Animal charity inundated with abandoned Labradors after owners struggle to cope

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An animal charity says it's seeing a post-lockdown boom in the number of South West families struggling to look after their Labradors.There's been a 73% increase in the number of dogs needing rehoming between 2020 to 2023, according to The Labrador Rescue Trust,

"We are soon going to start to struggle with helping all the Labradors we hear about because of the lack of experienced temporary foster or adopting homes and with the limited kennel spaces we can rent", animal behaviourist Lucy Cooper said.

She went on to say there's a variety of reasons why more people are relinquishing their dogs but many have misconceptions about breed.

"Labradors are not ready-made Guide Dogs. They need their breed traits met as a working breed class of dogs, to prevent frustration or boredom which can lead to behavioural issues."

The Trust says it prefers to move a dog directly into its new home but often relies on the services of Pelynt Boarding kennels. Credit: ITV News

Two and a half years since the lockdown also coincides with when dogs are entering their "troublesome teenage" phase.

"The adolescence life phase can be a tricky time for dogs and their owners."

"There's lots of information out there about how to raise puppies properly but suddenly their dog is gone from being a cute little puppy into something that's very strong on the lead, that's may be reactive to other dogs or people."

"And that's probably one of the most common age ranges and times where people will give up on their dogs."

The Labrador is described by the Dogs Trust as 'the nation's favourite dog breed'. However Lucy says with more cross-breeding and a lack of understanding, not all owners are as well prepared.

She also said people are struggling to. keep up with the financial commitment required with the larger-sized breed.

"A lot of people are finding that as much as they'd love to keep their pets, they are having to work longer hours, the dogs are being left at home, they're struggling to sort of feed themselves as as well as the dogs", she said.

The Trust says they need more experienced dog owners to come forward either as foster carers or to adopt these dogs with additional needs.

Lucy Cooper says people should always ask for help before any behavioural issues have become too severe. Credit: ITV News

Marie Ball has volunteered with Guide Dogs and Labrador Rescue Trust for more than three decades.

She's come back out of 'retirement' to foster Ashen, who was found as a stray in West Cornwall.

Marie and her husband have been assessing his needs as a nervous dog saying Ashen was originally "very skatty" "very wary" and would "snatch food". They also discovered he has a dislike of men with beards.

"My grandson Jack has a beard, and by the time he went from our house, this dog was submissive on his back wanting a a tummy rub. So that's a good start and we know we can work on that."

Foster carers like Marie Ball are required to use reward based training methods to improve behaviours. Credit: ITV News

Marie says families need to be consistent with how they teach their pets and ask friends and family members to do the same when visiting.

"You've got these lovely, cuddly little puppies and everybody spoils them. Everybody wants to pick them up and cuddle them but then they grow into big dogs and they want to sit on your lap - it's not possible.

"And then you got antisocial dogs that act like teenagers, they rebel and they want to do what they want to do and not what you want to tell them."

The Labrador Rescue Trust has rehomed nearly 12,000 dogs since it was established in 1988. The largely South West charity spans from Cornwall to Gloucestershire down to Dorset.

People are willing to help support dogs who are not seen as "perfect" are being asked to get in touch with The Labrador Rescue Trust with some financial support available to help work through any issues whilst the dog settles into its new home.