An eager learner who will work and play hard, the Lab makes a good family companion or hunting dog. You may think it'll be six months or a year before your pal outgrows his puppy ways, but Labs don't show signs of complete maturity until they're about 3 years old.
Although Labs can vary in height and weight according to genetics and diet, a sign that your Lab is nearing maturity is that he reaches his full height. For males, this is usually between 22½ to 24½ inches and for females between 21½ to 23½ inches, measured at the withers. Usually full height is reached at 1 year of age, but your dog may still appear gangly and awkward—much like a teenager. His frame will fill out with muscle and bone in his second and third years of life, and he'll achieve a weight of between 65 to 80 pounds. Females are generally slightly smaller, weighing in between 55 and 70 pounds.
Puppies chew to explore their environment, exercise their teeth and relieve tension in their jaws. As your Lab ages, the voracious chewing that once encompassed the aluminum siding on your house will subside. A sign of maturity in your Lab is his ability to refrain from chewing everything in the house. Be warned, however, that even a fully mature Lab may chew if left alone for hours or underexercised. Labs need at least an hour or two of full-blown activity daily and enjoy the companionship of their pack—meaning you. Chewing past the age of 2 years is usually a sign that your dog's needs aren't being met.
A Lab is capable of breeding before he or she is fully physically and mentally mature. Humping, urinating often and aggressively holding down other dogs are signs of sexual maturity. If you do not plan to breed your Lab, ask your vet about the best time to get your pet spayed or neutered. This helps reduce the pet population and also confers some health benefits.
When your Lab reaches 3 or 4 years of age, he is generally considered mentally mature. He will show signs such as following a very specific routine and showing increased affection. Although Labs remain active most of their lives, your mature dog may spend more time on the couch or his bed than he spends jumping around eagerly to get your attention.
- American Kennel Club: AKC Dog Registration Statistics
- Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association: FAQ Labrador Retrievers
- Lab Proof Your Home; Karla S. Rugh, D.V.M., P.h.D
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.