Labrador Retriever

...the big boisterous puppy...even as an adult!

Labradors are large, short haired dogs which are one of the most popular breeds world wide. They live for ten to thirteen years which is normal for such a big dog. They are intelligent and are often trained as assistant dogs for the blind and people with other disabilities. Their strong sense of smell also makes them ideal for Police work.

They are great with children and the elderly, being equally tolerant of probing baby fingers and long hours sitting patiently beside a sedentary owner.

However, they are bred to retrieve, so they love active owners who will play fetch with them and they adore toys, often having favourite cuddly toys which they like to carry around with them.

On the downside, they are eating machines incapable of turning down food and thus they are prone to becoming overweight. The commonest health problem with Labradors is hip dysplasia and this is aggravated by being overweight. They need owners who will keep them on a strict diet and not give in to 'treats and titbits'. Moderate exercise will also keep their weight down and even owners with limited mobility can exercise these dogs by regularly engaging them in fetch games. For more energetic owners, they can be run for up to two hours a day. The best exercise, however, is probably swimming. They are excellent swimmers, aided by web-like paws, so regular trips to the beach will make for a very happy Labrador.

Labradors like to be inside with you as part of the family but will happily sleep outside in a kennel. They are not usually d'iggers' so your backyard is safe from constant potholes. They have no interest in burying their bones - remember they are eating machines which will never save for later what they can eat now.

With big, throaty barks, they will let you know if visitors arrive, but these are not watchdogs. They are most likely to lick an intruder and offer a soft toy.

Unlike some sleek, streamlined breeds, Labradors tend to lumber along, with large sweeping movements of their tails when excited. Ornaments on low tables and ledges should be avoided because the chances are the wagging tail of 'hello' will send your candlesticks flying across your room and knock your coffee onto your lap.

You also need to consider if there is enough space outside for your Labrador to toilet away from its play area and water bowl. Labradors will do large bowel movements several times a day so some yard space is important, as is regular clean up.

Labradors are immature for about the first three years (a third of their life) and as such, often behave like big boisterous children. They need consistent early training to ensure acceptable behaviour.

Their mouths are soft (they can carry an egg in their mouth without breaking it). Nevertheless, they are renowned chewers so don't expect your cushions to be safe while they are in their puppy stage.

<ul> <li>Large dog</li> <li>Very intelligent</li> <li>Great companion</li> <li>Regular exercise needed</li> <li>Lengthy puppyhood</li> <li>Needs strict diet control</li> </ul>