Labrador Retriever is a highly capable and versatile working breed as well as the number one most popular family dog in UK and several other countries around the world. But despite being a common pet dog, they are an extraordinary breed with a fascinating history and a breed profile full of superlatives, including fabulous intelligence and trainability, adaptability, friendliness and trust towards people and other animals, motivation for work, endurance and a phenomenal sense of smell. This makes the Labrador a breed of choice for many canine jobs, for example medical scent detection, military and security force scent detection, search and rescue, service or assistance dog for the disabled and people with a broad range of medical conditions, autism support dog, hunting dog and a therapy dog.
The Labrador Retriever can make a wonderful family dog, if their needs are met. Their goofy and playful nature brings is heartwarming and their trusting nature and eagerness to please people means they fit in easily into a family and human society. They tend to be bouncy and full of energy, which makes for a great company on countryside walks, jogging and recreational dog sports. Their boundless affection makes them particularly lovable, which is highly important for a family dog.
But with all this energy, intelligence, enthusiasm for work and highly social nature, comes a list of requirements for potential owners. Unfulfilled and untrained labrador is likely to find himself a job or another outlet to release that energy and frustration. This can lead to destructive or inappropriate behaviours and a dog out of control. Typical challenges include pulling on lead and lunging towards anything that interests them, boisterous and over-excited behaviour including jumping up, grabbing the lead in their mouth, crashing into people and objects, stealing food and other items and running off to greet people and dogs instead of coming back when called.
Early appropriate socialisation is key. Ensure that your puppy is allowed to experience in a safe and rewarding way all kinds of places, people, animals and sensations that will be a normal part of his life by the time he or she is 12 weeks old. This exposure should work in line with the puppy’s natural curiosity, so that they can approach and discover new things and experiences at their pace.
Teach your dog self control, through impulse control games and real life situations. This will help with teaching them basic doggie manners such as how to politely greet people and other dogs with all four paws on the ground, how to wait for their food bowl or their lead to be clipped on, how to pass through the door politely without dashing through. All those skills require mental self control and focus despite distractions, which is essential for an excitable and boisterous dog
Teach your lab to walk politely on a lead. For a labrador, the world is full of fascinating scents, posts and tufts of grass that must me scent-marked immediately (esp. males), dogs and people that he or she is absolutely delighted to see (including strangers) and objects that must be immediately investigated. This makes it hard to remember that there is a person on the other end of the lead. But with lots of practise, patience and smart way of rewarding, keeping an eye on the human counterpart can become a habit
Play with your lab. Interactive games including, fetch, tug, trick training and scent games are great for building a solid relationship that makes you the centre of your dog’s universe
Teach your dog a reliable, fast and enthusiastic recall, so that no matter what other fascinating things are going on, he turns on a penny and runs like the wind back towards you
Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, including walks, swims, sniffing opportunities. if your dog does’t have a good recall yet or if you can’t let them off lead for another reason, learn how to use a long lead on walks, so that they can enjoy some freedom to engage in normal dog activities
Provide them with something appropriate to do if you have to leave them alone. Food dispenser toys, puzzle games for dogs and appropriate raw bones can keep your dog busy and calm and your furniture and shoes whole.
Keep your dog slim and fit. Labradors have a tendency to become overweight because of their keen appetite. Keep your dog lean by feeding him the right amount of nutritious food for his age and activity level, using his normal food as training treats wherever possible so that he can work for his food and a versatile and appropriate exercise regime
Keep their coat, nails and teeth clean and healthy and don’t forget about regular health checks at the vets.