What makes a Labrador Retriever a Labrador Retriever?

A great place to start is the official parent club for the Labrador
Retriever, the
Labrador Retriever Club (affectionately known as the
LRC). One of the main duties of a parent club for a breed is to
establish a standard for the breed. The "Standard" is what breeders
use to evaluate potential future breeding stock and is what dogs are
judged against when competing at American Kennel Club (AKC) shows.


General Appearance
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized,
short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced
conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the
substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long
hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in
the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion.
Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog
bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable
temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting
environment. The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador
Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter"
tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop;
powerful jaws; and its "kind" friendly eyes, expressing character,
intelligence and good temperament. Above all, a Labrador Retriever
must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in
the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses
style and quality without over refinement, and substance without
lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working
gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.

Size, Proportion and Substance
Size - The height at the withers for a dog is 22-1/2 to 24-1/2
inches; for a bitch is 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 inches. Any variance greater
than 1/2 inch above or below these heights is a disqualification.
Approximate weight of dogs and bitches in working condition: dogs
65 to 80 pounds; bitches 55 to 70 pounds. The minimum height
ranges set forth in the paragraph above shall not apply to dogs or
bitches under twelve months of age. Proportion - Short-coupled;
length from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump is
equal to or slightly longer than the distance from the withers to the
ground. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one
half of the height at the withers. The brisket should extend to the
elbows, but not perceptibly deeper. The body must be of sufficient
length to permit a straight, free and efficient stride; but the dog
should never appear low and long or tall and leggy in outline.
Substance - Substance and bone proportionate to the overall dog.
Light,"weedy" individuals are definitely incorrect; equally
objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens. Labrador Retrievers
shall be shown in working condition well-muscled and without excess

Skull - The skull should be wide; well developed but without
exaggeration. The skull and foreface should be on parallel planes and
of approximately equal length. There should be a moderate stop-the
brow slightly pronounced so that the skull is not absolutely in a
straight line with the nose. The brow ridges aid in defining the stop.
The head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks; the bony
structure of the skull chiseled beneath the eye with no prominence in
the cheek. The skull may show some median line; the occipital bone is
not conspicuous in mature dogs. Lips should not be squared off or
pendulous, but fall away in a curve toward the throat. A wedge-shape
head, or a head long and narrow in muzzle and back skull is incorrect
as are massive, cheeky heads. The jaws are powerful and free from
snippiness the muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby.
Nose - The nose should be wide and the nostrils well-developed. The
nose should be black on black or yellow dogs, and brown on
chocolates. Nose color fading to a lighter shade is not a fault. A
thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment is a
disqualification. Teeth - The teeth should be strong and regular with
a scissors bite; the lower teeth just behind, but touching the inner
side of the upper incisors. A level bite is acceptable, but not
desirable. Undershot, overshot, or misaligned teeth are serious
faults. Full dentition is preferred. Missing molars or pre-molars are
serious faults. Ears - The ears should hang moderately close to the
head, set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull; slightly
above eye level. Ears should not be large and heavy, but in
proportion with the skull and reach to the inside of the eye when
pulled forward. Eyes - Kind, friendly eyes imparting good
temperament, intelligence and alertness are a hallmark of the breed.
They should be of medium size, set well apart, and neither protruding
nor deep set. Eye color should be brown in black and yellow
Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolates. Black, or yellow eyes
give a harsh expression and are undesirable. Small eyes, set close
together or round prominent eyes are not typical of the breed. Eye
rims are black in black and yellow Labradors; and brown in
chocolates. Eye rims without pigmentation is a disqualification.

Neck, Topline and Body
Neck - The neck should be of proper length to allow the dog to
retrieve game easily. It should be muscular and free from
throatiness. The neck should rise strongly from the shoulders with a
moderate arch. A short, thick neck or a "ewe" neck is incorrect.
Topline - The back is strong and the topline is level from the withers
to the croup when standing or moving. However, the loin should show
evidence of flexibility for athletic endeavor. Body - The Labrador
should be short-coupled, with good spring of ribs tapering to a
moderately wide chest. The Labrador should not be narrow chested;
giving the appearance of hollowness between the front legs, nor
should it have a wide spreading, bulldog-like front. Correct chest
conformation will result in tapering between the front legs that
allows unrestricted forelimb movement. Chest breadth that is either
too wide or too narrow for efficient movement and stamina is
incorrect. Slab-sided individuals are not typical of the breed;
equally objectionable are rotund or barrel chested specimens. The
underline is almost straight, with little or no tuck-up in mature
animals. Loins should be short, wide and strong; extending to well
developed, powerful hindquarters. When viewed from the side, the
Labrador Retriever shows a well-developed, but not exaggerated
forechest. Tail -The tail is a distinguishing feature of the breed. It
should be very thick at the base, gradually tapering toward the tip,
of medium length, and extending no longer than to the hock. The tail
should be free from feathering and clothed thickly all around with
the Labrador's short, dense coat, thus having that peculiar rounded
appearance that has been described as the "otter" tail. The tail
should follow the topline in repose or when in motion. It may be
carried gaily, but should not curl over the back. Extremely short
tails or long thin tails are serious faults. The tail completes the
balance of the Labrador by giving it a flowing line from the top of
the head to the tip of the tail. Docking or otherwise altering the
length or natural carriage of the tail is a disqualification.

Forequarters should be muscular, well coordinated and balanced with
the hindquarters. Shoulders - The shoulders are well laid-back, long
and sloping, forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately
90 degrees that permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy
manner with strong forward reach. Ideally, the length of the
shoulder blade should equal the length of the upper arm. Straight
shoulder blades, short upper arms or heavily muscled or loaded
shoulders, all restricting free movement, are incorrect. Front Legs -
When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good
strong bone. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and
short legged, heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed.
Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the
withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and
well under the body. The elbows should be close to the ribs without
looseness. Tied-in elbows or being "out at the elbows" interfere with
free movement and are serious faults. Pasterns should be strong and
short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg.
Feet are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and
well-developed pads. Dew claws may be removed. Splayed feet, hare
feet, knuckling over, or feet turning in or out are serious faults.

The Labrador's hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed
from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short
hocks. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel.
Viewed from the side, the angulation of the rear legs is in balance
with the front. The hind legs are strongly boned, muscled with
moderate angulation at the stifle, and powerful, clearly defined
thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of the patellae
while in motion or when standing. The hock joints are strong, well let
down and do not slip or hyper-extend while in motion or when
standing. Angulation of both stifle and hock joint is such as to
achieve the optimal balance of drive and traction. When standing the
rear toes are only slightly behind the point of the rump. Over
angulation produces a sloping topline not typical of the breed. Feet
are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and well-developed
pads. Cow-hocks, spread hocks, sickle hocks and over-angulation are
serious structural defects and are to be faulted.

The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It
should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling
to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant
undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of
ground cover A slight wave down the back is permissible. Woolly
coats, soft silky coats, and sparse slick coats are not typical of the
breed, and should be severely penalized.

The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow and chocolate.
Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification. A
small white spot on the chest is permissible, but not desirable. White
hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as
brindling. Black - Blacks are all black. A black with brindle markings
or a black with tan markings is a disqualification. Yellow - Yellows
may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in
shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog. Chocolate -
Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Chocolate
with brindle or tan markings is a disqualification.

Movement of the Labrador Retriever should be free and effortless.
When watching a dog move toward oneself, there should be no sign of
elbows out. Rather, the elbows should be held neatly to the body with
the legs not too close together. Moving straight forward without
pacing or weaving, the legs should form straight lines, with all parts
moving in the same plane. Upon viewing the dog from the rear, one
should have the impression that the hind legs move as nearly as
possible in a parallel line with the front legs. The hocks should do
their full share of the work, flexing well, giving the appearance of
power and strength. When viewed from the side, the shoulders should
move freely and effortlessly, and the foreleg should reach forward
close to the ground with extension. A short, choppy movement or high
knee action indicates a straight shoulder; paddling indicates long,
weak pasterns; and a short, stilted rear gait indicates a straight rear
assembly; all are serious faults. Movement faults interfering with
performance including weaving; side-winding; crossing over; high knee
action; paddling; and short, choppy movement, should be severely

True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the
breed as the "otter" tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly,
outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive
towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to
people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an
ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any
evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized.

Any deviation from the height prescribed in the Standard.
A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment.
Eye rims without pigment.
Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the
Any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow
or chocolate as described in the Standard.

Approved February 12, 1994
Effective March 31, 1994
The LRC position on:

Pointing Labradors

Silver Labradors