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Are Labs considered large breeds?
I found that the answer to this question really varies depending on who you ask! It seems that the reason for this is because of the typical weight range for Labs. It seems as though that the lower end of the spectrum tends to align them with medium breeds, but the higher end brings them into the larger breed.
While it may seem trivial, this could influence toy and food buying decisions depending on the brands you go with. The best cited answer I can provide comes straight from the Official Standard from the AKC, which begins:
"The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog"
Personally, I'd lean more toward calling them a Large breed considering how big labs get on the higher end of the spectrum.
See related: Do Labs Eat A Lot? Ways To Save Money
Can you estimate a dog's size?
I've found that trying to estimate this can be a bit challenging. Most of what you'll find out there gives you a mathematical formula that looks something like this:
(Dog's current weight)/(current age in weeks) x 52 weeks
Well, depending on when you decide to do this you can come up with some very misleading estimates! Why?
As explained above, the growth of your Lab (or most dogs for that matter) are not linear. For all of the non-math whizzes, what this means is that they will not grow at the same rate week over week until they are fully grown. I pulled the chart below which represents the growth rate of how big labs get pretty well.
So, if I would have used that estimation formula for Molly when she was only 3 months old, it would have told me to expect her to be a 95lb dog. A mere 20lbs off her actual weight!
My advice would be to check with your vet during your first year visits, as there will be many, to see if they have the data to give you a proper estimate. Otherwise, know that the averages provided above are typically pretty close.
Does paw size determine dog size?
I'm sure you've heard it just as much as I have. Whenever there is a puppy around that is a known larger dog breed, someone always has to point out the size of their paws. It's usually followed by a statement that alleges that the person can tell that the puppy will be large.
Well, no kidding.
However, this thought process is a bit flawed. We know that the puppy will be large, not because of the size of it's paws, but rather due to the fact that we know it's the puppy of a large breed!
According to Vettedpetcare.com, there tends to be more of a relationship between paw size and fully grown size for purebred dogs. However, this is more so related to whether the breed will likely to be on the higher or lower end of the presupposed range.
Your uncle who made the flippant comment likely doesn't have a complete frame of reference in his head on what the smaller, average, or larger sizes would be and what the ranges are.
So, just smile and nod like I do, but don't put too much stock in it!
How big will a Lab be by 6 months old?
Leveraging the chart above gives a reasonable expectation that your Lab will weigh between 40-50lbs if a female, or 45-55lbs if a male. This was true for us, as Molly weighed in around 48lbs at her 6 month check-up.
I think it's a really important consideration as it comes time to think about a couple of things.
One, whether or not you feel that your space can appropriately handle a dog of this size.
Keep in mind that it's not just about whether or not she will be too large for your comfort, but also whether the space is too small for hers!
Two, the accessories and equipment that you will need to support how big labs get in such a short time period.
Don't go crazy buying smaller toys, treats, collars, and leashes. It will not be long before you find that you can no longer use them. Oh, and these are the inexpensive items! Start factoring in things like cages/crates, any outdoor designated fencing you might add, or flea and heartworm medications into the mix and things can get costly if you don't plan properly!
I see the cage aspect being the most problematic here, so let's examine that.
What size cage should you get?
Note: If you're adopting an older dog, then there isn't much of a decision to be had here. This section really is only going to apply to those who are looking at getting a puppy.
This really is going to depend on each person's situation. There are a lot of factors to consider. For most, the biggest considerations are around cost and space.
I would encourage you to not repeat the same mistake that I made when we selected Molly's first crate. In the beginning, the costs add up very quickly. It can make you want to pinch pennies at every stop where you think you may have an opportunity.
Let me assure you, that choosing your crate is not one of them that I would recommend having this mentality!
As you might expect, the larger the cage you purchase the more expensive it will be. This fact can easily lend itself to the idea of going small and just "upgrading later." There can be benefits to doing this, but I would argue that cost is not one of them.
When considering the growth chart above and how big labs get, it becomes very clear that rapid growth will be hitting your pup sooner than you might imagine. Consider the fact that you really won't even be bringing her home until she is at least 8 weeks old, and it's clear to see rapid growth will be coming very quickly!
The crate you will need for your full-sized Lab (approximately 48in) should cost you around $75. Compare this to one that might buy you a couple months (36in), coming in at $35. Just remember you'll be purchasing again in a couple months.
My recommendation would be to get the full sized crate right out of the gate, but ONLY if it comes with a divider that allows you to control the space! Giving a puppy too much space can lead to unwanted messes! Check out the Recommended Products for the crate that I recommend.
Space can be a big issue - it certainly was for us!
I would actually put more emphasis on this aspect than I would the cost for the reasons I just covered.
Hopefully you've already put some thought into this, and you have a pretty good idea about where you expect the crate will be in your home. If you're in a smaller to medium sized living space, then it may be worth it to you to consider gradually adjusting the house to this new fixture!
If you're planning on moving it might make sense to start small. Just keep in mind the growth rate, because this is where I failed miserably! If you're going to move within 6 months of bringing your pup home then that is about the maximum time frame that the smaller sized crate would work. Our time frame was well over a year. Whoops.
If space is a non-issue, then I definitely recommend buying the large crate out of the gate.
Planning properly will save you a lot of time when it comes to Lab ownership. They grow to be pretty large dogs pretty quickly!
There are some general indicators that can assist in determining how big Labs get, but at the end of the day each dog is unique.
Make sure that you cherish the first few weeks with your pup. Take lots of pictures! Pick her up and cuddle her often, because the days of being able to do that will be short, and we can't get them back.