Labrador Retriever

There may be no such thing as the perfect dog, but many pet parents would argue that the Labrador Retriever comes pretty close. Friendly, sociable, active, intelligent and hardworking, the breed can be a great fit for a variety of households. While Labrador Retrievers are often prized for their energetic personalities and sunny natures, they're also remarkable swimmers and fetchers and often make ideal service dogs.

It's no wonder the Labrador Retriever is frequently ranked as one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Characteristics

Get to know these fun-loving dogs who are known for their devotion to their pet parents. Read on to find out if a Labrador Retriever could be the perfect addition to your family.

Height

Measured from the floor to the top of their shoulders when standing or sitting

21–25 inches

WEIGHT

Their average adult weight

55–80 lbs

LIFE EXPECTANCY

The average number of years they live

10–12 years

COLOR

Common fur colors

Black, yellow or brown (chocolate)

GROUP

Their AKC classification based on heritage, traits, form and function

Sporting

Size

Tiny Jumbo

LIVING SPACE

Apartment Ranch

EXERCISE

Sedentary Active

PERSONALITY

Antisocial Outgoing

BARKING

Mute Loud

PROTECTION

None Bodyguard

BEHAVIOR WITH KIDS

Needs monitoring Babysitter

TRAINING

Headstrong Obedient

SHEDDING

Minimal Abundant

CLIMATE

Warm Cold

Diet and nutrition

Labradors are known for being especially food motivated. They are also prone to obesity and osteoarthritis, so diets specifically formulated with high amounts of fatty acids or supplemented by high-quality fish oils are often recommended. At Petco, we have high-quality dog food made without artificial ingredients* and specially formulated for large breed dogs, including Labrador Retrievers of all life stages and health concerns.

*See how Petco defines artificial ingredients at petco.com/nutritionstandards.

Free food for Pals members

Every 8th bag of dry dog food is free.*

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Recommended Labrador Retriever Food

Find the right recipe for your Labrador based on their breed's unique needs.

Supplies

Bringing a new Labrador into your home is exciting, but it can make you wonder if you have everything you need to welcome your new dog home. That's why we've developed a list of items that you need for your Labrador to thrive.

New Dog Guide

Discover everything you need to welcome home your new dog.

Recommended Labrador Supplies

Find out which supplies to bring home before their arrival.

Training

Labrador Retrievers are energetic working dogs who often enjoy performing simple tasks. Their intelligence and desire to please usually make them easy to train—especially if you begin when they're puppies. While different pet parents may have different goals, training is an important part of pet parenthood.

You can create a custom curriculum at your neighborhood Petco training center by enrolling in a private lesson, group class or even online classes with our most expert certified trainers.

Dog Training

Petco-certified trainers use positive reinforcement to help build trust with your dog.

Labrador Training Guide

Discover tips and tricks to help you start training off on the right foot.

Common health issues

Labrador Retrievers often have a high tolerance for pain along with a happy-go-lucky personality that persists even in the presence of serious diseases. That's why it's especially important to stay up to date on their routine veterinary care.

  • Obesity

    Explore weight management foods, slow feeders and other supplies to help them reach and maintain their ideal weight.

  • Joint Issues and Osteoarthritis

    Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial.

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

    Help maintain joint flexibility or alleviate aches and discomfort associated with daily exercise.

  • Allergies

    Get prescription medications like Apoquel or over-the-counter relief to help your pet.

  • Ear Infections

    Pick up medicine like Zymox Ear Solution for inflamed and infected ears.

Petco Insurance

Be ready for anything with flexible and affordable insurance plans.

Common Labrador Health Issues

Learn about health concerns you should watch out for as your dog ages.

Grooming

Regular grooming and dental care are essential for your Labrador Retriever's health and wellness as they can help stop skin and coat issues, dental disease and other concerns before they start.

  • brushing

    While Labs have short coats that can resist tangles, their double coat is often thick. Without proper brushing, your pet can leave a trail of fur wherever they go, especially during spring and fall shedding seasons.

  • bathing

    You can wash your Lab in a bathtub, walk-in shower or portable doggy tub. And you can shop for dog and puppy shampoos and conditioners that are formulated to be gentle on their skin and coat and leave them smelling and feeling great.

  • nail trimming

    Just like humans, your dog needs regular nail trims. When nails grow too long, they can snag on carpets and linens or even make it difficult for your dog to walk, run and play.

  • toothbrushes

    Establishing an oral hygiene routine is just as important for your pet as it is for you. Just like their pet parents, dogs can also suffer from periodontal disease if proper care isn't taken.

  • dental treats

    Since your pet relies on their teeth so much, proper oral hygiene is essential in maintaining your pup's overall health and allowing them to enjoy their best-loved activities. At Petco, you'll find a variety of dental chews and sticks for your dog to help keep their teeth clear of plaque and tartar between brushings.

  • professional grooming

    Any time you need help with your dog's grooming routine, our salons can help with à la carte services like teeth-brushing and customized packages for issues like fleas, shedding and more.

Dog Grooming

Our stylists help support your dog's health with personalized care.

Labrador Grooming Guide

Learn how to help maintain their skin & coat in between professional grooms, so it stays healthy.

Where to adopt

Whether you're looking for a great family dog or an outdoor adventure buddy, Labrador Retrievers can make excellent companions for pet parents who are able to give them the exercise they need. When trained properly, Labs are known to be obedient, loyal and friendly. They're also known to have incredible patience, an asset around children and other pets.

Most Labs are powerful swimmers who are driven to retrieve. They need daily physical and mental challenges and require weekly brushings to maintain their thick, short coat. Check out Labrador Retrievers available for adoption through Petco Love who are currently looking for their forever homes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions about Labrador Retrievers.

General

Although they're beloved worldwide, Labrador Retrievers trace their origins to Canada. The shaggy-haired Newfoundland is a cousin of the Labrador Retriever—both originated on the island of Newfoundland and descended from the extinct St. John's Water Dog. This extinct breed arose from the mingling of various species of European working dogs and existed as far back as the 1500s. They were often fishermen's assistants, sporting water-resistant coats and jumping into the sea to pull in fish and nets.

Around the 1830s, St. John's Water Dogs were transported to the English port of Poole. They caught the attention of the Earl of Malmesbury, who was impressed with these dogs' retrieving skills and decided to breed them as hunting companions. The Earl successfully established the breed that became today's Labrador Retriever but mistakenly named them "Labrador dogs," despite them hailing from the nearby island of Newfoundland. The breed was officially recognized by England's Kennel Club in 1903 and by the American Kennel Club in 1917.

Labrador Retrievers come in three distinctive colors recognized by the AKC—black, yellow and brown (or chocolate). Black was the first color to be bred, and it is still the most common color due to the dominance of the black color gene. Yellow and chocolate Labs each make up about a quarter of the breed's numbers.

Interestingly, black and chocolate Labrador Retrievers have paws and noses that are the same color as their coat, while the yellow Lab's nose and paws can be black or brown. It's not always possible to tell what color Labrador Retriever puppies will be based on the coat color of their parents.

Labrador Retriever colors can fall outside the standard black, yellow and chocolate. Some of these colors are the result of mixed breeding or poor breeding practices, while others are simply hue variations within an AKC-accepted Labrador Retriever color. For instance, the "fox red" color—while sometimes erroneously presented as a distinct color of purebred Lab—is just one of the varied shades of gold accepted in yellow Labs.

Unlike some dog breeds that shed seasonally, Labrador Retrievers shed year-round—although it tends to be heaviest in the spring and fall. This shedding can be attributed to the thick, double-layered coat that made Labs' ancestors so well suited to swimming in the cold waters around Newfoundland. Labs' tendency to shed around the house is a small price that many potential Labrador Retriever parents are willing to pay in exchange for their usually bright personalities. At Petco, we carry solutions that can help make grooming and cleaning up after your Labrador Retriever easier and less time-consuming.

While dogs in the retriever class share some characteristics—including an amiable personality, the ability to follow cues and a love of playing fetch—there are notable differences between Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. While both yellow Labs and Golden Retrievers come in a rainbow of beautiful golden hues—from light cream to deep red—they have distinct physical traits. For one thing, the hair of a yellow Labrador can be much shorter, while Golden retrievers typically have longer, wavier hair. Another key difference is that Labrador retrievers are usually more "square" and stocky in their heads and bodies, while Golden Retrievers have longer, more tapered snouts and less muscular bodies.

The price of a purebred Labrador Retriever will vary depending on the breeder. Some breeders might ask for a few hundred dollars, while the higher-end price may exceed a couple thousand. The average ranges from about $800 to $1,500. While it might be tempting to look for a lower-cost Labrador puppy, you should be wary of breeders offering suspiciously low prices, as this can be a sign that the breeder is not reputable. They may have poor breeding practices or keep their dogs in poor conditions.

If you're cost-conscious, a wonderful way to welcome a Labrador Retriever into your home without paying a high purchase price—or worse, underpaying for a purebred puppy from a shady breeder—is to adopt from a Labrador Retriever rescue. There are many Lab rescue organizations throughout the United States, so check online for resources in your area. You're likely to find purebreds in a range of colors for a much lower adoption fee than you would find with a breeder.

Remember that a Labrador Retriever puppy's purchase or adoption price is just one part of a pet parent's financial responsibility. For cost-effective supplies and services, you can visit your neighborhood Petco Pet Care Center or shop online for money-saving dog deals on food and supplies.

Health

No matter how much we treasure our dogs, we know they won't be with us forever. Luckily, Labrador Retrievers typically have a longer lifespan than other dogs of their size, with most living 10 to 14 years. The average lifespan of a Labrador Retriever is about 12 to 12.5 years.

Some studies suggest that chocolate Labrador Retrievers’ life expectancy is about a year shorter than their yellow and black counterparts. This may be related to the chocolate Lab's higher likelihood of developing particular skin and ear infections.

While your beloved Labrador Retriever may not live forever, you can do your part to give them a happy, healthy life by tending to their needs and keeping them in good shape. Nutritious food, regular visits with their veterinarian and ample exercise can help your pet live a long life. As Labrador Retrievers are prone to joint issues, you may want to consult your veterinarian about giving your Lab preventive joint health supplements. Petco's wide selection of dog health and wellness solutions can help keep your canine in good condition.

Labrador Retrievers are considered medium-large dogs. Their bodies are usually solid and sturdy—well-suited to the sporting activities for which they were bred. Today, Labradors are more likely to use all that power for enthusiastic games and playing than retrieving fish and fowl.

How tall is a typical Labrador Retriever? On average, about 21.5 to 24.5-inches tall at the shoulder, according to the AKC. Size varies somewhat based on sex, with females usually standing a little shorter than males. Their weight can vary widely—especially as many Labradors are food motivated and put on weight if their diet isn’t closely monitored or they don’t get enough exercise. In general, Labs typically weigh between 55 and 80 pounds. Extra weight can add additional strain to your pet’s body and exacerbate heart and joint problems. To help keep your Labrador Retrieverat their target weight, they should engage in about an hour of exercise a day—whether that be through fetching, running, swimming or hiking.

Behavior

While Labrador Retrievers were bred as working dogs with swimming and fetching skills, their popularity in the United States is likely due to their sunny dispositions. Labs can make excellent companions to children and adults alike. They tend to love—and need—exercise but are comfortable lounging for long periods, too. They're outgoing and make new friends easily, although their strong bark and loyal behavior can provide a sense of security when someone new shows up at the door.

Common Labrador Retriever traits include:

  • Friendly disposition Labs can be cheerful and friendly, even when meeting someone for the first time. They can make good companions who aren't ordinarily picky about their environment, whether lounging on the couch or playing. They're typically sociable and can enjoy being part of a pack—whether that means other dogs or your family.
  • Suitable family dogs Labradors can get along with people of all ages and families of all sizes. They can be loyal friends to just one pet parent but have exhibited behaviors that can make them suitable for families with small children due to their historically low aggression levels.
  • Good with other pets The famous Labrador Retriever's easy temperament isn't limited to people. Most Labs are happy to share a home with other dogs and even cats.
  • High energy Labrador Retrievers typically enjoy getting outside and moving their bodies. This is one of the traits that can make them great family dogs, as Labs and kids can spend hours playing together and expending energy. If you don't have highly active children, you'll need to devote time each day to exercising your Lab with walks, a session of fetch or a visit to the dog park.
  • Intelligence As sporting dogs, Labrador Retrievers are bred to be intelligent and highly trainable. Training from an early age can be important to temper their abundant energy, but you're unlikely to encounter stubbornness or resistance to training. However, puppies have been known to be clumsy at first.

The Labrador Retriever’s intelligence and desire to please usually make them easy to train—especially if you begin in puppyhood. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Start young Labrador Retrievers benefit most from obedience training when it's started early. At about 8 weeks old, most Lab puppies are ready to begin gently learning training cues.
  • Socialization Labrador Retriever puppies should be exposed to new situations and experiences from an early age. If Labs come into frequent contact with other dogs, other animals and humans of all ages, they are more likely to grow up pleasant and good natured.
  • Swimming Labrador Retrievers have webbed paws, which typically makes them great swimmers. You won't want to introduce a very young puppy to the water, but Labs can be gradually taught how to swim starting around 3 months of age.
  • Training For optimal results, try giving cues to your Labrador in various environments so they get a chance to practice obedience in a range of conditions.
  • Positive reinforcement Labrador Retrievers—and all dogs—benefit from encouragement and positive reinforcement rather than scolding or harsh words to motivate good behavior. While all dogs love treats, Labrador Retrievers' love of food is well known, so the occasional treat to reward a good training session might be exceptionally motivating.
  • Special training The average Labrador Retriever's temperament can make them wonderful service animals due to their intelligence, trainability and friendly nature. If you're interested in training your Labrador for service, search online for programs in your area.

Nutrition

What does a Labrador Retriever eat? Anything and everything, if left up to them. Most Labs have quite the appetite due to them being energetic, active dogs. While all dogs benefit from nutritious, high-quality dog food, Labradors usually need protein-rich food to keep their muscles and joints in good condition. Look for dog food made from natural ingredients with a good balance of protein and fat—especially if your Lab spends a lot of time playing fetch or swimming. As they were initially bred for work, it's good for Labrador Retrievers to indulge their natural instinct to move their bodies. Labs typically love to eat and are prone to obesity, so getting in a good workout before refueling with nutrient-dense dog food is often recommended.

Exercise

Labradors tend to be energetic dogs who are always ready for action. They're known for loving walks, runs and swims. Many Labs are best suited to homes with large yards or pet parents who are willing and able to give them plenty of exercise each day. Without exercise, Labrador Retrievers can sometimes engage in destructive behaviors, so it's important to make sure your pup has lots of chances to burn off their energy each day.

Care

On average, caring for a middle-aged Lab costs around $1,350 per year. That’s averaging $300 for vet care, $300 for grooming and boarding, $500 for food and treats and $250 on other miscellaneous costs.

Keep in mind that the cost of caring for your Labrador Retriever will vary based on many factors, including their unique health and wellness needs and issues, the type of food you feed them, their age and more.