HOW TO TRAIN A LABRADOR
Labrador Retrievers are feisty dogs who need to be taught how to channel their excess energy. The good news is that they're fast learners and they love to help. The key to having a happy, well-balanced adult dog is to train them well from a young age. And good Labrador training is within everyone's reach.
Are Labradors Easy to Train?
It’s an undeniable fact: certain dog breeds are easier to train than others because of their temperament. Primitive dog breeds like the Samoyed, spitzes like the Shiba Inu, and naturally strong-willed breeds like the Cane Corso can be more difficult to handle and require experienced owners with a solid foundation in dog training. The Labrador, on the other hand, is well-known for being the ideal dog for first-time dog owners. This does not mean that your Lab doesn’t need training, quite the contrary. Labradors are just more receptive and willing to learn than most dogs, thanks to their docile and affectionate nature.
How to Properly Train a Labrador
Please note: While the Labrador has a (well-deserved!) reputation for being easy-going and accessible, nothing should be neglected when it comes to dog training. Don't make the mistake of thinking your dog’s friendly nature means they’ll never get out of control. Keep in mind that the Labrador reaches an impressive size in adulthood and, like any dog, will be capable of causing quite some damage if you’re unable to control it.
Training your Labrador should begin as soon as you welcome your new puppy home, at the age of 2 months old. Use your natural authority and be firm with your furball but never violent. Be gentle and never raise your voice, let alone your hand. Ban all types of punishment, both physical and verbal. The most important thing is to encourage positive behaviour, rather than reprimand negative behaviour. This means reinforcing good behaviour with treats, cuddles, or playtime, and ignoring poor behaviour completely. If your Lab misbehaves, you can also take their toys away or deny treats. Just refrain from hitting or yelling at your dog, or you could risk permanently damaging your relationship.
Labrador Training Tips
To properly train your Labrador, familiarise yourself with the basic principles of dog training: patience, coherence, and consistency!
Patience is key when it comes to dog training. You cannot expect your little Labrador puppy to understand everything right away. Be lenient, take it step by step, and repeat exercises with your dog until they’re well integrated. Then, move on to the next. It’s pointless trying to overwhelm your dog with several commands at once. Your Lab will simply get frustrated and confused.
Consistency is another pillar of dog training. As is the case with most things in life, repetition over time is the only way to achieve concrete results when training your Labrador. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to practise new or previously learned exercises.
Finally, be coherent! Choose commands that are short and easy to remember and stick to them along the way. Each action or request should be clear and simple and correspond to a specific word, which is easy for your dog to understand. If you contradict yourself, your Labrador will only get annoyed and refuse to obey. Also, prohibit your Labrador puppy from doing anything you wouldn't want it doing as an adult.
Use Treats and Games to Train Your Labrador
The Labrador is a greedy dog, who will never say no to a little treat. You can benefit from this trait by using healthy dog treats as rewards to teach your pup new commands or hone old ones. Just be careful not to overdo it, as this dog breed is also prone to obesity which can greatly affect your Labrador's health! The Lab is also particularly energetic and will enjoy playing with you whenever given the chance. Take advantage of your daily walks and playtime to reinforce the lessons your dog has learned.
Is It Possible to Train an Adult Labrador?
Old dogs can learn new tricks, as the adage goes! The approach will just be different with an older dog. In general, puppies are more receptive to training than adult dogs. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to train and socialise an adult Labrador. Bear in mind the fact that older dogs may come with lots of history, such as bad habits or hidden trauma that need to be dealt with or unlearned. If you’re adopting an adult dog, we strongly recommend you use a professional dog trainer to help you.
Which Basic Commands Should I Teach My Labrador?
Some commands are fundamental to dog training because they indirectly allow you to protect your dog and keep them safe and healthy. They can also make your daily life easier and help with tasks such as grooming your Labrador, for example. Prioritise these two commands when training your Lab:
Come: This command is absolutely essential. Although the Labrador is not a pointing dog or a scent hound, it is still a hunting dog by nature. Labs don't tend to run away, but your pup could easily slip away from you and wander off to sniff something if you’re not paying attention. As such, your dog must know to come back when you call.
Heel: Your Labrador needs to learn how to walk to heel properly, without pulling on their lead or zigzagging, as they could wind up injuring you or themselves. This is all the more important if you live in the city, where there is much greater danger than out in the countryside. A car suddenly swerving on the road could cost your dog their life, for example.
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