Training your Labrador Retriever to be obedient is the key to having a true friend and companion, not just a pet.
Some Labrador owners like to snuggle up with their Labs on the couch and allow them to sleep on beds. Others prefer that their dogs remain on the floor. Whatever your preference all Labs benefit from basic obedience training. It makes for a far happier and harmonious household, both from your point of view and that of your dog. Dogs are pack animals. They like direction; they are far happier when they know what the rules are and what is expected of them. It’s like everything in life; if you don’t know the rules it is very hard to play the game. Nothing can make a naturally confident and happy Labrador more anxious and withdrawn than been yelled at constantly for breaking rules that he or she doesn’t understand.
Labrador owners vary. There are those who simply want a loving Labrador as the good companion and friend. Other strive to win obedience, agility and showing competitions. Whatever type of owner you are it all starts with basic obedience training.
“My Lab’s not spoiled, I’m just well trained! – Unknown”
Understanding your Labrador
Training your Lab has as much to do with understanding your dog, as it has to do with actually getting down to the nitty-gritty of the “sit, stay fetch” stuff. Each Labrador has a unique personality. Some Labs are more nervous than others, some tend to be dominant and others like to go with the flow. Each Labrador is very special in his or her own unique way. This said, there are many general traits in the Labrador Retriever breed and you will probably recognize most in yours. Some inbred traits make training easier, while others make it challenging. Luckily the pros far outweigh the cons and Labs generally train more easily than most other breeds.
Here are the pros:
- Intelligence: Labradors are pretty smart and learn really quickly.
- Playfulness: Labs love to play. This may sound like a “negative” in the training context but you can use it to your advantage. Make obedience training fun and you’ll retain your Labs interest.
- Desire to please: Labradors love to please their owners; they want to do the right thing. It makes them feel good to be told that they are good boys or girls. Wow, if there is a treat involved they are in doggy heaven – or is that Lab heaven – they are so special – maybe there is one?
- Compliance: Most Labs don’t mind being bossed around, in fact they like it. Establish yourself as the leader of the pack and most Labs will fall into line really quickly.
- Friendliness: Labs are friends with everybody; humans, dogs and even cats.
And now for the cons:
- Over-enthusiasm: By nature, Labradors tend to be rowdy, exuberant and slow to mature. Most Labs behave like overgrown puppies until they are about 2 years old. They are fun, but can cause utter chaos. Initial obedience training efforts need to focus on calming them down.
- Energetic: Labradors are active energetic dogs. Many have far more energy than their owners, You need to give them ample exercise and opportunities to vent their energy and enthusiasm. If possible let them run off some steam before obedience training.
- Powerful: Labradors grow to be large and powerful dogs. Training a full-grown Lab to walk on a leash can really test your strength. Some Labradors have necks like bulls and hardly notice a tug of the leash. It’s not much fun when your dog is taking you for a walk instead of the other way round.
- Mouthy: Labradors were bred to retrieve birds. They instinctively fetch things and like to have something in their mouths. Give them plenty of toys to carry around so they are not tempted by your things. You won’t think your Lab is quite so cute when he or she is destroying your furniture or designer shoes.
Without proper obedience training, a Labrador can be a bit of a handful. With proper obedience training they become a dream to own. However easygoing you are, your dog will benefit from obedience training – and so will you.
Nobody likes a disobedient dog, not even the Labrador themselves. The Lab may seem to be having a whole lot of fun while the humans are running for cover, grabbing hold of breakables and trying to avoid muddy paw prints or being knocked over. In truth the dog is simply in an out-of-control, over-excited frenzy. Your Labrador will be a far, far happier dog in general when your rules and expectations are clear.
In dog training, jerk is a noun, not a verb. – Dr. Dennis Fetko
Bonding with your Labrador Retriever
Obedience training is a lot easier when you have a strong bond with your Labrador. You’ll be at a huge advantage if you can see the world through your Labrador’s eyes. Try to understand how your dog thinks and what he or she needs to know to make your instructions clear. Dogs interpret the world differently than we do, but interpret they do. No matter what you are doing, your Lab is aware of your mood, body language, tone of voice and facial expression. They are trying to figure out what it all means, and especially how it relates to them. Be mindful when you communicate in any way and never discount a dog’s six sense. They pick up everything.
Bonding happens naturally. As you and your Labrador spend more time together get to know each other’s moods and mannerisms. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the bonding process:
- Time: Try to spend as much quality time as you can with your Labrador. Throw a ball or a Frisbee; most Labs will instinctively chase after it. Just hang out with our dog as much as you can. Labs are fun and once they feel comfortable with you, you may be surprised at the cute things they get up to.
- Communication: Talk to your Labrador. Express yourself when your Lab is around, you may be surprised at how much they seem to understand. Use their name a lot. They learn their names surprisingly quickly and their eyes will soon light up at the sound of it. If you are like most smitten Lab owners you will probably also use many cute variations of their names. When they do something you like, tell them they are a “good dog”. When the opposite happens, let them know they are a bad dog.
- Affection: Labradors are really affectionate dogs and love receiving affection. Love them and they will love you back tenfold. A pat on the head or a quick ear-scratch when you walk past them goes a long way. Your Lab doesn’t feel ignored and knows you care. Their confidence and sense of security is boosted, and your dog feels “at home”.
- Patience: Labrador’s are bright, but none get everything right the first time. Dogs learn by repetition and you may have to make the rules clear a number of times. Couple your affection with a little patience and a lot of persistence and you’ll have a well-behaved Lab in no time at all.
- Socialization: Labradors are naturally friendly: towards people and other dogs. Expose your Lab to as many new situations as possible. They are very sociable dogs and prefer not to be alone. Socialization is important to their well-being.
- Respect: We left the most important aspect for last. Gaining your Labrador’s respect is vital to your obedience training efforts. Gaining your dog’s respect means getting daily interactions with them right. While you are plying your Lab with loads of affection, be mindful not to let them take control. This is a delicate balance many owners struggle with. There is a fine line between loving your dog and spoiling them rotten. All loving relationships are based on mutual respect; emphasis on the word “mutual”, and you need to gain your Labrador’s respect. Your Lab needs to where your boundaries are and it is up to you to establish them. If you give in to all your dogs’ demands, they soon lose respect for you and obedience training becomes a challenge. Labs can easily become very demanding, if you allow them to. They Lab thrives on attention. They are also extremely good at letting you know what they want. They look at you with those “please love me” eyes. You have to let your Labrador know when enough is enough. It is hard for many owners, but it is essential. Your Labrador will respect you for it. Remember that it’s a lot easier to create a good habit than it is to break a bad one.
- Leadership: Respect and leadership go hand-in-hand. To succeed at obedience training you have to become the leader of the pack. Dogs are pack animals and naturally respect the alpha. Many Labrador owners don’t feel that they are natural leaders, but when it comes to obedience training you need to become one. If you don’t become a little bossy, your Labrador most certainly will.
Obedience training should start as young as possible. For a puppy gently training can start at about eight weeks. If you are introducing an older dog into your household, start laying down the rules as soon as possible.
We have loads of posts on the specifics of Labrador obedience training. You will learn about the pros and cons of different obedience training philosophies, step-by-step guides to overcoming behavioral problems, and much more. Please spend some time browsing our Labrador Retriever Training category.
To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs – Aldous Huxley
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