Information to consider before buying a Labrador:
Untrained Puppy prices vary greatly making prospective families wonder what why one pup is $300 while another is $2000. The answer is that there is a huge difference in temperament, health, and conformation even in the same breed. Labradors are the most over bred breed. There are many irresponsible breeders which produce pups that later cause families a lot of problems and money. See the comment from a knowledgeable rescue woman in our testimonial. The difference in initial puppy cost fades in significance when compared to yearly costs of food, veterinary care, boarding, and training. Why not get a trainable, quality puppy when so much time and money will be spent on it in the future? Labradors live for 12 years and become part of the family.
While the Labrador breed is one breed and has one AKC standard; reputable breeders tend to breed two types within the breed based on what they want to do with the dog. Since the mid 1960’s, there has not been a Labrador which could win both conformation competition along with a field trial competition. Hence reputable breeders have tried to perfect a dog based on the competition they are involved with.
The field trial competitors/breeders slowly developed a lighter boned, leggier field (often called American) type Labrador, while the show competitors tried to keep hunting ability while breeding a heavier boned, deeper chested, thicker coat Labrador which has a more moderate, calmer temperament . Show type(often called English) can hunt and pass hunt tests but are not extremely driven, as a general rule they tend to be blockier and much calmer than the weedier looking field type. Remember, there is only one Labrador breed and standard see www.akc.org/breeds/labrador_retriever/. A reputable breeder tries to breed to this standard which many, including us at Ganderwood, feel is closer to the dogs in the conformation shows. Show Labradors can be seen in a pedigree with CH designations in front of some of the names. Other designations you may see after a dog’s name are performance related such as the hunt titles of MH, SH, JH, or Obedience related such as CDX, UD, CD or Rally Obedience such as RE, RA, RN.
The number one breed in most shelters is Labradors and Labrador mixes. Many are placed there because they were too hyper, dominant, or shy for the family to handle. Where does hyperness and temperament issues in the Labrador breed come from? Reputable Field trial competitors and breeders need extreme drive and speed to win a Field trial. (You can see Field Champions in a pedigree denoted by FC or AFC). They know the Labrador breed and carefully match pedigrees to get a lot of drive but also usually want a balance of a trainable temperament. However, field trial Labrador breeders usually sell with Full breeding registration. Their lines easily get into the hands of disreputable breeders who don’t know pedigrees or AKC standard. They may put 2 highly driven dogs together in a breeding resulting in super driven Labradors. An unsuspecting family which knows “Labs are great with kids” comes along and buys a darling puppy and thinks they got a good deal because “it was so much cheaper than the others”. However, puppy is too much for them to handle and ends in a shelter.
As a 4-H leader I have frequently witnessed kids being dragged by these field type Labradors . Yes, they can be highly trainable by the right person, but they tend also to not only be hyper but dominant, and while they’ll never bite a child, they also can have too much energy and dominance for even an adult who is inexperienced.
Other than temperament, many careless breeders do not know common Labrador health issues and do not use health clearances on the dogs they breed. In poorly bred Labradors many health issues occur which are preventable by breeding parents only with health clearances. See Ganderwood’s testimonial from a reputable, experienced rescue owner. Unsuspecting puppy families commonly purchase an inexpensive pup only to get attached and have health issues at a very young age. $4000 or more is common for hip replacement on a rescue or $300 dog. Breeding parents should be tested minimally with OFA clearance for hips/elbows, CERF for eyes, PRA for old age blindness, one parent should be EIC (exercise induced collapse) clear. In addition, heart should be cleared. Breeder should know pedigrees and not double up on ones known to produce epilepsy. Hip dysplasia, elbow subluxation, various eye issues, cardiac valve issues, exercise induced collapse, and epilepsy are all very common in thoughtlessly bred Labradors. Purchasing from breeders who do not know pedigrees or do health clearances on breeding parents makes it likely you’ll deal with these preventable issues in your puppy as he/she grows and after you’ve bonded and spent time training and spent the usual $700 yearly on food and veterinary care..
In addition to temperament and health there is conformation. Understandably, who wants an ugly dog? However, conformation is not only about looks. The AKC Labrador standard was developed by experienced, well studied Labrador breeders for the ideal Labrador - conformation, temperament , genetics, and health. One of the things it addresses is angulation. Correct angles in legs, chest, hindquarters not only give gorgeous movement but also have health purposes. A dog which is straight in the back legs and shoulder is more prone to tendon and ligament problems. ACL tears are common in poorly bred dogs and are expensive to repair.
From the above, it is easy to see how a reputable breeder spends a lot of money and time with breeding healthy Labradors. Health clearances on parents require time and are expensive. Pedigrees have to be researched on databases and studied. High quality food which is so important prenatally is significantly more expensive than a cheap corn based diet.
A reputable breeder attends AKC shows with their dogs not only for competition, but to verify their dogs are meeting AKC standard and are highly trainable. One can say they have “beautiful” Labradors, or their dogs are “smart” but if they are not comparing to an acceptable, set standard, and not competing with other quality dogs; it is simply an opinion. In a pedigree by the AKC you’ll see letters which show a dog has obtained championship – CH for conformation show champion or FC or AFC for Field trial champion, or OTCH for obedience trial champion. Other designations you may see after a dog’s name are performance related such as the hunt titles of MH, SH, JH, or Obedience related such as CDX, UD, CD or Rally Obedience such as RE, RA, RNIf you google parents’ names, you can find the shows they’ve competed in. Keep in mind that a Championship is very difficult to obtain – only 3% will earn their CH. However, a purchaser can see which AKC conformation shows which dog has been entered in by googling in the dog’s name. Other designations you may see after a dog’s name are performance related such as the hunt titles of MH, SH, JH, or Obedience related such as CDX, UD, CD or Rally Obedience such as RE, RA, RN.
There are several other ways to recognize a responsible breeder:
A reputable breeder will take a pup bred by them back at anytime. This adds to breeder's costs. However, if every breeder was responsible and took back pups bred by them, there would be no homeless puppies or dogs and no need for shelters.
A reputable breeder realizes the first weeks are crucial and begins with properly socializing pup to 7 different types of sounds, surfaces, and people for a lifetime of pup adaptability.
A reputable breeder cares about pups and screens/interviews prospective homes.
A reputable breeder sells with AKC Limited registration. Pup is still fully AKC registered, can compete in AKC preformance venues but owner cannot register a litter out of the pup, this is to prevent careless breeding.
A reputable breeder sells with a spay/neuter agreement to prevent careless breeding.
A reputable breeder is not breeding just to breed – there are plenty of dogs which need homes; they are breeding to improve their lines, keep a puppy for themselves, and are breeding “up” to fix inevitable weaknesses in their lines. While they do so, they have puppies which they cannot keep and therefore sell as top quality dogs to the public. Often these breeders have older pups or dogs which either haven’t worked out with their goals or may be done breeding. They will be very selective as to which families these dogs go to.
A reputable breeder breeds to AKC standard, they do not breed "silver" labradors or trendy mixes such as the "doodles", they breed classic quality. Purchasing a pup is a serious endeavor. A Labrador pup will be a family member for about 12 years. If the initial cost of a puppy is the main concern, perhaps having a Labrador puppy is not the right thing for the family. Prices vary regarding areas of the country. On the East Coast a quality Labrador pup from a knowledgeable breeder is at minimum $1,500-$3000. In Michigan reputable breeders price for untrained puppies is from $1200 to $2,000.
A trained Labrador puppy is a joy to live with for a lifetime. .