Labrador Retrievers are among the most popular breed of dogs to have as pets, because of their affectionate nature, affinity for children, high levels of energy, and intelligence. They are also easily trainable, and are used as police dogs, by bomb detection squads, as sniffer dogs at airports by 'search-and-rescue' teams, and even as guide dogs for the blind. While there is no doubt that having a Lab as a pet will bring you immense joy, if you want your beloved pooch to be equally happy, you need to take good care of it.
Maturity: Unlike most other breeds, who mature within one to two years, a Lab takes up to three years to fully mature. Keeping that in mind, make allowances for a little extra playfulness during this period of time. Enjoy this extended 'puppy' stage, for once its gone, it will never come back. Keep up a steady supply of 'chew toys', otherwise you can expect your shoes or furniture legs to be the victims.
Diet: Labs always seem to have boundless energy, the source of which is a good diet. They are good eaters, and the black Labrador in particular will eat whatever is put in his bowl. If there are other dogs around, he might even eat up their food. A good healthy diet, not essentially a big meal, in the initial stages is a must for their healthy strong growth.
Weight Check: Since Labs are fond of eating, they have a tendency of putting on weight if their diet is not controlled, and they are not adequately exercised. Excess weight leads to a several health problems, specifically affects the heart and can cause arthritis.
Common Health Problems: Some of the common health problems with this breed are elbow and hip dysplasia, and eye infection. One should consult the vet about these issues. That apart, their nails grow rapidly, therefore, they need to be trimmed at least once a month. In case you hear their nails scratching the floor before a month is over, it's time for another trim.
Grooming: Though Labs love water, it should not be an excuse to bathe them too often. Bathe them only if you find them smelly. A frequency of three to four times a year, and none in extreme winters, is fine. Use a mild shampoo manufactured for dogs, and you can use tepid water in winters. Dry them thoroughly after a bath to avoid any fungus related skin ailment. Brushing the dog at least once a week is a must, because they do tend to shed. Use a natural bristle brush or a glove brush, and if family members have allergies, vacuum all the shed hair.
Exercise: They need plenty of exercise to stay healthy and avoid getting overweight. Half an hour of exercise besides the routine walks is a must. Being a retriever, this dog loves retrieving a ball or a Frisbee, so his exercise outing can be fun for you too! If possible, include a swim in his weekly routine.
Sleeping Place: Labs simply love to tuck into bed with kids, so right from start get them used to their own bed. Only encourage this habit if you are comfortable with sleeping in a bed fully of doggy hair, and waking up with an odd strand in your mouth.
Ear Care: Some Labs have drooping ears, that is, they do not stick up straight, which results in lesser air circulation. This may leave their ears damp, which encourages bacteria build up and the consequent ear infection. Ear infections are very painful if not treated properly. Having its ears examined frequently, and following whatever measures the vet suggests.
Apart from following these steps, shower your Lab with plenty of love, which often means quality time. This is sure to result in a happy, healthy, content Labrador, and equally happy owner.