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complete novice wanting advice on getting a labrador...

(29 Posts)
allag Mon 30-May-11 12:25:48

we live in a ground floor apartment (it's large - around 1700 sq ft) which has a back garden and faces the Park (literally two seconds' walk). We have a four year old and a nineteen month old and we have wanted to get a dog for a long time, and now feel it would be a good time. My DH has had dogs all his life when growing up (parents had collies - although it was in a large country house in Dorset) and i have had a couple of little mongrels so i guess we are not total strangers to it all. The thing is, i have always envisaged a small(ish) dog, whereas DH has his heart set on a labrador - he adores them. I must say I have always loved them too and they sound perfect for a family with children. I guess my concerns are the fact that we are still in a flat, in central london (albeit practically in the park) and that labs are a bit bigger than the dog I envisaged getting. Could anyone please advise on the pros and cons - any advice on the things we need to consider would be hugely appreciated. DH also would consider a beagle, although it sounds as though they miight bark to much for it to be practiceable in a flat. Thank you very much in advance

allag Mon 30-May-11 12:26:48

PS should mention that loads of people in our flat have dogs - so I don't think that there would be a problem with having a dog as such. Thanks

Labradors are large and clumsy and will knock over/walk on your dc's, especially the youngest, a lot.

They need loads of exercise and training to keep them happy.

Beagles are terribly hard work and I couldn't reccomend them less in your situation.

I would think a smallish, adult, very child friendly dog would be your best bet.

allag Mon 30-May-11 12:42:33

thank you. Would anyone be able to suggest any smaller breeds that you think might work?

Elibean Mon 30-May-11 13:03:03

My youngest is 4, older 7, so not as little as yours but...we're also in London (albeit leafy suburb) and started off thinking Labs, because I am familiar with them. Also spaniels, as lovely cocker over the road. After reading a few threads here, and researching a bit, am now keeping an eye on the good rescue organizations for an adult cross-breed with a bit of lab or spaniel in it....or just a lovely, child-friendly medium sized adult dog whose face we like...
I think the bouncy, mouthing, manic puppy stage might be a bit much for my 4 yr old, who was nipped by a puppy in the street when she was 2.
Re dh's and their preconceptions, I recommend leaving a few gorgeous medium/small sized rescue doggy pictures up on the computer screen for him to fall in love with grin

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 30-May-11 15:36:02

Oh, can I weigh in for getting a Lab, even though it sounds like you would prefer a smaller breed?

I too live city-centre, with a park across the road and a small garden in the back. My Lab is only a puppy at the moment (got her at 7 weeks, and she is now 4 months old) so I can't talk about adult size and weight of a Lab, but I can sing the praises of her affectionate nature, trainability, and great behaviour around children.

I adore her. She is beautiful, intelligent, eager to please, cuddly and full of love for everybody, and extremely gentle around children. Even at her young age: she'll jump on adults to get high enough to their hands for a cuddle and a lick, but she sits gently before children and lets them maul her, and will sniff and gently lick babies if allowed, but would never pounce on or mouth them.

Thanks to the back garden, she was potty trained in a day, and learned sit-down-fetch in a week. Labs really really will do anything to please their owners, that's what makes training so easy.

Labs are wonderful. (I'm sure other dogs are too, and that the individual dog's personality is more important than the breed, etc. But get a Lab! You won't regret it.)

chickchickchicken Mon 30-May-11 18:09:57

"Would anyone be able to suggest any smaller breeds that you think might work"

i would suggest a tried and tested young adult small/medium crossbreed rescue dog assessed as being suitable to live with young children. find a reputable rescue (crucial) and explain your circumstances and be guided by them

i would not have a lab in a flat and i would not recommend a puppy when you have your hands full with a 4yr old and 19mo. labs are lovely but can be boisterous and a fully grown lab weighing 30+kg running around will easily knock a child over. a friend of mine has a gorgeous lab, he is her registered assistance dog so trained to a very high standard but when he has his jacket off and is in play mode i make sure i am not in his path when he is hurtling round the field

chickchickchicken Mon 30-May-11 18:12:09

i dont have personal experience of beagles but there are a few posters on here with beagles. they sound lovely dogs but very very hard work. even me a terrier and collie fan think they sound hard work!

madwomanintheattic Mon 30-May-11 18:20:56

we have two labs. grin

i won't lie and say they have never knocked over the kids (my youngest has cerebral palsy, tbh a passing housefly would knock her over some days) but it's just a bump. the kids have trodden on/ backed into the dogs as well. grin

they are very friendly, and a great breed with children though.

not a beagle in a hundred years. my sister had to rehome hers as it was such hard work, and she's only got one child.

I have a lab and he is really good with kids but yes he is large, nearly five stone (leggy large working type) so he does take up some room. We grew up with a springer and IMO they need more exercise than a lab. If the lab is too big and the springer needs too much exercise you could try a cocker spaniel or a Cavalier king Charles spaniel, both smaller sweet natured breeds ( think the gun dogs in general are). I would say no to the beagle, they like to run and run once they catch a scent and you might end up chasing one all over the park. Like collies I think they are too clever to train easily! I understand where your husband is coming from though, labs are such an unfussy, solid dog, no fussy grooming, easy to train, friendly and enthusiastic. I love mine, he's such a good dog.

newpup Mon 30-May-11 18:57:40

I have a 3 year old lab and she is a gem of a dog. My parents had labs throughout my childhood and they were all different characters but they were all dependable, loyal and obedient. Mine is the same. She is a gun dog from a working mum and dad. We do not work her but she does require a good long walk every day. Usually about 1 1/2 hours every day no matter what the weather.

She was a yummy puppy and was house trained in 2 days. She sits, lies down, comes to call and stays on demand. She is gentle as a lamb with my DDs and our cat and is absolutely the worlds best dog! grin.

If you are prepared to commit to the long walks a lab is a great dog. However an unruly lab is a pain in the neck as they are largish, strong dogs with lots of energy so it is important to train your lab well.

Best dogs in the world!

Kingsroadie Mon 30-May-11 19:11:30

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow - can I just slightly hijack and ask how you managed to train your puppy not to jump up at toddlers etc? (Maybe you were v lucky and didn't have to). Our brand new puppy (got him on Sat) is obviously exuberant and a little nippy but is quickly learning from me not to bite/jump. However, my 18 month old daughter can't say anything or understand to turn away etc and he seems to like jumping up at her. I have already taught him "sit" which can be used to some effect but are there any other tips?

We currently don't have a playpen and he has the run of the kitchen/diner where all her toys are but hopefully one will arrive on Weds which will mean she can play near him and he can also play but is enclosed.

He is just 8 weeks (tmrw) btw.

mdoodledoo Mon 30-May-11 23:15:48

I grew up with Labs and have one now - delightful family dogs and wonderful with kids. I would highly recommend, although they can be clumsy and their tails are often the perfect height to sweep everything off coffee tables! They are amazingly trainable and so eager to please - but, as with all breeds, you have to start early and be consistent to get the dog you want. Ours isn't so big either, even though her Dad was huge - so you can get medium sized ones if you want.

I would echo previous advice about Beagles - I had one in recent years because I wanted a 'Lab-looking' dog but not so big. A mistake. She was a lovely girl, but the hound instinct is hard to train out and it was always a bit of a gamble to let her off the lead, and being so independent she wasn't as affectionate to the kids as I'd hoped. Not that she ever growled or bit, she wasn't a nasty dog, but just not as keen on humans as our Labrador. The difference for me is that Lab's main purpose is to try and make you happy, our Beagle's was to make herself happy. In the end, after 3 years, we rehomed our Beagle - bitterly heartbreaking and I miss her still, but the right decision in the end.

We now have a Lab and a Golden Retriever - both of which are brilliant dogs for our family. Good luck in your decision.

allag Mon 30-May-11 23:30:10

Thank you so much everyone - very, very helpful. DH has "hacked" into this thread and is now even keener on getting a lab. But I take everything said on board - thank you.

Labradorlover Tue 31-May-11 00:35:29

I'm biased......clue's in the name.....
I don't have a coffee table. My DD didn't really walk until 18mths as it was safer to crawl, and when she did, would cover her face with her hands to avoid being smacked in the eye by tails. My house is covered in dog hair.
I love my labs, but I had them before DD.
Think really hard before you get a puppy. They require alot of work and training. I can't imagine training a puppy with a 4yr and 19mth old in the house.
Get an adult dog or if you heart's set on a puppy, leave it a few years till your kids are a bit older.

Labradors CHEW. grin

I have a 6 month old black Lab who is rarely left alone for more than half an hour and if I have run out of things he is allowed to chew, then anything is fair game.

They also shed a lot. You will find dog hair in the most inconceivable places. I got a batch of chicken soup out of the freezer that I am pretty sure I made before we even got the damn dog and when I opened it, there was a little black dog hair in it already. confused

They need a lot of exercise, they can reach the kitchen sides from a young age and yes, my Lab can already clear a coffee table with one wag.

Pups are hard going, especially at the beginning. You really need to put the work in early to encourage a well adjusted, well trained dog.

He is however a real people pleaser, loves every living being unconditionally, loves to learn and such a lovely natured boy. I have a 6yo DS and a (diddy!) 2.6yo DD and he is pretty careful around them, but I echo Labradorlover that it sounds as if it may be better to wait a year or so to get a pup. It really is like having a newborn baby again.

madwomanintheattic Tue 31-May-11 02:21:39

only one of ours was a chewer... but kitchen sides and shedding i can't argue with.

one of ours stole a dozen perfectly cooked organic burgers from the table at a friend's bbq... and between them they devoured an entire box of assorted fruit (including cherries, that they had expertly de-stalked and stoned...)

nooka Tue 31-May-11 06:48:37

Labs can be very food orientated, which is both a plus and a minus! We have a lovely mutt. He looks like a small lab (probably about half the size), and all we know is that his mother was an American Water Spaniel (but I doubt fully so). Even though he is quite small he can easily send a toddler flying (and has done so), and when he jumps up can easily get his paws on younger children's shoulders (he's very fond of children).

I don't think I'd get a puppy with little ones. It is very hard work in the first few months (like having a baby and a toddler all in one, but with speed and sharp teeth added in!). My children are 12 and 10 and still found him difficult to cope with when he was wild and bite-y, and it's hard to train little ones to stand still and be boring with a pup biting their ankles and leaping around like a loon.

Totally great now though smile I'd also be looking to source a new dog from a rescue centre and you never quite know what you are going to get with a rescue pup - when we picked up our dog they said he might grow up to be small like a terrier, or big like a rotty, they couldn't really say!

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 31-May-11 08:41:42

Hi Kingsroadie - to answer your hijack: I think you've got all the ingredients to teach your puppy to sit gently around LOs. I walked around lots of parks and children's playgrounds when my girl was 8 weeks +, and whenever children would show an interest in her, I would ask her to sit, give her a treat and praise, and then invite the kids to approach her and pat her any way they liked. She learned in a couple days to just sit when in the presence of LOs and let them shriek, run, pat her face, whatever, without flinching or nipping. She just looks for an opening to be able to lick their face/hands if she can.

chickchickchicken Tue 31-May-11 08:53:58

grin "I don't think I'd get a puppy with little ones. It is very hard work in the first few months (like having a baby and a toddler all in one, but with speed and sharp teeth added in!"

grin so true

Kingsroadie Tue 31-May-11 09:06:55

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow - thanks a lot. It sounds like just keep trying and doing more of the same. Whilst he has already learnt to "sit", he isn't staying in "Sit" when my daughter is around. He will "sit" but then gets up almost immediately. But it is something I really really want to nip in the bud asap as I think it's very important the dog learns to be around small children. Perhaps the next command I teach (he has nearly learnt "down" as well) should be "stay"!

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 31-May-11 09:25:31

(forgot to add: with babies and toddlers, obviously this needs the cooperation of dog-friendly parents. Luckily there are plenty of those in the parks I go to).

Kingsroadie Tue 31-May-11 12:54:08

Yes us too - we have a very dog friendly park and lots of children too !

madwomanintheattic Tue 31-May-11 15:42:21

lol roadie - brown dog still hasn't learnt 'stay' and she's 6. she only hears 'wait' for some reason - as far as she's concerned 'stay' means 'run around in an excited fashion'. even the trainers resorted to chaining her to the radiator at puppy class. <she spent much time in puppy detention and had to re-do her certificate because of the 'stay' thing grin> - but 'wait' works fine. she just obviously speaks a different language. <rolls eyes>

puppy teeth grin like a teething baby but with needles on.

Jaynerae Tue 31-May-11 17:36:26

DO NOT get a Beagle! Seriously, I have 14 month old Beagle she is very very very active needs at least 1.5 hours off lead every day or she is a pain in the house.

She steals anything she can get hold of edible or not!

I take her training every week, and practise training for 10 mins during each walk every day, so she is well trained and I can control her very well. But I have really had to put time and effort in, so I would say not an ideal dog for a young family, my DC's are 7 and 12 so not such an issue. My Beagle will be with me for life, but I will never have another Beagle.

My CKCS on the other hand is another story, he is brilliant with DC's much more a pet. He is a rescue and is 14 months and rehomed from a good home but owner fell ill so not a circumstance you would come across every day, most CKCS up for rehoming as ex breeding dogs.

I support rescue dog from reputable centre along with many others!

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