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Labrador Retrievers: America's Top Dog
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Labrador Retrievers: America's Top Dog

Jack, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 24, 2020

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Sweet and obedient Labrador retrievers, otherwise known as Labradors or simply as Labs, are the most popular breed in the United States for good reason; these beautiful dogs are smart, loyal, protective, and great fun to be around. They make excellent companionsfor both single owners and families. Labradors are a reasonably low-maintenance breed, but there are a few things to be aware of before adopting one into your home.

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Labrador retrievers were originally fishermens' helpers

Labradors are water dogs. slowmotiongli / Getty Images

Labrador retrivers originate from the easternmost Canadian province, Newfoundland and Labrador, where they helped fishermen haul nets and catch escaping fish. Around 1830, Labradors were imported to England, where they worked as hunting retrievers.

While many Labs today are much-loved family pets, some are still working animals taking on roles such as supporting those with disabilities. Their retriever nature also makes them excellent search and rescue dogs.

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They are America’s most popular breed

Young woman with dog Nastasic / Getty Images

This breed nearly went extinct in the 1880s, but today, these playful and intelligent pups top the list as the most popular dog in the U.S. — a title they've held since 1991. Labrador retrievers are also the most popular pets in both the UK and Canada, and it’s easy to see why. They are a wonderful mix of energetic and calm, meaning that they adapt well to most environments and are even suitable for first-time dog owners.

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Labradors love the water

Labradors were made for swimming. Ben Welsh / Getty Images

Labrador retrievers were bred for coastal living and, as a result, absolutely adore swimming. They will happily spend time in the water any chance they get, be it the sea, a river, or just a big muddy puddle.

They are naturally efficient swimmers and divers: their webbed toes make padlding easier, and their tail helps them turn with ease in the water. Even their double-layer coat is perfectly designed for this purpose — it is thick, warm, and produces oils that make it water repellent.

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They are very recognizable dogs

Smiling labrador dog playing in the public park sanjagrujic / Getty Images

Male Labs are between 22.5 to 24.5 inches and weigh approximately 65 to 80 pounds. Females are slightly smaller at 21.5 to 23.5 inches and 55 to 70 pounds. Labradors come in three distinct colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. Black is the most common, but yellow is the most famous. There are also silver and fox red varieties, but the American Kennel Club does not yet recognize these.

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They are one of the friendliest breeds

Labrador retrievers are kind and patient dogs. svetikd / Getty Images

Labradors represent pretty much everything people expect from man’s best friend: they get along well with people and other pets. As one of the most sweet-natured dogs out there, Labradors are particularly great for families with children, even small children.

The Lab’s tolerant and adaptable nature, alongside their intelligence, is why they are so often used as support dogs. Yet, as they are equally as friendly to family and strangers alike, Labrador retrievers don’t make very good watchdogs.

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Labs like having plenty to do

Labs love company, whether it's people or other dogs. dageldog / Getty Images

Labs have a reputation for being clever and obedient. They love learning new skills and tricks, especially when they receive treats and positive reinforcement for showing them off. Labradors are also extremely social animals and love being in the company of other dogs. Allowing them to run free with other dogs provides them with great mental stimulation and a beneficial amount of exercise.

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Labradors are incredibly active dogs

Games help Labradors to get enough exercise. TJ_Kloster / Getty Images

As a working breed, Labrador retrievers have a considerable amount of energy. Although they may begin to slow down a little as they age, they are likely to remain quite lively from puppyhood to old age. They need around one to two hours of varied exercise per day, including games and walks.

Their energy level does not suit every person or every type of living situation. Labradors do better with more active owner who have a house with lovely big gardens, or with families who are happy to take them out on exciting outdoor adventures.

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They love to eat

Labrador retrievers are always chewing something Stephanie Verhart / Getty Images

Labradors have an enormous appetite and will eat whatever they can whenever they can. In some cases, this can extend beyond food and include things found in the garbage or even inedible items such as shoes and toys left around the house. Generally, Labs are pretty healthy dogs and live to around 10 to 12 years of age. However, their appetite means that they are prone to becoming overweight if their food portions are not carefully monitored, if they are given human food, or if they don’t get enough exercise.

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Labrador retrievers can be mouthy

Labs can get vocal when bored Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

If a Labrador doesn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation, they can very quickly become bored. This is particularly the case if they are left home alone for large portions of the day without access to toys or other animals.

Without enough attention, they may develop habits such as barking and chewing. The right amount of training, enough attention when their owners are home, and plenty of chew toys can keep these both in check.

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They are easy to care for

Beautiful labrador retriever dog in the park sanjagrujic / Getty Images

The Labrador retriever's double coat is relatively easy to care for. A weekly brush should be enough, and they only need a bath around every two months or so to keep them happy and healthy. However, as the undercoat is designed to protect them from the weather, it does shed quite a bit. This can be a particular problem in the spring when they blow their winter coats and require more brushing.

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