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Breed Background: Labrador Retriever

An inside look at one of Britain's most popular pets

Two Black Labrador retrievers
Picture from @nickpricedogtrainer

According to the Royal Veterinary College, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed in the UK and has been for some years! They're usually thought of as the perfect family pet and a great choice for first time dog owners. So what about this breed makes it so great?

The Labrador is a breed from the Gundog group that originates from the province of Newfoundland in Canada. Nowadays there is even a region in Canada known as Labrador that is just above Newfoundland. The Newfoundland dog that we all know today to be large and fluffy were bred with smaller water dogs (bred to retrieve through water) to create a breed called "St John's Dog" which is an ancestor to many modern breeds of retriever, including the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador is thought to have arrived in Britain around the 1800s before being officially recognised by the Kennel Club a century later.


The Most Versatile Working Dog?

The Labrador was developed to retrieve ducks and hunt waterfowl, their tails are great at helping them swim and they have webbed feet and waterproof coats to make them great swimmers. When the Labrador was brought to Britain they were bred to hunt and retrieve game (wild animals) on land. Nowadays, they're still used as gundogs for retrieving both on land and through water, having great stamina to be able to work for hours at a time.

Labrador Retriever gundogs

Being part of the gundog group, Labradors have been utilised for their natural scent abilities by search and rescue teams to locate people as well as police and security companies for drug, firearms and explosive detection. The Labrador has such a good sense of smell, in fact, that they're also used as medical detection dogs and can accurately sniff out cancers, blood sugars and pre-determine seizures.

Known for their gentle nature, Labradors remain one of the most common breeds used by Guide Dogs for the Blind UK. Their willingness to train and their adaptability makes them fantastic for many assistance and therapy roles also.

Add to this their enjoyment and success performing in sports such as agility and canicross and you have perhaps one of the most versatile working dogs out there. It's no wonder they're so common when they're good at so many things!

We spoke to Nick Price, known for his fantastic gundog videos and highly trained Labradors on Instagram, here's what he had to say...

Interview with Nick Price



Labradors are recognised in three colours: Black, Yellow and Chocolate. Some yellow Labradors appear almost white whilst some appear to be very dark golden, called 'Fox Red' this is recognised as it's own colour by many people who work gundogs but not by showing organisations.

Labrador Retriever Cream, Chocolate and Black

The chocolate Labrador, perhaps one of the most popular amongst families as a pet, is seldom used to work, unlike the other colours. In fact, there is currently only one qualified Guide Dog in the UK who is chocolate coloured. This is because they tend to have more energy and be slightly harder to train though they're still just as loveable.


Common Labrador Health Concerns

Perhaps the first health concern that comes to mind when you think of a Labrador is their tendency to being overweight. It is always recommended to keep your dog's weight at a healthy ideal to prevent putting any stress on their joints and keep their organs healthy. This weight will be relative to their height but it's always recommended that a Labrador have a tucked waist and be in ideal body condition.

Labradors are a breed that are prone to joint issues so it is important to make sure that, if buying a puppy, it is from good lines with the necessary health checks.


The Perfect All-Rounder

Aside from their versatility as workers and hunters, Labradors are a fantastic family pet! They very rarely show any aggressive behaviours and are pretty sturdy - physically and emotionally! Labradors have a reputation for being food-obsessed which many people think of as a bad thing. Actually, this want for food makes the Labrador extremely biddable and easy to train. For over a decade, Labradors have been in the top 5 most popular dogs in many countries. With the right amount of training (we recommend Puppy Classes and some Lead Walking training) these dogs can be the perfect family companion.

Would you have a Labrador as a pet?

  • Absolutely!

  • Not for me

  • Already got one!

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