We Bet You Didn’t Know All This About Your Labrador Retriever Dog
Labradors are the most popular breed among dogs. Even people who don’t know much about dogs can recognize ‘a Lab’ in an instance. Labradors are the perfectionists of the dawgie world. Their popularity has only increased since their early times. The proof of that lies in the fact that Labradors remain at the top of the list of registered dogs at the American Kennel Club. Muscular and athletic, Labrador Retrievers set a benchmark of agility and obedience for all the dog breeds to follow!
Even though Labradors have managed to top the charts in Canada, England, and the US to become the most loved breed on the planet, they happen to be the most abandoned dog breed in India.
This is not because Indian parents love their Labradors any lesser than their Western counterparts, but because of lack of information about this breed’s dietary & medical needs, health risks and awareness on how to cope up with them. Like all breeds, Labradors have special needs which could result in a lot of trouble for the pets and their parents, if ignored or not understood properly.
While Labradors are mostly associated with a mild temperament, their behavior has a lot to do with their training. A properly trained labrador can be employed as an assistance dog for the blind. But if not trained well, the results could be disastrous. This is because these dogs are always full of energy and if that energy is not channelized properly, its effects manifest all around the house. A torn couch or a mattress in tatters is not an uncommon sight in a house with an untrained Labrador.
Although the same is true for all dog breeds, Labradors pups, in particular, must begin their training as early as they open their eyes and start experiencing the world. Puppies must be familiarized with basic behavioral instructions like sit, stand, go, stop – which also happen to be the things your Labra full of energy will never do unless he is properly trained. Adult dogs must be taken on regular walks and other physical activities or sports, to give their energies a positive outlet. A tired dog is a happy dog.
Such concepts are still nascent in the Indian scenario. This is why most untrained pets become a source of havoc for their owners and end up being abandoned by them. And this is exactly where the difference between a pet owner and a pet parent arises.
As pet parents, even thinking about giving up our baby is unimaginable. So how do you put up with all the bad days to come? The answer to that lies in love. According to Swami Doggomitra, every problem, no matter how big or small, can be solved with love (and good food!). But true love requires patience and understanding. It also needs hard work and perseverance.
Now that you, dear Labrador parent/future Labrador parent have come this far, be assured that by the time you finish reading this article, you will learn about:
- The history and origin of Labradors
- The personality of a Labrador
- Common medical problems with Labrador dogs
- Environmental, nutritional and lifestyle needs of a Labrador Retriever
- How to take good care of your Labrador Retriever dog?
The Legend of Labradors
Newfoundland is now a Canadian territory. But back in the 1700s, it was newly discovered and scantily inhabited. Geologists will tell you that when a warm and a cold ocean current meet, a mist is created, and it serves as an excellent breeding ground for fish. Newfoundland happened to be just the place where a cold current – Labrador current (coincidence?), and two warm currents called North Atlantic and Gulf Stream currents met. And the place happens to be an excellent fishing ground, to date. The bulk availability of fish happened to be the reason why a lot of people decided to make their living out of it and decided to sail the uncharted waters with their labrador buddies.
The original ancestor of Labrador Retrievers, St. John’s dogs, named after their creator, were around their fishermen masters all day. They’d retrieve fish from the water that missed the hooks and tow the stacks in lines. Tired by the end of the day, they would be happy dogs who would spend the night peacefully with their masters in their homes. These historical underpinnings tell us something about our Labrakids, as they are today: One, they are extremely athletic and love water sports. Two, they are amazing family dogs (*conditions applied!)
But things weren’t all hunky dory for the Labrador Retriever dog breed. In the 1880s, Labradors were almost extinct on the coasts of Newfoundland. This is because having a pet in that century put a person under the taxable bracket, and the taxes were huge! To make matters worse, female Labradors had higher taxes attached, and this is why female pups of the litter were usually culled.
So how did they survive? Well, luckily for us, when Newfoundland was still a happy place for Labradors, a lot of outsiders had begun to notice the multi-potential of dogs that the Labradors were. Among these outsiders, the second Earl of Malmesbury was so impressed that when he first laid his eyes on the Labradorian wonders, he sent a shipment of these to England and encouraged their raising. Labradors worked up the utility ladder in England and the USA and ended up being raised in numbers greater than those found in Newfoundland. So for our Labradors today, Thank Yous are in order to the Earl.
The Personality of a Labrador
They NEED the Exercise
Originally bred to work for long hours with their owners, a labrador’s body has evolved itself over the ages to work well only with lots of physical activity. They are always bubbling with loads of energy, and hence need at least 30-60 minutes of daily exercise. If this energy is not channelized properly, the dawgie may take up to spending this enthusiasm in tearing off pillows, bed sheets, seat covers and anything and everything they can catch a hold of. They can also resolve to loud barking, to spend that extra energy.
They LOVE to EAT
Labradors simply LOVE to eat. And they can eat anything. This is why food packs and treats need to be kept out of their reach. As a pet parent, it is advisable that you limit the quantities of their food, as Labradors are very prone to obesity. Pet obesity may also trigger a lot of other disorders of the heart and blood. You may want to consult a dawgie nutritionist or vet and get a proper diet chart right from his puppy days to ensure that the fat and carb content in his food is restricted to healthy amounts.
They are HYPERACTIVE
Labradors are very lively pups who love to stay mentally stimulated. This is why it is important to not leave them alone, as they require someone to constantly play with them and help them spend their energy. They love adventure, and often may not be able to resist the urge to follow the smell of something exciting and may get lured away easily. This is why it is advisable to keep them on a leash when you take them outdoors unless they’re trained to respond to your call.
They are very friendly
Labradors are perfect family dogs. They love to be around people and enjoy being told that they are good boys. If you have little kids in the house, a Labrador is a perfect choice. They are very friendly and happy-go-lucky dogs who love to cheer up everyone around them. There’s never a dull moment with this breed.
They shed a lot
Despite their short hair, Labradors are known for shedding a lot during a change of season. They are blessed with a water-resistant double coat which helps them stay warm in cold climates. As summer comes along, Labradors shed to make more surface of their coat available for a breath of fresh air. They’re considered one of the most shedding ones among the popular Indian breeds.
They NEED training
Most people believe that labradors don’t need training as they are quite well behaved. But this is only a myth. Since Labradors are always bubbling with energy, they tend to be very jumpy. This energy may manifest itself as your dawgie jumping up on guests, rowdy behavior and incessant barking. With proper obedience training, which begins right from puppy time, you will be in better control of future situations that may arise.
Common Medical Problems with Labrador Retrievers
Labradors are a healthy breed. But like all breeds, they are prone to some medical conditions. While not all dogs may suffer from these, it’s always advantageous to know about them so that you know out when something is up with your pet and what to do about it.
Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common genetic diseases among dogs and even more so in Labradors. In this condition, the thigh bone doesn’t fit exactly as it should in the hip socket. The dog may experience pain in his rear legs, which may not be visible in the X-Ray, which is why it cannot be detected in the early stages of your poochie’s life. It becomes prominent as the dog ages and in most cases often develops into arthritis.
Another dysplasia that Lab boys are prone to be that of the elbow. However, this one is a little different than hip dysplasia. In Elbow Dysplasia, the three bones that make up your pup’s elbow grow at different rates, causing laxity. Dysplasias can be corrected surgically, and medication can help ease your boo’s pain. However, it’s important to remember that medication must only be given to your pet as prescribed by the vet. Human painkillers can be fatal for dogs.
Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) is another disease of the elbows, common among Labradors. It is caused by an improper growth of cartilage in the joints, causing them to stiff up. This can be very painful for your dog. It can present itself to the point where the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding protein to dogs is known to be the biggest reason for OCD among them. Hint: Dogs that gorge on only chicken or meat as their food are at maximum risk.
Cataracts in dogs are as common as cataracts in aged humans. In this disease, the eye lens gets clouded over time. It can happen at any age in dogs but do not usually result in complete loss of vision. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is another eye disease in which the retina starts to degenerate. This often presents itself as night blindness, which can sometimes develop into complete blindness and loss of vision. But owing to their terrific sense of smell and sounds, most labradors can easily adapt to a life with poor vision, provided that their surroundings don’t change much.
Labradors may also suffer from Epilepsy. Epilepsy can be very scary for a pet parent as they watch their baby dog undergo a series of seizures. Seizures can be triggered for a variety of reasons unknown. If your dog shows signs of seizures such as running frantically as if being chased, hiding, or staggering, you must make that visit to the vet ASAP. Once the cause is diagnosed, epilepsy can be treated and the long-term prognosis is very good.
On the digestive front, Labradors are prone to bloat, or what is medically known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. This is because of the large chest that they possess, and their anatomically larger belly. This can most commonly happen if the dog is fed a large meal, or exercises vigorously just after a meal, or drinks too much water. Bloat occurs when the dog’s stomach is full of gas and then twists. In such a condition, it becomes impossible for the pet to belch or vomit to relieve himself. The blood pressure drops and your pet may go into a cardiac shock. The best way to diagnose a belch is to look out for signs of your pet’s distended abdomen, excessive drools and retching without vomiting. In case you think you your pet is meeting any of these criteria, go see a vet immediately.
Labradors also fall victim to skin and ear infections because of their love for water. It is advisable that dogs be bathed with freshwater after a good swim to remove the chlorine that may have been in the water. This can prevent many skin diseases for your Lab baby.
Environmental, Nutritional and Lifestyle Needs of a Lab
Every good boy has a bad side. But Labbies don’t (or so they would have you believe!)
Labradors are one of the few hunks in the dawgie world who have an image that just can’t be tarnished unless you ignore them. A Labrador is a family dog. You cannot expect to leave your good-boy at home alone and expect your house to be still there when you come back. You turn your back on your labrador puppy and he will be the Taylor Swift in Look What You Made Me Do.
Labradors need all your attention and your time. Since they are always full of energy, it is very important to make sure they get at least an hour-long walk, a tough game of fetch, or a 30-minute swim routine to make sure they exhaust all the bursting energy in their body. Also make sure that they stay away from hard cemented or tiled flooring while exercising, as this can be very detrimental to their joints & bones. Open fields or parks with soil and grass on them are the ideal gym for your pet.
Always make sure that you don’t overdo the exercise routine. It’s ideal to split the walks or play-time into many windows throughout the day, each with a rest interval between them. Labradors are the ‘workaholics’ of the dawgie world, but can easily get overworked and tired, especially if they’re overweight. As pet parents, we are the ones in charge of starting and ending their workout regime. And knowing when to stop is the key.
Most Labradors often take obedience very seriously. This causes a misconception among a lot of pet parents who think these boys/girls are au-natural and don’t need any training. NEVER forget this: Labradors need the puppy training. Without it, they will grow up to be rowdy pets in nature and become impossible to cater to and take care of. Labradors are easily trainable. That is exactly why they are used in police agencies and intelligence bureaus all over the world to follow orders and act on directions.
Another important thing that a pet parent must keep in mind while raising a Labrador is that they love to chew; and more than ever in their puppy years. So keep a lot of chew toys around your baby Labrador, unless you want your sofa to be the chew-toy.
How can I take care of these needs?
Now that you know all the diseases your pup is prone to and his needs, it is time to ponder upon how you can take care of these needs:
One, avoid leaving your Labradors at home, alone for long intervals. This is because they don’t do well with seclusion and their behavior will prove how much they hate you leaving them behind. Besides, why would you want to leave them alone, especially with those eyes? Basic obedience and behavioral training greatly help control the anxiety and aggression that’s built up during separation.
Two, an adequate amount of exercise is what your pet needs. The one thing that most vets & nutritionists believe in is that a tired labrador is a happy labrador. You may want to experiment with different activities ranging from cycling, jogging, walking, playing fetch to swimming. As far as possible, it is advisable that your pet plays on soil, and not cemented or tiled, hard flooring as this can be very harmful to his bone development and placement. Simple physics lead us to conclude that the harder the surface, the more is the reaction force on his bones. Labradors do better with laps of exercise rather than one exhausting workout. Overdoing exercise is not recommended. Under-exercising or not exercising at all leads to quick and easy obesity that adds a multifold of problems.
Three, nutrition is the key! Every dog needs a balanced diet that comprises of real food, not processed food, not table scraps and leftovers. Labradors’ diet needs to be rich in proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and essential micronutrients. They gain weight very quickly. They are more prone to getting obese than any other dog breed. So you must take care of the calories in their food and try to avoid unhealthy treats and food as much as possible. It is advisable that you check the nutritional information of every product you intend to feed your pet. Unsaturated fats and oils from vegetable sources (except Coconut) can be very unhealthy for your pet.
Proteins are important for your labrador’s growth. But these need to be very carefully given to your pet as an unbalanced quantity can cause bone deformities like dysplasias. For a healthier diet, it is recommended that your pet’s protein intake come from natural sources like fresh meat and poultry. Always check on the quantity and quality of food being fed to your pet to avoid an excess or toxicity of a certain nutrient while causing a deficiency of others. Since Labradors are prone to bone problems, a balanced calcium intake is a must. Note: Too much Calcium can cause kidney stones.
As these dog’s age, they get prone to eye diseases. Progressive Retinal Atrophy and cataract are the most common diseases that labradors face during their senior years. This is a natural degenerative process but can be slowed down by ensuring that your pet’s diet has an adequate amount of Vitamins. The best way to feed Vitamin A to your pet is by including carrots, beans, apples and bananas in your pet’s diet. Always remember that your pet’s body is not designed to digest plant-based nutrients with ease, so you might want to look up the do’s and don’ts before feeding a fruit or veggie to your pet.
Fruits and vegetables can only be included as additions to your pet’s diet, and are not a balanced and complete diet by themselves. From bloating to constipation, a lot of digestive problems can be avoided by striking the right balance between the goodness of a meat-based diet and the additional nutritional support of some fruits and vegetables. With a nutritionally balanced and complete diet, your Labrador will have a happy, disease-free and long life.
Four, periodic grooming is what your pet needs to steer clear of the skin infections. Labradors have an amazing affinity for water and that is why you need to make sure that his coat is always dry and clean. A freshwater bath is recommended if your pet goes for swimming or after rolling-up in that puddle of mud. Always consult the vet at the appearance of any kinds of spots or rashes. It’s important to always be on the lookout for ear infections as well. As a general practice, it’s nice to keep your pet’s nails trimmed and his coat clean and dry.
Dawgies don’t need your shiny car or your fancy house. They just need a little bit of your heart, and to know that they will be taken care of; that is enough for them to wake you up every morning with snouty licking. Known for outdoing humans, Labradors surely outdo us when it comes to love. So when it comes to your labrador, make an informed decision for his health and safety and be the hooman your doggo thinks you to be!
Got a cute Lab-baby? Tell us about him/her in the comments below and let the awws begin!
FOR INFORMATION ONLY – NOT VETERINARY CARE
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