Whether you have a lifetime of experience raising Labradors or are planning to adopt your first furry friend, it is always helpful to have resources to turn to when struggling with anything from behavior issues and nutrition questions, to looking for helpful tips on training and appropriate exercises to help keep your pet healthy.
Over the years, I have researched and collected a number of resources to help guide me in the process of raising our Labradors. Below is a list I have complied to help make it easier for you to access these resources when in need for general answers:
Health and Nutrition
The American Kennel Club - The AKC is a great resource for all things dog related. Visit this link to access a number of articles related to your Labrador’s nutritional needs. If you have questions about their general health, you can visit this link to access articles covering a wide variety of topics for all canine life stages.
Dog Food Advisor - This is a great site to refer to when considering what to feed your canine friend. The organization has researched over 4,500 dog food products and offers unbiased reviews and ratings on each of them. You can also sign up to be alerted of any and all dog food product recalls.
Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. 4th Edition, 2007, written by Debra Eldredge, DVM, and Delbert G. Carlson, DVM. This is an excellent resource for general health conditions. While we always depend on our veterinarians for the care of our Labradors, we find that this to be an indispensable resource when caring for our Labradors.
Exercise and Training
The Labrador Site - We love this website as it is specific to raising and training the Labrador Retriever. There are hundreds of articles that cover everything from basic training tips to behavior modification. Also, you can find a number of product reviews on items such as dog beds, toys, grooming tools, and books. Definitely a site worth “bookmarking”.
Labrador Training HQ - An excellent resource for all things related to the Labrador Retriever, especially when it comes to training your Labrador.
Whole Dog Journal - Although not Labrador specific, this website has numerous articles covering topics related to training and behavior modification.
While there are a number of other resources available out there on the web, we have found these to be our most valuable source of information. Of course, having a good relationship with your veterinary office is extremely important, as they too are an excellent resource for all things related to the care of your furry companion.
Be Calm and Hug Your Labrador
As a professional dog breeder and trainer, I am regularly fielding through a numerous questions about how to keep pets healthy with the overwhelming increase of viruses and illnesses impacting the canine community. While the complexity of the issue is frightening, there are a few steps you can take at home in order to help keep your pet healthy during these challenging times:
Second to regular wellness exams, your pet’s diet is the most important step you can take to ensuring his health and well-being. Here at the farm, we feed all of our dogs Life’s Abundance All Life Stages Dog Food. We take a holistic approach to raising our Labrador Retrievers. One of the ways we do this is by ensuring that our dogs are getting the nutrition they need to live a happy and healthy life. This is why we have shied away from commercial pet food brands, preferring homegrown and reliable businesses that care about the product they are creating, and the beloved pets that are consuming it. Life’s Abundance All Life Stages Dog Food not only provides your dog with the essential vitamins and nutrients necessary for long term health, but also contains important pre and probiotics that aid in your dog’s overall GI health and digestion. These key ingredients, including several other needed vitamins, also support your dog’s overall immune system.
To learn more about the importance of canine diet and nutrition, check out our blog series on Dog Nutrition.
At Ashling Place, we like to complement our dogs' diets with Life’s Abundance Wellness Supplement. What we like most about this supplement is that all of the nutrients are sourced from real foods such as chicken liver, cranberries, carrots, eggs, pineapples and several others.
Aching and stiff joints are just as much a part of life for aging dogs as it is for humans. To help provide support for overall joint and connective tissue health, we give our senior dogs Life’s Abundance Agility Formula. This supplement not only helps to maintain healthy joint cartilage and connective tissue, it also aids in the production of healthy synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. It also features Glucosamine, MSM, sea mussels and hyaluronic acid.
It is our strong belief that overall canine health begins and ends in the GI tract, which is why we supplement our dogs’ diets with Nusentia’s Miracle Enzyme and Miracle Probiotic. Oftentimes, illnesses can be traced back to the imbalance of “good” vs. “bad” bacteria in the intestines. Usually referred to as "good bacteria", probiotics helps to support a healthy immune system and digestive system. Adding the Enzymes to the mix helps during the digestion of their processed food and helps to support a healthy environment in the digestive tract so that the probiotics can do their thing. This duo is especially helpful with pets who may be suffering from mild food intolerances and allergies.
Arming our pets with the proper nutrition, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, is an important step in helping them prevent and fight off illness. If you have any questions about these products, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. Also, if you are interested in completing a complimentary wellness survey on your pet, please contact us by clicking here.
While the early weeks of a puppy’s life are considered “critical” growth stages, by the time they reach 12 weeks old, they are entering into a crucial socialization period. This is the time when all of their experiences, both positive and negative, will influence their behavior as they grow into adult dogs. It is often referred to as the “foundational period” that informs who he becomes for the rest of his life.
So how can you help your puppy during this crucial period? The best way to do this is to expose him to as much as possible, ensuring that all of his experiences are positive. Now that his immunity has matured, it is safe to go to public places such as pet stores and parks. It is also a great time to enroll him in puppy kindergarten, such as the AKC STAR Puppy class, where he will have the opportunity to play and interact with a variety of other dogs, and people, while learning important social and behavioral skills.
Now is also the perfect time to start introducing your puppy to a variety of sights, sounds, and smells. If you ensure that your puppy has positive experiences with different people, things, voices, and more, then he is less likely to be surprised, scared, or even worse, aggressive when he encounters something new.
The following is a checklist of suggested situations to expose your puppy to as he grows up:
Child on a bike
Man wearing a hat
Person walking a puppy/dog
Person in a wheel chair
Man with a beard
Child dancing and jumping
Person using a broom
A festival or party
Ride on an elevator
Person pushing a baby stroller
Person in a trench coat
Women in a dress
Man in a suit
Person with a ball
Child playing with a toy
People of different races
Person with sunglasses
Children at a playground
Person at a drive-through window
Trucks and Cars
Person in uniform
Outdoor sporting games (basketball, baseball, tennis, etc.)
Of course, these are only a few suggestions, as there are a number of other opportunities you may be aware of based upon your own neighborhood situations. The greater the variety of experiences, the more comfortable your dog will be when she comes into contact with these situations. A knowledgeable dog is a confident dog!
Most importantly, make sure you take the time to share as many positive moments with your puppy as possible. Nurturing that relationship now will lay the foundation for a lifelong, loving bond between you and your dog.
Now that all the puppies are living happily with their new families, we are focusing our efforts on helping Hadley adjust to life here on the farm. In order for everyone to have a happy life here, we all must demonstrate good manners and respect one another. In the dogs’ world, this means demonstrating understanding of commands like sit, down, stay, come, leave-it, off, etc. And, of course, most importantly, knowing that they go “potty” outside.
We begin working on the concept of “housebreaking” when they are as young as 5 weeks; however, once they move onto their new families, or stay here with us at the farm, this training becomes more extensive. We believe that having a consistent schedule that includes playtime, nap time, and meal time is the most effective and quickest way to housebreak a puppy.
Here is an example of the schedule that we follow here at the farm:
- Take your puppy out of her crate, put her on her leash and take her to her potty spot. When she goes, be sure to praise her and use your “potty prompt” such as “go potty” or “go in the grass” or something that helps her learn to associate her actions with words. When she is done, praise again and then give a treat. If she doesn’t go, put her back in her crate for a few minutes, then take her back out to her spot to try again.
- After your puppy has gone potty, this is a good time to work with her on a little training. Work on commands such as “Leave-it” “Take-it” “Sit” “Stay” etc. Make sessions short…no more than 5 minutes at a time as her attention span is short and you always want to finish training session on a positive note. This stimulation will also tire her out.
- Feed your puppy her breakfast. After about 20 minutes, take her outside and follow the 6am routine. Afterward, put her in her crate until it’s time for the next potty break.
Mid-morning (for pups younger than 10 weeks old)
- Take your pup to the potty spot and follow the routine. Then, come inside and play with your puppy for a little while, do a short training session, take her out again to potty, and then put her in the crate until the next break.
- Take your puppy out and follow the routine. If the puppy is less than 6 months old, feed her some lunch, spend some time playing and do another training session. Take her out to potty again and then put her back in her crate. Once she is older than 6 months, skip her lunch.
Mid-afternoon (for puppies younger than 10 weeks):
- Same as mid-morning routine.
- Take puppy outside for potty routine. Then feed her some dinner and then take her back outside for another potty break. This is a good time then to leave puppy out of her crate as long as someone is keeping a close eye on her.
- Great time to play with puppy, do short training sessions, etc. Because the puppy will be more active, she will likely need to go potty more often than she does during the day when it is quieter so watch for circling, sniffing, pacing or other signs that she needs to go outside. We use a bell on the door that puppies quickly learn to jingle to let us know they need to go out. Only put the puppy in her crate if no one can keep a close eye on her.
10 to 11:00pm
- Take your puppy outside for potty routine. Then put the pup in her crate for the night. If she is older than 12 weeks, she should be able to sleep through the night without needing to potty. Younger pups normally need to get out at least once in the middle of the night.
We have had tremendous success with this schedule. Furthermore, going in and out of the same door whenever taking the puppy out, it does not take long for them to grasp the concept that potty time is outside. Here we are at 10 weeks of age, and Hadley is not only completely house-trained, but understands that her crate means it is time to rest, which makes for a peaceful night for the other residents on the farm!
As we were sitting in our veterinary office waiting to see our doctor this week, I got to thinking about how important it is for pet parents to be consistent with scheduling regular wellness exams for our furry friends. In addition to diet and nutrition, wellness visits are of the most important steps towards taking preventive measures in ensuring our pets’ overall well-being.
What Happens During the Wellness Exam?
A regular wellness exam for pets is very similar to our own annual checkups that we have with our personal physician. During the exam, the veterinarian will check your pet’s weight, heart, lungs, pulse, joints, lymph nodes, eyes, ears, etc. for any irregularities. Furthermore, you will have discussions about appropriate diet and the nutritional needs for your pet’s current life stage, as well as recommendations for appropriate exercise routines to help with weight management. This is also an appropriate time to test for heart worms and other parasitic problems, as well as discuss the appropriate preventative steps to protect your pet from these harmful organisms.
The importance of the wellness visit extends well beyond the physical exam. Because our pets are unable to communicate about how they are feeling, oftentimes we miss the early warning signs of a disease, allowing the ailment to progress much further before we become aware of it. However, a veterinarian may be able to detect these early signs during a regularly scheduled wellness exam, and provide suggestions for treatment to help manage or even correct the problem before it causes more harm.
In addition to the physical exam, this is a perfect opportunity to ensure that your pet is up-to-date on all of their vaccinations. For dogs this includes the core vaccinations like rabies and the DA2PP, which protects agains the Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza virus. Furthermore, there may be some non-core vaccinations that your veterinarian recommends based upon where you live and whether or not you board, visit dog parks, or participate in dog show events. Some of these non-core vaccinations include the Lepto Vaccine, the Bordetella Vaccine, and the Lyme Disease Vaccine. Ask your vet about whether these are appropriate vaccinations for your canine friend.
How Often Should My Pet Have a Wellness Exam?
There is not one answer to this question as it all depends on the age, breed, and health condition of your pet. For example, in the early puppyhood stages, you should make monthly visits to your veterinarian to ensure your puppy is fully vaccinated before introducing them to training and socialization classes. Eventually, your visits will occur annually until they reach their senior years, at which case you may want to consider semi-annual visits. We recommend establishing a wellness exam visitation schedule with your veterinarian in order to establish the appropriate healthcare plan to ensure a long and healthy life.
One final note…remember that your veterinarian is your partner in protecting your pets’ well-being. We are very fortunate, here at Ashling Place Labradors, to have an incredibly talented and experienced team to work with at Morris Veterinary Clinic. The doctors and staff there have been essential to helping us keep our canine family healthy and happy over the years. We recommend doing research and asking for recommendations as you look for a veterinarian that you can trust with the health and wellness of your pets.