With their sleek, sturdy bodies and kind, gentle eyes, we know they’re a handsome dog—but are Labs easy to train? No matter what dog breed you’re thinking of getting, this is a good question to ask. Like people, all dogs are individuals, but overall there are certain breeds that are easier to educate. So we want to know…
Are Labs Easy to Train?
If your heart is set on this breed, you’ll be happy to hear that Labrador Retrievers are known for their trainability. This article will take a closer look at Labrador history and intelligence, to discover why they rate so highly on the trainability scale. We’ve also got tips on the best way to train a Lab puppy and realize their potential.
Why Are Labs Easy To Train?
There are a number of factors that determine a dog’s trainability. They include intelligence, temperament, and genetic traits. As a rule, dogs that are highly motivated are also the easiest to train.
Labradors are highly motivated by two things. First, they’re real people dogs – they love to please you. But even more than that, they are are incredibly motivated by the promise of a tasty treat or two.
One study actually found a gene alteration in Labs that gives them greater food motivation. This could explain why Labs have a reputation for always being hungry.
History as A Working Breed
Despite their name, the Labrador Retriever didn’t originate from Labrador, but rather from the province of Newfoundland in Canada. Their origins can be traced back to the cross-breeding of working dogs in the 1500s. From these modest roots, the ever-devoted and hard-working St. John’s Dog was created.
Life on Newfoundland revolved around fishing, and these able-bodied dogs were well-suited to the water. They worked hard as fisherman’s mates, retrieving ropes and nets, and diving in the water to get fish that had slipped off the trawl. Working together in a cooperative way in this harsh climate forged a close bond between these reliable working dogs and their human companions. A study of Labrador Retrievers found that the working status of the breed impacted their trainability.
Are Labs Easy to Train as Working and Companion Dogs?
The Labrador Retriever possesses a solid body and alert senses. This, combined with an innate work ethic, genial nature, and intelligent temperament, makes him an ideal candidate for a wide variety of service jobs. Search and rescue, detection, disabled-assistance, and therapy work are service areas that the Lab excels in. The fact that Labs have been found to be among the least aggressive breeds toward humans and other dogs also makes them suitable for these roles.
Are Labs Easy to Train Due to Their Intelligence?
The Lab’s reputation as an intelligent breed can be traced to their working history. However, intelligence alone does not necessarily denote trainability. There are breeds who are intelligent, but stubborn and less willing to learn. The Lab’s unique blend of cognitive ability, affability, and willingness to please people makes them eager to exhibit how smart they are.
Bred as a working dog, this intelligent breed is able to learn what you’re teaching them quickly. This natural obedience makes them not only trainable, but loyal and dependable. So that once they’ve learned commands they can be trusted to obey them.
Are Lab Puppies Easy to Train?
Puppy socialization and training is important in determining their future behavior. Labs are energetic dogs who grow quickly. The bigger they get the harder it is to control them. Puppies as young as 8 weeks old can begin a training routine. Coming when called, sitting, staying, and walking on a lead without pulling, are important skills, especially for a large dog.
Labs were bred to obey humans, and if well-trained they’re happy to perform more than just these simple commands. If you show your puppy that you’re happy with their performance it will delight these natural born people-pleasers. As their name suggests, the Labrador Retriever was bred to retrieve prey. Today the breed still retains the instinct to chase objects and bring them back to you. So be prepared for many rousing games of fetch.
Are Labs Easy to Train With Positive Reinforcement?
Training methods have changed over the last few years and positive techniques have become increasingly popular. It’s essential to use a training method that gets you the results you want while making your puppy happy. Rewards are a key element when training a Lab. The use of treats and praise to reinforce proper behavior is one of the best ways to get them to respond the way you want. This type of training is referred to as positive reinforcement training.
Labs are very playful, so it’s helpful to keep the training fun and interesting. If they think it’s a game they will partake enthusiastically.
When Are Labs Hard to Train?
No puppy understands how to behave in the human world without being shown. They learn from you and you’re teaching them how to act whether you mean to or not. It’s much easier to stop bad habits from forming when they’re young, than it is to try and change them when they’re older.
Laying the Way for Easy Lab Training
Yes, Labs are typically easy to train. But this is a very active breed and if they don’t get enough regular exercise training can become more difficult. This loving breed is very social and loves to be around people. If they are kept isolated from companionship, they are quite likely to develop behavior problems that make them harder to train. As a dog owner it’s important to understand and respect your breed’s natural instincts and give them outlets to satisfy their natural tendencies.
If you’re bringing a Lab home with you, congratulations! You’ve chosen a breed that is friendly and outgoing, with enough love to bond with the whole family. There are different ways to train your Labrador Retriever. The key is to start the training when they’re young and keep it positive. We’ve got lots of tips, support, and troubleshooting advice in our Labrador Training area.
Once they’re trained, Labs shine at being attentive to their owner. This endearing, active dog only wants to receive as much love as he can give.
Do You Have a Well Trained Lab?
Has your Lab impressed you with their good manners and how quickly they pick up commands? Is there anything you credit with their success most of all? Give your dog some praise, share what works for you, or ask for the support of our other readers down in the comments box.
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Lofgren SE, et al., “Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs,” Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2014
Raffan, E., et al., “A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene Is Associated with Weight and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogs,” Cell Metabolism, Volume 23, Issue 5, 2016
Duffy DL, et al., “Breed differences in canine aggression,” Applied Animal Behavior Science Volume 114, Issues 3–4, 2008
Kutsumie A., et al., “Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog,” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 2013
Hiby EF, et al., “Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness, and interaction with behavior and welfare,” Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 2004
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website
I have been working on loose lead training however my 18 month old boy is not interested in treats when out, even smelly tasty meat! He is desperate to find the next good sniff. Am feeling only alternative is a halti. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.