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Breed profile: Labrador retriever

I never thought I’d own any kind of Labrador retriever or lab mix. Working at a kennel for seven years and dealing with all the hyper, untrained labs, I never wanted one. Plus, it seemed like every other person owned a lab and that made them boring to me.

But when I searched hundreds of dogs’ profiles last year before I adopted my mutt, he was my best match: Mellow, house trained, kennel trained, likes cats, would love to run, not a barker, neutered. That was about all I knew about Ace before I went and looked at him for the first time.

Seriously, it’s hard to find an adult dog that is housebroken, kennel trained, likes cats and doesn’t bark but could also make a good long-distance running buddy. Ace was the only dog I found that met my criteria out of hundreds. But there was one other thing: He is at least 50 percent lab!

My opinion on labs has changed. Labs were bred in Canada during the 1800s to be water retrievers, and they will sit in a boat for hours waiting patiently to retrieve a bird from cold water. They are loyal, goofy and easy to train.

The problem with this breed is not that they are hyper, psychotic and untrainable. It’s just that there are so many of them that aren’t trained, and the untrained ones make the rest look bad.

When I see a well-trained lab wearing a service dog vest and helping out its human, I understand the amazing capabilities of this breed.

Labs come in solid yellow, black or chocolate, as you can see in the three photos provided by Lora at It’s the Dogs’ Life. They weigh between 55 and 80 pounds.

I doubt if I’ll ever own a purebred lab; they’re just too common for me. But I’ll probably own another lab mix in my life, and boy do I love my mutt!

Chocolate lab ErisAdvantages to owning a Labrador retriever:

1. Labs might be the happiest, friendliest breed there is. As a breed, they love all people and all dogs. The tail is always wagging.

2. They love the outdoors. Labs will make a great hunting or running buddy. But if you own a pool, be prepared to share it with your lab. These dogs love the water!

3. They are easy to train. They love to learn and are intelligent dogs. They do well in obedience, agility and as service dogs.

4. Labs can handle the cold. Since they were bred to handle swimming in ice-cold water, their waterproof coats help them tolerate snow and cold.

Assuming you don’t live in Fargo, N.D., you might even be able to keep your lab as an outside dog. Alghough, I don’t know why you’d want to.

5. They are gentle around children. Labs are generally gentle, patient and tolerant around kids. This is why they make a great family pet.

Disadvantages to owning a Labrador retriever:

1. They need training and exercise. A bored lab is a disaster.

Labs need at least an hour of exercise a day, as well as mental challenges. The breed has a bad reputation of being hyper, simply because most labs don’t get the exercise they need.

Black lab Hera at the dog park

2. Health issues common in labs include hip and elbow dysplasia, obesity and patellar luxation, according to the Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by D. Caroline Coile.

In my own experience, I have also seen many labs with allergies and cronic ear infections, probably because of the amount of time many of them spend in the water.

3. Labradors can easily become obsessed with retrieving. It’s what they were bred to do, but it can get annoying when they are constantly bringing you their slobbery tennis ball. They will also carry anything they find in their mouths, including your shoes, clothes or anything else left in their reach.

4. Labs shed all the time. Their fur is not long, but the coat sheds pretty much nonstop. They need brushing to remove the dead hair.

5. They are overbred. Labradors are one of the most popular dogs in the United States, if not the most popular.

The problem with this is people are breeding them everywhere. If you look in the classifieds, you are likely to see dozens of ads for labrador puppies for sale.

If you look on Petfinder, there are literally thousands of labs and lab mixes in need of homes. If you adopt a lab from a breeder, make sure you do your research and know what you are getting.

(All the lab photos are from Lora’s beautiful labs over at

Yellow labrador dog named Apollo in the snow

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