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The Labrador retriever is the most popular large dog breed in the UK and the fifth most popular breed overall, and for good reason. They’re very loving and loyal dogs that are highly affectionate with their families and that are also generally very pleased to meet and say hello to strangers as well, and they are wonderful with both children and other dogs.
Whilst most of the Labradors in the UK today are kept as pets, they were historically prized as retrieving gundogs, sniffing out and bringing back downed prey to their handlers over both land and water with a dedication and tenacity that is unmatched in the field. Labradors are also one of the most popular dog breeds used as assistance dogs for people with disabilities, helping people with partial sight or hearing to lead independent lives.
If you are considering buying or adopting a dog and have the room to welcome a large breed into your life, the Labrador retriever is certainly worthy of consideration. However, like any dog, they have their pros and cons – and learning about these things before you make a purchase will help you to make an informed decision.
In this article, we will look at some of the plus and minus sides of Labrador retriever ownership, to help you to decide if this is the right dog for you. Read on to learn more.
First of all, the Labrador retriever is a large dog breed, which means that it needs a home with enough space to fit it and so, may not be a good choice for people with very small homes. Their large size also means that the cost of providing everything that the dog needs is likely to be higher than for a smaller dog too – including providing beds, bowls and equipment and even the cost of flea and worming treatments and spay and neuter surgeries.
Labradors tend to have hearty appetites too, and get through a lot of food!
The Labrador is not a good choice of breed if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle or don’t enjoy walking a lot, because they are up there at the top of the list of dog breeds that need a very active lifestyle.
They will not thrive if they don’t get long and varied daily walks and lots of opportunities to play and socialise, but if you enjoy walking and have an active lifestyle, or plenty of people in your family who can take turns exercising the dog, they may be a perfect fit.
As well as being very lively and energetic, the Labrador retriever is also very smart – and whilst this has numerous advantages, it does mean that the dog is not for everyone! Labs will quickly learn through observation and repetition, which means that they are just as likely to pick up bad habits as good ones – so taking into account the dog’s intelligence and recognising the need to provide plenty of mental stimulation is vital.
The breed’s high intelligence is part of what makes them so versatile – Labrador retrievers can learn and execute a huge range of commands and skills. This, combined with their personable natures and willingness to please mean that they are usually very pleasant to train, and will quickly learn new skills both when young and throughout their lives.
However, as mentioned, this does mean that they can pick up bad habits too – and they will also learn a lot by simply watching the behaviour of other dogs!
Assuming that your dog gets enough exercise and stimulation, they are generally wonderful housemates that are well behaved, tidy, and good at following the rules. They may well bark to alert you of someone at the door but they don’t tend to be needlessly vocal, and they aren’t generally prone to trying to escape unless they are bored or don’t get enough exercise.
They will live quite happily with a family with children (and will often actively seek out the company of children too) as well as generally being good with strange children, and excellent with other dogs.
They tend to take to housetraining quickly, and soon fall into the household routine.
The Labrador retriever breed as a whole falls around the middle of the pack in the health stakes, and like most pedigree dog breeds, they do have a hereditary predisposition to certain inherited health problems that can affect both the dog’s longevity and quality of life.
However, pre-breeding health screening and DNA testing is performed by responsible breeders to ensure that preventable conditions are not passed on through the breed line, and choosing a Labrador from a breeder that plans their mating matches and prioritises health – and that undertakes all of the relevant health testing protocols – can help to prevent problems.
Labradors are also highly food-obsessed, even when compared with other dogs – which can get them into hot water if they scavenge something that is bad for them, as well as meaning that you will have to carefully monitor your dog’s weight to keep them in peak condition.
It would be hard to find another dog breed of any size that can come close to matching the Labrador retriever’s excellent temperament, and they are very friendly, loving and cheerful dogs that actively enjoy the company of both people and dogs.
They are also very intuitive, and great at modifying their behaviour to take into account people or dogs that are small or nervous, to avoid scaring or hurting them.
They also have bags of enthusiasm for life, and are generally a pleasure to have around.
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