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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Labrador Retriever: Training & Behavior

Your Labrador Retriever will make a wonderful pet if he is able to blend with ease and harmony into the social elements around him.

That includes easy camaraderie with your friends and relatives as well as an easy relationship with other animals.

Socializing your Labrador Retriever

This kind of behavior will happen only if your little puppy is well socialized at an early age. Socializing is introducing your pup to other dogs, animals, and people too. In other words socializing is teaching your dog to get along in the big, wide world. How you do this is entirely up to you!

If your dog is well socialized he will gracefully accept changes in environment easily. Strange new faces, sights, or sounds will not disturb him. Thus early exposure to different settings is essential.

A lot of early impressions are formed by the time your pup reaches 3 months of age. It shapes his social behavior and molds his personality.

Socializing at home

Once you bring your puppy home from the breeder, your responsibility towards the little one begins. You begin his socialization process by first introducing him to his new surroundings, including your home and the members of your family. Once he is home take him around and let him get used to the sights and the sounds of his new home.

Remember to introduce him to a cozy corner that he can call his own. This corner could be a kennel, a crate, a box, or a basket.

Whatever it is make sure it is well lined with comfortable blankets and exudes warmth. This is where the little fellow must feel secure. You are trying to provide him with an atmosphere that is a substitute for his mother. Just keep this in mind and it will bring out the better ideas in you!

Your puppy must never have occasion to feel scared or defenseless. Any negative experience will be a setback in the process of socialization. So watch out! His initial encounters with strangers should be pleasant and very positive.

Socializing with your friends

Once your puppy has found his puppy paws firmly and happily in his new home you can start expanding his circle of acquaintances. Call your friends over to meet the latest addition to your family.

They will have a chance to coo over the little guy! And the little guy will have the opportunity to sniff out new smells, see fresh faces, and hear new voices. It will be so exciting for him! His cute little ‘otter’ tail just will not stop wagging! And won’t you be simply delighted to see how well your charge is adjusting to his new home!

Socializing outdoors

When you find that your pup is quite content and comfortable in the company of your friends and acquaintances who come over, it is time to start expanding his social circle. Now you can start taking him with you on small outings. Take him for a short stroll down the street. Or take him for a little jaunt in the nearby park.

Such outings will really perk him up. He will be so alert and attentive to the new world that he encounters. He will really look forward to these outings. As soon as you pick up his leash, he will be full of excitement to accompany you outdoors.

If you have a park nearby, do take him there. He will get to see other dogs of all shapes and sizes. He will also get to see children of various ages. The various activities that the kids indulge in while they play will also become a learning experience for him.

Pitfalls to watch out for when socializing

Your puppy should start socializing with other dogs only after he has had all his vaccinations.
He must not go to places where dangerous germs could infect him.
Do not try to pack too much of the socializing process in one day. It could result in overexcitement for the little guy.

Factors that affect your Labrador Retriever’s behavior

Every little dog’s behavior is molded by his own unique individuality. This behavior is affected by various circumstances that the dog went through as a puppy. Some of the factors that influence his behavior are as follows.

1 His parents

Genetics play an important role in the behavior of a dog. Goodnatured parents will have good-natured puppies. Vice versa, parents with aggressive temperaments will produce puppies with aggressive traits.

So this is indeed a leading factor to consider when selecting a pup. Observe the nature of the parent dogs. You will get a fairly good idea about how the nature of the offspring will be. So avoid buying a puppy from a pet store. You will never be able to see the parents in a pet store.

2 His early environment

If your puppy was exposed to any incident that left him frightened and scared, it will leave an indelible impression on his young and impressionable mind. This will definitely have a negative impact on his behavior.

3 When did your dog leave his mother and siblings

A puppy should not leave his mother till he is at least 7 weeks old. If the pup is taken away from his mother earlier than that he grows up to be a rather snippy dog. This is because he does not learn the important canine social signal of bite inhibition. Things like bite inhibitions can only be learned by a puppy from his mother and siblings.

Ideally a puppy should leave his mother only when he is about 12 weeks old. By this time the “pecking order” of the litter is clearly established. At this age you will be able to recognize whether the puppy is dominant by nature or submissive.

4 How you socialize him

Socializing a puppy impacts his behavior. The 7 weeks to 6 months period are very critical. Adolescence is a rather difficult period amongst humans. Similarly adolescent dogs too go through a bit of a trying phase. The adolescent phase for Labs ranges from 6 to 9 months of age till about 1 – 3 years.

Thus you might find a normally well-behaved dog acting strangely all of a sudden. Adolescence is an awkward stage. When the hormones suddenly play out you might find your dog’s behavior becoming rather unpredictable. This will be a rather trying period for you as an owner of a moody dog!

Your behavior affects your puppy too!

Do not be surprised but the way you react to your dog is bound to affect his behavior to quite an extent. Here are some factors that can affect your Lab.
  • The tone you use when talking to your doggie.
  • Your facial expressions when you look at your dog.
  • How you react when you call him and he does not come.
  • What is your reaction when you tell him not to do something but he continues to do it nevertheless?
  • How much you pet and cuddle your dog.
  • How you talk to him in a way that he understands.
  • How do you react if he makes a fuss while you are brushing
  • him down?
  • How do you treat your dog if he darts away from you?
  • What is your reaction if your doggie acts aggressive towards strangers?
  • How do you calm your pup down after playtime is over?
  • What is your reaction if your pup pees or potties within the precincts of your house when he is excited or very nervous?
  • Do you clean up the place he has messed up properly with the right cleaner so that he does have an accident there again?
  • What kind of place do you provide your pup to sleep in?
  • How do you treat him when you have to leave him alone at
  • home? Do you say and do the right things?
  • Have you given him a comfortable collar to wear?
  • Do you use an appropriate leash when you take him out?

Training and your behavior


Rewards are the secret to success in any training program, especially where dogs are concerned. Dogs only understand the language of love or the language of food. Food is a substantial and tangible treat so use it to your best advantage.

The more often you reward your dog, the quicker his response to learning. So you should teach him a particular trick. Then keep repeating it until he masters it. Of course do not do it to such an extent that the dog gets absolutely bored and disinterested. When he starts performing as desired, you must reward him.

Always praise and reward your dog. It is the way of the world, we forget to praise, but we never forget misbehavior.

1 Criticism

Do not criticize your dog to such an extent that you become a nag. Your dog thrives on praise. So when you have to correct him, instead of criticizing him use a firm “NO” to prevent him from indulging in incorrect mannerisms.

For instance, if you catch him climbing on to your sofa, firmly say “No.” You can use your hand to push him away. Then guide him towards his toys or to his bed to show him the kind of behavior that you approve of.

With the right kind of voice modulation, your doggie will know just when you are displeased with him. When you correct him, make sure your words are short and sharp. Do not nag or keep on scolding him. And in no situation should you beat him, kick him, or hit him. Use of physical force will only make things go sour between you. It will also turn your dog into a shy, scared, and aggressive dog. Such dogs are really not very pleasant to have around.

2 Aggression

Aggressive behavior can be attributed to a number of causes. Any untoward incident in the puppy’s life can make him aggressive.

However, in some pups the aggressive behavior is inherent. Such traits become obvious by the time a pup is 7 weeks old. So when you go to buy a pup, remember to ask the breeder about the personality traits of the pup. A good breeder will not hide anything from you. The good news is that if aggression is recognized as a problem in the early stages it can be treated with medication.

Healthy, mature Labs rarely suffer from aggressive behavior.

Milestones in growth
  • 1 A puppy opens his eyes when he is three weeks old.
  • 2 From that time until he is 14 weeks old, he develops bonds with other people and animals around him.
  • 3 This period is very crucial in ensuring that he has only good and positive experiences.
  • 4 Breeders normally recommend that you take a pup away from his mother only when he is 8 weeks old. This way he is not very small or vulnerable and neither is he too old to fall into your scheme of life for him.

My Lab loves me, but how do I make him understand the meaning of the word "No?’’

The secret to getting your Lab to understand just what you mean when you say "No" is to catch him in the act that you are preventing him from doing. Then use a very firm tone and say, "No."

You can keep a rattle tin handy when you want him to stop a particular act. You can make a rattle tin by filling a tin with small pebbles or beans. Shake it when you want him to stop.

Alternately you can use a hand held horn to stop him too. If you find him attacking your lawn or bed of flowers sound the horn to stop him. The sudden sound will startle him into stopping. Whenever he does listen to you, ask him to sit and praise him.

I have a Lab puppy. He is really cute. But he kind of loves to indulge in playing rough. How do I control him?

You are really justified in being concerned about rough play. It may appear to be fun when a little pup plays rough. But if this behavior continues in to adulthood it can become a real nightmare. So nip it in the bud and play safe.

The best way to do so is to discourage rough games such as tugof-war. Such games rouse the aggressive streak in the dog. Use gentle games such as catch and fetch a ball. Gentle games will underplay the aggressive behavior.

Can I get control at all over the rather excessive barking of my Lab?

If your doggie is really barking so much in excess that he disturbs not only you, but also the neighborhood in general, then you have to be really firm with him. You will have to try to hold him and try to get him to close his mouth and say "No bark." Of course exercise great care when you are trying to shut his mouth.

Do not hurt him or yourself. When he does stop barking you must praise him for doing so. Of course you cannot stop barking altogether. After all, it is your dog’s mode of conveying to you that there are strangers around. Barking can also alert you about perils like fire too.

Barking cannot be discouraged altogether as sometimes it is the barking that alerts us to the presence of an intruder or fire. Monitor the barking so that he must learn when to stop. Say: “No bark” and make him “sit”-- when he listens, treat him/praise him.

My dog eats feces. How do I get him to get rid of this rather disgusting habit?

Do not get too depressed about this rather disgusting habit. A lot of dogs do this. When you find your dog doing so, startle him with a very loud noise. This ought to startle him and stop him. Clean up after him so he does not get a chance to eat his own poop.

Is there any method of evaluating the intelligence levels of dogs?

People who have been involved in the research of behavior of dogs have evolved a number of tests to measure their intelligence levels. They have then ranked the levels and this is how the ranking stands.
  • Rank 1-10 - Brightest Dogs.
  • Rank 11-26 - Excellent Working Dogs.
  • Rank 27-39 - Above Average Working Dogs.
  • Rank 40-54 -- Average Working/Obedience Intelligence.
  • Rank 55-69 - Fair Working/ Obedience Intelligence.
  • Rank 70-79 - Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence.

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