Do you have a pet Labrador Retriever who needs training and a challenge?

Some background to the Labrador

When you understand the breed of the dog, where it has come from and what its purposes is, then you have a greater understanding of the dog you own. You can approach pet Labrador training the right way. The Labrador is a great example of a breed of dog which has seamlessly taken on a variety of roles. Many homes have one or more Labradors as solely pets and the owners have no intention of working them. We cover the Wimborne and Poole areas of Dorset. We also cover clients in Broadstone, Corfe Mullen and Canford Heath. I will travel to most areas within a 10 miles radius of Wimborne and there is no travel costs.

Go to any shoot and the Labrador Retriever will be in an abundance waiting to start working. This is the environment where the Labrador is most at home. Years of careful, selective breeding has enhanced the dog’s capability for stamina, retrieving and sometimes flushing game. This page is going to consider the Labrador in more depth so that you get an understanding of the dog you own and how best to meet their needs if you have decided they are not working a dog.

A brief introduction to Labrador Retrievers; the nation’s most popular breed of dog

The Labrador Retriever is one of the six breeds of retriever (alongside Golden, Chesapeake Bay, Curly Coated, Flat Coated and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling) and are the United Kingdom’s most popular breed of dog – topping the Kennel Club annual ‘Britain’s Top Dog’ listing once again in 2019!

As one of the most common dogs in the country, the Labrador retriever is a regular sight on our streets and are frequently used to aid those suffering with blindness as well as performing tasks with law enforcement agencies.

Their history…

There is a reason that the Labrador Retriever is so popular over here, and that is because they have been here for over two centuries! Originating in Newfoundland in Canada, the exact origin of the breed is a little unknown but it appears to have grown alongside the English founders who settled there in the early 1500s.

Arriving over here in the UK in the early 1800s, the breed was initially known as either St John’s dog or the Newfoundland dog and was the choice of both the first and second Earl of Malmesbury as part of their shooting sports. 

The first known use of Labrador was in 1839 however the breed had almost died out in the early 1880s until a chance meeting between the third Earl of Malmesbury and the sixth Duke of Buccleuch who, along with the Duke of Home, were able to resurrect the breed and save them from extinction.

From there, the Labrador Retriever has continued to grow, first being recognised and registered by the Kennel Club in 1903. It’s not just in the UK where the breed is so popular either, with them also topping most popular lists in America and Canada.

As their name suggests, the main purpose and use of the Labrador Retriever was as a working retriever dog; helping on gun hunts to collect items and working with fisherman to haul nets. In more modern years however the Labrador has become the go to choice for assistance dogs to help blind people as well as working with emergency and security services, thanks to them being so easy to train.

Their personality traits and characteristics

If you have spent any time around Labrador Retrievers then you will know just how friendly and affectionate they can be! They’re known to be quick to grow, reaching adult height anywhere from six to twelve months (although they will still be filling out a little up to two years of age).

They are also an incredibly reliable dog and are very active and eager to get out and about – renowned for their naturally swimming efficiency. Their warm and welcoming personality make them a great choice for first-time owners and they make for fantastic companions for both solo owners and for large family owners.

Whilst they are naturally active, they are known to love their food and it is not uncommon to see some packing on the pounds so it is important to ensure you are feeding them correctly and keeping them active to maximise their health.

Highly intelligent, owners will need to give them plenty of outdoor activity but thanks to their incredibly social nature, they are able to be let run free amongst other dogs and strangers. In fact, they’re so social you will find they are often crave extra attention and playing games.

The sleek, two layer coat is made of a short, thick and straight topcoat and then a softer, weather-resistant undercoat which helps to keep them warm and makes them very quick to dry; a result of their long history working as a gun dog and partner to hunters. The coat typically comes in either a black, yellow or chocolate colour, although some breeders do now offer white and fox red colours.

pet Labrador training

Labrador Retriever very popular dog

If you do a quick Internet search you will soon see that the Labrador retriever features as the number one pet of choice. Going to any park or dog walking area and you are guaranteed to see one or more Labradors in that visit. The same applies if you go to a shoot, the Labrador will be present in good numbers. They are popular dog for a variety of reasons. In the shooting world they excel at their role of retrieving and are the number one dog of choice for this job. The Labrador is a great choice as a pet as it fits into the family well, can be easily trained and have a great laid-back attitude. However, if you fail to acknowledge what these dogs were bred for then there can be some issues.

Is training the Labrador any different to training other dogs?

So is Pet Labrador training any different to training any other dog? If you consider the Labrador to be just another dog then no, basic training will be the same. However, the question you need to ask yourself before you get the puppy is what are our long-term plans for this dog? If the dog is only ever going to be a pet then quality basic obedience training will suffice. This will lay down the basic foundations for further training later.

If you are undecided then you are better to try and enrol the puppy with a local trainer who has some experience and understanding of training gun dogs. You may change your mind later, nothing is lost and you and the puppy will have benefited from the extra training. I am a local trainer based near Wimborne, but service most areas of Dorset. I can provide your Labrador puppy with the right start to its training regardless of your later intentions.

If you’re buying a Labrador to work on the shoot or to compete in field trials then hopefully you will already have a good understanding of what is required for basic training. Again, if this area is new to you then please contact a reputable gun dog trainer to discuss your options.

For the purpose of this article we are going to assume that you have bought a Labrador puppy with no intention of ever working them. I would recommend that you research everything you can about your Labrador and try and understand why they have been bred the way they are. You need to understand what the breed traits of the Labrador and what makes them tick. If you live in the Wimborne area then I am your local Labrador trainer.

Exercising your Labrador

By understanding your Labrador is a true working dog you will start to appreciate that two short walks a day will not suffice. Unless you are very fit most young dogs out of puppy hood will out walk you all day long. It is not about the duration of the exercise but the quality. You need to work your dog’s mind over working their muscles. If you fail to provide the right quality of exercise then you can end up with a bored dog. This may then end up leading to training and behaviour issues.

Training and behaviour issues

When looking at training and behaviour issues with a Labrador these are not specific to this breed. Any breed of dog can have these training and behaviour issues. However, due to the breed traits of the Labrador then these issues may exhibit themselves more readily.

Pulling on the lead

Pulling on a lead is common with every breed of dog I know and is no worse with a Labrador. However, once fully grown this is a powerful dog to have at the end of the lead when it is pulling. If you have one with minimal training then it is more likely to pull to sniff and explore it surroundings. It is essential you get the early input of the trainer to ensure the Labrador walks on a loose lead.

Over excited and demanding

Labrador’s can be over friendly if they are used to a lot of attention from their immediate family and strangers. They want to meet everybody and everybody wants to meet them. However, this just reinforces to the Labrador that people are great fun. There is no fun in a large dog jumping up at people. From an early age your dog should be taught constraint when around people. I personally don’t allow any strangers to make a fuss of my dog without my permission. You will be surprised how many people think they have the right to invade a dog’s space without asking to make a fuss of it.

The offshoot of us teaching that people are great fun is that your Labrador may start to become overexcited and demanding. Again this is a symptom of a wider issue of the lack of boundaries within the dog’s life. Due to the size of the Labrador and its potential to be over friendly it is important that the owner sets boundaries in a kind and positive way. Failure to do this can lead to an overbearing dog.

Recall training

A key training issue that is common with all dogs is that they ignore you when you try to call them back. This is usually because there found something more exciting than what you are. Labrador’s are great at finding exciting things to do. It is essential that you get a solid recall in place very early on. This will usually require the input of a good trainer.

Prey drive

Leading on from recall training and why it is so important is that your Labrador will have a high prey drive. Most dogs have a prey drive, but the Labrador has been bred as a hunting dog. Therefore its prey drive will be at a higher level. Under control prey drive is a great thing and it allows us to play with the dog and to meet its breed traits. Prey drive which is out of control is highly dangerous. As an owner of the Labrador you need to understand about prey drive and what it means. You can then utilise this in your training and observe if you actually need expert help.

Pet Labrador training in Dorset

At my pet gun dog training facilities I try and teach you how to interact with your Labrador so that you meet their breed traits. I have a bronze, silver, and gold syllabus which are aimed at giving you the skills and techniques to train your dog to a high level. This will ensure that in your everyday life you will be meeting your Labrador’s mental and physical needs. The bronze level focuses on excellent obedience and manners. These are the foundations for you having a great relationship with your dog. Some people are happy at this point and progressed no further. Others then go onto the silver and this will start to build upon what has been learnt in the bronze adding to it some basic gun dog techniques.

What are the key training techniques we should focus on

There are many things we can teach our puppy and dog. Some of these I would class as tricks, others are important and a few are essential. When I meet a new owner who has a puppy labrador the first question I ask is are they going to work them. If they are planning to then I advise accordingly. If the dog is just going to be a pet then this falls in what I would class as my remit of experience.

Basic pet Labrador training for the puppy .

When I’m teaching the owner to train the young puppy I want training to be fun. We are not looking for the perfect dog. What I want to try and do is put in place early foundations which will become the default behaviour of the young dog. Some trainers will disagree with me, but these are what I consider important to start to put into place with a young dog.

I am not looking for perfection with this list. We need the puppy to be a puppy and to understand that being with its new owner and training is great fun. What I’m looking for is that we get these basics in place very early on so that we have a solid foundation to start from.

If you have a Labrador puppy or an older dog and you are not planning working them then I can offer training and challenges which will make your relationship even better. I train outside in distraction environments so the training you get is real and mirrors where you take your dog. Contact me if you need further help.

Does Muttley Solutions take my Retriever away to train it?

No we don’t offer boot camp style training. I believe the owner needs the majority of the training. When they can get it right then the dog will.

Are Labradors difficult to train?

With the right techniques these dogs are fairly easy to train. They are usually very treat focused. Therefore they will work hard in training to get those rewards.

Do Labradors make good pets?

They make excellent pet dogs and they love people. One reason they are an excellent choice as a service dog. If you understand what the breed was bred for then you can meet their breed traits and make their day a lot more fun.