Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is consistently ranked among the top 10 most popular dog breeds in Australia, and for good reason. Labradors are well known for their friendliness, intelligence, and ability to get along with everyone. Popular as a family dog, Labrador Retrievers are extremely loyal companions and have plenty of energy for a hike, a game of fetch, or a swim.

Physical Description


Females 25 to 32 kg, males 29 to 36kg


Females 55-60cm, males 57-62 cm

Coat Length:



Black, yellow, and chocolate brown

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Labrador Retrievers are characterised by broad heads, intelligent and gentle brown or hazel eyes, and medium-sized ears that hang close to their heads. Their short, dense, water-repellent coat is a bonus that makes them adaptable to various weather conditions.  While Labradors can vary in their appearance, they have some universal traits. They are muscular with strong jaws and a medium muzzle that give them a robust look. One of their distinguishing features is their “otter tail”, which is thick at the base and gradually tapers to a narrower tip. This unique feature acts as a powerful rudder, allowing them to change directions efficiently while swimming. Labradors come in three main colour varieties: black, yellow, and chocolate. It is not uncommon for all three colours to be present in a single litter, which adds to the breed’s delightful variance. To top off the colour fest, the yellow coat can range from a very light cream to fox red.

Breed History

Labradors have a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century. The breed originated in Newfoundland, Canada, where it was known as the St. John’s Water Dog or the Lesser Newfoundland. These dogs were bred for their exceptional retrieving abilities, assisting fishermen in pulling in nets and retrieving fish.

In the early 1800s, British nobles and sportsmen took notice of the breed’s impressive skills and began importing them to England. The breed was further refined in England, with breeders focusing on developing its retrieving capabilities and temperament. The name “Labrador” was adopted to distinguish the breed from the larger Newfoundland dogs.

Labrador Retrievers in Australia were first introduced in the early 20th century. The breed’s popularity in Australia grew steadily, and the Labrador Retriever Club of New South Wales was established in 1953. This club was dedicated to promoting the breed and ensuring that the quality and standards were maintained. Australian Labradors have been used for various purposes, including hunting, search and rescue, and as assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Today, the breed continues to be a popular choice for Australian families due to its intelligent, loyal, and friendly nature.



Labradors are incredibly social animals. They love nothing more than spending time with their humans, and they thrive on human interaction. Whether you’re taking them for a walk or snuggling up on the couch, your labrador will always be by your side, wagging their tail and showering you with love.

Another aspect of the labrador’s personality that makes them so endearing is their boundless energy. These pups are always ready for a game of fetch or a run around the park. They love to play and have fun, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Labradors are often referred to as velcro dogs because they tend to form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy being in close proximity to them. Labrador will often lean against a person as a way of showing trust and a desire for affection. This characteristic posture is known as the Labrador lean.

But perhaps the most defining characteristic of the labrador breed is their unwavering loyalty. Labradors are fiercely devoted to their families, and they will do anything to protect and care for them. While they may not possess the same guarding instincts as some other breeds (they are too friendly for that), they can still exhibit alertness and serve as effective watchdogs.

In addition to their friendly nature, Labs are famously energetic and require plenty of exercise, to prevent their high energy levels from turning destructive. Common destructive behaviours include chewing, digging, and excessive barking. Chewing is particularly common due to the strong retrieve urge, which gives them an oral fixation. Luckily, training, exercise, and durable chew toys can tame this behaviour. 

When comparing Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, it’s important to note the unique personality traits that set them apart, despite their shared friendly and playful nature. While Labrador Retrievers were first bred in Canada, Golden Retrievers originally come from the Scottish Highlands. They were bred as gun dogs, specifically for their large yet gentle mouths, which could retrieve prey without causing damage. Golden Retrievers tend to be more attached and reliant on their owners, seeking constant companionship and affection. They thrive on competition and may approach new situations more cautiously. In contrast, Labradors are generally more independent, requiring less constant attention compared to Golden Retrievers. They are less focused on competition and often dive fearlessly into new experiences.

happy labrador dog

Home Setting

Labrador dogs, known for their high energy levels, need enough space to move around freely. A spacious living area or a backyard with plenty of room to run and play is ideal.

Since Labradors are known to be chewers, it is important to choose furniture and décor that is sturdy and durable. Avoid fragile items that can easily break, as this can be a potential hazard for your pet (and your budget).

Provide your Labrador with a comfortable sleeping area. A cozy bed that is soft and supportive can help prevent joint problems and ensure a good night’s rest.

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Caring for your Labrador Retriever

Labradors have high energy levels and require at least an hour of intense exercise daily. This can include running, swimming, or playing fetch. Regular exercise helps to keep your Lab healthy and happy, preventing obesity and other health issues. Most Labs need about an hour’s daily exercise. However, puppies shouldn’t engage in the same vigorous exercise as adult dogs, as their bones are soft at this stage. As a rule of thumb, provide puppies with five minutes of exercise per month of their age until their first birthday.

Labrador Retrievers have a short, dense double coat that requires regular brushing (1-2 times a week) to remove loose hair and minimise shedding. Bathe them as needed. It’s probably not their favourite activity, but you should keep your Lab’s nails nicely trimmed to prevent overgrowth. Monitor the length of the dog’s nails regularly and trim as needed. Regular walks on hard ground, such as pathways and roads, will have a natural filling effect, helping to keep your dog’s nails under control.

Labradors’ long, floppy ears and love of swimming make them particularly at risk of ear infections. You can reduce this risk by thoroughly drying their ears after a bath or swim and gently cleaning their ears once a week. Regular cleaning will keep your pet’s ears clean and free from infection as well as give you the ability to spot and address any issues early.

Dental care is important for Labrador Retrievers to maintain their overall health. Regular teeth brushing, ideally, once a day, can help prevent plaque and tartar buildup and periodontal disease. Be sure to use a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Additionally, providing dental chews and toys can assist in maintaining their dental health. Feed your dog a diet high in abrasive materials such as kibble, bones, and dental chews, which reduce plaque. Establishing a dental care routine early in your dog’s life is essential to avoid future dental issues.

Many dog owners feed their Labradors commercially produced dry dog food (kibble), while others like to include wet food in their dog’s diet. Look for food with high-quality ingredients and avoid those with excess chemical preservatives or high amounts of ‘fillers’ such as wheat, corn, and soy. 

Some dogs may have specific dietary needs or allergies, and consulting with a veterinarian to determine the best diet for your Labrador is recommended. It’s important to monitor how much you’re feeding them. Labradors love to eat, so it’s especially important to make sure you’re not overfeeding them. 

Labs are notorious for scoffing down their food and then turning on their puppy eyes to beg for more. A slow feed bowl is a great way to get your dog to eat at a slower pace. You might also be tempted to occasionally add some of your household leftovers to your dog’s dinner – just make sure your leftovers don’t contain sugar, onions, cooked bones, or other human foods which are toxic to dogs

To keep your dog’s meal balanced, make sure that the leftovers make up no more than 10% of your dog’s dinner. It’s best to avoid feeding leftovers to puppies because they need a very well-balanced diet in order to develop healthily.

Labradors love nothing more than to be around people, and socialising them well will give them plenty of confidence around different people and animals. Start obedience training early, using positive reinforcement techniques. Labrador Retrievers are eager to please and generally respond well to training. If your puppy has had their first vaccinations, you might consider a socialisation class where they’ll be able to meet other puppies.  Consistent training will help your dog become a well-behaved and obedient companion.

Labradors are friendly and sociable dogs. Expose them to various environments, people, and other animals from a young age to help them become well-adjusted and confident adults.

When it comes to choosing toys for your Labrador, it’s important to consider their size and strength. Labradors are strong dogs, and they need toys that can withstand their powerful jaws and energetic play. Some of the best toys for Labradors include chew toys, tug toys, and interactive toys that require problem-solving skills. Frisbees and balls are also popular choices, as they allow your Labrador to burn off excess energy and engage in a fun game of fetch.

Labradors love to chew and can cause significant damage to your belongings, particularly if they’re not getting enough exercise. Many Labradors will continue to engage in relatively destructive chewing until around their second birthday. To prevent your belongings from falling victim to your pup’s chew habits, invest in sturdy chew-resistant toys to keep your dog busy. You’ll find that these toys are particularly useful as a distraction from destructive behaviours while you’re out. 

In addition to toys, many great games are perfect for Labradors. Agility courses, for example, are a great way to provide your dog with physical exercise while also improving its agility and coordination. Obedience training is also important for Labradors, as it can help them to become better behaved and more obedient. Puzzle games, such as treat-dispensing toys, can also provide mental stimulation and keep your dog entertained for hours.

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Buying Tips

A Labrador Retriever puppy typically costs between $1,500 to $3,0000. Still, prices can range from $800 to more than $5,000 depending on factors such as the quality of the breeder, type of Labrador, coat colour, location, and demand. Yellow and brown Labs might be slightly more expensive than black Labs due to their recessive colouring genes. Keep in mind that this price range is for well-bred puppies from health-tested parents and includes initial vaccinations, microchipping, and registration papers. Additional costs, such as ongoing care, food, and veterinary expenses, should also be considered when budgeting for a new pet. It’s essential to research and choose a reputable breeder to ensure a healthy and well-adjusted Labrador puppy.

Look for a responsible and experienced breeder who prioritises the health and temperament of their dogs. Reputable breeders will be knowledgeable about the breed, perform health screenings on the parents, and provide a clean, safe environment for the puppies. 

Another important factor to consider when looking for a Labrador puppy is where to find the right one. While there are plenty of pet stores and online marketplaces that sell puppies, it’s best to avoid those sources as they often come from puppy mills or other unethical breeding practices. Instead, look for local breeders or rescue organisations specialising in Labrador breeds. These sources will not only provide you with a healthy and well-socialized puppy but also allow you to learn more about the breed and its specific needs. 

If you’re looking for reputable Labrador Retriever breeders, consider ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) registered breeders to ensure you’re getting a healthy and well-bred puppy. There are various Labrador clubs nationwide, such as the Labrador Club of NSW, which list reputable breeders

Labrador Retriever puppies can be found through various sources. One option is to deal directly with a registered breeder, as they often have ANKC-registered puppies for sale. You can also search for Labradors in the Dogs & Puppies category on Gumtree, where people buy and sell various items, including puppies. Another resource is the list of top breeders in different Australian cities provided RightPaw. Good breeders focus on producing healthy, well-adjusted, and socially integrated Labrador puppies with gentle temperaments, suitable for families, show dogs, or working dogs.

Common Ailments

Labrador Retrievers may be prone to certain health issues and diseases. Some of the common health problems in Labrador Retrievers are:

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are common joint issues among Labrador Retrievers. These conditions affect the hip and elbow joints, prohibiting normal movement and causing pain and immobility. Luckily, you lessen the effects of these conditions on your dog by ensuring they maintain a healthy weight, eat high-quality nutritional food, and engage in low-impact exercise such as swimming.

Osteoarthritis is another common joint issue that can affect Labs and is often caused by old age. Arthritis occurs in 90% of older dogs and 20% of middle-aged dogs. Behaviours such as hesitating to jump down from the couch, struggling to get up in the morning, or being grumpier or more aggressive may indicate the onset of arthritis. 

To help combat the symptoms of arthritis and create a comfortable environment for your dog, you should provide a warm sleeping area with heavily padded bedding and assist your dog with getting up and down from high places. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective measures to control arthritis. It may be combined with multiple short daily walks, arthritis supplements, and pet-friendly pain relief if necessary. Always seek the advice of a trusted vet who will help you manage your dog’s arthritis symptoms.

Labradors, particularly puppies, tend to chew and swallow objects they come across. Common examples include socks, underwear, toys, rocks, sticks, or even non-edible household items. This behaviour can be due to teething, boredom, anxiety, or simply out of curiosity. While these items often come out the other side, sometimes they don’t and can require medical intervention and even surgery to treat it.

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as ‘Bloat,’ is a serious condition Labradors, along with other deep-chested breeds, are more at risk of developing. While bloating in humans refers to harmless water weight, bloating in Labradors involves a swollen or twisted stomach which can be fatal. 

Symptoms of GDV include: 

  • a visibly distended stomach/looking bloated
  • looking anxious
  • drooling 
  • pacing 
  • looking at their stomach 
  • trying to vomit with nothing coming up
  • depression and lethargy as the condition progresses 


Although the exact cause of bloat has yet to be found, you should avoid letting your dog overeat or over-hydrate to lessen the risk of bloat. If your dog has any symptoms and you’re concerned that they may have bloat, take them to the vet right away.

We all know, and love labradors’ signature floppy ears, however, their ear shape and the tendency to trap moisture can make them more susceptible to ear infections. To avoid ear infections, keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. After bathing or swimming, make sure to dry your Labrador’s ears thoroughly. Consider having a groomer remove excess hair around the ear area to promote better air circulation. 

Symptoms of ear infections include:

  • red or inflamed ears, and a black/brown or yellow/green discharge may be seen
  • strong odour
  • constant scratching or shaking of the head
  • swelling around the ear
  • whimpering due to discomfort 

Regularly check your dog’s ears for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or a foul odour. If you notice any abnormalities, consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) is the most common heart defect among Labrador Retrievers and occurs when the tricuspid valve (one of four heart valves) forms improperly during embryonic development. The defect ranges from mild to severe, with severe cases often resulting in congestive heart failure within the first few years of life. 

Some affected dogs live comfortably and have a normal life span. A heart murmur, which is usually the first sign of an issue, can be subtle, meaning TVD is often difficult to diagnose. The main diagnostic tools used to diagnose TVDs are an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart. 

Treatment for TVD provides palliative care, including diuretics to reduce fluid build-up and medication to help reduce the workload on the heart and improve its pumping abilities. However, such treatments don’t cure the defect.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your dog’s body doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for controlling their metabolism and the absorption of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include: 

  • unexplained weight gain
  • lethargy 
  • recurring skin, toenail, or ear infections
  • excessive shedding or hair loss 
  • intolerance to cold 


To diagnose Hypothyroidism, your Lab will undergo a blood test to check the level of thyroid hormone in the blood. If the levels of this hormone are found to be low, your vet will likely send the blood samples to a referral laboratory for further testing. 

If a diagnosis of hypothyroidism is confirmed, treatment typically involves hormone replacement therapy, usually in the form of a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. This medication helps to restore normal thyroid hormone levels and support proper metabolic function.

Laryngeal paralysis is a disease of the upper airway and occurs when the cartilage of the larynx doesn’t open and close properly. This disease affects other breeds, but Labrador Retrievers have a higher incidence rate than most.

Laryngeal paralysis is characterised by symptoms such as a dry cough, voice changes, and noisy breathing in affected dogs. As the condition progresses, dogs may experience increasing difficulty breathing, especially during stress and exertion, and may eventually collapse. Regurgitation and vomiting can also occur. The progression of symptoms is typically slow, often taking months or even years.

The diagnosis of laryngeal paralysis typically involves an examination of the upper airway using a laryngoscope, which is performed under light anesthesia. Tranquillisers and corticosteroids can provide temporary relief for mild cases, but severe obstruction may necessitate more invasive measures such as a tracheotomy (the insertion of a tube into the trachea) or surgery to address the underlying problem.

Obesity is a common issue among many breeds of dogs. Labradors, in particular, are at risk of obesity because they love to eat and can be known to attempt to eat everything in sight, including rubbish, children’s toys and socks. 

To help your dog maintain a healthy weight, provide your dog with plenty of exercise and measure out regular meals rather than leaving food out all day. By monitoring your dog’s portions and ensuring they don’t overeat, you can prevent obesity.

Considering both the upfront costs of a puppy and the ongoing costs will help you make a responsible, well-informed decision about whether you can afford the commitment of a Labrador.

If you have a new Labrador Retriever and you’re looking for award-winning pet insurance, get in contact with our friendly staff at Knose, and we’ll help find the right plan for you and your pet.