Labrador Retriever Adopts Orphaned Ducklings

Fatherly dog accepts little birds as buddies
By Karen B. London PhD, August 2019

Guarding a castle in Essex is the main job of a 10-year old Labrador Retriever named Fred, but it’s not his only one. He also serves as Foster-Dad-In-Chief. When members of the castle staff found 9 orphaned ducklings roaming the grounds, Fred stepped in to be their guardian and protector. (It is presumed that the mom was taken by a fox or some other predator.) His fatherly instincts were strong and the ducklings took to him like ducks usually take to water. They snuggled around his legs while he lounged on the grass. They climbed onto his head and hung out there for a while. They rode on his back while he moved around the grounds—a slight tail wag visible.

Not long after those 9 ducklings had developed into independent ducks ready to face the world, Fred’s paternal nature was once again called into action. When a duck left 6 of her 12 ducklings on the castle grounds, he stepped in to care for them. They were just as comfortable with him as the previous group of ducklings had been, immediately following him around, perching on his head and resting next to him.

Some Labradors retrieve ducks and bring them to their hunting guardians, but Fred has a different relationship with ducks. He keeps them alive and well—right by his side.

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life