5 things I need to know before getting a labrador(76 Posts)
Hello. I'm new to this board as we don't yet have a dog.
We have said for years that we would like a dog and we now feel the time is right. In our family currently there is me, DH and DS (2) we will be ttc dc2 later this year.
We've done some research and decided that we will start looking for a labrador puppy over the next few months.
My question is what do I need to know/think about before we start looking.
We have thought it out fully and I've looked into training costs/insurance costs/practicalities such as someone to let dog out on the 1 day it would be alone a week and everything else I can think of but I want to be sure I've not missed anything!
Why a labrador particularly?
Temperament is good
Puppy phase lasts a loooooong time with labs, as does the teen phase
They are mostly made of bounce and muscle, bear this in mind with how long maturity takes to arrive.
They moult. They moult like bastards.
They like water. They shake dirty water everywhere, then moult some more.
They are fabulous dog, but I'm not sure why they have become the default setting for dog you get with a young family. But many adolescents get rehomed when people can't or won't manage.
They love chewing everything at puppy stage which does indeed last a long time. The shed hair everywhere constantly , mine loves water an has an irrational fear or the Hoover - obviously they are all different..lol As they get a little older In my experience mine have been perfect with children, calm , relaxed chilled out dogs. I have a springer spaniel , Labrador and a terrier cross and they are all completely different to what they are expected to be by the books so you never know until you've got one. I remember my lab puppy was the worst of them all and I remember crying many times at the stress and hard work involved. He tried to eat my phone, cupboards, sofa, shoes, bags, bank cards ANYTHING I couldn't leave him for a second , now as a three year old he's the exact opposite and best behaved of the three. Good luck!
They are lovely dogs but they are bouncy and puppyish for about 5 years. Mine ate a hole in the wall. They like long walks and to run off lead. They love to swim. They hate being on their own mine wants to sit on my lap not that comfortable as she's 35kg. And they shed hair so much hair. All year round. I can't emphasise enough how much hair they shed. If you have a crawling baby he or she will be covered in it. Everyone will be covered in it. But apart from that we've had over 10 years of joy from ours she really is such a great dog. But quite hard work!
They are big strong dogs - they will knock your dc over (not out of malice just sheer over-exuberance), their tails can sweep a coffee table clear in micro-seconds, and to reiterate what everyone else has said they shed hair constantly. You have to watch their weight - they are incredibly food motivated and once out of the puppy stage they will get fat if given half a chance (the number of grossly obese labs you see is heart-breaking). They do respond well to training and in general their temperament is good but research your breeder carefully as they are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia
Personally I would never have another lab much as I loved the ones I grew up with - we have a toller now and he is just a joy to be with - he's far more motivated by toys than food, is so sparky and intelligent and he's only 17kg and comes up to my knee so much less intimidating to little children
We've been very lucky with ours. He came at 6 months and was house-trained and never chewed anything him shouldn't beyond the odd pencil. I think it's because he's super intelligent , he even learnt which tennis balls were his and which he had to leave as DS's. However he destroys cheap dog toys in two minutes so Kongs are plentiful. He loves company and we leave the radio or TV on when we are not here. You can tell an xmas present from us because there will be dog hair somewhere on the sellotape. He loves the beach and to dine on mussel shells al fresco which was a worry first time but his insides seem to cope. There will be poo to pick up every single day which is fine but sometimes it is a long time carrying it to a bin. He still has bouncing puppy moments at 15.
I can never understand Labradors, as lovely as they are, being classed as an ideal family pet. Sure, from a temperament point of view, but they are big, strong, powerful dogs. Certainly strong enough to knock a small child/toddler flying.
They also shed like buggers too.
Also, a puppy is very hard work. My dogs (springer and a cocker) are 2 and 1 year old respectively. Neither have been difficult dogs, the cocker has been a dream. But still, the puppy stage is the puppy stage!
In addition, have a think about exercise with young children. A young energetic dog will need to be exercised come rail, sheet, hail, wind, whatever condition. The dog will need exercise whether the DC are poorly etc.
Also, lastly, as DC get older the range of activities they get involved in increases radically. My DC had an activity a night between them at primary. Just be aware that this is time the dog might need to be left.
Good luck, not trying to be negative at all
Because labs are so common there are lots of breeders...but they are not all equal.
As a minimum, the puppies should be KC registered, the parents should have something more than just being pets to justify being bred from a proven working or showing record. The breeder should be breeding for a reason other than to sell puppies, usually to keep a puppy themselves.
It's very unlikely that a bitch owner happens to own a stud that complements their bitch, so they should be able to tell you exactly why they used the stud they did. (In other words be wary of breeders who own both parents or who have just used a stud because it was handy)
Both parents should have good hip and elbow scores and at least one needs to have a clear DNA test for PRA.
Breeders should grill you, they should be telling you which puppy would suit you, they should be offering to take the puppy back at any point if you ever have to rehome them and if they're good breeders they should have a waiting list for their next planned litter, not be advertising puppies that are ready to go. You could be waiting for a year for a puppy from a decent breeder.
Would you be willing to reconsider your timing? Looking after a puppy will be a thousand times easier when you have completed your family and have slightly older children. A puppy is a bit like having a baby, he will demand all your attention and test your patience and getting a puppy with a toddler and TTC for no 2 is not an ideal set up. Many rescues would not rehome under such conditions and be prepared for some breeders to be unwilling to let you have a pup.
Agree on thinking about timing. Eight years on I still have vivid memories of coming down to a kitchen full of puppy poo when I was pregnant with dc2 and had terrible morning sickness.. ( also had a non walking toddler ) . Also agree on labs staying puppyish for a long time, you couldn't bank on having a nice settled, trained dog by the time Dc2 comes along.
A lot of labs get rehomed at 10-11 months of younger as they turn out to be too much for a lot of people to handle - not saying this will be you, but they can be very bouncy and bitey around kids and not all young kids are happy about this
mine got knocked over so many times they just accepted it in the end..
I'm not sure being about to ttc is a good time to get a dog? You will essentially have two babies, except one will be running around all day...
1. They are first and foremost working dogs who would be covering a lot of ground. Nothing sadder than an obese Labrador plodding along.
2. They are insanely popular and this popularity has lead to poorly bred dogs with poor temperament, in particular, there is a big problem in gundogs (spaniels and retrievers) with extreme resource guarding. This is particularly well documented in America but British breeders and clubs keep this little nugget secret, in retrievers, a strong genetic component has been shown and the behaviour is evident from eight weeks.
3. They are insanely popular and this popularity has lead to poorly bred dogs with poor health - hip and elbow dysplasia and blindness among others.
4. Being a large breed and having a propensity towards joint issues it is imperative that puppies are not allowed to run up and down stairs, jump on and off furniture, take part in agility and must be walked only 5 minutes per month of age to try and guard against joint disease in later life.
5. Don't be fooled by the short coat, they are heavy, year round (constant) shedders.
Butthole speaks sense.
They are wonderful dogs, mine is snoring next to me as I write, but don't for one minute under estimate the work you will need to put in. I live in the country and take my DDog out twice a day for an hour a time. She is off lead running the whole time - she has excellent recall - but she still wants more exercise.
I don't have young children, but she sees my friends children and although she is very gentle, she is 33kg of muscle with the sense of a toddler and without supervision I'm sure she would send them tumbling.
Good luck with your decision.
Train the crap out of it. Over the years I can't even count the number of times my dogs have been gone for by labradors. It's always labradors. I'm not even sure they are as trainable as people claim as over and over again, my dogs have been attacked by them. There are a LOT of irresponsible breeders of them, is probably the reason. Round here, farmers breed them for a quick few quid - and the result is, some places you have to avoid as you know your dog will be gone for.
I have walked my various dogs for a lifetime and almost every single time they have ever been attacked... it has been by labs.
Oh and they are working dogs. If you're a poacher - go for it. If not - be realistic about the amount of exercise and stimulus it might need. They can also be one man dogs - despite the 'friendly' image. My uncle had one (he was a poacher) and it was not a pet, not friendly but did its job when out at night. My dad used to say they were working dogs, not pets, and never to see it the same way as we saw our own bull terriers who were always very people-centric. Us kids had to keep well away from it. My aunty had one from the same litter - her's a pet not a working dog - and I remember her saying it was a nightmare, how much exercise it needed. And that one too was never madly friendly.
I've always had Labs, funnily enough each time one of them has been got at by another dog it was a Lab (ok 3 labs and one Labradoodle)
They are mostly like the dumb cousins of the canine world who get in your face and ignore your body language ... I do think they need to be carefully socialised with other dogs very early on to prevent issues.
Labs are puppies for a long time ( mines 2 years old and still very hyper and bouncy ), toilet training was easy and teaching him to sit etc.., labs love food a little bit too much so you need to teach them early on not to pinch food ( have managed this with mine ). Although they are lovely dogs I would not have another, there are easier breeds.
We are getting our lab/ lab springer cross puppy in 4 weeks.
Mum ( lab/ springer ) is owned by my daughters best friends mum, dd is 16.
She has left is in no doubt that the pup we are taking on will be HARD WORK- extended chewing phase, lots of moulting, will need firm handling and as grows older at least 1.5-2 hours execise per day , plus off lead , plus some type of mental exercise ( in our case we will do retreiver type training)
They shed some more.
Then they shed.
Apart from the usual large breed risks of hip/elbow dysplasia, they are also at risk of epilepsy - there is no screening test for this and it usually only become apparent when they are around 2 yo.
They slobber in the presence of food.
They would eat all day if given half the chance.
They love water with all that entails (Lab1 would NOT stop going after a stick in the water to the point of total exhaustion if he had lost it. He would on occasion need to have another one thrown to retrieve that in order for him to come out).
He shed too.
Their farts are toxic
but allow you to blame all bad smells on them
They are happy and friendly and bouncy aka
sometimes not very bright, prone to jumping up, pushing small/light people over, overexcitable.
They chew stuff (SiL's kitchen was destroyed by their lab pup)
They gain weight really easily in middle-age or after castration/spaying, particularly when not exercised enough.
Most family labs are not exercised enough <gross generalisation> - they need 2-3 hours/day.
In summary: a lab is NOT the ideal family dog for us, but my brother is very happy with his chocolate girl, now aged 16 months and as daft as a brush . She sheds too...
I absolutely adore our Labs, but they are very high maintenance dogs. I always think that their most wonderful quality (a total lust for life - they LOVE everyone and everything) is also their greatest downfall - they are bouncy and excitable and just generally OTT. They also LOVE water - if one of mine so much as smells a river or pond, he literally can't focus on anything at all - he's just got to throw himself (quite literally) into it. This leads me onto my next point: they are hairy and dirty. Every Lab I've ever known absolutely loves wallowing in filth, so they come back from every walk having to be hosed down and then dried off. They moult continuously. I can hoover my house 3 times a day and there are still drifts of hair blowing across the floor. I would also say that they are notorious 'pullers' on the lead - it's what they were bred to do and their strength and bounciness can make them difficult to train to walk on a lead nicely. They are definitely not an inconspicuous type of a dog - they love being the life and soul of the party! In fact, they are the party!
But, as long as you are prepared for the huge amount of work they are, Labs are truly lovely companions. Mine are the kindest-hearted souls I've ever come across and are endlessly enthusiastic about life itself.
As an aside - yes, yes to dog hair ending up in the sellotape of every present ever wrapped!
Yes to all the dire warnings above.
But they are gorgeous. And hilarious.
I have just watched a man in the street tie up his two golden labs outside while he went into the sandwich shop to get his lunch.
Watching the ensuing chaos while he tried to untie 2 large labs, with a sandwich in his pocket, was pure comic exquisiteness.
I am crying with laughter again just typing this
We got our lab boy as an older, past puppy stage, rescue so I can't comment on the puppy stage although friends who have gone through it said they didn't really calm down till over 2/3.
I adore my boy, he is loving, loyal, seems quite clever actually and was very easy for us to extend the basic training he had already had and learned new commands very quickly. He loves people and is very gentle and patient with kids of all ages and noise levels. He adores his walks but also loves a cuddle on the sofa. He's calm and well behaved with new people in the house.
However, they do need regular exercise, are very food focused (mine will never steal but will sit and stare at you while you are eating as if he could hypnotise the food from your plate to his mouth, until he is sent to his bed so I can eat in peace!) you have to be careful not to over feed as they do put weight in quickly esp as they get older.
And the hair. Omg the hair. Everywhere, continually, I never knew a beast could grow and shed SO much hair every day. Hoover and mop continually downstairs. Takes a long time to dry after walking in bad weather. Need brushed regularly.
I'm also not sure if ttc/having such a little one is ideal time for a puppy - from what I've heard, it is as hard work, if not harder, having a new puppy than a new born baby as at least the human will stay where you put them and won't be off chewing the cables as soon as your back is turned. Would you consider waiting till your family is a little bit older? It's up,to you of course, but they do take a lot of care and time and attention. The joy of their company is wonderful though.
And yes to fear of the Hoover, mine too, he disappears as soon as I take it out of the cupboard
Wow. thank you for all your responses! There's definitely alot of food for thought, and I thought I had done my research!!
Reasons for choosing a lab were largely on recommendations from friends regarding how good they are with children. And the reading I have done on the breed. Also we love walking so we actually want a breed who wants to be walked!
I know it seems a bit daft perhaps when we're ttc but we struggled with ds1 and have had a few problems when ttc last year so while we would love dc2 to come along this is by no means a certainty and we don't want to put everything on hold in the mean time.
Very interesting that quite a few posters have said their reputation as default "family dog" isn't necessarily true. Out of interest what other breeds would people recommend for young families?
Mine loves the Hoover, he lies on his back so I can Hoover him ( crazy dog ).
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