Adopting a Labrador Retriever from an animal shelter – Part 2
Why bad behavior is actually a good thing
If you adopt an adult Labrador from a shelter or rescue group, you certainly can’t go back in time to puppyhood to avoid behavior problems. But don’t despair! Your Lab can still learn how to behave.
Habits that have taken a year to develop won’t disappear overnight. Consistency and patience are required to train a Lab of any age. You can’t let your Lab get away with something once just because you are tired. You can’t pat it on the head for jumping on you one day because it’s cute, then yell at it for jumping on you the next day when you are in your work clothes.
The trick is to see the pearl in the oyster, so to speak. You can have a wonderful family dog hidden inside that rambunctious adolescent. All you need to do is channel that energy with patience and nurture those natural Lab tendencies into behaviors that are appropriate for life with the typical loving family.
Back to basics
They key to training a shelter Lab, a Lab from a rescue group, or any adolescent or adult Lab is simple. The golden rule in training is to forget that they are adolescents or adult dogs and treat them just how you would treat an 8-week old puppy – using positive training methods.
In many cases, people who adopt adult Labs from the shelter believe an older dog should “know better,” and this can set both dog and human up for failure and disappointment. If your adopted Lab is acting up, it isn’t because it is being spiteful. Just because a dog is older doesn’t mean it should “know better.”
A lot of people get really resentful about the behavior of their shelter Labs. They think their dog is abnormal because it isn’t acting like that calm, sweet, mellow Lab down the street. But this is normal behavior for Lab puppies and also for adolescent Labs that haven’t had any training or that don’t understand what is expected of them.
This kind of behavior is frustrating, but you have to understand the Lab’s natural tendencies and you have to be patient. Rambunctious behavior from a shelter dog is actually a good thing. A dog that has been moved around a lot tends to be insecure and overwhelmed, leaving it subdued for a few weeks when placed in a new home.
The dog isn’t sure whether it is going to stay with you but when he starts jumping up and running around like a toddler, that’s really good news! It means that your Lab is finally feeling comfortable and starts acting more normal. At this point, you can manage training problems and start back at square one, as if it were a puppy.