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Labrador Retriever Interesting Facts

Labrador Retriever Facts: History, Health, Food & Exercise Needs

Labrador Retriever  

Breed History

Labrador Retrievers hail from the island of Newfoundland, off the north eastern Atlantic coast of Canada. The breed was originally called “St. John's dogs”, in reference to the capital city of Newfoundland.

The breed established itself as a strong and loyal working dog following centuries of helping local fishermen from as far back as the 1700s.  St. John's dogs would work alongside their owners, retrieving fish that had escaped from hooks and nets.

English sportsmen imported St. John's dogs to England to serve as retrievers for hunting. Indeed, it was the second Earl of Malmesbury who was one of the first to ship St. John's dogs to England in the 1830s.

However, it was the third Earl of Malmesbury, who is credited with naming the breed “Labrador”.

How popular are Labrador Retrievers?

The Labrador Retriever has now become America's most popular dog breed. However, the breed was almost made extinct in the 1880s. The Malmesbury family, and other English fans, are credited with saving the breed. In Newfoundland, the breed disappeared because of government restrictions and tax laws.

In England, however, the breed survived. In 1903, The Kennel Club recognised the Labrador Retriever as a distinct breed. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1917. 

Labrador Retriever Temperament

Generally, the Labrador Retriever temperament is considered friendly, happy-go-lucky, eager to please, and sociable with people and other dogs. 

You will often see a Labrador Retriever in the role of a search and rescue dog. This is due to the breed’s strong athletic build, powerful sense of smell, and courageous nature. These qualities make Labrador Retrievers excellent at agility and obedience competitions.

dog agility competition

Labrador Retriever Physical Qualities

With a muscular and athletic build, the Labrador has a friendly demeanour, good intelligence, and plenty of energy. A unwavering sense of devotion runs deep in the breed. Above all, Labradors are affectionate, social, people-oriented dogs, who dedicate their lives to serving their human families.

  • Males: height 22.5 to 24.5 inches / weight 27 to 36 kg.
  • Females: height 21.5 to 23.5 inches / weight 25 to 32 kg.
  • Running speed: 35 mph.
  • Jumping height: 5 feet (recommended minimum fence height 6 feet).
  • Bite force: 235 psi (a Doberman’s bite force is around 229 psi).
  • Labrador Retriever life span: 10 to 14 years.
  • Labrador colours: Labrador black, Labrador gold, and Labrador chocolate brown.

What is the activity level of a Labrador Retriever?

With a high activity level rating, it’s essential that Labrador Retrievers receive a good amount of daily walking and running exercise to keep them fit, healthy and happy.

How much exercise does a Labrador Retriever need?

A Labrador Retriever dog, like all dogs, requires a varied range of both physical and mental activity to keep the dog healthy, happy and stimulated. A dog that does not receive enough exercise and becomes bored will often demonstrate destructive behaviours, as a cry for help.

Destructive behaviours can often be easily fixed, simply by giving your dog a good amount of daily exercise, along with stimulating toys to chew and play with. Here are some examples: KONG Extreme, KONG Extreme Traxx Tyre, and the KONG Flexball.  

Adult dogs require at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. Without adequate exercise a dog will vent their pent-up energy in various destructive ways, such as chewing furniture, barking and even howling.

This is your dog’s way of communicating with you and telling you that they are not happy. Your dog is telling you that they need lots of exercise and interaction with their human family. Labrador Retrievers are working dogs that love to run and chase.

When walking your dog give it a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes time to run around off the lead. This will allow your dog to stretch its muscles and burn calories, which is very important for its physical and mental health. A high activity dog can easily become stressed if they are not exercised well on a daily basis.     

Top Tip: Labrador Retrievers are "workaholics," and will exhaust themselves to the point where they may collapse. You will need to be the one that ends play and training sessions!

How long should I walk a Labrador puppy?

Puppy walking on lead 

Puppies should not be taken for long walks and should play for only a few minutes at a time. Special care needs to be taken when raising a Labrador puppy.

Top Tip: don't let your puppy run on hard surfaces until they're at least two years old and their joints are fully formed.

Allowing your puppy to run on hard surfaces such as tarmac, concrete or paving slabs can lead to serious joint problems and cause unnecessary suffering throughout their life. Playing on grass or sand is fine, as this will help to protect your puppy’s developing joints.

Are Labradors Good Swimmers?

Labradors are great swimmers. The dog’s physical attributes are perfectly designed for swimming. With webbed paws, an otter-like tail acting as a rudder, and a thick waterproof coat, Labradors can swim happily even in the freezing cold waters of Newfoundland.

Best toys for Labradors 

Like all retrievers, Labradors love to have something to carry in their mouth, whilst out walking. Being a power chewing breed, the Labrador Retriever requires some tough chew toys for tug and chase games, and also for relaxing power chewing sessions in their bed or on the sofa. We recommend these great toys, which are ideal to meet the play and chewing needs of Labradors:

KONG Flexball dog toy     kong extreme dog toy

Labrador Retriever health problems

Labrador Retrievers are generally a healthy breed. As with all dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever is vulnerable to certain health conditions. Not all Labradors will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them.

Hip Dysplasia: a heritable condition in which the thighbone does not sit properly in the hip joint. A dog will show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. In some cases, you might not notice signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia: a heritable condition common to large dog breeds. It's thought to result from varying growth rates of the three bones making a dog’s elbow. This condition can cause painful lameness, which requires urgent treatment.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): an orthopedic condition resulting from the improper growth of cartilage in joints. This condition usually occurs in a dog’s elbows and shoulders. OCD causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend its elbow. This condition can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age.

Overfeeding of "growth formula" puppy foods, or high-protein foods are known to contribute to this condition developing.

Cataracts: are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens, which grow over time. These can develop at any age. In some cases, cataracts can cause severe vision loss.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a family of eye diseases, which result in the gradual deterioration of the retina. In the early stages of the disease, a dog will become night-blind. As the disease progresses, a dog will also begin to lose their daytime vision.  

Epilepsy: Labradors can suffer from epilepsy, which leads to mild or even severe seizures. Seizures may be exhibited by unusual behaviour, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering or hiding. Seizures are frightening to watch.

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD): is a congenital heart defect. Puppies are born with TVD, which is a malformation of the tricuspid valve on the right side of the heart. This condition can be mild or severe. There are some dogs that live with no symptoms, whilst others have been known to die from the condition.

Myopathy: Myopathy affects a dog’s muscles and nervous system. The first signs of this condition emerge between the age of six weeks and seven months. A puppy with myopathy is tired, and stiff when he/she walks and runs. Dogs with this condition are known to collapse after exercise.

In time, the muscles atrophy and the dog can reach the point of barely being able to stand or walk. There is no treatment for this condition. That said, rest and keeping the dog warm seems to reduce symptoms.

Gastric Dilataion-Volvulus (Bloat): bloat is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs. Generally, it affects dogs that are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, or drink large amounts of water or exercise vigorously after eating.

Top Tip: feed adult dogs twice a day. Don’t exercise or play with your dog for 30 minutes after he/she has finished eating. This will help to reduce the risk of your dog suffering from bloat. Dogs can die from bloat if they do not receive immediate medical attention.  

How does bloat occur?

Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid themselves of the excess air in their stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock.

What are the signs of bloat?

The common signs of bloat include a dog having a distended abdomen, the dog might be drooling excessively, and retching without being physically sick. Your dog might also become restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate.

If you notice these symptoms, you must take your dog to the Vet as quickly as possible.

Acute Moist Dermatitis: Acute moist dermatitis is a skin condition in which the skin red and inflamed, which is caused by a bacterial infection. The more common name of this health concern is hot spots. Treatment includes clipping the hair, bathing in medicated shampoo, and antibiotics.

Cold Tail: Cold tail is a benign, though a painful condition common to Labrador Retriever dogs and other retrievers. The condition causes the dog's tail to go limp. This might result in your dog biting at their tail. The condition isn't a cause for alarm, as the tail usually returns to normal condition after a few days. It’s thought that the condition is caused due to muscles located between vertebrae in the tail.

Ear Infections: The Lab's love of water, combined with their drop ear make them prone to ear infections. Weekly checking and cleaning if necessary, helps to prevent infection.

How much food should I give a Labrador Retriever?

Without doubt, Labrador Retrievers love to eat, so much so that they have been known to consume an entire bag of dog food resulting in an expensive trip to the vets.

How much your adult dog eats depends on their size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Just like people, dogs are individuals and have individual feeding requirements - they don't all require the same amount of food.

An important point to remember, is that an active dog will need more food than an inactive dog, for obvious reasons. If in doubt as to whether or not your dog is eating the correct amount of food speak to your Vet.

Due to their immense appetite, Labrador Retrievers can become obese quite quickly, particularly if their food is not strictly controlled by measuring out meals. This Labrador Feeding Chart will help you to ensure your dog eats the correct amount of food for their weight and activity level.

Dog food guide labrador retrievers

Also, Labradors are experts at stealing food… The chance of a Labrador not stealing food left out on a worktop or table is around the same as a you seeing a Wizard riding a Unicorn past your home! If ever there was a program called “Dog v Food”, then a Labrador Retriever would be the perfect competitor and no doubt have a 100% unbeaten record.  

When to feed a puppy?

When it comes to feeding puppies, The Kennel Club states: “Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of 4 months, and then reduce their feed to three meals a day until they are 6 months old. They can then move to two meals a day, and stay on this routine for the rest of their life.

This Labrador Feeding Chart will help you to ensure your dog eats the correct amount of food for their weight and activity level.

Labrador Puppy Feeding Chart

How can I tell if my Labrador Retriever is overweight?

When you look down over your dog, you should be able to see a waist. Place your hands on your dog's back, run your thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downwards. You should be able to feel, but not see, your dog's ribs without having to press hard. If you can't see your dog's ribs, then they need a little less food and much more daily exercise.

Take care so as not to make your dog underweight and living in a state of hunger. This will make your dog unhappy!  

Grooming a Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever benefits from a sleek coat that has two layers. The topcoat consists of a short, thick, straight layer of fur. This is supported by a soft, weather-resistant undercoat. This thick weather-resistant two-layer coat protects Labrador Retrievers from the cold and wet.

Grooming is quite straight forward with a Labrador. That said, this is a breed that sheds a lot of hair. It’s recommended that you brush your dog daily to remove loose dead fur, as this will help to keep your dog’s coat in great condition.

As you groom your dog be sure to check for sores, rashes or signs of infection (i.e. redness, tenderness, or inflammation of the skin, in the nose, mouth, eyes, on the feet and between toes). Eyes should remain clear, with no redness or discharge.

Your careful weekly examination will help to identify any potential health problems at the early stages.

How often should I bath a Labrador Retriever?

Labradors require bathing every two to three months. This will keep their coat looking clean and smelling nice. Of course, if your dog rolls in mud or something foul, then bathe them when required.

labrador retriever in a bath

When checking your dog's ears, be sure to wipe them with a cotton ball dampened with gentle pH-balanced ear cleaner. This will help to prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal. Focus on cleaning just the outer ear.

Ear infections are common in Labrador Retrievers. Be sure to clean out the ears after bath time, swimming, or any other time that your dog gets wet. This will help a great deal to prevent ear infections from occurring.


The Labrador Retriever is an excellent breed. Loving, friendly, people orientated, energetic, and robust, the breed has proven over the decades to be the perfect family dog and working dog.

Given plenty of chew toys, daily exercise, stimulation and interaction with family members, the Labrador Retriever is unlikely to demonstrate destructive behaviours around the home. Managing food is also an essential element for maintaining a happy and healthy dog. All of these things are easily achievable.   

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