Category: Dog

What kind of temperament do Labradors have?

If you’re thinking of getting one of these lovely dogs, you will need to know everything about them. Most importantly, you’ll need to know what kind of temperament and personality you can expect from your canine companion. Here are some useful facts.

Labradors are enthusiastic and playful

This breed retains its puppy-like playfulness for many years into adulthood. They are one of the breeds which is said to be “slow to mature”. This is great for people who have children and want a playful, bouncy dog as a family pet.

They can be rowdy and boisterous

Especially in their younger years, the energetic and playful Labrador can sometimes be a handful if he gets over excited. Bear in mind that they are large dogs with thick, strong necks and if you are frail in any way you might have a hard time keeping hold of the lead if they see a playmate in the distance!

Labradors have a cheerful and friendly nature

The great thing about Labradors is that they will make friends wherever they go. They are one of the most friendly dog breeds and tend to be accepting of strangers.

Labradors are happy around other dogs

They also get on well with other dogs and will usually prefer a good romp with a playmate rather than challenging them to a stand-off.

Labradors are eager to please

You should find your Labrador is relatively easy to train when compared to other breeds. This is because he is eager to please and just loves to be rewarded with a treat!

Labradors can sometimes be stubborn

Watch out for a rare stubborn streak which can happen in Labradors that aren’t trained properly as pups. However, if you stand firm with these gentle dogs, they will soon understand their place in the family pack.

Labradors need company

Your Labrador will need to be surrounded by company for most of the day. If he is left alone for long periods he will become bored and more often than not, he will choose to make a mess to let you know this!

Training tips for Labradors

If a Labrador is disobedient, it is probably the fault of the owner for not teaching him the right way to behave. Labradors are eager to please and quite intelligent, so it really doesn’t have to be this way. Begin a training routine and establish all the ground rules, from the very first day you take your Labrador home. Here are some useful training tips you might need.

Stock up on training equipment

You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment for training your Labrador. However, you will definitely need some treats. Choose some healthy treats made especially for puppies. They should be relatively low in fat, but still tasty enough to tempt your pup. If you feel you are giving your puppy a lot of treats in one day, you can cut down his main meals to compensate for the extra calories.

Other equipment you might need:

  • A crate (large enough for your pup to stand and turn around in, but not too large that he will choose to pee in one end of it)
  • A lead or harness
  • A clicker tool

Walking and rewarding

For the first few times you walk with your Lab off the lead, you can use a reward system to make sure he doesn’t stray too far. Bring some treats with you and reward your pup for staying by your side. If he wanders away and comes back to you, reward him each time he returns. He will soon spend more time by your side and less time wandering off! Make sure you choose a park that’s securely fenced off for the first few weeks.

Using a clicker

If you want to train your pup to do specific commands that aren’t as easy to lure him into doing with a treat, then you may want to try a clicker. A clicker makes a sound which the pup comes to associate with the idea of being rewarded. It’s a good way to teach your Lab a desired behaviour. Simply click when you see your Lab performing the command correctly, and reward him with a treat. You don’t have to use a clicker for this of course – you can simply choose a certain word to let him know he has done the right thing.

To crate or not to crate?

For a large dog like a Labrador, crates can be quite restrictive. However, if used correctly, they can be the quickest and easiest way to toilet train your pup. That’s because the crate will become your pup’s bed and he will not want to mess it up by going to the toilet in it. Instead, he will whine to be let out. However, you shouldn’t wait for things to get to this stage; on a pre-emptive basis, you should let your pup out to pee in the garden every hour. Leaving him as long as two hours may be cruel and could also lead to separation anxiety. Before you begin using the crate for training purposes, you will need to read up on the correct way to use it. Used incorrectly, it can create more problems instead of less.

Tips for swimming with your Labrador

If you are the proud owner of a Labrador, you should know that this is a breed that loves to swim! In the past, Labradors were used by the fishermen of Newfoundland because of their excellent swimming abilities and their water repellent coats. Here are some tips for letting your Lab flex his swimming muscles!

  • Choose the right place for swimming
    If you’re just starting out with your Labrador, you’ll need to choose somewhere that’s as safe as possible for swimming. That means choosing a calm stretch of water with no waves or strong currents. It helps if there are shallows where your dog can paddle on foot first. Look for somewhere with shallow shorelines so that your Lab can climb out of the water easily if he gets tired.

  • Start puppies gradually
    If you have a pup with no swimming experience, you’ll need to get him used to the water. Whilst most Labs will have a natural affinity for the water and will be eager to try swimming, some puppies can be nervous of the unknown. Try playing a game of fetch in the shallows of the water first, then coaxing them deeper each time. It’s best if you can put on your swim suit and join your pup – he will feel more confident that way.

  • Bring a swim buddy with you
    If you have a friend with a dog who already loves to swim, why not bring him along? The experienced dog can serve as an example to your Labrador, who will be able to see that there’s nothing to be feared from taking a dip. Labs are very sociable, and it should also make the experience more fun!

  • Buy some supplies
    Once you have had a successful swimming session, you’ll need to stock up on items like waterproof toys that will float in the water. For sailing trips and fishing excursions where you are taking your dog to deep water, you might want to consider buying a special doggy life jacket, which you can get from online shops.

  • Rinse thoroughly
    After your Labrador has been swimming, it’s a good idea to rinse him off when you get home. You can hose off your dog after each swim with the use of a garden hose or even a watering can. This will get rid of any debris that may have been in the water, and make sure the coat dries nicely without odours.

Tips for choosing a Labrador

You might think that choosing a Labrador is as simple as finding the cutest puppy in a litter, but you’d be wrong. There is far more to it than that! Choosing your companion for the next 10-15 years is not a decision to be taken lightly. Here are some useful tips for making the right choices along the way.

Choose your Labrador breeder carefully

First of all, you will need to spend some time researching reputable breeders in your area. You can check the Kennel Club’s website for registered breeders, or you can seek the advice of your local breed club, vet or dog trainer. Genuine word of mouth recommendations are useful, and if you know someone with a healthy, well-behaved Labrador you can ask them which breeder they got their dog from. The right choice of breeder can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of your dog, in terms of the health and behaviour of the puppy you take home. Some useful questions to ask your breeder are:

  • Can I see the mother of the pups? How healthy/well behaved is she?
  • Have you screened against the common Labrador diseases before breeding?
  • How old are the puppies? (They should be at least 8 weeks old)
  • Have the puppies had any vaccinations, worming or flea treatments?
  • Are the puppies microchipped?

If the breeder doesn’t seem to know very much about the breed, or about health issues, then you should choose someone else to buy your puppy from.

Choose the type of Labrador you want

There are two distinct types of Labrador which you could buy as a family pet. The first of these is the English type, which come from dogs that are bred for the show ring. These dogs have been bred selectively for their uniform appearance and their good temperaments. They make good family pets provided they have been raised in a happy and stable environment. The second type is the “field” type of Labrador, which has been bred from working dogs. They have lots of energy and were bred for their stamina and their skills as hunting, retrieving dogs and are slightly less stocky. They will also make good pets, but they need to be adopted by families who can cope with a very active dog, and are willing to provide as much exercise as it takes to tire them out.

Choose a colour

Labradors come in yellow, chocolate or black. There is no real difference in these dogs in terms of their temperament, so it really is just a case of personal preference. You shouldn’t be asked to pay more for a certain colour Labrador (and if you are, you should look elsewhere).

Choosing your puppy

Lastly, try to choose the healthiest, calmest and happiest looking puppy out of the litter when you go to visit the breeder. The puppy should:

  • Have clear, bright eyes and responsive vision
  • Respond to loud noises, but without being timid or aggressive
  • Happily approach you to say hello
  • Play easily with its siblings, rather than hiding in a corner

The basic needs of every Labrador

Want to make your Labrador happy, but don’t know how? Here are 5 basic things every Labrador needs in order to keep his tail wagging.

  • Lots and lots of exercise
    The more walks your Labrador gets, the happier he will be. He has so much energy that he needs to burn it all off. Exercise also keeps his muscles and bones in good condition, relieves tension, and releases feel-good chemicals, much like it does in humans. The best thing you can do for your Lab is to vary your walks, rather than take him to the same small dog park every day. For Labradors, variety really is the spice of life!

  • Plenty of TLC
    Labradors are sweet, affectionate and sociable. It’s no wonder then that some Labs will follow you around the house looking for attention! Make time for your Lab and be sure that he has plenty of affection.

  • Companionship
    Labradors are particularly sensitive to being left on their own. They like a house that is full of people and if there are children to play with, even better. Labradors make great family pets and thrive in a home where there is always someone in the house for company. If you can’t be there for your dog for any reason, consider some doggy day care or even getting a second dog as a companion for your Lab.

  • Good food
    The Labrador has a large appetite and loves his food! When it comes to choosing the right dog food, you need to choose something healthy, yet appetising. Cheaper dog foods are often full of unnecessary filler ingredients which hold no nutritional value but make your dog feel full. Instead, go for a trusted brand with a high meat content. In general, wet, tinned food will be easier for your dog to digest than dry kibble. And, when it comes to giving treats, less is definitely more! Labs are prone to weight gain so they should not be fed scraps from the table.

  • Regular vet checkups
    Bring your Labrador to the vet at least twice a year for check-ups. This will make sure you stay up to date on vaccinations, worming and general health issues. In particular, Labradors are prone to eye problems and hip dysplasia so pay attention to these areas.

Pros and cons of owning a Labrador

The lovely Labrador is popular across the world, and is seen as the ideal family dog. However, all dog breeds come with their own set of unique quirks and issues which you need to familiarize yourself with if you are going to love your dog unconditionally. Here are some pros and cons associated with the Labrador breed.

Pros of owning a Labrador

Here are some of the advantages of the Labrador breed:

  • The Labrador has a gentle disposition
    This gentle, sweet personality makes the breed a good match for households with children.

  • The Labrador is energetic
    If you want a dog that is always ready for action, rather than being a couch potato, then the Labrador is for you. This agile breed needs an owner who is as active as he is.

  • The Labrador is loyal and loving
    One of the reasons this dog makes an excellent guide dog for the blind is that he is loyal and will stay by your side through thick and thin. His loving nature means that he bonds closely with his owner and naturally wants to please you.

  • The Labrador is an excellent hunter and retriever
    If you want to teach your dog to retrieve anything from your slippers to the newspaper, or even if you want to take your dog hunting, the Labrador is perfect. With a long history of retrieving work, Labradors will catch on easily to any form of retrieval training.

The cons of owning a Labrador

Some pitfalls of owning this breed include the below:

  • Labradors are very active
    You will need to give this breed plenty of exercise and space to run and play. Otherwise, he will get bored and gain weight, which can bring a variety of health issues. If you aren’t very active you should consider getting another breed.

  • Labradors crave your attention
    These dogs are so sweet and gentle that few people are bothered by this trait. However, bear in mind if you like your space that your Labrador is going to want to go everywhere with you. He will not enjoy being left alone to fend for himself!

  • Labradors are shedders
    This breed has a double thickness coat which sheds a lot, all year round. So, you will need to accept that there will be fur around your home, and fur covered carpets. Regular brushing can help to minimize the amount of loose fur falling around your home.

  • Labradors can be messy
    The Labrador is a large dog that can knock over ornaments with the sweep of his tail, spill food and water everywhere and roll in mud whenever he can. So, you’ll need to prepare yourself for this!

Labrador health issues

It can be very useful to know what the most commonly inherited diseases are in Labradors. Firstly, it will help you when choosing the right breeder, as you can ask if they have screened for these conditions before breeding. Secondly, it will help you if you see any untoward symptoms arise in your Labrador. Here are some conditions to watch out for in Labradors.

Epilepsy

Seizures in Labradors are usually due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. So whilst epilepsy can be passed down genetically, it isn’t always the cause of seizures. The seizures themselves can be worrying but there is very little you can do for your dog while they are happening, apart from making sure he is away from hazardous obstacles and furniture. Epilepsy can be managed, rather than cured, with the help of medication.

Hip dysplasia

This inherited hip condition is common in a lot of breeds, but occurs particularly frequently in Labradors. It usually develops in dogs between 3 and 5 years old. Pain, lameness and an odd gait are signs of hip dysplasia, which can usually be diagnosed with an x-ray. Later on in life it can develop into arthritis. However, there are surgical options available as well as pain relief medication that can make the condition more manageable. Breeders usually have their dogs screened for hip dysplasia by obtaining something called a “hip score”. A reputable breeder will not breed from dogs that have this condition in their lineage.

Progressive renal atrophy

This eye condition develops over time and eventually causes dogs to go blind. Dogs with any family history of PRA in their bloodlines should never breed, as they can be carriers without having symptoms. However, good breeders should screen for this before breeding from their stock.

Weight gain

Whilst not strictly hereditary, Labrador owners do need to be sure they are giving their Labs enough exercise on a daily basis. Labradors are particularly prone to weight gain if they aren’t getting the exercise they need, and this can lead to all sorts of secondary health issues. Keep an eye on how many treats your Lab is given too – fatty cuts of meat and too many carbohydrates are likely to cause weight gain too.

Labrador FAQs

If you’ve recently discovered this beautiful breed, you are bound to have some questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Labradors.

Do Labradors shed?

Yes, Labradors have a double thickness coat which sheds all year round. Twice a year, you can expect a big moult when the seasons change and the coat is being renewed.

How often do Labradors need to be groomed?

About once a week your Labrador will need to be brushed down with a firm bristled brush, in order to remove loose fur and debris. This grooming can help to reduce the amount of fur which falls over your home by removing it all in one go. As for bathing, your Labrador will very seldom need to have a proper bath unless he rolls in the mud or starts to give off a certain doggy odour.

How much exercise do Labradors need?

The short answer to this is as much as possible! These dogs have a long history of being trained as working dogs, meaning they have been bred for stamina, energy and strength. They just love to be in the great outdoors, swimming and frolicking. At least two good walks a day will keep your Labrador trim and happy.

Are Labradors good with children?

Yes, Labradors are gentle and good natured. They will just love being in a household where there are children to play with. However, very small children will need to be supervised, because the Labrador’s large size and weight mean he could accidentally knock over a small toddler.

Where do Labradors come from?

Labradors originate from Newfoundland in Canada, where their close relative the St John’s Dog was once used to help fishermen haul their nets and retrieve fish. Once the St John’s Dog was brought to England, it began to be used by the nobility for hunting and retrieving waterfowl.

Are Labradors easy to train?

Labradors have a history of being trained to perform specific tasks. They are eager to please. This means they will be quite easy to train when compared to other breeds, provided they have an owner who is patient, consistent and gives plenty of rewards.

Is the Labrador right for you?

The Labrador is one of the most popular breeds in the world, thanks to his wonderful friendly temperament and gorgeous appearance. These iconic dogs aren’t for everyone though – find out below if you’re suited to owning this lovely breed.

Are you trying to replace a Labrador you once loved?

It’s important to realize that every dog is different, and that Labradors can have different personalities to each other, too. So, if you’re looking to replace a Labrador that has passed away, you will need to be prepared to accept the differences between your old dog and your new one.

Are you looking for a guard dog?

Whilst Labradors are fairly large in size, they aren’t particularly good at warning against danger, or scaring off potential thieves. They are simply just too friendly! So, if you want a dog with watchdog skills you’ll need to choose another breed.

Are you energetic?

The Labrador pup can be energetic, bouncy and boisterous, right into adulthood. Do you have the energy to deal with this? Are you strong enough to handle an almost adult sized pup who jumps up on you? The perfect owner for a Labrador is someone who is naturally active in their daily lives, who wants to walk, hike or swim with a dog, come rain or shine!

Do you have a spacious home and a garden?

Ideally your home should be a decent size if you’re going to own a larger dog like the Labrador. Eager wagging tails can sweep shelves and tables clean and these dogs can take up a considerable amount of space. Apartment owners should probably not get a Labrador, since the dog will not have a garden to run about in and will feel cramped in a smaller home.

Do you have plenty of time?

Looking after a dog, no matter how calm and well behaved, is a full time job. Not only will you need to devote time to training your puppy each day, you’ll also need to walk your dog regularly throughout its whole life.

Can you provide companionship?

Aside from these important aspects, you also need to be physically present to give your dog companionship for most of the day. Dogs are pack animals that crave companionship and it isn’t fair to leave them alone for long periods of time. Labradors will be especially happy if they are brought up in a family atmosphere with plenty of people around and kids to play with.

History of the Labrador breed

Labrador lovers the world over would do well to familiarize themselves with this fantastic breed’s history. Here are some important facts about the breed’s origins.

The ancestors of today’s Labradors

The Labrador’s early relatives lived in Newfoundland and Labrador which are both regions in Canada. Early settlers to these areas brought working dogs with them to help them hunt and fish. These early dogs were thought to be a mix of breeds from Portugal and the British Isles. Over time, these dogs developed into several distinct types of Canadian Water Dogs including the Chesapeake Bay retriever, the flat-coated Retriever, the Greater Newfoundland and the Lesser Newfoundland. The latter was also known as the St John’s Dog, and the Labrador is thought to be descended from this breed.

The St John’s Dog was used by the fishermen of Newfoundland to help bring in their nets, pull in ropes, and retrieve stray fish. They had a short haired, water repellent coat which made them ideal for swimming and didn’t freeze in cold temperatures, unlike the fur of longer haired breeds. These St John’s dogs had the perfect temperaments for working and they were loyal as well as loving.

Early history of the breed

St John’s Dogs were eventually brought to Dorset in England in the early 19th century. They soon caught the attention of the nobility, who realized these dogs had valuable stamina and retrieving skills. They were excellent in the water, being confident and brave swimmers. They began to be used by aristocrats for hunting waterfowl.

One such aristocrat was the Earl of Malmesbury, who noticed the dogs’ skills when on a visit to Dorset. He purchased some for his estate and began breeding them in his own kennels. Later on, the Earl gave some of his dogs to the 5th and 6th Dukes of Buccleuch, and the Buccleuch breeding program was born. This program produced the first ancestors of the Labrador breed type that we see today. Sadly, the St John’s Dog that gave birth to the Labrador breed type is now extinct.

Where the name “Labrador” came from

There are two theories as to where the Labrador breed got its name. The first, and perhaps the most logical theory, is that the name came from the St John’s Dog’s homeland, which was the Labrador region. The second theory is that the Portuguese sailors who first settled in Newfoundland referred to their working dogs as “labradores” or labourers. In addition, historians have noted that there is a village in Portugal called Castro Laboreiro where there were working dogs very similar to the St John’s Dog.

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