The Ultimutt Dog Breed Guide - Labrador Retriever
The fun-loving, friendly Labrador Retriever is one of the most beloved dog breeds in the UK.
And let’s keep it real, is anyone really surprised?
Labradors are loving, intelligent and very child friendly, making them the perfect family pet. Not to mention, very cute.
They’re also a lot of work and we mean a lot! Are they worth all the grooming, maintenance and money? We certainly think but don’t ask us, we think all dogs are!
But if you’re seriously considering adding a Labrador Retriever to your life, there are some things you should know first.
Let's start with the most important things first. There are several health problems linked to the Labrador breed that you should know about.
It’s wise to familiarise yourself with the specific issues the Labrador is predisposed to, to prepare for/prevent any panic and upset.
It’s a common inherited orthopaedic problem affecting the elbows and hips. Changes can be found in the hip, ball and socket joints causing osteoarthritis.
These changes can begin at a young age and become worse over time with wear and tear in the joint.
The joints can become painful and affect the health and well-being of the dog.
Due to their energetic and happy nature, Labradors can also be prone to a strange condition called ‘happy tail syndrome’.
The tail will suddenly hang down as if paralysed.
Happy Tail occurs when dogs damage their tails from striking surfaces and can even occur after lots of cold-water swimming.
A vet check, rest and pain medication usually help with a quick recovery.
Labradors are also prone to obesity due to their greedy nature, which we touch on below when we discuss temperament.
Kennel club screening schemes
It’s important to check with your breeder or your local rescue centre staff before bringing a Labrador puppy home.
Both the mother and father should be screened for these diseases as standard. However, if you do decide to adopt a Labrador, there's a high chance they won't have this information.
The good news is you can also get your pup screened when they’re old enough, for more information on the health of their hips and elbows.
The results will help you decide if it’s worth taking extra measures to minimise any damage/pain.
If the results confirm hip/elbow issues, you can make the following changes at home to keep your Labrador comfortable:
- Cover slippery floors using rugs and mats
- Use a gate to avoid your dog climbing and descending stairs
- Consider memory foam mattresses for comfort with easy trip-free access in a draught-free zone
- Raised feed and water bowls can decrease the amount of strain that leaning over causes on the elbows and hips. Elbow height is the most suitable.
Coat colours and size
The Labrador is a large breed weighing in at between 25-38kg.
The females tend to be on the smaller end of this with the larger males closer to 38kg.
The most popular colours are yellow, chocolate and black.
However, the yellows can vary from light cream to fox red, and the chocolates do range from light to dark.
Although they have a short coat, Labradors generally require a good brush and once over at home once a week.
A regular groom will help with shedding but be warned, this breed moults like crazy, so expect plenty of fur!
You may even find hair in places you never dreamed possible.
In moulting season, a regular, professional groom and de-shed can make a world of difference. And save you a lot of work!
Labradors also need a good bath if they’ve got extra dirty from playing outside or after a swim.
If you suffer from allergies, A lab may not be the best breed for you as they are not hypoallergenic.
Due to the amount, they shed, they produce lots of allergy-inducing dander in their saliva and coats.
Labradors have a lovely temperament, and they are wonderful with people, dogs, cats and even many other little pets!
Training from an early age is essential as most problems with Labs are usually due to their over-friendliness and enthusiasm.
They crave human company and may zoom off to greet strangers or jump up at people without proper training.
But because they are gentle giants with big appetites, their motivation for food makes them much easier to train!
They’re an easy-going breed and very family friendly but don’t be fooled, they also have an abundance of energy!
For this reason, it's important to be cautious and never leave young children unsupervised around Labradors or any dog breed.
Labradors require daily exercise and a large garden to play around in. And watch out, as they’ll cheekily chew your cherished items!
They’re not built for small apartments or flats as they are very active, don’t forget they were once working dogs!
And many still are! 70% of guide dogs in the UK are Labradors and many people have them as therapy, show and hunting dogs.
That is a true testament to just how well-behaved this breed can be with the right training and socialisation from the start.
But like most of our doggo friends, they can also be mischievous! Especially when it comes to food.
Most Labradors will have no issues stealing scraps from wherever they can find them! They will even hunt food in bins. Seriously, be sure to invest in a secure lidded bin to ensure it's lab-proof!
Never leave food unattended on low surfaces or countertops your lab can reach. Many common human ingredients our food is cooked with, like garlic and onions are highly toxic to dogs.
The most common admission we get in the vet is for vomiting and diarrhoea. And because Labradors steal any snacks, they can get their paws on, they often suffer from this!
We recommend keeping Buddy Digestive Care in your pet cupboard for these occasions.
They’re great for calming down the digestive tract and are packed with prebiotics and probiotics to promote good bacteria and gut flora.
These gastrointestinal supplements also include bentonite clay which firm up diarrhoea fast!
At the first sign of any vomiting or diarrhoea, you can give this to your Lab to help them recover quickly at home.
You need to keep an eye on the amount of food your Labrador eats. At every meal, they will act like they have never eaten!
Overweight Labradors are very common, and this is the reason why.
Weighing out or splitting the food into specific portions will help with this.
Avoid throwing scraps to your lab as this encourages begging at the table.
There is strong scientific and veterinary evidence that excess weight affects arthritis, and generally is bad for the health.
If you are concerned your Labrador is overweight, our Buddy nurses can help you with this.
We can assess your dog's body condition score as well as weight and develop a tailored plan to suit you.
Please make an appointment or you can chat to us now on live chat via WhatsApp here.
Labradors are full of energy and need over two hours of exercise per day to keep them physically and mentally fit.
Remember that most dogs do not stop just because they are in pain. They will still want to chase that ball, go for long hikes, and have garden zoomies.
Dogs live in the moment and don’t understand at the time that they will be in pain later. For Labradors with dysplasia, high-intensity activities should be minimised.
Preventing pain is much better for your dog than trying to ease the pain afterwards.
Be observant on walks and look out for any stumbling, dragging legs, trips or twitching.
Don’t overdo it and head back home with any of these signs.
Some walks can be harder on the joints than others. Try to avoid, stones, sand and hills as these can be difficult to walk on.
Diet and supplements
A good quality complete diet is essential to give all the best nutrients essential for great health.
If you’re unsure what to feed your lab, our vet nurses can advise you and answer any questions you have about diet.
We are completely independent and impartial, and we can help you choose the best options for your dog and budget.
There are specific joint and mobility diets on offer for dogs. These do tend to consider weight management so have lower calories and will include certain supplements to assist the joints.
Buddy Joint Care supplements combine glucosamine and chondroitin with natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, to support the joints, cartilage and synovial fluid.
Another great supplement for joint health is our Omega Care, with marine source Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are scientifically proven to reduce inflammation.
Not only are they great for joints but also skin, heart and the brain.
Labrador Retriever life span
Labradors can live for approximately 10-12 years on average when looked after correctly and fed a well-balanced, nutritionally complete diet.
However, even with the best care and love, sadly some doggos can still pass on to the rainbow bridge sooner than expected.
You should always mentally prepare for this and consider the impact it may have on your family. Especially if you have any little humans in the house.
How much does a Labrador cost?
The average cost for a Kennel Club registered Labrador is £780, with a non-registered Labrador costing an average of £597, according to Pets4Homes.
We recommend you adopt and don’t shop, as there are plenty of Labradors in the UK looking for loving homes. It’s a lot cheaper so you’ll save yourself a pretty penny and free up room for more pets in need!
If you decide to get your Labrador from a rescue or sanctuary you can expect to pay anything from £100-200. But they’ll usually take care of all the vaccinations, microchipping and neutering so you don’t have to!
This is just the purchase price, but you’ll then need to consider all the other ongoing costs.
You’ll need all the essentials including a collar, lead, toys, bedding and a dog guard or car harness if you drive.
You should also consider the cost of food, pet insurance, regular vaccinations, and parasite prevention for the lifetime of your lab.
Depending on your dog, there may also be some additional costs, such as dog training classes you’ll need to consider.
So, is a Labrador right for you?
Well, we’ve given you all the facts so only you can answer that!
Owning a Labrador or any other pet should be determined by your lifestyle.
You should seriously consider whether they’re the right fit for you before bringing one home.
If you travel for work, live in a studio apartment and hate going for walks, a Labrador isn’t for you.
They have endless energy and require plenty of exercise and most owners will tell you they never calm down!
If you have the time, space and energy for a lively, large dog then a Labrador might just be perfect for you
However, you must also think about when you go on holiday or need to attend a non-dog-friendly event like a wedding.
Who will look after your beloved Labrador? Do you trust the person to stay at your house or will they allow the dog to stay with them?
If not, will you be comfortable putting your Labrador into a dog boarding facility or kennel? And do you have the extra money saved aside to do this?
Also, are you used to leaving stuff lying around on the floor at home? What happens if they eat something and get ill over the weekend? Can you afford an unexpected, emergency vet trip that may cost hundreds of pounds?
Ask yourself all these questions before you commit to becoming a full-time dog parent! Dogs can bring us so much joy and happiness but being a pet owner is a privilege and huge responsibility.
Animals can’t speak for themselves, and we are responsible for their health and wellbeing for the entirety of their life!
Whenever you’re ready to take on the responsibility, why not get some expert advice from our vet nurse for free?
We can help get your new puppy settled, give you toilet training tips and create a personalised care plan!
Pet parenting can be ruff! But with Buddy, you can make it a breeze and get off to the best start pawsible.
Connect with a vet nurse instantly on live chat here or book a free consultation below.