Labradors are among the most popular family dogs in the United States, with good reason. Generally they have placid dispositions, are easily trainable, have soft mouths and are gentle with children. A labrador makes a very loyal companion. When a family is choosing a Labrador, two considerations become paramount: the reputation of the breeder and the characteristics of the puppy. It is wise to choose a Labrador breeder first and then the puppy.
Choosing a Labrador Breeder
The standing and reputation of the breeder who is selling the puppies is very important. This is because the more dedicated and committed the breeder, the better the chances are that the family will buy a healthy puppy with a suitable disposition. Choose the breeder first and then the puppy. In most cases, the indications of a good breeder are:
- An authentic breeder will be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) which was founded in Philadelphia in 1884 (registration of a puppy with the AKC is not a guarantee of the puppy’s quality, it just means that the ancestry of the dog is recorded with the AKC).
- A caring breeder will keep the puppies in the home, not in a run.
- A thoughtful breeder will not breed with the dam (the mother) at every opportunity (an indication the profit may be the main motive) – he will give her a break between litters.
- A diligent breeder will have available for inspection important health certificates for the puppies, their parents and grandparents. These will include health certificates covering hip dysplasia and eye conditions.
- A breeder with a good reputation will keep a record of interested buyers and also run a waiting list.
- A successful breeder will be happy to give references and the telephone numbers of people who have bought puppies from him or her in the past..
- A loving breeder handles the puppies often and socializes them.
- A conscientious breeder makes sure the puppies have had all their shots and have been de-wormed.
- A responsible breeder will not allow a puppy to be taken away until it is 6 to 7 weeks old.
- A well established breeder will come with the recommendation of the family vet and the local labrador club.
Choosing a Labrador Puppy
Once the family purchasing the Lab is happy with the breeder, it is time to choose the puppy. The following considerations may help the family make a final decision.
- The family should use common sense when assessing the general condition of the puppy. Are the eyes free from any discharge? Does the puppy’s coat look and feel healthy? Are the ears free of unpleasant odor? Ultimately these are issues for a Vet to consider but this does not mean that the family should not be on the lookout for these signs of a possible problem.
- Has the puppy had all the required shots? The Vet can explain what is necessary.
- Has the puppy got all the essential clearance certificates covering hip dysplasia and eye conditions and are these same certificates available for the puppy’s parents and grandparents? Apparently it is only after 2 years that hip problems may become manifest.
- How do the puppies relate to strangers? An opinion on the internet is that if the puppy rushes to meet the family it could mean that the puppy may be aggressive. This is a question to ask the Vet as the logic of this observation is not immediately clear.
- How does the puppy react when picked up by a young child?
- How does the puppy respond to sudden sounds like a hand clap or the jingle of car keys falling on a hard floor?
- What kind of personality does the puppy have? The breeder should be able to help with this question particularly if the puppies have lived in the breeder’s house from birth and have been handled often.. Temperament is important: a lively puppy will be more suitable for a family with equally lively young children than a laid back puppy which would fit in better as a family pet for senior citizens.
Choosing a Labrador is Like Adopting a New Family Member
When the new Labrador puppy arrives it is just as if a new family member has been adopted. Almost without exception a loyal friend and companion will have come to stay with the family. As the lab’s muzzle turns silver with the passing of the years the family will realize how privileged they were to have known and been loved by such a devoted friend.