Written by Vicki
Considering buying a Labrador Retriever? We think you're choosing a
Before you decide, ask yourself some questions. Can you resist buying the
first cute puppy you see, on impulse? Are you prepared to make a commitment
to a dog for the next 10-15 years, even if you have life changes such as
moving, new babies, or kids going off to college? Full responsibility for a
dog is not a job for children; it requires a responsible adult, at least
supervising, and should be carefully considered. The commitment is not a
small one; training a Labrador to be a pleasant companion requires
considerable time and patience. Labs don't become well-behaved all by
themselves! They require substantial attention and exercise throughout their
lives; they are active and social animals and don't do well when stuck in the
backyard and forgotten.
Labrador puppy chewing and digging can be destructive. Do you have an
appropriate environment for a puppy and are you willing to live with puppy
mistakes? Remember that Labradors are not fully mature until around three
years of age, so that's a long puppy-hood. Are you willing to spend the
money it takes to provide appropriate care, including quality food and
supplies, annual vaccines, heartworm testing and preventative, and spaying or
neutering? Are you willing to wait for the right puppy from the responsible
breeder of your choice? Remember, finding the best puppy for you is well
worth the wait.
well-bred dog from a responsible breeder. Responsible breeders take care to
produce healthy, typical Labradors with good temperaments. Don't
bargain-hunt and don't buy a puppy from a pet store; often those puppies come
from poor breeding, may have been kept in poor conditions with inadequate
socialization, and are sometimes more expensive than puppies purchased from a
responsible breeder. Responsible breeders do all they can to avoid producing
serious problems, including aggressive or shy temperaments, hereditary health
defects such as hip or elbow dysplasia, or early blindness from hereditary eye
diseases. Remember that "AKC papers" are not an indication of quality in the
dog. They only mean that the dog's parents were AKC registered.
a puppy really the right dog for me?
you don't have the time or facilities for socializing, housetraining, and
obedience training a puppy, it's possible that an older dog would be a better
choice. Mature Labradors usually adapt very well to new homes and can form
very deep bonds. You can investigate Labrador rescue or find a responsible
breeder who may have an older dog to place in a new home.
How do I know a breeder is responsible?
for a breeder who:
Is knowledgeable about the breed. Most
responsible breeders continually test the results of their breeding programs
by participating in conformation shows, obedience trials, field trials, or
Is knowledgeable about raising puppies. Even
puppies with the best hereditary temperaments can exhibit behavioral
problems if they are not socialized sufficiently or if they are removed from
their dam and littermates before seven weeks of age. Socialization done by
the breeder should include ensuring that each pup receives frequent human
attention, is handled frequently, and is exposed to a wide variety of noises
Takes steps to keep the puppies as healthy as
possible. Before puppies go to their new homes, they should have been
wormed or checked for worms, and should have received their first shots.
Takes steps to prevent occurrence of hereditary
defects in the puppies. Both parents should have hip clearances from at
least one of the following registries: OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for
Animals), PennHip, Wind-Morgan, or a foreign joint registry. Many breeders
are checking parents for elbow defects as well as hips. Both parents
should also both have current eye clearances, either from a veterinarian who
is a diplomat of the American College of
Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) or from a foreign eye registry. Be sure
to ask about health clearances; responsible breeders will be happy to tell
you about them and will honestly discuss problems that might occur in the
parents' lines. Avoid breeders that tell you their dogs don't need health
clearances because they've never had a problem, or those who tell you that
their "vet said the dog was ok." Remember that clearances on the parents
don't guarantee that the puppies will be free of problems, but your chances
of buying a healthy puppy are greatly improved if the parents have been
Does not breed bitches every time they come in
season. This is extremely hard on the bitch and may indicate that profit
is the breeder's primary motive.
Chooses breedings carefully. Ask why the
particular sire was chosen. The answer should be thoughtful and
knowledgeable. Answers such as "because he lived close to me" or "because
he's such a cute dog" generally don't indicate a breeding that is being done
to produce puppies that are better than their parents (the goal of every
responsible breeder). One indication of a quality breeding is if the
majority of dogs in the first few generations are titled (CH, OTCH, FC, CD,
JH, WC and so on, before or after the dogs' names). If the titles only
appear generations back or if there are only a few in the entire pedigree,
they don't mean much.
Lets you meet the parents of the puppies.
Bitches may be sent long-distance to stud dogs, but the breeder should be
able to show you photographs of the sire and answer questions about him.
Evaluates puppy temperaments and helps you choose
the puppy that is best suited to your lifestyle. A very active puppy won't
do well in a sedate environment, and a quiet puppy may be overwhelmed in an
active household with noisy children. Remember that most breedings are
done so the breeder can choose a puppy to carry on his or her own lines, so
you may have to wait until this choice is made when the pups are 6-7 weeks
old. After that, the breeder can help you decide which pup would be most
suitable for you. The breeder has spent extensive time with the litter and
know the puppies best, so their advice is important.
Will be willing to take the dog back at any time
if you cannot keep it. Responsible breeders do NOT want their puppies to
end up in an animal shelter or in a less-than-ideal home.
Is someone you feel comfortable with. You may
not be an expert on Labradors, but you do know about people. Use your
intuition. The breeder should be available for the life of the dog to
answer questions, so this could be a long-term relationship. If you don't
trust the person, don't buy a dog from them.
Will provide appropriate documentation with the
puppy, including registration papers, pedigree, and a health record.
Is concerned about your future plans for the
puppy, particularly whether you're thinking of breeding the dog. Many
responsible breeders sell pet-quality animals with mandatory spay/neuter
contracts and/or Limited Registration (meaning that offspring of the dog
cannot be registered). This is a good indication that the breeder cares
enough about the breed to ensure that only the very best representatives are
bred. Some breeders may be willing to change the Limited Registration to a
Full Registration if you present the dog to them after maturity, having had
all its health clearances. Then, if the breeder thinks the dog is of good
quality and temperament, they may change the registration and help you with
the selection of a good stud dog. Only the dog's breeder can make this
How do I find a responsible breeder?
First, educate yourself. Read books on the breed. Attend dog shows,
hunting tests, field trials, or obedience trials, and talk to the Labrador
exhibitors. Be willing to spend some time on the phone, talking to breeders,
and looking for referrals. Most responsible breeders will have a list of
puppy buyers before they do a breeding, and usually don't have to advertise in
Please remember that the great majority of Labrador breeders are hobby
breeders. They are not "in business," breeding is not their profession, and
very few of them make money on their dogs. It's a labor of love for the
breed. Please give them the courtesy you'd give to your own friends and
You may not find a breeder
that satisfies all these criteria, but these guidelines should be helpful in
finding the best puppy for you and your situation. Good luck in your search
and enjoy your new Labrador friend. Your time and effort will be well
GUIDE TO BUYING A LABRADOR
Copyrighted © 2000 by THE LABRADOR CONNECTION,
Newsletter of the
Retriever Club, Inc.
Reprinted by permission.