How To Choose The Right Labrador For You
Buying your first dog can be a life-changing decision. Choosing the right dog will help to ensure that your life changes in a good way.
There are some wise precautions you might like to consider before viewing any litter of Labrador puppies or choosing which one to bring home with you.
It is often tempting to buy a puppy in an opportunistic moment of enthusiasm. Perhaps because you happen to hear of a friend who has a litter that will be ready to go to their new homes soon. Or a neighbor who has a gorgeous litter of puppies that you fall in love with when you pop over to admire.
But the puppy that lives just around the corner, and the puppy that is going to bring you years of pleasure, maybe two very different things.
It is a really good idea to put your sensible hat on at times like these and to approach the whole business of selecting your puppy in a business-like way.
The first decision to make is to choose what type of Labrador you wish to end up with.
Which characteristics are most important to you, and will help him to fit into your family best.
Choosing a Working or Show dog?
Labradors in the UK and in the USA fall into two distinct types. Those bred for work, and those bred for the show ring.
The working bred dog is generally very responsive and easy to train but he may also fall short of what you expect in appearance.
If you are hoping to get involved in gundog fieldwork, or agility at some point it is important to purchase a field or working bred labrador.
But if you are simply looking for a good-natured pet, the dog’s ancestry is less important.
Of course, choosing a dog is so much more than just weighing up the pros and cons. More than just a ‘balance sheet’, it is a very personal decision and sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling.
Whatever you do, try to resist buying a pup, just because a friend’s bitch has had a litter.
Do your research, avoid older puppies that have been passed on because the owner couldn’t cope, and when you have made your decision, take some sensible precautions when choosing the individual puppy
Choosing a dog with health clearances
Make sure the parents of the litter you are intending to look at have the relevant health clearances for the breed. There are now a number of hereditary diseases in labradors that can be tested for.
The British Veterinary Association, in conjunction with the Kennel Club, runs several Health Schemes. Routine testing under these schemes is gradually growing in popularity for a number of conditions. These include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and a number of inherited eye diseases.
However, there are still many puppies available for sale in the UK whose parents have not been tested, or that have been tested and fall below the necessary standard for breeding.
Amazingly, in the UK, the Kennel Club will still register puppies from parents that have poor hip scores
Check the ancestry of the dog
If you are buying a Labrador for gundog work, or agility, make sure the parents of the litter you want to view are from working stock, look for a few FTCH and FTW (field trial champion and field trial winner) in the pedigree.
There needn’t be hundreds of them. If you are hoping for success in the show ring, you should be looking for CH and SH CH titles (SH CH is show champion, CH is a show champion with a working certificate which is not a demanding or difficult test of working abilities.
Don’t dismiss a pedigree because there are no champions in it; get someone knowledgeable to check out the lines in the pedigree for you.
Is a Labrador the Right Dog for You?
Labradors are sweet, loving dogs. They are also full of energy and crave attention. You need to examine your current lifestyle and consider whether a Labrador is the best fit for you.
How busy is your life? Are you willing to take the time to train and play with your new Labrador? Labs need lots of exercises. Are you willing to take your Lab for daily walks and play with him in your yard or at a local park? Your Labrador will be with you for a good chunk of time. You could have him for the next ten years or more. Are you prepared for that commitment?
You may have to make changes to your schedule as well as to your home. You will need to have a dedicated space for your Labrador to sleep, eat, and be kept safe when you aren’t home. You may have to remove items that can get him into trouble; things he might chew on or tear up.
If you are sure you are ready for a Lab then you need to decide if you want a puppy or an older dog. Puppies need extra time as they will need to be taught everything. Are you ready to potty train and do everything it takes to have a puppy in your home?
Owning a Lab is a wonderful, rewarding experience. However, a Lab isn’t the right dog for everyone. Think it through and don’t make a rash decision. It’s so easy to look into those sweet eyes and want to take him home right away, but you’ll be doing yourself and the Lab a favor, by thinking everything through.
Where to Adopt Your Labrador
There are three basic places to adopt Labradors and we will go over each one.
- Shelters and Rescues
- Pet Stores
If you want a show dog or a hunting dog then you will definitely want to go through a breeder. There are many ways to find breeders. You can ask for references from friends or you can search online. If you want to make sure you find a breeder with an excellent reputation then you should contact a Labrador club in your area and ask for references.
A reputable breeder should have references from previous clients, their kennel should be clean and their puppies should be in excellent health. They should ask you lots of questions to make sure your home will be a good place for a Labrador puppy. A breeder should have all the paperwork on hand to prove the lineage of your new Labrador as well as being able to show you the mother and other littermates.
One downside is that once you find a reputable breeder you may have to wait a while for your puppy. They often have waiting lists. Another downside is the cost. Since these puppies have proven show level or hunting lineage they can cost quite a bit. There may be some puppies in the litter that won’t be show quality and the breeder may charge less for them.
If you aren’t looking for a show dog or a hunter then you can use someone who just breeds their Labradors to be petted. You still want to make sure they are legitimate and that the kennel is clean and the puppies are in good health. You should also still get to meet the mother and other littermates. If the puppies are purebred, the breeder should have the paperwork on hand to prove it. If you go this route then you probably won’t have to wait as long as the cost can be considerably cheaper.
Shelters and Rescues
There are shelters and rescue centers that specialize in Labradors. They rescue them from homelessness or abusive homes and put them up for adoption.
These centers are usually very careful about the homes they adopt these Labs out to and will ask you lots of questions to make sure your home will be a good place for a new Lab
There are also shelters in most cities that have all sorts of dogs on hand. You may be able to find a Labrador or a Lab mix at one of these.
Shelters and rescue centers tend to have fewer puppies and older dogs so this is a better place to go if you aren’t specifically looking for a puppy. Many of these older dogs already have some training and are often potty trained.
When you adopt from a shelter the dog will usually be spayed or neutered and will also be up-to-date on all shots. Because these dogs have been rescued they usually don’t have paperwork proving their lineage.
In fact, you may not even know for sure if they are a purebred Lab. If you are mainly looking for a good pet then I feel this is a wonderful way to go. You are giving a precious animal a chance to have a new home.
Besides giving a Lab a new home another plus to shelters and rescues is that they are cheaper than breeders or pet stores..
Pet stores can be an easy and convenient way to adopt a Labrador. However, there are several things to be careful of when purchasing from a pet store.
Make sure they can provide all of the details of the Labrador puppy’s breeding and history. You also want to make sure the puppy has been well cared for. Check for any signs of illness like nasal discharge or watery eyes. Look at the area the puppies have been kept- make sure it’s clean.
Once you bring home your new puppy you will want to take it to the vet as soon as possible to check on any health conditions. Puppies in pet stores are often kept in close quarters so if any of them are sick it gets passed around quickly. I have experienced this first-hand as there have been two times in my life where my family purchased a puppy from a pet store and found out it was sick when we got it home. Once with kennel cough and another time with an ear infection.
Pet stores can also be quite expensive and often try to sell you extras that you may not actually need. So, just be careful to check everything out.