Handbook for puppy buyers

This handbook for new puppy owners is designed to give you information and useful hints which will help you and your family members understand your puppy and give you some guidelines to assist you as you start your new life together. 

   Choice 6 Weeks OldMay you have many wonderful, fun-filled years enjoying the companionship and love of your new best friend.

If you have any difficulties with health issues or behaviour problems. If your circumstances change or you find that you can no longer keep your dog talk to your breeder first.

Some General Information
The letters in the registered name are the titles the dog has earned in competition that is sanctioned by Dogs Australia (ANKC).

Ch Champion (show ring)
Grd Ch Grand Champion (show ring)
Ntl RT Ch   National Retrieving Trial Champion
Grd RT Ch Grand Retrieving Trial Champion
RT Ch Retrieving Trial Champion
All Age Retrieving Dog AARD
Restricted Retrieving Dog RRD 
Novice Retrieving Dog NRD

Your puppy will have a certified pedigree name. The first word in the certified pedigree name is the Breeder’s Prefix. All puppies bred by a Dogs Australia registered breeder (prefix owner) will start with the same unique word. My prefix is KUVEN. When I applied for it, I had to submit several choices. I submitted Coven (meaning a gathering of witches) and various other spellings. KUVEN is what was approved by Dogs Australia and it is pronounced kuvv’n, as in a gathering of witches.

Dogs Australia has a member body in each state. The puppy will be registered with Dogs State on either the main or limited register. Should you decide to become a member of your state member body you will be able to compete in sanctioned canine events such as Obedience Trials, Retrieving Trials, Tracking Trials and various other disciplines, like Agility. If the dog is on the main register and you keep him/her entire (not de-sexed) you will be able to compete in shows. The show ring is a breed ring where a dog’s conformation is judged as good representations of the breed standard.

In order to breed from your registered puppy there are many requirements that must first be met:

  • Your dog must be listed on the main register. It can be upgraded from the limited register by the breeder. This is only done at the breeder’s discretion and may incur a fee.
  • You must be a member of an Dogs Australia member body for more than twelve months.
  • If you are the owner of a bitch you must obtain a prefix (in order to obtain a prefix you must complete a breeder’s course run by the member body)
  • You must have the required Hip and Elbow x-rays done by a vet after the puppy is 12 months of age. The x-rays must then be sent to one of the specialists within Australia to obtain an ANKC CANINE HIP & ELBOW DYSPLASIA REPORT which is then submitted to the member body. It is also recommended that you DNA test for any hereditary diseases.
  • Talk to the breeder and check the requirements of your member body well in advance if you think that you want to breed from your pedigree dog.

Health Tests
Hip and Elbow Scores are a mandatory requirement to register any progeny. They are graded from an X-Ray to determine the suitability for breeding and help eliminate the possibility of hereditary Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. The score should be even and low numbers. To obtain this score the left-side score is added to the right-side score for the total score, therefore 0:0=0 is a perfect score and 3:3=6 is better that 1:5=6. In January 2022 the five (5) year breed average for the Labrador Retriever was 8.35 and the median was 6.00.

A DNA test (although not mandatory) is taken to determine what hereditary diseases that a dog may pass on to its progeny. The results are one of the following 3 assessments of recessive genes

1. Clear          2. Carrier          3. Affected

If a dog tests Clear then it is safe to breed it to a dog which is either a Carrier or Affected. The worst that can happen is they will produce some carriers. Please note that being a carrier has no impact at all on the actual dog, however it does mean that you must carefully select who they are bred with. You will only get affected puppies when you put a carrier or affected to another carrier or affected. If you never breed it won’t matter.

The pedigree of the puppy has been planned to produce a good representative of the breed standard. Although everything that could possibly be done to produce soundness has been done there are no guarantees.

Puppy Development

Birth to 2 weeks - Neonatal stage

  • Puppies are completely dependent on their mother for food and care, such as keeping themselves clean and toileted.
  • Their senses of touch and taste are present at birth.

3 to 7 Weeks
  • Puppies’ senses begin to mature
  • Socialisation becomes an important part of the puppy’s life. Usually this is confined to littermates, the puppies’ mother, breeder, family and friends.
  • Early socialisation takes place during basic play with the littermates.
  • Rules, boundaries, and limitations are set by the puppies’ mother
  • Physical co-ordination and eyesight are still not fully developed, but mobility will have progressed.
  • Their sense of hearing has developed enough to respond when being called.
  • Sometime around week 6 or 7, the puppies are weaned.

8 to 12 Weeks

  • Week 8 is where you expect to come into the puppy’s life if you have chosen to acquire the puppy through a reputable breeder.
  • You and your family now replace Mum and its littermates and you become the most important part of its life.
  • You must set the rules and establish the boundaries and limitations. Do this from Day One.
  • Expose the puppy to all the normal household objects and sounds.
  • If the puppy is anxious or afraid, stay calm and relaxed. Instead of picking the puppy up and making a fuss, just say ‘You’re okay, lets go’ and focus the puppy onto a positive experience.
  • Be patient. Be persistent and above all be consistent.
  • The kind of play that puppy is used to with littermates, may now appear in its interaction with people. Remember that this kind of behaviour should be, gently but firmly, discouraged.
  • House training (toilet training) is easy if you are supervising your puppy properly. To avoid mistakes take it outside after eating, after sleeping, after playing. Learn to read your puppy. Whenever there is an accident in the house ask yourself ‘Why did I miss that?’ Your puppy would have told you but you weren’t watching or listening.
  • The puppy is a social animal. Socialisation is vitally important. Sights, sounds, objects, animals etc. The more variety you can provide the better.
  • Puppy classes are great to socialise the puppy and you get helpful training advice, especially if run by an experienced Instructor. Free play must be in moderation under supervision. Puppy school should be followed by an obedience class as the puppy advances to the next development level, 3 to 6 months.

3 to 6 Months – Think ‘terrible twos’ on a canine level.

  • The puppy becomes more independent.
  • Its senses are more or less fully developed and its physical co-ordination has improved.
  • It will begin to push its boundaries and test the social rankings within its new family.
  • It should be at the bottom of the pecking order with all family members, including children, establishing themselves above the puppy.
  • When you calmly correct unwanted behaviour do it immediately, so the puppy connects the correction with the behaviour. Provide a suitable, safe alternative so you can praise and reward the right behaviour.
  • Children should never be left, unsupervised, with the puppy.
  • A good, local Dog Obedience Club with obedience classes specifically for your puppy’s age can be an excellent source of advice and means of socialisation.
  • Puppies begin teething, which means you may find blood on items the puppy has been chewing. If you find that your shoes are being chewed, you were not supervising your puppy. Who left the shoes where the puppy could get them? Frozen bones may provide pain relief and is also a way to use calm-submissive energy.
  • Chewing and destructive behaviour. If/when something has been destroyed, like the cushions off your outdoor setting or you favourite pair of shoes, ask ‘Why did that get left there, where the puppy could access it’. It is not the puppy’s fault.

6 to 18 Months – Adolescence

  • Puppies goes through an adolescent or ‘teenage’ period.
  • Physically it may look like an adult, but its brain is changing and developing, and hormones are starting to make themselves felt. Please read about ‘Growth Plates'.
  • Some behaviour problems that have previously been under control may appear again, such as:
  • Resource guarding or being possessive of food or toys.
  • Tugging, pulling on the lead.
  • Jumping up on visitors and an overly excited greeting.
  • Jumping up on furniture.
  • ‘Bench surfing’ for food.
  • Going to the toilet inside.
  • Be patient. Be pro-active and ‘teenage’ proof your home.
  • Provide training – both mental stimulation and obedience.
  • Play games on your terms where the dog has fun, but you always win.
  • Provide exercise. An adolescent dog needs more exercise than a puppy and will get up to mischief if bored.
  • Coping with an adolescent dog can be frustrating and stressful. A great place to receive support and helpful advice is from an Instructor at your local Dog Obedience Club.


  • Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years puppies finally come through adolescence and all your effort and time will really start to pay off.
  • The dog’s personality is pretty well set and you have the friend and companion you were looking for!
  • Boundaries and limitations will still need to be provided. Even an old veteran of 15 years will push to see what it can get away with!
  • Labradors are considered a ‘veteran’ from the age of 7. They are ready to collect their superannuation and enjoy retirement from the age of 9 or 10.
  • As they age their energy will slow and their behaviour becomes very routine.
  • You can teach an old dog new tricks, it is just harder to change a behaviour that has persisted 10 years.
  • Watching a puppy grow into a dog is a fun and rewarding time. By being aware of developmental stages, you can help prevent and solve behaviour issues that may arise along the way.

Fear Period

Puppies go through two ‘fear’ periods.

  • Between 8 to 10 weeks of age.
  • Even though the puppy has seen or heard something before, with no warning, the puppy might suddenly appear fearful.
  • Often though, this first fear period passes without any obvious behaviour changes and you might not even notice it.
  • Sometime during 6 to 18 Months – Adolescence
  • This one is sneaky and pops up when you might least expect it.
  • You may notice that your previously friendly, confident dog becomes spooky about certain things that have never before been an issue.

What should you do?

  • Your most powerful tool is your calm, assertive energy and balanced leadership.
  • Be cheerful and don’t make a big deal out of the problem.
  • Give your dog time to check out the situation and realise there is no danger.
  • Give lots of praise and rewards.
  • Be extremely aware that any ‘bad’ experience at these times can have a lasting impact and may affect your dog for the rest of its life.
  • This fear period will pass on its own and your familiar, happy-go-lucky companion will be back.


Recent research shows that the hormones released at puberty are important for the proper growth of your puppy. 
(Please read about
‘Growth Plates').

The government laws, vets and breeders encourage de-sexing, regardless of gender.
This should not be done at an early age. (Please read about 
‘Growth Plates').

Unless your dog is required for breeding it should be de-sexed at 12 -18 months of age

A de-sexed dog is cheaper to register with your local council and happier in your back yard.


Labrador Retrievers are energetic, lively dogs. You need to provide the right amount of exercise to keep them physically and mentally happy.

  • Puppies get enough exercise romping and playing in your backyard. They wear themselves out very quickly and require a lot of sleep. ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’
  • Please do not over exercise the puppy by taking them for long walks.
  • Don’t allow the puppy to jump out of the car or off high surfaces. It can damage its joints. Remember it is still growing. (Please read about ‘Growth Plates').
  • Adolescent and adult dogs do require regular exercise. When you can’t walk it, play games or throw a ball.
    ‘A tired dog is a good dog’.
  • A bored dog will dig holes, run the fence and bark constantly.

Growth Plates

Growth plates are soft areas that sit at the ends of the long bones in puppies and young dogs. They contain rapidly dividing cells that allow bones to grow longer until the end of puberty. Growth plates gradually thin as the hormonal changes approaching puberty signal the growth plates to close. In Labrador Retriever puppies, this closure normally completes between 18 to 24 months old.

Until the growth plates close, they’re soft and vulnerable to injury. After sexual maturity, the growth plates calcify and the rapid cell division ends. The growth plates become a stable, inactive part of the bone, now known as an epiphyseal line.

Dogs bones are held together with muscles, tendons and ligaments (soft tissue)
In an adult dog, if a joint experiences a stress such as bending the wrong way or rotating too much, the bones will hold firm and soft tissue will be pulled, resulting in a sprain or tear. In a puppy, however, the soft tissues are stronger than his growth plates, so instead of a simple sprain, the growth plate is liable to be injured – the puppy’s own soft tissue can pull apart his growth plate.

Why this matters so much, is that unlike a sprain, injuries to the growth plate may not heal properly or not heal in time for the puppy to grow up straight and strong. Injury to a growth plate can result in a misshapen or shortened limb, which creates an incorrect angle to a joint resulting in yet more future injuries when he grows up, including dysplasia.


Puppies often suffer from Diarrhoea when they go to their new home. It is usually stress related due to being handled a lot more by the new family, being in a new environment plus life is suddenly very different.

What to do

  • Ensure the puppy is still active, bright eyed and well hydrated.
  • Feed cooked chicken and rice and maybe add cooked pumpkin.
  • Feed in smaller amounts and more often.
  • If the puppy seems unwell, see a vet

Never feed cooked bones

  • When cooked, the structure of the bone changes and it can splinter. It can then pierce the gut, causing great pain and expensive veterinary care.
  • At 8 weeks the puppy has been fed two or three times a day. Your breeder will advise the ingredients, quantity and frequency. Make sure you have a supply of the same food that your breeder has been feeding your puppy.
  • You can substitute the meat with Baked Beans or Sardines. These are particularly handy if you’re travelling.
  • Pasta/Rice Mix can also replace the meat.
  • Recipe: to a pot of boiling water add a cup of small shell or elbow pasta and a cup of rice,
  • when almost cooked add a couple of handfuls of Rolled Oats and turn off the heat.
  • Stir in a tablespoon or two of honey and allow it to cool.
  • This will keep very well in an airtight container in your fridge.
  • Lamb offcuts; Chicken frames; Chicken wings and Turkey necks are all good, along with the occasional Beef bone.
  • All things in moderation. Remember too, to balance the amount of food they require with the amount of exercise they receive, especially when a growth spurt is happening.
  • If you wish to change to a different dry food, do so gradually over about 3 days. Avoid those with colour additives as they can cause allergies
  • Always make sure there is plenty of fresh water available and be mindful that it may be emptied when the weather is hot.
  • Do NOT allow your dog to be overweight (Please read about ‘Growth Plates'). If you have table scraps, crusts etc. put them in their dinner bowl and count them as part of their normal meal, not as extras.


General Care


  • Labrador Retrievers are fairly low maintenance, they drop hair constantly and twice a year lose their entire coat.
  • When they smell bath them.
  • They love water, so, when they’re wet, dry them off.
  • Give them clean bedding once or twice a week. Smelly bedding means smelly dog.
  • Brush them occasionally and run your hands over them regularly to check for fleas, ticks or anything unusual.
  • Toenails and dew claws may need to be trimmed with canine nail clippers. Your vet will help you with this.
  • The puppy has been Microchipped – this is a chip inserted under the skin between the puppy’s shoulders. It is a unique identifying number which is registered on a database such as Central Animal Records (CAR). The owner information should always be kept up-to-date.
  • Puppies require 2 or 3 vaccinations, depending on the vet and the drugs administered, to give them full protection, then a regular booster shot.
  • 1st vaccination is at 6 weeks of age. Puppies are issued with a ‘Puppy Passport’ which is a little book to record what they have been given and when and when they are next due.
  • 2nd vaccination usually given at 10 weeks; you will need to book the puppy in with your vet.
  • 3rd vaccination at 14 weeks. Check with your Vet
  • Boarding kennels and Obedience Clubs require proof of the current vaccination before they will accept a dog.
  • All dogs require treatment for intestinal worms. Check with your vet for the best product for your dog and budget.
  • The puppy should be treated for worms by the breeder at 2 weeks of age, usually with a worm syrup and at 4, 6 and 8 weeks with a tablet.
  • You will need to continue to worm your puppy, normal worming routine depends on the product you use. Some will last 3 months and others are required every month.
  • Heartworm annual vaccinations are available. Just be mindful that if you use a monthly worm/flea treatment that also covers heartworm, you don’t need the annual injection


A Safe Place
  • A ‘Place of its Own’ where it can be left alone, ideally one for inside and one for outside.
  • Dogs need somewhere ‘safe’ to relax after a boisterous game; sleep during the day or overnight or when you’re not at home. Make it a happy place using treats, or feed the dog there, so the space is somewhere special. Provide soft toys, chew toys etc. to keep it occupied.
  • Inside: A crate, mat, or a playpen – kept in your living area – are all excellent.
  • Outside: A kennel or a purpose-built dog run are ideal. Make sure there is shelter from the weather be it hot or cold.
  • When you leave you dog home alone, make sure it is secure. Never leave a dog lose in your home or your backyard.
  • Travelling in a car should be done safely behind a cargo barrier or in a crate or restrained on the back seat using a special harness and seat belt. Never leave a dog locked inside a car during summer.


These hints will hopefully develop your training skills and enable you to gain an understanding of your dog’s ability to learn. The difference between a pet and a pest is TRAINING.

Expand your knowledge, not just with this handbook for new puppy owners, but find other sources. Everyone wants an obedient, well socialised dog that is a pleasure to live with. Labrador Retrievers are easy to train and eager to please.

  • Always train using positive reinforcement, use small treats that the puppy can easily swallow without having to chew. You will marvel at the ease with which the dog will learn to please.
  • Be a leader – This means you are the teacher and the puppy is the learner.
  • Set the puppy up for success. – Set your environment up to help the puppy make good choices. This avoids mistakes and bad habits from developing.
  • Ignore behaviours you don’t like – By ignoring those unwanted behaviours, you avoid inadvertently reinforcing them, this means they are less likely to be repeated.
  • Avoid using the puppy’s name in a negative tone – Puppies need to associate their name with pleasure, this in turn will help you obtain their attention quickly and reliably when you really need to.
  • Avoid punishing your puppy for mistakes – Punishing a puppy for an ‘accident’ only damages your relationship with the puppy and reduces trust in you.
  • Don’t allow or encourage behaviour that you do not want in an adult dog, such as jumping on you or anybody else. Remember puppies grow into big dogs!
  • Seek expert advice if you are having a problem with your training, especially if this is your first puppy. The least expensive of these will be your local Dog Obedience Club. If they’re unable to assist you, they will provide contact details for a Professional Dog Behaviourist.

Puppies learn very quickly

  • The best time to teach them is just before their meal -When they are hungry. Make them earn their dinner, they should not get any food for nothing, that is to say they should never be on ‘Social Welfare’.
  • Establish a routine – A routine will assist both you and the puppy with many training processes.
  • Provide for all the puppy’s basic needs – Ensure the puppy’s basic needs are met daily. This will reduce the likelihood of unwanted behaviours from developing.
  • Always reward good behaviour – By positively rewarding (reinforcing) good behaviours that you like, you increase the likelihood of them being repeated.
  • House Training (see 8 to 12 weeks, above)
  • Puppy Classes (see 8 to 12 weeks, above)
  • Chewing and destructive behaviour (see 3 to 6 months, above)

Your Aims

Train your dog to be the kind of companion that you would like to own
That will be safe with children
That makes you happy and nobody else unhappy
That will work happily with you and for you

Your End Achievements

Your dog will come happily when it is called
Walk at heel on a loose lead
Sit and drop (lay down) on command
Wait calmly for you when left alone
Calmly accept friendly people approaching and touching it
Calmly accept other dogs near it


Labrador Retrievers are part of the Gundog Group
and Gundogs are fun dogs 

Contact Details

Lyn Wise
Wundowie, WA, Australia
Email : [email protected]