Labrador – the perfect dog for beginners?
The Kennel Club describes the breed as follows: the Labrador is the most popular of all pedigree breeds and his popularity comes from his versatility as family companion, service dog, guide dog as well as a working gundog.
The Labrador (Lab) comes in three main types – yellow, black and chocolate, although there is now an increase in the ‘fox red’ Labrador. In fact they are classified as being one of six breeds of Retriever, which also includes:
- Golden Retriever
- Curly Coated Retriever
- Flat coated Retriever
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
These breeds have similar characteristics and make fantastic family pets, although Golder Retrievers and Labradors are the two breeds that have been extremely popular for centuries.
Mel tells us that Labradors are great companions. They love to snuggle on the sofa and want to be where you are. They love to be physically active, but also can sleep for hours at your feet. She says:
“My Labradors love to swim, in rivers, in streams, in the sea, and they are very strong swimmers. They are enthusiastic about everything. They are medium to large sized, well muscled and very strong.”
Mel says that she chose her first dog, Bryn (aged 8) as she knew the breeder and her bitch had a wonderful temperament. Flint is a rescue dog that she had from 10 months old (now aged 2) as a companion dog to train up to take over from Bryn when he is ready to retire as a Pets As Therapy dog. They are both described as ‘working Labs’ rather than being from show lines.
Interestingly, Mel feels that her two are both more lively than she had expected, having previously owned Golden Retrievers. She says she found they were much more exuberant and not so laid back as the Goldies.
An active lifestyle is essential
If you want to consider owning a Labrador, you will need a lifestyle that is quite active so it suits your dog. Mel says she loves to be outdoors gardening or walking. She also tries to keep her dogs’ minds active by giving them a job to do.
The best home would have access to open spaces for free running, water for swimming nearby and plenty of attention and company from the owners. Mel says:
“I live in the country so we enjoy long walks and they accompany me wherever I go as much as possible. We enjoy going on holiday together to the seaside and they have accompanied me to several restaurants. Mine travel well.”
They are great companions for children, but need introducing responsibly, due to their exuberance, although Mel says she has found them to be very gentle around children. They need training and stimulation to get the best out of them. Definitely not the dog for a flat!
Jobs to do
Bryn is a Pets as Therapy dog and goes into a local primary school to listen to the children read. He was also in a Flyball team competing in Open competitions winning many rosettes. Flint is currently taking part in the KC Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme. Both Mel’s dogs are Pet Blood Bank donors.
“I walk my dogs daily for an hour’s free off lead run over the fields and a half hour walk/training on lead later in the day. They receive an hours formal training weekly.”
Hair, hair, everywhere!
One of the downsides of Labradors is that, even though they are not a long-haired breed, they shed hair constantly – lots of it! That is why we have had the introduction of crossbreeds, to try and reduce this issue. Labradors have been crossed with Poodles to create the Labradoodle.
As they are a strong dog, obedience training is very important. They require some stimulation to prevent them becoming bored, which may cause them to be destructive. They need company as they are very social dogs and don’t like to be left for too long on their own, but they can be left for several hours occasionally without any problem.
The main issue for a Labrador is hips. Please ensure you check the breeder has had the dog and bitch hip and eye scored before you purchase. Mel says the scores from Bryn were very good but with the rescue dog she had no information. This means there may be a risk of hip dysplasia in future, which is painful and life-limiting. The only problem Mel has encountered has been with them catching or ripping their dew claws due to them being so active. Labradors are also prone to fatty lumps.
“My advice would be if you put in the work it will be worth it and you will have a wonderful faithful companion. Buying a puppy is just the start of the journey.
“What I love about their characters is that they are still puppies at heart and are full of joy at life. They are very loving and affectionate and want to please. They are such faithful pals to me and each other. I can’t imagine being without them.”
Thank you so much Mel, for your lovely information about this No 1 breed!
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