What should you look for when buying a Labrador puppy? It's a question that we get asked a lot so we decided to put together this guide. Its a combination of general dog buying tips plus some specific to Labrador Retriever owners.
The tips below are focused around buying a puppy, however most apply if buying or re-homing an older Labrador too.
1. Find a reputable Labrador breeder
We will always suggest buying your Labrador puppy from a proper, reputable Labrador breeder. There are standards and laws in place to protect both yourself and your new pup, and it means you can be sure your puppy has had the best start in life.
Of course, there are far too many breeders out there that do not abide by moral standards or even the law, so making sure you find a good breeder is important. The UK Kennel Club has a helpful list of Assured Labrador Breeders which is a good place to start. Remember that just because a breeder is on the list does not mean you should trust them blindly - always go and meet your breeder before buying a puppy.
2. Ask questions
Speak to your breeder and ask lots of questions about the puppies. A good breeder should know all the answers and be enthusiastic when speaking about their pups.
Be prepared to answer questions in return, as any decent breeder will want to know that their puppies are going to good homes. Always arrange to meet the puppies at their home - you should be suspicious if a seller wants to deliver or meet at a different location.
3. Choose a gender
Many people just prefer a certain gender, but there are some key points you should consider when deciding whether to get a Dog or a Bitch:
- Neutering a female is more expensive then neutering a male
- Un-neutered females come into season twice a year, during which time they may need confining to a washable/wipe-able floor and kept separate from entire males
- Males are larger and heavier than females
The above are factual, however from experience we can add that:
- Intact males are more prone to aggression from other dogs
- Male Labradors have a higher urge to scent and can be harder to lead train due to their desire to sniff out scents
- Bitches tend to behave better when meeting other dogs
There is no right or wrong answer here, a lot of the time it comes down to personal preference and circumstance.
4. Meet your puppy (and their family)
This may seem obvious but you would be surprised the amount of people who are willing to buy a dog without meeting it or their parents first.
It's very important to go and see the litter, the mum and dad (where possible) and the seller. You can get a good idea of how a puppy may turn out by spending some time with their parents - if you can, take someone more experienced in dog ownership with you to help.
Of course, it's not entirely possible to know for sure how an 8 week old Labrador puppy is going to grow up in terms of temperament and health. A lot of the time a dogs behaviour can be attributed to nurture and not nature - meaning a good home generally means a good dog, especially in Labrador Retrievers as they are by nature a well mannered dog.
5. Check the paperwork
Whether buying from a breeder or a private seller, your puppy should come with at least the following items:
- A signed copy of a contract of sale
- Details about your puppy's microchip
- Information about your puppy's vaccination and worming treatments
The above should come in the form of a pet vaccination record book, which you keep and have updated by your vet going forward.
Depending on if you are buying a pedigree Labrador or not, you should also receive:
- Your puppy’s pedigree (family tree)
- Copies of health certificates for the puppy's mother and father
If any of the above is missing, regardless of the seller's excuse, you should really be asking questions as to whether this is a good person to be buying a puppy from.
6. Bring your puppy home
The final step - where you get to bring your gorgeous new Labrador Retriever puppy home! Labradors really just need a safe, comfy home with quality food and loving owners. The reward of this amazing dogs companionship for years to come will make all your hard work worth while.
We highly recommend seeking help from a trainer or going to puppy training classes especially for any first-time dog owners. The tips and tricks you pick up will be extremely valuable particularly when your pup grows up.
And that's it! You can check out the Labrador Shop for hand-picked Labrador food, toys and other items to keep your Labrador happy and healthy.