Labrador Retrievers are the world’s favorite dog breed. The world, in this case, being the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK. But Labradors are everywhere.
They are family pets, companion dogs, service dogs, gun dogs, and even medical diagnosis dogs.
Labs are the dog picture on postcards, calendars, wrapping paper and all.
Grin! Smile! Adorable!
Labradors come from the province of Labrador in Canada.
No, they don’t!
They originated from the St John’s Water dog in Newfoundland, an island off the coast of Labrador.
The modern Labrador Retriever origin story begins in England by James Harris, Walter Scott, and their descendants.
All with impressive, if confusing, noble titles. They bred the Labradors to be Retrievers, using them for hunting game birds.
The rest, literally, is history.
Labradors are fit, healthy and strong dogs.
If you care for them properly.
Take into consideration that they love water, need lots of exercise, are very friendly, and grow into quite a large, heavy dog.
Labs will continue eating until the food is gone, and then look for some more on the floor, on the counter, behind the door….you get the picture.
They can become obese very quickly.
Give them high-quality food, but not too much and not too often. Clean water must always be available.
Puppies and adults have different nutritional needs.
Do not brush your Lab too often, it will strip the natural oils off his waterproof coat. During shedding more brushing will be needed.
Trim his nails if you can hear it clicking on the floor when he walks.
Check his ears as well, they are prone to moisture retention that can lead to infection.
Their teeth should be treated as though it were your own. Check, brush, get it inspected by a vet for gum diseases.
Tie a red kerchief around his neck for his walk.
Just an idea.
Looks good to the lady dogs. :-)
Puppies run around and play enough. They do not need additional exercise until they are about a year old.
From then they will need lots of daily exercise.
Working Retrievers run all day after game, and your dog still has this innate energy to get rid of. If you do not provide the opportunities, he will find some in your yard and your house.
(With destructive results.)
Labs love, and do well at dog sports.
Their enjoyment is wonderful to see. Give it a go!
Dogs are not born with the knowledge of how humans would like them to behave. You have to teach them, from the moment they enter your home.
Do not expect the adult dog to understand that certain behavior is not allowed any more if you allowed it when he was a puppy.
A great example is biting.
Puppy biting might seem cute at first, but you soon start to question if they’ll ever stop!
Never, if you don’t teach your puppy that it’s not ok to bite.
Be consistent from Day 1. Be gentle but firm.
Labrador Retriever Health Issues
Vaccinations are a no-brainer. Some are required by law and others are optional.
Labs are generally healthy when well cared for. However, the breed is prone to some diseases or conditions, listed below.
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Heart disorders
- Hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness is one reason why Lab’s back legs give out)
- Eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy
- Exercise induced collapse (EIC)
- Bloat and gastric torsion
- Lipomas (benign tumors or “fatty tumors”)
Pros and Cons of Labradors
Labradors must be the one breed of dog that you might not think has any cons, only pros!
That can be true in most cases but it is possible to pick the wrong Lab for the wrong person. As usual, it all depends on your personal situation. Sometimes the one doggy trait that is a pro for one person is a con for another.
1. Labradors are Friendly and Tolerant
Yes it is very hard to provoke or annoy most Labs. They can be hugged, petted and fussed over by anybody.
Small kids can climb all over them and tug on their ears.
They can, and seem to want to, socialize with dogs and humans alike.
They will follow you around the house and watch with interest everything you do.
Unlike many dogs, Labs can live in harmony with cats. They often become inseparable friends. Ergo, the reputation that they are excellent family dogs.
And they are.
Most Labs are so friendly towards people that they are dismal at guarding. They see everyone as a potential friend.
It is, therefore, irresponsible to expect a Labrador to be a guard dog. And reputable dog trainers don’t teach people how to make their Labs less friendly.
They can be good watch dogs though and will bark if somebody approaches. Labs aren’t dangerous…until they need to be.
When they sense danger or threats he may go on the defense and do what it can to protect his loved ones.
As for dogs, many Labs will approach other dogs with unseemly enthusiasm, which can cause conflicts with strangers. Strange dogs or strange humans.
As a result of their reputation, humans will approach Labs without caution, expecting the dog to be friendly. Sometimes the dog will, for various possible reasons, respond aggressively with a snap or a growl.
2. Labs Bond with Ease
A dog that is bonded to you (Ol’ Faithful!) can become a real companion that you can take almost everywhere with you.
Whether you go running, have a pint at the local pub, fish in the lake, whatever, the dog can be with you.
All it takes is some TLC mixed with a healthy dose of discipline. But be consistent in what you allow for bonding and what you do not allow, ever.
If their need to bond is not well met, they can become clingy attention-seekers and even develop separation anxiety.
They can’t handle isolation. You shouldn’t leave a Lab alone for more than three to four hours max.
A Lab must be a member of your family, not an outdoor dog who is expected to keep himself busy outside the home. Even if your family consists of the minimum of one (you!), the dog still needs to be there, at your side.
3. They are Lively and Active
Remember that a Labrador is a Retriever.
It loves to be active, especially out of doors.
Most Labs are bursting with energy and will play a game of Frisbee with relish.
They are wonderful dogs to take jogging with you, playing in a park and especially swimming. It needs to do this every day, so you do too.
They can sprint at considerable speed over short distances or sally forth in an easy loping stride for miles. Ideal cycling companions.
Labs are a terrible choice for sedentary people.
Do you spend your time watching TV, reading, knitting, and such? It is tempting to picture a Lab peacefully curled up at your feet.
Ok once in a while, but not if this is your regular lifestyle.
Your dog will become bored, and in no time you sit with behavior problems. It must go walking or playing every single day.
Furthermore, the dog must get mental as well as physical exercise. A Lab must be able to use his intelligence.
If not, it will dig, bark, pull the laundry off the line, and a number of other interesting but annoying things.
4. Labs Love Water
Labradors were bred to be fishermen’s companions. Their coats have developed to handle immersion in water for long periods.
When they see water, they are likely to bound into it with abandon! Puddles, ponds, lakes, you name it.
This is great if you are a water baby too. If you live near water it is super easy to exercise your Lab.
Everything gets wet.
Water goes with mud.
Labs think mud is the bee’s knees in doggy spa treatment.
Do you have anything white?
Won’t stay that way for long. That includes the walls.
Chlorine can damage his coat.
You will need to give him a freshwater rinse every time he has been in a swimming pool.
Labs are prone to ear infections.
You have to dry the ears thoroughly after a swim to remove moisture. Wetness in the ears is a serious risk for increased infection frequency.
5. Chewing is an Activity
In England, the Lab was bred as a gun dog for waterfowl shooting. It had to go out into the field and bring back the downed bird in their mouth.
Their mouths are soft and they know how to hold without hurting. In fact, they are capable of carrying delicate items with great care.
His urge to pick up and carry things is very strong.
You can teach him to fetch the newspaper and you still be able to read it. Fetch the laundry, fetch the drinks…
They can be occupied for a long time with chewing lots of different toys. If you provide it. Lots, lots of sturdy toys.
They still enjoy using their mouth and will try to mouth people’s hands.
They are very gentle but it is not something most people want. Not to mention hygiene concerns.
The less exercise they get the more they will chew on anything they find attractive. Like furniture, socks, dolls, rocks, the list goes on.
You must provide plenty of chew toys. Plenty, plenty!
6. Forever Young
Labs are lively because they have been bred to work, but also because they stay teenagers for quite a long time.
They don’t really mature or become fully grown until they are two to three years old.
All this time they will be playful, clumsy, bumptious, bouncy, hard-headed, and goofy. This makes them super adorable.
Most Lab owners insist that their dog has a sense of humor. They act like clowns on purpose and seem to enjoy making people laugh.
A big playful but clumsy dog is a recipe for disaster around people who are unsteady and prone to lose their balance.
(Think toddlers and old people.)
Throw in friendliness and there go the ornaments on the coffee table with one tail sweep!
Sometimes their playfulness makes them do things that you do not want, but you laughed and now it is very hard to discourage him from doing it again.
Never a dull moment!
7. Labrador Flabrador
To eat is to live…or so Labradors seem to think.
They will eat almost anything.
So, easy to feed! You just feed them a quality kibble (here’s what we recommend) and you’re all set.
They can also eat raw food or home cooked food.
Labs aren’t known as finicky eaters who are rarely pleased.
There is a genetic basis for their love of food but that is of little consolation as you lug bags of dog food home every week!
Labrador appetites have no brakes.
They will eat themselves into obesity if you allow them. That can lead to diseases like arthritis or diabetes.
Overweight Labs are common, especially in old age. A very unhealthy situation that can take two years off their lifespan.
Counter surfing is a Labrador specialty. They will try to eat anything that looks like food or even if it does not.
Some of these items have to be surgically removed and can chase your vet bill sky high. Not to mention the danger to the dog.
They will eat poop. Yes. :O=
Usually, because the food contains something that smells or tastes good and it is excreted. But there are many reasons why they do, so it is not abnormal. Only disgusting, right?
Greedy eating and gulping introduce air into the stomach.
This leads to bloat and possibly a very dangerous condition called gastric torsion (twisted stomach).
Your dog can die very quickly from twisted bloat.
There is a point of no return after which your dog cannot be saved. We’re talking emergency vet visit and fighting for every minute.
It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of bloat and the preventative measures.
There must be one. Lemme think. Hmmm.
Good for the dog.
Humans don’t figure in this one.
It is largely the thick, soft undercoat hair that is shed in massive lumps. Maybe you could start a fashion trend in Labrador cushions?
If you have allergies to dog hair, dander or saliva, the friendly Lab is not for you.
Labs shed a heckuva lot.
Inside the pocket of the jacket in the locked cupboard in the basement, there will be hair. Even if you brush your dog twice a week with the rubber curry brush and the metal shedding blade or wire slicker brush.
Whatever tools you use for grooming, DO NOT SHAVE your Labrador Retriever. Think sunburn, cuts and grazes, heat exhaustion.
So not worth it.
A female will generally shed heavily twice a year during her heat cycle.
Neutered and un-neutered males and spayed females will shed moderately all through the year (yikes!) and more with the change of season (double yikes!).
Dust bunnies? Forget it. You got dog hair doodles.
9. Labs are Trainable
You can teach them anything.
You can teach them anything.
Are Labs very trainable or are they just intelligent? It is hard to separate the two.
Labs are certainly cooperative and very willing to learn. Training in the guise of a game works like a charm.
Successful reward training is like saying the sea is wet. We did say that Labs love to eat. Most Labs will do anything for a snack reward. Even the naughty things so beware what you teach him!
You have to start training your Lab puppy very young.
Because they are so energetic, “sit” and “stay” are difficult commands for them to master. Commands that are used for retrieving are easier for them to learn. It includes “come”, “drop” and “fetch”.
Incidentally, does your Lab pull you along on its leash?
Do you release it as soon as you can somewhere to run free and wild?
You are indulging in reward training that is very difficult to stop.
His argument works like this:
- I want to run loose.
- I get to run loose when I tug this human as hard as I can.
- (Bad) behavior is trained.
Labs that have a job to do are often the happiest.
Consider dog sport – sports for your dog and for you as well!
If you are so inclined it may be very satisfying for both of you to train your dog as a pet therapy dog.
Do not believe the stories that Labs of certain colors are untrainable. Coat color has nothing to do with trainability.
The most common factor of trainable dogs is the patience of the owner! (Yes, you.)
That said, there is a difference in breeding dogs for field dogs, show dogs or domestic pets. Selective breeding encourages different character traits.
One scientific study found that Labs working as gun dogs were the most trainable.
10. Labs Have a Very High Pain Threshold
Scent is the number one ability that makes a good Search And Rescue (SAR) dog.
Labs are very good especially in urban rescue because they can stand the pain of clambering over rubble in search of trapped victims.
All SAR work is physically very demanding and needs dogs that do not hesitate to work hard, sometimes until their paws bleed. Labs will do it.
It can be difficult to know when your dog is injured or ill.
He may not show any sign of pain, so here are some things to look for:
- Sometimes they will squint when in pain.
- Panting may be a sign of pain.
- Limping is always a sign of pain.
You need to get to know your dog signs.
Like any other dog, the natural traits of Labrador Retrievers can either be wonderful or awful.
It depends on what you are prepared to put up with.
Do your homework before getting any dog so you can end up with a companion, not a burden.