Labrador retrievers are incredibly cute dogs. Their roly-poly bellies, happy smiles, and wagging tails just capture our hearts. However, these dogs do need some training. Labradors are high-energy animals, especially since their breed was developed to work, hunt, and run all day. Fortunately, Labradors are friendly and trainable.
Part 1Understanding Labradors
Note that there is no such thing as a 'naughty' Labrador. The concept of 'naughtiness' is a human characterization that has been incorrectly applied to an animal. Your Labrador is not innately "naughty" or "bad." Rather, your dog does what Labradors do in a Labrador fashion until you teach him new behaviors. Keep in mind that he wasn't born automatically knowing the rules of living in a human world.
Read up on the breed. Labradors are generally intelligent, happy, and energetic dogs. They need substantial attention and an outlet for their energy.
Treat Labradors in a manner that befits their breed. Giving them what they need will help ensure that they don't engage in "bad behaviors" as a way to cope with the insufficiency of their treatment.
Be precise and direct. Don't lecture your Labrador. Your commands need to be simple and consistent. "No", "Drop", "Wait" are strong, simple, and direct. "Stop doing that, oh for goodness sake" or "Oi, stop eating my shoe" will not work as they are too complicated. Remember that dogs don't process language like humans do.
Be firm and in control. In general, shouting at any dog is ineffective. This is especially true for Labradors who are an excitable breed by nature. Use a firm voice when instructing your dog; don't yell or lose control. Dogs are very intuitive and will be able to sense your frustration and may react in kind.
Be timely in your responses and commands. Admonishing a Labrador too long after the incident is ineffective. If you need to admonish or correct your dog, it needs to be done during or within a few seconds of the act. Dogs will have forgotten the event within seconds of its occurrence, so it's key to address the behavior immediately in order to facilitate the retraining process.
Coach the family. If you live in a household of more than one, your family also needs training. Explain to your family as well as visitors to your home about what your dog is and is not allowed to do. For example, if you do not allow anyone to feed your Labrador at the dinner table, then you need to let others know about that rule. If other family members or visitors don't know about this rule, they may feed your dog, which is confusing for him and will disrupt the training you have done.
Never beat your dog. Beating or hitting Labradors when they behave in an undesirable manner will not help them become better trained dogs. Rather, they will become fearful of you, which will ultimately defeat the training process.
Reward the behavior you wish to encourage. It is easy to apply human morality and motivation to your Labrador. But the fact of the matter is that your Labrador is not human and 'just is' and 'just does'. For example, eating the sleeve of your best work shirt is not a conscious act on behalf of your dog to upset you. Oftentimes, the shirt was just there and it was chewable.
Try clicker training. Click training enables the immediate delivery of positive reinforcement. Labradors are highly trainable because they are so food motivated, which makes clicker training ideal for them.
Appeal to your Labrador's belly. Most dogs are perpetually hungry. Labradors in particular are food-oriented and motivated. Reward desirable behavior with food and you’re likely to get a repeat of that good behavior.
Employ distraction techniques. For instance, if your Labrador has taken to either launching himself at passers by or other dogs or barking at people and other dogs, then you should try to distract him. You need to temporarily interrupt your Labrador's stream of thought by talking to or commanding him or by an action (such as stomping your foot).
Consult a professional trainer. A professional dog trainer, such as one from the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), is very knowledgeable about dogs and can help you learn basic handling skills.
Enjoy your Labrador. They are wonderful dogs. Be fair, consistent, and clear. They'll reward you in turn with love and affection!