Feeding, Desexing & Exercising your puppy.

Rapid growth in a puppy is known to cause skeletal problems. Slower body growth over the first 18 months of a puppies life will mean better vital organ and skeletal health. So make sure you keep your puppy slim, with an obvious waist. I recommend you check out the ‘Hills Body Fat Index’. Don’t over feed your puppy. And don’t feed them off the table. A premium dog food like Eukanube, Hills or Royal Canin are scientifically balanced diets. A cheap food is a false economy. You’ll pay 1/2 and use twice as much. And your vet bills will be higher.

There is categorical evidence that shows desexing / neutering is a major contributor to a number of health issues including dysplasia, skin and vital organ problems.

Studies in the USA have found that the incidence of dysplasia in male dogs desexed early in life was double that of male dogs left intact. I do not recommend desexing male labradors but this may not be practical in an urban area. Please don’t desex a male dog under 18mths. And allow your female labrador to have her first heat at approximately 12 months. Your labrador must be physically mature enough to compensate for the impact of hormone loss on their joint & vital organ development.

As far as exercising your labrador puppy is concerned, the first and critical consideration is the impact upon their ‘growth plates’. 

Growth plates are soft cartilage areas at the ends of long bones in puppies & young dogs. The cells divide, allowing the bones to grow and lengthen. And this continues until the end of puberty. Growth plates narrow as hormonal changes occur to sexual maturity at approx 14-18 months of age.

It is a sensible precaution to carry your puppy up and down steps to avoid placing load on their growth plates. Puppies climbing stairs at an early age are more likely to develop dysplasia.  

The most common cause of growth plate and soft tissue injury is repetitive exercise with a young puppy before 18 months.  Long walks and extended running are definitely a problem.  A puppies free-play sessions achieve appropriate exercise needs. I like to exercise my dogs from 8 weeks of age with ‘Dog Obedience Training’. This provides an age appropriate level of physical exercise and an abundance of mental stimulation. And of course, i’m bonding all the more with my labrador.

It is critical that you don’t teach or encourage your dog to jump until their growth plates have set and they have stopped growing. For a labrador, this is at 14 -18. With labrador puppies, it can be tempting to exercise them to burn their energy and tire them without giving due consideration to the impact on their growth plates. 

Please don’t take your puppy jogging with you. Delay those agility classes. And no frisbees yet. Puppies love running and moving to the point of exhaustion so limit the time and control the type of activity they engage in. Be careful with high impact activities on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete. Grass is softer and has better traction. 

Hormones have the significant role in a puppy’s growth plates, skeletal and vital organ development. 

With labradors, growth plates close when a dog is 14 to 18 months old. If your dog is not prematurely desexed then this will occur with the appropriate level of sex hormone.  Male and female sex hormones play the key role in the development and closure of bone growth plates. If a dog is desexed prior to puberty, there is a delay in the closing process. Delay desexing larger dog breeds like labradors. This will significantly reduce the incidence of these orthopedic skeletal & vital organ conditions.

David’s Weekly Blog 13/7/19 www.pawlinglabs.com

Puppy Socialisation & the first Imprint Period

Puppy socialisation is a program that exposes your labrador puppy to new experiences beginning at 8 weeks of age.  Weeks 8 to 16 of a puppies life are the first ‘imprint period’. A deliberate socialisation program should occur while your puppy is making positive connections and positive associations with their new experiences.  Labrador puppies are always observing and always learning. Your goal is to help them focus in every situation, no matter what distractions come their way.

I like to take 8 week old puppies to outdoor coffee shops with slow moving traffic close by. This allows me to control and regulate the new experience for my labrador puppy.

Be aware that ‘trauma’ during the ‘imprint period’ can have a serious impact on the emotional well-being of your puppy. For example, I don’t want them exposed to aggressive dogs. You don’t want your puppy to develop dog to dog and /or dog to people aggression or timidity.

The 3 general areas of exposure should be 1. Other dogs, 2. People, 3. Vehicles & traffic.

With regular expose to these things, your labrador will become confident and relaxed with new experiences. 

In a new situation, watch your puppies body language. Calmly withdraw a little from the situation if your dog shows any sign of anxiety or stress. Don’t normalise your puppies anxiety by comforting them. Just calmly draw back a little. This will be your starting point for your next occasion.

Some Labradors can become over-excited, some will be cautious, and others will take everything in their stride. If you are tense, your puppy will be tense. If you are calm then your puppy will be easier to settle. Your dog will take their que from you.

Be sure to praise and reward your puppy as they meet new situations and experiences. Reward them for the behaviours you are wanting to see. Find an excuse to reward them when they calmly meet people, dogs, vehicles & traffic. Don’t push you labrador puppy too far,  too soon. And end each session on a positive high.

There is a short window of opportunity during the ‘imprint period’ while your puppy’s inquisitive sociability outweighs fear. During this ‘imprint period’ you should repeatedly expose your labrador puppy to everything you want them accept as an mature dog. Expose your puppy to different people, dogs, vehicles and places.

Between nine months and twelve months, your puppy will again show signs of insecurity and anxiety. You should continue to expose them to things they are not totally comfortable with. 

A socialized dog is calm, confident and easy to train. Unsocialisd dogs don’t adjust easily to new experiences or changes in their lives. An unsocialised dog might bark and pull when they meet unfamiliar situations.

There are so many opportunities for your puppy to meet the world in a positive way. And as your puppy matures, your socialisation program shouldn’t stop. Vary and increase your dogs experiences to keep their confidence high.

Information and advice for the new labrador puppy owner.

It is my personal preference to ‘house’ a Labrador puppy in a crate and exercise pen.

A wire mesh crate should be sized for an adult labrador to stand and turn around.

A ‘400mm high ‘exercise pen’ clipped to the front of the crate forms a small open area for the labrador puppy to wander. 

I put a blanket over the crate leaving the only the front open. This creates a den as their own space and the labrador puppies love this. An 8 week old labrador sleeps 16 - 20 hours a day so they need to ‘get away’. 

If you want to relocate the labrador pup to be with you, watching tv, you can easily relocate the ex pen. Both of these items are available off the shelf at good pet shops. Crate training is essential and the maturing labrador never grows out of their.

We take a mature lab each time we visit her family in Noosa. The adult lab still sleeps in the closed crate without an ex pen. Of course, the mature labrador will not soil a crate in 8hrs.

All our lab pups are trained from birth to soil on ‘corrugated paper’ purchased on a 50m roll from Officeworks. It actually cardboard, marketed as corrugated paper. With an 8wk old, I always place a 1.2m x 1.5m piece in the ex pen. This allows me to leave a labrador puppy ‘contained’ without excessive pollution.

You should not go on extended walks with a Labrador or any large breed puppy for 14mths, until their growth plates are set. And you should carry your labrador puppy up and down stairs to guard again injury and unnecessary join load until 8mths and then only on leash.

We feed our lab puppies a premium food like ‘Eukanube Large Breed Puppy’. It is a false economy to use a cheap food at 1/2 the price. You will use twice the volume.

And your waste clean up will be doubled and so will you veterinary costs.

If you puppy struggles to eat you can leave food available and / or soak it briefly in warm water. 

I never feed a lab without asking them to ‘Work’ for food. This means that you will train the 8 - 32 week old labrador pup for 3 min, 3 times a day at each feed time.

Three feeds per day is a volume issue not so much a regularity issue. A pup cannot consume the daily necessary quota in less than 3 feeds. You can reduce the number of feeds to 2 at about 24wks and to 1 feed at approx 10 months.

The first ‘fear imprint’ period is from week 8 to week 16. During this period, expose your pup to 1. People, 2. Vehicles, 3. New surrounding, 4. Other vaccinated dogs (until you pup has had its 2nd vacc at 12 wks).

The second imprint period is suggested to be at 1yr. 

Whenever the puppy is hesitant, don’t comfort your pup. Rather, withdraw and re-expose them to the same thing again.

Remember that ‘tough love’ only serves to create fear which will manifest as ‘dog to dog’ and / or ‘dog to people’ aggression or timidity.

Puppy preschool (immediately) is great for the new handler and for the education, training and socialisation of your labrador puppy.

Dog obedience training from approx 7mths of age is essential for the cognitive well being of all dogs.

Digging is a sign of boredom and your labrador is needing mental stimulation.

Regularly tether you labrador from day 1 on a light chain leash. Don’t forget that labs are chewers until 2 years, sometimes later. They will chew cloth and leather leashes and this gets expensive.

You should be aware that a labrador that free ranges for long periods of time makes its own rules. In my opinion, a dog is an outside creature that comes in side. I always restrain a puppy when they are inside. They are compulsive chewers. It not a question of if they will chew, only when and what.

In allow a labrador pup to pull things but I ‘redirect’ this behaviour to ‘ tugging’. Play tug and let them win 7 out of 10 times. Tug does not make a puppy aggressive, it support ‘prey drive’ which is important for motivation and training.

Teach your 8 week old labrador pup to ‘fetch’ immediately by rolling a small ball 1m.

Don’t leave toys or they are no longer treats but objects to destroy.

I allow my labrador puppies to ‘mouth play’ but  I ‘redirect’ away from my hands and arms.

Their teeth draw (my) blood.

Labrador puppies sleep 16-20hrs per day. They can be safely left alone during the day in a crate / pen combination as long as they have 2 receptacles of water on hand. Your labrador pup will invariably soil the water( who knows why???)

Labrador pups make all kinds of peculiar movements, breath and spasms at unforeseen times and particularly while sleeping. Scouring (diahorea) is generally the only issue to be concerned about. Puppies can dehydrate quickly if they scour. Immediate attention from a vet and this will not be an issue. Remember that a labrador puppy will not rehydrate with water. They will need electrolytes.

Teach you dog to WATCH (3)

Your dog should learn to ‘Watch’ and offer eye contact regardless of the situation or distraction. And they must hold the position for ‘DURATION’, until you release them.

As my labrador develops their ability to ‘watch’, I will add more intrusive distractions like jumping, stepping sideways, walking a little, letting other people and dogs come into view. When my dog is able to ‘maintain FOCUS’, I will extend the ‘duration’. My dog should ‘Watch’ without looking away for 1 minute.

Once I am confident, I can move to different situations like my front yard, in a car park, in a park. But whatever the level of distraction I want my dog to ‘WATCH’. They must be able to maintain FOCUS EYE CONTACT.

FOCUS TRAINING will help you to advance any dog at any age. At one extreme, if your dog is nervous, asking them to ‘watch’, making eye contact and staring at you is immediately reassuring and settling for them.

At the other extreme, If you have a dog that tends to be enthusiastic, ‘focus’ eye contact will calm your dog and also reinforce that you are the leader.

With this in mind, it is important as a dog owner to understand the danger of dogs staring at each other. This is an aggressive behaviour. You must intervene immediately before the situation escalates. Redirect you dog’s attention and refocus your labrador,...‘LUCY...WATCH’.

This way you are teaching your dog a genuine coping skill. Their flight / fight response can be controlled by the option to ‘Watch’.

Your dog cannot bark, lung, look at other dogs and distractions if they are ‘WATCHING ‘ you.

This allows me to take them many places and work around other dogs because they have another  behaviour available. Instead of staring at another dog (bad behavior) they are ‘focusing’ on me and ignoring every distraction.

If your dog is to be confident outside your home environment you will need to train them increasingly difficult locations with distraction.Reward your dog for ‘any’ success with high value treats and lots of verbal praise. And do this constantly.

Teach you dog to WATCH (2)

When my chocolate labrador understands the ‘MARKER / YES’, they also know that there are treats in my hands. And they are looking for a reward. Initially, your dog will look at one hand, and then the other, looking for the reward. I want my dog to anticipate that the treat is coming,... when they look at my eyes.

Say ‘WATCH’. Be sure that your dog eyes makes even passing eye contact meeting your eyes. Then immediately MARK / YES and REWARD. Keep repeating this routine. This is how you reinforce the behaviour.

You will need to be patient and particularly if you dog is very young. I always put my dog through 20 repeats of a training routine. I’ve learnt that these repetitions allow time for my dogs to ‘problem solve’ and understand the concept. Give them time to ‘problem solve’. It’s actually more about your labrador learning to problem solve and any single routine. Once your chocolate labrador learns ‘problem solving’, they can work out just about anything. 

As the puppy advances, I can direct them into the heel position then ‘call front’. Alternatively I can move myself to a position in front of my dog.

I can advance this behaviour by raising my arms up and down while commanding my dog to ‘WATCH’. I will reward them, only if they continues to ‘FOCUS and ‘watch’ my eyes. Otherwise I calmly say ‘NO’ and start again.

If they break, I say ‘NO’ and start again. ‘NO’ is a negative command communicating that the behaviour is wrong. It won’t be rewarded and we are trying again. ‘NO’ must not communicate anger or frustration.  Don’t correct your dog if they do not understand the routine, simply say ‘NO’ and start again.

Teach your dog to ‘Watch’ (1)

‘FOCUS’ Eye Contact is an essential behaviour for controlling your dog. ‘FOCUS TRAINING’ is essential for calmness, teaching correct heeling and ignoring distractions. The command I use is ‘WATCH’.

When your dog offers FOCUS eye contact, they are evidently ignoring everything else. They are ‘focused’.

I start asking for eye contact & focus from puppies as young as 8 weeks. ‘LUCY...WATCH!!!’

Feed time is training time.

I ask my puppies to work for their food, starting with ‘EYE CONTACT. This is foundational to successful obedience training. Put your dog on a leash and fit your treat bag. Be ready to take high value treats in both hands. I like to commence this training by positioning my puppy in front of me as I sit on a chair. 

Show your dog that you have treats in both hands. Let them smell your hands and the high value treats. Bring both hands up near your eyes. Say ‘WATCH’. When your dog makes even passing eye contact, MARK the behaviour saying ‘YES’ and ‘REWARD’.

I want my dog to anticipate the treat coming when they look at my eyes,...not looking at my hands with the treat.

The dog will look for a reward. Initially, your dog will look at one hand, and then the other, looking for the reward. The dog knows that there are treats in my hands.

Be sure that your dogs eyes meet your eyes, then immediately MARK / YES and REWARD. This is how you reinforce the behaviour.

Developing a confident dog.

To produce a confident dog you need to become their pack leader. And you will do this by teaching them basic dog obedience exercises: Sit, down / drop, come, heel and stay. Obedience exercises teach your dog that you are in charge and that you are the pack leader . With regular ‘reward based marker training’, your dog will trust you and be confident in your consistency. In your training, reward obedience with high value treats' to affirm your approval. This approval will build confidence and your dog feel secure. 

Routine and consistency are so critical to your labrador becoming settled, secure and confident. Resist the temptation to coddle your dog when they exhibit insecure behaviour. Reassure your dog with consistent and patient leadership and particularly during training sessions.
Direct your dog with decisive, calm and clear commands. Dogs get over their fears by finding success and reward in their obedience training.
When i’m working with an insecure dog I adopt an affirming communication even when I say ‘no’. ‘No’ must not communicate disapproval. I want ‘no’ to communicate that we need to ‘try again’. There is little benefit in giving a frustrated, angry or aggressive response to your dog and particularly if the dog does not understand. ‘No’ means ‘not that’, and ‘back to the beginning’.
In this way it is important that my dog knows that i’m not giving them a choice. We don't reason with our dogs even intelligent breeds like labradors because they have little capacity for logic. Dogs learn through action, repetition, consistency and reinforcement. Repetition builds confidence so it is important to keep working until your dog attempts to obey your direction. Repetition builds familiarity, builds confidence and teaches your dog how to be successful. Reinforce success with high value treats.Make your training sessions consistent but short and successful. Finish with success.

Teach your dog the recall ‘Come’. (2)

We all agree that a ‘solid recall’ is the most critical behaviour that your dog can offer you. They MUST come on que,..for their own safety.

By practicing the ‘lure, mark (yes) and reward’ sequence, you will ‘charge the marker’. In simple terms, this means that your command, followed by the ‘mark /yes’ & ‘reward’ has reliable meaning for your dog. When your dog understands the command - mark - reward sequence they will enthusiastically ‘anticipate’ good things.

This means that you have ‘charged’ your  command / cue - “Come”. And to your dog, the command /que now means that great things are about to happen. “If I obey, I won’t miss out”.

Now you should add ‘energy’ to your command, Lucy...Come”, with a enthusiastic voice. ‘Call your dog’,...’Lucy...Come!!!!’ And make sure that the reward is at least equal in value to the obedience offered. Give your bounding labrador a high value treat. I suggest sausage,  chicken, cheese.

I always repeat and keep repeating a new training routine 20 times each session. And always with ‘high value rewards’. Remember, your dog is not immediately thinking about obedience, just treats. They’re  just loving being with the treats,...and with you of course.

Now that you’ve charged your command and your marker and your dog understands, position your labrador at your left side, in the heel position. Immediately but calmly show your approval,...mark / yes and reward.

‘Heel’ is a position at your left side, with the dogs head adjacent to your left thigh, not in front or behind. The heel position is the standard training position when you are stationary and when you are moving.

It’s time to start training. Say ‘heel’ and step off with your left foot. As your chocolate labrador moves with you,...acknowledge this immediately,...’yes & reward’. Make sure your enthusiastic labrador understands this process. Keep repeating until they do.Your dog is now walking in the ‘heel’ position.

Now, with your dog by your left side, on leash, say “Come!!!!” in an enthusiastic voice and run away. Your dog will follow so that you and your dog are running together, in the same direction. Travel about 5m, stop,... mark /yes & reward you dog with a high value treat. If your rewards are high value treats, then your dog will find your commands irresistible.

Teaching your dog the recall, 'Come'. (1)

A solid recall is far and away the most important behaviour we can teach our dogs and particularly our labradors . It’s not the end of the world if your dog won’t sit, drop or stand, but you cannot have a dog that will not come when called.

The stronger the recall, the safer our dog is when off-leash. 
When you are teaching the ‘recall’, make sure you have your dogs attention before you call them.Say their name first and then the ‘cue / command’. “Lucy,...Come”. Don’t call your dog when they are unlikely to come. This will teach them “learned irrelevance” meaning that your recall cue is meaningless. You’ve ruined your recall cue and you’ll have to start again with a different command.
When you hit a difficult phase, increase the value of your treat. Bring out the high value treats or a toy if your dog loves to tug. Make sure that your rewards are meaningful to your dog.
Always take care not to reinforce any behaviours you don’t want. If your dog doesn’t comply with your command, simply say ‘no’, without energy or emotion and start again.
I like to start with ‘Restrained Recalls’. This requires 2 participants. Both of you need to stock up with high value treats or toys. One of you needs to hold your dog while the other one calls,..’Lucy Come’. Each person marks & rewards the dog when they arrive. Now do the same thing, recalling back again. There is nothing more satisfying to a handler than a dog that ‘comes’ as fast as they can run in response to the recall cue.
The recall certainly come more naturally to dogs like labradors. For others, it’s a more difficult behaviour to teach. This can be the result of high distraction, low food drive, lack of desire to please or apathy and low motivation.

Five minutes of dog training at feed time.

Always insist that your labrador puppy participates in a 5 minute training routine before giving them their food. If you feed twice a day then you’ll have 2 training sessions. Start at 8 weeks of age. They’re never to young or too old.

An 8 week old Labrador pup requires 3 feeds a day to guarantee that they get the proper intake. You’ll have 3 opportunities to train your labrador pup or any breed for that matter. More short length training sessions are preferable to 1 long session each day. A young labrador will lose focus fairly quickly.

For this reason, I like to do ‘focus work’ with my 8+ week old puppies. I hold a ‘treat’ in each hand and ask them to ‘watch’. The instant the pup make eye contact with me I ‘mark’ the obedience - ‘yes’ and reward. If they have learnt to focus on me, I know that when their attention is lost, I have over extended the pup. Keep you training sessions positive and successful.

You might prefer to tether you dog on a 2-3m line. This simulates off leash training. Other wise you’ll attach you training leash.

The first goal in training a Labrador of any age is to establish the ‘reward marker’ - ‘yes’. Once you labrador puppy understands their ‘reward marker’, they will begin to problem solve and offer a response in the hold of gaining the ‘reward’.

The second goal is to ‘lure’ your dog so that they will follow you. Draw your puppy into a game, making the treat in your hand a ‘target’ for them. Lure the puppy in any and all directions. Finish short routines with ‘yes’ and ‘reward’.

The third goal is to commence teaching you dog specific positions. My dog trainers recommend that you start by teaching the ‘sit’ command.

The History of Chocolate Labradors

The Labrador Retriever was originally referred to as the St. John's dog & Newfoundland dog. It is speculated that the Greater Newfoundland dog and the French St. Hubert's dog contributed to the cross that brought about the original St. John's dog. The Labrador is the traditional waterdog of Newfoundland, Canada. The Earl of Malmesbury was the first to refer to a 'Labrador'. In 1887 he wrote, referring to his Labrador Dogs.  The Territory of Labrador is Northwest of Newfoundland.   In the 19th century people referred to the whole land mass by one designation, and to Labradors as dogs from that area.  Labradors were first used as duck retrievers and fisherman’s working offsides by English fisherman who had settled in Newfoundland in the early 1500's. The breed development coincided with the advancement of the fishing vocation . The English migrant fisherman in Newfoundland used the St John's dog to retrieve fish and to drag fishing lines through the water. They were considered to be "workaholics" and enjoyed their retrieving work in the fishing environment.

Labradors would work long hours with the fisherman in the cold waters, then be brought home to play with the fisherman's children. Both chocolate and golden labradors have been identified in the original St. John's dogs from the Newfoundland. 

The breed were first noticed by English aristocrats visiting Canada in the early 19th century. These gentry returned to England with fine specimens of the early labrador breed. In 1807 a ship called Canton transported some St. John's dogs intended for Poole, England, as breeding stock for the Duke of Malmesbury's Labrador Kennel. The Canton shipwrecked and two dogs, one black and one chocolate,  were found and believed to have become part of the breeding program that produced the 'Chesapeake Retriever'. The recessive colors the yellow/golden and chocolate appeared in early litters from time to time. As part of the earliest breeding programs these were regarded as 'off colours' were usually culled'. English breeders standardised the breed characteristics during the 2nd half of the 19th century. The Labrador Retriever breed was first recognised by the England Kennel Club in 1903 and by the AKC in USA in 1917.  


Chocolate Labradors are very eager to please which means that they are very trainable. And their retrieving abilities make them ideal as hunting and sporting dogs.  Labradors will often work beyond their physical abilities. In warm conditions, they may overheat and become exhausted. 

The obvious physical and temperament breed characteristics remind us of the Labrador's original purpose. Their short thick weather-resistant coat was preferable because the coat of the longhaired retriever was iced as it was coming out of the water. In its ancestral homeland, a Labrador accompanied a fishing boat to retrieve the fish that came off the catch. The Labrador’s natural instincts as a retriever, with a coat suited to the cold waters of the North Atlantic made them the ideal working dog.

The Labrador's thick, tapering, 'otter tail' is a powerful rudder that helps them swim and turn. The otter tail is a clear breed characteristic along with their famous temperament. The chocolate labrador is energetic, outgoing with a friendly nature and very eager to please. Under normal conditions (the absence of abuse) labradors are not aggressive towards humans and other dogs or animals. The Labrador's popularity can be attributed to their temperament, intelligence and adaptability making them the ideal working dog, sport dog and family pet.

Since 1991 the labrador has had the highest number AKC registrations and has been America’s favourite breed since then. In 2019, labradors are the most popular breed of dog in Australia.

Show Labradors and Working Labradors

'Show Labradors' are referred to as 'English Labradors'. 'Working / Field’ Labradors are referred to as 'American Labradors'. The 1960s was the beginning of the popularity of the chocolate labradors, in the show ring, as working dogs, as sport dogs and as pets.

The Labrador Breed has a dense, short coat that repels water and provides great insulation to the cold and to water. Labradors come in 3 colors; black, yellow and chocolate. In Australia, the Golden Labrador is the most well known however, this colour has the most recorded breed specific problems. This may have been promoted by the long term over use of 'inbreeding' to produce 'true to type features'.

Across all 3 colours, 'Show Labradors' - (English Labradors) are more heavily built, slower and physically less agile than their ‘Working Bred’ counterparts.

English (Show) Chocolate Labradors can grow to 50kg without being fat while American (Working) Chocolate Labrador Retrievers are a lighter body weight and very agile.

American Working Chocolate Labradors have a more intense ‘retrieve and prey drive’ than the 'English' show bred variety. They are physically faster with a more athletic build. These American Chocolate Labradors are more ‘sensitive’ and responsive to training. The 'Working Chocolate Labrador' is very eager to please and more dependent upon their handlers approval. The more serious nature of the American Chocolate Labrador doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more intelligent but they are certainly less distractible, more focused and therefore easier to train.

With Chocolate Labradors, the difference in the temperament, behaviour and trainability within the American Working Labrador variety is a feature of 'blood lines' and studious breeding rather than colour.

Breeding at Pawlinglabs

At Pawling Labradors our chocolate labradors are predominately from American working lines.

Some of our Chocolate Labradors are darker than others. However the variations between individuals are small.

Of the 3 colours, Chocolate Labradors are the least likely to have degenerative joint disease or dental problems. As a breeder, I have never seen or heard of a Chocolate Labrador with any kind of skeletal problem where studious 'outcross breeding' was employed. Working labradors historically. have 'outcross breed vigour' which progressively eliminates the recessive factors that produce faults. This is true for all 3 colours if 'outcross breeding' rather than 'inbreeding' is employed.

Outcross Breeding of chocolate labrador retrievers is the practice of mating two labradors with no common ancestors for 4 generations of pedigree. The genes, including recessive genes affecting the progeny are concentrated in the first four generations.

Outcrossing brings into the specific labrador pedigree, characteristics that are not obviously present in the line. Outcrossing builds strength into the pedigree and it reduces the concentration of faults promoted by homozygous recessive genes. Outcrossing promotes vigor, disease resistance, skeletal strength and promotes fertility. Outbreeding reduces the effect of inbreeding depression (apathy), eye / retinal disease, skin, intestinal, vital organ and skeletal issues.

Outcross breeding produces labrador puppies which are genetically dominant and meet high labrador breed standards.

'Working Chocolate Labradors' are usually 'outcross bred' with the goal of promoting vigour and robustness rather the 'show dog features'.

Outcross Breeding Labrador Puppies

Outcross Breeding labrador retrievers is the practice of mating two labradors with no common ancestors for 4 generations of pedigree. The genes including recessive genes affecting the progeny are concentrated in the first four generations.

Outcrossing brings into the specific labrador pedigree, characteristics that are not obviously present in the line. Outcrossing builds strength into the pedigree and it reduces the concentration of faults promoted by homozygous recessive genes. Outcrossing promotes vigor, disease resistance, skeletal strength, promotes fertility. Outbreeding reduces the effect of inbreeding depression (apathy), eye / retinal disease, skin, intestinal, vital organ and skeletal issues.

Outcross breeding produces puppies which are genetically dominant and meet high labrador breed standards.

A breeder who mates distantly related dogs or dogs with no common ancestry in their breeding program, will get a desirable diversity in the progeny and particularly in the 2nd and 3rd litters from the labrador bitch.

A successful outcross will progressively reduce the imperfections in a bloodline that have resulted from inbreeding. As suggested above, in breeding, as an historic practice has promoted many faults like skin, vital organ and skeletal structure failures in the labrador breed and indeed, many other breeds.

In my opinion, the chocolate labrador is the strongest example of the labrador type, in terms of general health and physicality. I have never seen or heard of a chocolate labrador with any kind of skeletal or vital organ. I conclude that these problems are aleviated by studious outcross breeding.

Outcross breeding progressively eliminates the recessive factors that produce faults.

Superior breeding results are obtained in 3 litters of an outcross breeding from a bitch and sire. At Pawlinglabs we rehome our bitches and continue the line with the progeny.

The progeny of first-generation, outcross breedings are usually quite uniform in appearance.

As breeders, we must be concerned about recessive faults rather than meticulous adherence to physical conformity to a ‘theoretical labrador type’.

When outcross breeding, a desired characteristic, not present in the line, could be obtained by servicing a bitch with a stud dog with the characteristic, and related at the 4th or 5th generation of the pedigree.

Outbreeding produces very high quality puppies, particularly with a prepotent stud dog, with a history of siring outstanding progeny. Semen testing a stud dog is an absolutely essential step in determining potency as preparation for successful breeding. Prepotent stud dogs pass on dominant genes.

Successful labrador outbreeders understand the history of their stud dog through the 2nd, 3rd 4th & 5th generations in the pedigree line.

A successful outbreeder understands the strengths and weeknesses of their stud dogs through to the generations of the pedigree. The breeder must know where good and bad traits came from if they expect to retain the good and eliminate poor traits.

Labrador Breeders who practice random & casual breedings, will not consistently produce the desired quality of the labrador breed.

A Pawlinglabs (Pawling Labrador Breeders) we meticulously select good breeding stock.  Pedigree analysis is essential if we are going to continue to produce the best labrador puppies.

Big is not best

Smaller pups are always confident because they learn to compete with the larger siblings from the beginning. Consequently, small pups are full of enquiry, personality and they are wonderfully trainable. They have learnt to problem solve from day 1 in the  face of big bruisers pushing them around. Assuming that a litter is healthy & strong, I have never seen an inferior small Labrador pup. Size is completely 'relative' to the average weight / size of the pups in any given litter. And it is not uncommon for the smallest in one litter to be the equal weight of largest in another litter. And, of course, in some litters the pups are very similar in weight and size. In other litters, there is a greater weight / size range. Small pups / dogs, and particularly  males are much more suitable for families with children under 12 and for older people. Larger Labradors can be like run away trucks, particularly if they are not 'puppy pre-schooled' & 'obedience trained'. Don't forget that Labradors are 'retrievers / working dogs'. There is no better breed for a family pet however they must be socialised and obedience trained.

All the best with you selections.

Teach your dog to “SIT STAY”

  In the beginning, I suggest you teach the SIT - STAY command with your dog on leash . Use a treat to lure your dog to sit in the heel position at your left side. Both of you should be facing the same direction. Reward you labrador puppy immediately they ‘sit’.

Wait 3 seconds  then ‘MARK’ by saying ‘YES!’ Then reward again immediately with a treat.

Wait 4 seconds and repeat the process. Add duration in 1 second increments until you dog can achieve 20 seconds sitting in the heel position at your left side. After every 4 seconds say ‘good’.

‘GOOD’ is your ‘duration marker’. ‘YES’ is your ‘reward marker’. When your dog has achieved a short duration, mark with ‘yes!’ and reward with a treat. But this time “JACKPOT” by presenting 4 treats. Mark and reward by saying ‘YES!’ then treat, ‘YES!’ then treat, ‘YES!’ then treat, ‘YES!’  then treat.

When you are satisfied that your puppy can sit for a ‘duration’, add the “STAY’ command to ‘SIT’. The next level sees you saying ‘SIT - STAY’  then taking a step to the side and back.

When your puppy can remain in the seated position for 3 seconds, step directly in front of your dog and turn to face them.

Set your dog up for success and don’t be too ambitious.

Step slowly but directly in front of your dog, turning to face them. If you dog remains seated for this short duration, count to 3, say ‘YES!’ and reward. Then step back to the dog’s right side. Steadily increase the duration up to 20 sec. As the duration successfully increase, say ‘GOOD’ as your ‘duration marker’ very 4 seconds.

Having achieved a 20 second SIT - STAY immediately in front and facing your dog, you can now take 1 step away, still facing your dog. You can slowly progress by take several steps backwards and away from your dog.

When your dog has successfully achieved the SIT STAY at the full length of your leash, you can progress to a ‘short line  ie 3m’ or work off leash.

At the end of all ‘duration’, work don’t forget to Mark and Reward with a generous JACKPOT. Then enthusiastically praise your labrador for the great self control they have displayed.

Gradually increase your distance away from but still in front of the dog. Increase the duration before you increase the distance.

IF YOUR DOG FAILS the distance or the duration, Say ‘NO’ without communicating frustration or anger. Simply go back 1 or 2 steps and continue.

Strengthen and reinforce the Sit-Stay command by employing it every time you meet your labrador.

The command to "sit stay" is a cue, meaning a ‘longer duration sit’.

As you progress, you can use the hand signal when you say SIT, ,...’raise your flat hand, palm up, 1 second after the verbal command.

When you say "stay", your can use a hand signal.

When you are standing BESIDE of your dog, use your flat hand, fingers horizontally. Swing your forearm until your palm is facing your dog, about 300mm from your their face.

If you are standing IN FRONT of your dog, use your flat hand, fingers up, palm facing your dog, about 300mm from your dog's face.

Teach your did to Sit

Teaching your labrador puppy to ‘sit’ is easy and very rewarding. You’ll need some high value treats in place free from distractions with your puppy on a loose leash.

Lure you puppy with a high value treat, positioned between your thumb and middle finger.

Raise your hand (palm up) over the dog's nose so that they follow the treat and look up. As your pup looks up at your hand, they will automatically sit. When their backside hits the floor say ‘yes’ and release the treat.  If I give the hand signal with my right hand, i’ll generally offer the treat from my left hand. This tends to stop my puppy from anticipating and chasing the treat.

For the first 20 repetitions, simply ‘mark’ your dogs behaviour with ‘yes’ and immediately (1 second) reward them the treat. After 20 reps your dog will have worked out the relationship between the ‘lure’, ‘sit’, ‘yes’ & the ‘reward’.

When your dog is reliably following the lure into the ‘sit’ position, continue to lure them into the sit position and add the "sit command" just as they start their movement.

With this degree of progress, you can continue to use the same motion but now, with an empty hand, palm up and say "sit". If they sit, mark the behaviour and give a ‘jackpot’ of 3 treats.

This is the ‘hand signal’ and will be the que for your dog to sit. Be sure to say sit before your give the hand signal.

Practice the ‘sit’ at feed time twice daily. And increase the duration of the sit. This is called the ‘ sit stay’.

Slowly expose your dog to the ‘sit command’ with increased distraction. For example, practice training your dog to sit when someone else is in the room.

You should advance to situations where other dogs or animals are nearby.

Teach your dog to Generalise

Generalising simply means, the ability to perform particular behaviours, in different environments.  Dogs do not generalise as well as humans. They do not easily transfer a behaviour into different situations.

Dogs learn and acquire knowledge by associating and connecting events with cues. These cues are visual hand signals and body language. And they are verbal directions, affections and commands . A dogs learning is increases by cause-and-effect. A positive experience with food rewards promote a positive training experience. Dogs instinctively take into consideration how their current situation compares with their past experience. Generalisation expands your dogs positive experiences and increases their aptitude for training and learning.

This inability to generalise can have serious consequences if we take our dog into a new and vulnerable environment assuming that they have solid foundation of training and particularly the “recall”.

Generalisation can be described as transferring a behaviour from a familiar situation to less familiar. For example, your dog may understand the command to “Sit” and do so easily when they have been rewarded inside your house. However, if they were commanded to sit outdoors there is a good chance they would not understand the command and what is expected of them. The “sit” behaviour has not been generalised to the unfamiliar situation.

Eventually, we ask our dog to transfer a behaviour they have already learnt to a different environment away from where they were initially taught.

To begin generalising you must be satisfied that you have a solid behaviour. ‘Proof’ the behaviour to the necessary level. Only then is it time to move to different locations, with different distractions, and with you in multiple  positions.

Lower your expectation when you begin to generalise a behaviour in a new environment or different position.  And reinforce them for offering the behavior even if it is approximate at first. 

I am in favour of approximations as a means of progressing your dogs training. Lure your dog with a high value treat. As your lure into position, you dog begins to understand you command and expectation.

Generalising is not difficult and youcan generalise  behaviours to any level of competence.  Teaching your dog to “sit stay” for a progressively extended duration is quite easy to achieve. Simply ‘proof’ the behaviour to the necessary level.

Remember that you should not correct your dog for any failure of behaviour that you have not taught or in situations you have not yet trained in. 

Always ‘proof’ and “generalise” emergency behaviours such as the “recall”. Teaching your dog to generalise the “recall” is perhaps the most critical behaviour that your dog learn.

“Proof” the ‘recall’ by training in as many different scenarios and locations as possible.  Will your dog “come” when someone else is feeding him? Will they “come” when there is a cat in sight or when they are playing with other dogs?

When you are teaching your dog to generalise, practice the behaviour in the familiar place before moving to the new location.

Use high value rewards and respond to your dogs success in a very excited manner and particularly in the new place.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your dog will be able to perform the behaviour easily in the new location. Just keep going back to the beginning. When you are teaching a new behaviour, revert regularly to easy behaviours that your dog knows already. Build confidence and build success. Wait until your dog is calm and not distracted. In a new environment, give your dog time to adjust, familiarise and settle.

Generalising behaviours is a critical aspect of dog training not least Labrador Retrievers. And it will become easier and more natural for a dog if they are given sufficient variety and repetition in their training. Remember that the success of each session can depend on factors like how hungry or tired your dog is.

Make small and gradual advances, taking time to let your dog absorb a behaviour before moving forward.

Toowoomba K9 Dog Training

One on One K9 Dog Training


Breeders of Chocolate & Black Labradors


Walking on leash

You can commence loose leash walking as soon as you take your new puppy home. I recommend the use of a “Flat Collar” or “Gentle Leader” to prevent pulling and to help your pup to understand your expectations. And particularly if your new pet is a ‘Chocolate Labrador’. For healthy mental and physical development Labrador Retrievers should begin obedience training and particularly ‘leash walking’ immediately. 

To commence this discipline, fit a flat collar or gentle leader to your pup and allow them to walk and drag the leash. This will allow your pup to become familiar with the sensation of ‘neck/ collar pressure’.

The use of a ‘gentle leader’ allows for greater control when loose leash walking in high distraction environments. I suggest that you wear a ‘treat bag so that you can quickly refill your hand with high value treats. A quick delivery of the food ‘rewards’ gives you a high rate of reinforcement for the pup's loose leash walking. A high rate of food rewards will set your expectations and reinforce the routine in you pup’s mind. This will make it very easy to transition to a flat collar as your pup matures.

Your dog’s awareness of collar pressure is essential for teaching the controlled ‘onleash walk’.
Position your pup to walk on your left side, at ‘heel’, on a loose leash with a flat collar or gentle leader. There should not be any leash tension or pressure on the dog's neck.

To commence, take one step forward and if the pup follows, say "YES" and reward the pup with a treat. Your pup might become distracted and get out of position. Lure your puppy back to your left side and start again. The lure and reward will help you pup to memorise the routine.
Continue taking one step at a time and mark the pup’s behaviour by saying YES and immediately reward with a treat.

You should teach your pup to relieve the pressure on its neck by giving them a short range of movement on the leash.

If you hold the end of the leash your pup has much available movement before they feel tension.

Hold the leash in a comfortable position with either hand and in a position that keeps the pup close to you on your left side without tension on the leash. Holding the leash closer to the pup's collar allows you to respond quickly if the pup adds tension to the leash.

When you commence this training, your pup will be inclined to pull.

Don’t allow your pup any sniffing, scavenging, pulling, lunging, or leaping up when they are on leash.

If your pup is distracted and pulling, be patient.  Stop and be stationary. At this point, don’t redirect their attention, pull them back, give them a leash correction, or lure them into position. Your pup will eventually release the tension. When the pup releases the tension by stepping back, turning their head, readjusting their body, ‘mark and reward’ them. Mark the desirable  behaviour by saying YES and reward, then continue walking. Your pup will quickly learn  there is no benefit or reward in pulling on the leach.

When you teach your puppy loose leash walking, you are teaching the dog to respond to leash pressure. If your puppy offers a behaviour that adds tension to the leash, immediately stand still and wait. You can turn 180* and walk the way you came. You will generate leash pressure when you walk and this will teach your pup to release that pressure by following you.

Advance your pup when they are following in the heel position without lunging.

If ‘you’ add leash pressure, reward your pup when ‘they’ relieve the pressure themselves.

Dogs like to sniff and explore their environment, but we must teach them that this is unacceptable. Loose leash walking teaches your dog self-control. 

Crate Training

Crate training your dog will be useful in many situations. Firstly, the crate will be a safe home for your dog. As a breeder of black labrador and chocolate labrador puppies, crate training is essential. You can crate train any breed of dog, at any age. It’s never to late to condition you dog.

A crate is a safe way to transport your dog. Likewise, a crate is a safe place when your dog may not be able to run freely.  When you properly crate train your dog, they will be happy to spend time there.

Crate training usually takes just a few days. Your puppy must consider their crate to be a home not a punishment.

Your dog's crate should be just large enough for them to stand up and turn around.

You can locate the dog crate in any area of your house particularly if you attach an exercise pen. I put a soft blanket or a carpet square in the crate. Remember...nothing that the dog can shred!!!

I place a blanket or fitted sheet over the dog crate to create a cosy den for my dog. 

Encourage your dog to enter the crate.

Call you dog to their crate and give them a treat. Give him a command and point into the crate with a treat in your hand. 

Simply throw some food treats or a favourite toy inside the door and  your dog will walk into the crate to get the food. When your dog enters the crate, close the door while they eat the treats.

When you feed your chocolate labrador their kibble in the dog crate it will create a pleasant association with the crate.

Once your dog is standing to eat,  you can close the door and leave the door closed for a few minutes. Increase the duration longer each time. If he begins to whine do not let him out until he stops or you will inadvertently teach them that the way to get out of the crate is to whine and they’ll keep doing it.

When your dog is eating their meals in their crate, you can progressively confine them for longer periods.

Initially I suggest that you sit near the crate for 10 minutes. Next time, go out of sight for a few minutes. Repeat this process at feed time, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them alone in the crate and you're out of sight. When your dog can stay comfortably in the crate with you out of sight, you can begin to leave them crated while you are gone for short periods. Remember that a toilet trained puppy generally has bladder control for 1hr for each month of his age, ie 6hrs at 6 months of age.

I crate train my dogs in conjunction with an exercise pen attached thus providing a courtyard perimeter. This way, they do not accidentally soil the crate. My pups sleep in an open crate from 8weeks of age. When we take a mature dog away from home, they will sleep in a crate.


Training & Learning speed

Just like people, all dogs and including Labrador Retrievers have different learning speeds and abilities. Some dogs learn quickly, some slowly, depending on many factors including the degree of difficulty in the behaviour you are teaching them. Learning speed is not necessarily an indication of intelligence.

Spend time with your pup and watch how they learn and develop.

10 minutes a day is sufficient to establish a “reward marker” and a training program. With an 8week old puppy, I train for 5 minutes, 3 times/feeds a day. If necessary, I use high value treats.

Distraction is the most obvious difficulty you will encounter as you commence training your puppy. Watch for willingness to work with you.

Watch for stubbornness.

Watch for sensitivities.

And you should identify your dogs response to food / treat rewards after a behavior. Get to know their personality and their food drive.

There will be times when it seems like you dog is learning very little, even going backwards. This is quite normal. Take your pup back a stage or two. And continue to be consistent.

There will be times when your dog will be distracted. It will seem like they have decided not to obey. Of course, this is not so. Don’t get frustrated and certainly don’t be cruel.

Redirect the attention of your labrador puppy back to you with a high value retreat. If you are training in a place with distraction, go to an isolated environment.

Even smart dogs like Labradors can encounter difficulties which slow their learning.

Remember we are always training, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year. New behaviors need repeating many times to become a habit. I always repeat a particular training behaviour 20 times.

In your normal day to day life, always stay consistent with your commands, even when you are not formally training. Everything you do & every word you speak to you dog is teaching them how to behave and the expectations you have.

A puppy learns pack order from week 5 to week 8.

As Dog Trainers and Breeders of Chocolate and Black Labrador Retrievers people ask us why a puppy cannot be released before 8 weeks of age. The answer is simple. A very young pup needs to learn ‘pack order’ and be socialised among its litter mates from week 5 to week 8. During this period a puppy learns how to be a dog.

We start feeding solid food to a litter from week 3. The litter eat together 3 times a day. And from this time we watch the emerging ‘pack dynamics’ around the food bowls. It becomes apparent which pups are dominating.

As early as week 3 and certainly by week 5, a bitch will begin to remove herself from her litter so that the pups will wean. From this time, the pups are living constantly with litter mates and they are learning ‘pack dynamites’. A pup learns to ‘play fight’ in the litter as part of emerging pack order. The pups will wrestle,..bite ears,...bit tails. A puppy learns how to adjust its bite by playing with the other puppies in the litter. This is a critically important period in the puppy’s development. If a puppy does not learn to ‘play fight’ it will not learn how to be a dog. The pup will not learn how to read the body language of other dogs, nor will it be able to demonstrate appropriate body language in return. If a dog doesn’t know how to socialise with other pups it will develop degrees of anxiety & have conflict depending upon its personality and temperament.

Obviously, this will be a problem which will need care and attention as unsocialised behaviour emerges. 

During the 5-8 week period in a puppies life, we give them small tug toys along with obstacles to climb on. we are looking to emerging confidence in every pup regardless of temperament.