What is a hunting labrador?
Labradors originate from Newfoundland where, among other things, they were used to help fishermen retrieve nets and lines from the water.
The Labrador’s good retrieving ability was later taken advantage of and used to breed a Labrador retriever with the perfect temperament and the most sought-after qualities for hunting. This bred variety later came to be known as hunting labrador.
However, they still have the calm, intelligent and loyal characteristics of the normal Labrador and are therefore also excellent companion dogs.
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The difference between a hunting labrador and a labrador
Labradors are known for their intelligence and willingness to help. They are therefore very easy to learn and are thus very obedient and loyal dogs. They are also very talented when it comes to retrieving as they originate from St. John’s Dog, a now-extinct dog breed, which was used, among other things, for duck hunting and as a retrieve dog for fishing.
Hunting Labradors and Labradors are very similar in mind and both have all of the above characteristics, making both types excellent companions. What separates them is above all the hunting instinct and the physique.
When the hunting labrador was bred, they were bred labradors who had the very best abilities for hunting. Above all, they were taken care of dogs with the best hunting skills, agility, speed and sense of smell. They would also be explosive and energetic, but at the same time able to remain calm when not actively hunting.
This resulted in the hunting labrador, a labrador with a strong prey drive and with a good ability to track game. It is also slimmer and more flexible in the body, which makes it easier when it hunts.
Other Labradors are bred as pets or show dogs. The type of labrador that is most often used as a pet is therefore often also called a show labrador.
What does a hunting labrador look like?
Hunting Labradors are very fond of water just like their Newfoundland ancestors. This also shows in their appearance and physique.
The coat is short and dense with a water-repellent undercoat which keeps the dog warm in wet and tough weather conditions. They also have an otter-like tail that works like a rudder in the water and large, substantial ones webbed paws. Hunting Labradors are therefore excellent swimmers, which also explains why they were often used as working dogs in and around water.
They have an athletic but flexible body with a broad chest and strong legs that allow them to cover a lot of ground making it easier to catch their prey.
The most common colors of a hunting labrador are black and brown, although they also come in yellow. However, those with dark fur are most popular because they blend in best with their surroundings.
Temperament and personality
Hunting Labradors may be excellent hunters in terms of tracking and retrieving a shot, but it is extremely rare for them to kill a prey themselves. Namely, they are very calm and kind by nature and very rarely intend to harm anyone.
When they are not out in the field hunting, they are just like other Labradors, i.e. very friendly and loving. They always want to be ready, like to spend time with the family and do not refuse to run and play. Apport is an obvious favourite.
Hunting labrador as a hunting dog
The hunting labrador is known to be a good duck hunter as they are skilled swimmers and have a natural attraction to water. They are also often used to hunt other types of birds such as turkey and grouse. However, birds are not the only conceivable prey.
A hunting labrador can be trained to hunt pretty much anything, so if you usually hunt moose or deer, for example, the hunting labrador is an excellent companion for this as well.
Approach during hunting
A hunting labrador hunts primarily by tracking and retrieving. The very ability to retrieve things is even stamped in the breed name, labrador retriever, where retriever directly translates to “fetcher”. They can also be used to scare prey so that you, the hunter, will have a better view.
Thanks to its amazing sense of smell, you can train your Labrador to track any prey. They are also known to be very agile and quiet while tracking to avoid detection.
Many birds are experts at hiding in tall grass and other hard-to-reach areas. The hunting labrador can then sometimes be used to first track the prey and then scare it out of its hiding place. When the bird takes flight by flying, you as the shooter get a clear view.
By training the dog to follow the blood trail from the prey, if possible it will pick it up and bring it back to you. However, if the prey is too large, the dog will look for the prey and then wait in place until you get there.
To train hunting skills
As with all training, it is good to start training your dog’s hunting instincts as a puppy. What you need to focus on during training is above all obedience, retrieval and tracking.
- Obedience. Start with common obedience commands such as “stop”, “walk”, “sit”, “lay”, and “come here”. This trains your dog’s natural instinct to obey which is extremely important when hunting. Once all the basic basic commands are in place, you can move on to download and tracking.
- Download. This is usually a fairly simple process as fetching comes naturally to the Labrador. Use a toy that smells like the prey you will be chasing and throw it away. Usually not much more than that is needed, but the dog’s instincts will automatically make it run and retrieve the toy. Important to think about is not to tire the dog. Instead, end the game when the dog still thinks it’s fun. In this way, the dog will be motivated every time. Also, don’t forget to reward the dog after each successful training session.
- Tracking. The easiest way to start teaching your dog to track is to use a treat. Start by hiding the treat and let the dog find it. Gradually increase the level of difficulty by hiding the candy further and further away, preferably in another room. Drag the treat along the floor to the hiding place and then let the dog search. When the dog solves this without problems, you can replace the smell of the treat with the smell of the prey you will hunt. Reward the dog after each successful search.
How to take care of your hunting labrador
Aside from the hunting training, the day-to-day aspects of owning a hunting Labrador and a show Labrador are very similar. They are therefore very similar in personality and are taken care of in much the same way.
The most important thing to think about when it comes to the care of your hunting labrador is exercise and diet. Labradors generally have a fondness for food and therefore easily gain weight. It is therefore important that your dog gets enough exercise.
All Labradors need plenty of exercise, but the hunting labrador may need a little extra. They need to be energetic and explosive out in the field and it is therefore important to have a lot of exercise both in the form of walks and play for your Lab to be as efficient as possible during the hunt.
Two hours of exercise per day is desirable, but preferably more if time allows. Feel free to let the dog run freely from time to time if there is an opportunity. There are few things a Labrador appreciates as much as that.
However, water is also very high on the list of the Labrador’s favorite things. If they have the opportunity, they will happily throw themselves into the water without blinking an eye. Swimming can therefore also be a good type of exercise. However, remember to always supervise the dog and let the dog wear a life jacket.
Breeder of hunting labrador puppies
Most breeders of Labradors are focused on breeding dogs for a specific purpose, either those intended for hunting or those intended as companion and show dogs. Therefore, be very careful to check the breeder before your purchase so that you know that you are buying a puppy for your specific purpose.
All Labradors have natural hunting instincts and can be trained to be used for hunting. The biggest difference is that those bred for hunting have been bred to dogs that had extra good aptitude for this.
A hunting labrador puppy usually costs somewhere in between 17,000-23,000 kroner.