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Choosing A Labrador

Choosing a Labrador Retriever should be a slow, deliberate process where the purpose, temperament and style of dog is determined before breeders are contacted and puppies are viewed. This section provides a few pointers on how to go about this process.

Do you really want a Labrador? A Labrador is a medium-sized sporting dog. "Medium sized" means something more than about 60 pounds even for a female, males are more than 80 pounds. "Sporting dog" means a dog with enough energy to work outside in bad weather. The Labrador "double coat" is designed to keep the dog dry and warm in icy water. A Labrador is a lot of dog. Is that really what you want?

Do you have the time and temperament to deal with a puppy? Remember, your "puppy" is going to weigh-in at more than 60 pounds at just 9 months old. Many pet owners find that they are unable to attend enough training classes and do the home training required in this amount of time. These are the same folks you see being dragged down the street by their dogs.

Think about why you want a Labrador. Is this just to be a companion dog, an occasional hunting partner or a companion for your children? Are you interested in AKC Hunting Tests, the Show Ring, or Obedience Trials? What about Field Trials? You need to have a clear idea about these things before you call a breeder because some of these questions will be the first thing that you will be asked.

You can find more information and litter listings on the Rose City Labrador Retriever Club web site.

Choose your breeder carefully. This is the person that you will be calling to ask about the behavior of your dog and the things that your vet tells you!

Choosing A Vet

Many people put more effort into choosing a grocery store or a bank than they put into choosing the vet for this important member of the family. Vets are people and they simply are not all alike! Disregarding differences in levels of competence and experience between two veterinarians, there are the differences between their facilities, office staffs and lab technicians. So the bottom line is, don't just pick a vet office because “it's the closest”.

You should get acquainted before you have a need to visit the vet for the first time. Call the office of your prospective vet and tell them that you'd like to get acquainted. They will usually suggest an appointment for you to see the office and meet the vet, or vets if they have more than one. Ask if you can bring your dog. Here are some pointers on how to “check out a vet”.

  • Does the office and waiting room look clean and well maintained?

  • Is the reception staff friendly? Eavesdrop on them, how do they handle the calls, are they friendly and helpful? Remember, if you choose this place, it could be YOU on the other end of the phone trying to get an appointment TODAY because of some problem that can't wait!

  • How do they handle the other patients?

  • Does you dog like the vet? If the answer is no, go somewhere else.

  • Do you like the vet? Again, if the answer is no, use someone else. When the dog has a problem, he can't tell you what's wrong. You simply must feel comfortable that the people you are dealing with competent.

  • Are you comfortable with the office staff? Every time you make an appointment, or call with a problem, these are the people that you'll have to talk to.

  • Be nosy, ask for a tour. How well are things kept up? What about the quality of the equipment? Remember, if your dog needs surgery, this is “it”. What you're seeing is all the help your dog will get. Remember, every vet is also a surgeon. There are no specialty surgeons in most vet offices.

  • Ask about “after-hours” services. Do they have Vets on-call, or do you have to go to an animal emergency clinic? By the way, regardless of the services that your vet offers, do you know if there is an animal emergency clinic in your area? Do you know the phone number and address? Find out NOW and write down both the address and the phone number. Make sure that you know where it is well enough that you can find it in the dark.

    As an example, our vet has after hours services and vets on-call, yet we've been to the emergency clinic several times in the last few years. It's always been in the middle of the night.

  • Ask your breeder about this vet, ask your friends, ask people you know at work. We are starting to see frequent cases of vets who "load on" unnecessary services, such as blood tests, biopsies, special foods, food supplements, etc. Unsuspecting pet owners are led to believe that their pet requires all of these special, expensive services. Several clinics now have vets that are paid on a percentage of their billing.
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