There has perhaps never been an animal so widely loved and universally respected as the Labrador Retriever. From their contagious smiles, natural enthusiasm, and perpetual happiness, the reason the Labrador (also known as the St. John’s dog) is the #1 most popular dog breed in America. They’re large enough to join the family on adventures, intelligent enough to become show dogs, and rarely do they have a malicious bone in their body.
This article is going to take an in-depth look at what makes the Labrador Retriever personality and temperament so wonderful. Being that their the #1 dog in America, you can’t really expect this ‘review’ to dissect the issues or flaws of this breed, as truth be told—if they’re a purebred and properly raised—there’s no friendlier, easy-going, and lovely canine.
Today, if you hear of a Lab with a poor personality or temperament, it’s often the cause of puppy mills. While a poor childhood (be it circumstance or inadequate training/socialization) can certainly be the vehicle behind these ‘irregular’ labs, most often the root grows from irresponsible breeders trying to meet market demand.
These unethical breeders strive to produce higher quantities of canines by forgoing quality, and this pitfall of the dog industry affects the most popular breeds. All that is said about a Labrador Retriever in this article specifically pertains to ethically, responsibly, and credibly bred purebreds.
A Brief History of Labrador Retrievers
To analyze the temperament and personality of any animal is also to dive into their past. The nature and origin of a breed are the pillars behind their development and directly correlate with how they tend to act with people and other canines.
The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada, as a popular ‘retriever’ for the island’s fisherman. Intelligent enough to learn commands and strong enough to execute them, these original retrievers—dated somewhere in the 1700’s—would swim long distances to pull in dead fish which slipped their hooks.
Inside the home they were noted for being excellently tempered pets, which is why their popularity boomed. Historically, even keeled temperaments and social personalities were not often seen in working-class canines.
The Labrador Retriever proved their versatility and in turn migrated out of their exclusive working-class position, emerging as the second Earl of Malmesbury’s most prized companions in the 19th century.
Generation upon generation of breeding has taken the Lab out of the water and placed them within families that no longer require a working-class canine.
While many of their ‘work-like’ traits have run dormant, these dogs are still a working-class animal.
This is particularly important being that their enthusiasm and energy often comes from a shortage of stimulation, the desire for work, and their strong athletic bodies growing into adulthood. This is integral to their personality and temperament.
Later, in the 20th century, the Lab was eventually exported to the US, wherein under a century it became the most popular canine to date.
Labrador Retriever Personality
Labs are extremely loving and clumsy but not stupid, extroverted and welcoming (often to a fault) but not cowards, and full of a charm exclusive to this dog breed alone. It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen them around. They’re the dog with the infinity smile that will come lick your face before you’ve even introduced yourself.
They’ll stare at an aggressive canine never barking in response because they don’t understand why the other dog doesn’t want to be friends. And then you’ll see them in the park, tirelessly fetching a ball with the same enthusiasm, never wanting to stop because engaging in an activity with the family is their ultimate happiness.
Their cheerful, eager-to-please personalities don’t just make them easy to manage around strangers or unfamiliar environments, but within the home too. One of the most valuable characteristics of a Labrador Retriever is their trainability. While they’re not going to have the vast mental flexibility of a German Shepherd, they’re just the right amount of intelligent which allows them to pick up quickly, adapt, and contain these ‘lessons’ in their memory.
Their eager-to-please personalities beget a dog more docile than 90% of other breeds. They’re smart enough to learn, want to do so because they know it’s going to make you happy, and love to do so because it’s a central source of stimulation.
Again, when speaking towards the quintessential and natural Labrador Retriever, there is little negative to mention about their personalities.
Inside the home they’re even-tempered, docile, and infinitely loving. Outside the home they’re sociable, welcoming, and affable towards everyone they meet.
However, the Labrador Retriever can be an emotionally-complex animal. Their cheerful rapport and stamina in the face of any array of emotions can run dry if not properly looked after.
Stuck in an everlasting conquest for their family’s regard and affection, if they feel they’re being neglected or loved less they can turn inwards.
These dogs—being that they’re so outwardly loving—trust easily, and those they trust the most possess the ability to greatly affect the adulthood of their pup. Labs by default are prone to
dependence issues, and if they feel their owner is withdrawn or spend too much time alone, they can turn destructive and develop canine separation anxiety. But, these canines should never exhibit anything save for the most sociable, loving, and charismatic personalities.
Labrador Retriever Temperament
The Labrador Retriever temperament is a thing of such stability and grace, that these canines are the #1 therapy dog in America. Naturally charismatic and happy, the Lab has one of the most naturally magnetic temperaments of any breed in the American Kennel Club. It’s against their nature to ever grow frustrated, angry, or troublesome (regardless of the environment).
Their kindness begets gentility, too, which makes them a fantastic fit for a home with children. They have a propensity to not only engage and adore youngsters, but to be easy and delicate with them. This is also due in part to their intelligence, as they can differentiate the size between an adult and a child.
These happy go-getters are the face of the dog-industry because they love to be loved and give it in return. They’re not aggressive towards others or canines and their ability to remain calm and even-keeled in circumstances which often attract emotional instability is unparalleled.
If there is one negative to address about their temperaments, it’s excitability. The Labrador Retriever has a natural enthusiasm and energy for live that often takes the front seat of all their characteristics.Their natural ability to get up and go in the morning and their contagious energy is almost an invitation to live a life on par with their happiness.
But this excitability can become menacing if not properly controlled or prepared for. For all the good to be said about this breed’s natural charisma and sociability, they can also be a bit too extroverted. Excitability problems with Labrador Retrievers usually take the form of jumping on people, not respecting a stranger’s (canines and people alike) bubble, barking excitedly, not knowing how to calm down when the situation calls for it, and playing too aggressively with children.
Often these dogs—especially in puppyhood—don’t calm down until they’ve passed that year mark. In this time, their excitability can spill wildly out of control if not mitigated. This ‘flaw’ in their temperament is actually noted as one of the only persistent hurdles in owning a Lab, and there are programs out there dedicated specifically to teaching an owner how to teach calmness in their dog.
With that being said, these canines have stable, happy, and gentle temperaments. They’re the most prized therapy dog because of their natural uplifting auras—and the way they handle themselves is no different. So long as you’re aware of their excitability issue, there is little more you need to know about this breed’s temperaments.
Ensuring Optimal Personality and Temperament In Labs
The personality and temperament of any dog depends almost solely on their upbringing.
From their range of knowledge and discipline—to how they interact with society—if they have behavioral issues it’s almost always the fault of the owner or their owners before them.
Take a look at some of these tips below that’ll help you prepare for that quintessential Labrador everyone raves about.
Avoid Puppy Mills
The Labrador, being #1 in so many categories, are also the leading victims of puppy mills.
Unethical and irresponsible breeders mass-produce puppies to hit the incredibly high market demand, in turn sacrificing the purity of the breed and lending out pets that have a predisposition for poor behavior.
Make sure you do your research, find a reputable breeder, sign off on the health clearances, and meet your dog’s parents before making a purchase.
Socializing is Paramount
Not just for Labs, but every dog. As soon as your puppy is part of the family is as soon as it’s time to start socializing your dog. Introduce your dog to your friends, family members, other canines, and different environments as soon as possible. Acclimate him with his surroundings to ensure he is confident in adulthood. A nervous dog is a misbehaved one and the same rule applies for the Lab.
A Balanced Diet Is Key
An unhealthy dog is a dog that’s going to be more emotionally volatile, mischievous, and unhappy. Be sure to feed your Labrador nothing but food of the utmost quality, or a diet tailored specifically to his requirements and pallet.
Often the food brands owners think are the healthiest aren’t actually doing the trick. Labs are large canines that grow too quickly into their bodies. They need nutrient-heavy diets that are going to aid their metabolism and keep their digestive system balanced.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Ever heard: a tired dog is a behaved dog? It applies to Labradors as well.
You’ll have no problem in this department, as your Lab is going to want to explore the outside world with a tenacity that’ll often have you straining to keep up.
Make sure your pup receives the required amount of exercise daily, as this greatly affects his development and state of being.
The psychological and physical effects of proper exercise are not so different from canine to human and your dog will have a higher propensity to be both behaved and efficient in learning if he is active.
All said and done, it’s no surprise this breed is so popular. From their athletic builds, happy go-get-em’ temperaments, and outward personalities, they make fantastic family companions. As long as you follow the dog training tips above, it’s hard to go wrong with a Labrador.