Tag The Dog - Labrador Retriever
16 Sep 2014
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This series of articles is written to educate the reader about dog types and breeds. It is advisable to understand the original characteristics of each type and breed of dog, from the point of view of choosing the best match for you and your family. Just like it is unwise to choose a human friend or companion based purely on good looks, a canine companion also needs to be chosen based on compatibility and not physical appeal alone.
Marley and You
Perhaps the most loved breed of dog the world over,
Labrador Retrievers are as celebrated for being pin-ups as they are misunderstood for their faults. Very often, dogs only have the faults that are thrust upon them by bad upbringing at the hands of either over-zealous humans or careless ones. Somewhere between the two extremes is the kind of human parent who knows exactly how to nurture a healthy, intelligent, loving dog. That person could be you. Here are some very basic things to keep in mind about Labs before you decide to spend your life with one.
About Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever is a medium-sized gun dog, originally bred to assist hunters in finding and retrieving game – mostly, birds like the waterfowl. Since waterfowl hunting involves the use of small boats, Labs were required to sit calm and be still till they were required to retrieve. Labradors are known to be even-tempered and well-behaved. They are therefore used as assistance and therapy dogs for autistic and visually-impaired people. Finally, because of their incredible sense of smell, they are used for screening and detection work in law enforcement agencies. Athletic and playful, Labs reach maturity at about three years of age.
As city dwellers, we are highly unlikely to need dogs for retrieving game. We want dogs as companions, no matter what they were originally bred for: dogs who will stay quiet, be fed, give love, accept cuddles, go to sleep. You will be happy to know that a Lab can do all these things...along with several others that you haven’t probably accounted for. Here are some things you should keep in mind about the breed, before deciding to spend your life with a lab.
If you’re keen on getting the smallest, cutest little Labrador puppy you ever saw, just multiply that tiny dog by at least seven times before arriving at that flawless mental picture in your head. Your Lab will grow in size for over a year and continue to be playful for about the first three years of his or her life. A puppy that weighs 4.5-5kg at eight weeks (the youngest age at which a puppy should be separated from the mother) he or she will grow to be between 29 and 37kgs at full adult size. If you want a small dog, don’t go and get yourself a small puppy without understanding what it’s going to be like when Puppy turns into Adult Dog.
Labradors have oral fixation
Having been raised and bred to retrieve, Labs have a tendency to explore things with their mouth, chewing indiscriminately and ingesting both edible and non-edible things that are new or have exciting textures. I knew a Labrador who once stuffed his mouth with and swallowed two bananas at the same time, with the peels still on. I know another who played with, retrieved, chewed on, destroyed and then ate a ball. Followed by three others. In both cases, the worst that happened was that what went in came out in interesting ways. Supervision, especially for puppies, is highly recommended.
Labradors are fun-loving, boisterous and clumsy
Cute characteristics in a puppy, not so much in an adolescent or young full-grown adult. Labradors need lots of exercise, both mental and physical. Since you can’t provide them with a natural water body and freshly shot-down birds to retrieve (and more power to you for that), you have to find ways of keeping them engaged. Take your Lab out for long exploratory walks at least twice a day. Change the route as often as you can so that there are newer scents and roads to explore. Socialise your Lab with other dogs at a younger age, so that you can take them out to visit other dogs often. Train them to walk well on the
leash at a young age, so that they aren’t bounding off with you tripping after them, after they are fully grown. If your lab has to be left alone for several hours a day, make sure there are enough chew toys, puzzles and a kong that will keep them engaged for long periods of time. When you get back home from work, play ‘fetch’ even if you’re really tired. Your lab has been waiting for you all day, while you’ve had other things to do.
Labradors tend to get fat
Only if you keep feeding them, though. A veterinarian once yelled at me for having an overweight Labrador. When I told him that she simply won’t stop eating, he pointed out that it was probably very hard for her to open the fridge door and fix herself a snack, given her lack of opposable thumbs: a valuable lesson in both sarcasm and canine obesity. Dogs are not people. They don’t need to eat like we do. Most vets recommend one large, nutritious meal or two mid-sized meals at different times. Less grain, more roughage, plenty of meat, no salt, no masala, no sugar. The aforementioned fat Lab who got me into trouble needs 100gms of meat per day for every 7kg of body weight. As soon as my conscience kicked in, I stopped raiding the fridge on her behalf. You should remember this from the very first day your Lab comes home.
Labs love life. They love food and they will love you unconditionally. To repay their innate kindness, you’ll have to do the right thing by them. If you like an active life filled with long walks and games of fetch, the Labrador is the dog for you. If you understand that a dog is a dog and not a human who needs three meals and several snacks a day, the Labrador is the dog for you. If you like big, boisterous, king-sized love, the Labrador is the dog for you. Unfortunately, they are the most abandoned dogs at Indian shelters today. With enough research and preparedness, we can set this right. Start by adopting one. Today.