When Is My Lab Going To Settle Down?!
Labradors were originally bred to assist their owners with many tasks, such as helping pull nets of fish in off the coast of Newfoundland, retrieving stray fish escaping from the nets, and doing all this all day in ice cold water. Later, they were used for water fowling because many of the same elements were present: the ability to work all day in cold water, and the ability to find and retrieve small animals.
What does this mean for you, the modern day owner, who is likely as not, neither trying to pull in nets of cod through the winter nor duck hunting up in frozen Montana? It means you have a dog that was bred to WORK. He was bred to be active, smart, intelligent, companiable. Most of these attributes are what makes a Labrador a perfect family pet in this day and age…but the first one causes much trouble at the same time.
Labs are meant to have a job. Because they are intelligent, they are easily trained, but if they are NOT trained, they become bored. And when bored, that same intelligence (and activity level, remember that activity level) conspires to find other things to do…excavate your backyard, redo the carving on your wooden mouldings, reupholster your favorite sofa, move the living room carpet into the den, tackle your underwear collection, and other similar projects.
To cope with this, you must give your dog the physical and mental challenge he was bred for. No, you don’t need to move to Newfoundland and buy a fishing boat. But you do need to rearrange your daily schedule to spend time with him. He needs daily exercise, and daily training. Why training? Because that exercises his mind, which is nearly as good as exercising his body. You don’t have to do formal obedience or hunting work. Teach your dog tricks if you like. The mental stimulation is similar (we concede there is nothing like the snap and sparkle in a lab’s eyes when he is faced with downed bird in the water to retrieve, but…). Given daily exercise and training, your lab should become much more tractable in other areas of your life.
Labradors are known for having a long and delayed puppyhood and adolescence that completely disregards their physical maturity. A two year old Labrador is still very much of a puppy, and attendent with that, has a puppy’s exuberance and energy. Labs don’t start “settling” down until sometime between two and four years of age. A few labradors are quiet and sedate from early puppyhood onward, and a few others are bouncing puppymaniacs until well into old age, but by and large, you can expect to see mental maturation happening between two and four years of age.
It is our experience that Labrador owners who understand this before they get a Labrador do much better in the long run than owners who were completely surprised by how much energy and work that cute little Labrador puppy was. So think carefully before picking a Lab!