How to Select a Labrador Retriever
Labradors are the most popular pedigree dog in the US. They are easy to train and they make excellent family dogs. When considering taking on a dog, always think about your lifestyle and your ability to care for the animal long-term. Your new canine companion will be your responsibility for the next 10 - 14 years, or longer. To select a Labrador retriever, consider what you want out of the dog and review your options for where to find a lab.
Thinking About What You Want in a Labrador
1. Decide if your personality and lifestyle will be a good fit for a Lab.
Labs crave company and stimulation, so it is important for you to spend lots of time with your Lab and to invest time and energy in training your Lab. Be honest with yourself about how much time and energy you will be able to invest in your dog.
- Think about your how much time you spend away from home. If you are often not home due to work or other lifestyle factors, then a Lab may not be the ideal pet for you.
- Determine whether you are willing and able to train a dog. Labs are easy to train and they enjoy the stimulation. Before you decide to get a dog, think realistically about how much time you will be able to devote to training your Lab. If you do not plan to train your dog due to time or energy constraints, then a dog may not be the best choice.
- Consider other lifestyle factors. Labs are great with kids and other pets as well, so a Lab may be a good fit if you have kids and/or other pets.
2. Decide if you have the time and energy for a Lab puppy.
Puppies are hard to train and they require lots of time as well. Before you decide to get a puppy, think about your lifestyle and the amount of time that you can devote to raising a puppy.
- For example, will you be willing to get woken up every couple of hours in the middle of the night if your puppy is crying? Will you be able to manage if your puppy chews up one of your favorite pairs of shoes? Are you willing to clean up urine and feces accidents during the housetraining process? If not, then consider adopting an adult dog.
- On the other hand, there are some positives to getting a puppy. Training your Labrador from a young age creates a fantastic bond between the two of you and you will get to enjoy watching your pet grow and mature.
3. Think about adopting an adult Lab.
Some of the positives of taking on an adult dog is that they are often already house broken and may even know some basic commands, such as sit and stay. Therefore, if you don't have the time or desire to housetrain a dog, then adopting an adult could be the best option for you.
- One potential downside of an adult dog is he may not be trained, and adult dogs may be harder to train. Also, some dogs may not have been well-socialized and may get spooked by certain things such as other dogs, strangers, etc. Consider whether you have the necessary training skills to correct these problems should you encounter them.
4. Decide whether to get a male or female Lab.
Gender is not a big deal unless you already have a dog. If you own a dog already, then getting a dog of the opposite gender will provide the best chance of harmony between your pets.
- Male dogs tend to be a bit more aggressive, but these behaviors can be controlled with training.
- Female dogs often more easygoing, but Labs are such a relaxed breed that this doesn't really matter too much.
- Regardless of the gender of your dog, make sure that you spay or neuter the dog unless you intend to breed it.
5. Identify what the dog’s role will be.
The Labrador’s willingness to please makes them easy to train and they make great working dogs. They have many roles in society, ranging from their origins as gun dogs retrieving game, to assistance dogs for the visually impaired.
- If you are looking for certain characteristics in a dog for working purposes, then be sure to source a purebred dog from a breeder who raises dogs with the characteristics you require.
6. Select a color.
The most common Lab colors are black, yellow, and chocolate. All colors of Labradors are easy to train, but chocolate Labradors do have a reputation for being more disobedient than their yellow or black cousins. However, there is much debate among breeders and Lab owners about this reputation.
- Keep in mind that all dogs have different personalities and abilities regardless of color, so color choice is more about your personal preference than anything else.
Adopting a Labrador
1. Consider adopting a Lab.
Adopting a Lab from a shelter or rescue group is a great thing to do, as these dogs are often loving, loyal animals who through no fault of their own have ended up in a rescue. Just keep in mind that adopting a Lab can mean compromising on little things such as the dog’s color, age, or gender.
2. Look into a breed-specific Labrador retriever rescue group.
Most dog breeds have fans who work to ensure that special dog breeds, such as Labradors, have good homes. Check to see if there are any Labrador rescue groups in your area with dogs available for adoption.
- You may be able to get contact information for local rescue organizations from your local humane society, veterinarian's office, or pet shop.
- Keep in mind that dogs who end up in rescue programs are not there because they are bad. Owners may give up their dogs because of life circumstances such as a divorce, job loss, or physical condition. Other times a dog may end up in a rescue program because the owner did not fully consider the financial and/or time commitment that a dog requires.
3. Ask about a trial period.
If you are nervous about adopting a dog, keep in mind that many adoption agencies offer or even require a trial period for qualified adopters. During the trial period, you will be able to take the dog home for a week to see if you are a good match for each other.
- Even if you do not have to or want to do a trial period, it is important to meet your potential new pet. Spend some time with him or her before you decide if this is the dog for you. Shelters often have special areas for prospective pet owners and their family members (people and pets) to get to know a potential new member.
Using a Breeder
1. Use a responsible breeder if you decide to purchase a Lab.
It is important to find a responsible breeder in order to get a healthy, well-socialized Lab. By seeking out a responsible breeder, you can also avoid supporting breeders who do not take good care of their dogs. You can find a responsible breeder by checking with your local American Kennel Club.
- Try searching the AKC directory for a responsible breeder in your area: https://www.apps.akc.org/apps/clubs/search/index.cfm
2. Request to see the puppies with their mother.
If you decide to go through a breeder, make sure that you visit the breeder and see the pups with the mother. Never buy a puppy if you are not allowed to see the mother, no matter what the excuse. Puppy mills separate puppies from the mother at a young age, so she doesn’t get to nurse them and so that she can get pregnant again.
- Young pups without a mother are a strong indication that you are dealing with a puppy mill. Do not encourage this immoral trade by purchasing their pups.
3. Meet with the Lab breeder in person.
It is a good idea to visit a few different 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 even want to expand your search outside of your own local area in order to find the best breeder and puppy for your needs.
- Never buy from a breeder online without visiting the breeder’s location. If a breeder does not allow you to visit and wants to meet up somewhere else, then this should be a red flag to stay away from this breeder.
- Never have a puppy shipped. Shipping puppies is very stressful on them and often results in a sick, frightened puppy when you pick them up from the airport.
4. Meet your potential puppy.
It is a good idea to get to know your potential puppy before you commit. If the breeder does not want you to meet the dog before you commit to buying it, then that should be a warning sign that something is wrong.
- See how the Lab reacts to you. Try some basic commands see how he responds. See if the puppy is curious and comes to investigate (this is a good sign) or if he cowers in a corner (this is a sign of timidity). Watch how he interacts with the other puppies as well. He should seem playful and energetic.
5. Look for signs of good health.
A puppy that has been raised by a responsible breeder will seem healthy, energetic, and well-fed. If the puppy seems lethargic, malnourished, or has other signs of illness like a runny nose, cough, or skin sores, then that will indicate that the puppy is in poor health. Do not purchase a puppy from this breeder.
6. Review the Lab's health records.
The breeder should be willing to show you the 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 mother and father of the puppy.
- Be aware that Labradors are prone to a number of hereditary diseases which are passed down along the generations. Responsible breeders will try to eliminate these diseases, which involves the breeder submitting their breeding stock to genetic tests and radiographs to work out if they are carriers or at risk of transmitting, certain conditions.
- Keep in mind that these tests cost the breeder money, so you will need to pay more for a puppy from screened parents. The payback is that the puppy is less likely to develop serious conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or eyesight problems.
- Taking on a pet is a long-term commitment, so make sure that you take plenty of time to consider your decision and make sure that you can afford to care for the animal for its entire life.