If you’re thinking about getting a Labrador but aren’t quite sure if a lab is the right breed for you, then stick around and keep reading; these pros and cons will surely be enough to help you make your decision!
Labradors are one of the most popular breeds of dog out there, loved by individuals and families alike. They’ve featured in huge modern movies such as Marley & Me as well as Disney classics like Old Yeller and The Incredible Journey, and they’re highly sought after for many reasons.
(image of one of the movie posters for one of the films mentioned above)
Perhaps you’ve got a friend who has a Labrador or maybe a relative that’s got one, and you’re thinking to yourself “I’ve always wanted a dog, a lab could be perfect for me!”. You might be right but there’s a lot of thought and consideration that needs to go into adopting a dog.
A Labrador will be around for at least 10 years so before going ahead with the adoption process, you need to know all you can about the breed and what looking after one will entail. This post is by no means an exhaustive account of everything you need to know, but you will hopefully find some helpful pros and cons that could make your decision more informed.
Some General Information About Labradors
Labradors, also known as Labrador Retrievers, were bred to be hunting dogs. As the name suggests, they were often trained to retrieve birds, rabbits, and other animals that had been shot during a hunt. Their gentle jaws and soft mouths are perfect for handling objects delicately which was ideal in hunting situations.
Before becoming the hunting/gun-dog breed we’ve known in more recent years, Labradors were originally Canadian in origin and served widely alongside fisherman, helping to pull in nets, fetch things, and retrieve fish from the sea.
(image of a Labrador swimming)
Labradors are strong swimmers and were perfectly suited to this kind of life. Today, as well as being hunting companions and beloved family pets, Labradors are also commonly trained to be guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, therapy dogs, and search-and-rescue (SAR) dogs amongst many other services.
To find out a bit more about other traits Labradors have, you can check out this article comparing them to Golden Retrievers. Whether you’ve considered a Golden Retriever or not, this comparison will also give you a bit more insight into Labradors and how they measure up to this other, wildly popular breed.
Now, moving onto the pros and cons. Because it’s always nice to end on a high note, we’ll begin with the cons.
Looking at a happy-go-lucky lab playing with a ball or running along the beach, it’s difficult to think of the cons that might come with adopting one. And although the pros most likely outweigh the cons, it’s still important to know about the bits that are not so great.
Starting small with this list, Labradors are big shedders. They’re double-coated dogs which means exactly what it sounds like: double the fur = double the shedding.
No matter what colour lab you get, yellow, chocolate or black, you’ll have to contend with a lot of stray hairs collecting in different places around your home, sticking to your clothes and furniture, and floating around freely whenever there’s a breeze.
You can find out more about Labrador shedding at this link.
Shedding is inconvenient in terms of clean-up but can also cause issues for allergies, so although it doesn’t seem like a massive issue and is certainly a problem you’d have with most dog breeds, it is something to think about before taking the plunge.
The Great Labrador Hunger
Labs are notoriously greedy dogs. If you put food in front of them, their reputation states that they will eat it. It’s likely that it doesn’t matter what kind of food it is or how much food it is, if they’re capable of eating it, they will.
This means that labs are at high risk of becoming overweight or even obese, so their feeding needs to be monitored quite closely. If you notice your dog putting on a few excessive pounds, it might be time to think about a diet. Your Labrador might not be happy about this, but it’s for their own good!
Because of their strong penchant for sniffing out treats, you may need to watch dining tables, food cupboards, and bins until your Labrador is fully trained, just to make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t have.
All That Energy!
Having a Labrador requires a lot of energy because as a breed, THEY have a lot of energy (and when we say a lot, we mean A LOT). This means you’ll need to be prepared to take your lab on lots of walks, at least twice per day ideally, as well as ensure they have ample space to bounce around in.
(image of a Labrador running or jumping)
Labradors are not great dogs for small apartments or other cramped spaces as they hate to be cooped up and need space to expend their energy. They’ll also require a lot of toys to play with, especially while you’re out of the house (otherwise you might find your shoes and other belongings have become a bit on the chewed side by the time you get home).
Labradors don’t chew things, knock things over, and make a mess to spite you; they just need an outlet for their energy, so it’s best to keep them exercised and stimulated as best you can!
Curiosity Killed the…Dog?
Labradors are very curious dogs that love to sniff around and explore. This is a quality that many people find adorable and charming, as well as helpful (keep reading to find out why). However, a lab’s curiosity has the potential to get him in trouble from time to time.
Whether it be finding and eating something they shouldn’t or getting stuck in a small but tantalising space, Labradors can sometimes allow their curiosity and thirst for adventure to get the better of them. Especially while they’re young puppies, they might need some additional supervision.
During the training phase, if you notice your puppy gravitating towards things they shouldn’t, make it clear to them that that isn’t ok and distract them with something they are allowed.
Unfortunately, Labradors are prone to quite a few health issues and diseases. We’ve already seen how their tendency to overeat can lead to obesity, which is very common in labs, but there are a few other health concerns that you need to keep an eye out for.
Genetic problems such as arthritis, and hip and elbow dysplasia are frequently found within the Labrador breed, and although issues such as these cannot be cured exactly, there are ways to help your dog avoid injuring themselves or making the problems worse.
Cancers are also very common in Labradors, and although there are scans and other medical procedures that can detect cancers early on, it is quite a common cause of premature death. Other often lethal diseases include liver and heart problems.
Sadly, this is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the health concerns frequently faced by Labradors, but none of this is to say your dog will definitely get any of these diseases or problems; it’s equally likely that they will have a normal and healthy life.
Moving swiftly onto happier things, here’s the list of pros to having a Labrador. Every cloud has a silver lining and in the case of Labradors, the silver lining is far more noticeable than the cloud!
Sweet Disposition and Stable Temperament
The first thing on our pros list is the Labrador’s personality. There are lots of reasons why labs are so popular amongst individuals and families alike, and one of the key reasons is because they are some of the sweetest, gentlest, and friendliest dogs you’ll ever come across.
Labradors are notoriously intuitive and affectionate, making them the ideal companion, and as soon as you bring one into your home, you’ll never want them to leave. Labradors will always be happy and excited to see you when you come home after work, and you can expect lots of kisses and cuddles – what more could you want?
(image of a person hugging a Labrador)
Labradors are also very patient, good with children and other animals, and dependable; you can rest assured that unless severely provoked or hurt, your lab will not act aggressively or unpredictably. They are natural people pleasers and want nothing more than to make you happy.
They are also fiercely loyal so once you’ve earned their trust, you’ll have a best friend for life!
The flip side of Labradors having too much energy is that they are incredibly athletic and active, which is ideal if you yourself enjoy an active lifestyle. Walking, jogging, hiking, and cycling are all activities that you can expect to enjoy with your Labrador.
Labs are excellent swimmers and generally love the water so if you’re a bit of a water baby too then trips to a river, lake or beach could make for the ideal outing with your dog. Activities such as these can also be amazing bonding opportunities.
Labradors are strong, fast, and very trainable which means they’re easily taught tricks and “jobs” that can provide you with assistance as well as entertainment, for example, labs can be taught to fetch and carry things, pull and push things, and operate different mechanisms around the house (such as opening a fridge or turning off a TV).
(image of a Labrador doing an obstacle course)
As the last point started getting into, Labradors are exceedingly intelligent dogs who love to learn and please their master. They thrive on challenges and cognitive stimulation, and it’s their intelligence coupled with their trainability that makes them the perfect choice for so many service-dog roles.
As you may well know, Labradors are commonly trained to be guide dogs for the blind, mobility assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. Their excellent sense of smell makes them great search and rescue dogs too. Their talents do not simply end at doing tricks and retrieving things!
(image of a guide dog)
Labradors have also been known to be able to sense things like pregnancy and disease in humans so can also be trained to help people with epilepsy, diabetes, and other health issues, keeping them safe.
Grooming and Care
Labradors might have a double coat which means more and thicker fur than some other breeds, but their fur is also short and straight which makes grooming fairly easy and straightforward. You won’t need complicated equipment or expensive tools to ensure your lab is looking their very best!
Because they shed quite a bit, labs will require regular brushing, but each session doesn’t need to last too long and because their coats are short and generally tangle-free, it shouldn’t be a difficult job either. In terms of bathing, Labradors only require washing once every two to three months unless they get visibly soiled or overly smelly.
Because they’re very patient and trusting, processes such as nail clipping are also relatively simple. Make sure you start grooming your dog from when they’re a puppy so they get used to the different sensations and processes.
Difficult to Beat
Labradors are fun-loving and excitable dogs that just want to have a good time. They’ll make a game out of anything and can sense when you’re happy so if you encourage them by laughing or reacting positively to something they’ve done, they’ll likely keep doing it.
Whether it’s going for an adventure together outside or curling up on the sofa in the evening, your Labrador will bring a smile to your face and be the perfect companion. Their intuitive nature also means they’re great at detecting if you’re having a bad day, and they’ll show you they care by rubbing up against you, bringing you one of their favourite toys, or simply placing a paw on your leg.
There might be a few cons to having a Labrador in your life, but it’s fair to say that for most people, the pros far outweigh the cons. Most people couldn’t ask for a better dog!