How to Train a Labrador Retriever

Training Tips for Labs

A young woman holding her yellow Labrador in her arms.
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Labrador Retrievers have topped the list of most popular dog breeds for a number of years. As the American Kennel Club explains, "Because of his even temperament and trainability millions of Americans own a Labrador Retriever as a pet." The following tips can help you get off on the right foot when training a Labrador Retriever:

Puppy Socialization

Labs are natural born people pleasers. You can build on their genetic predisposition to be good companions by ensuring that your Labrador Retriever puppy is well socialized. This means you should introduce him to as many new people and places as possible during his early months of life. Keep each new meeting and experience positive and upbeat. Doing this will reinforce your Lab's natural tendency to be friendly and accepting of everyone.

Exercise Every Day

Labrador Retrievers are high energy dogs which is what makes them such great pets for active families. But if Labs aren't given sufficient exercise, they can quickly become bored. This often leads to destructive behavior and other common behavior problems, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Plan on giving your Lab an hour or more of exercise each day. Most Labs love long walks or a game of fetch. These are the perfect way to burn off your Lab's energy.

Start a Basic Obedience Program

Most Labs really love to learn. Take advantage on their innate trainability by starting an obedience program as soon as you bring your Labrador Retriever home. You can work on basic obedience commands on your own, or sign up for a dog obedience class with a local dog trainer. Classes are a great way to train your Lab while socializing at the same time.

Since Labs get to be fairly large and have a tendency to pull on leash, make walking on a loose leash your first priority. You should also teach your Lab to "come," "drop it," and "fetch," so you can take advantage of his natural tendency for retrieving.

Use Positive Reinforcement Training

Their eagerness to learn, playfulness, affectionate natures and their love of treats make Labrador Retrievers fantastic candidates for positive reinforcement dog training. Reward their good behaviors with a small treat, a game, or some cuddle time with you. You'll find your Lab is soon offering you the behaviors you like with little prompting from you.

If you decide to use treats in your training, remember that Labs have a tendency to become overweight. Use the smallest treats possible to reward behavior, and be sure to reduce the amount of food you're giving at meal times or increase exercise to compensate for the treats.

Plan on a Long Adolescence

One of the most endearing qualities of Labrador Retrievers is that they remain very puppy-like long after they've reached adulthood. The downside is that their energy level and tendency to get into mischief continues well into adulthood as well. Therefore, it pays to have behavior management tools handy. Some management tools to keep in mind:

  • Crate train your Labrador so he doesn't have the run of the house when you're not there to supervise
  • Provide your Lab with a variety of interesting toys and chews to keep him from getting bored.
  • Continue practicing basic obedience commands; it reinforces your Lab's training and provides mental stimulation.

Consider Advanced Training

Many Labrador Retrievers are happiest and the most well-behaved when they have a job to do. Consider getting involved with a dog sport or training you Lab as a pet therapy dog. Keeping your Lab busy and active is sure to keep one of those famous Lab smiles on his face.