As previously posted, we lost both of our beloved dogs in 2019. After Moose passed, we thought we’d wait a little while to get a puppy. Nope.
We loved our bulldog and mastiff. Chunk was hilarious and had more personality than any other dog I’ve met. Moose was one of a kind – especially in this area. You just don’t see many mastiffs. He was the sweetest dog and wanted nothing more than to make us happy.
I highly recommend both of those breeds, but they do have some challenges – especially if you like to travel. Sidebar: if you’re going to get a purebred dog, do your research and buy one from a highly reputable breeder. It will cost more upfront, but you’ll likely save in the long run in money and heart-ache. You can’t eliminate all risks with a properly bred dog, but there are several risks you can absolutely eliminate through proper breeding.
Both mastiffs and bulldogs are known to have health problems and relatively short life expectancies (8-10 years for both). They’re both pretty much full time inside dogs and each can bring some odor with them…especially the 200# mastiff, whose slobber all over the house was legendary. They both can be loud (snoring, panting, etc.). They both have high general care costs: food, vet bills, medication. Finally, neither one was suited to stay in a kennel, go to friend/family member’s house, or generally do anything easy when we went out of town. Basically, our only option was to have someone come stay at our house.
I don’t say all of that to discourage anyone from getting these breeds…again, we loved them. Alyce is still trying to talk me into another bulldog. But you should be aware of what you’re getting into if you want one of those breeds.
I also highlighted the above to give some background on our next dog choice: a Labrador Retriever. Specifically, a traditionally bred show lab (as opposed to a field lab bred for hunting trials). These labs are commonly called “English Labs.” Compared to field labs, they are shorter, stockier, have a blockier head and an otter tail, and are generally said to be less energetic.
My family had a lab when I was in high school, so I was familiar with the breed and loved them. Alyce was actually the one that read into them and brought up the idea. After doing some reading and thinking myself, I agreed that this would be the ideal breed for this phase of our life.
From that point, we did a ton of research on breeders and settled on a male chocolate from a vet breeder outside of Atlanta. I flew and got him the Friday before Mardi Gras in 2020 and drove back. Less than a month later, the world was shut down. Our new pup, Rex, never knew life alone in the house. We had made it all of roughly 2 months without a dog.
He struggled for a night or two in the kennel but adjusted very quickly. Potty training was a little slower, and he was probably 5 months or so before he really got it.
I decided to give a shot at training Rex. We definitely wanted him to be trained in basic discipline, and I figured I’d do some retrieving training if he was into it.
The actual training worked out well. Having a plan and being 100% consistent with it is key. You also can not overwork the dog at any point, nor can you get frustrated. Especially the first couple months, you’re really just trying to reinforce good habits and discourage bad ones. Anything in addition to that is a bonus.
Rex (and labs) are smart. They are also eager to please and be obedient. This was a change coming from our previous dogs – one of which was smart (Chunk) and one of which was eager to please (Moose).
By the time Rex was 6 months, he was pretty good at sit, stay, and come. He also liked to fetch a little bit, but he has never had the drive to fetch many other labs do and I’m not going to force it. He definitely enjoys it more now, but he’s still not up to the level of most other field labs we know.
At 6 months, I added a shock collar to the mix. While this may seem cruel, it really is not. You cannot even feel the lowest setting. Everyone in our house got shocked through about half the levels, and you can barely feel the first couple. Bottom line, if properly used, think of it as a pinch collar at a distance. This gives him a lot more freedom when we are out as he can roam freely when no one else is nearby.
Also at 6 months, training got more serious. Failure to listen started to have negative consequences, and I phased out the treats. Fortunately, the puppy prep had prepared him well, and he caught on to most things very quickly. He can sit anywhere on command (voice or whistle) and will stay in that spot until told otherwise. He also responds well when called “here” – though he sometimes needs a reminder on that front. As mentioned, he is more into fetching now, so we’ve done some basic retrieval training. But he’s just not into it enough to do more serious training – which is fine with us.
One of our concerns with a lab going into it is the energy level. We were obviously used to low energy dogs (elderly ones at that), and a lab was going to the other end of the spectrum. We know some people who have had English labs, and the common phrase we heard was that they did have less energy than a field lab “but they’re still a lab.” And I’d say that’s accurate.
Rex definitely has way more energy than our previous dogs, but less than I remember our lab having when we were young. Overall, it has not been bad if you take him for walks and exercise him properly.
His disposition is excellent. He loves all people and dogs (frequently more than they like him), and we have not seen even the slightest bit of aggression from him.
For travel, we have been able to just bring him to a dog sitter – which has been so easy. Much less coordinating and leaving directions, etc. We use a couple found on rover.com that has been great and reasonably priced. All we need to do is reserve with them on the app and coordinate drop-off and pick-up times. Even better, Rex loves it. He gets to play with dogs just about all day.
Overall, we’ve been very happy with our English Lab. He just turned one, so we should have many good years ahead of us with him. He and James get along great, and he’s been easy to care for. We all love him.
Welcome to the family, Rex!
P.S. We have also gotten another new pet since our last post – Elliot the bearded dragon. James got him for Christmas 2019, and he’s a funny lizard. Very docile and friendly. Plus, he has more personality than I would have ever imagined a lizard having. We joke that he is Chunk reincarnated in bearded dragon form.