Facts about Labradors
What makes a Labrador a Labrador?
Breed standards are the guidelines which describe the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed, enabling the breed to conform to the job that they were originally bred for.
The breed hallmarks - a set of characteristics/traits that distinguishes the Labrador from other breeds. Read more about the breed standard below. The ANKC breed standard has been divided into sections to make it easier to review.
Is a Labrador the same as a Golden Retriever?
A Labrador Retriever is also known as a Labrador or Lab for short. Labradors are one of the seven breeds of Retrievers. Golden Retrievers are one of those breeds. So the answer is NO. A Labrador is not the same as a Golden Retriever.
The seven Retriever breeds are: Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Curly Coated Retriever, Flat Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, & Murray River Retriever (view the list of all the Gundog breeds where Retrievers are classified under according to the ANKC).
What colours do Labradors come in?
Labradors come in three recognised coat colours - black, yellow and chocolate/liver.
Do Labradors shed?
Absolutely! If you are house proud or not a big fan of dog hair, this breed is not for you. Don't be fooled by their short coat, Labradors blow their coat (shed) in large amounts as seasons change and a decent amount on a daily basis.
If you intend to have your Labrador as an indoor dog, prepare for daily vacuuming or sweeping. Regular brushing with a slicker brush or a de-shedding comb will help reduce the amount of dog hair on your floor, furniture and clothes.
If you are not so thrilled having dog hair around, you may want to contact Dogs Victoria and ask for information about non-shedding (or hairless) dog breeds.
What are their exercise requirements?
Labradors are considered active dogs and they require consistent training from the minute you bring them home. Labradors can be destructive when they are bored, so it is important to give them a "job" to do to keep their mind occupied. As Labradors are smart, they are more likely to find something to amuse themselves if their owners are unable to provide the necessary mental and physical stimulation relative to their temperament, energy level and drive for work.
Puppies' exercise requirements are different from those of adult dogs, so a responsible breeder would be able to provide you with advice or direct you to general Obedience/Training Clubs or clubs specialising in Dog Sports and Activities around your area.
Is there such a thing as an "English Labrador" or "American Labrador"?
The Labrador Retriever Club (USA) explains these commonly used and misleading terms:
Within Labrador Retriever breed type there are variations in body style, which have evolved to suit the use of the dog, as well as the preferences of individual breeders and owners. In the United States, the general public has begun to label these variations as “English or “American” style. Perhaps a better description for variations in style is “show/conformation” or “working/field” styles.
The working/field or “American” style of dog is the label often attached to a Labrador possessing lighter bone structure and exhibiting more length of leg, a less dense coat and a narrower head with more length of muzzle.
The conformation/show or “English” style Labrador is generally thought of as a stockier dog, heavier of bone, denser in coat and having a head often described as “square or blocky.” However, working/field variations occur in England as well, so this description is not necessarily suitable.
These general images portray the extremes of both styles and do not help to identify the temperament, trainability or health of the dog. In fact, the vast majority of Labrador Retrievers, whether of conformation/show breeding or working/field breeding, possess moderate body styles much closer to the written Standard of the breed. It is possible that within a single litter, whether that litter has been bred for show/conformation or working/field, individual pups can mature to be representatives of the range, though rarely producing the extremes, of the two styles. We recommend that you discuss the issue of size and style, as well as temperament, trainability and health, with any breeder you contact. However, please remember that there is only one Labrador Retriever breed, one that meets the requirements as set forth in the Official Standard for the Labrador Retriever.
Labrador Retriever Breed Standard
Country of Origin: England FCI Standard No. 122 ANKC Standard last updated 01 January 2018
The Weatherproof Double Coat
The Otter Tail
Strongly built, short-coupled, very active; broad in skull; broad and deep through chest and ribs; broad and strong over loins and hindquarters.
This description depicts a well-balanced athletic dog whose conformation enables him to function as a retrieving gun dog, allowing him to stand four square and move freely over ground and through water.
To do this he must be free from exaggeration and without any structural weaknesses. He should be substantial without being coarse, cloddy, or lumbering. Likewise he should not lack bone or be of whippety appearance.
It must be remembered that he is an active working dog capable of carrying a heavy object gently while hurdling a fence, or retrieving a fallen bird from water. His broad skull indicates that he has good brain room and the intelligence to carry out his tasks.
Good-tempered, very agile (which precludes excessive body weight or substance). Excellent nose, soft mouth; keen love of water. Adaptable, devoted companion.
The true Labrador temperament is perhaps the Labrador’s greatest asset, and is as important as his three most distinguishing physical features.
His disposition is friendly to man and dog, kindly, out going, biddable and intelligent, and with an exceptional willingness to please and a highly developed retrieving instinct.
When judging it must always be remembered that any aggressive behaviour towards humans or animals, or shyness in adult dogs should be severely penalised, as this behaviour is not typical of the breed.
His ‘excellent nose’ refers to his highly developed sense of smell, invaluable in seeking fallen game. His mouth should be soft so that he will not injure the game he retrieves.
As time has passed the Labrador has evolved into a versatile dog of many talents. While still a brilliant retriever he has adapted himself to take on the roles of Companion dog, Guide dog for the blind, Police and Customs dog, Army dog and much loved family pet. All these roles while still retaining and using the essential characteristics and physical features he was originally bred for.
Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness.
This is largely dealt with in the previous paragraph, and while the Standard covers the pertinent points it must always be remembered that the Labrador’s temperament is paramount.
Skull broad with defined stop; clean-cut without fleshy cheeks. Jaws of medium length, powerful not snipey. Nose wide, nostrils well developed.
In analysing the head it should be remembered that people who used the Labrador as a working dog drew up the Standard. They required a head that could retrieve game without damage both on land and from water, and an expressive head with eyes that could depict the good nature and willingness of the dog.
The head is one of the three defining features of the breed and a good head completes the picture of a typical Labrador. The head should be in balance with the overall dog, never gross and over done, or fine and snipey.
On looking directly at the head one should get an impression of kindness, gentleness, intelligence and quality, while the gender of the dog should be immediately recognisable.
A bitch’s head should be feminine but never weak, while dog’s head should be distinctly masculine but not coarse or out of balance with the body.
The skull should be broad but without exaggeration, allowing for ample brain room. There should be a distinct stop, and the cheeks should be clean cut, flat and never fleshy. The medium length powerful muzzle, which is the dog’s retrieving instrument, should be neither long and narrow, or short and stubby, but have a square appearance. The straight nose bone finishes in a wide nose with welldeveloped nostrils designed for excellent scenting capacity.
Regarding the colour of the nose it is usually black in blacks and yellows, and brown/liver in chocolates. While it may fade during winter this is not serious. However a pink nose devoid of pigment (known as Dudley’s Pink) and poor pigment around the eyes detracts from the overall expression of the head and should be penalised. A liver nose and liver pigment is sometimes present on Yellows. This merely indicates that the yellow dog in question carries the chocolate/liver gene and is a natural phenomenon.
The planes of the skull and nose bone should be parallel. The lips are well padded over the canine teeth and curve away gently towards the throat. They should not be squared off or pendulous.
Medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper; brown or hazel.
The eyes should emit the kind, good-natured friendly and alert expression that is so much a hallmark of the breed. They should be set straight and fairly wide apart, and be almost diamond shaped.
The eyes should not be protruding or be deeply set as they may be damaged while working in cover.
The colour is brown or hazel. Eyes that are too dark or too light are not desirable as they give a harsh expression that is not typical.
Not large or heavy, hanging close to head and set rather far back.
A medium sized ear correctly set with a flap of medium thickness gives protection to the ear and balance to the head.
The ear should hang moderately close to the head, be set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull. The shape is triangular.
Heavy ears set too low give a houndy look, while small high set ears give a terrier look. Both these types of ears are undesirable and give a foreign expression to the head.
Jaws and teeth strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
The strong jaws with strong regular teeth and scissor bite enable the Labrador to hold retrieved objects safely, easily, and without damage. Full dentition is desirable.
Clean, strong, powerful, set into well placed shoulders.
Shoulders long and well laid back, with the upper arm of near equal length, placing legs well under body. Forelegs well boned and straight from elbow to ground when viewed from either front or side.
The set of neck into long sloping shoulders is extremely important for the dog’s ability to lift and carry. The upper arm should not be too short, while the angle formed between the scapular and upper arm should be about 90 degrees.
The correct angulation gives the dog the right balance to carry game easily. Straight shoulder blades, short upper arms, heavily muscled or loaded shoulders, restrict free movement and are undesirable.
Front legs - This quote from the American Standard gives a very accurate picture of the front legs: ‘When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good strong bone.
Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and short-legged heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed.
Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and well under the body.
The elbows should be close to the ribs without looseness. Tied in elbows or being “out at elbow” interfere with free movement and are serious faults.
Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg.
Chest of good width and depth, with well sprung barrel ribs- this effect not to be produced by carrying excessive weight. Level topline. Loins wide, short-coupled and strong.
The chest and well-sprung ribs provide heart and lung room to support the dogs active work.
The chest should be of good width, not too wide and not too narrow. If the shoulders are loaded and the chest too wide, the dog will have difficulty swimming and galloping.
Regarding depth of chest, the sternum, or keel, should reach to the level of the elbow. There should be a visible but not over developed fore chest, or prosternum. The point of the keel should be able to be felt on examination A correct prosternum usually indicates the correct lay of shoulder, upper arm, and spring of rib.
The legs from the elbow to the ground should not be less than the height of the withers to the elbow. The barrel shaped ribs should be well-sprung, wide and deep with little space between the last rib and the loin. Viewed from the front the ribs curve out from the spine before extending down to meet the sternum. Slab sided dogs with long flat rib cages are not typical of the breed.
The withers should show some slight slope but from that point the back should be level with the tail preferably coming straight off the back. The wide loins are short coupled and strongly muscled. They should be slightly waisted. A simple guide to the length of the loin is roughly the width of three to four fingers. The underline should be without exaggerated tuck-up
Well developed, not sloping to tail; well turned stifle. Hocks well let down, cow hocks highly undesirable.
Hindquarters are of the greatest importance as strong well angulated quarters give the Labrador his driving action, while his well boned, well let down, short hocks help power the dog forward and on the turn. His powerful hind limbs should look as if they are pushing the ground away behind them.
The hindquarters should be broad, strong, and generous with strong muscles, thighs and hams. The second thighs should be well developed, the hams of good width, and the stifles well bent but not exaggerated.
When viewed from the rear the hind legs should be straight and parallel. When viewed from the side the angulation of the rear legs should be in balance with the front.
The croup should not slope down to the tail, but should continue the level back-line right into the tail set. A sloping topline is not typical of the breed.
Cow hocks along with straight hocks (straight hocks usually accompany straight stifles) reduce the dog’s forward thrust and should be penalised when judging.
Round, compact; well arched toes and well developed pads.
The feet described in the Standard are designed not to be easily damaged and therefore suit a working dog.
The feet should be round and compact with neatly fitting well arched toes, short nails, and generous leather like pads, coming off slightly sloping pasterns.
Long thin hare feet are incorrect, as are very tight cat feet with the bone going right down to the foot. The size of the feet should be in balance with the dog, neither too large and clumsy, nor too small and neat.
Distinctive feature, very thick towards base, gradually tapering towards tip, medium length, free from feathering, but clothed thickly all round with short, thick, dense coat, thus giving ‘rounded’ appearance described as ‘Otter’ tail. May be carried gaily but should not curl over back.
The Labrador’s distinctive ‘Otter’ tail is unique to the breed and is there for a purpose, to act as a rudder while swimming and to help balance the dog when standing or moving. As the Standard states it should be very thick towards the base, gradually tapering to the tip, and be free of feathering.
The short thick dense Labrador coat gives the tail a rounded appearance and gives it the thick ‘Otter like’ look that is so typical of the breed. When viewed from beneath the dense hair on the tail should come together to form a herringbone pattern.
The set of the tail is most important with the tail continuing the line of the backbone. Ideally the tail should follow the top line in motion or in repose, however the Standard permits the tail to be carried above the level of the top line but never curled over the back.
If the dog raises or lowers his tail, the set should remain the same. The set should never be low coming off a sloping croup. The tail should complete the balance of the Labrador by giving the dog a flowing line from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. It also helps indicate his happy outgoing nature.
A medium length tail reaching to the hock gives a balanced look, while tails that are too long, too thin or too short are not typical and are undesirable. Likewise a tail resembling a thick fox’s brush lacks typicality.
To sum up the ‘Otter Tail’, I quote the late Mary Roslin- Williams: ‘A dog with a really typical tail is nearly always a really typical Labrador right through, and oddly enough, usually has the right character.’
Free, covering adequate ground; straight and true in front and rear.
The movement of the Labrador is most important. It should be free and effortless, and if the dog is constructed correctly he will move correctly. He is a working dog and as such should gait at a pace, which will enable him to work all day.
When assessing Labrador movement in the show ring he should trot at a steady pace, not fly around the ring.
The dog should move truly both coming and going. When coming towards you only the front legs reaching well out and moving parallel with the sides should be visible.
You should not see a dog that is out at elbow or one that is toeing in, neither should you see a paddling or weaving action. When viewed from the side the shoulders should move freely and easily, with the fore legs reaching forward close to the ground with good extension.
A short choppy action here would indicate a straight shoulder, while a paddling action would indicate long weak pasterns. These two actions should be penalised.
Observing the movement from the rear you should see a dog driving strongly and powerfully away propelled by well-muscled hindquarters, with hocks flexing well and pushing the dog forward.
Turned in or ‘cow hocks’ will cause serious loss of propulsion, as will turned out or ‘bow hocks’. These faults should be penalised.
To sum up, the Labrador should move steadily, covering the ground with minium effort. Driving from behind with front legs reaching well out. He should have a good reach of stride and be straight and true front and rear.
Distinctive feature, short dense without wave or feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch; weather-resistant undercoat.
Great stress is to be laid on the correct coat, as it is one of the three features that denote true Labrador type. The short, straight, dense double coat gives a weather resistant waterproof jacket, and is a necessity of life for dogs working in dense cover or freezing cold water.
It should give a fairly hard feel to the hand and have a water and weatherproof undercoat. When correct the coat will give a nice rounded appearance that is so typical of the Labrador.
The under coat is generally lighter than the top coat and can vary in colour from dull charcoal through to all shades of mouse, to grey in liver coloured dogs, and pale yellow or cream in yellows It does not show through the top coat but usually gives a matt finish.
While the Standard states the coat should be without wave or feathering a slight wave down the back is permissible, and often accompanies a really good coat. This wave should not be penalised.
A dog in full coat will carry a moderate amount of breeching [not feathering], which will nicely round off his rear. A coat that is open and soft to the touch will lack the necessary waterproof qualities required for warmth and protection, as will single coats which are shiny, thin, open, and lack the required dense undercoat. Both these types of coat should be penalized as they lack one of the breeds’ foremost features.
When judging, dogs out of coat should incur a penalty for the above reason. In assessing the coat the correct way to check for undercoat on a Labrador is to run the fingers against the lay of the hair high up on the side of the rib cage and along the loin. If the dog has the correct undercoat this will leave a trace or line. It is important to remember that the undercoat is not found along the spine or at the base of the tail
The only correct colours are wholly black, yellow or liver/chocolate.
Yellows range from light cream to fox red. Small white spot on chest and rear of the pasterns permissible. Note that only solid colours are permitted though a small white spot on the chest and rear of pasterns is allowed.
Blacks when in full coat must be really black though when changing coat some may go rather rusty. Some blacks and chocolates will have white hairs on pads and heels. These are referred to as ‘Bolo Pads’ as they were present on the famous Dual Ch. Banchory Bolo, and should not be penalised.
Yellows can vary from light cream to fox red with any of these shades being officially referred to as yellow. Most yellows are shaded in colour on the ears and coat.
Chocolates can vary in shade from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, both shades are acceptable.
Ideal height at withers:
Dogs: 56-57 cms (22-22½ ins);
Bitches: 55-56 cms (21½ -22 ins).
While the word ideal in the Standard gives room for common sense when judging the whole Labrador, the Standard is obviously aiming for a fairly defined uniformity of size, and is a good guide to work with. The height of the dog is measured from the withers.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.
NOTE: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.