Like any other dog breed, raising a Labrador Retriever is not without problems. Therefore, before planning to bring them home, you need to know and understand what you will deal with. Who knows, they might not just be the right dog for you—pore over to find out.
Physical Features of Labrador Retrievers
Labrador Retrievers are generally well-built, athletic with a well-balanced conformation. Based on their sex, they can weigh up to 80 pounds, and their height can range between 21.5 to 24.5 inches. They come in black, chocolate, and yellow colors with a coat that is hard and dense. With a broad face and kind eyes, Labradors look all the more cute and amicable. And the narrow or “otter-like” tail is the hallmark of the breed.
Characteristic Features of Labrador Retrievers
These purebred gun dogs are loyal, friendly, intelligent, and eager to please. With their even temperament and affectionate nature, they make excellent family dogs. They are also very convenient to train and require less care and attention than other high maintenance dog breeds.
However, nurturing a Labrador Retriever is not at all a cakewalk as it may seem to be. They have their own unique problems that you need to be prepared to deal with if you plan to adopt one.
Common Problems with Labrador Retrievers
Here we have enumerated some of the most common problems you will encounter when raising a Labrador Retriever. These problems are classified into three groups, namely maintenance issues, health issues, and behavioral issues. The list mentioned below will help you to decide whether a Labrador Retriever is suitable for you or not. And if you are ready to own a Labrador, it will also help you prepare for various stumbling blocks.
Like any other dog breed, Labradors have their own share of maintenance issues, which you must take into account before planning to own a Labrador Retriever.
Like any other working dog originating in harsh weather conditions, Labradors are bound to shed. In fact, they shed a lot. And this can be one of the major drawbacks of owning a Labrador if you are a working person.
You can manage your Labrador’s shedding issues by brushing it regularly during shedding seasons and weekly during other seasons. Bathing them occasionally can also solve the shedding problem to some extent. However, if you don’t have adequate time to groom your pup or have allergies running in your family, it is better to opt for some low- shedding dogs like Poodles.
2) Needs a lot of exercises
Labradors may be docile, but they are energetic as well. And why not? They are ultimately retrievers, and as retrievers, they are supposed to be agile, athletic, and intelligent. Consequently, Labs require a lot of exercise and outdoor activities to engage themselves both physically and mentally. If their pent up energy is not adequately utilized, they will end up exhibiting some destructive or hyperactive characteristics.
Now, you may think that your home has a considerable amount of space to help your Lab fulfill its exercise needs. But unlike some other dog breeds, Labradors can never be satisfied by running inside a closed space, however big that area may be. Therefore, if you don’t have enough time to take your pup outside to train and play with it, you should opt for a lesser energy dog. Why not go for a Bulldog or a Bullmastiff?
3) Require a lot of space
Even though Labradors are considered as medium-sized dogs, they can prove to be quite gigantic for the kids and toddlers. Besides that, they are always wagging their “otter-like” tail that can act as a battering ram for your precious showpieces.
Therefore, you have two options before you. Taking a more spacious house or taking a smaller and lesser active dog. Since the former is an expensive option, why not adopt a Pug or a Pekingese?
4) Long puppy stage
Labradors grow very fast. Consequently, you may think that your furry baby has become a “mature adult.” But in actuality, your big dog is an “overgrown pup” whose adolescence is here to stay for quite a long time. Unfortunately, this adolescent period is the very time when Labs are supposed to be at the peak of their energetic self.
Therefore, you have to devote a lot of time to their socialization and obedience training. Apart from that, make sure that you expose your pup to various places, situations, and people during the puppy stage. Otherwise, your dog will develop into a spoilt brat even at the adult stage.
5) Labs are attention seekers
Labradors are real softies and attention seekers. If you don’t notice them, they will grab your attention by scratching you with their paws or jumping around. If you are a busy person and don’t have time to deal with such attention-seeking tactics, you must not go for a Labrador.
6) Traveling issues
Labradors are very excited and energetic dogs. Consequently, it is challenging to travel with them when you have a big family with small kids. As mentioned earlier, Labs remain in their adolescent stage for a long time. Therefore, you need to have a lot of patience to handle them while traveling.
Although you can leave your Labrador with someone familiar at home, that can be a lot of trouble to deal with for some people. So, you have got only two choices. First, spend some extra bucks on making the appropriate arrangements for traveling with your dog. And second, don’t get a Lab at all.
7) Feeding is Expensive
Labradors are always hungry. In fact, a report published in “Cell Metabolism” journal argued that Labrador Retrievers have a distinct gene mutation. As a result, they always feel hungry.
Spending on standard dog food is itself an extra expenditure when you have to pay off all your expensive daily needs. However, to ensure that your furry friend thrives, you need to provide it with good quality food. Even if you try to get a grip on this extra expenditure by watching your dog’s eating habits, an extra Rs. 3,000 will still go out of your pocket. And that’s a significant amount for someone who needs to keep tracking their expenses.
The type of health issues your Lab might develop will primarily depend on the place from where you plan to adopt your dog. If you wish to purchase your dog from a reputed breeder, you will have the option to verify your pup’s health screening documents. Besides that, you can also avail of the insurance services of your breeder.
However, if you plan to adopt your Lab from a rescue shelter, you must be aware of some of the significant health problems Labradors tend to develop.
1) Joint problems
This is one of the most common problems that often worries the Labrador Retriever owners. Although such problems become apparent during the older days of Labrador Retrievers, there is no hard and fast rule about it. Some of the significant joint issues that your Lab may experience include:
- Hip dysplasia: A horrible disease that occurs because of deformation or impairment in the hip socket. Consequently, the ball and socket of your Lab’s joint do not fit aptly and continues to rub and crush each other. This rubbing and crushing causes tremendous pain and often results in complete loss of joint function.
- Osteoarthritis: It primarily occurs because of two reasons, trauma and heredity. Arthritis generally affects the elbows and hip bones of dogs. However, there is no strict rule about it. Any of your dog’s joints can be damaged by this painful disease.
- Patellar Dislocation: It is a form of knee injury in which your Lab’s kneecap (Patella) slides from its original position. Consequently, your dog may experience a fracture in the kneecap or develop arthritis.
The joint problems of Labradors are mostly genetic. As a result, no medicine or treatment can completely prevent your Lab from developing such problems. However, there is a way to avoid a complete loss of your Lab’s healthy joints, and that is “Early diagnosis.” For that, you need to observe the legs and walking habits of your dog. Also, take note of its eating and sleeping habits.
If you think that something is wrong with your furry friend, take it to the vet. The vet will check your dog, conduct X-rays, and recommend the prospective actions for treatment.
2) Heart Issues
It is one of the most common issues that tend to affect the canine community. Among a variety of heart problems, Labradors are primarily affected by a congenital disease called “Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia.” A condition in which their valves do not close fully while pumping blood. Consequently, their blood backflows into the right atrium. It happens because of a deformation in the tricuspid or right atrioventricular valve that keeps the right ventricle apart from the right atrium.
If the blood’s backflow becomes severe, the right atrium and ventricle start overworking to compensate for the valve defect. As a result, the heart’s right side increases in size and ultimately causes “congestive heart failure” in a three-year-old pup.
Unfortunately, at present, there is no accurate explanation for the exact cause of such malformations in the heart. However, if you don’t want your dog to have an untimely death, you must get your pup’s heart screened before purchasing it. Also, make sure that your breeder provides insurance for heart disorders like “Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia.”
3) Ear Infections
With their love for water and dangling ears, Labradors are bound to provide breeding grounds for bacterial and fungal infections. However, these are not the only causes of ear infections in Labrador Retrievers. Other causes include:
- Unbridled hair growth
- Wax build-up
Some of the significant symptoms that can help you in detecting ear infections in your Lab are:
- Jerking their head frequently.
- Plodding in circles without listening to commands.
- Wobbly steps
- Rubbing their head against an object or a wall.
4) Eye Problems
Some of the dominant eye problems that your Labrador may develop are:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: It is a genetic problem that develops and eventually makes your Lab blind. Unfortunately, no cure has been discovered for this dangerous disease.
- Cataracts: It can affect your Lab at any age. However, unlike PRA, cataracts can be cured through early diagnosis and subsequent surgery.
- Retinal Dysplasia: It is a non-progressive hereditary disease that can affect your dog’s retina. Unfortunately, no cure for this disease has been discovered yet.
Following are the significant symptoms that can help you in detecting eye problems in your dog:
- Lesser eye contact.
- Not able to find the water and food bowls.
- Colliding with walls or other objects.
- Gazing at nothing in particular.
- Unusually hostile behavior.
As mentioned earlier, Labradors are obsessed with food. Consequently, they are also the most vulnerable breed that can develop conditions like obesity. Studies show that older Labradors are especially susceptible to obesity. As a result, your Lab can develop further complications in its body. Therefore, you must follow the precautions given below to prevent your dog from becoming overweight:
- Monitor your Lab’s eating habits. Make sure that it doesn’t eat more than what is required.
- Take your Lab outside for at least two times a day for exercise and training.
- Make sure that your dog eats only standard quality food.
If you don’t have the required time and energy to invest in your Lab’s health, it is better to look for any other dog breed or pet.
Apart from maintenance and health issues, Labradors also have some prominent behavioral issues that you must consider before planning to adopt one. Some of these issues are age-specific, others are dependent on your training.
- Barking: Fortunately, Labradors are a very even-tempered and quiet breed. Frequently barking is not one of their natural traits. However, if you don’t teach them the meaning of the command “quiet,” they will develop a terrible habit of barking and getting their way with you. Therefore, it is upon you and your obedience training to mitigate this issue of your Lab.
- Chewing: This is one of the significant problems that you have to deal with as a Labrador owner. Being a retriever, they are bound to use their teeth a lot. Unfortunately, you can do absolutely nothing to deal with this issue at their puppy stage. It is because they are teething at this stage and are in dire need of releasing the pain somewhere. However, you can use a process called “Biting inhibition” at their adolescence stage to stop their chewing habit.
- Digging: There is no fixed reason behind this habit of Labradors. However, this is a habit that is very well under your control. Just find out the reason why your Lab is digging, and your problem is solved. Labradors generally dig for the following reasons:
- Preparing a hiding place for their toy or food.
- Preparing a place to hide from something horrific.
- To fight boredom.
- Preparing a cool place due to hot weather conditions.
- Making space for cute puppies.
Once you have got their problem, try to fix it, and your dog will automatically stop digging.
Labradors have been ruling the hearts of dog lovers for almost thirty years now. But just because they are popular doesn’t mean that they are without any problems. Raising a Labrador Retriever can have its own share of challenges.
Some of those most significant challenges include taking care of their health and engaging them in productive activities. However, if you know what you are getting into and prepare yourself accordingly, Labrador Retrievers can prove to be just the dog for you.