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Labrador Retrievers - a guide to the breed

Who doesn’t love a Labrador! Great temperaments, highly intelligent and handsome. They make great family dogs and working dogs in equal measure. It's easy to see why they are one of the most popular breeds in the UK.
Labrador Retrievers - a guide to the breed

Getting to know Labradors 

The full title is Labrador Retriever, but it’s often shortened to Labrador or Lab. They are larger dogs and tend to grow to between 56 to 61cm at their withers, which is the point where the shoulders meet the spine. Weighing between 29 and 36kg, males tend to be heavier than females. They are short-haired and have either black, chocolate, golden or fox-red coats. 

Labradors are in the gundog category of dog and were first bred to retrieve game birds and waterfowl for their hunter owners. It just so happens that they make amazing family dogs too, thanks to their lovely temperaments and great connection with children. 

Labs have also been trained and used with great success as guide dogs, assistance dogs, and sniffer dogs. They are truly multi-talented!

Their origins lie in Newfoundland, Canada, where fishermen bred them to retrieve nets from the water. They have webbed feet, making them good swimmers with an affinity with water. A selection of Labradors were brought over to the UK in the 1800’s by the Earl of Malmsbury and Col Peter Hawke, who took a liking to the breed. The ancestry of the Labs we know today can be traced back to that initial dog pack!  

What does a Labrador need?

Exercise and mental stimulation

Labradors are intelligent and energetic dogs, enjoying their walks. As working dogs, they can run around all day long! That energy can be rather exuberant, especially when they are young, so they benefit from plenty of exercise. Factor in a couple of daily walks of an hour plus each day if you decide to buy a Lab. This will keep them happy and contented and keep the enthusiastic side of their nature in check!

Maturing later than most other breeds, you will find Labs are very playful up until they are around 3-years-old, and often into their older age, too. They love games, and, as retrievers, a game of fetch is right up their street! Planning activities and games where scented objects are hidden will give them the brain food they need. Alternatively, they do well at canine activities such as fly-ball and dog agility. Without mental stimulation and exercise, boredom can soon set in, and behavioural problems may develop. 

Training and socialisation

Labradors are one of the easiest dog breeds to train. They are highly intelligent, eager to learn, and as a bonus, are food and toy-orientated. Although they are a sociable breed, it is still beneficial to take them along to training classes to meet lots of other dogs. It’s important to start training Labs when they are puppies - otherwise they can become rather unruly! By giving them plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialisation, Lab puppies will become well-adjusted and calm adult dogs.

Thriving in a home environment, Labs make great family dogs. They are happy living as part of a ‘pack’ and look to their family members for leadership and direction. Rarely showing aggression, they do not have a strong guarding instinct but might lick a visitor into submission if allowed!

Grooming and health

Although short-haired and low maintenance when it comes to grooming, Labradors can shed quite a bit of hair. Giving them a good regular brushing will help keep the hair loss under control, and they will enjoy the interaction, too. 

Labradors can have inherited health problems such as hip dysplasia and a variety of eye disorders. Kennel Club breeders, with good reputations, ensure they breed from healthy dogs, minimising the number of inherited health issues that are passed on.

As mentioned, Labs love their food. A bit too much sometimes! They tend to become obese, particularly as they get older. This puts a strain on their joints and can lead to health problems and vet bills.  Watch their calorie intake and make sure they get lots of exercise, so their weight can be kept in check successfully. If your Lab does develop a health condition, they'll be covered for life with our Labrador Pet Insurance.

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