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Sunday, January 06, 2008


Is a Labrador for you? If any of you out there are considering getting a Labrador, or any dog for that matter, I hope that you have considered your decision carefully. Getting a dog, especially a Labrador will mean that life as you know it will never be the same...

So what or who prompted me to write this post? The numerous people that I meet on my daily walks with Cleo...

Everyone is in awe of Cleo... they are amazed when they see her riding quietly in the front passenger seat of my little car. They are amazed when she sits and stays on command. They are amazed when she leaves the countless monkeys that we see everyday alone.

They are amazed when she walks in step with me; and that she doesn't take ME for the walk especially because I am quite a tiny person. For those who don't know me I am only 4'10" and weigh a mere 35kg... not much more than Cleo (she's 28kg).

And because Cleo is so well behaved, many people have asked me what breed she is and told me that they too would like to get a Labrador.

So what's the problem with getting a Labrador? Aren't Labradors sweet natured? Aren't Labradors great family dogs?

Yes Labs are GREAT but owning a Lab means a WHOLE LOT of responsibility - that means that you need to have TIME for your labrador.

Why? Because Labradors are very high energy dogs. In fact Labradors have endless amounts of energy. This is one of the reasons why they are the most popular breed for service dogs as they can work all day without getting tired.

Cleo is barely tired from her daily hour long walks. When we get home there'll be a 20 minute game of fast paced "fetch" with her tennis ball before she's content. And even then she's not tired...

So if your Labrador does not get the exercise that she needs, be prepared to have your home destroyed! And I mean DESTROYED!!!

When Cleo was a puppy she did not get regular walks because I had a regular 9-5 job. That meant that I could only take her out on weekends. And on top of that she suffered from separation anxiety because she could not understand why everybody abandoned her everyday.

As a result our home was DESTROYED!!! She ripped all our furniture to bits. She tore off cupboard doors! She killed all our plants! She broke and chewed everything whithin reach!!! We were at our wits end. But we could not punish her because it was our fault she behaved that way.

Obedience school was disastrous for Cleo. She would sit when she was supposed to heel, walk away from me when she was supposed to Down Stay etc. She only managed to get up to Pre-Novice.

The instructors insisted that we use a Choke Chain on her. We refused and that was when we decided enough was enough. Cause we knew that Cleo was "disobedient" in class cause she didn't see the point. And so we trained her ourselves... And she has come out tops in our books!

Labradors are not the best at Obedience because they are highly intelligent dogs. They question your every command. Again this is a very important trait that makes them great service dogs - they think for themselves before executing commands from their handlers.

Hence if you think that you'll be winning Obedience Trials with a Labrador, think again... if anything you'll be the laughing stock of your class... like I was.

So how come Cleo is so well behaved? Well it was a result of lots of love and TIME to play with her, TIME to exercise with her, TIME to train her and TIME to understand her.

So while I love Labradors and think that they are the best breed, I wouldn't recommend Labradors for an average person.


Snowball said...

This is a great post for all who wanted to have a dog of any breed. We need to create trust and bond with our dogs before you can get to understand one another well.

Even that Cleo is well behaved with you, she will behave differently when handled by another person. Dun you think so?

Amber-Mae said...

Labradors really have LOTS of energy & are constantly on a go. Have met a few before & have boarded two too. One of them is sooooper dooooper fat!!! Her body length is way shorter than mine & she is as wide as a coffee table. So fat but still, got lots of energy & can RUN! Harharhar! It's sooo funny to see her running but we also feel sooo terrible than she can't walk for long. Her tongue constantly turns purple becoz of lack of oxygen & her legs are so thin that they can't really support her huge body. And everytime she walks, she has to sit. But she really has alot of energy & still has drive for ball. The owner wants her to be that fat,. Everytime when my hoomans put her on diet, her owner is not happee... She's only 3 years old but that fat, she's already half a age. She cannot live long being so fast like that. This is major OBESITY!!!

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

Katherine and Pippa, said...

That is a brilliant post Natasha. It so reminded me of our first dog Ben who was a black labrador. I think I need to scan a few photos in and write something on Pippa's blog in a few weeks - especially about the training.

But I do think your analysis of the temperament is spot-on.


steam said...

after i read it.... i really have this feeling now... with my 2 yellow labrador.... it really means me crazy...

i really took one year to handle them.... with passion, time n love...

Natasha Fernz said...

Hey Snowball

You're right in that Cleo behaves differently with different handlers...:)

Gee why does that person want to keep her Labrador fat? I remember that there was a lady who used to complain to me about how fat her lab was... and that her lab doesn't eat much but is still fat!

Then later I discovered that while her Lab didn't eat much dog food, she ate alot of junk!!! even things like ice cream and sweet sugary things which are so bad for dogs!

Some people just don't bother about their dog's health!

Hey Pippa & Kate...

yup Labs have to be the bestest dogs... cna't wait to see pics of your first black lab...

Glad that you spent time with your labs and am glad that you love them

Cleo & Natasha

Wilbrod The Gnome said...

I was training my hearing dog (Wilbrodog, who has has his own blog!

And... well said!

Wilbrodog is a shelter rescue and while he learned a CGC in no time flat, he had a lot of remedial socialization work to do, and he needed a lot of attention. Often I felt like I was with a 3-year old all day. No question, you need to know what you're getting in and also find a good-tempered dog and expose that dog to other dogs and teach that dog rules of life and that humans are not to jump on or use as chew toys.

Likewise, labradors must learn to obey one command every time before they get to do anything they like to do, and you mustn't allow the pups to harrass smaller adult dogs. Always supervise and be ready to take your dog away.

There are a lot of dogs that snap at my dog because they've had bad experience with rambunctious or dog-aggressive labs in the past and are now afraid of all labradors.

Also, labrador puppies hit 3/4 of adult weight and size by around 6-9 months old. They need to be taught adult manners from the start, and they will hit their "teens" around 9 months where your previously sweet docile angel suddenly becomes much more assertive, playful, and even more fearful and insecure.

As I can testify, teaching your dog to maintain consistent leash manners at this age is NO picnic, especially if you're a smaller person. Pay for a group class; they're not expensive.