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May 03, 2012
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Labradors are avid swimmers, ready to jump in at any opportunity. Those who have loved a Labrador retriever are quick to say that once you've owned a Labrador, everything else is just a dog. There's no doubt the Labrador is a popular dog; they've held the top spot in the American Kennel Club's breed list for more than a decade. These good-natured and loyal companions are trustworthy and even-tempered, but without proper and consistent training, undesirable behaviors can develop. Fortunately, the Labrador retriever's quirks and characteristics are well-documented, and if you know what to expect, you can nip behavioral issues in the bud.
The affable Labrador loves to please, and is very sensitive to their master's moods. Their lack of aggression and gentle, yet outgoing demeanor make them an exceptional family dog, search-and-rescue partner, or guide dog for the blind. This same even temperament makes them a reliable and efficient retriever of game -- their original "job."
Some Labrador lovers say that Labs can be conservative with their emotions around strangers, or that they have a bit of a stubborn streak. These behaviors require patience and behavioral training to keep in check. By socializing your young Lab to accept strangers, you will help ensure that they will not be aggressive or fearful when meeting new people. Physically, the Lab has incredible energy when they're young; they can be clumsy and uncoordinated, knocking down everything in their wake. They will usually calm down and become more mature at three years of age. An avid swimmer, the Lab will readily jump into a cool, still stream or roaring ocean wave. They are bouncy and enthusiastic in their play with other dogs.
Like all dogs, the Lab craves human companionship and wants to be included in their family's regular activities. When a young Lab is left to their own devices and is bored, trouble usually ensues. Labs need variety in their daily routine; when they don't get it, they may chew, dig and bark to relieve their boredom or anxiety. Puppy chewing should not be misconstrued as bad behavior; the young Lab is likely testing an item to see if it is good to eat. They may also chew to relieve the discomfort of teething. Providing the dog with a wide variety of toys can help. Rowdy and rambunctious behavior can develop if the dog doesn't recognize their owner as the pack leader, or if the dog doesn't get enough physical or mental exercise to vent their energy. Plan to give at least an hour or two of vigorous exercise and obedience training each day to make your Lab more manageable, advises September Morn, a dog behavioral consultant with over 25 years experience in training dogs.
When considering a Lab puppy, buy a well-bred dog from a conscientious breeder. A responsible Labrador Retriever breeder goes to great lengths to produce healthy pups with even temperaments. If you purchase a Labrador puppy at a pet store, you are usually getting an ill-bred puppy mill dog with little-to-no socialization, which means behavioral problems down the road. Puppy mills are in the business of breeding dogs for money, with little regard for health or behavior. If caring for a puppy is not your ideal, adopt a mature adult who has had some obedience training and behavioral evaluation within a breed-specific or general rescue organization. You can find breed-specific Lab rescues on Petfinder.org.
AKC Meet the Breeds: Labrador RetrieverTraining Your Labrador Retriever; September MornThe Labrador Retriever; Charlotte Wilcox
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