Labrador Retriever: Color, Lifespan, Characteristics & Facts

Let’s face it; life is a lot less ruff with a lab!

Medium to large-sized canine companions, with athletic and sturdy builds, you’ve got to love a Labrador retriever. Exceptional character, intelligence, and good temperament, labs are excellent all-around companions.

As American’s top breed registered with American Kennel Club, even a non-dog person can easily recognize an English Labrador retriever.

Anyone looking for a loyal companion, a pup who will patiently wait for you, you might want to bat your eyes towards any Labrador puppy whether a chocolate lab, a black lab, a yellow lab, a brown labrador retriever, a blonde Labrador, or a white labrador, you are spoilt for choice.

Though primarily bred to hunt, their sporting abilities make them people-oriented, loving and dedicated to serving their owners and their families.

Formerly known as the St. John’s dog and bred to help local fishermen fetch ropes, haul nets, and retrieve fish escaping from the nets.

A Labrador retriever’s lifespan is 12-13 years. They have popularly made excellent service dogs often trained to become handicapped assistance dogs, guide companions for the blind, and also as therapy dogs.

Breed Overview

Other Name: Labrador, Lab

Origin: the United Kingdom and Canada

Height: 21.5 – 24.5 Inches

Weight: Male 65-80 lb, Female 55-70 lb

Life Span: 12-13 years

Colors: black, yellow, chocolate

1. Personality & Temperament

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Popularly known as a sweet-natured breed, the lab’s eager to please, outgoing, friendly nature makes him a popular canine companion.

In conjunction with his winning personality, he has an eagerness and intelligence that makes him easy to live with and train. With the kind of energy and exuberance Labrador retriever puppies have, training is absolutely necessary.

This is because the types of this breed requires both physical and mental activity due to his working heritage. Whether your lab is more laid back or is a bit rowdy, they thrive on activity one way or another.

This dog breed is generally good with children, other pets, and other dogs when their natural exuberance is toned down.

When left alone, an American Labrador can become destructive and begin digging, chewing, and barking in excess because he is naturally a high-energy dog. In which case, sturdy chew toys, training, an indestructible bed, and exercise are recommended.

2. How to Care For Labrador Retrievers


The amount of food you feed a lab varies on the dog’s activity level, size, and age. However, purebred black Labradors will do well on a high-quality diet, whether home-prepared with your vet’s approval or commercially manufactured.

The English Labrador’s nutrition changes over his lifespan and with each age milestone, you should consider discussing with your veterinarian what to feed him.

When it comes to food, you have to portion out his food, watch his calorie consumption and weight level, so he doesn’t overeat.

Feed your Labrador puppy a low-calorie, high-quality diet that will keep him from growing too fast because full-blooded Labradors grow very rapidly, especially between 4-7 months. Always provide your pooch with clean, fresh water at all times.


The Lab’s coat is sleek and easy to care for. The coat has two layers: a soft, weather-resistant undercoat, and a short, thick straight topcoat.

The smooth, water-resistant coats make them excellent water dogs. Because labs have short coats, only essential grooming is required.

However, because they are heavy shredders, you may have to routine weekly brush his coat. Regular brushing the Labrador’s coat ensures the loose hairs are removed and the natural oils evenly distributed.

To keep your Labrador looking clean and smelling good, give him a bath on average every two months. However, this is also largely influenced by your dog’s lifestyle. If he rolls in a mud puddle, then you have to bath him often.


As a retriever owner, you need to visit at least dog parks or recreational parks in general where he can actually run off his energy.

Types of labrador retrievers need to get plenty of exercise, training, and attention. Per their name, they love to retrieve things and like to carry items in their mouths.

You might want to put a tag or chip on your Labrador retriever mix because they can be escape artists. If not given enough exercise, or when left alone, or when affected with separation anxiety, a lab may develop lousy behavior.

To help burn up their energy, consider taking your lab on field trips, hunting trips, dock diving, and tracking.


Labrador characteristics are influenced by their high energy and physical strength, it is vital to provide your pup with early socialization and puppy training classes. Early training will help your lab follow directions and behave well when on a leash.

When your puppy is between 7 weeks to 4 months, it is wise to expose him to a wide variety of places, people, and situations. To help develop a well-adjusted and a well-mannered full grown black Lab, consider starting obedience training early.

The best socialization process for a retriever is to enroll him in a puppy training class. This will also further help you recognize and correct bad Labrador traits that may develop in your lab. It will also help turn your British lab retrievers into good canine citizen by including them in family activities.

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3. Common Health Issues of Labrador Retrievers

Labs are overall healthy dogs. However, Labs are also prone to certain health conditions. Whether it is a cream labrador pup, gray labrador, a mini black lab, a full grown black lab, an adult chocolate lab, a brown lab, or a pure black labrador, they are all susceptible to the same health issues.

Some of the conditions you should be aware of hip and elbow dysplasia, hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness), heart disorders, and eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy.

Like all breeds, Labs are also prone to certain health conditions. Some of the conditions you should be aware of if you plan on adopting a lab include:

Elbow Dysplasia

This condition is heritable and common to large-breed dogs. It is a joint laxity caused by different growth rates of the three elbow bones.

Elbow dysplasia can lead to painful lameness in your Lab. Your vet may prescribe medication to control the pain or recommend surgery to correct the condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is an eye condition where the retina gradually deteriorates. Early in this condition, your lab may become night blind.

As the condition further progresses, he may even lose his daytime vision as well. Many dogs can quickly adapt to complete or limited vision loss because their surroundings remain the same.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD is an orthopedic condition as a result of improper growth of joint cartilage, mostly occurs in elbows but also in the shoulders.

This condition can cause a painful stiffening of your retriever’s joint, to the point that he may be unable to bend the elbow. It is easily detectable and can be discovered as early as 4-9 months old.

Overfeeding of high-protein foods or “growth formula” puppy foods may contribute to OCD development.

Acute Moist Dermatitis

This is a skin condition where the lab’s skin becomes red and inflamed. Commonly referred to as hot spots, it is caused by a bacterial infection.

Treatments include bathing in medicated shampoo, clipping his hair, and antibiotics.

Cold Tail

This is a benign, painful condition common to long-haired Labradors. Maybe noticed when your dog starts biting at his tails. Can also further cause limber tail, where the lab’s tail goes limp.

It is more of a problem with the muscles in the tail between the vertebrae. It usually goes away after a few days and so not really a significant cause for concern.

Other health issues in retrievers to be on the lookout for:

  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus
  • Myopathy
  • Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD)
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Cataracts
  • Ear Infections

Despite the Labrador’s lifespan, make sure to see health clearance for hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, and von Willebrand’s disease from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), clearance from thrombopathia from Auburn University, and an eye health clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).

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4. Children and Other Pets

Blockhead labs love to exercise or participate in anything that spikes their energy, and so they love children and the commotion they bring along. Despite a lab life expectancy, he will gracefully wear a party hat and keep your kid entertained on their birthday.

However, if you are bringing a Labrador into a home with kids, you should teach your children how to approach as well as touch a pup. It is also advised that supervision be upheld when kids are interacting with dogs to prevent any tail or ear pulling or any biting.

Whether its golden retriever vs. Labrador retriever, it is also crucial to teach your kids never to approach a lab or any other dog breed while he’s sleeping or eating, or trying to take the dog food away. No matter how friendly, never leave your lab unsupervised.

If you train and expose your lab to other dogs, small animals, cats, he will be friendly with other pets in the house as well.

5. The History of Labrador Retrievers

Despite their name, Labradors actually originated in Newfoundland. It is believed that the Lab breed was developed from St. John’s water dog, a combination of small water dogs and Newfoundlands.

Beginning in the 1700s, labs served as helpers and companions to local fishermen in Newfoundland. Initially, Labradors spent their days alongside their owners working to retrieve fish trying to escape hooks or towing in lines, and then spend their evening with the owner’s family.

The 3rd Earl of Malmesbury became the first person to call them Labradors. The Malmesbury family and other fans were actually credited in the 1880s for saving the Labrador breed when they almost went extinct.

The breed, however, died out in Newfoundland because of a dog tax that was meant to protect English rabies and sheep quarantine laws. But the English managed to preserve and further develop the breed. In 1917 American Kennel Club recognized Labrador retrievers.

6. The Regular Expenses of Owning A Labrador Retriever

Buying a Lab through a professional breeder can cost you anywhere from $300-$1000. It could cost you more if you are looking for a quality field-trial or show lab.

7. Labrador Retriever Rescue Groups

There are many Labrador retrievers in need of fostering or adoption in labrador rescue groups.

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