It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s full of love. Yes, your Labrador is going to be one of those dogs that changes your life and who you’ll always remember as extra-special. We jog you through some care tips that will keep your Lab happy, healthy and comfortable throughout his time with you!
Create a Safe Environment
Apart from keeping your lab in your yard and away from traffic and other, more aggressive dogs, you will need to be alert to a few dangers around your house and yard.
- Check for and remove sharp objects. Bits of wire, scrap iron and so on, can cause painful injuries.
- Make sure there’s no exposed electrical wiring – they may chew on it!
- Keep your trash out of reach of pets. Food wrappers or sharp bones can cause choking or blockages in the digestive system.
- Keep anything poisonous out of reach – just as if you had a toddler in your house.
- Fence off your swimming pool, and if you have a pond, be sure your Lab can get out of it easily.
Brushing and Bathing
Labradors have lovely, relatively low-maintenance coats, but they do need some attention to keep them in tip-top condition. For most of the year, you won’t need to brush often, but in shedding seasons, your dog will need fairly frequent brushing. This not only helps to keep his coat looking wonderful, but it also limits the amount of hair that ends up on every surface during shedding.
Labs have natural oils secreted by the skin that keeps the coat healthy and weather proof. Bathing too frequently will disrupt this natural balance making your dog more prone to dry skin. Dirt will also tend to penetrate the coat more easily and so will moisture, so your dog will tend to be dustier and will get colder in bad weather.
Bath your dog only if he or she is getting smelly, and try not to do so more than three or four times a year. If the coat is just dusty, a good brushing should help. When you do bath your dog, use a properly formulated pet shampoo. Human shampoo will dry out the skin too much.
Overly long claws can lead to injuries. When you can hear nails clicking when they walk, it’s time to cut their nails. Ideally, get your vet to do the trimming. If you want to do it yourself, ask for advice and get the right tools. There’s a vein inside each claw, and if you sever that, there will be a lot of blood!
Regular walks on hard surfaces like concrete and tar will help to wear the nails down so that they don’t have to be cut as often.
Check Ears Often
Those lovely folded ears can cause problems. Moisture tends to remain there for longer, making Labs prone to ear infections. Check the inside of the ears often, and see your vet if there are signs of infection or wax build-up.
Teeth Need Care Too
If you are getting a pup, try to get it used to teeth cleaning from an early age. Ask your vet to demonstrate, and then keep up the habit. Just like people, dogs get cavities and gum disease if their teeth are neglected. And bacteria in the mouth can result in other problems like respiratory tract infections or even heart disease.
If your dog doesn’t take well to tooth brushing, gnawing bones can help, but beware – some dogs will try to swallow bones whole, and this can prove fatal. Get really big bones and supervise! Cow hoofs and rawhide “bones” are also popular, but supervision is still necessary.
Unfortunately, pet dentistry is real surgery, and your dog will have to get a general anesthetic, but if there are rotten teeth or if tartar has built up, this may be necessary.
Ticks, Fleas, and Other Parasites
Most of the products you can get at supermarkets just aren’t good enough to control ticks and fleas. Ask your vet for recommendations. Usually, your options would be a spot-on treatment or else a chewy pill that works for up to three months. I recommend the latter. Since Labs like to swim, they are hard on conventional dips, flea collars, and spot-on treatments.
If you live in an area where heartworm is a problem, heartworm prevention should be a priority. Luckily, there are good preventative treatments on the market.
Finally, have your dog dewormed at least once a year. If you notice bum-dragging or weight loss without a reduction in appetite, it may be time to deworm.
Annual Check-Ups and Vaccinations
Although it’s fashionable to worry about the effects of vaccinations, please don’t transfer this to your dog. Vaccinations cover terrible, fatal diseases like canine distemper and parvovirus. If you skip vaccinations, your dog is likely to get these diseases, especially if you like to take him out and about.
Take a healthy dog for check-ups at least once a year. At this time, your vet can also give any booster shots that are due.
Nutritious Diet and Plenty of Water
Your Labrador’s water bowl should always be full. His food bowl, on the other hand, should only be filled at mealtimes. Choose the best dog food for Labs that you can find and follow feeding instructions carefully, monitoring your pet’s condition.
Labs will keep eating long after they are no longer hungry, and this delight in food makes them tend to be overweight if you don’t actively control diet.
If you decide to change the diet, try not to do so all at once. Diet change invariably causes tummy upsets, so if you can transition to the new food by adding progressively larger amounts of it to a mixture, that’s a better solution.
Although you can get away with feeding an adult Lab just once a day, it’s better to split the daily allowance between two meals. That way, your dog doesn’t overeat once a day and feel hungry later on.
Puppies should get a properly balanced puppy food, and older dogs may need less food if they become less active.
Be careful not to overwork a puppy. Ask your vet about exercise for pups and avoid anything that might cause skeletal problems. From about a year old, however, your pup is going to be ready for just about anything! As large, active dogs, you should give your lab walks twice a day. Extra running and jumping games like fetch are fun, or you could even consider enrolling your pet for dog agility classes and other fun activities.
Guard against your dog exercising to the point of collapse. As working dogs, Labs get so absorbed in their play, that they can overdo it and even collapse from exhaustion.
A Place to Sleep and Shelter
Don’t let your dog get used to sleeping in your bed. It will be a hard habit to break! It will also make your dog tend to be more anxious when you aren’t around. Whether your dog sleeps indoors or outdoors, provide a soft bed to lie on and be sure there’s a shaded, dry place where they can shelter from bad weather or hot sun.
Training your Lab is a pleasure, both for you and for your dog. Labs love to work with their owners, and they love to please them. Use positive reinforcement methods only!
Training makes your dog easier to live with, and the habit of obedience could even save your dog’s life someday. For example, a dog who walks to heel is less likely to get in the way of traffic and get run over.
Start training as early as you like, but never be impatient with your pet. If it isn’t obeying you, you probably aren’t getting the message across in the right way. I strongly recommend proper dog training classes for Labs and their owners.
A Well-Cared for Lab is the Best Pet Ever
Don’t choose a Lab if you aren’t willing to spend the time it takes to take care of it. As intelligent dogs, Labs need lots of company, as big, active dogs, they need the right food and exercise, and as sensitive souls, they need lots of love.
If you can give a Lab everything it needs and you’re ready to be as dedicated to your Lab as he will be to you, go ahead! A well-cared for Lab is the best pet ever!