as the Labrador is such a popular dog breed, you’ll be able to find lots of information about these Retrievers online.
But for the purposes of this article, we’ll touch upon Labrador pros and cons, examining the advantages and disadvantages of this common breed.
We’ll hear from Magnus The Therapy Dog (@magnusthetherapydog) and Good Boy Ollie (@good.boy.ollie) to learn more about the Labrador Retriever breed.
If you were asked to name one thing you associate with the Labrador breed, there’s a good chance you’d reference their suitability as family pets. We’ve seen countless examples in modern culture where Labradors are depicted as loyal, patient and trusting canine companions for both adults and children. The AKC rates the Labradors as five out of five for both being affectionate with their family and good with young children. They’re sociable dogs so they’re usually well-behaved around other pets. The organization goes as far as describing Labs as “famously friendly”.
Labradors are active dogs that like a little bit of rough and tumble. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Labradors have a lot of energy to burn seeing as they were bred to be duck retrievers and fisherman’s mates in the early 1800s in Newfoundland. The AKC describe the Labradors as an “exuberant, very energetic breed” that needs a lot of exercise every day. For dog owners who love to go for daily walks, jogs in parks or hikes on trails, the Labrador could be an excellent companion.
Magnus The Therapy Dog (@magnusthetherapydog) gets a lot of exercise every day and manages to squeeze in plenty of naps – too.
We usually wake up around 5am to go out for our morning walk and then go workout for an 1.5 hrs (well, I work out and Magnus naps…LOL) After that we have breakfast together and go out for our ritual 3.5 mile morning walk/jog. When we come back I start my workday and Magnus naps for a few more hours. Yes, Magnus naps A LOT. We go on a few smaller walks later in the day to play. Dinner for him is 8pm. Magnus must know how to tell time because he will start staring me down at exactly 8pm as if an alarm went off that only he can hear. Later on we go out for another walk and usually play a game of night fetch which he loves. We also do pepper small training sessions throughout the day.
The Labrador Retriever Club was established in 1931 and is the foremost Labrador organization in the United States in the 21st century.
Here’s what the organization’s breed standard outlines with regards to acceptable Labrador Retriever temperament.
True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the “otter” tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized.
This dependable dog breed is relatively low maintenance when compared to other breeds. It isn’t overly-complicated to care for a Labrador. Dog owners will need to brush their Labrador’s coat a couple of times a week, check their ears and eyes and trim their nails from time to time. It’s a good idea to clean their teeth regularly too. But you don’t need to worry about trips to the groomers every couple of months. Labradors haven’t got a reputation for being fussy eaters, so you should be able to find something your Lab enjoys without too much difficulty.
Labradors are considered one of the smartest dogs in the world, just behind the Border Collie, the Poodle and the German Shepherd. These intelligent dogs enjoy learning basic commands as well as more complicated commands and tricks. Committing to regular training sessions with the help of a book, YouTube or a professional trainer is a good way to keep your Lab mentally stimulated. The Labrador is one of the prime breeds selected as guide and rescue dogs, highlighting their ability to learn, follow orders and think on their feet.
Good Boy Ollie (@good.boy.ollie) has taken the internet by storm thanks to his ability to balance objects on his booty, something which his owner Alex taught him to do.
The booty balancing was just an unplanned surprise! Ollie and I spend a lot of time training together, and one day I decided to teach him ‘bow”. He picked it up super fast, so I decided to take it further and balance a pumpkin on his booty for a photo. He did it perfectly first time, so we continues practicing with more and more objects. As it’s a trick no one else had done before, I decided to share it online and it really took off!
Labradors are highly food motivated which is a trait that comes in handy when it comes to training but perhaps not so helpful when you leave your dinner on the table unsupervised. These Retrievers have a reputation for being vociferous eaters so you’ll need to budget for dog food each month. You can check out the best dog food delivery companies in the USA and UK. There is a genetic condition called POMC gene mutation that can affect some Labrador Retrievers. Dr Eleanor Raffan from the University of Cambridge was part of the research team that made this discovery. Dr Raffan says:
This is a common genetic variant in Labradors and has a significant effect on those dogs that carry it, so it is likely that this helps explain why Labradors are more prone to being overweight in comparison to other breeds. However, it’s not a straightforward picture as the variant is even more common among flat coat retrievers, a breed not previously flagged as being prone to obesity. People who live with Labradors often say they are obsessed by food, and that would fit with what we know about this genetic change.
We’ve already touched upon Labrador energy but this could be a con for some people. If you’ve set your heart on getting a Labrador, you need to pause and consider if you have sufficient time and means to exercise your Lab. They require a lot of daily exercise and plenty of mental stimulation. If your Retriever doesn’t get sufficient exercise, it could lead to destructive behaviours. The AKC write on their website the following warning:
A Lab who doesn’t get enough exercise is likely to engage in hyperactive and/or destructive behavior to release pent-up energy.
Need A Garden
Tying into our previous con, Labradors are better-suited to families with sufficient space to give these popular dogs the room to stretch their legs. Whether you’ve got a large home or a large garden, Labradors need space. While they could potentially live in a city, apartment life with a Lab could have some challenges. If you do live in a high rise or in a city, you could have a happy and peaceful life with your Lab provided you’re able to give your canine companion sufficient exercise every day. But they’re unlikely to be happy to just chill in the home with limited activities.
Labradors aren’t hypoallergenic dogs so if you’ve got allergies to pet hair, this may not be the breed for you. While their coat is easy to maintain and to wash, Labradors do shed throughout the year. They’ve got a thick, water-repellant double coat that sheds a lot. So you should be prepared to find lots of hair on your floor, furniture and clothes.
The AKC describes the Labrador breed as healthy dogs overall. But responsible breeders should be checking for conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disorders, hereditary myopathy and eye conditions. There’s also a condition called Exercise Induced Collapse to consider too. Another potential health issue is bloat, which is a life-threatening stomach condition. It’s something that prospective Lab owners should research. The Labrador Club provide detailed information and links on some of the health conditions referenced in this article on this page.