Owners of labs, I salute you


Mark and I have found ourselves taking care of a five-month-old black lab puppy, Pepper, for a few days. It's an extreme situation, or I never would have volunteered--a five-month-old lab is, to be blunt, not my kind of dog.

I have to be fair to her: She is very sweet. Completely affectionate, absolutely no aggression, very soft mouth (especially for one who is still teething), and fairly good behavior. But even the best behaved dog in the world is a handful at this age, and a dog like a lab, who is really, really supposed to be doing something and not just lying around at my house, has the potential to be completely insane.

So far she hasn't been. She's been maybe...partially insane? She's trying to play with all three of my old man dogs, none of whom really want anything to do with her. Leo sort of humors her, Ata growls at her if she gets too close to him, and Leo barks right up in her face, which may or may not be his version of a playful gesture. But none of them are exactly frolicking material. So she wants to play with us. And play, in this case, means be right on top of every minute. Me especially--her owner told us that she has much more love for women than for men, and that is clearly the case. If I leave the room for even a moment, she sits at the baby gate and whines. Luckily, it hasn't yet occurred to her that she could clear said baby gate in an instant if she had a mind to.

It's frustrating, because I know exactly what she needs. A long walk, a swim, some time on an agility course, some concentrated training. But we are really not in a position to provide those things right now, which is exactly why we don't foster dogs like her normally. I did walk her for nearly an hour this morning, and will try to take her again this evening (not like I can't use the exercise), but she's not getting the stimulation or the activity she needs otherwise.

Makes me realize, again, how much I admire people who do foster dogs like her. People always think we're saintly for taking the old and sick ones, but in many ways, they are easier. Huey hasn't been on a walk in months, and won't be able to go on anything but a very short one for months more. He spends 90% of his time lying down and watching the world go by because that's what he is physically capable of doing (and because that is the time he's at in his life). We don't just take older dogs and larger breed dogs because we like them and because a lot of people won't--we take them because they are lazy!

The other thing that strikes me is that Pepper is a member of one of the most popular dog breeds in America. Many, many people have labs, and may of them have never even had a dog before and have no idea what they are getting into. Going in blind and then having her kind of energy and chaos in your house all of a sudden has to be awful, both for the dog and for the people. It's a rare person who can give a dog like her the environment she really needs in order to thrive, and the way they can behave when they don't get what they need is so totally disruptive that it suddenly begins to make sense why some people hate dogs.

Mostly, having her here makes me realize how lucky I am to know what I do about dogs and about my own limits. Doing rescue work is incredibly important to me, but I would have to restructure my entire life in order to rescue dogs like Pepper. I'd have to become someone I'm not. And it's not just labs--some of my very favorite breeds fall into that category (pit bulls come immediately to mind). If, back when we had no idea what we were doing, we'd have tried to fit these breeds into what is essentially a sedentary lifestyle, I'll bet we never would have even had a dog of our own long term, much less starting doing rescue work.

So, give us your old, your sick, and your extra large. While an occasional few days with the young and hyper is OK and keeps us on our toes, it only reaffirms my commitment to dogs who, like me, find that the best exercise is a good nap.


I just really liked this entry and wanted to comment on it.

I feel your pain. There would have some pretty special circumstances for us to take in a lab puppy! We're tearing our hair out half the time with our 10 lb foster!

How old is Ata? For some reason I thought he's younger than the others.

This is the exact reason I adopted Pixel....Mugsy was a PITA crazy Boston Terrier puppy and I was not up to giving him activity he needed. Pixel was. They're so much happier as a pair.

You know, I think because so many people assume a lab is an "easy" dog, they are numer 1 on the list of biting incidents (at least here they are). Most of them don't get what they need like you describe and turn their frustration into agression. People never understand how our greyhound doesn't need hours and hours of walking (obviously those people don't know much about sprinters vs long-distance runners, lol), but apart from him being senior, I've honestly never met such a lazy dog in my life. A high-energy dog wouldn't fit into our lifestyle right now either. Maybe one day, because I do like a dog you can do stuff with.


Ah yes, labs. I have not one, but two friends who chose labs as their "impulse pet purchase." One gave the dog away after a few months, and one keeps hers in a crate all the time because it attacked one of her kids. The only people I know who've kept their labs were hunters and people who live on several acres of land.

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