Dog Breed Profile: Health and Fitness Tips for Labradors
Labrador Retrievers also known as ‘labs’ are beautiful, fantastic all-rounders and are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.K. Known for being kind-natured, active and intelligent, they make excellent companions for large, active families with a back garden.
Their good temperament and hard working nature makes them exceptional service dogs. They are highly-trainable and often trained to become guide dogs, therapy dogs and search and rescue dogs because they are great swimmers.
Size & Colour
The Labrador Retriever has 3 colours; chocolate, yellow and black. They are a medium to large dog with a strong, broad build.
Their adult weight can range between 55-80 lbs. Males 64 - 80 lbs and females 55 - 70 lbs. The average height for males is 22.5 - 24.5 inches and females 21.5 - 23.5 inches.
Generally a Labrador Retriever would stop growing between the ages of 18-24 months but it does depend on the dog.
Known for having a short but thick coat, Labradors have a double-coat meaning that they have two layers of fur. Their undercoat is soft and light that protects their skin and helps keep them warm in the winter months. Their outercoat is more abrasive and dense giving it a ‘wiry’ feel. Together, these layers provide water resistance, help regulate body temperature and give protection against UV-Rays.
A highly energetic breed, Labrador Retrievers need regular exercise to stimulate their mind which helps manage their weight and maintain a strong, healthy heart. You should aim for approximately 1 hour of exercise every day with a mixture of high-intensity (running) and low-intensity (walking) but it does depend on the personality and age of the dog.
You may find that younger Labradors will need more exercise between 1 hour and 1 hour 20 minutes, so another gentle walk around the park or a run around the garden would do. It’s important to note, that especially during the first 3 months, not to over-exercise your Lab as this can cause extreme exhaustion and affect their physical and mental development.
Elder or more relaxed Labradors would need around 40/45 minutes of exercise daily and for all Labradors, you should think about a decrease in exercise as they get older. Typically from the age of 7 years old you should start to think about a decrease in exercise but it’s totally dependent on your dog. If you notice that they are getting exhausted after their regular walks, maybe a decrease would be beneficial.
A Labrador’s exercise should be made up of a variety of activities that include running, jogging, play time and swimming. Interestingly, a Labrador’s coat repels water and they have strong, compacted webbed-feet which makes them great swimmers and they generally like playing and swimming in water.
Labradors also love to retrieve items, and like to carry things around in their mouth. Providing durable toys for them would be beneficial otherwise you will often find your shoes and slippers missing! There are many durable toys that we sell at Betty & Butch that are suitable for Labradors.
Due to the density of their short coat, Labrador Retrievers rarely get tangles and knots in their fur but they do need to be brushed once a week because of their protective, double-layered coat that causes a lot of shedding. They shed all year round but during the Spring, you will find that Labrador Retrievers will shed their thick, winter coat ready for summer and again when the temperature falls, leaving them with a new, warmer coat ready for the winter.
A thorough brush once a week with a natural brush is ideal for this breed as it brushes away falling fur and helps stimulate and spread their natural oils to give a shiny, clean and healthy appearance.
Labrador Retrievers don’t need to be bathed too often and should only be washed when they get really dirty. Frequent bathing will strip away their natural oils that keeps their skin protected and as a result, dry out their skin. This will then lead to a whole range of health problems, causing dry, flaky skin that will be uncomfortable and itchy.
Their life expectancy is between 10 - 14 years and Labs are known for being greedy eaters. Their most common health problem is obesity which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. As long as overeating is controlled with a high quality balanced diet and regular exercise, Labrador Retrievers are generally healthy companions.
Labrador Retrievers are also prone to joint problems like hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia and hereditary myopathy - a disease which affects the muscles.
Known for having large, floppy ears, Labrador Retrievers are also susceptible to ear infections because their ears create a suitable environment for bacteria to grow. To avoid ear infections, make sure their ears are clean and dry after they have been swimming or bathing and perform weekly checks for redness in the ears or a bad odour.
Do Your Research
Before you think about getting a dog, it is always important to do plenty of research beforehand to find out if a certain breed is suitable for your lifestyle and activity level.
Labrador Retrievers are very active dogs who need plenty of exercise and typically need two 30 minute walks a day. If you think that maybe this is unrealistic for your schedule, then a dog breed that requires less exercise would be more suitable.
Labradors are happy to be left at home for short periods but no more than a couple of hours and they won't thrive in urban areas unless they have access to off-lead walks because they enjoy running around in grassland and nature.
If you pride on a clean, neat home, then perhaps a Labrador is not for you because they often shed and love mud and water. Where possible, they should have the option to swim in lakes and rivers as it’s one of their favourite activities.
Want to know more about dog breeds? Check out our latest Pug Breed Profile.