An amazing dog very well suited for a family pet and ownership also comes with health benefit. If bred by an exceptional Labrador Retriever breeder they can learn over 200 commands. Not that you would need to teach them that many if you are going to have a Lab for a pet, but it’s important to understand that they are bred for intelligence, a calm pleasant temperament and to work to please their handlers. If socialized properly a Labrador Retriever will be great around babies and young children often letting the smaller children poke, pull and push them around. Of course their reputation as a retriever in the hunting world is also outstanding as they will retrieve for hours and thoroughly enjoy doing so. In many kennel clubs over the globe they have been the most popular registered dog year after year. This is no accident as well bred Lab puppies will give you years of fun and often silliness.
You can find a video of our breathtaking Labrador retrievers here.
Labrador Retriever History
The Labrador Retriever was first found in Canada in the early 1800’s (although there are records as far back as 1662 describing medium sized smooth coated St. John’s dogs) on the East coast where they would retrieve ducks and swim into the cold Atlantic waters to act as the fisherman’s helper retrieving nets, ropes and fish. They were discovered by English nobels while visiting Canada and were brought back to England where they refined and standardized the breed during the second half of the century. The longer haired retrievers became encrusted with ice while cold water retrieving so a shorter, more dense coat was sought after. A thick otter-like tail aids them while swimming and helps them steer. They have webbed toes which also allow them better speed and agility while in the water. The Kennel Club of England recognized the breed in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917. The Labrador Retriever was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1940 and has grown in popularity ever since.
Labrador Retriever Standards
The Canadian Kennel Club Standards for the Labrador Retriever are for males: 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh between 60 and 75 pounds. The females are: 21.5 to 23.5 at the shoulders and weigh between 55 and 70 pounds. Their temperament is one of “desires to please” especially for food, and they will retrieve, especially in water which they love, until your arm is too sore to throw the ball.
Labrador Retriever Exercise
The Labrador Retriever requires moderate exercise consisting of a couple walks a day or a good high intensity game of fetch. They do well in the country and also thrive in urban settings. A Labrador Retriever’s coat is short and dense. They have what is known as a double coat, the coat you see and a dense undercoat designed to keep them warm while retrieving in icy waters. While the CKC only has one breed standard for the Labrador Retriever, there are three distinct versions of the breed. The conformation dog is the ones who enter the shows and are graded on how close their appearance conforms to the breed standards. These Labrador Retrievers tend to be shorter, and thicker than the other versions. The American Labrador Retriever has longer legs and is taller. They tend to be thinner and leaner and thus more athletic. They also tend to have snouts which are longer and better suited for picking up larger birds such as geese in the field. The third version we call a utility Labrador Retriever. This is a Lab who is in between the Conformation and the American.
Labrador Retriever Colors
There are currently 3 recognized colors of Labrador Retriever. They are Black, Yellow and Chocolate. So when a Lab is registered it must be registered as one of the three recognized colors. Each color has a variation and some of the variations come about in different ways. First there is a dilute gene. If both parents carry the dilute gene then the color of the Lab puppies are diluted. So black puppies would appear charcoal color and chocolate lab puppies would appear Silver. The yellow Lab can appear to be Fox Red, white, a yellow color or somewhere in between. Regardless whether or not the dilute gene is present, your Labrador Retriever will be registered as Black, Yellow or Chocolate. At the time of writing this no other colors are recognized. There has been some myths in the past that certain colors are smarter, not as smart, hyper, calmer, etc…. This is not the case. The Labrador Retriever’s coat color Fir has no bearing over their intelligence.
Feeding your Labrador Retriever
As a puppy, your lab will have to eat more frequently. It is common for a puppy to have it’s daily food ration split into 3 or 4 feedings spread out evenly throughout the day. This can gradually be reduced to two feedings a day as your Labrador gets older and can eat more at each feeding. It is very important to feed a super premium food. Don’t skimp on food quality because a cheap unbalanced food with fillers may cause growth problems with your Lab. In the end a cheap food will end up costing you more because of the increased veterinary bills. As well, if your Labrador Retriever doesn’t have the required balance of nutrients while growing they may not develop sound hip and elbow joints. This could contribute to hip or elbow dysplaysia. A raw diet is discouraged by many veterinarians along with the government of Canada because the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. Feeding a raw diet also requires you to be the nutritionist. You can’t simply feed a slab of raw meat and expect your dog to get all of the nutritional requirements. For this reason it is best to purchase a whole life food that is balanced and would come recommended by your breeder.
Labrador Retriever Temperament
For the most part the Lab breed is friendly, lovable, playful and eager to please. The temperament is set in the breed and also within the genetics of the specific dogs who are chosen to mate. There is sometimes an exception if the Lab is not properly socialized as a puppy and during the first puppy year. Socialization within the litter happens via the mother from birth, then the litter mates between weeks 6 and 8, and then the outside world with numerous people, animals and situations. If the puppy is not properly socialized then it may have issues as an adult. Or if the puppy is taken away from it’s litter mates too early, for example at 6 weeks old, then it doesn’t have the opportunity to learn doggie manners in the litter. It is possible to supplement this outside the litter but often more difficult because finding the same sized puppies to play with is not always possible.
Labrador Retriever Exercise
There are two main considerations for exercising your Labrador. The first being how often you exercise and the second being how high the intensity of the exercise. For example, an 80 year old man taking his Lab for a walk will not normally be a high intensity activity for his Lab. Walks are great but often Labs need to up the intensity and run to fetch or swim. If your Labrador Retriever is not exercised enough you will begin to notice him chewing everything he can. There are also food puzzles, small games where you hide pieces of kibble under sliding and rotating and flipping doors. Your Labrador will smell the food and then has to figure out how to open the door to get it. So for those rainy days indoor games and mental stimulation is the key to keeping your Lab from sliding to the hyper side of things.
Finding a reputable breedebreeder
There are many factors to consider when choosing your Lab Breeder. Some things to consider are:
Are they breeding to develop and improve a blood line or are they simply making puppies?
Do they provide a written health guarantee?
Will they take their dog back and re-home it if necessary for the life of the dog?
Do they qualify applicants by using an application form or do they simply sell to anyone with cash?
Are they actively supporting an organization such as Veteran Service Dogs, Breed specific clubs, or other?
Does the breeder offer puppy training? A breeder who won’t train their own puppies may just be selling for cash.
Do they offer life long support for you and are they available for questions after you take your puppy home?
Finding a Labrador Retriever Puppy
For the most part, when someone begins their search for a Lab puppy they look close to home. With our busy schedules not too many people want to drive a great distance to pick up their puppy. I understand that, and if you can find a quality Labrador Retriever puppy close to home that’s great! But don’t make driving distance the first criteria when looking for a puppy. You need to establish some parameters regarding the quality of the Lab you buy. After all you don’t want a conveniently close puppy with health problems, no pedigree, no breeder support and so on. So first look for a very good breeder. One who breeds to advance the genetics of the breed with every litter they have. One who has more than a guarantee on hips, elbows and eyes but also includes major organs. Once you determine what a good breeder looks like and what a healthy puppy would look like then begin to search for that starting in your area. Remember that there may not be any reputable breeders near you. If there isn’t, you have to decide if you would rather purchase a nearby puppy whose health may not be something the breeder is willing to stand behind, or do you want to choose the best bred puppy available. Remember, this one time pick up of your new little buddy will be the only trip you make to get him/her. They may live to be 15 years old if you find a well bred Lab puppy, the drive to pick her up will be worth it in quality.
Are Labrador Retrievers Easy to Train?
Not all Labrador Retrievers are bred with equal intelligence. Think of it this way. A person who owns a Lab asks their neighbor to allow them to mate with their dog. The two agree and puppies are born. In this example there is normally no consideration given to why two dogs would mate. A different scenario would be a breeder who has been breeding over 10 years, has watched their bloodline develop, has chosen the smartest adult dogs to mate and has kept the smartest puppies from those matings for future breedings. So here a breeder is constantly keeping the smartest Labrador Retrievers to mate which will have a net effect of an increasingly smart line of dogs. So, Labrador Retrievers from reputable breeders normally have very easy Labradors to train. So if you are very clear in what you want your Labrador to do, for example “sit.” It should take around 20 to 30 repetitions before your Lab understands and demonstrates this for you. This is very quick and also why Labs are used as contraband dogs, explosive dogs, customs dogs, service dogs, seizure dogs and more.
Are Labrador Retriever Mix dogs good dogs?
No, and yes. The short answer to this is the Labrador gene pool is closed. In order to continue producing purebred dogs one dog has to mate with another purebred dog. Therefore, there are no outside genes introduced to the gene pool. So diversification becomes an issue. On the other hand, in a mixed breed you never know what genes you are getting. For example there could be disease genes passed on along with good genes and if your mix breed is not tested before hand these disease genes may be passed on to future generations thus creating a greater number of dogs carrying the disease. Another point to consider is what mix is your mixed breed? If your mixed breed was made by two different purebred dogs, then you can be sure of the combination of genetics. But if it was not, then the two parents could be mixes of many more than two different breeds. This may result in an unpredictable combination of traits that could be undesirable. For example, if somewhere down the line there was a Border Collie who was one of the mating parents or grand parents, you may find that your Lab mix dog has the Border Collie’s desire to run and never stop. Another example could be the protective instincts of a Pitt Bull or maybe a Doberman. Desirable and undesirable traits may surface in your mixed breed if one of these breeds are in the lineage. So if you want a true Labrador Retriever temperament and intelligence make your search for a purebred.
Labrador Retriever Pros and Cons
Pro Labradors are smart and easily trained….Con they can be destructive if not properly exercised.
Pro Labradors are guaranteed to make you smile…..Con they act like puppies for 1-3 years.
Pro Labradors are very friendly and love everyone….Con they can shed a little especially in Fall and Spring.
Pro Labradors love to swim……Con they also like to eat a lot and if allowed to will become obese
Labrador Retriever Health Tendencies
For the most part the Labrador Retriever is among the healthiest of the breeds. Some issues to look out for can include; Ear Infections, Heart Disease, Obesity, Joint problems, Exercised induced collapse, Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Swimmer’s tail. Separation anxiety could also become a problem if your Lab is not well adjusted. Just like a human, the health of your Labrador will be determined by what they eat. Don’t skimp on the quality of food you feed them and feed a super premium kibble. As well, a balanced diet is required and feeding home made or raw is not better. In fact these diets can be harmful to your dog if they do not have the correct balance and ratio of nutrients. This will also help to clean their teeth as they chew. Regarding the hip and joint issues, we have found that genetics play less of a role than proper care of your puppy while it is growing. For example don’t let it jump off of the stairs as the great pressure from the landing will jar the hip and elbow joint causing space in the joint to be created. If their weight and health is managed properly I have seen labs live until they were 17 years old. Normal life expectancy however is between 10 and 12 year
It’s a normal work day and you come home, open the door and get slammed by your dog jumping up on you to say hello! Licks, jumping up, maybe even some vocalization are all part of your dog saying they are glad to see you at the end of your work day. While one person may like this type of greeting, not all people do especially guests dressed in their Sunday go to church clothing or perhaps smaller children who can be overwhelmed by a jumping dog greeting them when they walk in the door.
What your dog is thinking is “wow am I glad they are home, and it is polite for me too jump up and greet my humans face to face!” That’s right, in the dog world it is a non-threatening polite way to greet another dog–that is face to face. Like it or not, if you have been reinforcing this jumping by responding to your dog it will be difficult (maybe longer but not impossible) to recondition them.
The most common issues of a dog jumping up are normally when greeting or playing, and of course the dreaded counter surfing. Labs are no different than other dogs in this manner and in their mind they are doing what they think is the best way to show their excitement and happiness toward you. Here is the shocker for most people, you are likely reinforcing them to jump up on you.
Ok, I know that you are going to say that you tell them no, you push them off of you, you might even put your knee up to prevent them from jumping on the front of you (which by the way is not recommended). The newsflash is that all of these things give your dog attention when they are doing what you don’t want them to do which actually tells them that if they do it again, they will get your attention again.
For jumping up on people, it’s as simple as that. Remove the attention when the undesired behavior is present, give attention when desired behavior is present and you have a polite non-jumping dog that greets the way it’s been trained to do. So if you are giving attention when they jump up, you are actually training them to jump up.
Let’s take a look at what attention is. Basically, anything you do to your dog in terms of talking, looking at them or touching them will be considered attention and will reinforce whatever they are doing at the time. Saying no is actually giving them attention even though the word no means no. So don’t speak a word if they are doing something you don’t want them to do it.
Pushing them off is touching them and also reinforces the jumping up behavior. Finally, giving them eye contact is also giving them attention. If you don’t want to reinforce the jumping up don’t look at them when you think they are going to jump up.
We all pretty much know that conditioning our dog as a puppy is much easier than it is to break an undesirable bad habit later as an adult. However, if you have unknowingly taught your dog to jump up there is a clear way to recondition them. Can you guess how to go about it? That’s right, stop reinforcing behaviors you don’t want. Every interaction teaches your dog something and as a result all humans who come in contact with the dog are training it for the entire time they are in contact with them.
Fixing your dog jumping up
There is a simple method to fix all problems you have with your dog. Ignore the undesirable behavior and reward the desirable behavior. For a jumping dog this begins by first not exciting them. If you come home and start talking to your dog before you walk through the door you are intensifying the excitement. An excited dog has a more difficult time behaving within the rules so keep them calm by not giving them eye contact, not talking and not touching them until they are sitting.
That’s right, absolutely no response until they sit, once they do, that is the time to greet them and reward the behavior you want. Teach your Lab that the proper way to greet (and get your attention and pets and praise) is to sit calmly–not to bowl you over like a running back on a football team.
So how do you go about this?
There are a few ways to tackle this problem (do you see what I did there with the football reference in the previous paragraph?). If it is not that serious and your dog has learned other commands then you may simply be able to turn your back to them so they can’t greet, remain silent and don’t look at them until they sit. Once they sit be sure to reward that with praise and maybe even a treat. Some people put a bowl of treats up on a shelf by the entrance of their home with a sign that says “Please, don’t look at, touch, or talk to the dog until he sits. Then give him a treat.” That’s right, all humans need to be consistent even guests that come over. Otherwise, your dog will be getting mixed messages and will have a difficulty learning what is expected because it is not clear and consistent.
If your dog has a larger problem than this or is less responsive to training then there is a more involved process you will need to take them through. Everything a dog learns needs to be broken down into smaller steps. For example, a dog who has been trained to get a drink from the refrigerator has learned to walk to the fridge, grab the rope in their mouth, pull on the rope to open the door, find the drink you want without eating any food, bring the drink to you, drop the drink, return to the fridge, and finally close the door. Each step is taught one at a time (as all complex tasks) and then later combined as one.
So think about the different steps to teaching your dog to remain calm as someone approaches and enters your home. This will take two people to be effective. One acts as the person approaching and one is in control of the dog. If your dog can see someone approaching the door this is where you begin. One person walks toward the door from outside and the other has the dog sit and remain calm. This will require a leash and also some treats to reward the dog when they stay 4 paws on the floor and not excited.
Have your outside person approach slowly at first, maybe start at 20′ away and walk only 2-3 steps. If your dog doesn’t move reward it and repeat. Doing this 5 to 10 times with no excitement would be considered success for the first day. On the second day have the outside person approach closer, but not so close to spike your Lab’s excitement. Again, reward for proper behavior. If your dog becomes excited remember, no talk, no touching and don’t look at them in the eyes because you will be rewarding a behavior you don’t want.
The next step is making the sound of the door opening while the dog remains calm. This could mean moving the doorknob, ringing the doorbell or even the sound of the screen door opening. Each time you get a calm sit reward that. If you don’t, back up and try again until you do. Eventually your dog will realize they are not getting any attention when they escalate things and will stop.
The last few pieces of this task would be to open the door, walk through the threshold, approach your dog, and finally reward them by petting, talking, looking at them and even a tasty treat. Once you can do that you can try again without a leash on. Patience is mandatory as it may take a couple of weeks to achieve this depending on your dog and how well you and your partner execute the training. However, once your Lab understands what is desired by all humans, and the humans are consistent, it will want to please you by sitting calmly to greet you.
How do I stop my dog Counter Surfing?
Counter surfing is a similar issue because when your dog jumps up on the counter there is often a tasty reward for them doing so in the form of food left out. Approach this training issue in the same way by breaking it down into smaller steps. I would first prevent access to the kitchen by closing doors or using baby gates.
While access is limited for a couple of weeks I would work on teaching them the command “leave it.” Once your dog understands leave it you can use the command for anything you don’t want them to touch. In the case of something on the counter you need to catch them sniffing for something up there. When you see them hunting for that tasty snack simply say leave it and they will understand they are not to touch it.
After your gates come down and they are firm with the leave it command allow them through the kitchen being sure there is no food on the counters. Let them walk through and reward 4 paws on the floor. That’s right, you want them to stay on all 4 paws so giving them treats while they are walking on all fours and not sniffing for food will reinforce the behavior you want.
How can you mess this up? Well if they jump up on the counter and you yell no at them or get off, or if you push them off or even look at them in the eye you are training them to jump up by giving them attention. For those who are not that great at training it might be easier for you to simply train your dog never to walk in the areas where they can jump up for food.
That’s right, setting a boundary using baby gates at first and even teaching them to go to a desired location while you are cooking will work well. It is easiest if this is done while the dog is a puppy because they won’t be able to jump up to the counter height, as well they are eager to please and willing to learn at that age. If they never know that the counter is full of snacks teaching them 4 paws on the floor will be easier.
A final thing to consider is if your dog is getting enough exercise. If they aren’t, they will be a bundle of built up energy and will be almost impossible to train. You should also not expect your dog to stop jumping up if they are not able to get rid of their energy in other ways. So, be sure that twice a day you exercise your dog long enough and with enough intensity to tire them out a bit. For the intensity, if they are panting from the running, swimming, or digging and not the heat then you are on the right track.
So be patient, don’t be too hard on yourself (you aren’t a professional dog trainer), and pick one of these things to work on at a time. Be clear, make sure all humans do exactly the same things and watch for small signs of progress every day. In the end, breaking larger tasks into smaller pieces and rewarding what you want (not punishing what you don’t want) will set you on the path to progress training your dog out of their automatic behaviors and into a well mannered K9.
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