Skip to main content

Labrador retrievers: What you need to know about this family-friendly breed

With their friendly exuberance and unwavering loyalty, Labrador retrievers are absolutely adored. Just ask the American Kennel Club, which listed this breed as the #1 most popular breed for over 20 years in a row.

So what makes these pups so popular? Many people love Labs for their athleticism and eagerness to run, which make them the best companions for jogging or hiking. Their friendliness makes them a great choice for families, too — especially since Labradors are known to be gentle with children.

As wonderful as these traits are, there are so many more Labrador retriever characteristics that will make you fall in love with this breed. You may not have heard of them all yet, but that doesn’t make them any less true. These are five more reasons to give your heart to a Lab, whether through foster, adoption, or just saying hello to a cute pup you meet (just don’t forget to ask their owner first!).

Built for the water

Retrievers were bred to retrieve (surprise!) waterfowl and small game while hunting with their owners. Because of this, many Labs today still love to be near the water. Their bodies and coats make this easier for them than most dogs, though an affinity for aquatics never hurts.

Labrador retrievers have a water-resistant, double coat which makes them sleek and fast underwater (via American Kennel Club). Because the coat is so short, not much grooming is needed, either. Bathing and brushing will do! As for their extremities, notes Hill’s Pet, you’ll notice a thick and erect “otter tail” as well as webbed feet which propel these pups through the water.

A black Labrador Retriever fetches a tennis ball in a lake

Adaptable and affectionate

Everyone knows how sweet and friendly Labradors can be, but few know just how strong that puppy love is until they experience it for themselves. The American Kennel Club lists Labs as extremely amiable to children, other dogs, and strangers (AKA, everyone is your dog’s new friend). This is a fantastic trait to have when a dog will be in public often, and it can even be what makes a Lab a perfect therapy dog or service animal.

Eager to please can mean easy to train

Because Labs are so people-oriented, they’re eager to be with their families as much as possible. Talk about loyal! These outgoing canines want to make their humans happy, too, so training may be more than just work to them — it can be fun!  With some positive reinforcements and the right rewards, agility or obedience practice can feel a lot more like playtime with your retriever.

Of course, not all Labs will be easy to train. Not every individual fits into the description of the breed as perfectly as others do, so don’t be discouraged if your pup doesn’t get the hang of it right away. After all, high energy can sometimes mean high distractibility, too.

A yellow Labrador retriever sits in the grass outdoors

Retrieving instincts are strong

Any dog is bound to be at least somewhat in touch with their instincts, but this can look different for each pet. For Labradors, you may see some mouthiness during play, or even destructive chewing when they’re feeling bored or angry, says Hill’s Pet. It’s worth noting that mouthiness is not the same as biting; when a dog mouths something, they simply put their mouths around it and do not bite down. You can often distract a mouthy pup by giving them a toy to carry around instead.

Because of their mouthy retrieving instincts, though, Labrador retrievers can be excellent partners in fetch and sports. Several Labs have gone viral for helping their people around the house: bringing objects to them, opening the door, and even more. These smart dogs are capable of so much!

Food is life

If you’re like a Labrador retriever, you appreciate a good snack. These dogs are just as eager to work for a treat as they are to work for attention, which can make training as easy as it could possibly get. Where it gets complicated, though, is your pet’s dietary health. Labs are so well known for their love of food that canine researchers are looking into whether there’s a genetic factor making this breed so food-motivated. Many Labs become overweight as they get older, too, though keeping an eye on their caloric intake can help prevent this problem in the long term.

Whether old or young, chunky or slim, it’s easy to see why this breed is so widely sought out by pet owners. The Labrador’s personality and friendliness alone make them an excellent choice for families and larger homes, while their athleticism gives them the energy to run, play, and keep up with everything that you do. There’s just so much to love!

Editors' Recommendations

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
Which fruits can my dog eat? Here’s what vets say about these 10 fruits
Fruits safe for your pup to eat: Here's what dog owners need to know
Weimaraner sniffing strawberries in a person's hands

Not all human foods are safe to share with your canine friends, so it's important to do your research before offering your dog a bite. Luckily, we've done a lot of the research for you, so all you need to do is read on to discover which fruits are safe for dogs. A few of the answers may surprise you.
So, what fruits can dogs eat? Here's what veterinarians say about these 10 commonly found fruits. Before you know it, you and your pup will be ready for a trip to the farmer's market!

Can dogs eat apples?
You'll be happy to know that apples are just as nutritious for our dogs as they are for us. Even though dogs may not like certain kinds of apples, all varieties of this fruit are safe to share. Apples are full of vitamins A and C, though apple skin can cause stomach upset due to its high fiber content. A slice or two is a perfect daily amount, depending on your dog's size.
Can dogs eat grapes?
Unlike apples, grapes are absolutely not safe to give to your dog. Though veterinarians are still figuring out why this fruit is toxic to dogs, it's proven that grapes and raisins cause distressing symptoms in canines, even in small amounts. In severe cases, kidney failure and death can occur -- so don't risk it!

Read more
Here are a few humane alternatives to the shock collar for dogs that might work for you and your pup
A vibrating, beeping, or scented collar can help curb unwanted behaviors like excessive barking
Dog chases a ball in the grass with a collar on

Most dogs live their whole lives in their collars, and get used to them, just like we feel great in clothes. However, it's important to think carefully before you put anything around a dog's neck. In particular, shock collars (or choke collars) should always be avoided. But you can use modern, humane tools to do the job — along with a healthy amount of positive reinforcement.
Why you shouldn't use a shock collar
Unfortunately, shock collars were popular in the past, but research says positive reinforcement works better. We definitely don't recommend anyone ever shock an animal, even on a very low setting that "doesn't really hurt." In addition to wanting to do right by your pup, you might actually increase aggressive behavior by using these outdated training methods. Remember, the "alpha" concept of dog behavior was based on flawed research, while the latest techniques seem to be setting dogs up for success.
Collars to use instead
There are a few options out there if you want to add a special collar to your training regimen, including ones that vibrate, smell, and beep. Even these humane versions should only be used in small doses under the supervision of a human. Don't put a beeping collar on your animal and leave them in it for hours! That's enough to drive anyone crazy, Fido included.
Vibrating collars
These work by delivering a buzz any time you press your remote or you can get one specifically for barking that responds to noise. They take a bit of time to set up, but an automatic collar can vibrate much faster than you can ever respond. Some dogs never adjust to this and will be afraid or uncomfortable with the sensation. One option is to get a collar with a few different modes so you can switch it up as necessary.
Beeping collars
Similar to the vibration model, beeping collars deliver escalating noise when your pooch does an undesirable behavior, like barking. The goal here isn't physical punishment but to redirect your animal. Follow it up by showing your little guy exactly what they should do. Some pups will respond to this better than the vibration, so you can get one that does both and figure out their preference, or mix the two.
Scented collars
We all know that dogs mainly rely on smell, which means you can use that sense in your training too. This works the same way as the beeping and vibrating ones, but releases a puff of citronella instead. The smell is a deterrent in the same way that a sound is. Of course, you should make sure your pet doesn't have any allergies to citronella before using this. Watch for eye rubbing, hives, or other indicators that the spray and your furry friend don't mix. However, dogs with a traumatic history might prefer this over a beep or a vibration.
Other training to incorporate
Remember, using a humane training collar is no substitute for the work; it's merely a tool that you can add to the mix. Training them not to bark might seem like an advanced skill, but it's pretty easy once you have your routine down. As part of this, you may actually teach a "quiet" command that you'll use to help your pup settle.

While your buddy might wear a fashionable collar most of the time, you can have a whole wardrobe of doggie necklaces for different functions -- one for walks and one for training. Shock collars for dogs don't work with most beasties, but one of the newer models, when used correctly, might boost your training regimen and help curb excessive barking or other problem behaviors.

Read more
Mini Aussie: What to know about this adorable breed
What happened to the mini Aussie? Here's exactly what happened to the breed
Mini American shepherd lying down

You likely came here looking for information on the mini Aussie. We’re sorry to disappoint you with this interesting plot twist: There’s no such thing as a mini Aussie, at least not anymore. The breed is recognized as the mini American shepherd these days — a more accurate name because the dogs were developed in the U.S. and not Down Under.

Name games aside, these affectionate dogs are some of the most loving. Though mini American shepherds have a long history as herding animals, the breed currently and most commonly takes on the role of "human’s best friend" these days. Is a mini American shepherd the right dog for you? Read on.
The history of the mini American shepherd
The history of the mini American shepherd can feel confusing, primarily because of the name. Mini American shepherds are still commonly referred to as "mini Aussies," a name they haven’t had since gaining American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition in 2015.

Read more