Recommended for: Families
Maintenance Level: Medium – high
Lifespan: 10-13 years
Active, loyal, friendly
Health Risk:
This breed has a higher than average probability of developing health issues during its lifetime, hence the cost to insure is above average.
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Breed Overview

The Labrador Retriever (known simply as the Labrador or “Lab”) has long held the title of the most popular breed of dog in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the UK, the USA and Canada. Bred originally as a gun dog, today’s Labrador is famous for its roles as an assistance dog for visually impaired and autistic people, and as a detection & screening dog, therapy dog and law enforcement dog. It is widely regarded as being one of the smartest breeds of dog.

Labradors vary widely in appearance, but they are generally quite large and muscular with a short, dense, water-repellent coat, a broad head, strong jaws, a medium muzzle, and an “otter tail” which is thick at the base and narrower at the tip. Their brown or hazel eyes have a kindly, intelligent and gentle expression. There are three main colour varieties in Labradors: black, yellow, and chocolate, and occasionally all three can be present in the same litter.

Friendly, outgoing and affectionate, Labradors are energetic and high-spirited dogs who need to be taken on a long, brisk walk or jog at least once a day. Enthusiastic athletes, they also enjoy swimming and marathon games of fetch. They tend to gain weight quite easily, so exercise and a proper diet are especially important for the Labrador.

Average shedders, Labradors are easy to groom. It is recommended that they are brushed regularly with a firm bristle brush, especially in the undercoat, and are bathed only when necessary.

Healthy male Labradors should weigh between 29 and 36 kg and stand at about 57 – 62 cm tall. Females should weigh about 25 – 32 kg and stand at 55 – 60 cm tall.

Life expectancy in Labradors is around 10-13 years.

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Personality and Temperament

Labradors are famous for their friendliness, loyalty, affection and patience, qualities which make them great family dogs. They are companionable housemates with a kindly, outgoing, gentle nature who bond with the whole family and socialise well with other dogs and people. In most cases, they are eager to please and non-aggressive towards young children and other animals.

Labs are very intelligent, adaptable and trainable; qualities that make them so popular as family pets. They love to have a strong, assertive pack leader and need to feel like they are part of the family. They love to play, retrieve and swim and are excellent with children and other dogs. They are usually not very noisy dogs, but will occasionally bark at noise from unseen sources. Like most breeds, they should be trained and socialised from a young age to ensure they do not become destructive.

Labradors are known for their enthusiasm and puppy-like energy, and this generally lasts until the age of 3. English-type Labradors are typically calm and laidback, but American-type Labradors can become highly-strung if they do not receive adequate amounts of exercise, which can lead to hyperactive and/or destructive behaviour  to release pent-up energy.


Common Labrador Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Labs are healthy dogs overall, and responsible breeders screen their breeding stock for inheritable conditions that the breed is susceptible to, including elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disorders, hereditary myopathy , and certain eye conditions.

  • Hip & Elbow dysplasias are inherited conditions which occur when the ball and socket of the affected joint do not fit together properly. As these conditions can cause painful arthritis in the joint later in the dog’s life, it is essential to begin management and/or treatment of the condition as soon as possible. For elbow dysplasia, surgery may be recommended.
  • Osteochondrosis dissecans is an orthopaedic disorder which affects the elbows and occasionally the shoulders and is caused by poor cartilage growth in the joints. The condition can be prevented by ensuring the dog is not fed too much puppy formula or high-protein foods.
  • Myopathy (muscle weakness) is a condition which affects the muscles and nervous system and occurs early in the dog’s life. Signs include stiffness when walking, lethargy, and collapsing after exercise. No cure is available, but keeping the dog at a comfortable temperature and giving it adequate rest may help.
  • Cataracts. Canine cataracts are characterised by cloudy patches on the eye which can grow and potentially harm the dog’s vision. They can usually be removed with good results.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a family of eye conditions which result in the deterioration of the retina. In the early stages, dogs may lose their sight at night, and then gradually lose their sight during the daytime too. Most dogs, however, adapt to their vision loss very well in their familiar settings and only struggle if faced with new or changing environments.
  • Epilepsy causes mild to severe seizures, which can manifest themselves as unusual behaviour or shaking. Though frightening, most dogs with epilepsy have a generally good prognosis. However, epilepsy can also be a symptom of a larger issue, so it is important to see a vet as soon as possible.
  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia is a heart defect caused by a malformed tricuspid valve. It affects an increasing number of Labradors, and though many dogs show no signs of the condition, it can be fatal. It is detectable through an ultrasound.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (also known as “bloat”) is a life-threatening stomach condition that can occur if the dog is fed one large meal a day, eats quickly, drinks a lot, or exercises after eating. The stomach becomes distended and twists, and the dog is unable to expel excess gas. The dog’s blood pressure drops, and without immediate attention the dog could die. Symptoms of bloat include excessive salivating, retching, restlessness and lethargy. Owners should be aware of the symptoms and know what to do if they occur.
  • Acute moist dermatitis is a skin condition which causes redness and inflammation, often due to an infection. It is treatable with proper grooming, medicated shampoo, and medication.
  • Cold tail occurs when the dog’s tail goes limp. The Labrador may bite at its tail, but the condition usually disappears on its own after a few days.
  • Ear Infections. Labradors who swim often are prone to ear infection because of the shape of their ears. These should be checked and cleaned once a week to prevent infections setting in.

Not all conditions are covered by Pet Insurance. For details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement.

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    It is widely believed that the foundation of the modern Labrador was a breed known as the St. John’s Water Dog, or Lesser Newfoundland. Despite originating in Newfoundland, Canada, the Labrador was named after the Labrador Sea to avoid confusion with the Newfoundland breed of dog (which, incidentally, came from Labrador). The St John’s Dog was originally black, and yellow and chocolate Labradors were seldom seen. Yellows were first recognised in 1899 and chocolates in the 1930s.

    In the 19th century, the St. John’s Dog was brought to England from Canada by the Duke of Malmesbury. During the latter half of the 19th century, British breeders refined and standardized the breed. They crossed it with setters, spaniels and other retrievers to improve its abilities as a  gun dog and retriever. The breed gradually died out in Newfoundland but survived elsewhere due to interbreeding with other retrievers, leading to the Labradors we see today.

    The Labrador was first recognised by the English Kennel Club in 1903 and by the American Kennel Club in 1917. Labs topped AKC registrations for the first time in 1991 and has reigned as America’s favourite breed ever since.

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    Labrador Facts!

    • Labradors have a high tolerance for pain, making them great working dogs.
    • It is not until the age of 4 that Labradors are considered to be adults.
    • A service dog named Endal, a Labrador from the UK, is honoured with the title of “the most decorated dog in the world”. He was awarded with the PDSA’s Gold Medal for Animal Gallantry and Devotion to Duty, which is the highest award that an animal can receive.
    • Zanjeer, a Labrador from India, was a detection dog who helped the Mumbai Police during the 1993 Mumbai bombings and was given a full state funeral.
    • An American Labrador named Jake was a search and rescue dog during the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
    • Two Labradors, Lucky and Flo, were the first animals trained to detect optical discs by scent, and in their careers they sniffed out nearly 2 million pirated DVDs.
    • Sarbi is an Australian explosives detection Labrador who was MIA for 14 months in Afghanistan but was rediscovered by an American soldier. She received an RSPCA Purple Cross Award in 2011.
    • Bill Clinton, Prince William, Vladimir Putin, Denise Richards, Pamela Anderson and Hulk Hogan are all Labrador enthusiasts.

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