Ah, the Labrador Retriever – the number one dog breed for over 25 years in a row. The quintessential family dog: loving, obedient, great with kids, the dog of all dogs! I have two (plus a cute little English Setter mix, Abby) living in the city of Chicago, not necessarily the ideal location for two active Labs.
Meet Bree, a black lab, the sweetest and most loyal girl you will meet (once you get past her ferocious sounding bark). Bree has always been a little standoffish when she first meets you. She came to us at the age of three after being in a foster home for six months. She was in need of training and a friend knew I could help – or did she know that Bree would never leave our home? From the moment we met, my husband and I were hooked. Her gentleness with our Setter mix and her crazy lab personality all overshadowed the fact that her bark scares most people away, which is something that can be helpful in the city!
Meet Gunner, a yellow lab…goofy, loving and highly active. Again, he came to us as a foster and has yet to leave. Gunner is the happiest dog you will meet unless he comes across another dog. Then, things change. We try to harness this energy through training, exercise and agility, which seems to work.
There are a lot of assumptions when you own a lab: they are great with kids, they are athletes, etc. While many of these are true, I’ve found that it’s important not to always make these generalizations just because you think you know the breed. Bree and Gunner are great examples of that; they are both individuals and I have come to accept and love both of them for who they are.
Our biggest struggle comes on walks when presented with other dogs and living in the middle of a very busy neighborhood in Chicago – we are confronted with dogs all of the time! I do not like to walk my labs together for fear of coming across another dog and the explosion that will occur, so I get lots of exercise by walking them individually. I work very hard on helping Gunner and Bree both be comfortable around dogs and helping them maintain distance. The struggle is real but the love is there, and so is the commitment I have to helping my labs have the best city life they can have.