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Labrador Pros and Cons: 13 Things to Consider Before Buying

Last Updated: December 20, 2023

If the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog in 2022, it’ll be the 32nd year this breed tops the list. This continued popularity confirms that the advantages of owning a Lab outweigh the disadvantages. So, what are the pros and cons of a Labrador Retriever?

Labradors’ biggest pros are their pleasant personality, which is defined by their affectionate and friendly nature, eagerness to please, and high trainability. However, Labs also have some cons to consider before buying, such as their insatiable love for food, activity needs, and heavy shedding.

If owning a Labrador is one of the things on your annual goals list this year, you can track your progress to achieving the goal by learning about the advantages and disadvantages of Labrador Retrievers. I have everything figured out for you in this article.

Chocolate Lab Puppies resting on a sofa.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Labrador?

Dogs are the most prevalent pets in our homes. For centuries now, they’ve earned their famous title as people’s best friends.

Owning a dog is known to have many advantages for humans, but dogs also have traits that may challenge their owner’s patience, increase their financial burden, and strain their time management.

Like all dogs, one should weigh up a Labrador’s advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a tabled view of the pros and cons of Labradors.

Labrador ProsLabrador Cons
Labradors have a pleasant personalityLabradors are food-motivated
Labradors are fast learnersLabradors are heavy shedders
Labradors are friendly and peaceful dogsLabradors can suffer breed-specific health issues
Labradors are great with childrenLabradors have a doggy smell
Labradors have an average to long lifespanLabradors are prone to separation anxiety
Labradors are friendly with other petsLabradors need lots of space
Labradors are great company for outdoor fun

I’ll give you all the facts you need to know about these Labrador pros and cons in the rest of the article.

Labrador Pros

Labrador pros are the positive qualities of Labs that’ll win your heart and make bringing home a Lab puppy irresistible. They really are furry bundles of love and mischief, and when it comes to cuddles, there is hardly any breed to compete with. Here are some other reasons why Labradors top the ranks.

Labradors Have a Pleasant Personality

Labradors are the most popular dogs in the US and the third most popular dogs globally because of their pleasant personality. Dog personality is rooted in genes, manifested in behavior, and significantly impacted by owner characteristics and training. 

National Kennel Clubs and dog researchers use several traits to define dog breed personality. Below is a list of Labrador traits that give them the credit of having a pleasant personality: 

  • Affectionate, loyal, and friendly with everyone.
  • Calm and non-aggressive.
  • Sociable (outgoing).
  • Trainable (Intelligence + eager to please).
  • Playful (lively).
  • Protective (caring).
  • Adaptable (easy-going).

Labradors Are Fast Learners

Not every dog will start sitting 5 minutes after you’ve taught him the “SIT!” command. But the Labrador will. That’s because, in the famous list of the intelligence of dogs, Labs are listed 7th among the most intelligent dogs and placed in the category of the brightest dogs. 

In real life, here’s what that means:

  • You only need to repeat commands less than five times to have your Lab learn them. That means you’ll housebreak your Lab easily, and they will learn commands quickly. Do you want to know what to teach your Lab? Check out this post, The Ultimate Labrador Training Commands Guide.
  • You won’t have to deal with canine stubbornness. Experts suggest that the Labrador will obey commands the first time you say them, >95% of the time.

Learn About The Labrador In Our YouTube Video…

Labradors Are Friendly and Peaceful Dogs

If you’re seeking a dog that won’t be fighting with every other pet in the home or barking at every visitor that shows up at your door, then it’s the Labrador Retriever. 

Labradors are known to be friendly with adults and with everyone else, including strangers and other pets. Besides, it’ll take a great deal of nagging to get a Lab angry.

This endless Labrador patience validates the results of a study in which Labrador Retrievers were found to be the least aggressive dogs, both towards family and strangers.

Labradors Are Great With Children

Many dog parents consider their dogs to be their “babies,” which implies they expect their furry babies to get along with their human babies.

As such, any dog owner with that kind of approach will go for a dog that gets along well with their kids. Well, I present to you the great-with-kids Labrador Retriever!

This dog is patient, even-tempered, and calm and won’t scare your kids with sudden aggression or unexpected bites during play. In fact, an article in Reader’s Digest puts Labradors third on the list of dog breeds less likely to bite, after Boxers and Bulldogs.

Always remember that a dog is always a dog in extreme situations. So, don’t leave children and Labs unsupervised during play.

Labradors Have an Average to Long Lifespan

The average lifespan of dogs is indicated as 10-13 years. While some dogs may have a life expectancy as short as six years and others a longer one of up to 17 years, Labradors are somewhere in the middle. But Labs can also live beyond their assigned life expectancy (10-12 years).

Two facts support Labradors’ possible long life:

  • A study established that some Labradors live up to 16 or 17 years. Labradors live long if they sustain a slow body fat accumulation in the first years of life and a slower loss of lean body mass. For this reason, Labs have been used to study longevity in humans. 
  • A list of the 21 longest-living dogs has two Labradors on their list. The first Labrador is number five (27 years, 98 days) and number 14 (20 years, 361 days). Only two other breeds make it twice on the list; Dachshunds and Border Collies.

Since no dog owner enjoys seeing their furry friend go after only a couple of years, owning a Lab guarantees quite a few years of companionship with your dog.

Labradors Are Friendly With Other Pets

There are dog breeds that make the philosophy of “like cats and dogs” a reality because they can’t live with cats. But there are others, like the Lab, that prove the saying wrong.

Labradors have abundant love to give to beings of every species. Their sociable and outgoing nature embraces everyone, including cats and other pets in the home. In fact, the AKC names Labs among dogs that cat owners should consider

Labradors Are Great Company for Outdoor Fun

Labradors are high-energy dogs that require between one and two hours of exercise daily. That implies that your dog will keep up with you quite well during a hike or outdoor play with your kids. 

Labradors also make good company during summer vacations at the beach. Since they were bred to retrieve water birds for hunters, Labradors are natural swimmers, and a Lab’s webbed paws make it easier for the dog to propel through the water. 

Their skill in water will create a lively fetch game in the water as you and your family enjoy your summer escapade by the beach.

Black Lab in Water

Despite the Lab’s many pros, these dogs do have a few cons as well. Read details on Labrador’s cons below, with some info on countering these pros.

Labrador Cons

Discussing Labrador’s cons shouldn’t dissuade you from owning this wonderful dog. On the contrary, learning about a few downsides of owning a Lab will prepare you to face any challenges of owning this famous breed. And being forewarned is being forearmed!

Labradors Are Food-Motivated

Food accounts for the largest part of the cost of owning a Lab or any dog, for that matter. If the dog in question is also a foodie, that means you’ll spend even more because Labs love eating and are food-motivated. You might then want to rethink your decision. 

Nonetheless, you should know two important facts about a Lab’s extreme love for food: 

  • Labs who love food so much have a genetic POMC gene mutation. This gene distorts the communication between their stomachs and their brain, making the brain not deliver the signal that tells your Lab’s stomach when the dog has had its fill. So, your Lab feels hungry most of the time. Read more here: Why Do Labradors Eat So Much?
  • A Lab’s love for food can be managed. Owners can manage their dog’s appetite through positive reinforcement training and a vet-guided diet plan. This fact is true even for the 25% of Labs with the POMC gene mutation

Do you want to know the best diet for Labradors? Check out this guide, Best Diet for Labradors: Nutrition, Types, and More!

Labrador Eating Bone

Labradors Are Heavy Shedders

Labrador grooming is one of the roles you bargain for when bringing home a puppy. Although you don’t need to bathe your Lab often, you must brush his coat regularly because Labradors are among dog breeds considered heavy shedders.

The Lab’s heavy shedding also means they aren’t hypoallergenic. Although Labs shed all year consistently, you’ll need to exercise extra patience during fall and spring when Labs blow their coats in preparation for extreme heat or cold, which will leave you with a larger amount of loose fur around your home.

As a friendly caution, don’t go for a Labrador if the sight of fur on your couch or clothes would send you screaming your dog’s name.

Labradors Can Suffer Breed-Specific Health Conditions

Although they’re generally healthy dogs, Labradors are known to be highly susceptible to specific health conditions. These include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: a study found that 8.3% of Labrador puppies were at risk of hip and elbow dysplasia even when their parents didn’t suffer the condition. The risk grew to 16.1% when one of the parents had the condition and 30% when both parents suffered elbow and hip dysplasia.
  • Eye disease, such as progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Exercise-induced collapse (EIC).
  • Centronuclear Myopathy.
  • Thyroid disease.

To help your Labrador stay healthy and happy, the Labrador Retriever Club recommends the following tests, especially for breeding Labradors: 

  • OFA hip and elbow evaluation. 
  • Eye examination annually.
  • EIC DNA test.

Labradors Have the Doggy Smell

All dogs have a bit of a doggy smell because their skins produce natural oils that tend to smell with time, and their ear glands can give off a yeasty odor. Some dogs also smell strongly due to medical conditions like skin and dental infections.

When it comes to Labradors, their Labrador doggy smell is mainly due to their double, water-repellent coat that tends to retain odor in both the outer and the finer inner hairs. 

So, if you’re sensitive to doggie odor, the lovable personality of the Lab may have to slip through your fingers.

Labradors Are Prone to Separation Anxiety

As the people-loving and sociable dogs that they are, Labradors find it challenging to be lone wolves. That means if you leave your Labrador home alone every day when you go to work, you’re most likely to find a pacing, destructive, or self-harming dog one day when you come from work.

An academic study at the University of Melbourne suggested that Labrador Retrievers have a chromosomal predisposition to separation anxiety, which didn’t present in their Golden Retriever counterparts.

Related: How Long Can Labradors Be Left Alone?

Also, according to a different study, these risk factors will make your Lab (or any other dog) more prone to separation anxiety: 

  • You are the only person living with your Lab.
  • Your Labrador is sexually intact.

Labradors Need Lots of Space

Because they’re active, high-energy dogs, Labradors require plenty of space to play and run around. This energy makes Labs a good choice for families with plenty of yard space but not Labrador lovers living in apartments. 

While you can always bring your Lab for daily walks or for play in dog parks to meet his exercise needs, there are a couple of downsides to keeping a Labrador in limited space:

  • Your Lab may show destructive behavior. Lack of exercise can cause destructive acts such as chewing furniture due to limited mental stimulation. Read more here: 7 Common Labrador Behavior Problems (with Solutions).
  • Your Lab will be bored and can get depressed. Remember that Labs are sporting dogs with a high need for mental stimulation. Being in a limited or confined space can make them less engaged and with little variety for activity.

If you’re a Lab owner with limited space, you’ll need to be extra creative with problem-solving games, new tricks, high-concentration games, and a wide range of toys to keep your Lab mentally stimulated and happy. You’ll also need to create occasions for extended social interactions with your dog.

Learn All About The Labrador In This Video…


How much exercise do Labradors need?

On average, Labradors should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This can include activities such as brisk walks, running, playing fetch, or swimming. It is important to note that the exercise needs of Labradors may vary depending on their age, health condition, and individual personality traits.

How prone are Labradors to health issues?

Labradors are generally known for their robust health and vitality. However, like any other breed, they may be prone to certain health issues. Common health concerns in Labradors are hip dysplasia and obesity.

How long do Labradors typically live?

Labradors typically live 10 to 12 years. Factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall health management play a crucial role in determining their lifespan. Regular check-ups, proper vaccinations, a balanced diet, and an active lifestyle can greatly extend their life expectancy.

Final Thoughts

Labradors are a popular breed globally and in the US. They are loved because they have gorgeous personalities and quickly learn house rules and other obedience commands. Labs are also easy-going and love to please their owners.

But Labradors have some limitations; they’ll leave a lot of fur on your couch all year long as they’re heavy shedders, and their love for food will often make you wonder why your pet is always hungry.

If you’re thinking of owning a Labrador, I hope learning about Labrador’s pros and cons has helped you make an informed decision.

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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