So you want an adorable, cuddly, bouncy, drooling Labrador puppy. Are you sure it has the right temperament for you and your family, and do you know how to tell one delightful little puppy’s personality from another? As a rule, Labradors are less whiney and insecure than other breeds, and not prone to territoriality or possessiveness. They do grow to be quite large however, and will chew (on just about anything) as puppies. They are evenly tempered and great with kids, and will run like crazy when you give them room. If you need a slobbery tennis ball retrieved, this is the breed for you.
That said, puppies, like people, are all different and their personalities should be gauged before you bring him or her into your home. Here are a few helpful tests and trials that you can perform to determine what kind of puppy you’re looking at.
Hopefully, you’re buying or adopting a dog from a place that will let you spend a little time with one or several candidates. You need hands-on checking of certain things. For instance, sit still and see which puppy comes to you. Is the dog timidly approaching, or confidently walking or running up with his head and tails and ears up? This can be an indicator of the puppy’s comfort level around people. Ask the owner or breeder’s permission before administering the next tests…
Play with the puppy for a little while. Offer a toy and see how aggressively he grabs it. Is he willing to hand it back over or is he hanging on to it for dear life when you try to take it back? It’s not “normal” for a Labrador to not give back a toy; hanging on can indicate an aggressiveness that you may not want. Offer a little treat. Does the puppy want to take it from you? Eagerness to take it from your hand indicates the ability to train him. Once the puppy is a little more comfortable with you, rub his belly and see how comfortable he is with that. Does he flinch when handled? Pick up his feet and rub his ears, run your hands all over his body. Does he has a negative reaction to your attentions?
Roll the puppy onto his back. Does he wet himself nervously, or struggle and bite? You do not want a dog that is too submissive, or too aggressive. A well adjusted puppy should struggle and kick for a few seconds before settling down into submission under your hand. Remember, be gentle! You don’t have a force a puppy to submit, they will do it on their own, simply because you are bigger.
Pick the puppy up and walk away from his littermates. Does he get overly anxious and whiny, or squirm vigorously to get back to the pack? This may indicate that he’s not ready to leave his canine family, or simply that he’s going to be a little more insecure than his brothers and sisters.
Overall, how comfortable are the two of you together? Do you seem to “click” and have a rapport together; are you getting solid vibes from this little bundle of drool? It’s partly common sense and partly intuition that will tell you which puppy will be the best fit for you and your family. Do some reading online or at the library, and get advice from folks who already own Labradors, and good luck on your choice.