Should You Adopt A Labrador?

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Adopting an abandoned dog is a rewarding act, and one that will change your life immeasurably. In this article we are going to look at how to adopt a Labrador. Considering what you will get out of adopting a dog, what the rescue society expects from you as an adoptee, and the best way to go about adopting a Labrador.

Each year many Labradors are given up by their owners. Often reluctantly,  because they cannot manage to care for their dog any longer. Although some dogs are rehomed due to behavioural problems, many are in rescue through no fault of their own. The result of divorce, changes in working hours, problems with accommodation or financial crisis.

By choosing to adopt a Labrador instead of buying a new puppy,  you and your family are giving a dog a chance of a new life,  and helping to reduce the problem of unwanted dogs in the UK However, all is not simple or straightforward in the world of adoption. You will have to jump through quite a few ‘hoops’  before you can adopt a Labrador and bring your dog home. And for the most part, with good reason.

Your hopes for adopting a Labrador

You will probably want to find a Labrador that will fit into your life with the minimum of disruption. You are looking for a dog that will be both loved and lovable,  and that will bring an extra dimension of pleasure to your own life as well as to his.

The rescue society’s aims

The aims of the rehoming organisation are very specific.

puppy or rescueThey are looking for the best and most permanent home for the dog in their care. Rescue societies know that if a dog’s new family is not scrutinised carefully and matched properly with the right dog. They do not want that dog to end up right back in rescue again.

Adoptive families can sometimes find this matching process intrusive and it is better to be prepared for this in advance.

Different Types of Rescue

The search for a rescue dog can take you down several different avenues. One option is to visit a dog rehoming centre, like Battersea and Dogs Trust. These have large kennels, where you can visit a large number of dogs waiting for homes. You can view a lot of their dogs on the day you visit, although some will be in foster homes.

If you are intending to give a dog a home they will ask that you fill in a form and have a chat with an advisor on your first visit. They will see if they have any dogs that would fit with your situation, and help to match you with the most suitable companion.

It has to be a Labrador?

However, charities like Battersea will have a number of different breeds looking for homes. So if you are specifically after a Labrador Retriever you might have to register, and then phone them regularly to wait for an appropriate one to become available.

Another option is to register an interest with a Labrador or Labrador Cross rehoming charity, like The Labrador Trust or Black Retriever X Rescue. These dogs are fostered with families, until they find their forever homes. So you won’t visit a dog until the society has decided that they are probably a good match. Although breed specific societies will be a lot more likely to have your desired breed, you will still have to be patient.

Waiting to adopt the right dog

There are a lot of Labradors in need of new homes, there are also a lot of people waiting to give those homes to them. And each dog comes with his or her own set of needs, depending on their background and personality.

Rescue societies aim to match the right dog to the right family. This is sometimes fairly simple, but can take several weeks or even months to achieve. Remember, if you have a young family or other pets at home, then not every Labrador or Labrador cross will be well suited to sharing your home. The more complex your personal situation is, the longer it will probably take to find the right dog for your family.

Home visits before dog adoption

Before you can be considered as an adoptive family,  the recue centre will want to visit your home.   They will ask you a lot of questions some of which may seem quite personal. Many rescue societies will not consider families where  all the adults work during the day.  Even if you are happy to arrange a ‘dog walker’  or to come home at lunch time.

They see too many Labradors abandoned because the ‘dog walker’  arrangement didn’t work out,  or became too expensive,  or because a lunch time visit was not sufficient to keep the dog happy. They will also want to make sure that your house, and especially your garden are secure. So if you are intending to apply for a rescue dog, it will be worth mending your broken fence before they come and visit.

A Labrador’s needs

The Labrador is a very social and affectionate dog. Many young Labradors will become unhappy and destructive if left alone for long periods of time. Labs can also be messy and are very boisterous,  especially in their youth and until trained. If you live with toddler or frail adults who are easily knocked over, you will need to take this into consideration. These are big powerful dogs that need a lot of training,  and you will need to convince your rescue society of your good intentions and commitment to fulfilling the needs of your dog.

Training a rescue dog can be more challenging than training a puppy, because they might have developed bad habits over the course of their lives so far.

The cost of rescuing a dog

Adopting a rescue dog will not cost as much as purchasing a puppy,  but it is not free.  You will be expected to make a donation to the society.  This is essential if they are to keep up the good work of feeding and caring for abandoned dogs. The cost will usually be between £100 and £200 if you use a rescue society or centre. You may also be expected to commit to neutering the dog once it is mature, and this can be expensive, especially for a female dog.

Remember, the costs of feeding, insuring and providing veterinary treatment for a relatively large dog are considerable and you will need to show the rescue society that you are prepared for this.

The benefits of rescuing a dog

Giving a home to a Labrador who needs one is a wonderful thing to do. You will not only be helping an unsettled soul to find his place in society, but you will be bringing an active new individual into your family too. The pleasures and benefits of bringing an abandoned dog into your life and giving him a fresh start are there to be had.

If you think you are the right person for the job,  your rescue society will be delighted to hear from you. You can find a list of Labrador rescue organisations on our Rescue Page.

How about you?

Have you adopted a rescued  Labrador?  Have you any advice or tips for others thinking about taking the plunge?

Useful Links

More information on puppies

For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy. It will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialization and early obedience. You can buy The Happy Puppy Handbook from Amazon by following this link. If you do, The Labrador Site will receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated and won’t affect the cost to you!

This article was first published on 8th November 2011, and has been fully revised and updated for 2015.

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


  1. Hi, I usually adopt female puppies from unwanted litters. Each one I’ve had for 13-14 years. When the one starts getting to be about 10 or 11 y/o, I start looking for a puppy to “regenerate” the old one!. It is amazing what a puppy can do for a senior.
    This time, with a 1 y/o lab mix at home, I decided on adopting a senior, to give “her” a good end of life! Found an adult of 9 years named “Zorro” on line. “He” looked pathetic. Old and haggered. Had been “thrown away” and had been running the wild for who knows how long. No one wanted him. Went from shelter to shelter in West Virginia. I traveled 300 miles down and back to get him. I took the puppy, and they got along fine. So, I brought him home.
    First time with a “him”. He had bilateral ear infections, sore open spots and other skin issues. No food aggression, came when called, had to reteach basic commands, but, one command he knew was”go lay down”. He does not like male dogs..and goes after them. I keep him away from them.

    The funniest thing, the 2 were playing, and I heard a loud thud. Found him laying on the floor on his back with his feet up in the air…I thought he had had a heart attack! He was playing “dead” for the 1 year old! She was biting his ears, tail, legs, neck, trying to get him up…ha, ha, ha, he wouldn’t, so she smacked him with her paw!!

    He is now 11 and really a sweet fellow. Sticks by my side. Sleeps next to me with his rump into the small of my back…like a heating pad. I find her looking to him for direction. She used to be frightened of thunder..learned it from one that has passed…he doesn’t care and just sits there…she is not bothered by it now. They still are playing the “dead” thing…so funny.

  2. The finest labador I ever had,came from a rescue center in Switzerland.
    Sadly the nasty gangsters in South France poisoned Jenny.A man without a labador is a man without love.
    Looking to adopt another, to spoil the living hell out of that wonderful baby.
    I live in the Austrian Alps.
    If you know of a lab that needs a home.
    I am will to pay all exspenses. Lost without a labador.

  3. I adopted a black lab from a rescue that was only a few weeks old. The litter with her and her siblings were abandoned. At 9 months old she had a significant limp and was in a lot of pain. She has hip dysplacia. At such a young age it was determined to be heritary. The pups were likely abandoned due to bad breeding. Please keep this in mind when adopting a lab or any large breed dog. I decided to have surgery done. This was really the only option to get her out of pain. It costs thousands but she’s worth it. I encourage adoption. Just be prepared that large dogs can be costly.

  4. I rehomed an 18 month old chocolate labrador nearly 3 years ago now who I called George. He was young and boisterous and overweight. The only command he knew was, “Hi Five”. However, he is a fast learner and quickly learnt all the basic commands as well as some more complicated ones, including being excellent at playing football.
    But just 4 months after adopting him we were made homeless. And I started to suffer from depression but George helped me through all of that an gave me the courage to start over. We now live in South Devon, in a house. We often go to the beach where George loves to swim and he now does agility as well.
    None of this is to say that he has been a perfect dog, that he never puts a paw wrong, because he does. But I suppose what I am trying to say is that rehoming George was the best thing I ever did.

  5. we recently bought a 15 month old lab from a foster home via labrador rescue. he is adorable but hard to control when out as all he wants to do is play with any dog in sight. at home he follows me from room to room like a shadow. i have been reading your training skills on how to get him to stay with me when out. recently he got hot spots which the vet says is from getting too wet and not getting dry properly. he had to have his fur shaved off in places.

  6. Hi, I am curious as to whether the colour of a labrador dictates it’s temperament or whether it’s all to do with the breeding. I have a young son with autism and sensory modulation dysfunction and have been led to believe that black labs are calmer than chocolate and yellow labs.

    Hope you can help.

  7. We adopted a black lab 2 months ago from rescue centre we already have a 6 yr old choc lab . Our new addition is now 8 months old and is settling in really well . We love him to bits would def adopt again in the future our new pup came down with kennel cough 3 days after bringing him home our other lab came down with it also . Someone said to me if you had known he had kennel cough you wouldn’t of bought him home how wrong they are I would of still bought him home his adorable both dogs are now fine and my family is perfect

  8. Our lab Bailey came to us via my next door neighbor. Their pure bred chocolate lab had an unplanned litter of puppies (bailey is a mix but it’s funny how many people ask me what breeder I used). We had no intentions of adopting a puppy and were more interested in an older dog but once we laid eyes on her there was no going back. I adore her. In the States older dogs tend to live in shelters longer than puppies who are adopted more quickly. For this reason I always encourage people to consider an older dog.

    I did find what you said about the cost of neutering interesting. Do rescue groups not cover this cost? In the States rescue groups will spay/neuter and microchip any dog or cat that comes into their program. those that are adopted before they are old enough are offered free services at selected vets. These costs are often reflected in higher adoption fees. Many rescues charge between $100 and $200 for adoption fees. These fees primarily cover the medical care the animal received and the dog you adopt is already fixed, microchipped and vaccinated.

  9. Our lovely boy Alfie came to us at 18months he had been locked in a room for up to 5 hours a day because his owner looked after children. Consequently when he arrived he charged around the garden like a thing possessed! He is now coming up to 9 years and is the calmest most beautiful and loyal friend you could ask for. He especially likes his annual holiday with us to Austria he gets so excited, loves the two day car journey and once there walks up mountains and swims in the lakes. We love him to bits.

  10. we are on our third adoption! first was a retired gun dog who otherwise at 10 would have probably been pts. the second was a failed beaten gundog 2.5 and we have just adopted/rescued a one eyed fox red x collie from serbia, the latter 2 have been hard work to get into ‘normal’ life but i dont care – its made me feel very proud that i have put in the effort and they reward me with unconditional love!!!

  11. My husband and I adopted our black Lab almost 8 years ago, and have never regretted it. We wanted a dog who would come to work with us – and were amazed to find one who used to go to work with his former owner! He fitted in as Head of Security, and was a definite benefit in the office.
    He was a pretty crazy 3.5yr old male when he came, but once neutered and once used to us he calmed down, although he never lost his personality, and gave us reasons to laugh every day. He turned out to be great with the grandchildren when they came along, and when my husband died over 3 years ago he was my constant companion (protective? insecure?) and we helped one another through our sudden loss. He’s nearly 12 now, and slowing down, but a nicer, kinder, more tolerant and disciplined dog you could not wish for.

  12. I offered a home to a rescue Labrador last year after loosing my old friend who was a Shar pei X.
    I also have a small terrier x and often look after other dogs for people who have problems and need a short stay home for their pet.
    Max was two and half at the time and completely out of control. 4 homes he had been rejected from because he was ‘Uncontrollable’ and ‘Dangerous”. His first home when he was a cute puppy lasted until he grew to big and would not do anything they wanted, he also kept knocking their two children over.
    He was then ‘sold on’ to three more owners. I got involved after seeing a ‘Free to Good home’ advert and called the people to warn them about giving the dog away to just anyone.
    The upshot was they said well you take him or we will have him PTS. I was not looking to have another dog as it was to soon after loosing my old boy, but I could not let them have him PTS could I.
    It has been 15mths ups and downs, some very low downs too, but he has responded. He like most Labs just wants to please and of course eat, combine the two, and training to be a responsible member of society has very nearly been achieved.
    He is mine now and I think he understands that It’s for life this time.
    Anyone who has cuddled a Labrador, looked into their eyes and seen all that trust … Will understand how blessed I feel

  13. Have just brought a black Lab. home from the rescue centre – he is about 5 years old, and absolutely adorable. He’s house trained, very affectionate and doesn’t bark. I know it’s early days, but he seems perfect. We couldn’t have found a better dog for us. Would highly recommend adoption.

      • Just as a follow up -our rescued Lab is still a perfect family dog. He’s so loyal we don’t even need to put him on a lead, and we feel blessed to have found him. Also, despite all the warnings to the contrary, he’s never made any mess and only chews the toys we give him, so don’t be put off adopting should you get the chance-best thing we ever did!!

  14. I am in S.W France, and have a large Lab dog. He is a wonderful rescue dog. He was dropped over a 6″ wall, and two electronic gates, so no way walked in; I suspect about 5/6 weeks age. I looked for posters for lost puppies, and rang round local Mayors. By law he should have been microchipped before leaving his mother. The vet found no microchip, we did not put a poster about finding him, as too many crooked people, wanting dogs for illegal fighting in Spain. I have had him cut , as do not know his breeding. He goes everywhere, yes, here he can go into restaurants, sits under the table. Outside or inside. Been in hotel rooms, large and small; Everybody adores him. I was given some dog training lessons, one to one, with a french dog behaviourist, very helpful. My bosses, gave them as my Christmas present. He gives me such joy, we have two other rescue dogs, a Spanish Greyhound, and a French Shooting dog, followed us on the horses home. Starving , about a week from death, but very well now.

  15. Just adopted a lab two months ago. Harry is now 8 months old. We absolutely adore him but he is a handful to say the least. Very boisterous and strong, he has tons of energy. I would say to anyone thinking of adopting a young lab be prepared to devote lots of time and energy. We are ‘still in training’ but absolutely adore him even when he is naughty! Whilst he is digging up our plants in the garden and stealing various items to chew he just has to look at us with his big eyes and we forgive him!

  16. Hey i would love to help and give one of this labradors a loving home. Just wondering if you have one that would be suited to a working home, as a the minute we are looking for a part/fully trained gundog(bitch) for this season as he has to retired his young spaniel 🙁 and his young labador is not ready to work the full season. We live in northumberland. Roseanna

  17. Hi there! My husband and I just adopted a labrador puppy from the pound. The most important thing I think when adopting, is to make sure you and your family have enough time to spend with your new puppy. Also, sitting down and talking to kids or younger people in your home so they know what to expect- especially to make sure they don’t become frustrated with the new puppy…potty training, biting and yipping can drive kids to yell unnecessarily at the puppy. If you can’t devote lots of time, then please don’t get the puppy. It’s just not fair to them, no matter how cute they are! We are all very happy with our smart little girl and we work hard at taking care of her. Good luck to all!