Description

Labrador Retrievers (often shortened to 'Labradors' or 'Labs') are a short-medium coated, large sized dog breed. They are outgoing, active and affectionate companions who have a lot of energy and love making their owner happy. They have strong retrieving instincts as they were bred to be gun dogs, so they love both soft toys and diving into bodies of water.

Neonatal

During the first 4 weeks of your Labrador's life, they should spend most of their time with their mother and litter-mates. It is highly unusual for the puppy's owner to care for them during this time and is best left to a responsible, reputable breeder. Your puppy's body will double in weight as their muscles, organs and bones develop.

Nutrition During the neonatal stage, your Labrador puppy will get most of their nutrition from their mother's milk. At around 4 weeks you may wish to introduce a mush of minced protein such as beef, but always consult your vet first before changing your puppy's diet at this stage.
Health During this time it is important to monitor your Lab for any infections, diseases or birth defects. Puppies are unable to urinate or defecate by themselves initially, so their mother helps them but may additionally require your assistance.

Keep your vet's contact details close by and educate yourself thoroughly on this stage of puppy development. By the end of this period, your puppy will be mobile and will explore the world mouth first — be sure to keep choking hazards and toxic foods out of their reach.
Behaviour During most of this time your Labrador puppy will be asleep or inactive, but they will soon be playing with their brothers and sisters. After 3-4 weeks they will go through as much sensory development as a human baby does in a few months. It is important to avoid disturbing the puppies' mother as she will be likely be protective, but some interaction with the young pups is normal so they become used to human touch.

Weaning

When you take your Labrador puppy home (usually at around 8 weeks) you should shower them with stimulation and attention. This is a formative time for your puppy and will be when they learn to walk, play, bite, hold their bladder, and interact with others. You will soon notice their attentiveness to you and their intense love of play — many Labs keep this caring and fun attitude for their whole lives if you foster it.

 

Nutrition During the weaning stage, you should slowly introduce into their diet a nutritionally complete dog food which is appropriate to your Labrador's large size and young age. Labs are notoriously greedy and will quickly gobble down food and snatch treats from hands. You should familiarise yourself with lists of toxic foods and plants to avoid and hide as your puppy will soon find ways to get into forbidden snacks found only in bins.
Health During this time you should provide your puppy with a small, shallow bowl of clean water and refresh the contents frequently. Labradors puppies instinctively like to 'dig' inside their water bowls so much of their water will end up on the ground. Make sure to get your puppy used to touching inside their small ears as they are prone to ear infections and will need regular checkups. 
Behaviour Due to the changes in their environment, your Labrador puppy will likely be under a significant amount of stress. It's important that you provide lots of attention and positive reinforcement for good behaviour at this time to establish boundaries early. Labradors are eager to love anyone but can be overbearing, so you should introduce them to a number of different people and environments so that they are not overwhelmed with excitement later in life.

Puppy

By the time your Labrador Retriever reaches puppyhood their personality will be well developed and you will have established a loving, social friend who wants to maximise time with you and others. Your Labrador puppy will do well socially and behaviourally from puppy training classes as long as treats are involved.

 

Nutrition Your Labrador puppy's diet should be based around a high quality, nutritionally complete puppy food. You may also wish to introduce them to fresh, lean raw meat — however, don't feed your puppy any meat you would not feed to a fellow human being. Labradors are prone to bloat, which is when gas and/or water gets trapped in their stomach due to overeating or exercising after eating. Bloat is potentially fatal but can be combatted by feeding your dog two smaller meals per day, a habit you should start while they are a puppy.
Health While they may seem happy to laze about on the lounge, Labrador puppies need regular exercise to keep fit and avoid obesity. A rough guide is that they should exercise for 60-90 minutes per day and less after 5 years when many lose their appetite for long marathons of activity. Your pup will need brushing every few days, with more frequent grooming during seasonal changes to combat shedding. Bathing should be infrequent as this can damage the waterproofing of their coats, however, you should wash them after swimming or rolling in muck. After around 8 weeks your puppy will be due for some vaccinations, so they will need a checkup at the vet and to arrange for boosters after that.
Behaviour Do not be complacent with training your Labrador puppy — almost all are very gentle and well behaved, but this does not mean that training is unnecessary. Labs are very loving and patient with all that they meet, but they often do not know their own size. To combat this, they should be trained in how to act around small dogs and children to avoid intimidation or accidental injury. They will also benefit from obedience training to drop things from their mouths, avoid rushing across busy streets and make sure they come when called.

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