Archive for July, 2009

Labrador Retriever - Nutritional Building BlocksNutrition is a constantly ongoing process that starts at conception and ends only with death. Everything that is consumed becomes part of the dog’s daily nutri¬tion, whether it’s good for her or not. What the dog eats, the food’s actual digestibility, and how the dog’s body uses that food can all affect the actual nutrition gained by eating.
Although a dog can eat many things, including a lot of materials that may not be good for her, there are some substances she must eat regularly to keep her healthy. These can be a part of the commercial dog food you feed her, part of a homemade diet, or in the supplements added to her food.

Protein

Proteins are a varied group of biological compounds that affect many different functions in your Labrador Retriever’s body, including the immune system, cell structure, and growth. As omnivores (dogs eat meat as well as some plant mate¬rials), dogs can digest protein from several sources. The most common are meats, grains, dairy products, and legumes. Recommendations vary as to how much of the dog’s diet should be protein, but in general, most nutritionists agree that a diet that contains between 20 to 40 percent quality protein is good for a dog.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, like proteins, have many functions in the dog’s body, including serving as structural components of cells. However, the most important function is as an energy source. Carbohydrates can be obtained from many sources, includ¬ing tubers (such as potatoes and sweet potatoes), plants (such as greens like broccoli and collard greens), and cere¬als. However, dogs do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to ade¬quately digest all cereal grains. Therefore, the better sources of car¬bohydrates are tubers and noncitrus fruits, such as apples and bananas. Most experts recommend that a dog’s diet contain from 20 to 40 percent carbohydrates of the right kind.

Reading Dog Food Labels
Dog food labels are not always easy to read, but if you know what to look for they can tell you a lot about what your dog is eating.
– The label should have a statement saying the dog food meets or exceeds the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines. If the dog food doesn’t meet AAFCO guidelines, it can’t be considered complete and balanced, and can cause nutritional deficiencies.
– The guaranteed analysis lists the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and water. AAFCO requires a minimum of 18 percent crude protein for adult dogs and 22 percent crude protein for puppies on a dry matter basis (that means with the water removed; canned foods have less protein because they have more water). Dog food must also have a minimum of 5 percent crude fat for adults and 8 percent crude fat for puppies.
– The ingredients list the most common item in the food first, and so on until you get to the least common item, which is listed last.
– Look for a dog food that lists an animal protein source first, such as chicken or poultry meat, and that has other protein sources listed among the top five ingredients. That’s because a food that lists chicken, wheat, wheat gluten, corn, and wheat fiber as the first five ingredients has more chicken than wheat, but may not have more chicken than all the grain products put together.
– Other ingredients may include a digestible carbohydrate source (such as sweet potatoes or squash), fat, vitamins and minerals, preserva¬tives, fiber, and sometimes other additives purported to be healthy.
– Some grocery store or generic brands may add artificial colors, sugar, and fillers—all of which should be avoided.

Fat

Fats have many uses in the body. They are the most important way the body stores energy. Fats also make up some of the structural elements of cells and are vital to the absorption of several vitamins. Certain fats are also beneficial in keeping the skin and coat healthy. Fats in dog foods are found primarily in meat and dairy products. Recommended levels are from 10 to 20 percent.

Vitamins

Vitamins are vital elements necessary for growth and the maintenance of life. There are two classes of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K.

Water-Soluble Vitamins
These are absorbed by the body during digestion using the water found in the dog’s food. Although it’s usually a good idea to allow the dog to drink water whenever she’s thirsty, additional water is not needed for digestion of these vita¬mins, because the water in the dog’s body is sufficient as long as the dog is not dehydrated. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body in the urine; so it’s difficult to oversupplement these vitamins—although too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. abrador Retriever - Nutritional Building Blocks information
The B vitamins serve a number of functions, including the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. The B vitamins are very involved in many bio¬chemical processes, and deficiencies can show up as weight loss, slow growth, dry and flaky skin, or anemia, depending upon the specific deficiency. The B vitamins can be obtained from meat and dairy products, beans, and eggs.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and, at the same time, a controversial vitamin. Some respected sources state that it is not a required dietary supple¬ment for dogs, yet others regard C as a miracle vitamin. Some feel it can help prevent hip dysplasia and other potential problems, but these claims have not been proven. Dogs can produce a certain amount of vita¬min C in their bodies, but this amount is often not sufficient, espe¬cially if the dog is under stress from work, injury, or illness.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
These vitamins require some fats in the dog’s diet for adequate absorption. Fats are in the meat in your dog’s diet and are added to commercial dog foods. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat. Excess vitamins of this type can cause problems, including toxicity. These vitamins should be added to the diet with care.
Vitamin A deficiencies show up as slow or retarded growth, reproductive failure, and skin and vision problems. Green and yellow vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin A, as are carrots, fish oils, and animal livers. The vegetables should be lightly cooked so the dog can digest them.
Vitamin D is needed for the cor¬rect absorption of calcium and phos¬phorus, and is necessary for the growth and development of bones and teeth and for muscle strength. Many dogs will produce a certain
amount of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight; however, often that is not enough
and supplementation is needed. Balanced dog foods will generally have vitamin D
in sufficient quantities.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that also works with several enzymes in the body. It has been shown to be effective in maintaining heart health and the immune system. It is also vital to other bodily systems, including the blood, nerves, muscles, and skin.
Vitamin K is needed for the proper clotting of blood. It is also important for healthy bones. Vitamin K is produced in the intestinal tract and normally sup¬plementation is not needed. However, if the dog is having digestion problems or is on antibiotics, supplementation may be required. Vitamin K can be found in dark green vegetables, including kale and spinach. These should be lightly cooked before feeding them to your dog.

Minerals

Minerals, like vitamins, are necessary for life and physical well-being. Minerals can affect the body in many ways. A deficiency of calcium can lead to rickets, a deficiency of manganese can cause reproductive failure, and a zinc deficiency can lead to growth retardation and skin problems.
Many minerals are tied in with vitamins; in other words, a vitamin deficiency will also result in a mineral deficiency. For example, an adequate amount of vita¬min B ensures there is also an adequate amount of cobalt because cobalt, a mineral, is a constituent of B12.
Minerals are normally added to commercial dog foods. If you’re feeding a homemade diet, that can be supplemented with a vitamin and mineral tablet to make sure the dog has sufficient minerals.

Water

It may seem like common sense to say that your Labrador Retriever will need water, but the importance of water cannot be emphasized enough. Water makes up about 70 percent of a dog’s weight. Water facilitates the generation of energy, the transportation of nutrients, and the disposal of wastes. Water is in the blood¬stream, in the eyes, in the cerebrospinal fluid, and in the gastrointestinal tract. Water is vital to all of the body’s functions in some way.

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Feeding Your Labrador RetrieverSome dog owners like to fill a bowl of dog food and leave it out all day, letting the dog munch at will. Although it may be convenient, it is not a good idea for several reasons. First of all, the bowl of food may attract pests – even indoors. In addition, the food could become rancid.
When you are housetraining your puppy, free feeding makes it difficult to set up a routine. Your puppy will need to relieve herself after eating, and if she munches all day long, you won’t be able to tell when she should go outside.
Last, but certainly not least, your dog needs to know that you are the giver of the food, and how better for her to learn it than when you hand her a bowl twice a day? If the food is always available, you are not the one giving it; it’s always there—at least as far as your dog is concerned.

How Much?

Each and every Labrador Retriever needs a different amount of food. The dog’s individual body metabolism, activity rate, and lifestyle all affect her nutritional needs Most dog food manufacturers print a chart on the bag showing how much to feed your dog. It’s important to note that these are suggested guidelines. Labs are very efficient when digesting their food and tend to gain weight very easily. The amount of food listed on a bag of commercial food is often way too much for a Lab; the dog who eats that much will gain weight. Because Labs do tend to gain weight and obesity is a potential problem, watch your dog closely and measure her food. Don’t just fill a bowl and put it down; instead, measure the food by cups or scoops, and if the dog gains weight, cut back the amount you’re feeding.
A healthy, well-nourished dog will have bright eyes, an alert expres¬sion, a shiny coat, supple skin, and energy to work and play. Although the Lab has a stocky body, even they should have a waistline that is visible from the side and from above. She should have meat and muscle on the bones, but you should still be able to feel the dog’s ribs through the muscle. If the Lab has no waistline, you can’t feel her ribs, and the dog is moving slowly and runs out of energy, it’s time to see your veterinarian and find out if your dog is too heavy.

Mealtimes

Most experts recommend that puppies eat two to three times a day and adult dogs eat once or twice a day. Most dogs do very well with two meals, ten or twelve hours apart; so feed your dog after you eat breakfast and then again after you have dinner.
While you are eating, don’t feed your Labrador Retriever from the table or toss her scraps. This will cause her to beg from anyone at the table – a very bad habit. Don’t toss her leftovers as you are cooking, either. That can lead to begging and even stealing in the kitchen. Don’t forget that your Labrador Retriever will be tall enough to reach the kitchen counter when she’s grown up!

Snacks

An occasional dog biscuit or some training treats will not spoil your Lab’s appetite, but don’t get in the habit of offering treats just for the pleasure of it. Many American dogs are overweight, and obesity is a leading killer of dogs. When you do offer treats, offer either treats made specifically for dogs or something that is low in calories and nutritious, like a carrot. Don’t offer candy, cookies, leftover tacos, or anything like that. Your Labrador Retriever doesn’t need sugar, chocolate is deadly for dogs, and spicy foods can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Play it safe and give your Lab good-quality, nutritious snacks – very sparingly.

Pet Food vs. People Food
Many of the foods we eat are excellent sources of nutrients— after all, we do just fine on them. But dogs, just like us, need the right combination of meat and other ingredients for a com¬plete and balanced diet, and simply giving the dog a bowl of meat doesn’t provide that. In the wild, dogs eat the fur, skin, bones, and guts of their prey, and sometimes even the contents of the stomach.
This doesn’t mean your dog can’t eat what you eat. If your dog is eating a commercial dog food, you can still give her a lit¬tle meat, dairy, bread, some fruits, or vegetables as a treat. Fresh foods have natural enzymes that processed foods don’t have. Just remember, we’re talking about the same food you eat, not the gristly, greasy leftovers you would normally toss in the trash. Stay away from sugar, too, and remember that choco¬late is toxic to dogs.
If you want to share your food with your dog, be sure the total amount you give her each day doesn’t make up more than 15 percent of her diet, and that the rest of what you feed her is a top-quality complete and balanced dog food. (More people food could upset the balance of nutrients in the commercial food.)
Can your dog eat an entirely homemade diet? Certainly, if you are willing to work at it. Any homemade diet will have to be care¬fully balanced, with all the right nutrients in just the right amounts. It requires a lot of research to make a proper homemade diet, but it can be done. It’s best to work with a veterinary nutritionist.

If your dog is in training and you are using training treats, use good ones – nutritious treats – and cut back on all other treats. Training treats can be tiny pieces of cooked meats such as chicken or beef; just dice the pieces very small and put them in a sandwich bag. You can even freeze them before use. These make much better training treats than high-calorie commercial treats.

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Labrador Retriever - Pet ProfessionalsAlthough dogs have been our companions for thousands of years, you will find that you need some help with your new dog. Enlisting the help of some experienced pet professionals can help you keep your dog healthy, well behaved, and well cared for throughout his lifetime.

Veterinarian

The veterinarian to whom you choose to give your business will become your partner in your dog’s continued good health. Like a family physician, the veterinarian will get to know your dog, will keep records on his weight and physical condition, and will help you get your dog through any health challenges.
When choosing a vet, call and make an appointment and go in without your dog. Expect to pay for an office call, since you are taking up the vet’s time. Then ask some questions. The first one should be “Do you like Labrador Retrievers?” If your vet has had some bad experiences with the breed, they may prefer not to work with them. You don’t want someone taking care of your dog who dislikes the breed or who is afraid of them.
If the veterinarian likes the breed, ask about their veterinary experience, office practices, and policies. What problems do they normally see with the breed and how do they handle those issues? How do they handle emergencies or after-hours problems?
When you have had a thorough discussion with the vet, and it seems the two of you will be able to work together, make another appointment for your dog. You want to make sure your new dog is healthy and to get him started on vacci¬nations or other health care needs.

Trainer

Just as with the veterinarian, find a trainer who likes Labs. Ask about their experience with the breed, what problems they have seen and how they handle them. If you see a well-behaved, nicely trained Lab when you are out for a walk, ask where the owner took their dog for training.
Every trainer has their own training technique, so go and watch one of this trainer’s classes or training sessions. Make sure you will be happy with their training style and technique before you sign up for classes.

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When Your Labrador Retriever First Comes HomeYou’re going to be excited when you first bring home your new Labrador Retriever, and chances are, you’re going to want to share that excitement. Restrain yourself right now for your new dog’s sake. Although Labs are very social dogs, your new best friend needs to get to know you and bond with you before he meets other people.
Bonding is the process of developing a relationship. When he is bonded with you, he will care about you and will want to be with you. When you are bonded with him, you will do anything to keep him safe. This bonding takes a little time— at least a weekend—so be selfish and keep him at home with you and your family.
Later it will be important for him to meet your neighbors, friends, and extended family so he can become socialized to other people. Just keep the get-togethers brief and control the meetings. Don’t let people get rough with the puppy, even in play, and let just one or two people meet him at a time. Never let a group of people gang up on him; even the most social Lab could be frightened by that.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home
You can prevent much of the destruction puppies can cause and keep your new dog safe by looking at your home and yard from a dog’s point of view. Get down on all fours and look around. Do you see loose electri¬cal wires, cords dangling from the blinds, or chewy shoes on the floor? Your pup will see them too!
In the kitchen:
– Put all knives and other utensils away in drawers.
– Get a trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
– Put all household cleaners in cupboards that close securely; con¬sider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.
In the bathroom:
– Keep all household cleaners, medicines, vitamins, shampoos, bath products, perfumes, makeup, nail polish remover, and other per¬sonal products in cupboards that close securely; consider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.
– Get a trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
– Don’t use toilet bowl cleaners that release chemicals into the bowl every time you flush.
Keep the toilet bowl lid down.
– Throw away potpourri and any solid air fresheners.
In the bedroom:
– Securely put away all potentially dangerous items, including medi¬cines and medicine containers, vitamins and supplements, per¬fumes, and makeup.
– Put all your jewelry, barrettes, and hairpins in secure boxes.
– Pick up all socks, shoes, and other chewables.
In the rest of the house:
– Tape up or cover electrical cords; consider childproof covers for unused outlets.
– Knot or tie up any dangling cords from curtains, blinds, and the tele¬phone.
– Securely put away all potentially dangerous items, including medi¬cines and medicine containers, vitamins and supplements, ciga¬rettes, cigars, pipes and pipe tobacco, pens, pencils, felt-tip markers, craft and sewing supplies, and laundry products.
– Put all houseplants out of reach.
– Move breakable items off low tables and shelves.
– Pick up all chewable items, including television and electronics remote controls, cell phones, shoes, socks, slippers and sandals, food, dishes, cups and utensils, toys, books and magazines, and anything else that can be chewed on.
In the garage:
– Store all gardening supplies and pool chemicals out of reach of the dog.
– Store all antifreeze, oil, and other car fluids securely, and clean up any spills by hosing them down for at least ten minutes.
– Put all dangerous substances on high shelves or in cupboards that close securely; consider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.
– Pick up and put away all tools.
– Sweep the floor for nails and other small, sharp items.
In the yard:
– Put the gardening tools away after each use.
– Make sure the kids put away their toys when they’re finished playing.
– Keep the pool covered or otherwise restrict your pup’s access to it when you’re not there to supervise.
– Secure the cords on backyard lights and other appliances.
– Inspect your fence thoroughly. If there are any gaps or holes in the fence, fix them.
– Make sure you have no toxic plants in the garden.

Crate Training

Adding a Lab puppy or dog to your household can be a wonderful experience, but it can sour quickly if the dog is ruining your carpets and chewing up your shoes. Two types of crates are commonly used. The first is a heavy plastic molded carrier, much like those the airlines require. The second is made of heavy metal wire bars. That’s why you need a crate. Whichever you choose, it should be large enough for an adult dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down. When Your Labrador Retriever Puppy First Comes Home
Introduce the crate to your puppy by opening the door and tossing a treat or toy inside. Allow the puppy to come and go as he pleases and to investigate the crate. When he is going in and out after a few treats, give him a treat and close the door. Leave the door closed for a few minutes and then let the puppy out if, and only if, he is being quiet. If the puppy is throwing a temper tantrum, don’t let him out. If you do, you will have taught your puppy that a temper tantrum works to get him what he wants.
Put the puppy in his crate when you are home and can’t supervise him, or when you are busy, such as eating a meal. Put the puppy in the crate when he is overstimulated—time-outs are good for puppies, too. And, of course, put the puppy in his crate for the night.
Never leave the puppy in the crate longer than four hours, except at night when the crate is next to your bed. It takes a while for the puppy to develop good bowel and bladder control, and you need to be able to let the puppy out when it’s time.

Prevention

Many of the commonly seen problems with dogs can be avoided through simple prevention. Puppy-proofing your house is one means of prevention. Supervising the dog is another. Your Labrador Retriever can’t chew up your sofa if you super¬vise him while he’s in the house with you and you put him in his crate or outside in his pen when you can’t watch him. By supervising the dog, you can teach him what is allowed and what is not. Using the sofa as an example again, if your Lab puppy decides to take a nibble out of the sofa cushion and you are paying atten¬tion, you can tell the puppy, “Aack! No!” as he grabs the cushion. Then you fol¬low through by handing your puppy one of his chew toys: “Here, chew this instead.”
The same can occur with food. Labs love food, and even when well fed, they will try to steal any food they can find. By practicing prevention—putting away food, keeping things picked up, and putting the cat’s food out of the dog’s reach—you can stop bad behavior before it happens.

Time with Your Labrador Retriever

As I have mentioned several times, Labrador Retrievers are very people-oriented and must spend time with their owners. Your dog should be inside with you when you are home and next to your bed at night, except for his trips outside to relieve himself. In addition, you will need to make time to play with your dog, train him, and make sure he gets enough exercise.
With a little thought, it’s amazing how creative people can be with their schedules. To spend time with your dog in the morning, getting up thirty min¬utes earlier will give you time for a fifteen- to twenty-minute walk before taking your shower. If you work close to home, your lunch hour might be just enough time to get home and eat your lunch as you throw the Frisbee for your dog. In the evening, take the children with you as you walk the dog; you can find out what’s going on with the kids as you exercise and train your dog.

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Labrador Retriever - Make Your Yard SafeLabrador Retrievers are companion dogs and prefer to spend all of their time with you. However, they do need to be outside sometimes to get some sunshine and exercise and to relieve themselves. It’s also important that you allow your Lab some time away from you now and then, too, even if he’s not happy about it, so that he doesn’t get worried when you go to work, or the store, or to visit friends. Let him spend an hour or two each day outside in your yard as long as the yard is safe and secure.
A six-foot-high, solid (so the dog cannot see through it) fence is best for a Lab. It can be a solid wooden fence or a concrete block wall. A chain link fence the dog can see through is not a good idea, because your Lab may decide to bark at everything he sees. This can lead to problem barking.
If your fence is not secure or if you would like to protect some parts of your yard, you can build a dog run. It should be large enough to provide your dog with room to move around and room to relieve himself away from his favorite place to bask in the sun. Since Labs can be diggers, the floor of the run should be concrete or should have wire fencing under the dirt or sand substrate.
Your dog should always have some shade and shelter from the weather. This can be a shade awning, a large tree, or even access to the garage. Very few Labs will use a doghouse, so this will be wasted. (You will see your Lab outside, even in the rain, because most Labs love water and their waterproof coat protects them.)
He should also have a source of fresh, clean water. A five-gallon galvanized tub works well because it’s large enough that the water can stay cool and heavy enough that the dog cannot dump it over.

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Labrador Retriever - Basic SuppliesYou will want to put some identification on your new Lab right away. Most pet stores sell identification tags, both the engraved ones and the temporary ones. Just make sure your phone numbers (home and cell) are on the dog’s tag. You can get one with his name later, once you’ve figured out what to name him. Put the tag on a buckle collar (nylon or leather) that will be on him all the time. If you’re bringing home a puppy, you’ll have to replace that collar a couple of times as he grows.

Puppy Essentials
You’ll need to go shopping before you bring your puppy home. There are many, many adorable and tempting items at pet supply stores, but these are the basics.
Food and water dishes. Look for bowls that are wide and low or weighted in the bottom so they will be harder to tip over. Stainless steel bowls are a good choice because they are easy to clean (plas¬tic never gets completely clean) and almost impossible to break. Avoid bowls that place the food and water side by side in one unit—it’s too easy for your dog to get his water dirty that way. Leash. A six-foot leather leash will be easy on your hands and very strong.
Collar. Start with a nylon buckle collar. For a perfect fit, you should be able to insert two fingers between the collar and your pup’s neck. Your dog will need larger collars as he grows up. Crate. Choose a sturdy crate that is easy to clean and large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. You will need either a large crate that can be sectioned off for while your puppy is small or you’ll need to get a couple of different crates as he grows up.
Nail cutters. Get a good, sharp pair that are the appropriate size for the nails you will be cutting. A large pair of scissors-type clippers work well for German Shepherds, but your dog’s breeder or veteri¬narian can also give you some guidance here.
Chew toys. Dogs must chew, especially puppies. Make sure you get things that won’t break or crumble off in little bits, which the dog can choke on. Very hard rubber bones are a good choice. Dogs love rawhide bones, too, but pieces of the rawhide can get caught in your dog’s throat, so they should be allowed only when you are there to supervise. Chew toys must be large enough that the dog cannot inadvertently swallow them.
Toys. Watch for sharp edges and unsafe items such as plastic eyes that can be swallowed. Many toys come with squeakers, which dogs can also tear out and swallow. The toys, including balls, should be large enough so the dog cannot choke on them. All dogs will eventually destroy their toys; as each toy is torn apart, replace it with a new one.

A leash is also a necessity so you can restrain your new dog as you bring him home, take him to the veterinarian, and for your walks together. Don’t ever take your Lab outside of your house or yard off-leash; not only is it illegal in most places, but your dog could also dash away from you and get hit by a car, or get lost.

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