With its playful, affectionate, and loyal nature, the Labrador is the perfect companion for any family and a useful working dog. It is no surprise, therefore, that this is the most popular breed of dog in the United States and several other countries. However, owning a Labrador comes with huge responsibilities; it is a full-time job that requires a commitment to love your dog and provide for him. Generally, Labs have certain needs that are different from what other types of dogs require. Before making the final decision to get one, you should familiarize yourself with these needs and what should be done to take care of a Labrador.
As someone who wants to be the ideal pet owner, you will want to give your Labrador the best possible care. Since canines are considered the best companions for humans, we have a responsibility to maintain this strong and powerful bond. Part of this involves giving them a wonderful experience in your home, keeping them healthy and fit as well as ensuring they are happy, at least most of the time. Caring for your Lab should not be a tough job but a fun experience.
Here are a few tips for being the best Labrador owner.
Get to know the breed
If you are to take proper care of your Labrador, there are a few things you need to know about the breed.
One of the reasons why Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world is their temperament. Labs are patient, loyal, very smart, affectionate, good-natured, and eager to please. The Labrador has high energy levels and loves to play, especially in water, works excellently with children, craves human leadership, is easily trained, and needs to feel like they are part of the family.
When it comes to health, it is important to know that the Labrador is likely to suffer from eye disorders, mast cell tumors, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and hip and bone dysplasia. This breed also puts on weight easily. Labradors must be given vigorous exercise daily since they are eager and energetic.
With their smooth, short-haired double coat, it is easy to groom them. All you will need to do is to brush and regularly comb, making sure you pay attention to the undercoat. In terms of living conditions, while the Labrador will do best in a home with an average-sized backyard, they can also stay in smaller spaces such as apartments provided they are exercised daily.
Groom him like a pro
Labradors are practically waterproof. They are made for water, thanks to their webbed toes, rudder-like tail, and double coat. The outer layer of the double coat features dense, straight hairs while the inner layer comprises of soft fur that offers insulation. The undercoat serves the important role of trapping heat and keeping water out, a factor that ensures your Labrador remains warm and dry when playing in the water. However, the Labrador sheds its coat twice every year, presenting a nightmare for owners since there will be endless heaps of fur during the brushing sessions.
Labs love holding things in their mouths and are the most intelligent and trainable dog breed. Their non-territorial nature makes them great as guard dogs, while their excellence in obedience makes them great company as working dogs.
Hack the training
Although Labradors have great temperaments, it is still important to train them if you are to ensure they behave in a way that you consider acceptable. The good news is that Labs are intelligent and respond well to obedience training. This means that you will have a relatively easy time teaching your Lab to answer to your commands. Proper training will not only keep your dog busy and mentally stimulated but will also go a long way in promoting the safety of your dog when you venture outdoors.
You should start training early and use the right training methods while being patient enough for your Lab to learn important lessons. This will ultimately ensure you enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with your Labrador.
Get the right toys
Considering that Labs love holding things in their mouths, there is a good chance that they will chew something and land in the ER. Veterinarians advise Labrador owners to give their dogs chew-resistant toys to minimize the chances of the dog destroying things around the home. A suitable toy for Labradors should be specially-designed for large breeds, made from durable material, and not stuffed with dangerous materials.
The best way to keep your Labrador under control is to keep him chewing. Since these are working dogs, you should identify activities that will help to keep them busy and happy. These include organizing training sessions or hiding objects so they can find them and get them for you.
Other key tips
As much as taking care of your Labrador involves several activities, it should be a fulfilling experience. Since the Labrador has certain needs that are different from those of other dogs, it means that taking care of the breed will also involve a unique approach. Below are a few things to keep in mind as you take care of your dog and work towards being a great Labrador owner.
Setting up for your Labrador
Before you bring a Lab into your home, you should have everything set up and ready. The first step would be to buy a crate for the new dog. The crate should be large enough to accommodate the dog when he reaches his adult size. Line the crate with a blanket to make it soft and comfortable.
You will also need to buy the right type of dog bed for your Labrador as well as purchase a collar and a leash. The best leash for outdoor walking should be six feet long and comfortable for both you and your furry companion.
In case your yard is not fenced, you will need to find ways of keeping him from escaping out of the yard. Some options you can consider are fencing, a tether, or an outdoor kennel. Lastly, buy a food bowl and a water dish, taking time to identify one that will not tip over easily.
Feeding is an important part of taking care of your Labrador since they tend to put on weight easily. Young puppies should be fed three to four times per day, while dogs over six months old should be fed twice per day. Choose a high-quality commercial food, making sure that the quantities you serve are neither too little nor too much for the dog. You may have to find out what your Lab was eating at his former home so you can start with that and switch to a new food gradually. If your Labrador is picky, make the food more interesting by adding plain yogurt, some canned food, or low-salt cottage cheese.
Dog treats should be given sparingly since they should not take the place of meals. Avoid giving him table foods or anything with sugar or a lot of salt. Make sure your Labrador has fresh water available always and that all his bowls are always clean.
You should also learn how to keep your Labrador clean. Spot clean your Labrador regularly, using dog wipes or a damp cloth to clean areas that look dirty. You should only bathe your dog occasionally since the thick, water-resistant fur dog does not need frequent baths. Wet down your Lab with either lukewarm or warm water, use only dog shampoo, rinse well, and use a towel to dry your dog. An alternative way of getting water off of him would be to let him stay in a warm place until he is dry. For the ears and face, use a wet cloth to wipe off any dirt.
Cleaning the dog’s crate
Being a wonderful Labrador owner also involves making sure your dog’s shelter is clean. You should remove and wash the blankets in your Lab’s tray two or three times per month. Use a washing machine with laundry detergent before rinsing the blankets thoroughly. Once every month, pull out the tray under the crate and wash it with soapy water then leave it to dry completely. Pull the crate from the wall and clean the area around it before putting it back and replacing the blankets.
Handling your Labrador
There are several things you will need to know about handling your Labrador. Rather than patting the dog on the head, you should use long strokes and per him in the direction of hair growth. Avoid hugging your Lab around the neck or putting your face in his face. Instead, if they want to, let your dog lean on you and place their head on your chest or lap.
As a Labrador owner, you should watch for any signs of distress. When your Lab licks his lips, yawns or avoids eye contact, these could be signs that he is uncomfortable. As such, family members around the dog should not continue with what they are doing. Learn how to correct your Labrador properly and be careful around the dog’s food as they tend to be food-protective.
Walk and exercise
Almost every dog will need a walk and exercise regularly. With the high energy and active nature of Labradors, making sure they exercise will be a great way to keep them from destructive behavior. Whenever possible, exercise your Lab, most preferably go for walks at least twice a day, making sure that the morning walk is long. In case you have a back lawn, this will work to your advantage since you can take them to space and allow them to play there for a long time. As your Lab grows, you should consider taking him to a larger place to walk, run, and play.
Keeping your Labrador happy and healthy
If you want to learn more about keeping you Labrador happy and healthy, you should read a book about caring for dogs. Make sure you take your Labrador puppies to the veterinarian regularly for vaccinations, and the adult ones for a checkup once every year. As you do this, it would be important always to monitor the mental and physical health of your dog and check for signs of illness regularly.
As much as you may ensure that your Labrador eats well, drinks water, and eliminates regularly, you should monitor these activities. In case you notice that the stool is not firm or your dog has diarrhea, you will need to visit a veterinarian.
In terms of behavior, you should get to know how your Labrador usually acts. Any unusual signs of listlessness, aggressiveness, or restlessness could be indicators of an underlying issue. By taking good care of your Labrador, you will not only have a fun experience but also enjoy the company of a loyal family member. You can read further on how to handle Labrador aggressiveness here.
Common mistakes to avoid
As a Labrador owner, certain mistakes that you may make can affect the health and happiness of your dog. Failure to get hips tested regularly, not setting rules, offering too many treats, giving your dog human medications without the approval of a vet, and not cleaning the dog’s ears can be serious and costly mistakes. Before getting a Labrador, you will have to familiarize yourself with their needs and the different ways to take care of the breed.
Just like humans, no two dogs have the same character or personality. As such, it can be challenging to choose the best food for your Labrador and the formula that works best for him. Some dogs may develop intolerance or allergic reactions to certain ingredients or particular brands of food.
You should also be prepared for a unique personality and behavior. Once you become a Labrador owner, take time to understand your dog. This will not only make it easier to deal with him and develop a strong bond but also allow you to identify any changes in behavior. Understanding that not all dogs are the same will come in handy when teaching your dog the consequences of bad behavior, getting him to listen to you, handling abnormal behaviors, or dealing with his high energy. Share with us some more tips that make you the best Lab owner.