Puppy Versus Adult
Of course you're going to get a puppy! Aren't you? Well, it's definitely something to think about. Puppies have their charms, no doubt about it, but adult dogs have advantages you might not have considered. Consider your lifestyle, and go over the pros and cons with your family before making a decision.
Labs don't start settling down into the calmness of adulthood until they're two or three years old. Your Lab may look grown up, but he'll act like a puppy for quite some time.
Puppies: Sugar, Spice, Naughty, Nice
Many people believe that the number-one advantage to a puppy is the cuteness factor. Arguably, there's nothing more lovable on earth. There's also nothing more maddening. Raising a puppy is a full-time job, comparable to having a curious toddler in the home. If you have young children, you may take a puppy in stride, or he may push you over the edge.
Puppies require constant supervision to ensure that they don't pee or poop on your new carpet, chew the drywall, or gnaw on the cords beneath your desk. They need to go out for potty breaks every two to four hours, and they must eat more frequently than an adult dog. They have a nonstop supply of energy.
On the upside, getting a puppy gives you the opportunity to mold your Lab into the dog of your dreams. If you want to have the greatest amount of influence over your Lab's development into adulthood, it's best to get one that's seven to ten weeks old. Also, you have more control over the outcome of your dog's behavior if you start training and socialization at an early age. It's much easier to teach a puppy than it is an adolescent.
A male seven-week-old yellow Lab puppy.
Adults: What You See Is What You Get
It might not have occurred to you to adopt an adult Labrador Retriever, but once you consider the advantages, you'll see that the idea has a lot of appeal. First, there are no surprises with an adult Lab. You know exactly what you're getting as far as size, conformation, and temperament. This can be especially beneficial if you're in the market for a show dog or field prospect.
A 4½-year-old female yellow Lab.
With respect to family life, an adult Lab may already be familiar with household routines. He may be housetrained or have some obedience training. This is a big advantage for people who aren't home during the day to provide the adjustment period that a puppy needs. Older dogs are generally past the destructive chewing stage, and they tend to be somewhat less active than puppies. These dogs may be more content to sleep the day away while you're at work, as long as they get attention and exercise when you're home.
An adult Lab requires fewer initial veterinary visits and vaccinations than a puppy. Usually, by the time a dog reaches maturity, any health problems he may have are evident. Adopting an older Lab allows you to choose one that you know is healthy or at least to be aware of the health problems your new dog has rather than being surprised by them.
Consider an older dog as well if you have kids. Adult Labs have often “been there, done that” when it comes to interacting with children. They know that children move suddenly and sometimes pull tails, and they're calm enough to take it all in stride, unlike a puppy that's still learning the ropes of family life.
All you need to win a Lab's heart is a good throwing arm and a steady supply of treats. If you can pass up the pleasures of puppyhood for the joy of building a relationship with a Lab that has retired from the show ring or whose first home didn't work out, then an adult dog is a good choice for you.
The Art of Compromise
Your kids want a puppy, but you think an older dog sounds like less work. Consider compromising by selecting an adolescent Lab that's six or seven months old. A dog this age is still full of puppy fire and brimstone, but his bladder capacity is greater and he needs meals only twice a day, instead of three or four times. He's young enough to be highly adaptable, and he has a longer attention span than a young pup. On the downside, he's just going into adolescence, which is always a trying time, but you'd have to face it at some point if you got a younger puppy.
Where do you find this adolescent dog? Often, breeders keep several pups to “run on,” in the hope that they'll develop into good show prospects.