Labrador Retrievers

23 March 2022 - 4 min read
Labrador puppy

Labrador Retriever vital statistics

  • Height: 55-60cm

  • Weight: 28-35kg

  • Life span: 10-12 years

  • Cost: £1,500-£2,500

  • Behaviour: Easy-going, affectionate

  • Exercise: Quite high – at least 90 minutes a day, especially while young

  • Size: Medium to large

  • Dog breed group: Classed by the UK Kennel Club as ’gundogs’

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Labrador Retrievers – The UK’s most popular dog breed

Labradors are immensely popular. They were the breed most registered with the Kennel Club in 2020 and they’ve got an enduring reputation as reliable family dogs.

But Labradors actually have working roots in Britain and Canada, dating back to when British fishermen took their St John's Water Dogs (a now extinct breed with a water-resistant coat) with them to Newfoundland in the 18th century. They were taught to swim in the freezing water and carry ropes and nets in their mouths.

Their later descendants were transported back to England where they continued to work, but in more recent history they became gundogs to retrieve game.

And of course, they’re now much better known as amiable companion dogs, as happy in a family home as they are in a farm environment.

Labrador colours, shapes and sizes

When most people think of a Labrador they picture the classic golden or yellow colouring. Black, liver and chocolate brown labs are also quite common.

Less common is a whole range of unusual colourings including fox red, silver, white, blue, champagne and grey.

But one thing you will notice is that Labradors are almost always just one colour – a multi-coloured Labrador is virtually unheard of. If you see one, it’s more likely to be a crossbreed.

The same goes for if you see adverts for ‘miniature labradors’ or ‘micro Labradors’. This isn’t a true breed and will probably either be a crossbreed with a smaller dog, or a Labrador with dwarfism, which could come with other health issues.

Chocolate labrador

Labrador temperament and characteristics

The Labrador’s temperament is probably the main reason they’re so incredibly popular in the UK and around the world. They’re famed for being extremely good natured, as well as intelligent, trainable and eager to please.

But this is just a generalisation for the breed – temperament will always come down to the individual dog and all dogs need training and proper socialisation to get the best from them.

Thanks to their roots as fishermen’s dogs, Labs have a special affinity with water and are liable to jump in any lake, river or muddy puddle you get too close to. It’s endearing or infuriating depending on your outlook on wet dog smell and regular baths.

Labradors – especially young Labradors – are also quite large and energetic dogs with a lot of bounce. A lot of new owners underestimate this and find themselves struggling with this friendly exuberance. If you’re considering a Lab, make sure your family has the energy levels to match.

Labradors swimming

Pet insurance for Labrador Retrievers

It’s easy to find pet insurance for a Labrador because the breed is so common – we insured over  17,000 of them in 2021.

Labradors are also cheaper than many other breeds to insure. The average cost in 2021 was just £447.63, which is below our average pet insurance cost for all dog breeds of £474.77.

This is a good indicator that they’re a pretty healthy breed as well, which is good news for Labrador owners.

But insurance doesn’t tell the whole story of ownership cost. Find out more about which breeds are cheapest and most expensive to buy, feed and insure.

Labrador health conditions

Despite having pretty low insurance costs for the size of the breed, Labradors do still have a few common conditions to look out for.

One problem that can affect them is obesity – their stomachs tend to be as big as their hearts and they have a reputation as a rather greedy breed. That can also mean they can have a tendency to eat things they shouldn’t, which can lead to vet visits and pet insurance claims.

Around 10% of all claims we saw for Labradors in 2021 were for vomiting or diarrhoea. Vomiting claims cost £446.86 on average and diarrhoea £291.62, so even these relatively minor digestive complaints can prove quite costly.

Foreign bodies in the digestive system and poisoning also featured quite high in the list of common Labrador claims, cementing their reputation for eating anything and everything they can get their paws on.

Like many other larger breeds, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are a concern for Labradors, although it’s not as common with them as with some other bigger breeds.

The average hip dysplasia claim for Labradors in 2021 was £616.24, but that’s because many owners manage the condition with pain medication. If surgery’s needed, it can cost in excess of £5,000 per hip.

That means it often costs a lot more than the vet fee limit on some pet insurance policies, but high-limit insurance like our Complete policy could cover it. The vet fee limit’s £15,000 per year, making it suitable even for expensive surgeries on larger dogs that can cost thousands of pounds.

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Keeping your Labrador healthy

With vet visits and pet insurance, prevention’s better than cure and there are some steps you can take to keep your Labrador healthy for longer.

Pay attention to their diet. Be careful of giving too many treats or human food and always weigh out their food, don’t just guess the portion.

By keeping them light and lean you’ll help avoid health conditions that come with obesity, but hip and elbow dysplasia can also be made worse by excessive weight.

You can ask your vet to hip score your Labrador, especially if you plan to breed from them. The hip score is an assessment of your dog’s hip health and the lower the score the better, so only dogs with low hip scores should be bred from.

To become an assured breeder with the UK Kennel Club, it says that all dogs and bitches must have hip scoring, eye testing and elbow grading. You might want to consider these tests anyway even if you don’t plan to breed. That way you can be prepared for any health issues that might crop up with your dog and ask your vet for some preventative care advice.

Frequently asked questions about Labradors

Everything else you need to know about this family favourite.

Where can I get a Labrador?

Most people get Labradors from breeders. You can choose a Kennel Club approved breeder or find a breeder through puppy sites.

If you’re buying a puppy, they should be at least eight weeks old when you take them home and you should see them with their mum.

If you don’t mind having an older dog instead of a pup, make sure you check with your local dog rescues. Labradors are so common that it’s likely some will be passing through rescues and hoping for a second chance at a home.

Why are they called Labradors?

They were named ‘Labrador dogs’ after the Labrador Sea – a stretch of ocean between Newfoundland in Canada and Greenland. It’s where they worked on the fishing boats, retrieving nets and ropes for their masters.

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Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.