The Labrador retriever, which originated in Canada’s province of Newfoundland, is the most popular dog breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club. The breed is known as much for its love of food and tendency to gain weight as it is for its gentle nature, intelligence and willingness to work. Labrador retrievers have specific requirements in terms of food, exercise, grooming, training and medical care, which are necessary to ensure that the dog remains healthy and happy.
Feed your Labrador retriever a high-quality commercial food or home-cooked pet food that can support the development and maintenance of strong bones to carry his weight. Choose a dog food that contains an optimal quantity of lean protein combined with L-carnitine to promote the development of lean muscle mass, with added glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium and phosphorus to promote the growth of a sturdy skeleton. The food should also contain vitamins A and B, biotin and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to nourish your Labrador retriever's thick, waterproof coat. Homemade diets should be specially formulated to provide the same nutrients.
Maintain a balanced feeding schedule that controls both your dog’s hunger and his blood glucose adequately. Puppies younger than 4 months should be fed four times daily, and those between 4 and 12 months should eat three times a day. From the age of 1 year old, the dog can be given two meals a day in balanced quantities.
Exercise your Labrador retriever at least two hours a day, giving him the opportunity to run freely for at least half of that time. Teach him to chase and fetch a ball. This provides him with exercise as well as the opportunity to learn commands. Labrador retrievers love water, so allow your dog to swim regularly, using the skills that are inherent in the breed.
Brush your Labrador retriever twice a week, using a slicker grooming brush to remove loose hairs. The Labrador retriever’s short, straight and very thick outer coat is coarse and oily, repelling water, but his soft, dense undercoat protects his skin from cold water and thick bushes. Twice a year the Labrador will blow his undercoat, shedding and replacing the entire layer of soft fur. Extra grooming during this time will help to expedite the removal of the undercoat and reduce the quantity of loose hair in your home.
Bathe your Labrador retriever once a month, or more frequently if he swims in rivers or other bodies of water that contain natural organisms. Towel him dry after each swim so the coat won't retain water. The Lab's floppy ears tend to have problems, so clean the inside of his ears regularly with a swab soaked in an ear-cleaning solution, and check the ear canal for inflammation, odor or discharge that could indicate infection.
Train your Labrador retriever to respond to basic commands such as “come,” “sit” and “stay” starting at the age of 3 months. As he matures, he'll develop into a large, powerful dog and will be difficult to control if he's untrained. Labs are an exceptionally social breed, so join a training club or class where the dog can meet and mix with other dogs while he learns basic obedience.