So, you decided you want to bring a new dog into your home? Great! After thinking long and hard about what you want from your future four-legged friend, you’ve finally narrowed your choice down to America’s most lovable breed – the Labrador Retriever. We are here to help break down everything you need to know about this breed so you are fully prepared to bring one home to join your family!
Basic Characteristics of Labs
Labs are sporting dogs and have an athletic, muscular build. Males measure around 23-24 inches at the shoulder, with females coming in slightly shorter, around 21-22 inches. When it comes to weight, pet parents can expect their labs to weigh anywhere between 55-80 pounds, with females typically weighing slightly less than the males.
Labs possess a broad head, with welcoming eyes. They have athletically built bodies that are covered by a short, thick double coat (think of a wetsuit), which helps protect them from harsh conditions, such as the cold and wet. Their coats can come in three different colors, chocolate, black, and yellow.
Many breeders will sell the “rare” red or white-colored labs; however, these are just variations of a yellow lab. One significant feature of a Lab is its “otter tail”. Bred to retrieve birds, this tail helps Labs to swim fluidly in water.
Grooming and Varieties
As far as grooming, be prepared to have dog hair become an integrated part of your life. Labs shed—there’s no sugarcoating it. However, to minimize the amount of dog hair that you find around the house, its recommended that you brush your pup daily.
Labrador Retrievers love the water, but when it comes to bathing owners really only have to bath them once every month or two. However, if your water lovin’ pup does decide to take a dip in the pool or ocean, you may want to wash her off so her coat will be clean from any chemicals or salt, which can cause skin irritations.
It’s also important to note here that this breed is prone to ear infections. In order to avoid an infection, it’s always a good idea after a swim or a bath to clean the ears and make sure they are dry.
As a final note on grooming, you may want to keep an eye on your pup’s teeth and nails. Brushing your dog’s teeth a few times a week and keeping their nails trimmed help in overall health and appearance.
There’s a perfectly good reason why Labs are the most popular dogs in the nation. Not only do Labs make good pets, but because of their eager-to-please temperaments, they also make excellent working dogs, such as hunting dogs, service dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Labs are very sweet dogs. It’s no wonder that they easily adapt to their surroundings and focus on the people around them. While they are very intelligent and easy to train, they crave attention from their people and hate being alone.
When you do bring your dog home, make sure you incorporate her into everyday activities as much as possible. If you are concerned about your Lab being home alone while you are at work, you can always consider recruiting a pet sitter to come into their home to check on their Lab or to take him on daily walks for exercise.
Google the “Perfect Family Dog” and the top contenders are, not shockingly, Labs. This breed gets along great with children, adults, and other pets. They love children and are very trustworthy around them. Obviously, proper socialization and training play a role here, but when it comes to family, these dogs are known to be extremely loving.
One strongpoint that Labs typically lack is guarding. If you are looking for a dog to protect and guard your home, you may want to look at other breeds. Since they have such an easy-going personality, if someone does try to come into your home uninvited, it’s very likely your Lab may just excitedly greet them and possibly lick them to death.
Exercising your Lab
Although Labs have excellent demeanors, if they are not well-trained or well-exercised, they can have problematic behaviors. It is very important that they start training at a young age and are socialized with other people including adults and children, as well as other animals. This breed has a lot of energy, so they need to be exercised, mentally, and physically, daily.
It is recommended they get an hour of exercise every single day. This can be broken up into several twenty-minute sessions or one long bout of energy-releasing activity. However, you choose to exercise your dog is up to you but this breed loves to be outside, so consider taking them for a long walk or run, or even a swim!
Being water dogs, they will love you for it! Having a game of fetch is another way to help them let some of that energy loose. As retrievers, they like to do just that! If it were up to them, they would play fetch all day, every day, and never get bored.
As far as mental stimulation, training goes a long way for this breed. Consider signing up for beginner obedience courses as soon as possible. Once you finish that course, inquire about additional training courses.
Some training centers offer various levels of obedience as well as competition training for events such as agility. Whatever you decide to do for training, make sure you have plenty of treats! Labs are extremely food motivated and will love not only learning but also being rewarded for it as well.
It cannot be stressed enough that exercise is very crucial for this breed. If exercise needs are not met, then your dog can become very bored and destructive, and Labs are known for being mouthy. They LOVE to chew! If you treasure your belongings and your sanity, make sure your pup gets plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation.
It may be wise to invest in a few chew toys for tough chewers to keep their mouths occupied while you’re not home or able to play.
These dogs love to eat! It doesn’t matter what it is, dog food, cat food, people food (some are highly skilled counter surfers!), inedible objects, they will try to eat it all! It is very important that you feed high-quality dog food and that you do not overfeed your dog.
Depending on your dog’s age, puppy, adult, or senior, and activity level, you need to make sure you are feeding them the correct amount of food. Its recommended that you feed your dog at least twice a day, typically once in the morning and once in the evening. Most dog food bags have recommendations on the amount of food that is required for your dog’s age and weight.
If you are unsure, you can always talk to your vet to make sure you are feeding your dog the adequate amount that is necessary.
Although Labs can live completely healthy lives, it is important to note that there are certain health concerns that are common with the breed.
Labs are prone to Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. These are inherited conditions that cause extreme pain to the dog’s hips or elbows. Sometimes medication can be provided to help ease the pain and other times surgery is required.
Another health concern is Osteochondrosis Dissecans or OCD, with is an improper growth of cartilage typically in the joints. It causes stiffening to the point where the dog will be unable to bend its elbow. This condition can be detected early in puppyhood, so make sure you ask your vet to check for it.
Labradors can also suffer from eye conditions known as cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA. This is a disease that occurs when the retina begins to deteriorate. As this disease progresses, the dogs begin to lose their eyesight.
Heart problems are also prevalent in Labs. They can have a heart defect known as Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, or TVD, which is a malformation of the valve on the right side of the heart. They are born with this disease and can be detected by an ultrasound. Some dogs live unaffected by this and others sadly pass away.
Bloat, or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, is another serious health concern among Labradors. This is a life-threatening disorder that affects larger dogs and results in the twisting of the stomach. Typically, it is caused when a dog eats too fast, drinks copious amounts of water, or partakes in strenuous activity after eating. Immediate medical attention is required in this situation.
Other common health concerns involve allergies, ear infections, dermatitis, and hypothyroidism.
It is always important to stay up to date with vaccinations and routine veterinary care. If you suspect something may be wrong or that your dog is not feeling well, please seek veterinary attention. Stay proactive when it comes to your dog’s health and if you think something may be off or your dog may be acting strangely, make an appointment with your vet.
Bringing Your New Lab Home
Well there you have it, everything you need to know about the Labrador Retriever. Please keep in mind that while this is general information about the breed, all dogs are different and unique. Not every dog may fit the bill of these descriptions.
Also, because Labs are ever so popular, there are an abundant amount of breed-specific rescues dedicated to helping find homeless dogs a loving home. Before buying a dog from a breeder or a pet store, please seek out rescues to search for your new family member. There are perfectly loving dogs just waiting to find a home like yours.
As always, Space Coast Pet Services is here to help you with all of your pet’s needs! From pet sitting, to dog walking, and even in-home pet visits, we have you and your fur babies covered!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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