So do you need to train a Labrador?
We have all heard that statement. And at The Labrador Rescue Trust we see a lot of dogs, particularly young ones coming into rescue labelled with delinquent behaviour. Often this is where a novice or inexperienced owner has not done any training and the dog simply does not know what is expected of it.
As a Labrador Owner, you have a gundog breed and whether you ever intend to take your Labrador shooting, to beat or pick up….. you have a gundog – a dog with hundreds of years of breeding that makes it very natural for them to use their nose to hunt and to retrieve things.
And let’s think about Working bred Labradors – these have been selectively bred for their energy levels, something that is very important on a shoot day, as well as their intelligence. So it might not be surprising that, without the correct mental stimulation they can sometimes show behavioural problems.
Whether you have a pet Labrador or a working Labrador (many of these are actually pets for most of the year….but enjoy a bit of sport within the Season), all dog owners all want a good relationship with their dogs and want them to be happy and fulfilled, polite and obedient, come back when they are called….whatever the distraction!
Isn’t exercise enough?
Exercise is a very important part of your dog’s health, but it might not be enough. Every dog is different and we need to be aware of his or her individual needs. Some dogs will develop behavioural problems without the mental stimulation to tire them mentally as well as physically.
Training teaches your dog what is expected of them – at the very basic level, teaching your dog to walk to heel on the lead makes for a much more pleasant experience for both of you. Dogs that pull on the lead or harness do so because they have never been taught to walk to heel correctly – with a well trained dog, you won’t even need a lead!
And training teaches your dog to focus on you and listen to you. It builds trust and enables you to develop a strong and positive relationship with your dog.
Be patient when you are training and set up training exercises so that your dog can succeed – they all love praise and reward! Remember that training is on-going throughout the dog’s life – there is no point in doing a course and then assuming that he/she is trained – you need to practice and re-enforce correct behaviour and, depending on what you want to do and the capability of your dog, teach them new skills.
So what sort of training should I do with a Labrador?
Again, think about the hundreds of years of breeding that have gone into your Labrador – it is instinctive for your dog to retrieve things and to use it’s nose hunt.
So gundog training can be very useful because it allows your dog to utilise these natural instincts – everything they do and learn will be very natural for them.
Simply put, Gundog training it’s about getting your dog focused and directing their energy in a constructive way, using their desire to retrieve as a reward.
The starting point is to learn the basic disciplines; walking to heel on a loose lead; recall; retrieving on command and steadiness – sit and stay as well as sit and wait. Your dog will learn all of these commands to voice as well as to whistle – very handy when they are some distance away!
Joining a gundog club will give you the chance to work with your dog to improve your control – you may never want to go shooting, but whether you do or not, you’ll find that everyone is working towards the same goal – a well behaved dog that is safe in whatever environment you choose.
Find a local gundog training club and as you progress, imagine being able to walk to heel without a lead and being able to move around other dogs without losing concentration…. Or being able stop your dog when it is running and send it in a different direction…..or being able to explore new walks with confidence because you know your dog will come back every time you call …or being able to walk away from your dog without it moving. All achievable goals at a gundog club.
Whether you want to go gundog training or not, dog training classes are a great way to socialise your dog and meet other dog owners. And be honest, there are probably some behaviours that could do with improvement. The kennel Club promotes responsible dog ownership by teaching owners to train their dogs for everyday life situations. Join an accredited training club and you can work your way through The Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme from Puppy level right up to Gold level.
As you train your dog, you will develop a close bond and you will have a better idea of their strengths as well as their needs and you will be able to use the basic skills you learn as a springboard to learn other new skills in different disciplines, whether it be Scentwork, Agility, Obedience, Heelwork to music, Canicross, Canine Hoopers and many more! The kennel Club is a good place to start to find out more about each type of training as well as to find a trainer or club near you.
Whatever training you decide suits you and your dog best, remember to enjoy it, have fun…..and send us your pictures!