Labrador Dog Characteristics

By Joanna Ehlers

The intelligent, athletic Labrador retriever is a favorite of American canine enthusiasts and has long been considered one of the most suitable dogs to keep as a pet. Prized for his agility, enthusiasm and gentleness, the Labrador is at home in the field, in the show ring or on the couch. If you're considering adding a Labrador, be sure to research the breed with a reputable breeder, shelter or adoption society.

Physical Traits

Labrador running across field.

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Labrador retrievers weigh between 55 and 70 pounds. They can be solid black, chocolate brown or yellow, according to the American Kennel Club. Labs of all colors possess a short yet dense water-resistant double coat that enables them to retrieve game in inclement weather. The Labrador's tail is thick and muscular at the base and tapers toward the tip, lending it the characteristic "otter" shape. Overall, the Labrador is strongly built with a well-balanced conformation and is slightly longer than tall.

Labrador Behavior and Temperament

Man petting his Labrador dog beside window.

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The energetic Labrador is described as a friendly, gentle animal who gets along well with children, adults, strangers and other animals. Labradors bred for field work and hunting are more active than those bred for show or companionship, and will need more exercise, according to the Dog Channel. Dogs from show bloodlines may be more laid back, though still requiring a daily dose of physical activity to be at their best. A third type of Labrador, the English-type Lab, is a mellow, easy-going version of the show and field type Labs. All varieties of Labrador love to eat almost anything, enjoy water, and prefer being with their people whenever possible.

Labrador Needs

Black Labrador playing fetch at the beach.

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The Labrador's intelligence and energy level keep him entertained, whether or not his owner is home. Keeping your smart dog occupied is the key to protecting your home and belongings. Encourage positive behavior from your Labrador by keeping him busy physically and mentally. Once your Labrador is mature, between the age of 18 and 24 months, he can enjoy up to two 30-minute daily walks, hiking, swimming, running or agility courses at your veterinarian's discretion. As with many breeds, Labs suffer from their share of health issues. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common among Labs, as are anterior cruciate ligament tears. Labradors should be kept at an appropriate weight for their size, so as not to exacerbate joint problems, according to Vetstreet.

Lab Puppies

Black Labrador puppy in red wagon.

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Raising a roly-poly puppy can be a barrel of fun, but puppies can cause massive headaches when their needle-sharp teeth chew inappropriate items, such as furniture, toys or other household items. Before they reach the age of 2 or 3, young dogs may chew on and ingest anything they find, so it's important to puppy-proofing the domicile until the dog outgrows his "teenage" years, which begin around 6 months of age, according to Vetstreet.

Mixed Breeds

Golden Labradoodle sitting on grass.

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Whether they're designer breeds or not, many dogs benefit from the influence of Labrador genetics. The Labrador lends its trademark athleticism and kindness to its offspring, which include such popular crosses as the Labradoodle, whose love of people is undoubtedly inherited from his Labrador ancestors, according to Vetstreet. Although breeders who cross dog breeds may do so with the optimistic idea that the resulting mix will combine the best traits of both dogs, this may not come to fruition. If you're looking to adopt or purchase a Labrador mix, do thorough research ahead of time and be sure to purchase or adopt through a reputable organization.