If you have decided to welcome a Labrador puppy into your home, you are not alone. According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog in the world. Well known for an easy-going, amiable good nature the Lab is a natural choice for families with small children, though this dog makes excellent companions for people of all ages. As a puppy, the Labrador can be exuberant and excitable, but with proper training and care, as outlined in the guide below, your puppy will be an obedient and loyal friend for years to come.
Build an outdoor kennel with a run, if you have your own yard, before you even bring the dog home. Make sure that the fence is sturdy enough to contain the 36.3kg. adult your Labrador puppy will grow to be. If you don't have the space outdoors, create an equally secure place inside for the puppy using a large dog crate. Your pup needs a safe place to stay while you are out. By limiting access to the house, you minimise the damage he is likely to do in your absence.
Select a limited number of safe chewing toys for your puppy. If you are giving him something to keep him busy while you are out of the house, avoid stuffed toys, rawhide, genuine bones, vinyl squeaky toys and ropes, as these may become lodged in the dog's throat and should only be used under your supervision. Opt for toys, such as the Nylabone or Kong, which are virtually indestructible and intended for strong chewers. The Labrador has very strong jaws and will go through toys rather quickly.
Ignore the cries for the first few nights. Your puppy is bound to have some separation anxiety when put to bed, but you need to be firm. Just before bedtime place the pup in the kennel or crate, shut the door and walk away. Do not return until morning. After a few days, the puppy will adjust to the new routine and will begin to view the crate or kennel as his personal space.
Call the dog by name. This is where training begins. Training a Labrador can be a very slow process. However, a Labrador tends to be highly motivated by food and will do anything for a simple reward. As such, the easiest way to teach a Labrador puppy is through repetition. For example, if you say, "Sit" and place the dog in a sitting position, then offer a treat, it may take weeks before the dog actually sits without your assistance. But once, it clicks into place, your dog will happily repeat the task over and over, in an effort to convince you to give him another reward.
Provide your puppy with a constant supply of water, but only offer food twice a day. When your dog is one-year-old, reduce feeding to once a day. Choose a food that is high in protein and calcium as the Labrador is a large dog and will need to build lots of bone.
Devote a portion of every day to exercising your dog. Use a combination of walking and playing simple games, such as fetch, as they keep the puppy interested and excited to be interacting with you.
Take the puppy outside whenever he wakes up and within 15 minutes after a meal, as these are the times that he is most likely to need a potty break. Any time the puppy does its business outdoors, heap loads of praise on him and offer a treat. Take him to the same part of the yard every time, and use the same words over and over, eventually, he will get the idea. Be patient here. Housebreaking a Labrador is not usually complete until the dog is at least six-months-old.
Begin a bathing and grooming routine while the puppy is still small enough to be easily handled. Shampoo the pup every couple of weeks and brush him at least once a day. Be sure to include an inspection of the ears and paws, particularly the nails. This is done by picking the paw up and gently squeezing the toe, causing the nail to protrude. Your dog won't require your attention for quite some time, but by getting the dog used to the handling procedure, when the nails need clipping down the road, it will be much easier to do.
Every time that your pup does something good reward him. As soon as he realises that good behaviour gets a reward and bad behaviour gets nothing he will repeat the good behaviour hoping for a treat. Use a training collar to restrict your pup from pulling while out walking. The Labrador is a very enthusiastic walker, but by restricting the constant pulling he will learn to walk calmly by your side.