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Labrador Retriever

Our guide to the breed

Labrador Retriever

My ideal owner | Exercise | Temperament | Health | Appearance | Cost | History

Key facts

Height: 54cm – 63cm

Weight: 24 – 57 kg

Life Expectancy: 12 – 13 years

Exercise Needs:  Very high

About Labrador Retrievers

Hey there! I’m a Labrador Retriever. You’ve probably seen me before in one of my many roles – family pet, guide dog, search and rescue, retrieving game for hunters. I’m one of the most popular dog breeds out there and for good reason. I’m loyal, intelligent, and playful and I’ll quickly become a beloved member of your family. Tap into the right motivation and I’ll learn anything you try and teach me. I’ve got high energy whilst I’m young, so I’ll need plenty of exercise, but I tend to relax into life a bit more as I age. Don’t get complacent though – I love food and I’ll quickly pile on the pounds if I don’t get enough exercise!

My ideal owner

I’m a great dog for people from all walks of life but there are a few qualities that would mean we fit together pawfectly. I love your company, so I’m looking for an owner who can be with me for most of the day and can come up with creative ways to tire me out. I’m great with kids if I’ve been around them since I was young, and I’d love a garden of my own to explore.

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Active lifestyle

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Families with kids

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Constant companionship

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Homes with gardens

Temperament

Each one of us is different – our personalities are affected by our upbringing in a big way. On the whole though, we’re known for being loyal, playful, and intelligent companions who thrive with the right care and attention. If we get bored, we’re ready to cause trouble – so make sure you can come up with ways to keep us entertained and we’ll stay best buds.

Labrador breed scales

Health

We’re a pretty healthy bunch on the whole thanks to our broad gene pool that means recessive genetic conditions don’t tend to be passed on. There are a few things we are prone to that you should keep an eye out for though.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition affecting many different dog breeds, including some Labradors. It’s described as a genetic malformation and occurs when a dog’s thigh bone doesn’t fit into the hip socket.

In mild cases hip dysplasia can cause inflammation, eventually leading to arthritis. In the most severe cases, a dog could lose all use of their rear legs.

How is it diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia cannot be evaluated by a vet until a dog is two years of age. Even then the dog will need x rays to determine whether they have inherited the condition. If you buy a Labrador puppy, check that the breeder has had both parents tested, which should reduce the risk of inheriting the condition.

What are the treatments for hip dysplasia?

The only absolute treatment for hip dysplasia is a total hip replacement. This would usually only be used in the most serious of cases. Otherwise, vets may recommend a range of treatments to give relief, including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, weight management, painkillers, supplements, and brace supports.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is elbow dysplasia?

Elbow dysplasia is an inherited condition that commonly affects medium to large breeds. It causes a dog’s elbows to develop abnormally, causing pain and leading to swelling, instability and eventually, arthritis.

How is it diagnosed?

A vet will be able to diagnose elbow dysplasia based on some physical and behavioural signs, including:

  • Limping or stiffness, particularly after exercise
  • Front paws pointing outwards or elbows held at a strange angle
  • Swollen elbows
  • Less enthusiasm for exercise or play
  • X ray showing abnormalities in the elbow

What are the treatments for elbow dysplasia?

There are a variety of treatments for elbow dysplasia that your vet may recommend, based on the severity of the issue. These include painkillers, rest, or surgery in the most severe cases.

Symptoms are usually worse if your dog is overweight. Additionally, elbow dysplasia can limit their levels of activity. As a result, your vet will usually recommend a controlled weight and exercise plan to ensure your dog stays slim whilst being conscious of their reduced mobility. This can include using a dog activity monitor, feeding a calorie-controlled diet, and physical therapies, such as hydrotherapy.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is obesity in dogs?

Just like us humans, dogs will put on too much weight if they eat too much and/or don’t get enough exercise. Research conducted by the University of Cambridge in 2016 found a genetic variation carried by one in four Labradors could be the reason for their big appetite and tendency towards obesity.

Obesity in dogs can lead to a myriad of issues, including heart disease, diabetes, mobility issues and cancer. 

How is it diagnosed?

Obesity is easily diagnosed by checking your dogs weight and body condition. You can use the free PitPat app to see if they are a healthy weight and to check their body condition.

What are the treatments for obesity in dogs?

The main treatments for obesity in dogs increased activity and diet control. If your dog is overweight, your vet may recommend a different diet and the use of a dog activity monitor to ensure your dog gets enough daily exercise. Chronically overweight dogs may have different exercise needs due to their reduced mobility.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is progressive retinal atrophy?

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is the term for a group of inherited diseases that affect your dog’s vision due to the deterioration of certain cells in their eyes. It can lead to night blindness, and eventually complete blindness.

How is it diagnosed?

It can be difficult to diagnose PRA in its early stages. If vision loss is suspected, your vet will look for sluggish responses to light from your dog’s pupils, and unusually dilated pupils. They will usually then refer you to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis using an ophthalmoscope or electroretinogram (ERG). Genetic testing for PRA is also available to identify carriers of the disease.

What are the treatments for PRA?

There are currently no effective treatments for PRA. In some rare circumstances your vet may recommend surgery to prevent the retina from detaching.

If you find out your dog has PRA, the most important thing you can do is to help them transition into blindness confidently and comfortably. Consider the arrangement of furniture and other hazards in your household and keep them on a lead when outside the home in an unsecured environment.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

Exercise needs

Very High

I’ve got plenty of energy and a voracious appetite – so you’ll need to make sure I get enough exercise each day to burn off those calories. I love my daily walkies and I’m a fantastic swimmer. I can also excel in canine sports like agility, tracking, flyball, disc dog and canicross.

Get your dog’s tailored exercise goal by downloading the free PitPat app

Appearance

I’m an easily recognised pup, thanks to my immense popularity as a companion dog. I have short, double coat which helps keep me warm and dry when out and about. I shed year-round with a twice yearly blow out at the start of summer and autumn – so get that vacuum at the ready!

I come in three main colours – black, yellow, and chocolate. Yellow Labradors can be light cream, fox red or anywhere in between. Whichever colour we are, we all share the same love for life!

My grooming routine is really straightforward – a good brush once or twice a week is perfect, and you can use a deshedding tool when we’re going through our seasonal blow out to help things along. I only need a bath after especially muddy walks or if we’ve rolled in something smelly. Too many bathes with soap can strip away the natural oils that protect my coat. I don’t usually need a professional groomer, and you should never shave my coat.

Labrador Retriever silhouette

Colours

Black

Yellow

Chocolate

Grooming needs

Weekly brushing

Bath only when needed

Hypoallergenic?

No. I shed my coat year-round.

Costs

One off costs

£1767

This includes the average cost of a puppy, and all the gear they will need, like their collar, bed and grooming tools.

Ongoing costs

£25 per week | £108 per month | £1296 per year

This includes your ongoing costs such as insurance, food, toys, and standard veterinary care, but not dog sitting, training or veterinary costs not covered by insurance.

History

Us Labrador Retrievers go back to the 1500s in Newfoundland. We descended from a now extinct breed of dog known as the St. John’s Water Dog. We worked with our fishermen owners to retrieve the fish that had fallen off the hooks, or to bring the nets in – we are perfect for the job thanks to our webbed feet and water-resistant coat.

Sometime in the early 1800s we were imported to England, where we caught the eye of the Earl of Malmesbury. He put us to work in shooting sports, where we excelled at retrieving game. It was the Earl of Malmesbury that gave us our name, ‘Labrador Dogs’. 

We were recognised by the Kennel Club in 1903 and since then we’ve become firm favourites with the nation. We make excellent working dogs, both in shooting sports and as guide dogs, search and rescue, tracking and sniffing and more. But most of all, we have become immensely popular as pets thanks to our big hearts and playful nature.

Labrador Retriever

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