Adopting an adult Labrador retriever has advangages; you'll have a better understanding of his personality and temperament, and you'll know his full-grown size. If your adult Lab doesn't know how to fetch and to swim, you shouldn't have any problem training him since Labs love water and are natural retrievers.
Most Labs take to water, so you might find that your newly adopted adult Lab instinctively knows what to do. His character traits will help, too, since labs are intelligent dogs known for their trainability and their desire to please. It is possible that your adult Labrador will end up needing just as much time as or more time than a puppy before he understands what you want when you throw a ball and holler, "Fetch," or when you're standing waist-deep in a lake and beckoning him to join you. Have patience with your older Lab when you're teaching him to fetch and swim. He's a smart boy and will eventually get it.
Labs of all ages respond extremely well to positive reinforcement. Use this to your advantage when working with your adult Lab to train him to swim and fetch. Go overboard with the praise and affection when he performs a task correctly and add in a few yummy treats to sweeten the taste of his success.
Basic Fetch Training Techniques
The same techniques that effectively teach Labrador puppies to fetch will work when training your adult Lab. Fetching is a natural instinct in most Labs, so all it may take to teach your adult Lab to fetch is wiggling a toy or ball in front of him and throwing it a short distance away, and encouraging your dog to go after it. Tell him how good he is when he does retrieve the toy and if he brings it back to you, pet him and praise him first before reaching for it. Giving treats is a standard means of rewarding a dog for doing what you ask during training.
Adult Lab Swim
Teaching an adult lab to swim might be more of a challenge, especially if he hasn't had prior experience with water. Go slowly, always reassuring him to keep anxiety and fears to a minimum if they exist. Train only in placid water. Enter before your dog to show him everything is safe. Then go back ashore and lead your dog into the water. It will be reassuring if you go in only about knee-deep. Don't go ahead of your dog; bring him in with you, never pulling or forcing him further than he is comfortable going. Gradually take your Lab deeper and deeper until his instincts kick in. Some labs will get the idea immediately, while others require swimming lessons similar to those you give a child. You can do this in water that is chest-deep for your Labrador by holding one hand under his chest and the other under his haunches to keep his tail end even with his front end. Slowly walk deeper into the water and encourage him when he starts paddling.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.