Labrador Retriever Training
When thinking about Labrador Retriever dog training, Los Angeles parents like most dog parents, think of one of the most common and popular dog breeds in America. A family dog that gets along with everyone and will make a perfect addition to a family.
While many Labradors will get along with cats, dogs, kids, and adults, both inside the house and outside on the street, that is not the case for all Labradors and many need lots of dog training and behavior modification just like all other breeds.
Labrador Retrievers can also make wonderful pets, therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, service dogs, or working assistance dogs. However, one must remember that just because many Labradors are like this naturally, all dogs are individuals and there are many health, maintenance, and typical Labrador Retriever training and behavior tips to take into consideration before adopting or buying a Lab.
Understanding Labrador Retrievers
Labrador Retrievers come in many colors such as black labs, silver labs, chocolate labs, yellow labs, white labs, and some are region specific such as English labs. And some are mixes of Labradors such as Labradoodles. Regardless of your lab’s color, or birth-line, Labrador Retrievers are bred to retrieve and to be with their family. Labradors are working dogs and need to work to be fulfilled.
Similar to their Golden Retriever brethren, Labs typically have to be taught to perform a great recall/retrieve. However, they will typically hold something in their mouth softly so they don’t puncture rip, or destroy what they are retrieving. This is what they were bred for.
Labrador Retrievers also love the water and swimming so be prepared for them to hunt down the lone puddle or jump in a pool, river, lake, or ocean at any opportunity they get.
Labradors Retrievers – if bred right from an ethical breeder – are typically friendly by nature and not aggressive to strangers, dogs, and parents. Which is what makes them one of the most popular dog breeds around the world.
Like most dogs, they are social and gregarious by nature. A properly bred and healthy Labrador Retriever will be affable, easy, and eager to train with the right humane Certified Dog Trainer.
It is important to never use compulsion or force to train a Labrador Retriever or any dog as that destroys the bond you have with your pet, will make the dog confused, unpredictable, and make a problem behavior much worse. The emotional fallout of punishment-based training is severe and extremely damaging to a dog. Dog’s don’t generalize well so what a dog associates punishment with are different than what you think you are punishing them for.
With regards to dog training, Labrador Retrievers are very motivated, trainable, and eager to work for food and environmental/life reinforcements. Making Labs wonderful service dogs that suits what they have been selectively bred for – to retrieve – making them easy to teach to retrieve keys, medicine, items, open and close doors, turn on lights, and many other service dog tasks. Because Labrador Retrievers love affection so much they can also make wonderful therapy dog teams and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).
Labrador retriever puppies and adults are eager to learn, motivated, and intelligent. Ideally, they should be trained by a breeder as soon as they are born with proper husbandry, gentling and basic training cues. Gently and positively exposed to as many life stimuli as possible.
All dogs during their sensitive period (roughly 3~13 weeks) should be socialized with special attention paid to different developmental periods (neonatal, transitional, socialization, sensitive, and integration periods, from 1-21 weeks and for puppies in their juvenile period and older, ~21 weeks +) with regards to their fear, play, socialization enrichment, and overall temperament.
Contrary to some outdated veterinarian advice, no dog should be quarantined or sequestered as a puppy and kept away from other dogs or people until they receive their last vaccination shots.
It is well established and believed by all health and behavior experts a behavioral vaccination is far more important and vital to set a dog up for lifelong success than the small risk of contracting distemper or parvovirus.
As always, if you have a Labrador Retriever puppy and they have not had all of their shots yet, use common sense and keep your new unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated puppy away from urine and feces on the ground, from fenced-in dog parks, and highly trafficked dog areas. Even more so if you are in an environment where it doesn’t rain much such as where I live in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California.
Lastly, make sure to only allow your puppy to interact with and play with other healthy and other dogs who are friendly to all puppies.
Common Labrador Retriever Training And Behavior Problems
It is not appropriate to view a dog’s behavior problem in isolation or to focus on only one part of the dog’s body (ears, eyes, tail, hair, teeth, mouth, etc.) to diagnose a behavior problem. Dog’s don’t live in a vacuum and a Certified Dog Behaviorist will consider the complete dog and all of the context and environmental factors that have played a part in the behavior.
To raise a healthy and behavioral and emotionally sound Labrador Retriever, the dog’s complete health should be cared for via their neonatal, transitional, socialization, sensitive, and integration periods, 1-21 weeks, and puppies in their juvenile period and older, ~21 weeks +. This will help ensure a dog’s temperament and personality will develop most healthily.
However, that is in an ideal world and most breeders do not provide this level of care or understanding. Hence your mileage will vary and your dog’s phenotype and genotype (nature-nurture) combination will dictate your dog’s temperament, personality, fear, confidence, and behavioral composition.
Also, don’t let this stop you from adopting a Lab! There are greater than 25% of pure breed dogs in shelters around the United States and if you can’t find the Labrador you want to adopt search for “Labrador Retriever rescues” and you will find a Labrador Retriever rescue near you.
Lastly adopted Labradors do not have any more training and behavior problems than breeder purebred Labradors. And in many cases, an adopted middle age or senior Labrador is more appropriate for a family than an exuberant young Lab puppy who needs tons of training, time, and behavior work.
Lucky for families, most Labrador Retrievers are fun-loving, playful, love bugs who want to be petted consistently and to be with the family at all times. However, a Labrador Retriever puppy who is not trained well or who was neglected during the above mentioned important cognitive, emotional, and biological predetermined growth phases or who are genetically predisposed to poor behavior, emotional disorders, or disease through show dog or poor breeding, may easily exhibit any of the following natural behaviors that may cause problems and heartbreak for families.
- Pushiness (Nosing, nudging, mouthiness, or pawing at you for attention)
- Leash pulling
- Dog anxiety
- Puppy biting and nipping
- Dog barking
- Jumping up to counter surf or on people
- Resource guarding (people, resting spots, parts of the house, food, treats, toys, etc.)
- Overprotective of territory
- Fear aggression
- Resource aggression
- Dog aggression
- Potty training issues
- Over- arousal and hyperactivity
Because Labrador Retrievers need regular exercise, training, socialization, and play to stay healthy you can hire a dog walker or pet sitter to come daily while you are at work or on vacation if you don’t have time to take them outside for long walks several times a day to be enriched and fulfilled.
One caveat, don’t fall into the trap of having a backyard and using it as a crutch. If a dog’s primary outlet for socialization, enrichment, exercise, and play is their backyard, it retards a dog’s development and Labs will most likely develop behavioral and emotional problems down the road. Labradors who are kept in backyards as their sole means of enrichment can develop typical dog behavior problems such as:
- Fence fighting
- Dog aggression
- People aggression
- Territorial aggression
- Predatory aggression
- Destroying your backyard with digging
- Dog barking
- Inappropriate potty training
- Canine compulsive disorder (CCD)
- Boredom related emotional and behavioral disorders
What Products And Dog Training Equipment Should I Buy For A Labrador Retriever Dog?
Labrador Retrievers are a medium-large dog breed that needs to be trained well with gentle, positive reinforcement dog training to achieve the best (and most humane) dog training results. Regardless of the age of your Labrador Retriever, whether they are a puppy, adolescent, or senior Labrador Retriever, all of the following will help a parent throughout the life of your Retriever.
Essential Labrador Retriever Dog and Puppy Training and Wellness Products
- Xpen/Puppy Pen – An Xpen has so many uses both indoors and outdoors. Because it is modular you can use it instead of baby gates or make a temporary blockade for irregular shaped rooms and open spaces or rooms with no traditional doors
- Baby gate – Dog baby gates have so many uses. I use it because I don’t allow dogs in the kitchen, but you can use it to block off the baby’s room or for any reason at all.
- Dog Crates – I use this one for medium-large breed dogs such as the Labrador Retriever but try and get one specifically for your size dog.
- Dog Beds – Just as we have many sitting surfaces and chairs, I always have many beds for dogs so they can choose the texture, height, plushness, and fabric that they prefer.
- Car Hammock – A must for large dogs like Labradors that do not fit in crates or more specifically when the crate does not fit in the car or SUV.
- Kong Black – (Black is for the toughest of dog chewers, red Kong is for lighter chewers, and purple Kong toys for senior dogs) I recommend getting at least a dozen of these as they have so many uses, and your dog will love them.
- Bowls – Maze dog bowls are wonderful for Labradors to receive cognitive enrichment and to improve digestion by slowing down a Lab’s eating. There are so many wonderful dog bowls to choose from. Also, make sure you get retractable dog bowls for when you are out and about with your dog hiking and on long walks.
- Dog Toys – Go wild here and get many different shapes, sizes, textures, sounds, firmness, smells, etc., but remember, just buying 100 toys won’t mean your dog will like toys. Your social interaction always trumps a dog toy. Make sure to read, how to get your dog to like their toys, before you buy dozens of dog toys.
- Dog Harness – My favorite dog harness is one that is tough, affordable, made very well, has front and rear attachments, easily adjustable, ergonomically correct for your dog (fits like an “H” style on your dog and doesn’t inhibit your Labradors gate by going over their shoulder like many dog harnesses being sold) long-lasting, light, and has built-in reflective trim.
- Dog Collar – There are tons of dog collars to choose from. Remember, dog collars are not for attaching a leash to. Think of them as a necklace just to hold your dog’s tags and your information in case your pet gets lost.
- Dog Backpack – Expensive but worth it. Get a backpack that is ergonomically fit for your Lab. I use a dog backpack to hold mine and the dog’s brush, leashes, harness, water, keys, wallet, phone, balls, ropes and other toys, poop bags, extra dog supplies, clothes, etc.
- Dog Leash 6’ – That is the leash I use for a quick pee or poop if I am in a rush or want to keep my dog close by my side for the entire walk.
- Dog Leash 15’ – What I use for most Labrador dog training and walks. It is the most adjustable and the best balance between length and ease of managing. However, it still takes practice to get used to and is not recommended for a reactive or untrained dog.
- Dog Leash 30’ – What I use for simulated off-leash experiences at a large open Los Angeles beach, park, open spaces, for practicing recalls, and other “off-leash” training skills. A parent needs much more skill to use a 30’ or longer leash safely and effectively. Start with a much smaller leash and work your way up as you build your confidence and proficiency.
- Clicker Training – Have many of these all around the house as they tend to break often and get lost (at least in my home). Each person in the family who interacts with your dog should have one or more clickers. Or better yet use a marker such as, “Yes!” instead of a clicker and free-up your hands!
- Dog Training Pouch – Each person who is interacting with your Labrador Retriever should have their own dog training pouch (or two).
- Dog Treats – Dog training treats are a very large category. So do your homework and try to use as healthy a treat as your dog finds delicious.
- Dog Food Storage – Dog food goes bad and has an expiration date. Also, the larger the bag the more oxidation occurs and the quicker vitamins, nutrients, and minerals diminish over time. Try and keep your dog’s food in the original bag and always sealed. If the seal is not sealing properly put the entire dog food bag in a large storage container. But don’t spill out the extruded dry dog food into the container, rather keep your Labradors food in the original bag, with it inside of the food storage container.
- Dog Video Camera – A dog camera, two-way audio, and video device (treat dispensing is a plus) have innumerable uses. For separation distress/isolation distress, separation anxiety disorder, for training while not at home or while out of sight, and for soothing your anxious dog by speaking to them through the device as if you were in the room. However, the most fun and obvious uses are to simply spy on your Labrador while you are not home, to see and hear what they are up to!
- XL Poop Bags – Trust me on this one, don’t skimp out on small or even large bags, you will regret it! Large dogs like Labs make large deposits, get biodegradable bags and bags that don’t get shipped with, or use plastic at all (Also inspect the core center inner rollers to make sure they aren’t plastic). Also, pro-tip, dog poop bags make a great emergency waterproof bag for your keys, phone, or electronics, and also an emergency dog water bowl. Lastly, always have double the amount of poop bags you think you will need, to offer a parent in a pinch or if your dog decides to take three poops that walk, as some Labs do.
- Dog Brush – Being this beautiful ain’t easy! Say hello to your new best friend. Labrador Retrievers like lots of brushing and grooming and this brush will be in your back pocket, or dog backpack often. Although Labrador Retrievers don’t have long hair, they shed a good amount.
- Ear Cleaner – Dog ear cleaner is pretty self-explanatory. Labradors get ear wax build-up just like we do so you will be cleaning their ears regularly to prevent infection and to massage their ears, which most dogs love.
- Dog Nail Clippers – Some dogs have a fear of nail clippers. If your dog has a fear of any of the items on this list or anyone or anything in life don’t forget to hire a competent Certified Fear-Free Dog Behaviorist and Trainer who teaches you how to desensitize and countercondition your dog to their fear and anxiety.
- Nutraceuticals – Dog probiotics – just as with people – are very healthy for a dog’s gut, mental, emotional, and behavioral state.
- Dog Supplements – Supplements work wonders for Labradors with fear anxiety and stress and to help take the edge off hyper-vigilant, reactive, and easily aroused Labs that haven’t been taught the skills to relax and settle.
- Dog Towels – I don’t have to tell you why towels are great, but I will. All towels are wonderful for drying your Labrador off after they go swimming at the beach, in the pool, splash in rain puddles, or after bath time. I also use towels sometimes when an adolescent or Labrador puppy destroys beds or is not potty trained yet. You can make a bed out of several towels and they are much cheaper and easier to clean than buying a new bed every time your Labrador chews or soils their bed.
- Bathing Licks – Make bath time fun not scary! Your veterinarian should also be a Certified Fear-Free practice and use these in some way in the exam rooms.
- Berkey Water Filter – I use this for myself, my pets, and all Labrador training in Los Angeles. The filters last for years without replacement, not needing to destroy the planet with replacing plastic filters often and the water tastes incredible.
Labrador Retriever Puppy Specific (in addition to the above)
- Enzymatic Cleaner – Let’s face it, your Labrador puppy will pee on the floor, carpet, or rug and are going to make mistakes. You are going to need to clean your Lab’s urine and feces with an enzymatic formula that not only eliminates smells for us but destroys the proteins and smells of the urine and feces from your Labrador’s strong olfactory glands.
- Garbage –Any self-closing, tight-sealing garbage will do to keep odors at bay and stop Labrador puppies from digging through the garbage.
- Puppy Wee Pads – For Labrador potty training, puppy pee pads are mandatory as well as some artificial turf (mentioned below) or grass sod.
- Dog Artificial Turf – Perfect for Labradors in apartments, or for parents that do not have access to grass while potty training.
- Puppy Kong Toys – Puppy-specific Kong toys come in pink or blue I recommend getting at least a dozen of these as they have so many uses and your dog will love them.
- Dyson Pet Vacuum – Expensive but not when you use it every single day for years. This is an awesome pet vacuum.
Should I Get A Labrador Retriever As My First Dog?
Yes. Because Labrador Retrievers are so trainable and motivated, you will have a wonderful time building your connection and bond with your dog while training and working together. However, remember that all Labrador Retrievers require a lot of time and attention.
Labs are not suited well to be left alone for most of the day. On the spectrum or scale of independence, Labrador retrievers are much more dependent than other breeds and can develop separation anxiety disorder or its traumatic sibling, isolation distress.
Are Labrador Retrievers Good Family Dogs?
Yes, Labrador Retrievers make wonderful family pets because when bred healthily and trained well, they have very few behavior problems, love all people, are very tolerant of children, and unfamiliar people. They are also very docile and friendly towards other dogs and cats.
Labrador Retrievers can also make great city dogs or country dogs as long as their needs are met. Most dogs are time intensive and not space-intensive. If your schedule permits or you have the resources to hire a dog walker, pet sitter, or dog boarding facility, a Labrador Retriever might be the perfect pet for your family. Especially if you lead an active lifestyle because as you guessed by now, Labrador Retrievers love to be out and about and walk and exercise with you.
Do not get a Labrador retriever if you are looking for a guard dog or a dog that has a presence to intimidate or keep people away from your home or while out on the street. Your Lab will likely look to lick a burglar’s face and get pets from them rather than scare them away.
How Your Labrador Retriever Sees Training
Most Labrador Retrievers are kind, gentle, and loving and look to connect with people. Labrador Retrievers love to engage, work, exercise, and do things with parents. If you are giving your Labrador Retriever attention and training they are happy.
Dog training with your Lab is a way to build a strong ineffable bond with your best friend and also to have a well-behaved dog. The more time you spend Labrador dog training, the more fulfilling your relationship will become. Take advantage of Labrador Retriever’s patience, intelligence, and desire for attention, to please, and to work. Your Retriever will love positive reinforcement dog training almost as much as you.
How Much Do Labrador Retrievers Shed?
A good amount. So be prepared to get your short-coated Labrador Retriever groomed regularly and make sure to systematically desensitize and countercondition them to any natural fears or anxiety a dog will most likely have to a novel and potentially scary and unfamiliar environments such as a groomer, bathtub, or new person. On the bright side, a Labrador is likely to love the bathtub or getting wet, making that part of the grooming process easier.
What Should I Feed My Labrador Retriever Puppy And Dog?
All dogs need attention to their nutritional profile, however large breed puppy dogs like Labs need special attention to their calcium, phosphorus, energy, vitamin, mineral, and nutrient intake during their growth phase. As with all dogs health checkups, vaccinations and veterinarian care will be mandatory as well.
What to feed a dog is a difficult choice because it’s a largely unregulated industry (like my industry dog training and behavior). That’s OK because we are simply providing you with the facts, not conventional wisdom, belief, tradition, or hearsay, or even my personal experiences. Just non-biased, evidence-based published research and peer-reviewed papers.
I’ll show you the most current and up-to-date canine nutritional evidence and you make your own decision regarding your dog’s health and what or who to feed them.
Should you feed your Labrador a raw diet, (also read here,(PDF) here, and here) extruded dry kibble, organic, semi-raw, freeze-dried, or a homemade vegan diet? While dogs are classified in the Order Carnivora, dogs are not obligate carnivores like our other feline household pets. In fact, dogs are not carnivores, they are omnivores and can thrive on plant-based diets.
All diets require being properly formulated, balanced, and complete regardless of what (or who) we are feeding our pets. Luckily for us (and dogs) dogs have adapted to scavenge and forage over tens of thousands of years and can digest carbohydrates. It’s important to remember that dogs are not pack animals or wolves, just as we are not bonobos.
However, since plant-based diets have by far the least impact on the environment and are sustainable (PDF), and are the greatest way a parent can lower the planet’s greenhouse gases (PDF) we recommend mostly plant-based diets.
Plant-based diets are the best diet for the planet (PDF), all sentient beings, and are the most compassionate way to feed a dog. The only truly sustainable way to feed a dog is via an organic plant-based diet that is complete and balanced.
What to feed a Labrador Retriever Puppy has different implications and is very different than what to feed an adult or senior dog. Current research shows that large breed puppies need a certain formulation of dietary protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and calories (energy) to prevent the onset of skeletal diseases from rapid bone, cartilage, tissue, and joint growth. Rapid growth causes skeletal diseases such as elbow and hip dysplasia.
Feed your Labrador Retriever Puppy reduced calories (energy) and reduced calcium. Focus on a large breed growth puppy food that meets these requirements and parameters (300-340 kcals/cup and between 0.8-1.0% dietary calcium.) Not all do! Keep your Labrador Retriever puppy and dog lean, not plump, and always look for an AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a dog’s particular life stage.
We are Labrador Retriever dog training and behavior experts. Our Labrador Retriever Certified Dog Behaviorists and Trainers have been successfully helping parents with Labrador Retriever training for decades! Let an expert positive reinforcement Certified Dog Behaviorist, Trainer, and Nutritionist help you with your Lab’s training and behavior problems today.
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