Why Is Your Labrador So Big? Size and Height Facts

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Labrador Retrievers are classified as a medium-sized dog, but I've personally seen some that are on the larger side. Genetically they will typically fall within an average range, so I can't help but wonder why some Labradors are so big?

Some of the common reasons that a Labrador may be above average in size are due to overeating, a lack of exercise, or genetic variations resulting from breeding. In some cases, weight gain may be health-related and in response to a medical procedure or prescription.

Before getting too concerned, make sure you know what the average size and height ranges are for Labradors. If it turns out your Lab is on the bigger side, there are steps you can take to bring them back in range. Additionally, there are some fun tools you can use throughout the process!

What Is the Normal Size and Height for a Labrador?

According to the American Kennel Club, male Labradors average 22.5- 24.5" (57.2-62.2 cm) tall, while females are typically 21.5-23.5" (54.6-59.7 cm) tall. Male Labs weigh between 65-80 lbs (29.5-36.3 kg) on average, while females typically weigh 55-70 lbs (25-31.8 kg).

Males Females
Average height range 22.5-24.5″ (57.2-62.2 cm) 21.5-23.5″ (54.6-59.7 cm)
Average weight range 65-80 lbs (29.5-36.3 kg) 55-70 lbs (25-31.8 kg)

Labs vary in size based on several factors. Males and females have different height and weight ranges, and specific breed lines may be taller and thinner than their counterparts. 

The AKC official standard for a Labrador Retriever states the following specifications for its general appearance: 

  • Strongly built
  • Medium-sized
  • Short-coupled
  • Athletic
  • Well-balanced
  • Powerful jaw
  • Proportionate substance and bone
  • Shall not appear light or "weedy"
  • Well-muscled
  • No excess fat
  • Short, broad, and strong loins
  • Well-developed hindquarters
  • Muscular forequarters

However, it's important to note that the standards for the breed are based on a grown adult Labrador. The size standards for puppies are more flexible as they go through rapid growth and development periods. 

According to Pet Finder, you can estimate your Lab's adult weight by multiplying the puppy's weight at 14 weeks by 2.5. I'm personally not a big fan of this approach, but it can be a fun exercise to try to guess.

As a general rule, Lab puppies should follow pretty closely with the growth chart I provided in How Big Do Labs Get? Should You Be Worried?

Is Your Labrador Overweight or Obese?

Labs are prone to unhealthy weight gain, but many owners don't realize where the line between "cute fat" and "unhealthy fat" lies. As a dog lover, I too am guilty of sometimes overindulging or otherwise enabling my own pooch's love of kibble.

Make sure that your Lab is eating the right amount per day. We discuss this in detail in the article: How Often Should You Feed a Labrador? Why Feeding Routines Matter.

overweight labrador

Another way to determine if your Lab is overweight or obese is by comparing its weight to the "ideal weight" similar to how BMI is used as a benchmark to determine obesity in humans.

If your Lab's weight is more than 15% over its ideal weight range it is considered overweight. A variation of 30% over the ideal weight range is considered to be obese. 

Why Is Your Lab Bigger Than Normal?

According to research published in Cell Metabolism, some Labradors are predisposed to weight gain due to a genetic mutation. More than one-fifth of Labs have this genetic variation. As a result, Labradors are more prone to overeating because their brains may not "turn off" their hunger after eating.

Though the average size and height measurements are considered standard for the breed, there are always variations between animals. Weight gain is a common problem among Labs, and many owners have to address it as their pup ages. 

Obesity is a big problem among most dogs, with one in three dogs in the U.S. weighing in the obese range. 

Aside from physiological factors for your Labrador's size, another explanation is that the larger size results from breeding. Lineage can be responsible for variations in the size and height of your four-legged friend.

Other Reasons for Weight Gain

There are other contributors to changes in your Labrador's size, particularly when it comes to weight gain and the prevalence of obesity. Some of the most common causes for your Lab to get bigger include: 

  • Age: As animals get older, their lean muscle begins to decline, causing their body's caloric need to drop. In addition, many dogs experience a decrease in overall activity level with age. When dogs continue to eat the same amount of food despite reducing calorie and energy usage, the dog will gain weight. 
  • Spaying and neutering: The reduction of sex hormones in the dog's body generally slows down his metabolism, which increases weight gain. These hormonal changes can also affect how your pup regulates his hunger and satiety.
  • Medications: Some medications can prompt dogs to eat more by stimulating appetite or affect how fat is deposited throughout the body.
  • Diet and nutrition: Feeding your Lab too much, giving it too many snacks, or feeding it table food can all increase the risk of obesity. Similarly, the quality of the food and nutritional value can also impact the dog's weight. 
  • Owners' activity: The dog owner's activity level may also have an effect on whether a dog is overweight. Some research has shown that obese dogs are more likely to have obese owners. 
labrador in the water

What Should You Do About Your Big Labrador?

The first step to control your Lab's weight is to ensure you are feeding it the appropriate amount. You may have heard the myth that a Lab will eat itself to death if you allow it. While this is very unlikely, your Lab may still overeat if you allow free feeding.

One way to help slow down your Lab while he's eating is by using a puzzle bowl.

This Kasbah slow feeder (Amazon) dog bowl helps prevent rapid eating through its specially designed shape. I like these bowls because they help prevent choking, bloating, and digestive problems.

Labradors are also a very active breed. According to the AKC, Labs require a significant amount of exercise to keep their bodies and minds healthy. You can help your Lab maintain its fit figure by spending time outdoors and taking it to do things like running and swimming. 

If, despite your efforts, your pup remains on the larger side, consider consulting a veterinarian. They will be the best resource to address any concerns you may have about your dog's weight or size.

Conclusion

If your Labrador seems too big for his breed, he may be overweight or obese. Common reasons for obesity include: 

  • Labradors have a genetic predisposition to overeating and weight gain. 
  • Over time, dogs naturally begin to engage in less physical activity, and their metabolism slows down. 
  • The feeding habits of the owner and the dog's physical characteristics often contribute to weight gain. 

By paying attention to your Lab and recognizing when a size variation is a potential health problem, you can quickly respond and get your pup back on track to a healthy body and lifestyle. 

About THE AUTHOR

Mark Brunson

Mark Brunson

Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.

Read more about Mark Brunson