Labrador and Labradoodle fetching stick

The temperament of the Labrador Retriever is what distinguishes it from most other dog breeds.

The Temperament of the Labrador

Labradors are bred to be working, service and companion dogs that are friendly towards people and other animals.


Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds around the world, known for their friendly nature and loyal companionship.

Understanding the temperament of a Labrador Retriever is crucial for potential owners, as it helps set expectations and build a strong bond with these remarkable dogs.

Labrador retrieves a stick from water in an illustration of the temperament of the Labrador Retriever.
The personality of a Labrador is to retrieve and enjoy the water and the companionship of humans.
Image: ebor on Pixabay

The Friendly and Outgoing Nature of Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are often described as friendly and outgoing dogs that have an inherent desire to please their owners.

Their wagging tails and constant enthusiasm are infectious, making them natural people-pleasers. Whether they are greeting you at the door or snuggling up on the couch, their affectionate nature brings joy to those around them.

Labradors are incredibly social dogs and thrive in human companionship. They enjoy being part of the family and are particularly fond of children. Their patient and gentle demeanor makes them excellent playmates for kids, and their adaptability allows them to fit seamlessly into family life.

The Energetic and Playful Side of Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are renowned for their high energy levels and playful personalities.

They have an abundance of energy that requires regular exercise and mental stimulation. If you’re an active individual or family who loves outdoor activities, a Labrador Retriever may be the perfect match for you.

These dogs have an innate love for games and playtime.

Whether it’s chasing a ball, playing tug-of-war, or participating in agility training, Labradors thrive when they have a purpose and an outlet for their energy.

Engaging in activities with your Labrador not only keeps them physically fit but also strengthens the bond between you.

Labrador Retrievers and their Intelligence

Labrador Retrievers are highly intelligent dogs, which contributes to their trainability and adaptability.

They possess a remarkable ability to learn quickly and excel in various training endeavors. Labradors are eager to please their owners, making training sessions a rewarding experience for both dog and human.

Their intelligence also extends to problem-solving skills. Labrador Retrievers have been known to find creative ways to overcome obstacles or obtain rewards.

This intelligence, combined with their desire to please, makes them a versatile breed for various roles, such as search and rescue, therapy work, and assistance tasks.

Labrador Retrievers and Their Gentle Disposition

One of the defining characteristics of Labrador Retrievers is their gentle and non-aggressive temperament.

They are not known for being guard dogs or displaying aggressive behavior. Instead, Labradors excel at being loving and kind companions.

This gentle disposition makes Labradors suitable for families with children. They have a natural instinct to protect and care for their loved ones, often assuming the role of a loyal and watchful guardian.

Labradors typically get along well with other pets, creating a harmonious environment within multi-pet households.

Labrador Retrievers and their Adaptability

Labrador Retrievers are highly adaptable dogs that can thrive in various environments.

Whether you live in a bustling city or a quiet countryside, Labradors can adjust to different lifestyles with ease. Their versatility is one of the reasons why they are a popular choice for families and individuals alike.

These adaptable dogs also handle changes in their routine or living arrangements relatively well. Labradors have a remarkable ability to adapt and embrace new experiences. However, providing stability and a consistent routine is still important for their overall well-being.

Labrador Retrievers and their Affinity for Water

Labrador Retrievers are often referred to as natural-born swimmers.

They possess a unique love for water, and their webbed feet, along with their otter-like tail, make them excellent swimmers. Whether it’s a pool, lake, or the beach, Labradors are always eager to take a dip.

Their affinity for water goes beyond swimming; many Labradors also enjoy engaging in water-based activities, such as retrieving toys from the water or participating in dock diving competitions.

Their water-resistant coat helps keep them warm and provides some protection from moisture, making them well-suited for various water-related adventures.

Potential Challenges with Labrador Retriever Temperament

While Labrador Retrievers have many wonderful qualities, their temperament can also present some challenges for owners.

It’s important to be aware of these potential challenges and prepare accordingly to ensure a harmonious relationship with your Labrador.

The high energy levels of Labradors can be overwhelming for some owners, especially if they are unprepared for the physical and mental exercise needs of these dogs.

Without sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, Labradors may exhibit unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking, chewing, or digging. Providing regular exercise and engaging activities is crucial for managing their energy levels.

Tips for Managing and Nurturing Labrador Retriever Temperament

To ensure a positive and fulfilling relationship with your Labrador Retriever, consider implementing the following tips:

  1. Provide Sufficient Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Regular exercise, such as daily walks and playtime, helps channel their energy in a productive way. Mental stimulation, such as puzzle toys or training sessions, keeps their intelligent minds engaged.
  2. Consistent Training and Socialization: Start training your Labrador from a young age and maintain consistency throughout their lives. Socialize them with different environments, people, and animals to promote good behavior and prevent anxiety or aggression.
  3. Setting Boundaries and Providing Structure: Establish clear rules and boundaries for your Labrador, ensuring they understand what is expected of them. Consistency and positive reinforcement will help them learn and thrive.

General notes about the temperament of dogs

What is temperament?

Temperament is the overarching demeanor which dictates reaction to setbacks and successes. Temperament is inherited which means it is inborn and cannot be learned like introversion and extroversion.

Personality is characteristic patterns like behavior, feelings, and thoughts which can be the result of experiences. It can be learned and changes over time, often with age.

The temperament of dogs

It is that part of the make-up of the animal that it is born with, mainly because those are the traits that it is bred for. Personality can change due to experience, age and training, but temperament is universal for a specific breed.

Research shows that early life experiences can have an effect on the later behavior of dogs i.e. the temperament of adolescent and adult dogs. This could have an important effect on the selection of working dogs as well as dogs selected to be family companion dogs.

Why is the temperament of a dog important?

Just as with choosing a life partner, choosing a pet or companion animal depends largely on compatible personalities.

Dogs fulfil the human emotional need for companionship and the functional need for working assistance.

It is important to know what the temperament of the specific Labrador is before you acquire it. Incompatible personalities make an unsuccessful engagement between owner and dog.

An aggressive owner and a mellow-natured Labrador will not get along and will frustrate each other. Similarly, a good-natured owner and an aggressive fighting dog are incompatible.

It is important for a Labrador owner to understand the temperament of her dog to ensure a mutually satisfying relationship.
Image: fsHH on Pixabay

Can temperament be measured and when is the best time to do it?

Temperament can be measured, and the American Kennel Club published temperament test guidelines for clubs.

The AKC temperament test is valid for all breeds and tests the dog’s response to six categories of stimuli:

  • Social – how well it gets along with people and other animals,
  • Auditory – hearing,
  • Visual – observing,
  • Tactile – touch,
  • Proprioceptive – motion,
  • Unexpected stimuli.

The purpose of the AKC test is to test for:

  • fear,
  • shyness,
  • inability to recover, and
  • lack of cooperation.

Desired traits

Traits that are preferred are that the dog will be:

  • emotionally stable,
  • inquisitive,
  • appropriately social for its breed,
  • biddable, and
  • demonstrates the ability to recover from a startling situation in a reasonable amount of time.

Dogs who show signs of aggression generally will not pass the test.

Download the AKC guide for testing.

The American Temperament Society only tests dogs older than 18 months. The society gives a detailed description of what the temperament test entails and how it is conducted.

A dog fails a temperament test if any of the following happens:

A dog fails the temperament test when the dog shows:

  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Panic without recovery
  • Strong avoidance
Black Labrador panting
A Black Labrador rests after a temperament test.
Image: Bru-nO on Pixabay.

Failure of a temperament test means that the dog shows traits that make it incompatible with people and events that dogs encounter in a human-dominated environment as pets or working dogs.

Temperament is important in a dog’s life

It is important to understand the behavior of dogs so that we do not expect from them what they can’t be.

Behavioral tests may help to select suitable pets from rescue centers or to identify family or working dogs already in the population that are already or are likely to be, unsuitable as pets.

It reminds one of the people who often take all sorts of tests to find the best field of training or a career.

If those tests fail in any way, society and an individual may be burdened for life with the results of a wrong choice. In the same way, a dog used for something that he has the wrong temperament for is a lost dog.

What influences a dog’s temperament?

Research on German Shepherds in Sweden showed that differences in maternal care by dog mothers affected the behaviour and temperament of the offspring later in life.

Puppies from litters raised by mothers that provided more maternal care scored higher for social engagement, physical engagement and aggression than those brought up by less attentive mothers.

Does this not sound very human?

In the research, it sounds like temperament and personality by be used interchangeably, but that makes little difference to our discussion of temperament in Labradors.

We can accept that the research results will also apply to Labrador Retrievers.

In addition, temperament is influenced by training in the sense that inbred traits are directed and “formed” by training.

Labrador and Labradoodle fetching stick
Labrador Retrievers get on well with other dogs.
Image: Bru-No on Pixabay

How do we assess a dog’s mentality?

The dog mentality assessment

Personality or stable traits in dogs are ascertained by doing the Dog Mentality Assessment (DMA), an assessment mainly used in assessing working breed dogs.

An assessment named Behaviour and Personality Assessment in Dogs (BPH) was developed in 2012 based on behavioral ratings from more than 12 000 dogs.

The assessments are used in the study of individual differences between dogs. 

A major difference between the two assessments is that the BPH is more detailed with 241 behavioural ratings compared to 33 in the DMA.

The DMA was developed as a mentality assessment for pure-bred dogs and the BPH for all dogs, including mixed breeds.

What is tested in a BPH test?

  • Reaction to, and interaction with, an unfamiliar person.
  • Object play. Play with a familiar object.
  • Food interest.
  • Visual surprise – unexpected pop-up dummy.
  • Metallic noise.
  • Approaching person.
  • Unstable surface.
  • Gunshots.

Eight behavior categories are defined in the BPH:

  1. aggressive behaviour,
  2. fear-related behaviour,
  3. exploratory behaviour,
  4. greeting behaviour,
  5. submissive behaviour,
  6. play-related behaviour,
  7. food-related behaviour, and
  8. activity-related behaviour.

What is tested in a DMA test?

  • Social contact – ranges from refusal to intense participation in greeting, cooperation and handling.
  • Play – ranges from no interest to fast and active interest in play, grabbing and Tug-of-war.
  • Chase – range from not interested to pick up the target (rope).
  • Passive situation – range from inactive to changing fast between activities.
  • Sudden appearance – range between fleeing and approaching.
  • Metallic noise – ranges between startled and pulling away.
  • Ghosts – ranges from avoidance to strong threatening behavior.
  • Gunshot – ranges from avoidance to fleeing.

In both these tests, Labradors score well as companion and working dogs with a higher than 90% pass rate.

Labrador tug-of-war
Image: NanaSod on Pixabay.

The MONASH test

There is a test designed to measure the dog/owner relationship.

The Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) is not a temperament test but a questionnaire-based measure of the relationship between owner and dog as perceived by the owner.


Mentality tests assist in identifying factors that affect the dog-owner relationship and assist in the understanding of how a successful relationship between owner and dog is achieved or how a less successful relationship can be mended.

Some research shows that general temperament testing of adopted dogs fails to identify certain types of aggression.

It was also found that problem behavior in young dogs often results in dogs that perform well in later tests for working dogs. This may call for a reconsideration of the elements of temperament testing in dogs.

In all temperament tests, the pure-bred Labrador Retriever scores high in every aspect of being a true human friend and a hard-working dog.

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