Loyal, loveable, happy and friendly to all he meets, the Labrador Retriever is the number one registered dog in the AKC. Labs are full of energy and will run to the door to greet you (or anyone, for that matter) as if you'd just returned from a year-long trip. They are truly “man's best friend,” and are at their happiest when engaged in family activities. They love running, hiking, swimming and playing fetch for hours on end and are extremely patient with children of all ages. Labs are a breeze to train, and as long as you are prepared to live with puppy-like behavior well into adulthood, they make an excellent choice for first time dog owners.
Labrador Retrievers have energy to spare and are not well suited for couch potatoes. They are also rather large and clumsy, so apartments are not the best living arrangements for this breed. Homes with yards and lots of room to romp are the most ideal setting to raise a Lab.
Walking a Lab is a good start for daily exercise, but a simple stroll around the block is not going to fulfill their daily exercise requirement. These dogs need to run every day in order to burn off excess energy, and if they aren't properly exercised they will become destructive. A bored Lab will chew anything he can get his mouth on. Labs are thrilled to accompany you on jogs or to run alongside a bicycle. Playing in the yard with children can keep them busy for hours on end. Hunters can take Labs out into the field to retrieve, and they can handle icy water temperatures with ease.
Swimming pool owners be warned: you'll have a hard time getting your Labrador out of the water. If the pool is open, he'll want to swim.
Labradors are a breeze to train. They possess a strong desire to please and will do anything for some affection and a treat or two. Some owners find them to be a challenge because they are so rambunctious, but the key is to start them off as puppies and keep training interesting and fun. Labs love to play, and if they think training is a game, will participate with great earnest. Training should start early, as Labs grow quickly and if they don't have basic commands mastered early on, can be too large to reign in. They also behave like puppies for many years, so patience is an absolute must with a Lab. No matter how obedient they are, they simply can't help themselves but to jump and bounce, so “down” and “stay” should be understood early on.
Once basic obedience is mastered, Labs can graduate on to advanced training or agility activities. They are not as reliable on an agility course as a Golden Retriever may be, but they love the exercise and enjoy spending time with people and other dogs.
Chewing and mouthing is a common problem among Labradors. You will need to keep lots of chew toys and bones on hand in order to save your furniture and shoes. They like to greet returning family members and visitors with a trophy in their mouth, as well, so keep an eye on anything within his reach that is not tacked down. Exercising your lab before you leave the house and providing him with lots of bones is a must if you don't want to come home and find couches destroyed.
Labs are famous for being clumsy. They will run and slide around on wood floors, back into tables, knock over lamps and whip drinks with their tails. This clumsiness is doesn't go away until the dog is well past adolescence and is hard to overcome. “Stay” and “down” commands can help, but a young Lab is often described as a bull in a China shop.