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Number one in Americans’ preferences, Labrador Retrievers are the perfect companions for both single people and families. They’re playful, affectionate, and easy to train, so there’s no reason not to love such a dog. But having a Lab is a full-time job with no weekends off, and with vacations where you’ll be missing your dog more than you can imagine.
Check my five tips to understand what you should expect from a Lab, and how to offer her everything she needs to thrive.
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1. A Lab’s coat should be brushed daily
Labradors shed all year round, with higher intensity in the shedding season, during spring and autumn. This happens because of their “double coat”, formed by a waterproof outer layer and a dense undercoat. Shedding doesn’t depend on the dog’s color.
You can’t prevent it, but you can reduce the damage. Buy a powerful pet hair vacuum cleaner and use it every day to keep your house clean, and brush your dog’s coat daily to remove the dead hair.
Here is a list of tools that can help:
- undercoat rake: it’s helpful when you need to remove tangles and dead hair from the undercoat.
- comb: it separates the hairs, allowing good ventilation for your dog’s skin. When you use it, start from the back of her head and towards the tail.
- slicker brushes: you’ll need a small one, to clean the hair on your dog’s face and legs, and a larger one for the rest of her body.
- bristle brush: it helps remove dead hair, while spreading the natural oils over the coat. Use it at the end of the brushing session.
You can find more information on this topic in this video:
2. Exercise your Labrador to keep her healthy
Labradors have high energy levels, as a result of the fact that they’ve been bred for years to retrieve game for hunters. They need between 45 and 90 minutes of exercise each day.
Puppies shouldn’t be exercised too much, as their bones are still developing and too much effort could damage their skeleton. Five minutes of exercise for each month of their age should be enough until the age of 12 months.
When your dog’s fully grown, introduce a long walk once a day and add in some entertaining activities, where she can burn off her energy. These dogs enjoy running, swimming, or playing fetch. They’re also good companions if you’re into jogging or hiking, and they’re fast learners in retriever training.
3. You should measure all meals, including treats
Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity, as some of them suffer a genetic mutation that makes them feel hungry all the time.
Keep your dog’s food intake under control, if you want to maintain her health and weight. When she’s still young, feed her special food for puppies, following the brand’s instructions. Divide the food across a number of meals:
- from 2 to 4 months – four meals a day;
- from 4 to 12 months – three meals a day.
After the age of 12 months, a Lab should eat between 2 and 2.5 cups of dry food (ALL treats included) every day, across two separate meals. If you feed her raw food, the quantity should represent 2-3% of her weight.
Normally, female Labs weigh between 55 and 70 pounds (25-31 kg) and males between 65 and 80 pounds (29-36 kg). So if your Labrador is larger, you should reduce the food intake and discuss the option of a diet with your veterinarian.
4. Start training early
Labs are very intelligent dogs and respond well to obedience training. Teaching your dog to answer your commands will not only keep her busy and mentally stimulated, but it can also help you keep your dog safe outdoors.
5. Labradors need resistant dog toys
It seems that this breed has the highest chances of chewing something and landing in the ER, according to veterinarians. So give your dog plenty of chew-resistant toys or she’s going to destroy everything she finds around your home, from shoes to furniture.
A suitable toy for a Lab has the following characteristics:
- is big and specially-designed for large breeds;
- is made from a durable material, such as rubber;
- is not stuffed with dangerous materials, such as polystyrene balls.
Keeping your dog busy is the best way to keep chewing under control. Labradors are working dogs, so they need to have a job to stay happy. Organize training sessions or hide objects and get her to find them for you.
When you leave your dog alone, crate her to limit her access to places where she can harm herself, then make sure she gets plenty of exercise on your return.
How to choose a reputable breeder
Labradors are so popular that sometimes the number of puppies is too small and many people feel tempted to breed dogs just for profit. Irresponsible breeding can cause a series of health and temperament problems, so buying a puppy in the closest pet shop can be risky.
If you want a good dog, buy her from a registered breeder. The National Labrador Retriever Club provides a complete list of breeders, who can guarantee you’ll get a purebred puppy, with healthy parents. Useful information about breeders in your area is available at The Kennel Club, The Canadian Kennel Club, and the National Labrador Retriever Breed Council.
The Labrador Retriever has been the most loved breed in the US for more than 20 years. These dogs are adorable, loyal and always willing to spend time with their owners. Once you’re ready to adapt a bit to her habits, your Lab will be the best thing ever happened to your family.
What do you think about Labradors? Do you have one or would you like to get one? Tell us more about this breed in a comment below.