Labrador Retrievers – America's Most Popular Dog Breed
Labradors are immensely popular. They were the breed most registered with the American Kennel Club in 2021 (that's the 31st straight year!), 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 gun dogs to retrieve game.
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 Colors, Shapes, and Sizes
When most people think of a Labrador, they often picture the classic golden or yellow coloring. Black, liver, and chocolate brown labs are also quite common.
Less common are a whole range of unusual colorings, including fox red, silver, white, blue, champagne, and gray.
One thing you'll notice is that Labradors are almost always just one color – a multi-colored Labrador is virtually unheard of. If you think you've seen one, it was probably a mix.
The same goes if you see ads for "miniature labradors" or "micro Labradors." This isn’t a true breed and will probably either be a mix with a smaller dog or a Labrador with dwarfism, which can come with other health issues.
Labrador Temperament and Characteristics
The Labrador’s temperament is probably the main reason they’re so incredibly popular in the US 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 generalization for the breed — temperament will always come down to the individual dog, and all dogs need training and proper socialization 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 upon your outlook on wet dog smell and regular baths.
Labradors — especially young Labradors — are fairly large and energetic dogs with a lot of bounce. A lot of new owners underestimate this and find themselves struggling with their new pet's friendly exuberance. If you’re considering a Lab, make sure your family has the energy levels to match.
Pet Insurance for Labrador Retrievers
The average ManyPets ManyPets policy for Labrador Retrievers cost $48 per month in 2022. By comparison, our average monthly premium across all dog breeds and ages was $37.
Labs cost more to insure than mixed-breed dogs, which is a big reason why Labrador insurance costs more than the average. (Policies for mixed-breed dogs tend to be a little less expensive since mixed-breed dogs tend to suffer from fewer health conditions.) But actually, Labs cost less to insure than many other purebred dogs, especially those of similar size. They're a pretty healthy breed.
(Also, keep in mind that these are just averages based on data from all customer premiums, including the pricier ones. Your pet's age and location will heavily affect your monthly price, and it's possible your premium will differ from the average —get a quote here!)
The average claim ManyPets received for Labrador Retrievers in 2022 was $502 — but we received Lab claims that ran as high as about $8,900.
Labrador Health Conditions
Despite having relatively low insurance costs for the size of their breed, Labrador Retrievers are prone to a few common health conditions:
Obesity is one health problem that commonly affects Labs: Their stomachs tend to be as big as their hearts. They also have a tendency to eat things they shouldn’t, which can lead to vet visits and pet insurance claims.
Foreign Bodies in the Digestive System and Food Poisoning are also common Labrador Retriever health problems, cementing their reputation for eating anything and everything they can get their mouths on.
Vomiting or Diarrhea also accounted for many of the claims we received for Labradors in 2022. These symptoms, which often arise simultaneously, sometimes signal serious (and costly) gastrointestinal health problems. In 2022, we received vomiting-related Labrador claims that ran as high as about $2,900 and diarrhea-related claims that ran as high as about $1,100.
Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia are a concern for Labradors, just as they are for many larger breeds. This is when the ball and socket in the joint don’t develop or fit together properly. But this condition is not quite as common with Labs as it is with some other larger-sized breeds.
Hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs can often be managed with pain medication. But treatment can become quite costly when meds aren’t enough: Surgery can often cost upwards of $3,500 per hip/elbow. In 2022, ManyPets received Labrador claims for hip dysplasia that ran as high as about $4,1000.
Treating hip dysplasia often costs a lot more than the annual payout limit on some pet insurance policies. But a no-limit insurance policy — like the ManyPets’ Accident and Illness policy — can help you cover it. Just make sure you purchase dog insurance while your Lab is still young, so they're less likely to run into any pre-existing condition exclusions.
Keeping Your Labrador Healthy
When it comes to your pet’s health, prevention is always better than treatment. There are some steps you can take to keep your Labrador healthy for longer.
Pay attention to their diet. Be careful not to give them too many treats or any human food (at least not without consulting a veterinarian). And it can be very helpful to weigh out their food instead of just guessing what the right portion is.
By keeping them light and lean, you’ll help avoid the health conditions that come with obesity, and you’ll avoid exacerbating conditions — like hip and elbow dysplasia — which can be worsened by excessive weight.
You can ask your vet to evaluate your Labrador’s hips, especially if you plan to breed from them. To become a reputable breeder with the Labrador Retriever Club (the breed’s national parent club, affiliated with the American Kennel Club), sires and dams must undergo evaluations for hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as eye conditions and other disorders. Only dogs with healthy evaluation results should be bred.
But you should consider getting these tests 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 preventative care advice.
Frequently asked questions about Labrador Retrieverss
Where can I get a Labrador?
Most people get Labradors from breeders. Many choose to buy from breeders who list their litters on the American Kennel Club’s marketplace. These breeders are required to follow health and wellness regulations, and are subject to routine inspections by AKC field agents.
If you're buying a puppy from a breeder, they should be at least eight weeks old when you take them home. Responsible breeders allow puppies to spend a minimum of 8-10 weeks with their mothers and siblings, which results in proper development and socialization. You should also be able to observe your puppy’s entire family and environment; that includes seeing your puppy with their mother.
If you don't mind having an older dog instead of a pup, make sure you check your local shelters. Labradors are so common that it's likely some will be passing through rescues 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.