Labrador Retrievers – A Very Versatile Breed
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Labrador Retrievers
A Labrador is a wonderful and loving breed for people with children and other pets provided they are socialized as puppies, and individuals looking for an intelligent dog that is suitable for many activities. Labradors have a great love of being outdoors and enjoy long walks and romps with the family. Labs are not shy or nervous dogs, which means they are usually not afraid of things. They are usually very good watchdogs and will bark when they hear or see something unusual. They’re not true guard dogs but are very protective of their families and will bark when strangers approach. When they are not being a watchdog, labs are friendly, reliable, and trustworthy.
Labs are used in many different activities and events . Labrador Retrievers are sporting dogs. They were originally bred to retrieve birds, like pheasants. With labs helping them, people long ago could find food to eat.
These days labs can work as assistance dogs for people with disabilities, as search and rescue dogs, as drug detection dogs with the police, and more. They are good companions and sensitive therapy dogs. They enjoy fun activities like flyball and agility. They are very social. That means they like people and other animals.
Labs are happy to hang out with you and do whatever you are doing. It would be a good thing to walk your Labrador every day even if he has a large yard. Labradors need exercise often .They love to play! Labs are energetic and enjoy being active, playing games, and participating in activities like flyball, agility, swimming, tracking, and obedience. They especially enjoy ball and retrieving games like fetch. Spending as much time as you can with your Labrador will make him the happiest dog on earth. A lab can truly be your best friend.
There’s one thing that almost all labs want you to know about them – they love to play fetch. Throw a ball and watch them run!
Appearance of Labradors
Labs are very muscular dogs with highly expressive eyes, an appearance of a smile on their face and medium sized ears that frame their face. They’re strong dogs with very straight body lines and a thick tail that gradually tapers down to a point. A Labrador retriever’s tail looks very similar to the tail of an otter. Did you know that ?. Labs are energetic tail waggers and will carry their tail higher when tracking or scenting than when playing. Labradors also have webbed toes that make them excellent swimmers.
Labs are large dogs, with males weighing between 27 and 34Kg when fully grown, and some even reaching closer to 45Kg. Females typically range in weight from 24 and 31Kg. Average height for males is 58cm, and for females 55cm.
A healthy Labrador retriever has two coats. Underneath the beautiful coat that you can see, is a soft, thick undercoat that helps keep him warm and dry. Even though a labrador’s hair is short, he will shed. Brushing him once a week with a pin brush or wire brush will help keep the hair in the brush and not on the floor. Brushing also feels good to your dog and helps keep his skin healthy. Bathing your Labrador will help keep him clean and smelling good. Labs love water, so bathing is usually a fun activity for them.
Which color is your favorite?
There are three different colors of Labs recognized by the Kennel Union of South Africa and they are black, yellow ( light cream to fox red), and chocolate (light to dark brown). There’s also a coat color that rarely appears that is known by some associations as silver, but this is not recognized by KUSA. Some breeders believe that this is an emerging color whereas others believe that the Lab line has been crossed with a Weimaraner to produce this variation of coat color. There is no purebred dog called a Golden Lab. Your dog is either a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever. Labradors that are a gold color, are called yellow labs.
Training Your Lab – Behaviors – Know your breed
Labs have certain types of behaviors that are natural and even desirable. Unfortunately there are also some behaviors that become problematic and even potentially dangerous. Teaching your Lab at an early age how to play and interact or socialize with people, pets and children is a great way to prevent any negative behaviors from becoming a problem.
It’s good to go outside and spend time with your dog, or to let your Labrador in the house. If he has learned the house rules, everyone will be happy to have him in the house. House training a puppy or older dog is not necessarily a challenge, nor does it have to be traumatic for the owners (or the dogs).
Crate training is a wonderful strategy that is quick, effective, and prevents soiling of the carpet or living area. Imediately after eating or drinking the puppy is placed in the crate. It is best to purchase a crate large enough to house your puppy when he becomes an adult , and in an area where the puppy can still see people and not feel punished or isolated. Toys and a soft blanket should be in the crate at all times.
It is natural instinct for a dog not to mess in its den. This will help the dog to hold its bladder while in the crate. Be sure to take the puppy or dog out regularly, though, as they can become very stressed if not given proper opportunity to get outside. Make sure the first place he goes when you let him out is outside to potty About 15 minutes after eating, take the puppy out of the crate and take them outside and place them in the area you wish them to use. If the puppy does urinate or defecate, praise them and bring them back into the house for some attention. If they do not, return them to the crate for another 5 minutes, and try again. Repeat the process until the dog relieves itself. Follow with lots of praise and attention. Only praise him when he potties outside. He will learn that it makes you happy when he potties outside. This will help to potty train your pup in just a few days.
It will also become a place of comfort and security throughout your dog’s life. Crate your puppy at night, during naps and whenever you cannot supervise him.
Begging, whining or pawing at the table should never be accepted behavior for your dog.
If your puppy jumps up, walk backwards or turn around and say “OFF”. Reward him only when all four paws are on the ground. If more control is needed, put him on a leash whenever you are expecting guests. Praise him only when he stays down. If your puppy has mastered the “SIT” command, instruct your dog to sit every time someone enters. Reward him for correct behavior. Repeating this exercise will reinforce it.
TEETHING AND CHEWING
Your pup is and will remain teething for up to a year. When he attempts to chew something you don’t want him to, don’t scold him, simply tell him NO, take it and replace it with something he can chew. Praise him for chewing the proper item.
Labs love to put things in their mouths! They have to be watched very carefully when they are young so they don’t eat anything that could be dangerous. They can also eat your mom’s dining room table, so keep an eye on your growing puppy! Puppies naturally bite and chew as they hit the stage of teething. This happens between about four to five months of age, and the behaviors can continue until they reach a year. Some Labs continue to chew and bite as they get older, usually because bad habits have been allowed to form. Be prepared for teething, chewing and biting, and provide a wide selection of chew toys. Puppies may also not realize that biting and chewing is painful and need to be told, with a loud “Ouch” or “No”, when they bite and cause pain. Their mother and littermates usually teach puppies this, as they will yelp when bitten too hard. Puppies removed from the litter before 8 weeks do not always have this experience and need to be taught by their human caregivers. When a puppy bites or chews, immediately the “Ouch” or “No” should be said, followed by the substitution of a chew toy. The puppy or dog should then be rewarded with praise for chewing or biting the toy.
Toys And Chews That Are Safe For Your Lab:
Many people buy dog toys and chews that are cute, fun, noisy or soft and cuddly for their pets. The problem is that many of these items also pose choking and health risks for your dog. They may even contain potentially dangerous substances as well as be a source of allergies for you dog. By taking some time to read the labels, as well as following a few simple guidelines, you can choose dog toys and chews that are safe and entertaining for your dog. When planning to purchase dog toys and chews, safety for your pet should be your first consideration. Many dogs will love to play with toys that are not safe for them to have. Watch the type of toys and chews that your dog naturally picks when you’re playing and then try to find safe versions of the same products. The following tips will help in your selection:
• Size– the toys or chews should be the correct size for the dog. Toys that are too large are not fun for the dog as they cannot grasp them in their teeth or paws. Toys or chews that are too small can be easily demolished and parts swallowed or simply swallowed whole. This poses a potential health risk and may even cause death if the toy obstructs the digestive tract or becomes lodged in the back of the dog’s mouth or throat. The toy needs to be small enough that the dog can grasp it but not so small that it can be fully enclosed in the mouth. Small, very bouncy balls are often sold as dog toys and these pose a very real hazard for larger dogs. The small balls can easily be swallowed and can lodge in the throat resulting in death in a few minutes.
• Materials – dog toys and chews should be made out of a durable material. Toys like Kong chew and Nylabone chews are virtually indestructible provided they are purchased in the correct size. Some of the cute squeaky toys sold for puppies are very dangerous, as the puppy will chew on the “squeak” and will swallow the item. They may also simply rip apart the toy and try to eat the thin rubber pieces. These are both choking and intestinal hazards and should be avoided or only used when the puppy is closely supervised. Any signs of tears in the rubber should immediately result in throwing the toy away.
• Stuffed toys – for most puppies, stuffed toys should not be an option, as they will quickly tear the toy apart and often eat the stuffing. Sometimes the chemicals that the stuffing has been treated with can be potentially dangerous but the stuffing itself can lodge in the throat or stomach of the puppy and cause blockages. Stuffing usually will not show up on an X-ray so it makes surgery and successful treatment of the blockage very difficult for the vet. Some older dogs do well with “dog proof” stuffed toys sold at pet stores. They like to carry around their favorite stuffed toy and this is no problem provided they do not chew the fabric. Remember that stuffed toys can carry bacteria or other germs and should be washed frequently, especially if other dogs have played with the toy.
Providing a good variety of dog toys and chews for your pet will help them exercise, entertain themselves when you are away, as well as keep their attention off your furniture and shoes. Toys and chews are very safe provided you choose wisely and avoid chews and toys that are the incorrect size or made of the wrong material. Balls, Frisbees, rings and hoops are all toys that most dogs love to play with and will give the family and the dog hours of fun and enjoyment.
One of the best options is to prepare a digging area in the yard and teach the dog to dig there. Bones and toys can be hidden in the dirt to teach the dog to dig in this area only. Reward “correct digging” and make other areas less desirable to dig in. Dogs generally don’t enjoy digging in wet areas so filling up holes with water can detract from digging. A fine mesh just under the surface of the ground can also be effective.
Providing lots of toys and exercise is one of the best ways to keep digging dogs busy. Often dogs dig or bite and chew out of boredom, so balls, sticks, and even other dogs to play with during the day is often enough to provide a distraction.
There are many professional trainers and obedience classes that can help dog owners understand the reasons behind some of the more difficult to correct behaviors that their dogs may exhibit.
Labs don’t like to be left alone very much. They get very lonely when left in the yard with nothing to do. If they get too lonely, they might dig or bark too much.
Puppy Psychology & Training
It is important that your lab start learning his manners when he is young. Spend lots of time with him from an early age so he is comfortable with you. Roll him over, touch his feet, look at his teeth, and brush him gently. This will help him get used to being handled and he will be a better companion when he gets older.
Some labs like to get to know new people before becoming their friend. So as your dog grows up, be sure to take him lots of places. Socializing your pup from an early age will help him become comfortable wherever he goes.
They are very independent which means that sometimes Labs want to do things their own way. You will need to be strong and consistent when you work with your dog. Labs require firm and consistent training but are very intelligent and learn quickly. Unlike some breeds, Labs tend to enjoy repetitive activities such as fetching and obedience. They respond very well to positive praise and attention and usually only require a slight change in the owner’s tone of voice to realize that they are being corrected or disciplined. Labs, like all large dogs, often don’t realize that they are able to knock people over when they jump up or play, especially when they are puppies. Teaching your Lab to stay down and sit when greeting people rather than jumping up will prevent any accidents or possible problems.
Dogs don’t feel human emotions, nor do they understand English. They understand LOVE, REPETITION, CONSISTENCY and TONE OF VOICE. You and your family are its new PACK. I’m not suggesting you start acting like a dog, but don’t ruin your dog by humanizing it or treating it like a baby. What I mean to say is: There are NO bad dogs, just bad owners that don’t realize dogs can’t read minds and they can’t tell you what they want. Over time, your habits will be reflected in your dog, so be patient and think through what your goals are before you begin teaching. Discuss with your family the commands you want your new puppy to learn and rules it will live by and as a family, stay consistent. This is the GOLDEN RULE to having a well trained happy pet, especially in families with young children.
MOODS and TONE OF VOICE:
Dogs don’t understand English, but they do understand your moods and tone of voice. They can ever feel your stress through the leash when you walk them. As you get to know your dog, you’ll be able to see if it “senses” your emotions, so do not confuse it by playing sarcastically. If you are HAPPY your dog will learn that tone. If you are sad or upset it will try to comfort you or make you happy as it would do to the pack leader. Be very aware that your sadness or anger is not directed at your pet when it is trying to comfort you. That is confusing to a dog as it would be to a child. Your tone in these situations is key, and it is the key reason why dogs respond differently to male and female voices. The lower tone in a male’s voice makes a dog think it is the dominant pack member. The higher pitch in a female’s voice makes a dog think it is happier and more playful. To a dog, dad is the rule giver, and mom is the softy, which is why most women have more trouble gaining a dog’s respect and a harder time training a dog. They have to work harder and stay consistent. In time your dog will understand REPITITION and CONSISTANCY from the entire family, even children.
5 RULES TO A WELL TRAINED DOG:
3. Tone of voice
4. Praise good behaviour
5. Never reprimand unless you “catch them in the act”
Labradors love to train and be under command, especially if he can sense that you are pleased with his actions. You are his teacher and he will learn everything from you, including bad habits. Praising at the proper time is far more effective than scolding. Be very careful not to break his spirit when scolding him. A broken dog is not the same as an obedient dog.
Avoid “tug-of-war” It teaches destructive behaviour. And someone might get hurt.
Avoid “chase” games. This will give your dog a bad habit of running away.
The “COME” command is the most crucial skill to teach your dog. This should be done in the first few weeks at home. It can keep him from danger. If your pup does not come when you call, DON’T chase him. This will enforce stubbornness. Call him ONCE and go get him with a leash if he doesn’t. Praise him and reward him a lot when he comes. He will soon associate coming to your call as a good thing.
Playing rough will only lead to disaster when he is fully grown.
NEVER Strike or kick your dog. Although it sometimes takes a lot of patience and consistency, praise will always get you more than force. Teach your dog to please you and you will have a buddy for life.
Training Dogs & Puppies
If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, start searching for a puppy socialisation class. This is a group where puppies and their owners can meet and discuss problems. The trainer will give the owners advice on how to bring up the dog to be obedient and well-behaved. While the puppies play with other puppies, they are learning to respect each other and not start fights. It’s never too late to train a dog. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks but it may take longer! Animal behavioursists are folk who specialise in correcting problem behaviour. It’s often the owner whose behaviour need modifying! Many of us tend to “spoil” our dogs by treating them as humans. Dogs can be problematic if they are not trained. Most dogs enjoy the attention we give them in training sessions. Training is about building up a relationship with your dog! What is your relationship to your dog? Are you and your dog pals? NO! You are the leader – and the relationship must be on your terms. A dog will always try to pull his owner’s strings and make the owner dance like a puppet. It should be the other way around! Give your dog love and attention only when it suits you! Call the dog to you frequently and give affection. Ignore the dog when he is behaving badly to get your attention. There is no need to bow down and worship your dog every time he rolls on his back and asks for a tummy rub. Instead, call the dog to you, and say, “Want a tummy rub? Roll over!” Punishing the dog will not help. He does not understand. Rather try to reward good behaviour. To begin with, carry around small titbits of food in your pocket and when you see the dog about to sit, say “SIT!” and then give the reward and lots of praise. Eventually the dog will obey for praise only. The first two months of a dog’s life is a crucial learning time. Try to spend as much time as you can with your puppy so that he bonds with you. It will be worth it in the long run! You CAN teach an old dog new tricks, but it takes longer! Be patient with a puppy’s potty-training! The bladder and bowel control will improve with time. So will your dog’s understanding of what you want him to do. Puppies need to eliminate immediately on waking up from a nap, and after meals, so take them outside as soon as they sniff the floor. Keep the training sessions short, and repeat often. Get a puppy used to a lead by letting him run around with the lead trailing behind. Once he is used to this, start gentle short walks with the dog on your left. Tug the lead up if he pulls ahead. YOU must lead – not the dog! Keep smiling! Make the sessions short and enjoyable. Check our “Links” pg for a link to Pets Publications and McKaynine Training Centre.