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The Labrador retriever is one of the most popular dogs in the UK, and for good reason! Labradors almost always have friendly, bold and outgoing personalities, are great dogs for families, love to play, and are good natured and trustworthy. They are also one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, coming in at a respectable seventh place on the Coren dog breed intelligence ranking scale. The high level of intelligence of the Labrador (which of course, may or may not come accompanied by common sense)! Often means that training them can prove highly rewarding, as their innate intelligence makes them more receptive to learning new things, and able to retain and reliably execute a wide range of commands.
However, training a particularly lively and intelligent dog is not without its challenges, and the Labrador retriever is no exception. Intelligent dogs will tend to get bored easily, lose focus if not stimulated enough, and also, inadvertently learn responses and behaviour patterns that may be undesirable and were not intended to be taught! If you own a Labrador retriever or a Lab puppy or are considering buying one, read on for some great tips on Labrador training.
As mentioned, Labradors rank within the top ten most intelligent dog breeds in the world, and with many hundreds of dog breeds taken into account this is no mean feat! Generally, dog breeds within the top ten most intelligent listing will be able to:
These statistics are understandably rather impressive, and in some ways, will make Labrador training easier than it is for many other breeds!
Labradors heartily enjoy play, and can usually manage to turn most things into a game! You should seek to work this trait to your advantage when training, rather than separating playtime and learning time and removing the joy from the process. A Lab that is having fun will be much more alert, engaged and receptive to learning than one that is bored or under stimulated. Structure ways to make playtime part of learning time, perhaps by integrating a chain of commands in a pattern such as sit- stay- lie down- up- come- roll over, to keep your Lab’s mind working and anticipating your next command and imprint the command and desired response pattern upon their minds.
Labradors are loyal, loving dogs whose main desire in life (or perhaps joint main desire, alongside of eating)! Is to please you, their owner and handler. Labradors are rarely wilfully disobedient, so if you find that your dog is not reacting or responding to your commands, you should trouble-shoot the reasons behind this before withholding reward or responding negatively. A dog that does not understand what is required of them will soon become frustrated and potentially begin to act out, and remember that you must be able to hold your dog’s attention in order to be able teach or execute a command.
The high energy levels of Labradors and their historical usage as working dogs for retrieving ensure that most Labradors, particularly younger dogs, will be highly energetic, in to everything and always seeking stimulation! You can direct this energy into positive activities and avoid causing your Lab to create their own fun in inappropriate ways, by using their intelligence and energy to teach a range of higher-level commands and skills. Teaching a Labrador to retrieve a ball or a toy is usually fairly straightforward; teaching them to drop it, leave it, or find it if hidden can be more of a challenge, and is a good way to keep their minds active and keep their energy channelled on working on new skills and challenges.
Consistency is important when training any breed or type of dog, but with the Labrador it is vital. Just as Labs can often learn a training command with less than five repetitions, so too can they easily learn bad behaviour or inadvertent directions that will undo their previous training if you are not careful about the messages and signals you send out to them.
Establish firm ground rules in terms of what is and is not allowed (sitting on the furniture, what they can play with, how to respond to commands etc.), and ensure that you stay consistent and unambiguous about the house and training rules.
Labradors can fairly be described as “bouncy” dogs, which are never lacking in enthusiasm and excitement when something pleases them! It is always rewarding to find that your dog is pleased to see you, but training your Lab that it is not ok to jump up at people is important, and best undertaken when they are young. Jumping up is one of the various traits that seem adorable and unproblematic in the puppy, but in the adult dog, soon proves annoying, messy and even possibly dangerous. It is important to train your Lab not to jump up at people from the get-go, to avoid problems in undoing learned behaviour patterns in later life.
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