How to Buy a Labrador Retriever Puppy
Labrador retrievers are friendly, outgoing, and eager-to-please dogs. They are best known as waterfowl retrieving dogs but also are very widely used as service dogs, guide dogs, and search and rescue dogs. As smart, athletic dogs that can be trained for nearly any task, they also make wonderful pets for active families.
Getting a Labrador Retriever Puppy From a Rescue
1. Read up on Labradors.
Labradors can be very high energy dogs and are fairly large animals when full grown. There are books on the market that offer guidelines to help you make a choice of breed or temperament. For instance, The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior, by Doctors Benjamin and Lynette Hart may be helpful or The Right Dog for You by Daniel Tortora is another resource to help you with your decision.
- Another way to learn about Labs is to read about the breed's history and standard.
- Educate yourself about temperament testing a dog or puppy as a method to help you choose a dog that fits your family and lifestyle. There are many resources out there on the subject.
- A puppy that is really high energy may be the right fit for an active family able to exercise this kind of pet, but may be too much energy for another family. Puppies who are extremely shy may prove overly fearful later and require extra attention toward socialization to prevent serious behavior issues.
2. Consider the timing when bringing a new puppy into your home.
Are you going to have the time to housebreak the puppy and socialize it properly? Are you on vacation when you first get the puppy and then have to go back to work leaving the puppy alone all day? Prepare and educate yourself so that your puppy's start in your home is successful.
3. Find a breed-specific Labrador retriever rescue group.
Contact dog rescue groups in your area. You may be able to get contact information from your local humane society, dog officer, veterinarian's office or other pet-related businesses about local rescue organizations.You can visit the American Kennel Club (AKC) website for contact information for breed-specific rescue groups in your state.
4. Fill out an application at a rescue group you like.
Many rescue groups have an extensive placement process. They will require an application, an interview and a home visit to ensure a successful adoption. Some may even ask to consult your current veterinarian for information about you and previous pets.
- If you don't own your home, also be prepared to have a letter from your landlord stating that you are allowed to have a dog. While this may seem excessive to some people, the rescue group is attempting to place the dog with a family in a home that is prepared and willing to deal with the new responsibility of adding a family member. The rescue group does not want to add to the dog's unrest with unsuccessful placements.
- If you have an existing dog, that dog will need to be evaluated as well to make sure that the dogs will get along.
5. Ensure that you are dealing with a legitimate rescue group and meet with your potential puppy.
Any puppy coming from a rescue should be fully checked by a veterinarian for basic health, parasites and vaccinations before they are adopted. Generally, they will be spayed or neutered before they go to their new homes or you will sign a contract to do so in the near future. Beware of any rescue group who skips these steps.
6. Adopt the puppy.
Be sure that you understand the amount of work a puppy entails, as well as the extra work that a puppy with a rough past might require in order to train or socialize. Also be prepared for the extra love they will provide you!
Getting a Labrador Retriever Puppy From a Breeder
1. Meet a Labrador Retriever in person.
While there is only one breed of Labradors, the gene pool is large and there can be big differences between dogs who are specifically bred for certain purposes.
- By attending a conformation show, you will get to meet show-bred Labs and their breeders. These Labs are bred with special attention paid to their physical appearance.
- If you would like to meet Labs especially selected for hunting and working ability, visit a hunt test or field trial. These field-bred dogs are selected for traits such as intelligence, ease of training, athletic ability and natural hunting skills.
- You can find wonderful labs of all types at agility, obedience, and tracking tests (and many other different types of competitions). Contact The Labrador Retriever Club or the The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada for details and also listings of events where Labs will be showcased. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has listing for breeders and shows on their website in addition to the AKC breed standards.
2. Prepare your budget.
Getting a new puppy should not be done on a whim. This is a long term commitment that has associated costs. Consider the cost of buying a puppy from a breeder, veterinary care including basics such as vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm prevention as well as spaying/neutering in your planning. Food, grooming, and training costs require budgeting.
- Accommodations for vacation and travel as well as fencing and housing need planning.
- Are you prepared for medical emergencies? There are many pet health insurance companies that offer affordable plans, but require monthly payments.
- Do you want to get into showing your dog? There are costs associated with those activities, too.
3. Locate reputable Labrador Retriever breeders on order to purchase a purebred Lab.
Attend area dog shows, obedience trials, or hunt tests in your area where Labs and their owners gather. Discover which dogs you like and ask to be referred to their breeder.
- Visit the AKC website for referrals to Labrador retriever breeders nationwide.
4. Meet with the breeder in person.
It is a good idea to visit several local breeders before deciding who you want to buy your puppy from. Do not buy a puppy from the first breeder you visit.
- You may want to expand your search outside your own local area in order to find the best breeder and puppy for your needs.
5. Ask any potential breeders questions about the Labrador breed.
Find out what they know about the care and breeding of Labrador puppies to measure their level of knowledge.
- You should also ask if the breeder provides ongoing support if you need it, and if they will take the dog back if you can no longer keep it.
- Buying a puppy from a breeder with all the documentation and parent testing does not guarantee a healthy puppy, unfortunately. However, buying a puppy without responsible breeding practices is highly likely to bring puppies into the world who have health issues that you (and the dog) will be paying for later.
6. Meet your potential puppy in person.
Get to know their personality a bit before you commit to paying to adopt them. If the breeder does not want you to meet the dog before you commit to buying it, that should be a warning sign that something is amiss.
- Try playing with the puppy and see how it reacts to you. Your new puppy should have a good temperament. A well tempered puppy should not be overly aggressive or overly shy.
7. Adopt your puppy.
Pay the breeder for the puppy and then take your new family member home! Remember to be gentle and calm with your new puppy. They will most likely be a little bit uncertain and scared when leaving the breeders home.
- Assure that the breeder gives you all the paperwork they have for your dog.
Avoiding Bad Breeding Situations
1. Request to see the health certification of the parent dogs for any puppy you are considering.
Don't settle for excuses. You deserve a healthy puppy and this takes knowledge and planning on the breeder's part.
- Check the pedigree papers to see if there are a high number of titled dogs in the first and second generations. If a puppy's ancestor was titled, initials such as FC, JH, CH, CD, OTCH or WC will appear before or after the dog's name. Although most pedigree papers show three to five generations, the first two are of the most important. These titles show that the dog was able to meet minimum performance standards and is likely a well socialized, trainable dog. Higher level titles show exceptional intelligence, team work and trainability which should mean that offspring also have a higher likelihood of being smart and easy to train.
2. Review your potential dog's health records, including all immunizations, clearances and guarantees.
If you are getting your dog from a breeder, ask to see the papers for the sire and dam of the litter.
- Verify that both parents are at least 2 years old. Final hip clearances cannot be given before that age. Even if the dog had a hip clearance screening at a younger age, it is still possible for problems to develop that would prevent certification once the dog reached 2 years old. Check the parents' papers to make sure both dogs have hip certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals as well as registration from either the Canine Eye Registry Foundation or a current annual eye clearance from a veterinary ophthalmologist.
3. Find out how the puppies will be raised before they are adopted out.
Where will the puppies be born and raised? Will they get regular handling and socialization from a young age? What sorts of experiences will they encounter? At what age will they be allowed to go to their new homes? Puppies should never go to a new home until they are at least 8 weeks of age. In some states, like California, that is the law.
- It's a good idea to see the puppy with its mother and litter mates. That way you know that the dog was not born in a puppy mill and that the breeder is actually breeding the dogs.
4. Avoid getting a lab puppy at a pet store.
Sold as Labrador Retrievers, cross-bred dogs or poorly-bred Labs are commonly found in pet stores. Quite often, pet stores get puppies from puppy mills who breed indiscriminately and without regard for the health or quality of the dogs. The breeding pairs, particularly the dams, are housed in poor conditions and the puppies rarely socialized.
- Some states are cracking down on puppy mills and the pet stores that buy from them, but the practice is still quite common. Be forewarned that buying from a pet store encourages the puppy mill problem and increases the likelihood of problems for you later.
- Some pet stores offer space to rescue groups for adoption events, this is a different situation entirely and should be encouraged.
- Once again, it's best to see a puppy while it is still with its mother and litter mates. This will show you that the dog was not breed in a puppy mill or other horrible conditions.
5. Don't buy from a breeder online without visiting the breeder's location.
Even some local breeders will not allow you to visit and want to meet in a parking lot, or somewhere off site. This should be a red flag to stay away from this breeder.
- Think first before considering having a puppy shipped. Shipping puppies is very stressful on them and often results in a sick puppy when you pick them up from the airport. A health guarantee does not actually guarantee against everything that might happen to the puppy, and, if your puppy is sick when you get it, what recourse do you have if the breeder is thousands of miles away?
6. Avoid adopting or buying a dog that is in ill health.
A healthy dog should be clean, well fed and energetic, with clear eyes, nose and ears. The puppy should have a nice hair coat without mats or fecal material and nails trimmed. Their appetite might be off a few days at first, but the puppy should be eating and drinking. No vomiting, no diarrhea should be present.
7. Avoid dealing with dog brokers who are not transparent about their breeders.
There are people who do not breed the dogs themselves, but act as brokers for puppies. Getting dogs from various sources and advertising and selling the puppies to unsuspecting people is how they make money. Again, ask to visit the breeder's location if you want to deal with a broker. If that is not possible, keep looking.
8. Avoid buying a dog from local classified listings.
Labrador retrievers are frequently bred and sold without papers through classified listings. This is a great way to find a cheap puppy that will need a lot of future health care, so start saving for vet bills now.
- Similarly, don't adopt a puppy being sold by the box out front of a store. Impulse purchases are never a good idea. Remember that buying a sickly or sad looking puppy does not just save that puppy, it also funds further irresponsible breeding. It is not a good idea for you for supporting unethical breeding practices is not advised.
- To help with the transition to a new home, the breeder or rescue should provide you at least with the name of the diet the puppy was fed, if not a sample bag of the food. Giving your new dog the same food will minimize stomach upset and encourage eating a familiar diet in their new place. If you choose to change the food later, do so with the help of your veterinarian and transition gradually over a week or two.
- Adopt a grown Lab from your local humane society if you are looking for a good companion. While not all rescue labs are purebred, or from registered or health certified parents, they can be wonderful pets. These dogs may have uncertain health or behavior histories, but the rescue or humane society should be able to provide some information about the dog's history.
- All breeding dogs should have their eyes examined by a board certified ophthalmologist prior to breeding. Be aware that not all breeders engage in pre-breeding testing and be sure to select a breeder who does all testing and is willing to show you the results. Results of testing can also be viewed online at [www.offa.org]
- Do not buy a puppy for someone else. This is a very personal decision and a very costly decision and should not be taken lightly. Choosing a puppy is part of the bonding process.
- Labs are prone to several hereditary illnesses which can be prevented or reduced with proper screening of breeding dogs. Labradors should be tested for Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Exercise-Induced Collapse, Centronuclear Myopathy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Retinal Dysplasia prior to breeding.