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A Labrador retriever in the snow.


6 May 2023

Reviewed by Dr Jill McMaster BVM&S MBA MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and in-house expert at BorrowMyDoggy on 26 May 2023

Let’s talk about… Labradors: what are they?

  • Labradors originate from the Newfoundland region of Canada, where they were then taken back to England by fishermen and bred to retrieve ducks and other game.
  • As well as being very popular family pets, they also make excellent working dogs, in roles as diverse as gun dogs to Guide Dogs.
  • They are known for being happy, intelligent dogs, with excellent senses of smell, and are often very food-driven.
  • There are loads of famous fictional labrador characters including Marley and Me, and the Andrex puppy.
  • Labradors have won many awards (and hearts!) including Canine Partners’ trained Endal, the most decorated dog in the world (with awards including "Dog of the Millennium" as well as the PDSA's Gold Medal for Animal Gallantry and Devotion to Duty).
  • Labradors are very close to BorrowMyDoggy’s heart, with Aston the chocolate Lab being the inspiration for the whole concept of BorrowMyDoggy, when our founder and CEO Rikke “borrowed” her from a neighbour!
  • They range in height from 54-57cm.
  • Most Labradors weigh between 25-36kg, although working/American types tend to be lighter than the stockier show/English types.
  • Their lifespan is usually between 11 and 13 years. The oldest labrador ever recorded was Adjutant, who lived to the grand old age of 27 years and 3 months!
Luna, the Labrador retriever
Luna, the Labrador retriever

What is the temperament of Labradors like?

  • Labradors are friendly, intelligent and good-natured dogs, who love to play and be entertained.
  • They tend to be very loyal and affectionate, and are famous for their kind and loving nature.
  • They usually get on well with other animals, and are generally patient and gentle with children. According to the Labrador Club of Great Britain, Labradors adore children and are famous for their kind and loving nature.
  • They love to retrieve, so love fetching games, and also a good swim, just make sure they don’t go out too far!

Labrador  Exercise Needs 4/5 Grooming Ease 4/5 Trainability 5/5

What kind of exercise do Labradors need?

  • A healthy, adult Labrador needs around 2 hours of exercise a day depending on the dog, making sure that as well as walking and running (and possibly swimming), they get time to sniff and investigate too!
  • Although full of energy, Labrador puppies should get less than this and a rough guide is 5 minutes per month of age. Labs should not be on full exercise levels until they are fully grown, which is at least 18 months old.
  • They love to retrieve, so activities like flyball are pawfect for them. Or why not get their nose working, and play treat hiding games in the garden.
  • If possible, find somewhere safe for them to swim too, as they love getting in the water, even better if they can retrieve a floaty toy!
  • It’s really important for Labs to get enough mental and physical stimulation or they can get bored, which can make them more difficult to train and more likely to misbehave.

Do Labradors need a lot of grooming?

  • Labradors come in several different colours - yellow (which includes the lighter yellows and fox reds), black, chocolate and liver.
  • Labs have a thick coat, with a dense, waterproof undercoat.
  • Brushing them about once a week is usually enough to keep their coat healthy, but you’ll need to do it more often when they are moulting.
  • They usually shed twice a year, in Spring and Autumn.
  • Washing them every 4-6 weeks is usually often enough. By overwashing them they can lose the natural oils on their coat, although they may need extra baths if they’re fond of playing in mud and dirt!
  • Like any dog, regular tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste twice daily is ideal. If you can’t manage that often, just do it as often as you can.
Georgie, the Labrador retriever
Georgie, the Labrador retriever

Are Labradors easy to train?

  • Labradors are generally easy to train.
  • They are a combination of intelligence, energy, a love to please their owners, and with a lot of them, they will do anything for a treato.
  • Because they’re smart it’s important to make sure training is consistent, as well as engaging.
  • A Labrador’s ability to learn is why they make such fantastic working and assistance dogs (link to assistance dogs?).

Winston and Evie, the Labrador retrievers
Winston and Evie, the Labrador retrievers

What do Labradors eat?

  • There might be a few labrador owners reading this answering, well what won’t they eat is an easier question to answer!
  • Adult Labradors should eat a complete, balanced dog food twice daily. They can also have occasional treats, but like any dog, watch out for the extra calories. Puppies should initially eat four times a day, then down to three, then to two at six months old.
  • For most Labradors you can make the change from puppy to adult food gradually at between 12 and 18 months old. Your pet food supplier and/or vet can advise on individual cases and food brands.
  • Labradors, particularly the English/show types are notorious for putting on weight. A lot of them don’t seem to have an off-switch when it comes to eating, so don’t let them overeat, keep them active and you can help them stay at a healthy weight. If they are an ok body weight, you should be able to comfortably feel your dog’s ribs, but not count them, when they are standing normally. They should also have a nice neat waist when you look from the top (you might have to get your hands on them for that bit if they’re quite floofy), and they should have a good tuck from their chest up to their tummy.  If you are worried your pooch could be overweight or underweight then contact your vet practice for advice.
  • Labradors love a good treat as a reward, but like any dog, this should only make up a maximum of 10% of their daily calorie intake.

Are Labradors healthy?

Like any breed of dog, there are health conditions that Labrador dogs are more prone to than others.


  • Laryngeal Paralysis - this is a condition where the opening at the top of the windpipe starts to collapse in, usually in older dogs.

Bones and Joints -

  • Elbow Dysplasia - this condition is where there is an issue with how the bones fit together at the elbow joint
  • Hip Dysplasia - a condition where the thigh bone and pelvis do not sit together properly at the hip joint
  • Osteoarthritis - Often as a result of the dysplasias above, is an inflammatory and degenerative disease that affects the joints, which can cause stiff and painful joints.


  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - this is when the retina of the eye, breaks down, leading to blindness

Hormonal -

  • Hypothyroidism - a condition where your dog does not produce enough thyroid hormone


  • Epilepsy - A condition of the brain that causes dogs to have fits

Milo, the Labrador retriever
Milo, the Labrador retriever

This list is by no means comprehensive, if you have any concerns about the health of your dog, or if you want to discuss further if a Labrador is right for you, consult with your vet.

Our vet top tip

“Labradors can make brilliant family pets, and there’s plenty of reasons as to why they are so popular. But it’s really important to watch their weight. Some of them are prone to getting overweight which can lead to issues with their joints and other health issues”

BorrowMyDoggy loves Labradors

BorrowMyDoggy has 45,467 Labrador members.

What do BorrowMyDoggy owners and borrowers say about their Labradors?

Tilly gets very excited when she knows she's going outside. Being active is her favourite part of the day. She loves long walks, playing games of fetch and meeting lots of new people.

- Mary, Owner of Tilly

Camden has been an angel to train. House training her took just a few days. She also loves to learn new tricks!

Alex, Owner of Camden

All Bentley wants to do is play. Long walks on the beach are much appreciated by Bentley where he loves to roll around, explore and chase after seagulls (he never gets them!)

Nicole, Owner of Bentley

Charlie is very good at demolishing his toys and responding to bribery i.e. doggy treats.

Charlie’s owner, Valerie

Arthur wishes the cats he lives with liked him as much as he likes them!

Arthur’s owner, Sally

Oscar has the charm of a prince, talks with his eyes, and loves to parade and show off.

Owner of Oscar, Lorraine

BorrowMyDoggy member, Ana, joined with her adorable Labrador Oso. Watch their story to see why she says “he’s always been happy, but he’s even happier since joining BorrowMyDoggy.”

Labrador Names

The most popular name for a Labrador on BorrowMyDoggy is Max.

10 most pupular Labrador Retriever names on BorrowMyDoggy

  1. Max
  2. Bella
  3. Poppy
  4. Bailey
  5. Charlie
  6. Buddy
  7. Luna
  8. Milo
  9. Molly
  10. Alfie
Bella, the Labrador retriever
Bella, the Labrador retriever

Information on this page should never replace advice given by your veterinarian.  Potential health issues presented are given as a guide only and are not meant to be comprehensive.  If you ever have any concerns about your dog’s health contact your local vet.

Want to borrow a Labrador in your area? Register for free to discover Labradors searching for new friends in your neighbourhood!

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