As the most popular dog breed registered with the American Kennel Club for the last several years, it is evident that many owners find the Labrador Retriever to be a great match for their family. However, like all breeds, not every dog and every owner are always the best combination. The Lab, despite all the breeds great and positive attributes, may not be the best fit for several different types of individuals and families.
Generally the Lab can adjust to almost any type of living situation from being an outdoor dog to being an apartment pet. The only two things that really makes the difference for the Lab is how much contact time he or she has with people, as well as how much routine exercise time he or she gets on a daily basis. A Labrador Retriever that doesn't have regular contact with his or her family won't be emotionally balanced and a dog that doesn't get enough exercise won't be physically balanced.
In making the decision if the Labrador Retriever is the right dog for you and your family consider the following questions and answer honestly. There are different dog breeds that incorporate all the characteristics of the Lab with other different attributes that may make a better match if you find yourself disagreeing with the following.
I want a very energetic dog that needs to have routine outdoor exercise every day, regardless of the weather.
The Labrador Retriever, despite its relatively short, thick, coarse coat is a very hardy dog and is used to the cold winters of Labrador and Newfoundland in Canada. They crave being outdoors in the rain, snow or sleet and really enjoy getting into the water and having a swim. Of course this also means leaping through puddle, mud and anything else that looks like it might be a lot of fun.
The Lab will learn to relax and stay calm in the house as he or she matures, but the puppies tend to be very active and prone to chewing up to about one year of age. Young Labs will need more significant amounts of exercise than older Labs, however older Labs need routine exercise as well as weight gain can be a problem for this breed.
I want a dog that is always interested in what is going on and prefers to in the center of the action rather than watching from the sidelines.
The Lab is not going to be a dog that is happy with just sitting in the corner and watching what the family is doing. They are a true "paws-on" breed that absolutely loves to be in the thick of things. This makes them a terrific match for an active household or for individuals that lead a busy life. Without any activity in the family the Lab is known to create their own diversions. Some may become very attention seeking and may even start to demand attention from their owners by barking, brining every toy in the house to the owner as well as other more destructive types of behaviors. A Lab that is busy, active and involved is a very content dog that really is very willing to do just about anything that the family is up to.
I don't mind a large dog that sometimes acts like a lapdog and is highly affectionate and loving.
Labs are naturals at cuddling and making contact with their owners. They will, if allowed, climb up on the couch, bed or other furniture to be as close to you as they possibly can. If they have to stay on the floor they are typically curled up at your feet, often touching you with their head or front paws. They are also famous for the soulful eye look which is sure to get them attention if they place their head just right on the owner's knee. Labs are typically very willing participants in routine grooming and some will even bring the brush when they feel the need for some "me doggy time".
I am not interested in a dog as a guard or protection dog but want a good watchdog.
Although the Labrador Retriever is a larger, solid dog they are just too friendly to be effective guard dogs. They do typically bark when a stranger approaches but usually the barking quickly changes to tail wagging and play. Some Labs may be more protective than others but generally they are a moderate watch dog and an ineffective guard dog.
I don't mind a dog that sheds an average amount of hair all year round.
The Lab does have a double coat that can shed moderately heavily in warm climates and about average in cooler climates. The hair is coarse and thick and very noticeable whatever color it may be. Regular grooming will reduce most shedding but it will not eliminate any hair left behind. The slightly oily coat is easy to maintain and they need to be bathed only when necessary.
I want an intelligent dog that has a natural streak of independence but is also highly trainable and has a real personality.
The Labrador Retriever is considered to be one of the ten top breeds for intelligence, however they can also be stubborn and slightly headstrong at times. They have been bred to work with people but to also make some decisions on their own, a trait that some Labs seem to have more than others. Positive reward training and early obedience work is important with these dogs as they can see themselves as the leaders and be challenging dogs to work with if this is not established early.
I want a dog that is good with children of all ages as well as other pets and dogs.
Most Labrador Retrievers, especially those raised in families with children, absolutely love being with kids. Their natural playful temperament and high intelligence makes them a good match for children of all ages. Some younger Labs may be a bit too rambunctious for very small children, but they can be taught how to play gently with children. Older children will find the Lab easy to work with and since they have a very low dog-aggression level they are good for children to train and work with even in group activities.
The Lab can learn to live in a house with almost any other type of pet provided they are socialized early and if possible raised with a variety of animals. Labs often are outstanding dogs when it comes to getting along with cats and even birds in the family. Some Labs may be less trustworthy around smaller rodent type pets and they should not be left alone together.