Search Menu
Three Labrador retrievers, chocolate, yellow and black, lying in a row outdoors in the sunshine.
Farinoza /

The Labrador Retriever is one of America’s most popular dog breeds, and it’s easy to see why. These easygoing, affectionate, energetic dogs are family-friendly all-rounders, equally at home on the couch or in the field. Their name is misleading, though, as they don’t hail from Labrador but from Newfoundland, where they worked as duck retrievers and fisherman’s mates, until English nobles brought the breed to the UK in the nineteenth century, and set about refining and standardizing it.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Labrador Retrievers.

Labs Love the Water

In fact, these dogs were made for the water! Their thick tail (sometimes called an “otter tail”) is used as a powerful rudder, their webbed feet help them swim fast, and their thick, waterproof coats keep them happy even in cold water, like the icy Newfoundland waters where they were first bred. All of these traits make Labs great competitors in Diving Dogs trials.

Labrador Retriever swimming with a decoy in its mouth.
©Field Dog Imagery

They Are Purpose-Bred Hunting Dogs

Labs started out as duck retrievers, and after they were brought back to England in the 1800s, the British bred them as game-hunting companions. Today, they’re excellent retrievers who can work in a variety of settings, including waterfowl hunting and game hunting, often for many hours at a time. You’ll find Labs excelling in Retriever Field Trials and Retriever Hunting Tests.

They’re Very Versatile Workers

Thanks to their intelligence, eagerness to please, and willingness to work hard, Labradors are invaluable workers in a variety of fields. They’re among the most popular choices for service dog work, as well as search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and therapy dog work.

The Breed Goes Way Back

Labrador Retrievers have been around for quiet some time. The pedigrees of two of the most influential Labs, “Peter of Faskally” and “Flapper” go back as far as 1878. Peter of Faskally was the first Field Trial Champion in the early 1900s, and was considered part of the original chocolate coat Labradors’ bloodline.

Labrador retriever head portrait indoors.
Anne Ruthmann Photography

Be Prepared for Endless Energy

Though they’re famously laid-back, Labs were made to run, swim, and work. Labs that don’t receive ample exercise, including at least one long, brisk walk per day, might end up displaying destructive behaviors, like chewing on objects around the house or escaping the yard.

Labs Are Popular

Every year the American Kennel Club releases our ranking of the most popular dog breeds based on AKC registration statistics for the previous year. The Labrador Retriever was the most popular breed for over two decades, and remains one of the most popular breeds.

Puppy Training and Obedience Classes Are Highly Recommended

These bold, bouncy dogs are strong and full of energy, so proper training and socialization are essential. Luckily, with their eager-to-please, intelligent demeanors, these dogs can make training classes a joy for themselves and their owners.

They Come in Three Conformation Colors

The three colors are yellow, black, and chocolate. All three colors of Labrador Retrievers are shown in the same ring during dog shows.

Labrador retriever head portrait of each color: black, yellow, and chocolate.
©claireliz -

They’re Incredible Versatile Sporting Dogs

With their characteristic intelligence, obedience, and eagerness to please, Labradors excel at a variety of dog sports. Besides dock diving and hunting trials, they tend to perform very well in sports like Agility, AKC Rally, and Obedience.

Color Is Not an Indication of Character

Some claim that yellow Labs are the laziest of the breed, while black Labs are the best hunters, but none of these claims are supported by science. Like people, each dog is different, and some breeders develop their stock for its skills in the field, while others are concerned more with conformation to the breed standard. However, none of these differences directly depend on the dog’s color.

Related article: 11 Labrador Retriever Names for Your Loving and Sociable Puppy
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Selecting a Puppy

How do you know what breed is right for your family? How do you find a reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder? Download this e-book for guidance on these questions and other important factors to consider when looking for a puppy.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download