Expert advice from Baileys’ canine nutritionist on what you need to know as the new owner of a Labrador

Q: After losing my much-loved elderly mongrel a few months ago, I have decided to get another dog and I think a Labrador would be ideal. As I don’t have any experience of the breed please could you advise as what I should look out for?

Liz Bulbrook replies: A Labrador is a popular choice with many peoplebecause they are generally known as reliable, obedient, easy to handle and train, and are generally good with children.However like all animals they are individuals and so don’t assume all Labradors fulfil the above criteria.

The Labrador is used as a guide dog, a popular show dog, and gundog or family housedog.

If you want to know details about different types and breeding lines, for example between those descended from show ring stock or those bred as gundogs, then I would suggest contacting the breed society, or speak to reputable dog trainers and breeders in your area.

The Labrador is usually a strongly built, short coupled active dog, with a fairly broad head and solid body leading to the “otter-tail” feature ofthe breed.

Being active they need plenty of exercise so take this into account when choosing your next dog.

They need regular exercise and something to keep their minds occupied, usually they want to please you and be obedient so consider going to training classes together.

The coat is short and dense, and although the breed do tend to moult heavily, the coat is quite easy to care for. Labradors can be black, yellow or chocolate in colour.

Labradors have a reputation of eating anything and everything, so it is important that they are not overfed as they can easily become overweight leading to stress on the organs as well as the joints.

If you get a young puppy then raise it on puppy and junior diets until it is at least 12-18 months when it can move on food for adult dogs.

Labradors are one of the breeds that can be susceptible to hip dysplasia in later life which has a genetic link, so again when speaking to breeders enquire as to whether the parents have been “hip-scored” as ideally litters should only be bred from low scoring parents.

Some breeders also have the eyes tested as well. As with all breeds when choosing you new dog try and see both the parents if at all possible and see the puppy in the litter, in this way it will help you to assess temperament and character as well as the general conformation of the parents.

If getting a mature dog to be a companion and not necessarily to show or to work (perhaps from a rescue home) then conformation is not as important as the temperament – try and get as much background as possible, and be prepared to be patient.

On the whole you should find that owning a Labrador is a real pleasure as they are such loving dogs andit will be a rewarding experience for you both.

(As a chocolate lab owner I may be bias!)

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