Right now, your Labrador retriever puppy is cute as a bug's ear, small enough so you can carry him around. A year from now, he'll still be cute in an "awkward teenage" dog way, but if he's growing properly, trying to lift him could strain your back.
From birth to 2 weeks of age, your puppy is blind, deaf and totally dependent on his mom. Between 2 and 4 weeks, he hears and sees the world for the first time. He's going mobile, exploring this new world with his littermates. At 4 weeks, his baby teeth start coming in. By the time he's 8 weeks old, he can leave his mom, brothers and sisters behind and come home with you.
The First Year
By his third month, he's ready for basic house training. He's growing like a weed, getting stronger all the time. He's also teething, so give him plenty of suitable chew toys to relieve his mouth pain. By 7 months, he's the equivalent of a teenager, reaching sexual maturity. If you spay or neuter your dog before the age of one year, as many owners do, your lab will gain some height. Also during this time, the permanent teeth finish erupting. This is a good time for some basic obedience training. Labs are smart and easily trainable, which is why they are so often the dog of choice for serving the blind and disabled. Point your pooch in the right direction so you have a happy future together.
All Grown Up
While much depends on the individual dog, labs reach full size by the age of 18 months. By this point, he's added weight, but it's not fat. Regular exercise helps develop the bone and muscle that pack on pounds by this late stage. His total height and weight depend on various factors. The size of your dog is easier to estimate if you've seen the dog's mother and father. The American Kennel Club standards for an ideal full-grown lab declare that a male dog's height at the withers is between 22.5 and 24.5 inches, and a female dog's at 21.5 to 23.5 inches. The approximate weight of a male, the AKC asserts, ranges between 65 and 80 pounds; female dogs weigh 55 to 70 pounds.
Regular Vet Care
You'll be taking your puppy to the vet regularly during his first year, for puppy shots and general checkups. At each vet visit, your vet should weigh him to ensure he's the right size for his stage of development. If he's underweight, she'll advise you on that issue, just as she will if he's overweight. If it's the latter case, you may need to cut back somewhat on his food and up the exercise. Growing puppies need good nutrition, so do this under veterinary guidance.
Puppies are what they eat, so feeding your lab puppy high-quality puppy and dog foods during his babyhood and adolescence makes a difference not only in his general health but in his size at maturity. Ask your vet for recommendations for a good dog food and the right amount to feed. Underfed puppies may not grow as well as those receiving top nutrition. If your pup suffers a serious illness, it could stunt his growth.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.