Are You A Retriever Person?

9 01 2009

With “Marley and Me” continuing its romp through the box office, I thought this would be a good time to discuss the retriever breeds.  Not everyone is a “Retriever Person.”

marley-and-meFirst, I want to give a little background on what good salespuppies retrievers can be.  One time, Mom told me a story about this man who was trying to sell an old car.  He had a “FOR SALE” sign with his phone number on the car, but no one ever walked over or called to take a look at it.  Undeterred, he had a stroke of genius to drive traffic!  My doggie mom, Autumn, had recently had a litter of puppies.  There were eight of them and of course, like all retriever pups, they were beautiful and wonderfully cute.  The man took some pictures of the puppies he borrowed, and he put the pictures all over his old car, and he placed an ad in the local car classified with a picture of one of the puppies in the driver’s seat.  The pictures of the pups brought much needed attention to his car, and he made the sale at the asking price within days.  It is true that retrievers can sell just about anything.

Mom buys a certain brand of toilet paper because there are retrievers in the advertisements and on the packaging of the product.  A retriever figures prominently in a commercial for some baked beans.  Yeah, we are pretty useful advertising, but as cute as we are as pups and very playful when adults, owning a retriever is not recommended for everyone.

The American Kennel Club states that the Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog in the United states.  Some traits attributed to labs are intelligence, loyalty, friendly demeanor, bravery, dependabililty and beauty.  Apparently, the AKC has not met my pain of a brother, Tax, who is a yellow Lab.

Retrievers, whether golden or labrador, are generally more reliable than most people and make wonderful companions because we do not tell your secrets!  This also figures into any retriever mixes.  A vet once told my mom that he figures that all dogs at some point are mixed with retrievers and maybe even a few humans!

The movie craze of “Marley & Me” has caused me to think that some people may enjoy the movie, decide to visit a breeder to pick out their own retriever, and live happily ever after.  Not so fast…  Let’s talk about what is involved and how to own a retriever.

First things first, responsible pet ownership is a deep commitment of time, money and energy to the newest addition to your family.  Before you even begin your dog search, think about all of the vet visits, training, good dog food and other supplies.  There will also be baths, vacuuming, walks in the rain AND snow, chewing, digging, flea control, treats and so one.  This list could fill an entire book.  For a great article about the financial costs of dog ownership, check out Wise Bread’s piece on Wednesday.

I hear that some people want a dog that does not require any work.  People with that frame of mind need to visit their local toy store and buy one like this.

There is no argument against the fact that retriever pups of any variety are absolutely fabulous!  Unfortunately, most people are not ready for the commitment after they are convinced by a cute puppy face, and that is where the trouble begins for some.  People cannot resist, until they get us home…

All dogs, from labs to poodles, need to be potty trained.  This is something that should be accomplished before a puppy reaches six months of age.  Usually, at that point, retrievers begin adolescence and their adolescent period can last until the dog is two years old.  During this time, looks can be very deceiving, as retrievers look to be fully grown adults, however on the inside, they are filled with all of the makings of a puppy.  This is complete with all the silly, destructive behaviors of a puppy.  No longer the small and cute puppy, they are now big and boisterous, and this is the time that a lot of retrievers and the retriever mixes will end up in a rescue or a shelter.  If you have seen the movie, you will recall that Marley’s biggest (and funniest) moments of bad behavior came when he was still a young dog, living it up in the Miami sun.

Most of Marley’s bad behavior is likely due to the Owen and Jen’s lack of time to provide him with the exercise necessary for retrievers’ level of energy.  Both of them were hard-working journalists, leaving little time for an extremely active puppy and young adult dog.  When they do go for walks at the beach, or through the neighborhood, Marley was even more excited at the prospect of getting out and about.  In my experience, retrievers, especially in their early years, need someone to be around consistently, rather than here and there outside their busy lives, earning the money necessary to keep us fed.

Retrievers come in many sizes, from about 35 pounds to over 100 pounds, like me.  Retrievers have certain health problems such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and epilepsy.  The myth that the coat color of a labrador can give any hint of temperament or health differences is just that, a myth.  If you want black, yellow or chocolate, take your pick. The following are more myths about labs:

  • Black labs have more health problems and are more aggressive.
  • Chocolate labs are more stubborn and smarter that other labs.
  • Yellow labs are more active and dumber. (The last statement is 100% true when discussing Tax.)

I encourage everyone to read the book and see the movie “Marley & Me,” as they are both very entertaining, but I do not want you to leave the theater headed to the closest retriever breeder.  Retrievers are not for everyone, however if you simply MUST have one, please search for one at a local shelter, rescue, or the Humane Society.  These dogs have less of a chance of finding a loving home than those belonging to breeders!

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