No matter where you go and who you may speak with it seems there is never a shortage of stories about Labrador Retrievers. This highly popular dog is the main character of many dog books, stories and movies, and this is absolutely no accident. A well trained and well socialized Lab is like many of the sporting dogs, an ideal companion that is still independent, intelligent and very physically active. These traits, combined with the naturally loving and affectionate traits of the Lab is one of the reasons they are also used as assistance, therapy and guide dogs for a great many individuals throughout the United States as well as around the world.
One of the most important temperament traits of the Lab is that they are a naturally very playful and affectionate dog, well into their senior years. As puppies they are clownish and goofy and are known to keep their owners amazed at the funny things that they do. They are also very pronounced chewers and mouth objects longer than other breeds. Providing a Lab puppy and dog with a lot of different types of chewing toys is important in preventing a major disaster when the puppy is left alone. Although most Labs are through the chewing stage by about one year of age, they are always dogs that mouth objects and tend to carry things around with them. They are known for piling their toys all together and even constantly carrying sticks or a ball when they are out on walks.
The Labrador Retriever is an excellent hunting dog and is one of the best at retrieving fallen birds. They carry this natural instinct into any type of game, making them wonderful at teaching fetch and retrieving commands. The Lab is highly work oriented and will continue to fetch and retrieve as long as people will keep throwing. They have to be taught an "enough" command so that they stop the activity before they become a pest or a nuisance.
While not prone to barking the Lab will bark to sound the alarm that strangers are approaching. They typically, however, only go as far as barking and are not known as effective protection or guard dogs. Often the Lab is too eager to make another friend and welcome company to be a serious guard dog. However, Labs can, if provoke, defend themselves, their families and their territory.
Most Labs, as a very general statement, are low on the scale of dog-aggression. Intact male Labs, as with any breed, are typically the most aggressive and then only if female dogs in heat are present. Even thought the Lab is dog friendly they still need routine, frequent socialization as they mature and once they are fully grown. This constant socialization prevents any tendency of possessive, aggressive or territorial behavior from developing. Since Labs are such dog friendly dogs they are ideal for work in public settings such as those required by guide, assistance and therapy dogs.
Labs, in general, also get along very well with cats and other household pets. Some Labs may not be suitable for houses with small rodent type pets, however there are few breeds of dogs that make a good match for these types of pets. Labs that are raised with cats or kittens become very affectionate towards the cats and may play and interact with friendly felines on a regular basis. They can be taught not to chase however some may still engage in this type of behavior if not routinely trained and worked with.
The Lab is a relatively high energy puppy but will become less rambunctious as he or she matures. They do stay an above average activity level dog all their lives, however the Lab can get his or her exercise from one or two brisk moderately long walks per day combined with obedience work and a few games. They love being outdoors in all types of weather and are terrific walking, hiking, jogging and just being outside with the family types of dogs. The Lab can tolerate both heat and cold provided they have appropriate shelter from the elements. While they can be an outdoors dog they really do prefer to be inside with their family whenever people are home.
Labs are outstanding with children if they have been raised with kids, properly socialized and are obedience trained. Although naturally very playful they can also be too rambunctious and prone to knocking smaller children down in play if they are not properly trained. The Lab is very willing to work with children and typically, once trained, will respond to kids as well as to adults in the family without any hesitation. Some Labs, like some people, are a bit more independent but this is not typically a huge issue with training this breed.
Some Labs are prone to digging and, like dogs that do dig, can become escape artists from most fences. Thankfully, however, most Labs, especially if they are spayed or neutered, don't have a huge need to roam and wander. This aspect of the dog's personality has made them a popular farm dog where they may not be inside a fenced yard and rather stay close to the home because of their desired to be with the people they know.
The Lab is really a playful, outgoing and very extroverted type of dog. They are always willing to go for a walk or jog, and they are especially fond of water. A Lab will go swimming whenever he or she gets the chance, and most will make a bee line for any body of water, no matter how mucky or swampy, as soon as they see it. As a dog bred for water work, this is a trait that is as much a part of the Lab personality as their friendly behavior. Some Labs are slightly to moderately intolerant of heat, but this is not common for most healthy, in shape dogs. Older and obese Labs, which can be a problem with the breed as they age, are more likely to have difficulty in extreme heat and humidity.