All about Labrador Retrievers



A Labrador Retriever also known as a Labrador or Lab, is the most popular breed of dog in many countries. Labradors have a life span of 12+ years and they come in three different colours; black, yellow or chocolate. Yellow Labradors are often mistakenly called Golden Labradors (The Golden Retriever is a separate breed from the Labrador Retriever although there are similarities). The term yellow refers to a range of colour from nearly white to gold to fox red.


Labradors have a reputation as a very even tempered breed and they make an excellent family dog as  Labs loves people, children of all ages and other animals. The steady temperament of Labradors and their ability to learn make them an ideal breed for detection, search and rescue and therapy work. They are a very intelligent dog breed. Their fun loving boisterousness and lack of fear may require training and firm handling at times to ensure it does not get out of hand. A female maybe more independent than males. Labs mature at around 3 years of age before this time they can have a significant degree of puppy like energy. Labradors often enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly and other forms of activity. 

Although they will sometimes bark at a sudden noise, from an unseen source, Labradors are not usually noisy or territorial. They are often easy going and trusting with strangers and therefore not suitable as guard dogs.

Labs are well known for their appetite, some will even eat non-food objects like stones and socks. Labradors are persistant and persuasive in requesting food. For this reason the owner must carefully control their food intake to avoid obesity and its associated health problems.

The Labrador Retriever is classified as a large breed dog. Dogs are usually 56-57cms at the withers and bitchs are 55-56cms at the withers. There are differences between retrieving bred (sometimes reffered to as "American") and show bred ("English") lines of Labradors, arising as a result of specified breeding. Dogs bred for retrieving type work are generally longer legged, lighter and more lithe in build. Retrieving Labs have slightly lighter heads and longer muzzles. Show bred Labradors are of heavier build, shorter bodied and have a thicker coat and tail. They tend to have broader heads, better defined stops and more powerful necks.


Labradors have a short, straight, dense double coat. Their undercoat is very soft and it keeps them warm and dry in cold conditions, the top coat is rougher so that it helps repel water when wet. Their webbed toes make them excellent swimmers. Labs shed their coat twice annually or regulary in temperate climates. Some shed considerably however it varies between individual dogs.  
Their tail, best described as an otter tail, is thick at the base and tapers to a narrower point.


Caring for your Labrador is very easy. They only need to be brushed occasionally as their coat being short does not mat -but more often during moulting which is twice a year; and a bath when required. Labrador Retreivers require large amounts of excercise, they should be taken on a walk for 30 - 60 minutes everyday (2-5km). A swim at your local beach or dog friendly swimming pool will also do the job. A annual trip to the vet for a check up and vaccination will help keep your dog protected against the devastating diseases they can easily pick up.


 Some of the inherited diseases Labrador Retriever are prone to are hip dysplasia (HD), elbow dysplasia (OCD or osteochondrosis) and some eye diseases. Many only show up in mature older dods. Some inherited diseases may occur even after generations of breeding from sound stock. It is important to understand that while HD and OCD have an inherited component they can also be influenced by environmental conditions in which the puppy is reared e.g. inappropriate feeding and over exercise.

There is now a DNA test available that will determine a dog’s genetic status regarding PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy). With this recessive disease dogs are either normal/clear, carrier or affected. Therefore if one of the parent's test is certified DNA normal/clear, then it is guaranteed that none of its progeny will develop PRA. It is worthwhile seeking out breeders that utilise this test.

It is in your interest to purchase your puppy from a registered breeder who tests and breeds to reduce inherited diseases. Parents of all ANKC registered puppies must be hip and elbow scored (and also microchipped). 

The main disadvantages of buying dogs from pet shops and dealers are the uncertainty of parentage, lack of testing of parents for inherited diseases, lack of knowledge about parents’ temperaments and the adverse effects of spending days or even weeks in a confined space.

Registered Breeders should provide:

(a) Original ANKC registration certificate (main or limited register) with the new puppy's microchip number on;
(b) Copies of parents’ hip, elbow and eye certificates;
(c) Diet Sheet;
(d) Vaccination certificate and worming details.

Explanation of Certificates

The lower the score, the better the hips and elbows. The breed average for Hip Dysplasia is currently approximately 12 (i.e right hip 6, left hip 6, or right hip 5 left hip 7 etc) Evenness of score is more desirable, 0:0 being the best score.
Elbow xrays are graded 0, 1, 2 and 3, the best grade being 0. It is not recommended to breed from dogs with elbow scores of Grade 2 or higher.


Puppy preschool: This is a great way to socialise your puppy with other breeds of similar age. After puppy preschool it is time to move on to a dog training facility. There are 23 affiliated dog obedience training clubs around South Australia that can be contacted through the yellow pages or Dogs SA at Kilburn. You need to become a member of the club for training your dog.
Once you have joined a club you will be placed in a class relevant to your dog and its abilities. Certain exercises will be given to you to teach your dog, e.g. sit, stay, come and a graduation takes place each month. If you have trained your dog correctly and it is obeying your commands you will graduate to the nest grade. Clubs offer a Basic Obedience Certificate when you have graduated from Class 4 or 5 (depending on which club) and most councils give a registration discount for a trained dog certificate.

Page last updated January 2012