Labradors are an easy choice for a new family pet due to their friendly, affectionate, and loving nature. However, it can be difficult trying to decide between a male or female Lab.
How are male and female Labradors different? Female Labradors tend to be more independent while males are usually more attached to their humans. Most differences are not large but can make a difference when deciding which to have in your home.
While many new dog owners do not give it much thought and generally base their choice of puppy on appearance or personality traits, others understand that the gender they choose plays a role in how well the new pet will fit in with their family and existing pets.
The biggest differences between male and female Labradors seems to be their attachment style and independence. While a male Lab will happily get on with life if he can be around you, the female’s independence can get in the way of things. In this article, we will take a look at some of the differences between male and female Labs for new owners to expect. Read on to learn more!
Social Biases in Popularity
Before getting your own Lab, you might wonder which gender is already preferred by Labrador owners. Every home is different so it is important to choose a Labrador that fits in with your current lifestyle and living situation.
Below we explore some Myths and Facts about male and female Labradors.
Myth #1: Male Labs are More Affectionate Than Females
Male Labs are thought to show their love more easily while female Labs seem to need love shown to them. Some Lab owners describe this as females saying “give me love” while the males tend to say “I love you”. This is somewhat true, but it really only speaks to the female Labrador’s independent nature.
Female Labradors are just as affectionate and in need of the same amount of attention as the male Lab – they just do not always show it in the same way.
Females are more guarded with their affection, but males will shower you with unconditional love regardless of whether or not you approach them for affection on a regular basis. One could look at this difference in behavior and decide from it that female Labradors are more emotionally mature and secure than male Labradors.
Myth #2: Male Labs are Always Larger Than Females
Some online Labrador breeding and enthusiast websites will tell you that male Labs are always larger than female Labs. This is a myth. To a certain extent, it is true that males are generally bigger than females, but there are many cases where females are larger than males. It all depends on their particular genetics.
Myth #3: Male Labs are More Difficult Than Females
“I can’t believe you got a male Labrador! They are so much more difficult than females are!” If you have heard these words recently, do not let it affect your mindset too much.
Females are sometimes considered easier to control because males have a reputation for humping, marking, and chasing females in heat while out on a stroll. These behaviors are not a true reflection of all male Labradors.
Many of these undesirable behavior traits can be remedied quite easily by neutering your pet. They are just natural urges that can be controlled with a bit of training or strategic distraction. While males can sometimes be slower to train, they are certainly very intelligent and by no means difficult to train at all.
Fact: Unspayed Female Labs Can Be Moody
Female Labradors that are not spayed can actually become quite moody and bad-tempered, especially when they are in heat. This is obviously less noticeable than humping, marking, and chasing, but can still be an unpleasant characteristic. Spaying a female fixes the moodiness and temper quite effectively, so it is not to say that a female Lab is a bad choice because of her potential mood swings.
Fact: Female Labs Can Be Easier to Train Than Males
Some believe that all Labradors are very easy to train, and while this is true, it must be noted that the females tend to mature faster than the males and therefore learn quite a bit quicker during their puppy phase. Males can lag behind a bit, but will still be well ahead of other dogs in the training class. This is true of most litters and something that many breeders and trainers have noticed. Sorry boys – the girls have got this one!
Differences in Official Breed Standards
Of course, some Lab owners are more interested in the breeding standard differences between female and male Labradors than they are in their personality and temperament differences. If you are one of those people, here is a bit of information that might interest you.
Let’s take a look at a few breeding standard differences to be aware of with reference to the AKC (American Kennel Club) breed standards published online. Do not panic if your pet does not seem to match up to these standards. These are guidelines for show dogs. Pets that do not fall within the AKC breed standard range can still be great family pets. However, non-compliance means that Labs cannot compete in AKC conformation classes and should not be used for breeding.
The reason the AKC states that those Labradors that do not fall into the expected standards should not be bred is that breeding should only carry on a breed’s most desirable characteristics.
If you are not competing and your Labrador is healthy and happy, there is no reason to stress about these standards and differences.
Height Differences Between Female & Male Labradors
The AKC breed standard shows that there is a definite size difference between male and female show Labradors. The standard expects male Labradors to grow to a height of between 22.5 inches and 24.5 inches at the withers (this is the highest part of the Lab’s back, lying at the base of the neck above the shoulders).
Female Labradors are typically a little shorter, with most growing to a height of between 21.5 inches and 23.5 inches. Of course, this is just the expected norm and is not the case with all Labradors.
Weight Differences Between Female & Male Labradors
While Labrador puppies and growing Labrador weights can vary as they grow and develop, a full-grown, healthy Labrador is expected to fall within a specific weight range. According to the American Kennel Club breed standards, a full-grown male Labrador is typically heavier than a full-grown female Labrador.
Often pet owners with small children or living with the elderly will choose a dog under a certain weight because they fear accidents when a dog becomes boisterous and potentially knocks someone over. That being said, females are typically chosen because they are considered to be lighter, smaller, and easier to physically handle than male Labradors.
A fully grown adult female Labrador is expected to weigh between 55 lbs and 70 lbs. A full-grown adult male Labrador is expected to weigh between 65 lbs and 80 lbs.
Life Expectancy Differences Between Female and Male Labradors
Labradors are considered one of the world’s longest-living dog breeds. The average lifespan of both male and female Labradors is between 12 and 12.5 years. However, it is said that chocolate Labradors may have shorter life expectancies at around just 10 years.
The National Geographic mentions in an article published in 2018 that it is not the color of the chocolate Lab that affects its shorter lifespan, but more the fact that harmful genes were introduced to the breed in order to achieve the Chocolate color. In 2018, studies conducted in the UK uncovered some interesting statistics that took into account more than 30 000 Labradors. The outcome was that the median longevity of Labradors is typically 12 years.
That being said, the breed has no real “definite” lifespan to speak of. In fact, the Telegraph released an article that featured a male Labrador called Butch, who died at the age of 29 years in 2003.
A number of factors can affect how long or short your Labrador lives. How you care for and treat your Labrador can make all of the difference. These aforementioned factors that affect a Labrador’s expected lifespan include inherited diseases, lifestyle, health care, and of course, diet and exercise. Gender has very little to do with it.
There are two main aspects that really impact how long your Labrador will live. The first is the inherited genetics from the parents. While you cannot control this, you can ask to take a look at the health and medical history of the parents, if you are buying your Labrador pup from a breeder. The second aspect is what happens to your Labrador during its life such as accidents, illnesses, injury, dietary issues and so on.
Male vs Female Labradors: Differences in Personality
If personality plays an important role in your decision-making, then understanding what sets the male and female apart in terms of attachment styles, affection, aggression, dominance, and independence is a good start to making the right choice. Let’s explore each of the differences below.
How Male and Female Labradors Attach to Humans
Attachment is something that both male and female Labs are particularly comfortable with – they just do it differently. Both male and female Labradors love their human family members endlessly, but there is a definite difference between how they attach to them or at least, how they show it.
While both need and give love, females tend to be more independent. They are not as attached or needy as the males tend to be. The male Labrador will swoon and show undying love whereas the female Labrador may treat you as if you should earn it. However, she is not really aloof by nature and if love and affection are freely shown to her, you will find that she will freely reciprocate.
Male Labradors may seem easier to please as they will happily lie at your feet, satisfied just to be in your company, while female Labradors will need the experience to be a little more rewarding in order for them to give you their undivided attention. These are attachment style differences one might only be able to pick up on if they have a male and female Lab to compare. If you had one or the other, the difference in attachment or what is expected would not be particularly obvious.
How Male and Female Labradors Show Affection Differently
While both genders are affectionate, there is a difference in the level of affection given and required. Male Labradors are typically more affectionate than female Labradors, although the females will not shy away from affection. The difference is subtle and more seen as independence in the females. The male dogs tend to come to their humans for affection whereas the female will be happy for her humans to come to her.
Treats can also impact on how affectionate the male Labrador is. Males tend to show more exuberance and, in general, can be more affectionate when there are treats at hand. Females are just as prone to loving treats, but they will not be particularly more affectionate for a treat.
Are Male or Female Labradors More Aggressive?
One might be surprised to hear if someone says that their Labrador is showing aggressive behavior, regardless of whether it is male or female. Both male and female Labradors are non-aggressive types of dogs and this is one of many reasons why they are such a popular family, child-friendly pet.
Aggression does happen from time to time though – although it’s very rare and usually for a good reason. Male Labradors only really get aggressive when they are feeling protective of their things (toys, bed, space, food, humans). Female Labradors typically only show aggression to other female dogs.
How Male and Female Labradors Shows Dominance
Labradors generally have no interest in dominance. Many first-time Lab owners mistake a Lab’s personality as a dominance issue. If your Labrador pushes past you through the door, takes up residence on your favorite couch, or accidentally pushes you down that is more a behavioral problem than a dominance issue.
It is very rare for any Lab, male or female, to pin other dogs down or bully their owners. If they do get into a little scrape with another dog in the pack, it is usually over and done with quickly and very easily forgotten. With the correct puppy training from day one, neither male nor female Labradors display signs of dominance issues.
That being said, it is never a good idea to believe that dominance issues will never arise. Some Labradors have shown dominant behavior. The male Labrador that is feeling dominant will generally hold his tail very high and stiff while wagging it bag and forth in a very obvious purposeful manner. This shows that your Labrador is feeling very confident and he is trying to communicate that he will not back down.
He will also balance his weight on all legs and acquire a tense stance while making himself look a bit larger. Neck and head will be raised, ears will up and eyes will be forward and staring intently. Male Labradors showing dominant behavior will not bare their teeth or show any other signs of aggression.
Female Labradors show dominance in a more independent and intellectual manner. They may push the boundary of the “pecking order” by pushing toys out the way, nudging, and being demanding, or returning to an area or activity even after being told “no”, and so on. Males can also show similar patterns of dominant behavior though it is rarer for them to do so.
Are Male or Female Labradors More Independent?
Independence is one of the biggest differences noted between male and female Labradors. Generally speaking, both male and female Labradors do not like to be alone for long periods of time without their humans. They need daily interaction and stimulation.
That being said, a male Labrador tends to be more “needy” than a female Labrador. A female Labrador is a bit more strong-willed and will be happy to have its humans in the same room or house/yard, whereas the male Labrador sometimes shows a desire to be constantly involved or interacted with (at least more regularly or to a higher level than the female).
Males are more prone to following their humans from room to room whereas females are happy to play, sleep or do their own thing as long as their humans are close at hand.
Differences in Physiology between Male & Female Labradors
All breeds of dogs seem as if they mature overnight. While humans take years and years to reach maturity, it seems as if dogs are puppies for a blink of the eye and suddenly they are adolescents and causing a ruckus.
Of course, sexual maturity varies from one breed to the next and from one individual dog to another. Most breeds reach sexual maturity around 6 to 9 months, which is when most people choose to neuter or spay them.
Hormonally, male and female Labradors have distinct differences. Females reach hormonal maturity before males.
Male Labradors & Hormones
It is very strongly discouraged to neuter a male Labrador before 6 months of age due to hormonal and developmental immaturity at earlier times. Studies have shown that such early neutering of male Labs has shown an increase in the number of cases featuring cranial cruciate ligament ruptures and elbow dysplasia.
While 6 months is generally an acceptable time to neuter a male Labrador, some vets will advise that owners wait until at least 2 years before doing so. Premature neutering can negatively impact on the male Labrador’s physical and hormonal development.
Males do not go into heat but are considered at the very peak of their fertility between 12 and 15 months of age. Due to their hormonal physiology, they can be sexually active all year. A tell-tale sign that your male Labrador is mature sexually is when he starts to mark property and hump furniture and other pets.
Many people believe that neutering a male Labrador will calm him down – this is not particularly true. However, neutering a male Labrador can eliminate undesirable behavior such as humping, marking, and roaming.
Vasectomies are not carried out on male Labradors, but rather castration. This is because a vasectomy does not stop male hormone production which is what causes the undesirable behavior in dogs.
Castration is the process of surgically removing the dog’s testicles while under anesthetic. Both testicles are removed through the scrotal sack via a small incision.
Once a male Labrador’s castration has taken place and hormone production ceased, the change in the dog may be sudden or gradual. Most male Labradors will show changes in the following after castration: attraction to female dogs, urinating (marking), mounting or humping, roaming, and aggressive behavior.
Labrador owners who get a male dog and do not plan to breed him should definitely consider the hormonal benefits of castration. Medically, castration is beneficial to the male Labrador as it is known to reduce the risk of testicular cancer and prostate disease, as well as reduce the chance of the dog developing a perianal tumor or hernia.
Female Labradors & Hormones
Female Labradors are much the same in that they should not be spayed before 6 months of age. Of course, waiting for 2 years is a risky business as female Labs typically go through their first ‘in heat’ period between the ages of 7 and 12 months.
Females will go into heat at least twice each year. When this happens, you will notice a very obvious change in your dog. Tell-tale signs that a female Labrador is in heat include swollen breasts, thirst, neediness or clinginess, frequent urination, and tail-flagging. Male dogs might also start following the female Lab around.
If your male dog is also not neutered, you may want to pay careful attention or you might end up with a litter of puppies in the near future. Females in heat can be a messy business too, so they are not easier to tend to in terms of hormonal changes.
There are 4 stages to expect during a heat cycle: Proestrus, Estrus, Diestrus, and Anestrus.
The first stage is called Proestrus, which is when the vulva swells and produces a vaginal discharge. This is quite noticeable to dog owners – you might see it on bedding, furniture, flooring and of course, your pet. Lab owners notice this happening for around 7 to 10 days which is very similar to the type of “menstrual period” that humans experience.
During this stage and the 2 stages to follow, the female Labrador is in “active heat” and the body is in a prime condition for conception. A female Labrador is the most fertile for 9 to 13 days after the active heat period starts and this period of high fertility typically lasts for around 5 days.
Anestrus is the phase of sexual inactivity that lasts between the last active heat period and the next Proestrus period. The Anestrus period usually lasts between 130 and 150 days. If you find that your female Labrador falls pregnant during the Estrus stage, then the Diestrus stage activates and lasts until she births the puppies. Birth usually takes place around 67 days after conception, but can happen a week or so earlier.
In terms of hormonal behavior problems, spaying has been considered a viable solution. Many people think that spaying a female Labrador will calm her down – this is not actually true, although it can have some positive effects on the female Labrador. It may be a good way to stop moody tendencies, which is something to expect during the “in heat” periods that the female experiences.
When will a female Labrador stop going into heat? Most dogs experience a decline in ovary activity during their 6th year. This means that most female Labradors can no longer conceive when they are 7 years or older. If a female Labrador is not spayed by this time, most do not worry too much about getting it done.
If you are wondering what the difference is between a male and female Labrador and which gender is best suited to your home and lifestyle, it can be difficult to specify. Both male and female Labs have such similar personalities and behavior traits that it is hard to really decide which is “better” for your family.
Generally speaking, if you want a dog that is a trusty companion that follows you around, a male Lab is a good choice. If you want a trusty companion that is happy to show a little independence, a female Lab is a good choice.
Either way, male and female Labradors are both an excellent choice and most owners do not regret their decision either way. As someone who owns both a male and a female Lab, I can say they are both loving, affectionate dogs that make great family pets.