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Long-Haired Labrador: Characteristics and Care of Fluffy Labs

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

long haired Labrador

The gentle-hearted long-haired Labrador is a stunning, well-tempered dog that is so rare, many may wonder if they even exist. This breed is a variation of the traditional Labrador Retriever but with a longer and thicker coat. The long-haired Labrador is also commonly known as the “fluffy Labrador.”

Despite the hair, the long-haired Labrador possesses the same friendly and loyal temperament as its short-haired counterpart. In addition to needing more grooming, these fluffy pups will also shed significantly more, making lint rollers and vacuums your best friends. And don’t forget a mild canine shampoo and conditioner to keep that coat glossy!

This breed is known for its intelligence, trainability, and love for water activities. We’ve looked into expert sources like Dr. De Clarke’s Labrador guide for a comprehensive Fluffy Labrador manual and breed profile. 

People often mix up Labrador and Golden retrievers, but the Lab’s short hair saves the day. It’s, therefore, very challenging, near impossible for some, to tell apart long-coat Labradors and Golden retrievers – particularly English Cream Golden retrievers. 

While these dogs are remarkably rare, they’re possible. This dog named Rocco had a DNA lab test that returned 100% Labrador. Additionally, the owner had several past generations listed on his AKC registration, and no other dogs showed other than labs.

While some Fluffy Labs are purebred, others occasionally exist due to mixing another breed. In this case, these canines aren’t purebred, even if they look like it. Other typically short-haired breeds with fluffy variations include long-coat Dalmatians, Fluffy Frenchies, and Chihuahuas

It’s important to note that while long-haired Labrador Retrievers may exist, they are not recognized by reputable breed clubs making it harder to find reputable breeders. Reputable breeders follow ethical breeding practices and focus on producing healthy, well-tempered Labrador Retrievers.

Ultimately, the best way to discover whether your dog is actually a purebred Long-haired Labrador retriever is to perform a DNA test. This is because some alleged Fluffy Labs may just be Cream Golden retrievers or the other way around, while many others may be mixed dogs.

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What is the Difference Between Long-haired Labradors and Golden Retrievers?

The most significant difference between Long-coat Labs and Goldens is their coats. Golden retrievers are mostly golden and, occasionally, cream, while Labradors can be black, yellow, or chocolate. Golden retrievers also have way longer hair than Fluffy Labs, and their ears are typically more feathered.

Size is another major difference. Labradors are much chonkier and rounder ( 60 to 80 pounds) than Golden Retrievers (55 to 75 pounds). Additionally, many Lab parents, unfortunately, allow them to get overweight.

Check out this video of a Labrador retriever to put just how chonky most are into perspective:

Labradors have a significantly broader skull, shorter muzzles, and flat heads, while Goldens have dome-shaped heads and narrower muzzles and skulls. A Lab’s ears sit higher, while a Golden retriever’s ears hang from lower due to their dome-shaped skulls. 

Both breeds are known for being friendly, loyal, and intelligent. However, Golden retrievers are typically more outgoing and sociable than Labradors, who can be a bit more reserved with strangers. 

History of Long-Haired Labradors

Long-haired Labradors are a variation of the Labrador retriever breed. The Labrador retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada. They were bred as working dogs for fishermen to retrieve fish that had fallen off hooks or escaped nets. 

The breed was later brought to England in the 1800s and further developed in the 1850s  into the Labrador Retriever we know today.

Long-haired Labrador history is a subject of debate among dog experts. Some argue that Long-haired variations of the breed have always existed (most likely). Others claim that outcrossing happened somewhere in the Fluffy variety’s line to get the recessive gene(unlikely).

The Genetics Behind The Long Hair In Labradors

Five Variations in the FGF5 gene ( fibroblast growth factor-5) cause long hair in dogs. This gene produces a protein that regulates hair growth. Dogs with two copies of the long-hair gene, like long-coated Doxies or Malamutes, have longer coats than those with the short-hair allele. 

The gene most likely involved in a Lab’s long coat is the p.Cys95Phe (L) gene or the  (l) gene. In the past, short hair in dogs was represented as S/S or K/K. However, per the new nomenclature, typical short-haired labs have capital (LL) genes. 

Most people agree that the long hair gene isn’t naturally occurring in Labs, and outcrossing must have occurred far behind the line. However, dogs carry recessive genes all the time, so the (lh) gene may have legitimately lurked in the breed unnoticed.

Physical Characteristics of Long-Haired Labradors

What Do Long-coat Labradors Look Like?

Long-haired Labradors have a similar body structure to short-haired Labradors. They are medium to large-sized dogs with a muscular build. Most Labs (unless they are working dogs that can be very sleek and lean) generally look pretty bulky and round, and this dog’s fluff may only add to the chunky appearance. 

They have broad, flat heads with a strong jaw and a friendly expression. Their ears hang down and are covered in long hair. Their muzzle is of medium length and strong, with a powerful bite. They have expressive, medium-sized eyes that are usually brown or hazel.

Long-haired Labradors have longer and fluffier tails than short-haired Labradors, but that’s still an otter tail. Overall, Labradors give off a wonderful combination of strength, athleticism, and friendliness.

Coat & colors

Long-coat Labradors have fur that is noticeably longer than the standard Labrador coat. The fur is often wavy and may be more prone to tangling and matting. They have the same three colors, including:

  • Yellow;
  • Black; and 
  • Chocolate.

How Big Do Fluffy Labradors Get?

Fluffy Labs are medium to large dogs that grow to about 22 to 25 inches (55 to 63 cm) and weigh 55 to 80 pounds (25 to 36kg).

Health and Lifespan of Long-Coated Labradors

Common Health Issues

Long-haired Labradors may be prone to specific health issues. Research shows breed-specific health issues and concludes that chocolate Labs have a 10% reduced lifespan. 

  • Hip dysplasia: A condition where the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain. Studies show that Labs were more susceptible to arthritis and dysplasia than 40 other breeds.
  • Ear infections because of their long hair that traps moisture and bacteria in their ears. Chocolate Labs suffer most from ear infections, with studies showing that 24% have ear problems.
  • GDV (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus)/ bloat due to their deep chests.
  • Thyroid issues like diabetes and hypothyroidism.
  • Exercise Induced Collapse, which is collapse starting with rear limb weakness. 
  • Obesity:  Labs are prone to obesity, leading to joint problems, heart disease, and other health issues. Research shows that about 67% of Labradors are overweight.
  • Eye problems: Fluffy Labs may be prone to eye problems such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, pink eye, and corneal dystrophy.
  • Skin problems: Long-haired Labs may be prone to skin problems such as hot spots, atopy (allergies), and Light Responsive Alopecia.
  • Cancers like lymphoma.
  • Moderate issues like allergies, stomach sensitivity, and  dental issues.

Keeping your long-haired Lab healthy is essential by providing a balanced diet, regular exercise, and regular veterinary checkups.

How Long Do Long-Haired Labs Live?

The lifespan of a Long-haired Labrador is similar to that of a standard Labrador. On average, Long-haired Labs live for 10-12 years. However, with proper care and attention, some Long-haired Labs have been known to live for up to 14 years.

Temperament and Behavior of Long-Haired Labs

Long-Haired Labs are known for their friendly and outgoing temperament. They are loyal, gentle, affectionate, social, high-spirited dogs that love to be around people. They are also great with children and make excellent family pets. These dogs love water more than anything. In fact, studies show Labs love water more than social interaction.

These dogs are intelligent and easy to train, making them perfect for first-time owners. They’re so trainable and well-tempered that a Labrador Poodle mix sparked the creation of Doodle mixes.

These dogs are also highly empathetic, sensitive,  and specially tuned to their handlers. They are easy to motivate with food and are hardy, allowing them to keep up with their handlers. All these are why Labs make such excellent service dogs. 

Long-haired Labs have a high energy level and require regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. They enjoy activities such as running, swimming, and playing fetch. They also make great hunting companions and excel at retrieving game.

Sociability With Kids and Animals

Fluffy Labs are excellent with children but must be supervised around small kids to prevent accidents. While Long Haired Labs are generally friendly with other dogs and animals, early socialization is essential to ensure they develop good social skills. 

Grooming and Care for Long-Haired Labradors

How to Groom a Fluffy Labrador Retriever

Long-haired Labradors require regular grooming to maintain their coat’s health and appearance. 

  • Brush their fur at least twice a week to prevent matting and tangling.
  • Bathe them every month with high-quality shampoo to keep coats clean and shiny. 
  • Trimming their hair around the ears, paws, and tail can help prevent matting and improve their overall hygiene.
  • Clean their ears with canine wipes to prevent infections.
  • Brush their teeth twice a week and also use dental rinses and chews. 
  • Trim their nails with dog cutters to prevent overgrowth and ingrown nails.

Exercise Requirements

Long-haired Labradors have the exact exercise needs as their short-haired counterparts. They require 1 to 2 hours of moderate to intense exercise daily to keep them healthy and happy. 

Workouts can include playing fetch, going for walks or runs, swimming, and mental work. While only 5 to 15% of Labradors suffer from Exercise Induced Collapse, watching for any unusual signs during walks is essential.

Dietary Needs

Long-haired Labradors have the same dietary needs as their standard counterparts. They require a well-balanced diet for age, weight, and activity level. It is crucial to provide them with high-quality protein(30%), healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Feeding them smaller, more frequent meals is also recommended to prevent overeating and obesity. Many owners describe their Labrador as a stomach with legs because these pups never lack an appetite. 

Training and Socialization of Long-Haired Labradors

Long-haired Labradors are intelligent and eager to please, making them easy to train. Consistent and positive reinforcement training methods are recommended for these dogs. Training should begin at an early age and continue throughout their lives.

Socialization is crucial for Long-haired Labradors. Those hoping to enroll their Lab pups into service dog training must do it as early as possible when they’re still malleable puppies. 

It is important to note that Long-haired Labradors may have a higher tendency towards separation anxiety, so proper training and socialization can help prevent this behavior. Crate training can also be useful in preventing destructive behavior when left alone.

Breeding and Genetics of Long-Haired Labradors

Genetic Factors

It is important to note that not all Labradors carrying the gene will have long hair, as it is only expressed in a small percentage of puppies. It is incredibly difficult to breed a purebred Fluffy Labrador because the breed doesn’t typically carry the long hair recessive gene.

When breeding Long-haired Labradors, it is vital to ensure that both parents carry the recessive gene for long hair. This can be determined through genetic testing or by breeding two Long-haired Labradors together. 

Breeders should also consider the temperament and health of both parents before breeding. Additionally, both parents should be screened for hereditary health issues that may be more common in Labradors, such as hip dysplasia and eye problems.

Adopting a Long-Haired Labrador

Adopting a long-haired Labrador can be a great decision for those who love the breed and want a unique twist on the classic look. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering adopting a long-haired Labrador:

Ensure you can cover any potential vet bills and all the food and maintenance costs. Also, have a training regimen or expert ready for a well-behaved pup.

You’ll probably only find Cream Golden retrievers in the shelter since they’re more common, but you can perform a  DNA test to confirm pedigree. Some Lab rescue organizations include:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does a Long-haired Labrador puppy cost?

The cost of a Long Haired Labrador puppy can vary depending on several factors, such as the breeder, the location, and the pedigree. A Long-haired Labrador puppy for sale can cost anywhere from $1000 to $2,000. However, it is essential to note that the price may increase if the puppy comes from a reputable breeder with a good track record.

Are there white, Long-haired Labrador Retrievers?

No, there aren’t White, Long-haired Labrador retrievers unless they’re Albino. The only available colors are yellow, brown, and black. 

Are long hair Labs recognized by the AKC?

No, Long-Haired Labradors are not recognized by the AKC. The AKC only recognizes the short-coat Labrador Retriever breed in three colors – black, yellow, and chocolate.

What is the temperament of long-haired chocolate Labradors?

Long-haired Chocolate Labradors have a similar temperament to other Labrador Retrievers. They are known for being friendly, loyal, and intelligent dogs. They are also great with children and make excellent family pets. However, it is essential to note that, like all dogs, their temperament can be affected by their environment and upbringing.

How do you groom a Long-haired black Lab puppy?

Long Haired Black Lab puppies require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling of their hair. Brush at least twice weekly with a slicker brush or comb to remove loose hair. Bathe them every four weeks to keep their coat clean and healthy.

Can you show Long-haired Labradors in dog shows?

No, the AKC does not recognize Long Haired Labradors. Therefore, they cannot be shown in AKC-sanctioned dog shows. However, other dog shows and events may allow Long Haired Labradors to participate.

Final Thoughts

Long-haired Labradors exist due to genetic variations of the standard Lab. Owning a long-haired Labrador can be a wonderful experience for the right person or family. However, it is essential to consider the grooming requirements and potential health issues with this breed.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.