You want a Lab puppy? Are you nuts or just a glutton for punishment?
Adopt. Contact a Lab Rescue organization near you. They really know the breed. And they'll have Labs of all ages. Most importantly, they can tell you the health and personality of every dog in their care.
They'll match you up with just the right dog. They'll probably have some puppies too if you're hellbent on losing your mind.
If the OP wants to purchase from a breeder, that is his/her perogative. If you are happy with your rescue dog, that's awesome. But don't call someone a glutton for punishment for wanting a well bred dog & askign for help in finding a good breeder.
I have too much experience with rescue to give credability to anything you've said about rescue dogs. First, 99.9% of rescue purebreds are not from good breeders. It does happen that dogs from reputable sources will slip through the cracks on occasion, but this isn't very often. Most rescue dogs were orginally bought on impulse from a breeder that didn't screen the owner nor do any health or temperament testing on the dog's sire/dam. Labs are notorious for bad hips plus a plethora of other health concerns, just the way Beagles are. I use the Beagle analogy because due to the 100% incidence of health and/or behavioral/mental problems with rescued Beagles I've worked with, I no longer do breed rescue unless the situation is absolutely desperate & the dog has impeccable temperament. A poorly bred Beagle IS (not can be, *is*) a timebomb of genetic issues waiting to go off. The willy nilly breeding of amateurs has ruined the health of Beagles in the general population. I would assume the same applies to Labradors, who have been the #1 breed for at least a decade now. Rescue Labs are not going to be healthier than one purchased from a breeder. They can have genetic issues that have not surfaced yet, especially if buying a dog from a shelter/rescue that is under 2yrs.
When going to a reputable breeder, the OP can interact with the sire and/or dam of the pups and get a feel for the ethics & breeding philosophy of the breeder. When a family comes to my home for a pup, for instance, they have the opportunity to meet up to 3 generations of dogs in their pup's pedigree. They are shown health clearences not just for sire/dam but where it counts just as much - vertical pedigree. They have the opportunity to speak with the stud owner if I do not own him, plus a literal network of breeders who have contributed to that bloodline. That is not an exaggeration. Breeding is often times a concerted effort. Puppy buyers frequenting a reputable source are not asking for trouble, they're looking to avoid it. Probably 15-20% of families who have bought a pup from me have been to a certain area shelter run by an unscrupulous person. They do home checks, references, applications. They seem to be crossing their t's and dotting their i's. Yet they are infamous for both bringing in distemper in the area and adopting out dogs with aggressive temperaments. Not dominant dogs. Ones that have actually attacked the owners. People talk to you about dogs when you're a breeder, and I hear the sob stories. Plus can see it for myself with the rescue dogs from that place who are in the area. Again, I worked in rescue and you have to screen these people, especially the small private ones, as thoroughly as any breeder or you will be asking for trouble. I can go on and on and on with tales from rescue that would make your hair curl.
Anyway, I charge $800 for pet pups. My breed is relatively common but WELL BRED specimens are RARE. We also go in to show lines which increases my expenses. For that price the buyer gets a 3yr health guarantee, lifetime on hips/knees. They get a pup that has been extensively socialized during critical periods, that has been held and accomodated to the human touch from before they were even fully out of the birth canal
There are points of socialization that, once closed, cannot be made up for when the dog is an adult. I know a great deal about my bloodline & each litter is bred very, very carefully so that we get as few problems as possible. I have not produced a major health or temperament issue to date, so that is another assurance the buyer has.
Advice to the OP: Look for breeders that OFA at least the hips. Tell them to give you the OFA #'s and look up in the database www.offa.org
There is no excuse for no OFA'ing in a breed like Labs. Ask them about exercise induced collapse in their lines. If they have never heard about it or try to BS around it, RUN. They don't know the lesser known issues in their breed. Ask how they socialize pups. Do they use early neurological stimulation? If they do, that's a big bonus! ASK FOR REFERENCES!!!
It's a major red flag if they get defensive over this question or tell you references are not necessary. You should be able to get at least 2 references from two seperate litters. Call them on the phone as well as e-mail. Just say you would like information on your pups such as what they are breeding for. This is a good one, because it will stump or cause to stumble someone who is not doing it right. Their answer does not have to be "for the show ring" or "to hunt" or "for pets". It should have something to do with how they are attempting to improve upon their kennel bloodlines and/or the breed in general.