Thursday, January 13, 2011

Know Your Dogs! An Intro to the Labrador Retriever

Fast Facts

The Labrador retriever is one of the most popular domesticated animals in America today, and one of the top choices for dog lovers everywhere. Their sweet nature, innocent enthusiasm, and desire to be a beloved part of the family have helped Labs remain popular for decades. Typically weighing 55-80 pounds and standing approximately two feet tall, the Labrador retriever is one of the most easy-going pets a parent could ask for, and is a wonderful addition to any home.

Personality

There are few people who won't get along with a Labrador retriever, and a Lab can make a devoted convert out of those who aren't even pet lovers. They are relatively low-maintenance, but affectionate, playful, and energetic.

One of the reasons Labrador retrievers are so well liked is that they're easy to live with, and rarely aggressive, temperamental, sulky, or difficult to handle. They can keep up with, and even welcome, the rough play and constant chasing that a household with young children can provide. Yet, at the end of the day, your Lab is more than happy to hop up on the couch and snuggle with you while you watch TV.

If you're adding a Labrador retriever puppy to the home, however, be prepared to come armed with a lot of patience and energy. (For instance, the dog in the hit film Marley & Me is a yellow Lab.) At a younger age, the endearing qualities the dog possesses are hard to control and restrain, and can take a turn toward the destructive. Fun is the Labrador retriever's middle name, and that can come in the form of chewing up your favorite slippers, or playing leapfrog on the furniture. Once the Lab has reached a year old, however, they'll begin to calm down and develop into an obedient, well-trained dog.

Sometimes, keeping your Lab restrained can be a challenge. While generally very obedient and well-trained canine companions, certain things will send a Lab off and running, whether it's a neighbor's cat, a squirrel, or an alarming sound. Fencing and leashing are necessary every time your Lab is outside.

Grooming & Appearance

A Labrador retriever is easy to spot, even if his ancestry is mixed with that of another breed. Labs come in a variety of sizes and colors, but are typically medium-to-large animals with puppy-dog eyes and long, floppy ears. The Lab has a broad, clean-cut head, and may be either a solid color, or have spots randomly decorating their body.

An outdoor loving dog by nature, the Lab isn't likely to be fastidious or high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. In fact, they're more likely to run inside the house covered in mud or splash around in the bathtub than they are to demand a trip to the groomer's. Basic upkeep is all this furry bundle of joy requires, and then they're ready to run, play, and get dirty again.

Labs have short, thick hair that always seems to be in abundant supply, particularly as the seasons change. For that reason, they are not ideal companions for those with severe pet allergies, or those who are adamant about keeping the home spotless at all times.

Health And Lifestyle

While only of average intelligence, the Lab is a wonderful communicator, and when trained properly, will tell you what they need as well as respond to your commands.

Labs are among the most laid-back and friendly of canine breeds, and does best with the type of owner who shares these personality traits. A quiet, reserved pet parent that would prefer a dog to stay off the furniture and not run in the house would easily become frustrated with the presence of the playful, fun-loving Lab, and the dog would feel restrained by a home with too many rules and not enough freedom.

With an average life expectancy of 10-12 years, and some living up to 16-18 years, the Lab is one of the more healthy and active breeds around. Because of his size and energy level, your Lab will be likely to have quite an appetite, making them prone to obesity and obesity-related illnesses if they don't get enough exercise, particularly in later years. As Labs age, hip dysplasia and arthritis are common problems, but most combat these symptoms by staying active and leading well-balanced lives. An older Lab may not want to go outside on rainy or snowy days, and will prefer to lie by the fireplace until the sun comes out.

Who Should Own One?

The Labrador retriever is one of the best family dogs around, particularly if your family includes children and teenagers. Although the Lab is very adaptable and can make a home in virtually any type of surroundings, they do best in larger homes, particular those with a large, fenced-in backyard.

Activity and outdoor exercise are of great importance to the Lab-even at 10-14 years old, most still love to run, jump, and play. Although happy to be either a city or a country dog, a Lab owner should be prepared to go on walks, and lots of them! If your normal routine includes running, walking, jogging, hiking, fishing, hunting, or camping, the Lab may just be your ideal companion, since they love the outdoors and have the energy to keep up with you.

Although not aggressive by nature, Labs make wonderful watchdogs and protectors, since they have an acute sense of hearing and smell. They are territorial, both about their space and their beloved family members, and are the dog that's most likely to bark up a storm at the mailman every day. However, they also learn very quickly to approve of anyone who's introduced into the home, and can identify a family member approaching the home by not only their footsteps, but even the sound of the car horn.

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