15 Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador


The Labrador is the most popular dog on the planet. However, the Labrador is also one of the most common dogs to be found in animal shelters.

Why is it that so many people who buy a Labrador end up either returning them to a breeder or leaving them at an animal shelter? The main reason is that most people, unfortunately, do not do any proper research before buying one. They know what they look like and they know they are so popular so think it must be the perfect dog. Well, it can be. Also though, it might not be – for numerous reasons.

I would just like to say ‘thanks’ to you personally, for performing some due-dilligence before jumping in – most people don’t.

15 Things you MUST know before buying a Labrador

1) The Labrador likes to chew – a lot

The Labrador is well known for many things, mostly positive. However, it is also known to chew. A lot. You’ll see that below I mention how intelligent this dog is but you try and instruct them not to chew – and have no luck. A lot of people assume this is down to teething but actually, this is not always the case.

It does vary but many people have noticed that their Lab will stop chewing when they are around two years old. However, it can end quicker than this and it can go on longer. Some people have had the problem for the entirety of the dog’s life – but this is rare and is usually down to a lack of any proper training when they were young.

2) They are the most popular breed in the States

Actually, they are the most popular breed of dog not only in the US but in many other places in the world, including the UK – and this has been the case since 1991!

There are many reasons for this popularity but one of the biggest is that they are well known for being very good in a family environment. Some of the other reasons will become obvious as you read the below list however, another is that popularity breeds popularity. What do I mean by this? Imagine buying a game on your phone’s app store. You sort them by popularity and choose to buy the one at the very top as you assume that because it’s the most popular it must be the best.

Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador: Chocolate pup

It’s similar to the Labrador – it’s been the most popular for around 30 years and it shows no signs of moving from that number 1 spot. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be there – just potential owners should do more research on all the personality traits of this breed before jumping in.

3) The English named them the Labrador

Originally, the Labrador is from Newfoundland, a province of Canada and was used as a working dog to help fishermen retrieve ducks! In the early part of the 19th Century, some English gentlemen spotted one during a visit and subsequently brought some examples back home. It was these English people that chose the name of ‘Labrador’, although why they actually did this is apparently a bit of a mystery!

However, I’m not sure why it’s such a mystery. Labrador is a region within Newfoundland, Canada. So, I imagine they were just named after the location that they were found, surely? Similarly to the cat breed, Maine Coon.

4) They use their tail as a rudder?

The Labrador has webbing between their toes to enable them to swim more efficiently (it’s like us using flippers) but not many know that they have another trick up their sleeve – their tails!

But what use is their tail when the Lab is swimming? Well, they can actually use it to help them steer when swimming – in a similar fashion to how a rudder works on a boat. Whether they are actually making a conscious decision to move their tail in such a way and they know that this enables them to turn isn’t known – but it certainly does help.

Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador: Lab swimming

One thing to look out for though if they are in quite cold water is the state of their tail when they exit the water. If it’s hanging down, without movement this could be due to something called ‘Limber tail’ and is very painful for them. This is something that needs professional attention – so get them to the vets quickly.

5) They are fast…

Many people believe that the Labrador, due to its often quite solid build and size is not the fastest of runners – I mean, they don’t look like they should run that fast.

There are many places on-line that state that they can run up to 40 mph – however, I’ve not been able to see any proof of that. In fact, the only definitive proof I’ve seen was a rather unscientific YouTube video of a black lab running next to a car with an indicated speed of 30 mph. Since most speedometers run 10% over, one should assume this was actually ~27 mph.

Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador: Running Lab

I was actually surprised they could run this fast and if you look at them moving at this speed it really is quite impressive. Personally, I think it’s unlikely that they could ever hit 40 mph and I’ve certainly not seen any evidence of this as yet. Considering I can only run at about 6 mph – it’s still several times faster than me!

6) There is a good reason they are the most popular Guide Dog

Actually, there are many good reasons why the Labrador makes an excellent Guide Dog. For instance:

  • They are quick learners – the Lab is very receptive to training and, given some patience, will easily learn many commands. The earlier you start the training the better.
  • They are intelligent – this quality goes hand-in-hand with the above actually, as they are intelligent dogs they are quickly able to follow given commands.
  • Their size – not too big and not too small. The proportions of the Labrador ensure there’s less chance of getting under the feet of the user and aren’t so big they become clumsy. They are strong and able to adequately ‘take the lead’ when directing the user.
  • Loving & Loyal – the Labrador can undoubtedly be an exceedingly loving and loyal companion which is another favorable quality in a Guide Dog.

The Labrador’s roots are as a working dog. They love being close to their owners and walking with them – it’s just a perfect match.

7) The Labrador can sniff out disease

We’ve obviously known for a long time about the remarkable sense of smell that dogs have and the Labrador is no exception. In 2015, two dogs were trained to detect certain chemicals found in blood samples that are indicative of prostate cancer and were right 90% of the time (source).

Dogs are also able to detect diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease, years before the symptoms are visible. A Labrador was also able to smell some socks and detect whether the owner had Malaria, even if they were not showing symptoms at that point!

I find this astonishing and wonder how overwhelmed the dog must be when we’re cooking food at home that has a really strong scent. Also, if they can smell the subtleties of minute amounts of chemicals – it’s obvious that when they don’t react to one of their farts – they are pretending!

8) They have two coats

Many people don’t realize that the Labrador actually has a double coat. They have a top layer, otherwise known as a ‘Guard Coat’ which is used to protect the dog from insects and other things that may be trying to penetrate its skin.

Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador: Labs in snow

Underneath the guard coat is the undercoat, which is typically softer than the slightly wiry guard coat. This undercoat is used to regulate the Labrador’s temperature, it can keep them cool by protecting their skin from the harsh summer sun and can keep them warm in the winter.

So, your Labrador already has a built-in mechanism to manage their coat and they must not be shaved – there is absolutely no need for it. In fact, when you think you’re actually helping them by shaving their coat in the summer, you’re actually putting them at risk – so don’t do it!

9) The average lifespan can be short

Depending on where you look, you will see a different answer. On average, it seems the average lifespan of a Labrador is a little over 10 years. However, it can be much more than this – and it can be much less.

There are many factors and variables involved and from your perspective, the best you can do is ensure that you buy one from a decent breeder with no known genetic problems. Then, ensure they live their lives on a balanced diet and get regular exercise. Finally, get insurance as things can get costly quickly in the event of problems.

Although there are a fair few genetic problems that this breed can suffer from, you should not worry about this too much. You could look at any breed and discover a relatively similar list.

10) They don’t come in many colors

Unlike many other breeds,the Labrador only comes in three colors, they are:

  • Black
  • Yellow (different shades)
  • Chocolate

So, not a lot to choose from but does the color affect the personality of the dog? Well, if the truth is told, no – the color doesn’t impact the personality of the Labrador – although a lot of people would disagree!

11) You might not be able to tell that they are in pain

There are many websites online that state that the Labrador has a high pain threshold and so you may not notice that they have a problem until it is too late. However, I have seen no evidence that the Labrador can deal with more pain before it is obvious – than any other breed of dog.

It’s a fact that animals, in general, don’t deal with pain in the same way that we do. I think it’s also probably fair to say that we make more of a big deal out of things than they do, although maybe we’re just talking about me here 🙂 Maybe it comes from when they were in the wild and showing signs of discomfort or pain is a sign of weakness to potential predators.

However, there are still signs that you can look out for. If they are off their food or particularly quiet and just hide in the corner of a room, it could be a sign that something is not quite right.

12) Exercise requirements are not excessive

The Labrador requires about as much exercise as any other dog of similar size. This is anything from around 45 minutes to about 1.5 hours a day, depending on the age and personality of the Lab. This is another reason that makes it a good dog for the family. It’s a great excuse to get the kids out of the house for a bit but it isn’t such a long time that it becomes a chore.

Things You Must Know Before Buying a Labrador: Lab in a basket

Exercising your Labrador is important – not just for the dog but also for you and your relationship with her. Spending time with her on your daily walks (rain, snow or shine) will help you to bond – it will become a special time for both of you.

13) The Labrador is very intelligent

A major reason why the Labrador can be trained (see my point about this below) is because of their intelligence. Not only that though, they just seem to know what’s going on and whether something isn’t quite right or not. The Labrador is currently ranked at number 7 in the doggy intelligence ranking chart, which is extremely high (source).

The Labrador has an advantage over many other intelligent dogs though. The Lab likes to show off their cleverness! They can be very obedient and seem to thrive on doing what their instructor commands – it’s like a game to them, a game that they are very good at playing! This is a very good reason why the Lab has made itself the go-to service dog on a global scale.

14) They will eat everything – twice

The Labrador is well known for being greedy. It seems odd that a breed so clever would be like this – it will eat a lot more than it actually needs, in fact it will eat until it is sick. If it finds the fridge door open and can access it, it will devour every single thing it can within it. Do you have a tub of butter? That will be eaten. Do you have a 7-year old broccoli and stilton soup that you had forgotten about? Your labrador will find it – they don’t care, it’s all food.

However, a study was carried out recently that suggests 1 in 4 Labradors have a gene in their DNA that means they don’t feel full after eating. Which explains their overeating issues. I now have a bit more sympathy for them than I did previously – it’s not their fault! Here’s the source of these tests if you’d like to read more about them. See the source of this infomation at the University of Cambridge website.

15) The Labrador can be trained

The Lab just seems to get so much out of following instructions and then carrying them out – maybe it’s the attention it gets once it has completed the tasks. This means though that at home, when you start teaching her the importance of such commands like, ‘No’, and ‘Leave’ – they tend to pick them up so quickly. This makes having a dog around a family environment safer and another reason why they are so popular.

I mentioned above about their intelligence and this ties in with how easily this breed can be trained. It’s probably one of the more well-known traits of the dog that it has this ability, otherwise, why would it be the most common breed to be used as a guard dog and for other service functions?

Matt

I'm Matt Pettitt, joint founder of the Pets Knowledge Base alongside my wife, Jane. Since I was just 2 years of age I've had pets in my life - which I don't mind admitting is 47 years! I strongly believe that when you introduce a pet into your family you should do everything you can to give it the best life possible. I've learned a lot during the past (almost) five decades and this blog gives me a medium to share everything I have learned ( both good and bad) about pets. If you'd like to know more about us, and how to contact us - take a look at our About page here!

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