The aim of this study was to explore the genetic relationship between the nine component traits comprising the British Veterinary Association (BVA) total hip score in UK registered Labrador Retrievers. Data consisted of 11,928 single records of trait scores of dogs aged between one and four years (365-1459 days) old, from radiographs evaluated between 2000 and 2007. Pedigree information was provided by the UK Kennel Club. The distribution of trait scores showed only small numbers of dogs with visible malformation in the six traits that were scored according to the severity of osteoarthritis. Linear mixed models were fitted using ASREML. Estimates of heritability ranged from 0.15 to 0.38, and litter effects from 0.04 to 0.10. Genetic correlations between all nine traits were extremely high ranging from 0.71 to 1.0, implying considerable genetic similarity. The decomposition demonstrated that aggregate scores of only the 3 traits indicative of laxity in one year old dogs was predictive of the phenotype of the remaining six scored on osteoarthritic severity in dogs at 4+ years old. The application of selection index methodology in selecting against hip dysplasia using the trait scores was explored and potential improvements in accuracy (directly related to response to selection) of over 10% are reported compared to the current total hip score. This study demonstrates that traits descriptive of joint laxity are valuable early-age predictors of osteoarthritis and shows that there is scope for improvement in the way data from the UK hip score scheme are used for selection against hip dysplasia in Labradors. This was verified via use of selection indices, which identified substantial increases in accuracy, not only via optimum coefficients, but also through an easily applicable aggregate of scores of just two or three traits only compared with the current total hip score.