Labrador Retriever dogs
Labrador Retrievers are by far the most popular family dogs in the UK, leaving the Golden Retriever and Bernese Mountain dog breeds far behind.
Thinking of bringing a Labrador puppy into your home and want to know whether this is the right breed for you? Here you can learn everything you need to know about Labradors and discover why they are so popular.
Origins of Labrador Retrievers
Originally, these dogs were bred in the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here they became indispensable in helping fishermen - they went out with the fishing boats and would dive into the water to retrieve the fishing nets. They were ideal for this work as they are strong and very good swimmers. Furthermore, they can pick up a fish and carry it to the fisherman without damaging it.
When the need for these working dogs declined in Canada, the breed's popularity moved to the UK. Here it was soon discovered that they could be trained for different purposes and coped well with harsh British climates.
This breed has a good nose so they could be used for tracking game that had been shot and then carry the prey to the hunter. They retrieve birds and other small animals very gently and present them to their owner undamaged. The breed’s usefulness was developed even further by employing their keen sense of smell to retrieve ducks and geese in swampy areas.
As these dogs are so trainable, they are now being used extensively as assistance and guide dogs, rescue dogs, and as search dogs by the police and customs control. They can, for example, be trained to sniff out prohibited substances in travellers' luggage.
Labrador Retrievers’ Appearance
Labrador Retrievers were originally black. Today, however, there are different colour varieties, mostly brown and yellow.
An adult male stands between 55 and 60 centimetres at the shoulder, while females measure 50 and 55 centimetres. Depending on their height, these dogs weigh an average of between 25 and 35 kilograms.
They have a short, firm and very dense coat, with a water resistant undercoat.
Labrador character traits
Labradors are calm, enthusiastic and hard-working dogs. As their owner you are the centre of their existence which is why they will do anything to make you happy. They will also always be friendly to strangers, and so are not particularly suitable as watchdogs. Owners of this breed often joke that their pet will actually help a burglar to carry off all their belongings.
This breed has a lot of energy and loves being outdoors. However, this doesn’t mean that you can leave them outside in the garden or in a kennel. They prefer playing with their human family when outside.
If you want a calm dog indoors, you need to make sure that they can get rid of their energy outside. You should take them for long walks regularly, or even for a swim. By doing this, you should have a quiet, perhaps even lazy, dog indoors.
The ideal environment for Labradors
One of the reasons why this breed is so popular as a family dog is because they get along very well with children. They are very patient and unlikely to react aggressively if a child gets in their way. Children are often afraid of big dogs, but mostly this is not a problem with Labradors because of their gentle appearance. However, you should still never leave small children alone with dogs. Even friendly Labs can react unexpectedly if a child does something they don't like.
These dogs also get along well with other pets. They don’t have a strong hunting instinct so will generally not chase cats, rabbits and birds. While playing with other pets your dog will usually be very gentle - after all, they are used to not biting through even dead prey. You even have to be careful that your Lab doesn’t become too submissive if you have other dogs in the home as well. They are so eager to please that their own needs sometimes take second place.
Adult Labs do not like being left alone at home. With enough stimulation and training, you can leave your dog alone for up to 3 hours, but longer than that is not advisable. Also make sure you have the time to walk your adult dog for at least half-an-hour four times a day - otherwise they will not be able to expend all their energy.
Your dog also needs mental stimulation, both indoors and outdoors. Think of games you can play inside where your dog can be rewarded with a treat. Keep your walks interesting by, for example, playing a game of fetch. Never go out with your dog without introducing an activity and for this you might want to take a toy along.
Without distraction your dog will get bored and you will have to manage an extremely enthusiastic and energetic dog. Play with your dog as much as possible because this is what they enjoy the most.
Raising a Labrador puppy
You are the centre of your Labrador’s universe and they could panic as soon as they know you are angry or annoyed with them. The last thing your dog wants is to be in your bad books. This can pose a problem during training, as they could become insecure and afraid.
It is always better to reward good behaviour rather than punishing your dog when they do something wrong. When your dog does something that is not allowed, rather ignore it and shift their attention to something positive.
A Labrador puppy generally does not learn very quickly, but once they have learnt something, it sticks. Remember that this breed loves to eat and so rewarding good behaviour with a treat works very well.
Always be clear and consistent during training, otherwise your dog might not understand what you want or what behaviour you expect from them. Once a dog is confused they might decide for themselves what is right and this will not necessarily correspond to your expectations.
A young Labrador puppy should not walk as much as an adult dog. Their bones, muscles and joints are not yet fully developed and long walks could cause future problems. For every month of your Labrador puppy’s age you can walk for 5 minutes. So a 2 month old puppy can walk for a maximum of 10 minutes.
Walk your puppy several times a day and make sure that they get used to traffic, other dogs and their owners. Especially during potty training, you might have to go outside 10 times a day to let your puppy relieve themselves.
Feeding your Labrador
This breed, in particular, should be fed only as much as they need. They tend to eat much more than what is good for them and can quickly gain too much weight. Obesity could lead to many different health problems. So don’t be tempted by their pleading look, trust that you have given them enough to eat.
How much you need to feed your dog always depends on their normal weight and average level of activity. On each dog food product page on the Yarrah website you can easily enter these two metrics and then you will get the relevant nutritional advice. For example, an active adult weighing 30 kilograms needs 558 grams per day of our organic adult dog food with chicken.
Ideally you should feed your dog at least twice a day. If you really can’t resist their pleading look, you could always choose to feed them smaller meals several times a day.
Keep in mind that Labrador Retrievers also love treats. However, if you do feed them treats you need to subtract the snack’s calories from the total allowance for the day. For example, the vegetarian dog biscuits for larger dogs contain 310 Kcal per 100 grams and the organic chicken necks contain 358 Kcal per 100 grams. If you feed your dog 558 grams of dog food daily this amounts to 1896 Kcal.
While the above does involve a bit of calculation on your part, it will help to maintain your dog’s health in the long run. Yarrah’s dog food will also contribute towards keeping your dog healthy. All our pet food and snacks are completely free of artificial fragrances, colouring, flavours, pesticides or GMO.
You need to keep an eye on your dog's weight all the time. Even if you follow the dietary guidelines, your dog might still gain weight. Just like humans, some dogs tend to gain weight more easily. To maintain a healthy weight, also make sure that your Lab gets enough exercise - they need to burn the energy provided by their food.
Grooming your Labrador
With this breed there is very little you need to worry about when it comes to grooming. Their coat is essentially self-cleaning, so you don't have to do more than brush them after swimming once their coat has dried. Also run a brush through their coat once a week to remove loose hair as this helps to prevent their hair from ending up all over the house.
Labradors can get very dirty because they love swimming and then rolling in the mud afterwards. However, you don’t have to give them a full bath every time - often a quick brush once they are dry will get rid of the dirt. After a swim, always check that there is nothing stuck in your dog’s ears to avoid the risk of infection.
The overall health of Labrador Retrievers
Like most other large dogs, Labradors are prone to being overweight. As a breed, they are used to living with several dogs and so are always worried that someone else will empty their bowl. They will sprint to their food as soon as you put it down. They could quickly eat too much and then gain weight. Obesity puts strain on a dog’s joints which could damage the joints and eventually make it difficult for them to move around.
So always watch your Labrador Retriever’s weight and provide them with the correct calorie intake. Don't be tempted by your dog's pleading eyes, they will beg for more food even when they are already full.
Because of their droopy ears, this breed is prone to ear infections. Check regularly for anything that might be stuck in their ears or ear flaps. Also make sure that their ears dry properly after a swim. The first sign of an ear infection is if your dog hangs their head to one side. This reduces the pressure on the inflamed ear, and so the pain as well. If your dog’s ear is infected your will probably also notice a bad odour.