Labrador Retrievers - Beloved Companion and Therapy Dogs
by Melanie Bosano
By far the most common use of today's Labrador is as a home companion, a role at which he excels. Surprisingly, the Labrador Retriever was rarely kept strictly as a house pet until several decades after the breed's introduction to the united States. The initial fanciers of the breed became acquainted with him through knowledge of the game. When the breed was well established as a sporting companion, his docile, brainy nature won his way out of the kennel and into the home.
The Labrador Retriever's ability to quickly adapt and respond to instruction made the transition quite easy. Today, puppies raised in the home actually become so entwined in the lives of their owners that they often suffer when relegated to the kennel life. (If you are planning to keep a kennel of Labradors, select puppies that are properly socialized but still familiar with kennel life.)
As a companion, the Labrador Retriever is good-natured and gentle enough to accept the roughhousing of youngsters without returning it. If properly socialized while young, a Labrador will share his "home with another dog, providing there is enough affection for all. It is more common for a Labrador to misbehave out of jealousy than out of dislike for another animal.
Labrador Retrievers are long on self-control and loyalty, but they do not make the most avid watchdogs. As a rule, they are not overly suspicious of strangers or highly protective of loved ones, and when natural instincts are not stimulated they can be inattentive to such a task. Always keen for a scent or sound, a Labrador Retriever would certainly give voice at the approach of an intruder, but he might be won over by a friendly gesture or a luscious piece of sirloin. If left on duty, a Labrador Retriever may wander off in search of a scent that has caught his attention. In short, he is a people-dog. If you really need a watchdog, get your Labrador a German Shepherd friend!
The value of companionship with this breed should not be underestimated. In recent years, obedience-trained Labradors as well as other breeds are being used as Therapy Dogs to enrich the lives of nursing home residents and even emotionally disturbed children. The process is simple: a group of experienced dog handlers, such as those trained by Therapy Dogs International, bring their dogs to visit, perhaps put on an obedience performance for the audience, and then let animals and humans mingle, if conditions permit. The dogs are all obedience trained and have proven themselves to be extremely gentle and outgoing. Their job is to make people feel wanted, and it works wonders for alleviating the loneliness and depression that often burden such lives. Labradors love people and the few hours Therapy Dogs share with others enrich both dog and man.