Close up photo of a black Labrador Retriever in the shadows.

Adopting a Lab through a Labrador rescue can be a great alternative to getting a puppy from a breeder.

Maybe you’ve decided that getting a puppy directly through a breeder is not the right decision for you right now, or you want to adopt an older dog or a senior dog who needs a loving home.

We’re going to cover the benefits and challenges of adopting a rescue Labrador to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Benefits of Adopting a Rescue

Labrador Retriever rescue organizations exist to prolong the lives of Labs in need and help Labs find loving homes with adoring new owners.

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There are many benefits to both humans and dogs in choosing to adopt a rescue Labrador.

Saving a Dog’s Life

One of the most important benefits of rescuing a Lab is saving a dog’s life who may have been abandoned by a prior owner or left behind in a shelter. 

According to the ASPCA, over 670,000 shelter dogs are euthanized in the United States every year. By choosing to adopt a shelter dog or one from a Labrador Rescue, you’re helping give a dog a good home who otherwise might be at risk for abuse, neglect, or euthanasia. 

This is true no matter the age of your dog, whether you adopt a rescue puppy, adult dog, or senior dog. Rescues and shelters promote good pet ownership and improving the lives of animals at risk.

Our sweet Labrador rescue boy was abandoned after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017. He was underweight, heartworm-positive, and needed a loving home. The vet was only able to guess our boy’s age at somewhere between one and two years of age.

Rescued Chocolate Lab sitting in the grass showing life after adopting a rescue Lab.

His goofy personality, rambunctious energy, and love of sofa snuggles have made him a wonderful addition to our family. We’re forever grateful to our friends at Lab Rescue who made our match possible!

An Adult Rescue Dog May Be Easier Than a New Puppy

If you have a lifestyle that’s more conducive to getting an older dog, rather than a puppy, a rescue might be the best fit for you.

If you adopt an older Labrador rescue, your dog may already be house trained, which will save you a lot of time and effort in the first few months over adopting a young puppy.

Your adult Lab rescue might also know some basic dog training commands, such as sit, stay, lie down, and shake. Building on these basic commands will be easier when your dog already has the fundamentals of training mastered.

A rescue Labrador who is older might also be already crate trained, car trained, and be easier to walk on a leash. It’s possible you might also get a dog who’s proficient in retrieving or swimming.

An older dog who’s already comfortable being home for several hours during the day and doesn’t need to be let out every hour for potty breaks (like a young puppy) might work well for individuals or families with a busier schedule.

Lab puppies also have a tendency to be very “mouthy” and are known as destructive chewers. If you adopt an older Lab rescue beyond the puppy stage, your dog may be less likely to chew items in your home or destroy your house, which is a great benefit!

Initial Cost and Expenses Might Be Lower with a Rescue

Another significant benefit of adopting a rescue Labrador is the lower initial cost.

Usually when you adopt a rescue lab, from either a shelter or a rescue organization, the adoption fees are significantly cheaper than if you were to purchase a puppy from a breeder. 

With the average cost of a Lab puppy from a professional breeder costing between $500-$2500 in the United States, you’ll likely save a lot of money by adopting a rescue. 

Typically adoption fees for dogs coming from Labrador rescues or shelters are within the $300 to $500 range, which is a significant savings.

Photo of 20 dollar bills stacked on their side.

Spay/Neuter Surgery Will Be Done for You

Another benefit of adopting a Labrador rescue is that the rescue or shelter is almost guaranteed to have spayed or neutered the dog before you adopt them. Many rescues and shelters require it as part of their adoption contract with you. 

The spay and neuter surgery cost will already be included in the cost of your adoption. For example, as we detailed in a separate article involving costs of owning a Lab, the cost of spaying and neutering surgery by itself can be anywhere between $300-$1200, depending on where you live and what type of clinic performs the surgery.

As you can see, it will save you a lot of money by adopting a rescue who’s already been spayed or neutered.

It’s also very likely that the shelter or rescue will microchip your adopting dog. This is another cost that you will save over purchasing it separately.

Microchipping your dog generally runs $40-$50, but that can vary depending on what time it’s done and who’s performing the procedure.

Adopting a dog who’s been microchipped will also allow your dog to be immediately registered and linked to your contact information from the day you bring your dog home, unlike with a puppy who may not be microchipped for several months after you get them.

Challenges with Adopting a Rescue Dog

Sometimes there can be challenges associated with adopting a rescue Labrador. Many times people aren’t aware that rescues can be a little bit more difficult in some areas than getting a dog through a breeder.

Because rescue dogs span a variety of ages, you might get a rescue that is a younger puppy, or an older dog, or even a senior dog.

Children Under 7

One big challenge that families face when looking at rescues is that many rescues will have a policy that they will not allow adoptions of adult dogs to families with children under the age of about 7. 

Usually if you have young children, the rescue will have a policy that you can only adopt a very young rescue puppy, for which there may be much competition and little availability.

The rescue does this for safety reasons because they don’t have the behavior history on almost all of the adult dogs they bring in.

They won’t know if the dog has any bite history because it’s not been disclosed, so they don’t want to allow an adoption to a family with young kids (in case the dog is reactive to children or has an unknown biting history).

For families, this policy can cause a lot of frustration, even when you understand the reasoning behind it. You might find a perfect adult rescue dog at an adoption event, but since you have young kids you may be disallowed from the adoption process for that particular dog.

If you have kids in elementary school or younger, you should ask this as one of your first questions when working with a rescue. They will also probably ask you about young children in your home as one of the initial questions on your application.

Black Lab sleeping on a bed with white bedding.

Training Issues/Behavior Challenges

Another challenge that older rescues can bring is that they come with previous history, good or bad, so their training can be inconsistent or even absent. 

This can present a training challenge because you’re not training a young puppy from the first day it’s in your home.

When you get a young puppy either from a rescue or from a breeder, it can be a challenge at first training a puppy. However, you have the ability to start training the dog from the first day the way you want it to behave and teaching your new dog the routines and schedule of your household. 

However, when you rescue an older dog, you may get a dog that has a very spotty training history or has learned a lot of behaviors that you need to correct, in addition to not knowing the “good” behaviors you might want it to.

Our sweet Lab rescue won’t go outside in the rain, even though he loves swimming in the water, and won’t walk on wet grass. He has some personality “quirks” that came along with adopting him that we’ve learned to adjust to and accommodate to keep our boy happy.

Other issues we’ve had to work on through additional training with him, as we adopted him and discovered he had been allowed to jump on people and counter-surf before.

He was 90 lbs when we adopted him, but he had no idea how to walk on a leash or ride in a car, and it was much harder to teach those skills to a large, powerful dog than it would have been if we’d been able to teach them to him as a tiny puppy.

Fortunately, Labrador retrievers have an excellent reputation for being intelligent dogs who are easy to train. By enrolling your lab in a dog obedience school, or doing at-home training, you should find that your rescue will learn commands and appropriate behavior in a short time. 

If you’re wanting to get a Labrador for a specific training purpose, such as upland game retrieval, showing your dog in competitions, or other performance demands, you may find that a rescue does not necessarily fit your needs.

Because your rescue Lab will almost certainly not be AKC registered, you may have a difficult time competing in dog shows, if that’s your intention. You also may have a difficult time trying to train a dog for upland game or waterfowl retrieval, if the dog is older and has not been encouraged in this area early in life.

Still, don’t get discouraged, because Labs are very intelligent and trainable dogs.

Lack of Medical or Health History

Another challenge of adopting a rescue dog is that you will most likely not have any health history, vaccination records, or medical history on this dog.

It can be a bit scary to adopt a dog not knowing their medical history, what care they’ve had, or the history of the dog’s parents. 

As we mentioned in our article about the costs of owning a Labrador Retriever, medical costs can be a significant expense for Labrador owners.

As we recommend in our article on choosing a Labrador breeder, it’s really important to know the health history of the parents to ensure that you’re getting a healthy dog.

Black Lab puppy with a red collar outside in a forest.

However, when you adopt a rescue, you’re likely not going to know the medical history of the canine parents, and you’re going to have to rely on the veterinarian’s assessment of the dog through the rescue to determine how healthy they appear to be. 

Familiarize yourself with some common health issues associated with Labradors, which can be found in our article here.  You can explore pet insurance purchased for your rescue dog through places like Trupanion, to help protect against future costs due to what you don’t know about their health history.

The Lab rescue organization’s foster family with whom your dog is placed during the adoption process will be a critical resource for you.

The foster family will be able to assess the temperament of the dog, the observed behaviors and personality, and also the dog’s intelligence and overall trainability.

It’s also likely that the foster will be able to comment on how the dog interacts in environments with other pets, especially other dogs, and can make a recommendation on how suitable of a match they may be for your lifestyle and home. 

Possibly Fewer Years Remaining in Your Dog’s Life

The average Labrador lifespan is about 10-14 years, with chocolate Labs having a slightly shorter average life at about 10.7 years.

When you adopt a young puppy, your dog spends virtually every day of their life with you, with the exception of their time spent in the litter in the first two months. You have the maximum time possible to spend with your beloved dog.

If you adopt an adult Lab rescue, many of their years have been spent elsewhere, and you won’t have as many years of their life spent with you.

You may adopt a senior dog who’s approaching the end of their life, and may not get to spend as many wonderful years spoiling your dog and pampering them as you would want to. Still, you’ll have the reward of knowing you saved your dog from a shelter or unhappy home and gave them the best life they could have in whatever remaining days they are blessed with.

Senior yellow Labrador looking happy lying down outside.

Where to Find a Lab Rescue Organization

We’ve worked with amazing rescues that are doing incredible work to save the lives of Labrador Retrievers.

If you’re trying to locate a Labrador Rescue in your area, start with this article for How to Find a Labrador Rescue Near You, or contact us and we’ll help get you connected.

Remember that Labrador rescues are typically run by volunteers, and they are not usually a for-profit business. So it might take longer for you to hear back from someone, or to get through the process of adoption than if you were working with a professional breeder.

The Rescue Adoption Process

Because the process of adopting a Labrador rescue dog is different than the process of working with a professional breeder, and can sometimes be a bit complicated, we have a complete guide to the entire rescue approval process found in this article.

For now, the most important things to know are that the process to adopt from start to finish may take several months, and have numerous steps. It may take longer to find a good match than you want it to, but it will be worth the wait.

The rescue adoption process through a Lab Rescue organization will also probably require you to do an application, interview, and a home evaluation, so be prepared for those steps.

Summary – What to Know Before Adopting a Rescue Lab

Adopting a Labrador rescue can be an amazing way to bring joy to your family and give a Lab a loving home. Benefits of adopting a rescue include saving a dog’s life, lower up-front costs, and an adult dog that might already be somewhat trained.

Challenges of adopting a rescue include that you don’t know the dog’s medical or behavior history, you might not be able to adopt an adult dog if you have younger children, and that you might have training issues that you need to correct.

Now that you know the benefits and challenges of adopting a rescue Labrador, if you’re ready to move on in the process, be sure to check out our article on locating a Lab rescue organization near you, and our detailed guide to how the entire process works to get ready for finding a rescue near you!

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