I’ve only been shooting for about three years but, having seen how much pleasure other guns get from working their dogs, I’m thinking about buying a labrador pup.

I had a labrador as a child but I think it was a show-type because it was more heavily built than the dogs I see out shooting. I’ve got two small children and I want my shooting dog to live with the family but some people say working labradors can have an unpredictable temperament and aren’t suitable to have as a house dog.


Labrador temperament has always been one of the breed’s greatest virtues but there are exceptions, as in all things.

By no means do all show-bred labradors have the perfect temperament and likewise among those bred for work.

However the issue of temperament is a very broad subject and begs the question: ‘What is considered to be the ideal’?

In my experience of both show and working labradors I would say that many of those bred for work have a different outlook, simply because they have been bred for generations for a very specific purpose and their intelligence has been honed to achieve that.

While there are many working labradors with the most wonderful and unflappable temperaments that you would trust with the smallest child, others – purely by way of the way we have bred them over the years – can be more highly-strung and less predictable.

In the hands of experienced gun dog people this presents no problem but in a domestic situation it can be more challenging for the owner.

This is because the environment in which the dog is living in can be over stimulating and can throw up unexpected situations that the dog has to cope with – situations that would not erupt in a kennel situation.

I think many will agree that working-bred labradors have actually become rather more ‘sensitive’ over the years as their genetic make-up has concentrated on achieving ever increasing standards of excellence.

Although you are primarily concerned about the safety of your children if you introduce a dog with a working mentality into a home environment, my main consideration would be how you intend to turn that pup into a well trained working dog when it’s being subjected each day to the ups and downs of domestic life with young children – and you are probably out at work.

My advice would be to try and find a working-bred pup bred from a bitch that you know has a rock-solid temperament – and even better if you can see some of her other progeny – and sired by a dog that you can also check up on in terms of his own temperament.

I would then urge you to invest in a kennel and run for your new pup so that it can spend enough time in its own stable environment.

This will avoid it becoming influenced in the home by things that have no bearing on its ultimate role in life, but will enable it to be brought into the house to spend time with the family at times when you can ensure nothing is going to happen to it that may trigger longterm problems in terms of its attitude, its temperament and its training.

  • Robin

    I believe good consistant training and to socialize your dog will help mix the working dog and family dog your after. My brother in law is a gun dog man and has a natural ability with dogs, all his 3 labs are house pets. Im a prison dog handler. I have a German Shepherd and my dog is a working dog but I trust it with my family I also trusted my last three. Before you let a dog into your home be sure you are the boss and know the temperent of your dog. Treating a working dog like a pet will not ruin it. Lack of training will.