How To Buy Labrador Puppies
"Do your research and never buy a dog on a whim, they are not toys or gadgets that be turned off and stored away if you get bored with them."
Why A Labrador Puppy?
Labradors are ideal companion dogs, fantastic family pets, the worlds no.1 working and assistance dogs, superb gun dogs and excel at field sports and trailing.
Labrador puppies are the most sought after dogs in the world.
Desirable and heart wrenchingly cute as puppies the little darlings virtually sell themselves, which is why it is so easy for unscrupulous people to take advantage of prospective owners.
We've put together this guide to help you choose & buy yours wisely.
If you have come looking for advice on buying Labrador puppies we assume you are not a seasoned Labrador owner but have already done some research into dogs and have decided on a Labrador.
If you have already owned a dog you will find Labradors are different, they are more people-centred, easier to train and more even-tempered than other breeds which is why they are the worlds no.1 choice for a companion dog.
If you are not yet familiar with Labradors then please take a look through The Ultimate Labrador Retriever (Book of the Breed) first and get to know about the dog you will be getting.
It is a great introduction to this breed and includes some interesting history, Wiles - Fones book is considered by many dog owners as the definitive introductory guide to owning and training the pedigree Labrador Retriever and second-hand copies are available from Amazon for a few pennies.
Before you Buy your Labrador Puppy
Rescue homes are full of Labradors whose owner 'thought were the right dog for them' and didn't do their homework first.
Be aware that your cute little puppy is going to become a big, boisterous, outdoor loving adult dog.
This cute Puppy is going to grow in 55-80 pounds of active dog.
Labradors are the worlds most popular dog because they are the friendliest, kindest and most even-tempered of dogs, but as they are bred to be a working dog they need lots of exercise and a fair degree of space.
Those cute Labrador puppies will eventually weigh between 55 & 80 pounds (25-36 Kg) and will need 2 hours or more exercise a day.
Your Labrador is going to be with you for around 15 years so this is a big commitment. Please make absolutely certain this is the right dog for you before you commit yourself.
This big boy was a cute little 5 pound puppy 2 years ago
If you are certain that a Labrador is the dog you want, that you have enough room and can give one enough exercise please do not just go out and buy the first puppy that catches your eye
It's always better to think through on what kind of labrador you want, this will give you something to work towards.
1. Which Sex
People have various reasons for selecting a Dog (male) or a Bitch (female). Different books tell you various things about their temperaments (and most contradict each other), you can read up on this at your leisure or preferably go out and meet as many adult Labs as you can and talk to their owners.
From our experience all dogs (like humans) have different personalities, the most significant influence on your dog's behaviour is going to depend on your training (see our puppy training page for tips).
The 2 differences between sexes are
- Dogs are larger and stronger than bitches, both are more than capable of dragging you across a muddy field.
- Bitches whelp (have puppies) pups and Dogs don't, this means that every 6 months or year (depending on her cycle) a fertile bitch is going to be spotting blood for a couple of weeks.
When a Bitch comes into season she will actively seek out dogs to mate with, when a dog scents a bitch in season he will go to extraordinary lengths to find and mate with her.
If you are not planning on breeding from your Labrador then you can have the bitch spayed or dog neutered to prevent unwanted litters and to stop the straying behaviour that comes with the urge to breed.
If you will not be breeding from your Labrador you can happily buy Labrador puppies which may be carriers of an unwanted genetic trait (see the Labrador health Page) as you will not be passing it on, being a carrier will not affect your Labrador's health or well-being.
Labradors come in 3 Colours.
- Chocolate / Liver ( Brown)
- Yellow (shade from light cream to red fox)
There are books written on each colour, we find no difference between black and yellow, chocolate ones can be less placid.
Chocolate Labradors:- Tend to be more boisterous than black or yellow ones, their owners tend to call them a bit scatty. If you don't mind a Labrador that may be little more 'characterful' than the normal placid black or yellow, then go for chocolate.
Note: A new study found the sought-after dogs typically die sooner than black or yellow Labradors and are more prone to serious disease.
Because the gene responsible for a chocolate coat is recessive, breeders require two chocolate Labradors to produce the right coloured puppies.
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) research now warns that this means the gene pool is narrowing, increasing the risk of genetic disease.
These include ear conditions, as well as skin complaints such as acute moist dermatitis, known as hot spots, which can be extremely painful.
Black Labradors:- Will have some white on them this may be anything from a few unnoticeable hairs to a significant patch on the chest (bib) or at the rear of the front pasterns (lower leg)
This white patch is a throwback to the original St Johns and hunting dogs who were crossbred to produce our modern Labradors.
Yellow Labradors:- Range in colour from a light cream or off white to a deep fox red, all variants of yellow are acceptable. White Labradors ( apart from very rare albinos) are actually a very light cream and will invariably have a touch of darker cream or yellow (usually around the ears)
Unscrupulous breeders are cross-breeding Labradors with other breeds to produce 'Silver Labradors', there is no such creature!
Labradors do not have genes which can produce a silver colour so any dog sold as a Silver Labrador is a mongrel and not a pedigree dog.
See the Kennel clubs What Colour Should My Puppy Be page for more information on colour crossbreeding.
Silver is not recognized as a Labrador colour by the Kennel club or any true breeder. If you do find silver Labrador puppies being offered as pedigree please inform the Kennel club.
For potential breeders:
If you are planning on breeding from your Labrador and are concerned about the colour of your litter then you will need to know the colour of both your Sire and Dams parents & grandparents as the colour gene sequences of Labradors is quite complex.
The one hard and fast rule is that 2 yellow parents will always produce a yellow litter.
If you are intending to breed for specific colour then only buy dogs with verified ancestry so you can study previous generations to get an idea of the colour mix.
To be absolutely sure have your breeding pair genetically tested and get the genotype of both parents and match them to get the phenotype (colour).
3. Pedigree or not.
Why buy a pedigree Labrador?
The difference between a legitimate breeders dog and an unverified one can be £300 +, but the real difference is that buying the wrong Labrador puppies can end up costing you £1000s in vets bills or ending up with a dog so ill it may have to be put down and your money may end up with some very unsavoury people.
Then, of course, it may look like a friendly even-tempered Labrador when it's a pup, but how do you know what it will be like as an adult when you can't even be sure what mix of breeds your dog really is?
Crossbred Labrador Puppies may look like pedigree dogs when they are pups but as they grow differences, as well as non-Labrador features, may become apparent
This might not be that important if you're looking for a pet dog, but it will make all the difference if you are buying your Labrador as a working or trialing dog.
The other issue is health, Labrador's can carry several genetically inherited diseases and are prone to hip dysplasia leading to very early severe joint deterioration (see our Labrador health page).
Pedigree Labrador puppies will have their ancestors tested and certified free of these conditions before being bred from.
A non-pedigree Labrador might only last for a few years before having to be put down due to illness.
Ultimately the choice is yours, we recommend that unless you are buying a Labrador from someone you know who has successfully bred Labrador's from their own pets.
Or a trusted local breeder, who you are familiar with and you know they have already produced successful healthy litters. Then only buy a verified pedigree Labrador puppy
The only other place we would suggest with getting a non-verified Labrador from is a rescue centre as they do some checks on their Labradors before re-homing them
We advise having rescue Labradors neutered or spayed to prevent the possibility of passing on genetic illnesses.
How to buy your Labrador Puppies
When you have decided on which sex and colour you prefer, it's time to start looking for your puppy.
Never buy from a pet shop, no reputable dog breeder will ever sell a dog to a pet shop, and no responsible dog owner will buy from one. Pets shops are supplied from puppy farms and commercial 'profit-centred' breeders.
The first choice should be a known and trusted local breeder.
Dogs bred by them tend to stay local so you will be able to see mature dogs from previous litters and speak to people who previously have had dogs from them.
If you not in the 'Labrador network' then talk to any locals you see walking Labradors and you will soon find out who the local breeders are.
A local dog from known healthy stock is preferable to buying on the open market.
If you cant find a trusted local breeder then visit Kennel Club website and look for the list of breeders specializing in Labrador puppies, use the details there to contact them.
Most of these are not commercial dog breeders but dog loving people, like us at Fortiswick, who have family dogs who produce the occasional litter, or hobby breeders with an interest in maintaining and improving the breed.
When using the Kennel club be selective because some puppy farmers will also register, passing themselves off as reputable breeders.
Legitimate commercial dog breeders, as registered businesses licensed by their local authorities, have a right to be registered too. A Kennel Club assured breeder will have had their premises inspected and verified.
If you decide to take a wander around the internet you will see dozens of websites where people are offering pedigree Labrador puppies for sale, some popular ones are Preloved UK and Pets4homes.
Of course, many unregistered breeders also advertise on these websites so you have to be wary, other sites such as Champdogs will only accept adverts for KC registered litters.
Registered KC breeders advertise their litters on these and many other websites, unfortunately, unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers can also claim to be KC registered so when you contact an advertiser you must cross check their details with the KC breeders list.
There are some genuine breeders who will not use the Kennel Clubs registration scheme, they view the Kennel Club as a self elected authority more intested in making money from dog owners and breeders than maintaining standards.
in a way they are right, the Kennel club has become so large it has lost its personal touch. it is very expensive and levies charges for everything (even correcting its own mistakes) and sets breed standards which may not be wholey accurate.
There are equally valid alternative organisations which will check the validity of dogs and confirm thier pedigrees
Preloved is a free to advertise web site which many genuine breeders use to advertise pedigree Labrador litters, also there are some Labradors available for rehoming. Try having a look you may want to use it as well to get rid of some unwanted items !
The Paper Checks.
If you are not using a known and trusted local breeder and are buying Labrador puppies from a KC registered advertiser, once you have established that they genuine are the next step is to ask for the following details to be sent to you.
- The parents hip and elbow scores.
- The parents last eye test and any health checks for DNA inherited illness.
- The parents pedigree charts. These documents should be scanned or photographed copies of the original and e-mailed to you (the breeder may watermark them 'duplicate' to prevent fraudulent use).
No breeder should refuse to do this, KC registered or otherwise.
Iif they do then something is not quite right and make you suspicions known to the KC so they can check that some unscrupulous person isn't imitating a responsible breeder.
The Labrador health page will tell you what to look for on the health documents.
If you are satisfied with the documentation, you must make an appointment to go and see the pups at their home, a breeder should not allow you to see the pups at less than 4 weeks old and even then ask you not to handle them to keep the risk of infection down to a minimum.
Depending on circumstances a local breeder may invite you to view the puppies earlier than this.
Visiting Dos & Don'ts:
Never agree to meet the breeder away from home with the puppy, whatever reason they give and no matter how persuasive they are do not be tempted. They are lying because no real breeder would ever do this.
Make sure you see the whole litter and the mother and puppies together. If no mother is present or a pup under 8 weeks old is shown on their own then leave immediately because something is wrong. You may be speaking to a puppy farmer or a third party seller.
Look at the puppies behaviour, they should be naturally inquisitive about you, not shy and running into a corner, watch them feeding, see how clean their surroundings are.
Go and visit a few litters so you can make comparisons, the more litters you see the abler you will be to spot what is right and what's not.
When you are satisfied with the pups, ask to look at the original paperwork, the Kennel Club can be slow and the pups registration documents might not have yet arrived.
If you want one of the pups, agree to pay a deposit only once the documents have arrived and you can see them, this gives you a good reason to make another visit to check up on the puppy you have selected to see how she's developing.
The breeder should be just as careful about you as you are about them, a reputable breeder will do their best to ensure their pups go to a good home, be wary of the breeder who seems overeager to get rid of their pups.
A local breeder will make discrete inquires about you and your suitability as owners from others in the community, and don't be surprised if they turn up unannounced on your doorstep for a cuppa, they are there to check on the environment they are sending the puppy into.
The other advantage of a local breeder is that you will be able to see your puppy as often as you like after placing a deposit.
Collecting your Puppy:
At about 6 weeks bring a towel or item of clothing and ask the breeder to place it in with the pups, collect it when you take your puppy home so she will have a familiar scent in her new bed.
It is recommended that you collect the puppy at 8 weeks of age when you do so you must take her to your vet for her second inoculation as soon as possible.
From 6th April 2016, all dogs in the UK must be microchipped. If you are in possession of a dog over 8 weeks old which is not microchipped the fine is £500, this includes breeders.
For this reason, no puppy should be sold without being microchipped.
When you pick up your puppy from a KC registered breeder you should receive paper copies of all the documents, the Kennel Club registration form signed by the breeder and dated, a pedigree certificate and details of the first inoculation and what worming your puppy has had so that you can inform your Vet.
A trusted local breeder if not KC registered will also give details of inoculations, health checks and worming treatment, they should also give the vet permission to discuss any checks they have done with you.
They may also have a pedigree chart showing your dogs ancestry.
The breeder will contact the microchip database with the new owner's details and the documentation will be sent to you when it is updated.
Remember to get an ID tag for your dog with your name and address on it, you can be fined up to £5000 if your dog is not wearing a collar and ID tag in a public place.
It's amazing how quickly she will settle in
Have a place for your pup already prepared, bedding, toys and something with your scent on.
A cage is an ideal home for your pup, she will identify it as her own space, take her toys in there and is where she will retreat to when she wants some 'quiet time'.
Put the towel/clothing you collected from the breeder in there to encourage her to go in.
Do not lock the door straight away as you do not want her to see the cage as a place of confinement, leave it open in the day and at first close the door at nights to prevent wandering (remember to put a water bowl in).
Within a few weeks, you will be able to leave the door open all the time or even remove it, covering the cage with an old curtain or blanket will give her privacy.
We recommend getting a large (42" x 32") cage as it will become her den for life, See Our Recommended Cages Here
A bed or 'doggy cushion' in the corner of the room you use the most is also necessary, your Labrador is part of your family and she will want to spend time with you, this means sharing your living space, See Our Recommended Beds Here.
Just like we humans sometimes she will want some time on her own and will retreat to her own private space (her cage).
Exercise and Feeding
Although new Labrador puppies may seem as active as the Duracell bunny, over exercising them can cause serious health issues later on so please do not let your new puppy do the following:-
- Go up and down stairs
- Jump in and out of the car (lift her in and out instead)
- Run on a slippery floor or rugs that slide
- Take her for long walks. No more than 5 minutes or ¼ mile for each month of her life.
- Play active games (involving running) for more than a few minutes.
You need to prevent her from over-stressing her leg joints, this will prevent them from developing properly and will lead to early onset hip dysplasia ( See Our Labrador Health Section ) so avoid any activity which may do so.
If you have a large garden, to stop her running around too much or exploring in areas which may have fox or badger runs you can use a puppy pen, we've found the best of these to be the Bunny business range.
If using a pen indoors ensure it is secure so it doesn't wander or tilt when she jumps against the sides.
Labradors are notorious overeaters, puppies will become eating machines if you let them.
Overfeeding is very dangerous it leads to too rapid growth and this stops bones from developing properly, your breeder should give you a feeding regime, stick to it.
You can start her basic training almost immediately, this can be a wonderful time for both of you as Labradors are incredibly easy to train and love to be given things to do, we have some great tips on our Puppy Training Page to get you started.
These are just a few tips, the Kennel Club website has a more in-depth guide to buying Labrador puppies safely, and there is always good advice to be had from reputable breeders, breed associations and dog clubs.
Please do some research before buying your pup, this will arm you with the knowledge needed to help make an informed choice, resulting in you owning a healthy, happy Labrador Retriever which will give you many years of wonderful companionship.