The Labrador Retriever is often said to be the most popular dog in the world. It’s difficult to argue with this when you consider that they have now been top of the American Kennel Club’s popularity ranking for the past 30 years in a row!
While we should balance this by saying that this list only includes purebred dogs and that mixed breeds are far more popular, it’s still fair to say that the loveable Lab is a big favorite worldwide.
If you’re planning to join the ranks of Labrador Retriever dog owners by getting your own perfect pup, then you might want to know whether it’s best to get a male or a female. Is there any difference between the two? Are they equally loveable? Is one harder work than the other? Do they cost the same to keep?
As with any dog breed, It’s essential to do your research before buying, including the question of whether to get a male or female dog, so we’ve put together a guide with all the information you’ll need to make your choice.
Now let’s take a look at male vs. female Labrador Retriever to find the answers!
Are Female Dogs Calmer Than Males?
In a word, yes.
Males can be boisterous, especially as pups, although there’s no real difference in their energy levels. It’s more a question of how they use that energy! Males tend to keep their playfulness for longer and will act like puppies.
An intact male (that is, one that hasn’t been neutered) can be a handful at times. All those raging hormones can divert energy into undesirable behavior, such as humping (other dogs, pets, your best cushions, plush toys, or your leg!), marking territory, or chasing down females in heat. They can be pretty inventive in finding a way out of your home or into a neighbor’s yard, so if you don’t want your doggy friend to become a father, you need to secure your home or get him fixed!
Most people believe that neutering calms the dog down, but this isn’t always the case. However, what it might do is reduce any unwanted behavior as those pesky hormones won’t be driving him insane. His energy will be poured into playing and giving you unconditional love.
Female dogs can act up during their heat cycle, but this is more likely to be displayed as aggression. Again, spaying is a common solution as it removes the natural urges and hormone-driven actions.
For the sake of our exploration into male vs. female Labrador Retriever, we can say that females are generally calmer than males.
Are Male Labs More Aggressive?
There is a tendency to assume that male dogs are more aggressive, but there is no real foundation for this belief.
When it comes to dog aggression, there are just too many variables to consider. First of all, there are different interpretations of what denotes aggression. A dog that growls at a stranger or another dog, especially when on a leash, may simply be trying to show dominance or protective behavior.
Most Labs have a deep bark that acts as an effective deterrent, but few will actually attack unless in extreme circumstances.
Some studies suggest that neutered males display less aggressive behavior than intact dogs. However, similar studies state that there is no real difference between the two! What we can say is that the dog’s life experience plays a big part in any aggressive behavior and that training, socialization, and how they are treated influence their behavior more than anything else.
Females can be very moody and aggressive during their heat cycle and have been known to be very protective of their pups. One surprising fact is that female dogs are statistically more likely to inflict more damage in a fight with other female dogs! So, although they aren’t usually as territorial or possessive, they can cause more harm when they do become aggressive.
Don’t panic! The key to identifying and dealing with dog aggression lies firstly in finding a good breeder. The good news is that Labs aren’t known to be aggressive. Anyone who’s owned a Labrador Retriever will know that they’re more likely to greet a stranger with a toy or a blanket in their mouth than with bared fangs and a snarl!
This is one of the reasons Labs are great for first-time dog owners and are widely regarded as one of the best family dogs you can get.
Once you’ve chosen your breeder, be honest about your concerns. They will respect this and should let you meet the puppy parents to see for yourself how friendly they are. This will give you a clue as to your pup’s personality traits.
The American Kennel Club addresses the issue of aggression in its breed standards, saying that the Lab’s temperament is a ‘hallmark of the breed.’ They also state that this dog should be ‘non-aggressive toward man or animal.’
It’s essential to remember that any dog has the potential for aggression – it all comes down to proper breeding, care, training, diet, and adequate socialization.
Male Vs. Female Labs: Which Is More Active?
Photo from: @pearl_mabel_and_me
As we’ve seen, female Labradors are generally calmer than males. They are more focused as they mature faster, and they’re less easily distracted.
Does this mean that they are less active?
Well, probably not.
Although these dogs are mostly kept as companions these days, they are descended from the working dog breeds of Newfoundland. They are natural swimmers, and, as any Lab owner will tell you, they’ll seek out the smallest pond and dive right in given the chance.
As a working dog, the Labrador Retriever was used historically for hunting and tracking, which required a lot of stamina and energy. Some breeders still produce dogs that are geared towards these pastimes, with leaner, lighter, stronger animals.
Even so, dogs bred for the show ring or as pets still have high energy levels that need an outlet, regardless of their sex. They need at least a couple of hours of exercise every day to keep them physically and mentally fit.
Without this, they risk becoming obese and bored, which can lead to behavioral problems.
Some Lab owners and dog experts suggest that neutered males become less energetic, but this is far from being a proven fact.
So, if you’re weighing up whether to get a male or female based on how active and energetic they are, there’s no real difference!
You must commit to ensuring that they have adequate exercise each day. Ideally, you’ll live in the countryside or at least within easy reach of woodland, parks, hills, and rivers or lakes. Your loyal friend will be in his/her element! If you can, it’s a great idea to enroll your dog in agility classes or some kind of doggy sports, as they’ll love it.
Are Male Or Female Labs More Affectionate?
This is a difficult one, as they are both very affectionate! Pet owners who have kept Labs generally say that males are more affectionate, but the reality is that they show affection in different ways.
Male Labs are more direct and will always be willing to shower you with kisses. Females tend to wait for you to show them affection. They will give you love but will expect something in return.
Remember, although we’re looking at male vs. female Labrador Retriever, this isn’t a competition! Although male dogs are usually more active in showing their affection, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better. Female Labs are affectionate, but they might show it in a different way. They are the less needy of the two and tend to be more independent.
Which Is Smarter, Male Or Female Labradors?
When it comes to trainability, female Labs are said to be better.
However, this isn’t really about smartness – it’s just that male Labs are easily distracted and won’t always pay attention during training classes. Also, as is often seen in nature, females mature faster than males so they will learn quicker.
Overall, the Labrador breed is very intelligent, often compared with the Golden Retriever and the German Shepherd! Ranked as the seventh smartest dog in terms of obedience training and working intelligence, they really do stand out above many other breeds.
Even if your male Lab picks things up more slowly than his female counterparts, there’s a good chance that he’ll be well ahead of the rest of the class.
So, in terms of smartness, males and females are equal.
Male Vs. Female Labrador Retriever: Character And Temperament
The AKC breed standard acknowledges the Lab’s affectionate nature, saying that, ‘Kind, friendly eyes imparting good temperament, intelligence and alertness are a hallmark of the breed.’
They also suggest that the Lab should be eager to please and non-aggressive to animals or humans. Anyone who’s met a Labrador puppy will know just how true this is!
But for the sake of our male vs. female Labrador Retriever guide, is there any difference in temperament?
Experts, including Labrador breeders, say that there are differences, but these are subtle.
The main difference is in how they display affection. In general, male Labs tend to be more actively and openly affectionate, while females will often show a more independent streak.
Here’s a breakdown of the subtle differences you might expect to see:
• Easily distracted and slightly more difficult to train.
• Thinks along the lines of ‘I love you’ and is more likely to show affection.
• Simply enjoys your company.
• Motivated by food and treats.
• Stays puppy-like throughout its life.
• Less wary of strangers.
• Gets on better with females than males.
• Can be clumsy around children, doesn’t know its own strength!
• Very eager to please you.
• Can be protective of all family members and his property at times.
• Always friendly and outgoing.
• More focused with high trainability, though perhaps less eager to please.
• Protective of one person more than others.
• More independent than males.
• Wants love and attention rather than giving it.
• Shows restraint around kids, less likely to result in bumps and accidents!
• Relates better to males than females.
• Less motivated by food, except when pregnant.
• Not always as playful and puppy-like.
• Less trusting of strangers.
• Shows less affection.
Sometimes these differences are so subtle that it’s difficult to spot them. In the end, it comes down to the individual dog, as each one has its own distinct character.
Are Female Labs Smaller Than Males?
Generally speaking, females are smaller than males across all dog breeds.
However, it isn’t always the case.
Let’s look at the AKC breed standards for the Labrador Retriever:
|Males||65–80 pounds||22.5–24.5 inches|
|Females||55–70 pounds||21.5–23.5 inches|
As you can see, there is room for an overlap in the middle, so you could have a male weighing 65 pounds and measuring 22.5 inches and a female weighing 70 pounds with a height of 23.5 inches. Then again, these are only approximate figures, and there’s a margin of error here. You can learn more on this dog’s size in our Labrador growth chart.
The trouble is that it’s almost impossible to predict what size a pup will be when they are fully grown, although you can usually guess based on the parents’ size. Even so, genetics can be a tricky thing!
Another factor that affects overall size is the quality of nutrition your dog receives as a puppy. This is yet another reason to only use reputable breeders, as they will ensure that the pups are fed good quality food. Once you take your new pet home, it’s up to you to continue this, not only as your Lab puppy develops but for the rest of its life.
So, in our guide, male vs. female Labrador Retriever, we can only say that if you want a smaller dog, then go for a female, but there is a chance that it could grow as big as a male at the lower end of the scale!
Your best bet is to speak with the breeder and ask them to pick out a smaller female puppy for you. This might increase your chances of having a smaller dog when she grows up.
Male Vs. Female Labrador Retriever: Health Issues
Photo from: @doloresmenz
One of your biggest responsibilities as a dog owner is to look after your furry friend’s health. This job is easier if you buy from a reputable breeder that uses health screening and DNA testing to produce pups that are as healthy as possible.
But in our study of male vs. female Labrador Retriever, is there any difference between the health problems they face?
The Heat Cycle
The most obvious difference is that female Labradors will start their heat cycle when they are between nine and twelve months. While this is not a health problem as such, you will need to be prepared to put up with stains on your flooring and the possibility of every male dog in town following you or gathering outside your home. Dogs in heat can become aggressive due to hormonal changes, even if they haven’t shown aggression before.
However, the worst thing about the heat cycle is that your pup will suddenly become sexually mature and able to reproduce, leading to unwanted pregnancies.
Pregnancy carries its own set of problems, and if you want to avoid this, you should have the pup spayed as soon as it is old enough. This is a commonplace procedure, but any type of surgery is a risk, and spaying is a more complicated process than neutering, as it involves removing the ovaries and uterus.
Because of this, it will usually cost more to spay a female than to neuter a male dog.
Typically, spaying costs between $50 and $500 dollars, depending on the vet, your dog’s age, and whether there are any underlying health conditions. On the other hand, neutering usually costs between $35 and $250.
The prices at the lower end of the scale are usually offered by low-cost clinics to ensure that these services are available to all, regardless of their financial status. Many animal shelters and rescue centers take advantage of these services to reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancies, and just because it is low-cost doesn’t mean it is low quality!
This painful condition can affect all dog breeds, but large and giant breeds are more likely to suffer from it.
It is caused by a malformed hip joint that makes the bones rub together, which often leads to inflammation and arthritis in older dogs. Mild cases can be managed using anti-inflammatories and painkillers, but severe cases may require surgery to correct. In the latter case, there are three different options:
• Total hip replacement (THR) – in total hip replacement, the entire joint is replaced with plastic and metal parts, restoring the joint function to normal. This is the preferred option, especially if the dog has severe mobility problems and acute pain. Costs vary but will generally be between $3,500 and $7,000 per hip.
• Femoral head osteotomy (FHO) – this surgery involves the removal of the end of the ball joint, known as the femoral head, allowing scar tissue to form, making a false joint. It’s good for managing pain but doesn’t provide the full range of movement that THR does. The cost for this will be between $1,200 to $3,000 per hip.
• Triple/double pelvic osteotomy (TPO/DPO) – this option is usually reserved for younger dogs under 10 months of age. The pelvic joint is cut in several places and rotated to allow more freedom of movement in the ball and socket joint. In general, this will cost about $3,000 to have both hips fixed.
All of these methods require a recovery period of between four and twelve weeks. If both hips are affected, the vet will leave a gap of between three and six months between surgeries.
In relation to our topic, male vs. female Labrador Retriever, it’s difficult to say whether this condition affects one more than the other as the evidence isn’t clear: one study suggests that spayed females are more prone to hip dysplasia, while another study indicates that unspayed females are more at risk! This suggests that the evidence is flimsy at best, so we should perhaps draw the conclusion that there is no difference between males and females when it comes to this condition.
What it does highlight is the need to use a reputable breeder!
This is a similar condition to the one above, often requiring surgery that costs between $1,400 and $4,000 per elbow.
Unlike hip dysplasia, there is some evidence to suggest that males are more prone to this condition, but only in dogs that were neutered before the age of 6 months. This is because their bodies are not developed by this time, and neutering (castration) removes the testicles that produce hormones essential to this process.
It’s best to delay this procedure until your dog is between six and nine months old.
Sadly, the Lab is more at risk than other dog breeds for certain cancers, such as canine lymphoma. This can be treated using chemotherapy, but it tends to only lengthen their lives by around six months to a year. Only around 20% of dogs with lymphoma survive for more than two years after treatment.
Studies show that this cancer is found more in male Labs than females, which could be a factor in our male vs. female Labrador Retriever study.
Males are also more prone to testicular cancer (for obvious reasons!), perianal tumor, prostate disease, and hernias. As for female dogs, they can suffer from mammary or ovarian tumors.
The good news is that the risk to both sexes can be significantly reduced if the dogs are spayed or neutered.
This is a problem for many dog breeds, and Labs are no different. The trouble here is that male Labradors are more motivated by food than females, so there may be a tendency for them to overeat if you’re not careful.
Your vet will advise you about which food to use and how much to give your dog, but it’s wise to only use good-quality dog food.
Also, keep unhealthy treats to a minimum and avoid giving your dog table scraps and most ‘human foods’ as these are often packed with salt and sugar that will boost your dog’s weight dramatically.
Obesity doesn’t just make it difficult for your dog to exercise, but it also increases the risk of heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.
Male Vs. Female Labrador Retriever: Lifespan
The Labrador Retriever has a life expectancy of between 10 and 12 years, regardless of its sex. So far, there is nothing to suggest that males differ from their female counterparts in this respect.
Studies on Lab longevity do show a slight increase in their lifespan in recent years, but much of this is related to diet, care, exercise, and the correct medical treatment when required.
A good diet, plenty of exercise, and regular checkups at the vet will go a long way to keeping your pooch around for at least 12.5 years, which is the median lifespan for Labs. And there’s a good chance that they’ll live to 14 years old or more, but you need to play your part in providing them with the very best care and attention.
One fact that you should be aware of is that the Chocolate Lab has a shorter lifespan than those with other coat colors. Obviously, it isn’t the brown coat that shortens their lives, but rather that the recessive genes that produce the brown coat are also responsible for issues with the immune system. This makes them prone to infections that can accumulate and eventually become too much of a burden, reducing their lifespan by about 10%.
So, in our male vs. female Labrador Retriever study, we can say that there’s no difference in their life expectancy, although your pup may not live as long if you pick a chocolate Lab, whatever sex you get.
Male Vs. Female Labrador: Grooming
Whether you go for a male or female Labrador, grooming will be part of your life from now on!
That coat will need a good brush, ideally every day but at least once a week, as they are heavy shedders. Labs have a thick double coat, and that furry undercoat will make its way around your home if you don’t keep it under control. You can do this using a slicker brush or de-matter.
It’s important to keep this coat in good condition as it provides a protective, waterproof layer, insulating the dog against the cold during winter and the heat of summer. This means you should only wash them occasionally as you don’t want to strip away the natural oils in their coat. You should also brush them regularly and ensure that they have a healthy diet with plenty of omega 3 fatty acids.
The only difference you’ll see between male and female Labs when it comes to their coats is that pregnant or nursing female dogs sometimes lack calcium. This is needed to provide a full, healthy coat, so you might notice that your dog is shedding much more heavily than usual.
Other than this, males and females require the same amount of grooming. This also includes clipping their nails and brushing their teeth. It’s also wise to check and clean their ears as they are particularly prone to ear infections.
See Also: Labrador Ear Cropping: You What?!
Male Vs. Female Labrador: Price
If you’re considering buying a Labrador Retriever, then the cost might be a deciding factor as to which sex you go for.
So, which one is cheaper?
If you were hoping for a quick and easier answer, there isn’t one. Sorry!
A quick Google search will return results suggesting that females are more expensive, alongside those that claim that you’ll pay more for males. So which one is correct?
Somehow, they both are!
It all depends on the breeder and whether you intend to breed your dog or enter them into dog shows. And even then, it’s not straightforward.
For example, you might find that breeders charge more for female dogs because of their breeding potential. This means that you pay a premium price because you are taking advantage of the breeder’s knowledge, expertise, and hard work. You can then make money by breeding and selling your own pups.
However, many reputable breeders these days only sell pet-quality pups with a strict spay/neuter agreement. This protects the breeding line and reduces unwanted pregnancies. In this case, you might find that there is little or no difference in the price they charge for females and males.
On the other hand, as customers traditionally expect to pay more for a female dog, then some breeders will bump up the price for the hell of it. That said, don’t be too hard on them as they rarely make a profit!
Now let’s look at the male Lab.
When you consider that the male has almost unlimited breeding potential, it seems obvious that they will cost more than females. They don’t need to rest and recover from pregnancy, and their contribution is over and done pretty quickly! This means that you can make a fair amount of money setting your dog out to stud.
As we saw with the females, breeders may put a spanner in the works by insisting that you neuter your dog. And if this is the case, then you could legitimately question why they might charge more for a male in the first case.
Okay, that all got a bit confusing, so let’s sum up:
Some breeders charge more for males, others for females. If you plan on breeding, you need to find a breeder who is willing to sell their breeding rights. This will cost you a lot.
If you plan on showing your dog, most kennel clubs prefer dogs to be intact or unaltered, meaning that they aren’t spayed or neutered. You can still enter them in shows, but they may lose points for being altered. So, you either need to find a breeder who doesn’t have a spay/neuter clause, or you must be prepared for the possibility of missing out on prizes.
Alternatively, if you just want a companion dog, then find a reputable breeder selling pet-quality dogs. These will be every bit as loveable, smart, and beautiful as a show dog and should be much cheaper.
As a rough guide, you should expect to pay the following:
• Pet Labrador – between $400 to $1,200, with $800 as an average price.
• Show quality – at least $2,000, more with breeding rights.
• Adopted from a rescue – between $50 and $500
We included the last line as a comparison and as a reminder that there are thousands of dogs waiting for a home. Good breeders will tell you to adopt before you shop!
The color of your dog will also make a difference to the price, as will your location and the breeder’s reputation.
Are Male Labrador Retrievers Better Than Females?
Let’s be honest – they’re both brilliant family pets! It might seem mean to suggest that one is somehow ‘better’ than the other.
Still, certain qualities in either sex might make them better suited for life with you and your family. Hopefully, our male vs. female Labrador Retriever guide has helped you make your decision. It doesn’t mean that one is better, just that they’ll fit in with your lifestyle and family dynamic.
Let’s take a quick look at what we’ve learned:
The male Lab will tell you that it loves you, all the time. He loves to be around you and will lay at your feet (or on your lap, given the chance!) for hours.
He is easy to train but will be distracted by anything and everything if you’re not careful. It’s a good idea to keep treats handy as he is motivated by food! He’s also very eager to please you, which will work in your favor.
Aggression should never be a problem, although he may be protective at times. Never confuse this with real aggression. A dog that barks at a passing stranger, a squirrel, or the neighbor’s cat isn’t being aggressive, it’s simply telling them, This is my patch!
Even so, when you introduce him to strangers, he’ll most likely welcome them like his best friend.
However, if he bites or attacks, then you have a problem. You need to discover whether he is sick, scared, or in pain. If you get your Labrador puppy from a reputable breeder, then the chances of having an aggressive dog are extremely slim.
Your male Lab will probably remain playful throughout his life, and he can be clumsy in his boisterousness.
When he becomes sexually mature, you might encounter unwanted behavior. These are natural urges, so your pup isn’t being naughty – he just can’t help himself!
We’ve mentioned the possibility of neutering your dog as a way of calming them, reducing the risk of certain cancers and diseases, and eliminating undesirable behavior, and this is always a wise move. However, this has recently been questioned by several sources, including some breed clubs and kennel clubs, who claim that spaying and neutering increase the risk of some diseases. The evidence for this claim is inconclusive at best and needs careful scrutiny before we accept it as fact.
Much of the problem lies with the timing of the surgery. It’s clear that neutering your pup too early (before they are 6 months old) is harmful, but that risk is significantly reduced when the surgery is performed when the dog is between 6 and 9 months of age.
At the very least, neutering your dog reduces the risk of pet overpopulation, which is a major problem worldwide. Around 1,000 dogs are euthanized each day in the USA. If you can reduce this number by taking positive action, then it’s your duty to do so.
In the end, the choice is down to the individual, but neutering remains an important fact of being a responsible dog owner.
They’re every bit as loving and affectionate as males but choose to show it differently! They might wait patiently for you to show them affection but be prepared for lots of kisses when you do.
Females are mostly calmer and more focused, making them easier to train, although this is sometimes balanced out by the fact that they are less eager to please. They are more restrained and careful around kids and tend to be more protective of an individual family member rather than everyone in the home. However, they may well be protective of the home and will guard the backyard against intruders.
They are not always as playful as males, certainly not into old age, and they won’t always welcome strangers into the home.
The biggest headache with female Labradors is their heat cycle. Spaying is recommended but must never be done before they are 9 months old and ideally before they reach 15 months of age.
An unspayed dog will enter her heat cycle between two and four times a year. During this time, she may become moody and aggressive, snapping and snarling for no reason. There is also a chance that she may fall pregnant. Now, most people will say, Aww, puppies! However, the reality isn’t always as pretty as you might think. Suffice to say, it’s best to avoid this scenario if you can.
As we mentioned, many breeders will insist that you spay your dog anyway. This is a sensible and logical precaution, despite the increasing and so far unfounded claims to the contrary.
And there you have it! All the information you need to decide whether a male or a female Labrador Retriever is best. Of course, you also need to consider other factors, such as whether you already have a dog at home. In general, males get on better with females, and vice versa. This makes the question of spaying/neutering even more important!
Regardless of the sex you choose, getting a dog is a big step that requires a lot of thought. Choosing the right breed is just as important as picking a male or female, so be sure to do your homework.
Finally, when you get your pup, whether male or female, it’s your responsibility to give them the very best life that you can. One thing is certain: your Labrador puppy will improve your life beyond measure.