AKC Labrador Retriever
This American Kennel Club written
standard for the Labrador Retriever was effective in 1994 and is very similar to
the Labrador breed standards around the world ... and to the previous AKC
It is the standard that all
breeders should be working towards in their breeding programs regardless of
their concentration on show, hunting, field trial or companion dogs.
If you're considering a Labrador
Retriever, you'll find it interesting and worthwhile reading, as it covers not
only what the Lab should look like (i.e. size, bone structure, coat, coloring,
movement, etc.), but the type of temperament and attitude and instincts he
should possess. It concerns me to see many breeders concentrating solely
on one aspect and, due to the popularity of the breed, it could eventually
result in the ruination of the all-purpose Labrador Retriever as we know it
today, as it should look and should be. There is only one AKC
standard for the breed ... there is not an "American" type vs.
the "English" type. The Labrador breed originated in
and was developed in England ... and popularized all over the world due to the
breed's intelligence, wonderful gentle, loving temperament, eagerness to please,
trainability, endurance, good nose, hunting/retrieving instincts. It is no
accident that the Labrador Retriever has become not only the most popular family
companion and hunting dog, but one of the best for seeing-eye dogs, therapy and
service dogs, search-and-rescue, drug detection, etc.
Obviously, no breeder could be,
nor should be held to consistently producing almost-perfect specimens of the
breed. Mother Nature pulls flukes on all of us. But if we're
not striving for perfection, we will certainly fall short and perform a
great injustice to a wonderful breed.
by Jenny Mitchell, Tealwood Labradors)
The AKC 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
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 excess fat.
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 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.
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
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