An hour at the park with a Lab might help explain why he’s got the best pillow in the house in millions of American homes. With enough energy for the busiest family and a heart as big as his otter-like tail, the typical Labrador brings a spark to any gathering.
Initially finding work as fishing assistants in Newfoundland, Labradors once spent their days lending a hand with pulling in nets and retrieving fish trying to escape. Breeders mixed things up a bit by adding setters, other retrievers and spaniels to their gene pool, and hunters soon valued them as game retrievers willing to work all day long for a little love and a warm bed. Today's Lab can still hunt with the best of the best but he will eagerly retrieve socks, newspapers and dog toys instead of fowl for his family.
The Puppy Years
Your pudgy Lab puppy will eventually stand 21 to 24 inches tall. Adult males weigh as much as 80 pounds. The more petite female can reach a respectable 50 pounds of toned muscle. Labs come in black, yellow or chocolate. You can expect his puppy mentality to last a couple of years, making early obedience training a priority. But if your Lab has already reached adolescence or adulthood, his intelligence and eagerness to please typically earn him gold stars in obedience training. Group lessons at your local dog-training club or with a respected trainer get him used to being around other dogs and people.
Balancing Mind and Body
Labs love trying out their intellect on a new skill nearly as much as they love food. Hiding toys or treats around the house for him to sniff out, introducing him to higher levels of obedience training or teaching a new trick every few weeks are ways to keep your Lab’s mental gears busy. This alleviates the need for him to come up with his own boredom-relieving ideas, like finding the springs inside the couch.
Labs also excel in agility events -- timed trials of ducking through tunnels, jumping over barriers and weaving between evenly spaced poles. Dock jumping, a sporting event in which your Lab competes with others to jump as far as possible off a dock into water, brings out his water genes. Feeding healthy treats, such as frozen green beans, as rewards during training help keep off those extra pounds that many Labs struggle with.
A Labrador’s inherent people-loving nature and overall friendly attitude means he can join you on bike rides, jaunts to the beach, early morning runs on the trails or evening strolls around the neighborhood. Once he’s gotten that daily exercise in, he will gladly veg with you on the couch for movie night. Reserve a few minutes each week for routine grooming and brushing to keep his short, double coat looking its best. This also gets him used to having his head, tail, feet and mouth inspected – something your vet will greatly appreciate.
- Labrador retriever in snow image by Wojciech Gajda from Fotolia.com