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Are Labs Easy to Train?

Labradors are the most popular dog breed in the world, and for a good reason: They’re friendly, outgoing, and easy to train. While any breed can be a challenge to work with, many trainers consider Labradors one of the easiest breeds to train — and it’s all thanks to their loyal, eager-to-please, and highly-motivated personalities.

Their specific disposition not only makes them highly trainable — it also makes them excellent service and all-around work dogs.

Whether you’re just getting your first Labrador or have had one for years and need a refresher course for your new puppy arrives, this guide will help you start on the right foot. Begin early, use positive reinforcement, train in short sessions, and attend a puppy class or two. 

We’ll also discuss whether female or male Labradors are easier to train and what might cause training challenges. So, let’s get started.

Are Labrador Retrievers Easy to Train? 

If you love Labs and are looking for a breed that’s easy to train, you’re in luck: This dog meets exactly what you need. Labrador Retrievers are almost effortless to work with—they’re even considered one of the most trainable breeds in the world.

According to Stanley Coren’s several-year study, The Intelligence of Dogs, Labrador Retrievers fall into the top 10 most intelligent breeds, coming in front of Poodles and Australian Cattle Dogs.

This top list is made up of dogs who can:

  • Learn new commands in fewer than five repetitions 
  • Obey the first command 95% of the time or better

chart of the easiest dog breeds to train

It’s estimated that the average dog can learn around 165 words, but the brightest dogs — like the Labrador — can learn up to 250 words

Many professional dog trainers and Labrador Retriever owners would argue that high intelligence and trainability go hand-in-hand, since they can learn more commands and tricks quicker and more accurately than other breeds. 

Labradors are also highly devoted and eager to please, so they’re almost always more than willing to learn a command or two from their owners at any given time.

Male Lab Puppy vs. Female Lab Puppy: Which Is Easier to Train?

There are stark differences between the ways males and females tend to behave in the animal world. Although both male and female Labs are excellent companions, females mature faster than males and may be easier to train.

Labrador puppies sitting in truck bed

Female Labs’ better attention spans might come down to the fact that females reach puberty faster and their adult weight sooner than males do. 

So while many owners and breeders will probably agree that females are typically at the top of their training classes, that’s not to say that males can’t catch on, too. They just might require a bit more attention, practice, and patience.

Helping Your Labrador Train Well

You already know that Labs are one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds, but there are instances in which they may be pretty challenging to train. 

Ultimately, this comes down to the way owners socialize and exercise their Labs: Labrador Retrievers are a very energetic breed. And, like any other high-energy breed, failing to receive enough attention or exercise means they’ll try to channel their energy elsewhere. It could even develop into behavior problems that may be difficult to correct later down the line. 

Try to remember that no puppy comes into this world knowing what to do: It’s up to you to guide and teach them about their place in this world. So while it’s essential to train your puppy early on and appropriately, you can be on the right path as long as you start them young and stay consistent.

How Long Does Labrador Training Take?

The good news is that it won’t take long for your Lab puppy to learn the ropes of obedience and training. When you bring him home at eight weeks old, you’ll want to focus on establishing a bond and having plenty of playtime. Meanwhile, slowly introduce training sessions to enhance your pup’s focus. 

While it may take a few weeks to hone in your pup’s concentration, it’s crucial not to give up: As soon as your pup hits six months old, training can be much more challenging.

“The most critical learning period of a dog’s life is the first six months,” says Robert Milner of Duckhill Kennels. “During this period, a puppy is the most open to learning. This is when he learns the fastest, when he most readily masters new tasks and when he adapts most readily to new environments.”

If you’re new to puppy training, it’s a good idea to follow an established training guide with milestone trackers so that you can get training ideas and keep track of your pup’s progress. 

The must-know basics are loose leash walking, basic commands, and crate training. You can begin as early as 8 weeks and see results shortly after.

Tips on How to Train a Labrador Retriever

Whether you’re adopting a male or a female, you’re a seasoned trainer, or brand-new to the game, everybody could use a refresher on some of the most helpful tips when it comes to training Labrador Retrievers. 

Luckily, these dogs are more than willing to learn from you. But even so, it’s always good to start off on the right foot. Start early, use positive reinforcement, train in short sessions, and consider signing your labrador retriever up for socialization classes when your dog has all of the core vaccines.

Labrador Training Tip #1: Start Early

The best advice that any owner or breeder can give new owners is to start early. In fact, that’s why Snowy Pines offers puppy training classes as early as 8 weeks old.

Research shows that early training reaps tons of benefits, such as: 

By six months of age, almost all behavior problems are set in place. Therefore, early training can avoid issues and bad habits before they start or become more challenging to work with. 

With an early start, all of our Snowy Pines puppies can be fully trained through advanced training and lifestyle development skills that include house training, acclimation, grooming etiquette, tricks, commands, and behavioral training by the time they’re four-and-a-half months old.

Labrador Training Tip #2: Use Positive Reinforcement 

There are different training methods, the most common being positive reinforcement, clicker training, electronic training, and alpha dog training. However, research shows that positive reinforcement is the most effective way to shape your dog’s behavior, especially when correcting actions, potty training, and crate training.

Research shows that dogs trained using exclusively positive reinforcement methods have a more secure attachment to their owners. And, they’re also less likely to show stress-related behaviors when positively rewarded.

response to sit cue chart for dogsResponse to loose leash walking chart for dogs

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“What we noticed is that it was bad for the relationship to be trained negatively,” explains Dr. Florence Gaunet, the leader of the study that observed positive versus negative reinforcement training in dogs. “They were more likely to show a lower posture and more signs of stress.” 

Using Clicker Training as Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training rewards good behavior and doesn’t acknowledge bad behavior. Therefore, the dog is more likely to repeat good behavior knowing they’ll receive a reward, like dog treats, happy voices, toys, or belly rubs.

classical conditioning and clicker training chart

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Clicker training practices positive reinforcement with the help of sound: When a dog does a wanted behavior, the clicker clicks immediately following the action. Clicker training is an especially helpful tactic because it shows the puppy the desired behavior.

However, the puppy needs to associate the clicking sound with a reward. This tactic can sometimes be challenging to try as a novice trainer, so many owners opt for puppy training classes where they can receive some guidance. Yet, this particular method is frequently used in service dog training sessions.

Labrador Training Tip #3: Keep Training Sessions Short (But Frequent)

Puppies are like toddlers: Their ability to concentrate is naturally short, requiring stimulation if you want to hold their attention. That’s why it’s essential to train in short—but frequent and regular—sessions. Otherwise, they may become distracted, get bored, and stop paying attention.

labrador puppy laying on grass next to woman

Most dogs have an attention span of about 15 minutes before they get bored, tired, and begin resisting commands, so a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 15 minutes of training every day in five-minute increments.

Incredibly distracted puppies may need shorter sessions, like two to three minutes, a few extra times a day.

Quick Tip: Train in every room of your house so that your puppy recognizes cues in different places. Switching locations is good practice for when you’re commanding your pup outside of the home.

Labrador Training Tip #4: Attend a Puppy Class

Whether it’s obedience, training, or socialization classes, research says that puppy classes are an essential part of ensuring that your puppy is properly socialized.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar recommends that your puppy meet at least 100 people of different appearances, backgrounds, and abilities during his first month at home (or at least three months). One of the best ways to do that is by attending socialization classes.

Although classes like these may not seem necessary—especially if you’ve got a full house at home—it’s important to remember that puppies and dogs don’t want to be idle and alone all day long.

Chances are that your household has a busy schedule between work, school, and extracurriculars, so puppy daycare or socialization classes can be a great way to keep your puppy’s mind stimulated. Plus, class participation leads to a well-rounded, happy, and willing puppy which directly translates to ease of training.

In other words, the happier and more stimulated your Labrador Retriever puppy is in his everyday life, the easier he’ll be to train.

How to Have an Easy-To-Train Labrador Retriever

Odds are that your Labrador Retriever will be very easy-to-train because that’s just what this breed is all about—but to really ensure its trainability, personality, and overall temperament, you’re best of fbuying from a reputable breeder.

Dedicated breeders will be able to guarantee your puppy’s health because they have years of experience working with their parents’ and families’ bloodlines. 

This information is important to know because behavioral predispositions indicate a strong genetic component to dog personality—in fact, genes contribute to 60 to 70% of traits in dogs.

genetic disposition chart for dogs

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Researchers found that specific gene variants may contribute to behavioral traits: Only 131 genes among thousands stuck out as a definite association with breeds’ behavior, meaning that a breed’s behavioral diversity arises from the inherited genes and environmental aspects.

Simply put, certain traits are more likely to be shared by genetically-similar breeds.

It appears that both nature and nurture play important roles in the way your puppy’s personality develops. Still, you can start off strong by better predicting your pup’s temperament based on the puppy’s parents and finding a good breeder.

What Kind of Breeder You Should Look For

A good breeder only exists because they’re dedicated to preserving the traits that come with a specific breed and continuing the bloodline.

Therefore, they should all be registered with the American Kennel Club, offer full-replacement guarantees, conduct ethical breeding practices, interview prospective owners, and allow on-site tours and meet-and-greets with the puppies and their parents.

If you’ve found a breeder that meets these key aspects, like the expert team at Snowy Pines, then you’ll be supplied with complete medical and bloodline histories. So, you’ll know exactly what to expect with your Labrador puppy.

Conclusion

Labrador Retrievers are some of the smartest and easiest dogs to train, partly due to their genetics and partly due to the way they are raised.

If you want a dog that is easy to train, start training your pup early and use positive reinforcement techniques like treats or clickers with short training sessions. And don’t forget socialization classes–these will give your Labrador Retriever plenty of opportunities to learn how to behave around other dogs, animals, and new people.

However, to truly get started on the right path before your Lab even comes home, it’s best to work with a dedicated, reputable breeder like the team at Snowy Pines. Learn more about what we do at Snowy Pines, or come visit our Labrador puppies at our 120-acre property nestled in the Ozark Mountains.

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About the Author

tom-massey

Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.

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