They Get Along Well with Cats, and Other Fun Facts About Labrador Retrievers

Yellow, black, chocolate: The three types of one of the most beloved dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever. Labs came into being when their water-loving Canadian ancestors were bred with British hunting dogs, making them reliable on bird hunts and for retrieving fish. Known for being friendly, energetic, and outright peppy, the breed is celebrated with its own national day on January 8. To honor their day of recognition, learn more about these lovable dogs.

They’re Extremely Popular But Have a Much Smaller Rival

The American Kennel Club releases a list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. each year, based on their annual registration statistics. Using this metric, Labs were found to be the top breed for a dominating 31 years in a row. In 2022, though, they were taken off their throne by a tiny challenger: the French bulldog. They still managed to come in second, though, showing how endearing the breed continues to be to people.

They’re Very Affectionate

Sleeping black Labrador Retriever

When you want a cuddly, loving companion for your household, look no further than a Lab. They’re considered to be one of the most affectionate dog breeds. They tend to be loving and gentle with kids, even little ones, other household pets, and even complete strangers. If you’re looking for a guard dog, they’re not your best bet, but if you want a cuddly shadow, you’re on the right track.

Some of Their Best Friends Are Cats

Their good behavior in the home also translates to getting along well with their feline housemates. Labs are known as one of the dog breeds most apt to get along with cats. Due to their patience and gentle nature, they tend to put up with saucy shenanigans from their smaller furry companions. Cats are just another potential friend to this gregarious breed.

They’re Ready for a Swim

Yellow Labrador Retriever in water

As mentioned before, Labs have an affinity for the water, due to their history of working in it. They’re one of many breeds that love a good swim. Their bodies are tailor-made for it, too, with webbed feet and a tail that resembles that of an otter, and works to propel them in the same way. Their double-layered coat is even waterproof, which allows them to continue to enjoy retrieving something tossed in the water, even if it’s not their job anymore.

They’re Sharp

If you enjoy bonding with your dog with tricks, Labs are the breed for you. They’re smart and able to master tasks, from tricks to dog sports to jobs helping people. Due to their smarts, though, they require some serious mental stimulation, so if you adopt one, be sure to keep them on their toes with new tricks, toys that require some thought, and other mentally challenging games.

Yellow Labrador Retriever playing dog sports

They’re the Best at One Particular Job

One of the ways in which their intelligence shines is as guide dogs. Guide Dogs for the Blind says Labs are the most successful breed in this line of work. They’re the largest percentage of the organization’s breeding colony, as well. This isn’t the only job they’re good at, though. They’re also commonly used in search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, therapy, and as helpers for people with disabilities.

They Can Sometimes Bounce Off the Walls

To say the Labrador Retriever is energetic is a bit of an understatement. This breed has a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be channeled in the right ways, or they could become a bit destructive. This is owing to their history as working dogs. They need something to do! It’s recommended that Lab parents focus on good training, get their dogs plenty of exercise, and work on socialization. Fortunately, they’re among the most trainable breeds, so they should catch on quickly.

They Have a Gene That Makes Them Food Obsessed

Smiling black Labrador Retriever

One drawback to the Labrador Retriever breed is that they have a tendency to put on weight. Research has shown this may be due in part to genetics! A 2016 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that a genetic variant found in at least a quarter of Labradors is associated with increased appetite and weight. In particular, it impacts how the brain recognizes hunger and feeling full.

The study’s first author, Dr. Eleanor Raffan from the University of Cambridge, says, “People who live with Labradors often say they are obsessed by food, and that would fit with what we know about this genetic change.”

All Three Coat Colors Can Occur in One Litter

Black Labrador puppy

Generally, siblings look alike, but in Labs, they can all be quite different. Regardless of their parents’ coat colors, litters can include all three varieties: chocolate, black, and yellow. This can come about due to the genes they get from both of their parents, as there are two genes that determine the coat’s pigmentation. In fact, in 2021, a tri-color litter was born to a black Lab mom named Zola.

Their Lifespan May Be Linked to Their Coat Color

Speaking of coat color, it may impact the Lab’s lifespan. A 2018 study published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics found that chocolate Labs don’t live as long. The research showed that they live an average of 10.7 years, compared to 12.1 years in their yellow and black cousins. The study also found that chocolate Labs suffer more often from ear infections, with nearly a quarter of them dealing with one at some point.

Chocolate Labrador Retriever closeup

Paul McGreevy, study co-author and professor at the University of Sydney, says there may be an explanation for these disparities. He explains, “The relationships between coat colour and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding for certain pigmentations. Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate. Breeders targeting this colour may therefore be more likely to breed between only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene. It may be that the resulting reduced gene pool includes a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions.”

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