Like any animal, there is a great deal of variety among Labs. The following characteristics are typical of the show-bred or bench-bred lines of this breed in the United States, and are based on the American Kennel Club (AKC) standard. Significant differences between United States and United Kingdom standards are noted.
- Size: Labs are a medium-large, but compact breed. They should have a proportional appearance, as long from the shoulders back as they are from the floor to the withers. Males should stand 22.5 to 24.5 inches (56 to 62 centimeters) tall at the withers and weigh 65 to 80 pounds (30 to 36 kilograms). Females should stand 21.5 to 23.5 inches (54.5 to 60 centimeters) and weigh 55 to 70 pounds (25 to 32 kilograms). By comparison under U.K. Kennel Club standards, height should be 22 to 22.5 inches (56 to 57 centimeters) for males, and 21.5 to 22 inches (55 to 56 centimeters) for bitches.
- Coat: A Lab's coat should be short and dense, but not wiry. The coat is described as "water-resistant", or more accurately water-repellent, so that the dog does not get cold when in water in the winter. That means the dog naturally has a slightly dry, oily coat. Acceptable colors are chocolate, black, and yellow. There is much variance within yellow Labs. Colors should be solid, though varying shades of yellow on the same dog are acceptable in yellow Labs and a white spot on the chest is acceptable in black Labs, though not desirable.
- Head: The head should be broad with a pronounced stop and slightly pronounced brow. The eyes should be kind and expressive. Appropriate eye colors are brown and hazel, and the lining around the eyes should be black. The ears should hang close to the head and are set slightly above the eyes.
- Jaws: The jaws should be strong and powerful. The muzzle should be of medium length, and should not be too tapered. The jowls should hang slightly and curve gracefully back.
- Body: The body should be strong and muscular with a level top line.
The tail and coat are designated "distinctive, or distinguishing, features" of the Labrador by both the Kennel Club of the U.K. and AKC. The AKC adds that "true Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the 'otter' tail."
There are three recognized colors for Labs: solid black, yellow (anything from light cream to gold to "fox-red"), and chocolate (a medium to dark brown). Puppies of all colors can potentially occur in the same litter. Color is determined primarily by two genes. The first gene determines the density of the coat's pigment granules and the second determines whether the pigment is produced at all.
Nose and Skin Pigmentation
The nose, lips, gums, feet, tail, and the rims of the eyes may be black, brown, a light yellow-brown or "liver". Less common pigmentations, other than pink, are a fault, but not a disqualification, and such dogs are still permitted to be shown.
A coloration known as "Dudley" is also possible. Dudleys are variously defined as yellow Labs which have non-pigmented (pink) noses by the Labrador Retriever Club; yellow with liver and chocolate pigmentation by the AKC; or "flesh colored" in addition to having the same color around the rims of the eye, rather than having black or dark brown pigmentation. Breed standards for Labradors consider a true Dudley to be a disqualifying feature for a show Lab