There aren't many advantages to adopting a male Lab instead of a female—both usually make great pets. With a male, of course, you won't have to put up with the fuss and bother of estrus (which I'll discuss in the upcoming pages). Some people claim that male Labs tend to be more affectionate than females, but in reality there's probably more variation between individual dogs than between genders.
There are some disadvantages to owning a male Lab. Male dogs are usually more aggressive toward other dogs (especially other males) than females are, but this too varies a great deal from dog to dog. Females, especially those with young puppies, can also be quite aggressive toward other dogs. (That said, it should be noted that Labrador Retrievers, as a breed, are not particularly aggressive.) In general, male dogs will roam more than females if the opportunity presents itself. Males also mark their territory by urinating on trees and other upright objects (some females urinate to mark their territory too). An adult male dog, if not reliably housetrained, is likely to soil furniture and draperies if he urinates in the house.
The main advantage to owning a female Lab is that females generally exhibit fewer of the negative behaviors listed above for males. However, females are not without gender-related problems, the biggest of which is the estrus cycle. Most female dogs cycle (are in season, or in heat) about every seven months. The female will be in heat for about three weeks. Although she can be bred and become pregnant only during 7 to 10 days of this time, she will attract male dogs throughout the entire cycle. Unless you're planning to raise a litter of puppies, you'll need to keep your female Lab well isolated from her very determined male suitors. In addition, you'll have to cope with the bloody vaginal discharge that she'll have.
Will getting my Lab spayed or neutered make a difference?
It really should. The best way to make gender-dependent problems disappear is to have your Lab spayed or neutered. These procedures, which should be performed on all Labs who are not show- or breeding-quality, are discussed in Chapter 6.
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