Labrador Retrievers have a great reputation for being an ideal family dog. The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed of dog for dog owners for the past eighteen years (as reported by the number of dogs that are registered with the American Kennel Club). This is due to their intelligence, willingness to learn, and their temperament. Labrador Retrievers have one of the most agreeable temperaments of any dog breed, having a reputation for being affectionate, loyal, and loving.
However, when choosing a Labrador Retriever for a family dog, there are many important things to consider. Labrador Retrievers are very energetic, and require an active exercise routine. This involves a considerable amount of responsibility, and can be a good way to introduce the concept of responsibility to your children. Feeding, walking, and training your Labrador Retriever can be a great way to get your children involved, and help establish a stronger bond with your dog.
Training a Labrador Retriever in the proper way to act around children is essential at an early age. As a puppy, Labrador Retrievers should not be allowed to “play” with small children in excess, since puppy play can become quite rough. You need to establish that the children in your family are to be treated gently, as this can prevent injuries later on. It is extremely rare for a Labrador Retriever to intentionally injure a child. However, an active Labrador can unintentionally cause injury to a child if playtime becomes too rough. It is very important to set boundaries early in your relationship with your Labrador, so as to enjoy a stress-free experience with your dog.
To properly socialize your Labrador Retriever with children, begin by introducing your dog to a single child, in an environment that is not associated with playtime. This should preferably be done indoors, and after your Labrador has had a considerable amount of exercise. Try to help your dog remain calm, as this will help reinforce that interacting with children is to be done with restraint. Instruct your child to approach your dog from the front, and to walk at a normal pace. Running to greet your Labrador will only entice excitement, and this initial interaction should ideally stay under controlled conditions.
Have your child pet your Labrador gently, usually on top of the head. Physical contact on the top of the head will establish an instinctual boundary in your dog’s mind, as this is how dominance is established in the wild. If your dog shows positive signs, such as tail wagging, or licking your child’s hands, let the interaction continue. If your Labrador seems confused, wary, or afraid, be sure to have a treat reward prepared. Reinforce that interacting with a child is a positive experience, and produces rewards. Try to give your Labrador the treat before any hint of negative behavior, such as growling or a defensive posture. Above all, your Labrador is looking to please you, and will eventually be comfortable with any behavior that is subsequently rewarded.