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  • Temperament: Friendly, Active, Outgoing
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 1 of 194
  • Height: 22.5-24.5 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
  • Group: Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Labrador Retriever standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Labrador Retriever head and shoulders facing left
Labrador Retriever lying in three-quarter view
Labrador Retriever coat detail
Labrador Retriever standing in three-quarter view
Labrador Retriever head facing forward
Labrador Retriever lying in three-quarter view
Labrador Retriever standing sideways facing left
Labrador Retriever shoulders facing left, head turned forward
Labrador Retriever coat detail
puppies lab puppy playing in grass

Find a Puppy: Labrador Retriever

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.

The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an “otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its “kind,” friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.

HEAD

The head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks; the bony structure of the skull chiseled beneath the eye with no prominence in the cheek. The skull may show some median line; the occipital bone is not conspicuous in mature dogs. Lips should not be squared off or pendulous, but fall away in a curve toward the throat. A wedge-shape head, or a head long and narrow in muzzle and back skull is incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads. The jaws are powerful and free from snippiness- the muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby.

BODY

The Labrador should be short-coupled, with good spring of ribs tapering to a moderately wide chest. The Labrador should not be narrow chested; giving the appearance of hollowness between the front legs, nor should it have a wide spreading, bulldog-like front. Correct chest conformation will result in tapering between the front legs that allows unrestricted forelimb movement. Chest breadth that is either too wide or too narrow for efficient movement and stamina is incorrect. Slab-sided individuals are not typical of the breed; equally objectionable are rotund or barrel chested specimens. The underline is almost straight, with little or no tuck-up in mature animals. Loins should be short, wide and strong; extending to well developed, powerful hindquarters. When viewed from the side, the Labrador Retriever shows a well-developed, but not exaggerated forechest.

FOREQUARTERS

Forequarters should be muscular, well coordinated and balanced with the hindquarters. Shoulders-The shoulders are well laid-back, long and sloping, forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees that permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with strong forward reach. Ideally, the length of the shoulder blade should equal the length of the upper arm. Straight shoulder blades, short upper arms or heavily muscled or loaded shoulders, all restricting free movement, are incorrect. Front Legs-When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good strong bone. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and short legged, heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed. Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and well under the body. The elbows should be close to the ribs without looseness. Tied-in elbows or being “out at the elbows” interfere with free movement and are serious faults. Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg.

COAT

The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible.

HINDQUARTERS

The Labrador’s hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short hocks. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel. Viewed from the side, the angulation of the rear legs is in balance with the front. The hind legs are strongly boned, muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle, and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of the patellae while in motion or when standing. The hock joints are strong, well let down and do not slip or hyper-extend while in motion or when standing. Angulation of both stifle and hock joint is such as to achieve the optimal balance of drive and traction. When standing the rear toes are only slightly behind the point of the rump.

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About the Labrador Retriever

The sturdy, well-balanced Labrador Retriever can, depending on the sex, stand from 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds. The dense, hard coat comes in yellow, black, and a luscious chocolate. The head is wide, the eyes glimmer with kindliness, and the thick, tapering “otter tail” seems to be forever signaling the breed’s innate eagerness.

Labs are famously friendly. They are companionable housemates who bond with the whole family, and they socialize well with neighbor dogs and humans alike. But don’t mistake his easygoing personality for low energy: The Lab is an enthusiastic athlete that requires lots of exercise, like swimming and marathon games of fetch, to keep physically and mentally fit.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
puppies lab puppy playing in grass

Find a Puppy: Labrador Retriever

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Labrador Retriever Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Labrador Retriever should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Lab has a thick, water-repellant double coat that sheds. Give occasional baths to keep them clean. As with all breeds, the Lab’s nails should be trimmed regularly and his teeth brushed frequently.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

EXERCISE

The Labrador Retriever is an exuberant, very energetic breed that needs lots of exercise every day. A Lab who doesn’t get enough exercise is likely to engage in hyperactive and/or destructive behavior to release pent-up energy. The breed’s favorite activities are retrieving and swimming. Labs also love to burn up energy on hunting trips or at field trials, as well as by participating in canine sports such as agility, obedience, tracking, and dock diving. Many Labs also work hard in important roles such as search-and-rescue, drug and bomb detection, and as service and assistance dogs.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Needs Lots of Activity

TRAINING

With the Lab’s physical strength and high energy level, early socialization and puppy training classes are vital. Gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations between the ages of 7 weeks and 4 months and beginning obedience training early on will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult. Puppy training classes serve as part of the socialization process and help the owner learn to recognize and correct any bad habits that may be developing. Labs are devoted, intelligent, and enthusiastic companions who need to be included in family activities.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Outgoing

HEALTH

Labs are healthy dogs overall, and a responsible breeder screens breeding stock for conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disorders, hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness), and eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy. A condition called exercise induced collapse (EIC) can occur in some young adult Labs; a DNA test allows breeders to identify carriers and plan breedings to avoid producing the disease. Like other large, deep-chested dogs, Labs can develop a life-threatening stomach condition called bloat. Owners should educate themselves about the symptoms that indicate this is occurring, and what to do if so.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • EIC DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever

History

The Labrador Retriever is the traditional waterdog of Newfoundland, long employed as a duck retriever and fisherman’s mate. The breed began its steady climb to supreme popularity in the early 1800s, when Labs were spotted by English nobles visiting Canada. These sporting earls and lords returned to England with fine specimens of “Labrador dogs.” (Exactly how these dogs of Newfoundland became associated with Labrador is unclear, but the name stuck.) During the latter half of the 19th century, British breeders refined and standardized the breed.

The physical and temperamental breed traits, so familiar today to millions of devotees around the world, recall the Lab’s original purpose. A short, dense, weather-resistant coat was preferred because during a Canadian winter longhaired retrievers would be encrusted with ice when coming out of the water. In its ancestral homeland, a Lab would be assigned to a fishing boat to retrieve the fish that came off the trawl. Accordingly, in addition to having natural instincts as a retriever, the dog required a coat suited to the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

The Lab’s thick, tapering tail—an “otter tail,” it’s called— serves as a powerful rudder, constantly moving back and forth as the dog swims and aids the dog in turning. As for the breed’s characteristic temperament, it is as much a hallmark of the breed as the otter tail. “The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and nonagressive towards man or animal,” the breed standard says. “The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog.” When defining a Lab’s primary attributes, the most important might be temperament since his utility depends on his disposition. “If a dog does not possess true breed temperament,” wrote a noted dog judge, “he is not a Labrador.”

The Kennel Club (England) recognized the Lab in 1903, and the AKC registered its first dog of the breed in 1917. Labs topped AKC registrations for the first time in 1991 and has reigned as America’s favorite breed ever since.

Did You Know?

The Labrador Retriever did not come from Labrador, but from Newfoundland.
The Labrador Retriever is one of the prime breeds selected as guide and rescue dogs.
The pedigrees of the two most influential Labs, "Peter of Faskally" and "Flapper," go back as far as 1878.
In England, no Labrador can become a bench show champion unless it has a working certificate also.
The original Labrador gradually died out in Newfoundland on account of a heavy dog tax which, with the English quarantine law, practically stopped the importation of the dogs into England.
Many Labs were interbred with other types of retrievers, although fortunately the Labrador characteristics predominated until fanciers wrote up an anti-interbreeding law.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.

The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an “otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its “kind,” friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.

HEAD

The head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks; the bony structure of the skull chiseled beneath the eye with no prominence in the cheek. The skull may show some median line; the occipital bone is not conspicuous in mature dogs. Lips should not be squared off or pendulous, but fall away in a curve toward the throat. A wedge-shape head, or a head long and narrow in muzzle and back skull is incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads. The jaws are powerful and free from snippiness- the muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby.

BODY

The Labrador should be short-coupled, with good spring of ribs tapering to a moderately wide chest. The Labrador should not be narrow chested; giving the appearance of hollowness between the front legs, nor should it have a wide spreading, bulldog-like front. Correct chest conformation will result in tapering between the front legs that allows unrestricted forelimb movement. Chest breadth that is either too wide or too narrow for efficient movement and stamina is incorrect. Slab-sided individuals are not typical of the breed; equally objectionable are rotund or barrel chested specimens. The underline is almost straight, with little or no tuck-up in mature animals. Loins should be short, wide and strong; extending to well developed, powerful hindquarters. When viewed from the side, the Labrador Retriever shows a well-developed, but not exaggerated forechest.

FOREQUARTERS

Forequarters should be muscular, well coordinated and balanced with the hindquarters. Shoulders-The shoulders are well laid-back, long and sloping, forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees that permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with strong forward reach. Ideally, the length of the shoulder blade should equal the length of the upper arm. Straight shoulder blades, short upper arms or heavily muscled or loaded shoulders, all restricting free movement, are incorrect. Front Legs-When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good strong bone. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and short legged, heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed. Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and well under the body. The elbows should be close to the ribs without looseness. Tied-in elbows or being “out at the elbows” interfere with free movement and are serious faults. Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg.

COAT

The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible.

HINDQUARTERS

The Labrador’s hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short hocks. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel. Viewed from the side, the angulation of the rear legs is in balance with the front. The hind legs are strongly boned, muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle, and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of the patellae while in motion or when standing. The hock joints are strong, well let down and do not slip or hyper-extend while in motion or when standing. Angulation of both stifle and hock joint is such as to achieve the optimal balance of drive and traction. When standing the rear toes are only slightly behind the point of the rump.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLACK Check Mark For Standard Color 007
CHOCOLATE Check Mark For Standard Color 071
YELLOW Check Mark For Standard Color 232

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
WHITE MARKINGS 014