Labrador retriever

The Labrador retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK. With the right attention, care, and exercise they can make wonderful companions and much-loved additions to a family. The Labrador retriever is typically described as an energetic, friendly, loving breed, and their qualities help them excel as working dogs, assistance dogs, and guide dogs. Perhaps the most recognisable type of guide dog, the breed’s fame has been earned over many years helping people with sight loss live the life they choose.

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Did you know? King Charles III has owned several Labradors, and Queen Elizabeth II was an active member and patron of the Labrador Retriever Club for many years.

What are Labradors retrievers known for?

Labrador retrievers are often described as energetic, intelligent, friendly and sociable. Known for being active, playful, and good-natured, they thrive with plenty of physical and mental exercise, attention and affection.


While every dog is unique, Labradors are known to be friendly, sociable and eager to please. They're described as playful, love company, and like other dogs need plenty of attention and stimulation to keep them from becoming bored. As with most dogs, they won't thrive left on their own for long periods, and at Guide Dogs, we recommend no dog is left alone for more than four hours in every 24 hours.

Known as a friendly breed, their love of attention can distract them, which is one reason we at Guide Dogs ask the public not to interrupt our guide dogs when they're working. The Labrador retriever breed is often associated with their love of food, which can be a great asset to motivate them in training. Owners need to manage their enthusiasm for food to prevent them from stealing or over-eating. The Labrador's versatility means they can be found working as assistance dogs, gundogs, search and rescue dogs, sniffer dogs, and guide dogs.

Labradors are typically sociable, playful, loving dogs, and they can make wonderful family companions. Like all dogs, they must also be supervised around young children. Labradors typically love any activity involving their people. They’re generally described as intelligent, enjoy learning, and highly food motivated, all of which can be great assets in training to become life-changing guide dogs.

Physical traits

Labradors are large, strong, athletic dogs with broad heads, long legs, floppy ears and expressive eyes. The Labrador’s coat colour is black, yellow or chocolate and they have a short-haired double coat and a thick tail they put to good use, wagging cheerful greetings and often swimming enthusiastically.

Caring for a Labrador retriever

A dog's health isn't just the outcome of their breeding, but their lifestyle too. Dogs rely on their owners for the right diet and exercise to help them keep as healthy as possible. Vaccination, boosters, vet health checks, as well as physical checks at home also help look after a dog's health.


Labradors are known to have a sociable nature and moderate to high energy levels, so they’re likely to love to meet and play with other dogs. This can be great mental and physical stimulation for them, but they must have good recall and greet other people and dogs calmly.


With their known famed love of food, Labradors may enjoy treats as part of training and food-based games and puzzles. As with all dogs, it’s essential to monitor their calorie intake and teach them good manners around food. That's one reason we don't recommend giving table scraps.

Labradors are retrievers and so at times retrieving things that their owners don't want them to can become an occurrence. It's important they have an outlet for their retrieving and chewing instincts, for example, hide and seek and retrieval games and providing them with safe chew toys.

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Labrador retrievers generally need at least 90 minutes of exercise daily as adults, preferably in two different sessions, both on and off the lead. Physical and mental exercise, such as training or enrichment activities, gives them an outlet for their natural energy and behaviours such as chewing, sniffing and retrieving. As with all dog breeds, it's important that they have time to properly digest their food before exercising.

Labradors were originally bred for their swimming and retrieving skills and are often keen water dogs. For dogs who enjoy the water, swimming is an excellent exercise for their health, provided it’s safe for them to swim.


The Labrador's short, dense double coat keeps them warm but also means they may shed a lot. Anyone who's lived with a Labrador knows that a powerful vacuum cleaner is also a must have! At Guide Dogs we recommend a daily grooming session, which most dogs learn to look forward to if introduced to a grooming regime from an early age. Daily grooming helps keep their coat in good condition, is an enriching experience and can make identifying any health issues much easier.

Labradors, like all dogs, will generally only require bathing if they’ve rolled in something unpleasant. Teeth brushing and nail trimming should also be part of a Labrador's grooming routine. Your vet or professional groomer can help with any advice on nail trimming.

Common health conditions

Different pedigree breeds are prone to different health issues. At Guide Dogs, we use extensive health screening to help us breed the healthiest possible dogs. This includes genetic screening, hip and elbow scores, and regular ophthalmic (eye) exams. If you’re thinking of a Labrador as a family companion, it's important to ask for health screening results on both dog’s parents.

Did you know? Guide dogs aren’t just Labrador retrievers? Get to know our other guide dog breeds, including German shepherds, golden retrievers and crossbreeds.

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