The Labrador Retriever has consistently ranked as the most popular purebred dog in the United States for more than 10 years, according to the American Kennel Club. The AKC registers more than a hundred thousand new Labrador Retrievers each year, but when you take into account all the Labs never registered at all, or registered with another organization (such as the United Kennel Club), the popularity of this stable, family-friendly dog is truly staggering.
Is the Labrador Retriever the Right Dog for You?
There are a couple of characteristics these large, solidly built dogs share: A love of swimming and of eating. Any body of water puddle-sized or larger is a magnet to these dogs, and mud is considered a fashion accessory. The short, drip-dry coat of the Lab sheds water and dirt easily, but that’s of little consolation if the debris lands on white carpeting.
As for eating, two problems: Too much food, and bad food choices. Veterinarians call these dogs “Flabradors,” because obesity is common once they hit their middle-age mellowing out stage. Before the age of two or three, many Labradors can be extremely active and destructive despite their breed reputation for calm dispositions. It's in their extended adolescence that many Labradors find appeal in swallowing rocks, socks and Barbie dolls, all of which and more have been surgically removed from these dogs. A healthy measured diet, good supervision and lots of exercise are a must to keep these happy retrievers healthy and out of trouble.
Despite the challenges, the Labrador is well-suited to a variety of active families. They're perfect for homes with sports-minded older children, but may be a little rambunctious for toddlers, especially as puppies or young dogs. Singles and young couples who love the outdoors also match up well with this breed, and its size and even temperament makes the Labrador a great companion for active seniors who love to walk and would appreciate a dog who looks intimidating, even if he is more of a lover than a fighter.
With adequate exercise, these versatile companions can handle anything from a small city apartment to a vast ranch. What they can’t handle is isolation: If you get a Lab, make him a member of your family, not an outdoor dog.
Variations of the Labrador Retriever
Labradors are easy-going, easy-to-train dogs that come in three colors
(black, yellow and chocolate) and field and show types. For the heavy-set Labradors preferred by show breeders in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. offers information as well as breeder and rescue referral. For the middle-weight show-type Labradors preferred in most other countries, the National Labrador Retriever Club also offers such information and referrals. For the leaner, field type Labradors ideal as a companion for more athletic endeavors, Working Retriever Central offers breeder classifieds.
6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Labrador Retriever Puppy
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely
to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and
will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills. Puppy mills
also advertise through Internet sites, so never deal with a breeder
who’ll ship anywhere to anyone with a credit card.
- Look for a good, reliable breeder as opposed to the right Labrador puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.
- Do not take a breeder’s word that the parents are “healthy” or even
“vet checked.” Insist on seeing independent certification of the health status of the parents.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue
group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with
“puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from
both understand your rights and recourses.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Because many
young Labradors are a handful, and many healthy defects hide until
maturity, you can avoid both problems by adopting an adult Labrador (or
Lab mix) from a rescue group. At
two or three years of age and up, any congenital defects may well be
apparent and can be spotted with X-rays and an examination.
- Puppy or adult, take your Labrador to your veterinarian soon after
adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and
will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you
avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about preventive care for
ears, since dogs who like to swim and have floppy ears are prone to
Health Issues Common to Labrador Retrievers
In the Labrador, the most serious (and potentially expensive) health issues are related to the malformation of hips, patellas (knees) and elbows. No veterinarian can look at a growing puppy and predict that the animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder and insist on seeing independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. A dog with severe hip dysplasia may need expensive surgery; minor skeletal defects may mean the early onset of crippling arthritis.
Cancer is also common; unfortunately, it’s more difficult to predict and avoid. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of. This information will give you some general information – but sadly, no guarantees. In the same study done by the OFA, 41% of dogs reported as deceased died of cancer.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new pet into your home, you have the power to protect it from two of the most common health problems: Obesity (which makes other health issues worse) and eating inappropriate objects. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
|Condition ||Risk Profile ||Cost to Diagnose and Treat |
|Cancer ||High ||$3,000-$8,000 |
|Hip Dysplasia |
|Medium ||$1,500-$3,000 |
|Osteochondrosis of the Ankle/Knee |
|High ||$2,000-$4,000 |
|Entropion ||High ||$300-$1,500 |
|Exercise Induced Collapse |
|High ||$500-$1,000 |
|Osteochondrosis of the Elbow ||High ||$2,000-$4,000 |
|Cardiomyopathy ||High ||$500-$1,500 |
|Elbow Dysplasia ||Medium ||$1,500-$4,000 |
|Patellar Luxation ||High ||$1,500-$3,000 |
|Portosystemic Shunts ||Medium ||$2,000-$6,000 |
|Cataracts ||High ||$1,500-$5,000 |
|Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance
Pet Insurance for Labrador Retrievers
Pet insurance for Labrador Retrievers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Labrador Retrievers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Labrador Retrievers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Labrador Retriever is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.