Now that you're actually dreaming about dogs every night, after reading tons of library books and scouring articles online, checking out breeders of a half-dozen different breeds, and even touring their facilities, you're finally done with the in-depth research portion of which breed of dog would best suit your family and lifestyle. And if your heart is set on a Labrador retriever, join the crowd! What's not to love about these dogs?
This sweet-faced, amiable dog has ranked No. 1 on the American Kennel Club's Top 10 Most Popular Dogs list for 28 years in a row (as of 2018). Imagine how many hearts the Lab has stolen in all those years! In fact, generations of countless American families wouldn't even give a second thought to another breed.
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Why the Lab is popular
The fun-loving Lab — member of the American Kennel Club's Sporting Group — excels as a sporting/hunting pal, playmate for the kids, service dog, search and rescue dog, obedience champion, "canine good citizen," and an affectionate, devoted companion who exudes a joyous love of life that's downright contagious. Living with a Lab can't help but make you smile from ear to ear, every single day!
Now that you've decided, it comes down to making some hard choices about that new family member. Are you smitten with the chocolate Lab female, female yellow Lab (in colors ranging from fox-red to light cream) or a male black Lab, which, once upon a time, was the most popular color?
While having to choose from this trio of gorgeous colors may lead you to acquire one of each, what's more of a challenge, and, seemingly a quandary that many prospective dog owners face, is how to select between a boy or girl. And although males and females have their equal share of outstanding, gender-specific attributes — just like humans do — what are the real differences between female and male Labrador retrievers?
And will these differences matter to you?
Male vs. female Labs demeanor
Desirae Pausma, Labrador retriever breeder and owner of Neverest Labrador Retrievers in Wisconsin explains, there is no major difference between male and female Labs' personalities. That said, after raising Labs and having both males and females, she concedes there is a subtle, yet distinct difference in their day-to-day interaction or demeanor. She sums it up as a female Lab tends toward saying, "love me" while a male Lab tends toward saying, "I love you."
Although females like to please you as their male counterparts do, female Labs expect to be pleased in return. Males, on the other hand, are content to merely lie at your feet enjoying your company. Regardless of these differences, Pausma proclaims her clients are equally as happy with either gender of this inherently sweet dog.
Typically, it's easier to find similarities between female and male Labs than outright differences since all Labs have happy-go-lucky personalities — only one of many reasons they make such awesome pets. Consequently, if you embrace a Lab as "part of your family," whether male or female, they will become a "part of your soul," says Pausma.
Male or female Labrador comparison
Keep in mind that many of the differences between the male and female Labs are hormone-driven, and greatly diminish or disappear when you spay and neuter. Also important to observe, is that every Lab, female or male, is an individual with their own unique personality, so characteristics can vary widely among individuals.
When you compare male and female Labrador retrievers, you'll see how these general traits might be a positive or negative for you and your lifestyle.
Female Labs traits
Unless you are a professional breeder, you should be spaying for health and behavioral reasons, in addition to doing your part in eliminating backyard breeders and controlling overpopulation. But if you don't spay, be prepared for:
- Females have a heat cycle every six months accompanied by a bloody discharge.
- Females can be more reserved than males and experience mood swings, which are hormone-induced, especially during the heat cycle.
- Possibility of unwanted pregnancy.
- Aggressiveness toward other females.
If you spay your female Lab, be prepared for:
- The cost of spaying is more than neutering a male due to the more complex removal of the uterus, which has a longer recuperation than neutering.
- Females mature faster than males, thus are often further ahead in housetraining and obedience training. This trait is observed when raising a litter of male and female Lab puppies, Pausma says.
- Females are a little more demanding, stubborn, territorial, and independent than male Labs.
- Females are more prone to urine infections, known as UTIs, due to crouching low to the ground during urination, exposing themselves to bacteria.
Male Labs traits
As with female Labs, unless you are a professional breeder, neutering your male Lab should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian for any pros and cons. Neutering has a great many benefits for the dog and you. But if you don't neuter your male Lab, be prepared for:
- Intact male Labs can be quite protective over their things.
- Urine marking.
- Displays of dominance.
- Lifting his leg to urinate on anything and everything outdoors.
If you neuter your male Lab, be prepared for:
- The cost of neutering is less than a female spaying with a quicker recovery.
- Males may be more attentive than females.
- Males can be more protective of their things than females, although it is lessened with neutering.
- Males are more affectionate and more exuberant throughout their lifetime than females.
- Although both Lab boys and girls love food, males tend to be more food-motivated.
AKC breed standard differences
Sizewise, female and male Labrador retrievers are comparable, with females slightly smaller, but both are sturdy, muscular, and athletic with the male a bit more substantial. The AKC breed standard is 22.5-24.5 inches for males and 21.5-23.5 inches for females. Male dogs weigh 65-80 pounds with female Labs 55-70 pounds. Of course, many Labs are larger or smaller than the standard.
There is not any significant sexual dimorphism in Labrador retrievers.
Finding your Lab soul mate
Either the male or female Labrador is equally intelligent, friendly, and outgoing, so no matter which gender you choose, you will open your home to a gentle, non-aggressive, and loyal soul mate.
if you are looking for an adolescent or adult Lab, the first place to look is your local shelter or Humane Society, and be sure to check out a Labrador-retriever-exclusive rescue, which will often serve a large area, encompassing several states. Below, is a small selection of Lab-specific rescues in different places in the U.S.:
- If you're in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, or North Carolina, visit Lab Rescue LRCP, a non-profit volunteer organization that rescues, fosters, and finds forever homes for abused, neglected, and abandoned Labrador retrievers.
- Dedicated to rescuing Labs left homeless for whatever reason, and serving Rochester, New York, and surrounding areas, the non-profit, Lab Lovers Rescue, is another option.
- Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida is a 100% volunteer, state-wide organization dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and placing Labrador retrievers in loving, permanent homes.
- If you are in the California area of Monterey Bay, check out Monterey Bay Labrador Retriever Rescue. This volunteer, non-profit tax exempt 501 (c) (3) organization is dedicated to rescuing and rehoming Labs and Lab mixes from high-kill shelters. The organization also rehomes Labs whose families need to give them up due to illness, divorce, loss of home, military service commitments, or other change in circumstances.
If you are not in one of these states, you can do an Internet search for a local Lab-rescue organization. Keep in mind how popular the Labrador retriever breed is throughout North America and you can only imagine how many terrific Labs are in shelters waiting for forever homes.
If you are considering a Lab puppy, choose your breeder wisely based on thorough research armed with information about what to look for in a responsible breeder, which is available at the AKC's Puppy Finder and in helpful articles throughout the AKC site.