Feature Length Article on Labrador Training and Care

An important part of effective Labrador training stems from gaining a better understanding of the breed. Labradors are naturally lively, carefree, and very attentive. They are also very alert and playful, and they enjoy showering their owners with affection. The desire to please their owner is also an inherent characteristic that makes Labradors a very lovable breed.

The characteristics mentioned above, combined with their high level of intelligence, make Labrador training fairly easy for you to accomplish. These characteristics also contribute to the fact that Labradors usually excel in dog shows and sporting events. Furthermore, Labradors are very energetic and are happiest in the great outdoors, which makes them the perfect pet for an active and adventurous family.

Labrador History

Contrary to what you may think, Labrador Retrievers did not originate in Labrador. Rather, they were originally bred for hunting in Newfoundland. The first Labrador Retriever was bred by crossing a Newfoundland with a small water dog, and was originally called St. John’s Water Dog. In the early 19th century, the Duke of Malmesbury was the first to refer to the breed as Labradors, and the name has stuck since then. That was also the time when the breed became popular among British Royals because of their sporting characteristics and their prowess at hunting.

The Labradors that we know and love today were first developed in 1878, after years of interbreeding the St. John’s Water Dog breed with other Retriever breeds has taken place. Fortunately, the years of interbreeding did not cause the Labrador to lose its most desirable qualities. As a result, the breed was able to maintain its popularity as well. In 1903, Labradors were officially recognized by the UK Kennel Club and by the American Kennel Club in 1917. Even today, Labradors are still among the most popular dog breeds.

Choosing a Labrador Puppy

Although the breed’s natural characteristics contribute much in making Labrador training fairly easy, it is still important for you to choose your Labrador puppy well. You might think that choosing a puppy only involves picking the cutest one out of the bunch or choosing the puppy with the colour that you like best, but there is actually a lot more to consider than that. In fact, every dog breed has a certain standard that should serve as guidelines when you choose a puppy. Here is a brief outline to help you choose a Labrador puppy that is sure to be a healthy and happy dog.

- Choose a Labrador puppy that has a large head with a broad skull and a well-defined stop.

- Make sure that the puppy’s ears rest close to his head, but far from his face. A Labrador’s ears are neither heavy nor large; rather, they compliment the dog’s features perfectly. A healthy Labrador’s ears will have light pink skin on the inside and no traces of foul odour, scabbing, or other irregularities.

- Choose a puppy that has large, round, dark or hazel eyes. The eyes should have an alert, friendly, and intelligent look. They should also be clear and free from any traces of tearing.

- Your puppy should have a black nose with wide and distinguished nostrils. Make sure that his nostrils are free of mucus.

- Make sure that the dog’s jaws are strong and that his teeth form a perfect scissor bite. His upper teeth should overlap the bottom teeth a little bit.

- Choose a puppy that has a strong and well-developed chest. His back should be level and his ribs well-sprung. His body should be well-proportioned and balanced.

- A healthy Labrador puppy has a tail that is thick at the base and gradually tapers at the tip. His tail is smooth and coated in fur, without any traces of feathering. His tail shouldn’t hang down or curl over his back.

- Your Labrador should have strong-boned forelegs and well-developed back legs that have turned stifles. Both sets of legs should neither turn in nor turn out.

- Choose a puppy that has round and compact feet, with well-developed pads and arched toes. The feet should not turn in or out.

- You should also make sure that the Labrador has a balanced and carefree gait. Although puppies naturally walk in an awkward manner, it is still relatively easy to spot if a puppy favours one leg or paw when he walks. This could be a sign of defect in a Labrador puppy.

- One of the most distinctive features of a Labrador is his coat. His undercoat, which is unseen, is water resistant. His topcoat is dense, short, and straight. Make sure that your puppy’s coat does not wave or curl and that it doesn’t feel rough to the touch. You should also check to make sure that your puppy does not have bald patches.

- A healthy Labrador has smooth skin that is free from blemishes, scabs, or bumps. A Labrador’s skin may be pale pink, brown, or spotted.

- Of course, you may be looking at puppies that are still too young to show real signs of breed standard. In this case, it is a good idea to get a good look at the pup’s parents in order to get an idea of what your chosen pup will look like when it grows older.

Labrador Training

While Labrador training may not be as difficult as training other dog breeds, it is still important to know exactly what you are doing before you even begin training your dog. Not knowing exactly how to go about the process is the biggest reason why first time dog owners struggle with dog training. You may want to take your dog to an obedience school where you, too can learn the basics of training and be confident enough in the near future to handle the training by yourself. Otherwise, you could simply follow these tips on how to effectively teach your dog to be the best Labrador that he can be.

Housebreaking - This is necessarily the first part of training any breed of dog. When you bring a dog home, he will have to be made to understand that his toilet is outside, not IN your house. And this part of Labrador training has to begin IMMEDIATELY. Follow these simple steps to ensure success in potty training:

1. Every time you notice your dog showing signs of needing to do his business, take him out to the designated elimination area immediately. The first eight to nine weeks are especially critical where housebreaking is concerned. During this period, your dog may need to be taken out every hour, about five minutes after eating or drinking, after playtime or exercise, right before bedtime, and as soon as he wakes up in the morning.

2. Every time your dog successfully does his business at the designated spot, lavish him with praise so that he knows he has just done something good.

Consistency - To be truly successful in Labrador training, you will have to be very consistent. This means using the same words for each command that you give. If you have family living with you, you’ll have to ask them to use the same words in giving the commands as well. Repetition is the key to successful dog training. It may also be necessary to keep training sessions short in order to make it more fun and interesting because dogs normally have a very short attention span.

Patience - Aside from consistency, another key to successful Labrador training is a great deal of patience. Even though a Labrador has all the characteristics that make training fun and easy, no dog is perfect and there will be times when your dog will really try your patience. When this happens, make sure that you do not yell at your dog or punish him in any way. Instead, look him straight in the eyes and give a firm NO; then, show him how to do what you just asked him to do and praise him when he does it. Remember: There is a big difference between discipline and punishment.

Positive Reinforcement - This is the best way to develop good behaviour in any dog. When your Labrador does exactly as he is told or when he exhibits good behaviour voluntarily, lavish him immediately with praise and give him treats if possible. Dogs never get tired of hearing praise and getting rewards, and these things only make them more determined to do things the way you like.

Labrador Care

Aside from knowing how to properly train your Labrador, you also need to know how to care for him. Caring for a Labrador is easy enough, as long as it is done regularly. Here are some basic care tips that you can follow in order to ensure that your Labrador is kept healthy and happy.

Keep Him Clean - Labradors normally care for their own coat. However, it is still a good idea to give them a good brushing every week or two. This will help remove dirt and loose hair, especially during their shedding season. It will also help give his coat a more glossy appearance as the oils are moved and stimulated. You should also remember to give your Labrador a bath at least three times each year - once in the spring, once in the summer, and once in the fall.

Nail Care - Your Labrador’s nails have to be clipped once every three months or so. If you don’t have any experience clipping a dog’s nails, have the vet or a groomer do it for you. You would also do well to learn how to do it so you can clip your own dog’s nails in the future.

Ears - Caring for your Labrador also involves checking his ears twice each month to make sure that they are healthy. This is important because Labradors’ ears get poor air circulation, which makes them prone to ear infections.

Teeth - To help protect your Labrador’s teeth from disease, give them a good brushing regularly and give him dentabones. You should also have your dog’s teeth checked by the vet regularly.

Exercise - Giving a Labrador plenty of exercise is also one of the most important Labrador training and care tips. This breed of dog needs to move around in order to avoid gaining excess fats. An overweight Labrador is sure to experience some health problems.

Diet - Just as a Labrador needs plenty of exercise, he also needs a healthy and well-balanced diet. Set-up a regular eating schedule for your dog and avoid feeding him with human food as much as possible because this can also lead to health problems. You would do well to consult your vet as to how much food you should give your dog and what brand of dog food he recommends. Another thing you should remember is to always keep your dog’s drinking water fresh. A Labrador needs to stay hydrated, especially since he is expected to get a lot of physical activity. Make sure that his drinking water is always clean and free from all traces of dirt and bacteria.

Vet Visits - Be sure to take your Labrador to the vet for a general check-up at least once each year. All of his vaccines should be up-to-date and you should make sure that he is protected from heart worm.

Safety - A Labrador can be quite mischievous at times, so you will have to take some extra measures to ensure that he doesn’t get into any trouble, especially when you need to be out of the house for an extended period. Ensuring your dog’s safety means making sure that all potentially dangerous household items are out of his reach. These items include chemicals such as household cleaning supplies, house plants that may be poisonous when ingested, garbage that may choke or poison your dog, sharp objects that may cut him such as knives, and electrical wires that he might chew on and cause electrocution.

As long as you follow the tips and guidelines discussed herein and establish a practical household routine, you will soon discover that Labrador training and care is not really that difficult. In fact, it can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your dog.

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