The Advantages & Disadvantages of a Labrador Retriever

By Cate Rushton

According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador retriever is the most popular breed in the United States. He’s good-natured, intelligent and friendly to humans and animals alike. However, no dog breed is a perfect fit for everyone. Owning a Lab has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your specific situation.

Size and Coat

The Labrador retriever grows to as much as 80 pounds and stands 24 inches tall at the shoulder. He’s strong, athletic and muscular with a wide chest. He’s easily capable of jumping into the back of the Jeep without assistance and leaping 5 feet to catch a Frisbee. The Lab’s specialty is jumping into bodies of water to retrieve waterfowl for hunters, so he’s an excellent swimmer with a coat made to shed water quickly.

A full-grown Lab needs 3 cups of food every day making him more expensive to feed than a smaller dog. He’s sweet-tempered, but can get excited and jump up on his people, which may injure toddlers. His coat has two layers to keep him warm, dry and comfortable, but it sheds a lot. Expect to spend a lot of time sweeping or vacuuming when you live with a Lab.

Energy Level

If you’re an athletic, outdoorsy person, he’s an energetic companion for hiking, running and games of Frisbee or catch. Provide him with plenty of water and he’ll match your stamina on just about any trail. He’s even strong enough to carry his own treats, water and a collapsible drinking bowl on his back with a special doggy backpack.

Sedentary or busy owners might find the exercise needs of a Labrador overwhelming. Without daily exercise, he’ll become bored and may resort to destructive behavior such as chewing furniture and woodwork or digging up the yard. Labs also have a tendency to become obese if they spend their days on the couch.

Labrador Intelligence

Nothing makes your Lab happier than learning new tricks. He’s eager to please and highly intelligent. His smarts are a great advantage when it comes to any kind of training. Most Labradors are fast to housetrain and easily learn to come when called, sit, stay and otherwise behave themselves admirably. In addition, you can teach him to do cool things such as run obstacle courses, use doggy treat puzzle toys and fetch.

It’s hard to consider intelligence a disadvantage, but a lazy owner will find that his Lab’s brain power combined with love of adventure can be bothersome. Leave your Labrador retriever unattended in the yard too long and he’ll find a way over, or under, the fence. He might even figure out how to unlatch the gate. Ignored in the house, he can find creative ways to get into cabinets and open doors to access rooms you’d like to keep off-limits.

Labrador Popularity

Due to his popular nature, it’s easy to find a Lab puppy in black, chocolate or yellow and bring him home almost immediately. Reputable breeders exist in all areas of the country and provide healthy, well-socialized pups. You can view both parents and see certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, which guarantees the parents are free of hip dysplasia.

Find your Lab at a local animal shelter or rescue organization. Labs are easy-going and typically can transition into a new home without many behavior problems. Organizations dedicated to facilitating Lab adoptions take care to ensure that your new family friend is healthy and well-adjusted, or can warn you of potential problems.

The popularity of the Lab results in many people seeking to make quick money by breeding them. You'll find many disadvantages when buying from a backyard breeder:

  • Prospective owners aren’t typically able to meet both parents and can’t see their temperaments.
  • Breeding standards for such conditions as hip dysplasia, epilepsy and congenital heart defects are lower.
  • Socialization, cleanliness and living conditions may be compromised.

The heartbreak of falling in love with your Lab puppy, only to find that he has serious health issues is a disadvantage of which to be aware.