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Are Labradors Good Family Dogs: 17 Things to Know

Last Updated: February 20, 2024

It’s decided; you are bringing home a Labrador Retriever puppy to be part of the family! You’ve done your research and know that Labs are friendly, smart, loyal, kind, and even-tempered, making you think Labradors make good family dogs. You thought right!

Labradors are good family dogs with a loving and lively nature. They are smart and easy to train, good with kids and other dogs and pets, can keep up well with children’s play liveliness, and are generally healthy dogs. But Labs are also heavy shedders and can get easily bored.

This article discusses the complete range of 17 characteristics that make Labradors good family dogs, with a few that could make you think twice about getting a Labrador as a family pet. So, let’s dive right into that crucial question.

A Yellow Lab Puppy.

17 Things to Know About Labradors 

Good family dogs come with many positive traits. Still, everyone will agree that being loving and affectionate tops the list of characteristics dog owners will look for in a family dog. 

Luckily, Labradors easily pass the test for an affectionate dog and have plenty of other good family-dog characteristics, as discussed below.

1. Labradors Are Loving and Affectionate

On the Labrador Retriever breed standard page, the AKC gives this breed a full mark for an affectionate dog. The Labrador’s loving temperament explains why most dog owners in the US and worldwide choose this breed. 

Affectionate dogs are loving, friendly, kind, caring, and loyal to family members and other people known to them, and these are traits anyone looking to own a dog cannot resist.

2. Labradors Are Highly Intelligent and Trainable

Every dog is trainable. However, some, like Labradors, are more trainable than others for these three reasons:

  • Labradors are highly responsive to command cues. Labradors take the 7th position on the list of “the intelligence of dogs,” meaning they will understand command cues without making you repeat them more than five times and will obey those commands more than 95 percent of the time.
  • They always want to know that obeying a command has a reward. Labradors always have a good appetite, so training rewards are readily welcome. Your Lab will do anything you ask of him to get that reward.
  • Pleasing their owner is in their nature. Dogs can be stubborn, self-driven, receptive, and eager to please. Labradors have an eager-to-please personality, which draws their attention to the owner or trainer during training.

Do you want to know more about training your new Lab pup? Check out my guide, 7 Speedy Ways To Train a Labrador Puppy.

3. Labradors Are Sociable Dogs

Sociability in dogs is defined by their openness to strangers, their level of playfulness, their ability to adapt to new situations, and their tendency to be protective or not.

Labradors pass the sociability test in all these areas:

  • They are open to strangers and consider everyone their friend.
  • They are always ready to play and can play non-stop.
  • They are highly adaptable and don’t survive on routine.
  • They are not over-vigilant but instead go by the “what is mine is yours” attitude.

A study found that Labrador Retrievers scored higher on sociability, trainability, and boldness than many other dog breeds.

Sociability in family dogs will make it easy to interact with their owners and family members. Not only that, but it also makes it easier and safer for the owner to welcome strangers in the home or meet unknown people outside the home. 

The Lab’s sociability is also why they don’t make good guard dogs. Although they have a loud bark, they are docile and readily make friends with everyone.

4. Labradors Are Good With Kids

Parents need to keep their children’s safety in mind when introducing a dog into their household. Fortunately, Labradors are typically great with children. 

Being good with children implies that your Labrador has high levels of patience and tolerance for children’s behavior. Besides, your child will be safe because Labradors do not manifest aggression signs unless provoked.

Of course, any dog should always be supervised around kids, especially when one of the parties has little or zero previous exposure to the other party.

Watch Our Cool YouTube Video All About Labradors…

5. Labradors Are Good With Other Pets

Because of their outgoing, friendly, and everyone-is-my-friend disposition, Labradors get along well with other dogs and pets, both in the home and in public. 

Having a dog that’s good with other pets prevents issues of territoriality and aggression. Naturally, you’ll need to make a proper introduction, especially with other pets such as rabbits, but Labs are among the best breeds fit for multi-pet households.

6. Labradors Are High-Energy Dogs

Labradors are high-energy dogs that require at least 1 hour of exercise daily. More energetic Labs will need 1.5 – 2 hours a day. While this characteristic could be a minus for an owner who’s older and without much energy to spend with his Lab, having a lot of energy is a good thing for a young family with children. 

You and your children will enjoy playing and running around with your Labrador without the risk of easily overworking the dog.

7. Labradors Are Great Swimmers

Labradors were bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters, so they had to have excellent swimming skills. Labs also have webbed feet, which help them propel through the water. The AKC lists the Lab among dog breeds that are born swimmers.

As a family dog, being a good swimmer will come in handy when you and your family take the summer holidays. Because Labradors love the water, they’ll have a good time with you by the beach in addition to playing lively fetch games in which they can retrieve toys from the water.

“Just be prepared for swampy areas and muddy ponds. Your Lab has no off switch when it comes to water” – World of Dogz

You might end up with a swampy mud monster if you don’t head them off in time. My dog is definitely a mud magnet! She will make a beeline for a muddy puddle and lie in it to cool off. Keep an old towel in your car as a precaution. 

8. Labradors Have a Soft Mouth

Biting is a natural trait of dogs. It can be an aspect of play or defense when your dog is provoked.

While some dogs have a strong hurting bite even in play, Labs are known for their soft mouth precisely because they were bred to bring back prey water birds intact without biting down strongly.

A soft bite makes Labs safe family dogs. They will not hurt children or adults with their bite during play. Besides, their natural soft bite makes them easy to train in bite inhibition.

Yellow Lab Puppy with its paw up.

9. Labradors Are Generally Healthy and Long-Living Dogs

Labs are generally healthy dogs and will live up to 12 years with proper care. A study found that some Labs can live a lot longer, up to 16 or 17 years. 

According to this study, long-living Labradors have a slower rate of body fat accumulation, especially in the first years of life. They also have a slower rate of lean body mass loss. Because of their long life, Labs have been used to study longevity in human life.

Other physical and personality characteristics of Labradors are also signs of good health in your Lab dog:

  • A lively, alert, and friendly disposition.
  • A sturdy glossy coat.
  • Bright and shiny eyes.
  • Clear, light-pink skin inside the ears.
  • Fresh breath.
  • Moist nose with clear discharge.
  • Firm gums with white teeth (teeth may discolor with age).
  • Clear-yellow urine and brown and firm stool.
  • Healthy body weight 65-80lbs/29-36kg (male) 55-70lbs/25-31kg (female).

10. Labradors Require Minimal Grooming

Labradors require minimal grooming during the week except in the heavy shedding spring and fall seasons (see below). With good nutrition to keep their coat healthy and glossy, Labs only need 2-3 coat brushings a week.

An occasional bath when your Lab is very dirty is opportune. However, avoid harsh shampoos that remove your dog’s natural skin oils. It would be best if you trimmed your Lab’s nails and brushed their teeth regularly. 

Despite their many good qualities as family dogs, these dogs also have a few drawback traits you need to know about before settling for Labradors as pets. We’ll look at these next.

11. Labradors Are Heavy Shedders

Labradors have an outer coat with long thick hairs and an inner coat with finer hairs that play an insulating role in extreme weather.

Throughout the year, your Lab will leave signs of his forever shedding coat on your couch, carpet, or clothing. Continuous shedding also means your Labrador is not hypoallergenic.

What’s more, your Labrador goes through a heavy shedding season when the weather changes in late fall and spring.

Because the undercoat is shed in clumps during these seasons, your Lab’s fur can be a nuisance, especially for owners who are neat freaks and family members with an allergy to dog fur.

If you’re looking for a breed that sheds less, you might want to consider the Labradoodle.

12. Labradors Can Suffer Ill-Health

Although we indicated earlier that Labs are generally healthy dogs, it is also true that this breed is prone to several health issues and conditions, including:

For this reason, the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. advises that your Lab undergo the recommended tests for these diseases and conditions, including the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) hip and elbow evaluation, annual eye examination, and the (EIC) DNA test. 

Screening for health issues such as the above tests is essential if you plan to breed with your Labrador. It is important that genetic disorders are not continued in the breed bloodline. 

Labs’ poor health can be costly and comes with emotional strain to the family. Because of this, you should know about these health issues before deciding that a Labrador is a good family dog for you.

13. Labs Love Eating

It’s no secret that Labradors love their food. If you are the kind of dog parent that does not control your dog’s eating routine, love for his food bowl could spell two drawbacks to owning a Labrador:

  • Your dog could easily become overweight or obese.
  • The cost of your dog’s food could put an additional strain on your pocket.

It’s worth noting that the high food motivation in Labradors and the resulting overweight and obesity is genetically controlled, according to the findings of a scientific study targeting obesity-prone Labrador Retrievers.

Ensure you choose the best diet for your Labrador, including the correct nutrition, and know exactly what they can and can’t eat. This article has it covered; Best Diet for Labradors: Nutrition, Types, and More!

Black Labrador Puppy playing with a tennis ball.

14. Labradors Can Suffer Separation Anxiety

Because of their closeness to their owners and family, Labradors struggle to find comfort when left home alone.

If your Lab has separation anxiety, he will show some of these symptoms:

  • Destructive behavior, including chewing furniture or scratching the door. 
  • Excessive barking or howling.
  • Excreting in the house.
  • Pacing, whining, and shaking. 
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Repetitive behavior.
  • Self-harm through behavior such as biting.
  • Vomiting.

Proper socialization and fear inhibition in puppyhood can save your Labrador from experiencing separation anxiety. Owners should train their Lab puppies to spend time on their own to learn to cope with separation from the family. 

Read More: How Long Can Labradors be Left Alone?

15. Labradors Can Become Bored and Depressed Easily

Labradors are sporting dogs with high mental stimulation needs. That means your Lab needs to stay engaged most of the time to be happy and healthy; otherwise, your dog will be bored and depressed.

Activities and games that require your Lab to concentrate and be involved in problem-solving and decision-making, like learning new tricks, are great options for the mental stimulation of your Labrador.

If your Lab is not consistently mentally stimulated, he can opt to find his own way of getting engaged. Unluckily, your dog’s choice of activity or behavior may not be what you would want him to be doing. 

16. Labradors Tend to Smell

According to PETMD, most dogs with strong body odor may have health issues. However, all dogs tend to have some ‘doggy smell.’

Dogs produce oils that can sometimes cause an unpleasant odor that is quite noticeable to their owners. In addition, the glands in the ears emit a yeasty smell.

Because Labradors have a double coat that repels water, their thick outer and finer inner hairs can hold on to smells. So, if you are one of the ‘super smellers,’ you may find this Labrador doggy odor unpleasant and challenging to put up with every day.

17. Labradors Need Plenty of Space

Labradors are large to medium dogs with plenty of energy to spend. Their dynamic nature requires plenty of space to run and play.

Families with plenty of yard space will find it easy to own the high-energy Lab. However, owning a Lab may not be a wise decision if you live in an apartment with little space. 

While you can bring your Labrador to dog parks and take daily walks, most of the hours of the day are spent inside the apartment. A Lab that feels confined can get creative with chewing stuff he shouldn’t get his teeth on.

Labradors As Family Pets: Pros and Cons

Are Labradors good family dogs? Let’s compare a Labrador’s pros and cons for the verdict.

Labrador Pros

  • Loving and affectionate.
  • Smart and trainable.
  • Sociable.
  • Good with children.
  • Good with other pets.
  • High-energy.
  • Great swimmers.
  • Soft mouth.
  • Generally healthy.
  • Minimal grooming requirements.

Labrador Cons

  • Heavy shedders.
  • Love eating and can have weight issues.
  • Could suffer breed-specific illnesses. 
  • Easily bored and depressed.
  • Can suffer separation anxiety.
  • Have the ‘doggy odor.’
  • Need plenty of space.

Closing Thoughts

Labradors have a way of melting your heart, and the breed makes a loyal and ever-loving member of a busy home. They are an excellent option for a household with kids as they have an equal amount of energy to burn as the little ones. Just remember that they need a lot of exercise and love to be happy and well-balanced. 

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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