Standard for Labrador Retriever
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 22½ to 24½ inches; for a
bitch is 21½ to 23½ inches. Any variance greater than ½ 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
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
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 penalized.
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.
1. Any deviation from the height prescribed in the Standard.
2. A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment.
3. Eye rims without pigment.
4. Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the
5. Any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow
or chocolate as described in the Standard.