Labrador Retriever Dog Gifts : Articles : Lab Life : Dog Development Stages
Labrador Retriever Stages of Development
By Shannon K. Steffen
If you are new to the Labrador Retriever world and you have a new puppy, you may be wondering when Lab puppies finally calm down. First, for those that do not know, the Labrador Retriever breed is not for those that want to lay back on the couch and toss back a few beers. Labs are people dogs meaning that they are very sociable and do not like to be left on their own all the time. They have a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. That is why it is important for this breed to get plenty of exercise and social interaction.
Prior to bringing Dakota and Cheyenne into our home, we did a lot of research about the breed and found that many people have their own ideas on the age of maturation. In all honesty, there are differing levels of energy that the Lab will go through during its life and from the age of about 10 weeks old to 5 years old, the energy level can remain quite high. Let's go through the stages that we have come up with, based on our own experience.
Stage 1: Newborn - At this stage, there isn't a lot of energy as the puppy just wants to eat and sleep.
Stage 2: Toddler - This stage starts around 8-10 weeks old and goes until about 5 months old. The energy level is quite high at this time as the puppy is learning all it can about the world and go through many biological changes. It tests its environment with its mouth and as it gets towards the end of this stage, it begins to chew on everything it can to try and get relief from teething. That's right! This is when the puppy starts to lose its puppy teeth and the newer, and larger, adult teeth start breaking through and making the poor pup's mouth tender and sore. It is usually good to have some terry cloth towels that have been soaked in water and sitting in your freezer, waiting to be gnawed on!
Stage 3: Adolescent - This is a tough stage and starts around 5 months old and go anywhere up to a year, depending on the dog. Some would call it the terrible twos because all of a sudden, your sweet Lab baby has forgotten everything you have taught it and has the manners of any human teenager out there! Sure, they know not to go on the couch but they will test you again and make sure you meant it. This is when you need to reinforce all your training because if you let them get away with it now, it is harder to break them of it later!
Stage 4: Maturing - Usually this starts around a year old and goes until the 5-year old stage. The level of energy is still high and is equal to a college student or young twenty-something adult. They don't have a care in the world and have great amounts of energy but have slowed down just a bit. They get more comfortable with their surroundings and take a little more time to enjoy life and the company of their owner and family. This is more of an enjoyable time with your family Lab!
Stage 5: Senior - Around 5 years and up, the little puppy you once knew with all the energy level of an energizer bunny is there in spirit but the body is slowing down more. They still have a good amount of energy but nothing compared to stages 2 and 3! Life is good and comfortable.
So, when does a Lab puppy start to calm down? Well, generally it is around stage 4 but can happen before that stage. The one thing people with Labrador Retrievers, or any dog for that matter, need to understand is that each dog is different. Yes, there are certain traits in the Lab breed for which we eagerly welcomed them into our home, but just as human identical twins can have opposite personalities, so can your Labrador Retriever. The key is to be able to learn how to cope throughout the different stages and compromise your time to accommodate your Lab's needed.
For example, if you are in stage 2, there is housebreaking and teething to deal with. Both don't let you get a lot of sleep or rest because you have to keep your eye on that pup and look for the signs that it needs a little help. You puppy also needs help with getting rid of some of that pent up energy it has and it is your responsibility to give it safe and structured ways to expel that energy. Short walks work well on soft surfaces for young pups as well as schedule play times. Some good Lab puppy games to help burn off that energy include:
- Find It - hide treats around the house and help your pup sniff them out
- Laser Tag - use a laser pointer to make the dot move around the floor and your pup will chase it
- Tug of War - use a soft towel if during the teething stage and play a gentle game of tug of war - who knows, you may just pull a baby tooth or two out (which is okay)
- Fetch - throw a soft ball down a hallway and teach the pup to retrieve
There are a number of other games you can play as well. Just "google" words like puppy and game but before playing, make sure it is okay to play the game with Labrador Retrievers or other large breed dogs so that you help your dog stay away from hip problems in the future. Whatever you choose to do, high energy levels in Labs are normal during certain stages - just remember to enjoy them while you can because your Lab will only be a puppy once.