The solid, athletic and excitable Labrador is the consummate retriever. They have a broad head and a wide muzzle, medium-sized, pendant ears and friendly eyes. The chest extends to the elbows and the forelegs should be straight, of solid bone, but not be too heavy. Show dogs need to have an athletic body that looks sturdy, but agile. The back is strong and topline is level. The “otter” tail is the distinguishing characteristic of the breed. It is medium length and thick at the base, covered in short, thick hair and tapers toward the tip. The short hair is what makes the tail appear to be rounded. Labs, excellent swimmers, have webbed feet which come in handy while retrieving water fowl for hunters. The short, dense coat comes in three colors: black, chocolate or yellow.
Size and Weight
Male Labs should stand, at the withers, from 22.5 to 24.5 inches and females should stand 21.5 to 23.5. Size is important in the show ring and dogs who deviate from these heights more than half an inch are disqualified. Males should weigh between 65 and 80 pounds and females should weigh 55 to 70. No size variation, however, disqualifies a Lab from being a companion dog.
Coat and Color
Labs sport a double coat that protects from cold and wet conditions that retrievers encounter while hunting. The undercoat is soft and weather-resistant while the top coat is short, straight, and thick. Labs come in three colors: black, chocolate or yellow. Red and polar white are variations of a yellow lab, and breeders who charge a premium for these “rare” colors are simply trying to take an uneducated buyer for a ride.
Labradors shed heavily throughout the year. Regular brushing can help keep flyaways under control, and household vacuum cleaners should be built for excessive pet hair. Baths are required quite often. Labs tend to smell “like a dog” and enjoy getting down and dirty when outdoors. Labs, however, enjoy water and are not a problem to bathe at home.
Check the ears on a regular basis for signs of wax buildup, irritation or infection. Clean the ears with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser; never use a cotton swab in a dog's ear canal. Teeth should be brushed on a weekly basis to prevent tartar buildup, promote gum health and keep bad breath at bay. Trim nails monthly if the dog does not wear the toenails down naturally outdoors.