Here's a list of commonly asked questions about Labradors. I hope you find it helpful and informative. If you have a question or topic I haven't covered, please let me know so I can add it or answer your question: HarleyLabs@aol.com Please also let me know if any of the links I list have moved or no longer work so I can fix them.
Buying a Labrador
General Lab Info
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They actually came from Newfoundland and not Labrador as their name implies. They were first spotted there in 1822. In the early 19th century, they were imported from Newfoundland into England for use by sportsman for shooting dogs. This why true Labrador lines go back to England.
They were originally referred to as Newfoundlands (since that is where they were originally spotted). They didn't receive their name as Labradors until 1887 a letter written in England by an Earl of Malmesbury described the dogs that he bred and imported from Newfoundland as Labradors "known by its close coat which turns the water off like oil and, above all, a tail like an otter."
When a heavy dog tax was imposed on Newfoundland, their numbers grew low. Also quarantine regulations made importing impossible. To continue the breed, the dogs remaining in England were interbred with other Retrievers. Luckily, the predominant features of the Labrador remained and the dog was known as the Labrador Retriever.
The Labrador Retriever was recognized as a separate breed in 1903 by the English Kennel Cub. The American Kennel Club didn't recognize it until 1917 with the first registered Lab, "Brocklehirst Nell," a Scottish import.
Regardless of what your Labrador's purpose will be, it's overall health and display of the breed's characteristics is important. You want to inspect it's living conditions for cleanliness. You should ask how many litters they have each year and when the last litter that mother had was. A bitch should only be bred once a year (every other cycle), not earlier than two years old and not older than six years old (but only if has had previous litters). You should try to inspect the entire litter as a whole and see both of the parents. They should give you a good idea of what your puppy will look like full grown. Many times, only the mother is available. Make sure she comes from a healthy background. Remember, she has just given birth to several puppies and has been busy nursing them and keeping them clean. She may look run down and skinny. Ask to see some pre-pregnancy pictures. If the sire is not available, ask to see pictures of him also. You might ask if you could speak to the owner of the sire also or some other references. Also ask if you could see some pictures of some maturing puppies from a previous litter.
Puppies should be clean and plump (not bloated), have clear eyes and be active. Labs should be short-backed, heavy-boned, strong and not shy. They have strong otter-tails, short, dense coats and are very sweet.
We don't allow our puppies to go home before eight weeks, longer if deemed necessary for the puppy. Any good breeder has the same rule of thumb. Puppies are best socialized with humans between the ages of eight to twelve weeks. This is the best time to take your puppy home and introduce it to your family. This is when it's permanent bonds are being formed. We are active in our puppies socialization from the day it is born. Our puppies are exposed to human touch from day one until we pass them along to you and your family.
Puppies socialize with their mother and littermates during five and seven weeks old. If a puppy is removed too early (before eight weeks), the puppy will not have the socialization skills needed to get along with other animals as this is the time it is learning to interact with its siblings and its mother. Its mother is integral in teaching her puppies some "canine manners." A puppy may become aggressive, fearful and timid as it has not learned the necessary lessons in canine socialization.
Never pick up or accept a puppy younger than eight weeks old (seven weeks should be the very earliest). And if you cannot pick your puppy up then, make sure it is kept with people that will handle and interact with him while it is learning its human social skills.
Even though Labs are great swimmers and are natural water-lovers, they still need to be introduced to water SLOWLY. Unfortunately, too many people start out by dinking their pups under water expecting them to just take off swimming and begin their love of water. Well, the opposite may happen -- your Lab may never feel comfortable in water. Like any new experience, you should introduce them to it slowly and with trust. If a puppy cannot trust you, who can it trust? By allowing the pup to go at his own pace, he will develop trust in you and confidence in himself. This is essential for the puppy to grow into a confident adult Lab.
Try wading into the water and coaxing your puppy to swim out to you. A lake or pond is a good start. Let them go at their own pace. They will naturally want to be near you so they will often try to swim out on their own. If you have another dog nearby, they can often learn by watching them. Just be careful the expert swimmer doesn't accidentally push the new puppy under the water. Stay nearby and help the puppy out if he gets himself stuck or looks scared. Stay away form oceans as their currents and waves are much too strong for a puppy.
If you have a pool, always keep its gate closed or the puppy securely kept away from it while unsupervised. It is much easier than you think for a young Lab puppy to drown. Just because they are water dogs, does not mean they can naturally learn how to get out of a pool if fallen in. Also, steps are much too slippery and steep for young puppies. The first step of a pool is often too deep for a puppy to comfortably stand up on it without being up to his ears in water! Learning where the steps or exit to a pool is another lesson you must slowly introduce to and teach your dog. Many dogs swim around in circles trying to get out and get too tired to stay swimming. The concept of "steps" is something a Lab does not understand. You must teach them how to get out of the pool and only let them swim in it while supervised. It is a very unfortunate mistake to let a puppy loose around an unfenced pool!
Labradors coats are fairly low-maintenance. A good brushing once a week is usually fine. Their, thick, dense coat is very water and dirt resistant so bathing isn't necessary that often. Rinsing them off with water only is the best, unless the dog smells bad. Too much shampoo can cause them to have dry skin and get itchy irritations. It also strip those natural oils that repel water and dirt from their coat leaving them defenseless!
They do shed! Each dog sheds at various degrees - some a lot, some not much, depending on their coat type. Their coats shed off about twice a year but the weekly brushing helps out. They don't need professional grooming or to be trimmed or shaved. (NEVER shave a Lab!) They are virtually self-maintaining!
Labradors are wonderful with children. Their temperament makes them perfect family pets. They love to be around all people, children and adults, as well as other animals. Labradors will generally greet all living things happily and have no problems getting along with anyone. A well-bred Lab (one that comes from a reputable breeder who also keep maintains an even temperament in their breeding program) is loving, easy to get along with and non-aggressive. Remember, it does take at least three years for a Lab to fully mature, so until then be prepared for puppy "naughtiness." A Lab is still a very strong dog so you should always be careful of them accidentally knocking over a small child or possibly an elderly adult. They are not malicious in any way, just too strong for their own good. Their tails are notorious for clearing off a coffee table! My son learned early on to walk "way" around our Lab's tail!
Start here: http://community-2.webtv.net/makasi/Warning/
A purebred Lab is not by nature a hyper dog. Just because a puppy digs or chews does not make them hyper. They may just be lonely or bored and by nature Labs are ACTIVE sporting dogs! Labs that do are simply being puppies and are exploring their environment. They may also be teething. They start the "adult teeth" process at around 4 months and can take up to eight to ten months to get all their canine molars in. And just like human babies, need lots of stuff to put in their mouths and chew on to make it feel better. A Labrador's temperament is by nature calm, not hyper. Some pups may be more active than others but still, by far, should not be hyper. By the age of three all Labs usually settle down into wonderful young adults.
I know a lot of people think "destructive" when they think of Labs. Well, just keep in mind, Labs can be destructive dogs. It is not because they are bad dogs or too hyper, it is just their instinct to be "retrievers" and they like things in their mouths. If given enough attention, proper training and a lot of toys they can chew on you won't have a problem. Just do some preventative maintenance by putting things they can't have out of reach or keep them contained in a "safe zone" while alone. This will prevent a lot of accidents. Also because they are bred for the outdoors and field work, they like to dig. Be prepared to section off a part of your yard that they can "play" in so that they can do their exploring. It will save you many months of replanting flowers and will save your garden. You'll be happy and they'll be happy. The digging, like the chewing, also will pass as the puppy phase passes. With these tips and some preparation, your puppy will be out of this phase quickly and with little harm done! I often find that a destructive dog, of any breed, is usually the result of the owner's own mistakes, not the dog's. (My Lab chewed far less than my other breeds did!)
There is no difference in temperament, hunting skills, health or intelligence between the three colors -- Black, Yellow or Chocolate. Some people think Yellows are mellower, Blacks are hunters and Chocolates are hyper. These are all myths. If the dog is well-bred, regardless of color, you can count on it living up to its breed's standards. If you think about it, a bitch can give birth to all three colors. Now how do you explain the chocolates being any different than its littermates? They aren't. Each breeder produces puppies for to obtain different qualities in their dogs or goals. One may breed black Labs for the purpose of hunting and field work, not primarily conformation. That does not mean the other two colors can't hunt, just that that specific breeder prefers to breed the black color. Regardless of color, find a breeder that breeds for the specific look or purpose that you are looking for, whether it be just a pet, a show prospect to a hunting partner. It's the type of breeding that the breeder does, not the color of its dogs, that counts.
There are many rescue organizations that will take in purebred Labradors that are in need of a good home. They may be from families that can no longer keep them or from animal shelters. Go to my Rescue Page for links to local Labrador Retriever Rescues to help you locate an adult Lab that needs a home.
Three years! They are still puppies until then so should not be expected to behave any differently than one.
The difference is that there is no such thing as a "Golden Lab." Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are two different breeds. A lot of people refer to yellow Labs as "golden" Labs. There is no such thing. A Golden Retriever, while in the same family, is a completely different breed than a yellow colored Labrador Retriever. A Golden Retriever comes in one color -- a golden, yellow color. A Labrador Retriever comes in three colors, black, yellow and chocolate. Most people have the two breeds confused and may think they are the same kind of dog. Goldens have a long, soft coat while Labs have a short, dense coat.
We sell all of our puppies with AKC Limited Registration, unless otherwise agreed to in advance. It means that the puppy is eligible to be registered with AKC but any of its offspring would NOT be. The dog may still compete in field and obedience trials but not conformation events. You can read more about if you click here to visit the AKC about it. If you still have any questions you may contact me at HarleyLabs@aol.com or the American Kennel Club directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not only do you not get to see the parents or other relatives (so you have no idea what the dog will grow up to look like), you don't have the breeder to ask questions about the puppy to. The people who work at those pet stores (usually high school kids) don't know much about each breed. Regurgitating the fact that "Labs are great with kids" doesn't qualify them as a Labrador expert. You want to buy a dog from an expert on the specific breed you are purchasing. You want to have someone to call if you ever encounter problems in the future or have questions. A pet store can't do that for you.
They sells hundred of dogs and don't know the personality of each puppy. They can't tell you if either parent was aggressive, had allergies and most importantly -- if either had genetic clearances! You don't get to see the OFA and CERF clearances when you buy from a pet store! Most likely your puppy will be sick and in some cases even die. These puppies are raised in the poorest of conditions and are confined to small crates their entire life.
The puppies found in a pet store are usually mismarked or faulty in some way. If they weren't, the breeder who bred them would have no problem selling them. So why do you think a breeder would see a show quality, top notch puppy to a pet store? They wouldn't! Sometimes the breeder just can't sell the puppy so gets rid of it that way! They are also usually mis-marked because they are from a puppy mill who doesn't care about how they are breeding and have generations upon generations of faulty dogs that they keep breeding and breeding!
I could go on forever about how poor the quality of health and life those poor puppies have in the pet stores. No matter how sorry you feel for them, purchasing one only supports the cycle of abuse and neglect to these puppies by financially supporting the people behind them -- puppy mills and pet store owners. I do not even shop or purchase items in a pet store that sells dogs as I fell this also supports these stores and keep their doors open!
I hope that by informing others of the disadvantages and dangers of buying a puppy from a pet store will help stop the cycle of abuse some day soon.
I cannot stress enough the importance of spaying or neutering your pet at an early age. It benefits the mental and physical health of pet and makes the both of you much happier. This article provided by WorldClassDogs.com and written by a veterinarian gives the advantages of altering your female prior to its first heat cycle and some guidelines on when the best time to do it is. If you're still not sure if your should spay your female please visit my dog, Missi's, page. I hope her story touches your heart and encourages you to do the best thing for both you and your dog.
Also some great resources on the importance of spaying/neutering your pet:
Not necesarily! This article battles the myths associated with spaying or neutering your pet. Please read it as well:
Make Your Own Pedigree Online
This site from SitStay.com allows you to create your own online pedigree that you can print out or publish it on your own web site:
It has been found that the original "one dog year is equal to seven human years" is not true. The following chart is a closer approximation:
Adult Dog In Pounds/Relative Human Years
It is recommended that a puppy be given it's first Parvo shot at 5 weeks old. At six weeks old it can begin being given a combination shot (5-in-1) that contains the Parvovirus as well as Coronavirus, Distemper, Parainfluenza and Adenovirus cough. This combination shot should be repeated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old (that's at least 4 doses of the combination shot including Parvo). Some breeders or vets exact schedules may vary slightly but usually fall pretty close within this schedule. The most important thing is that the puppy has received at least 2 shots before they go to their new homes and they continue to receive their shots monthly until at least 4 months old.
At four months old your puppy should get it's first Rabies shot. It may also receive a vaccination for Lyme Disease, Leptospirosis (shouldn't be given earlier than 12 weeks) or Bordetella if you live in an area where any of these are a concern. Yearly boosters of all of the above shots are needed except Rabies which is good for 3 years after it's first vaccination which is good for 1 year. Please consult your vet for their recommended vaccination schedule depending on the area where you live.
It is very important NOT to take a puppy outside it's yard and home until it is at least four months old AND has received all of it's vaccinations. It is very easy to pick up Parvo and other deadly diseases just by walking by where another dog that is carrying the disease has been. If you have fallen behind on your puppy's shots, don't take your puppy out to the park or visiting friends until you have gotten caught up!
The cost of a purebred, quality AKC Labrador puppy should range anywhere from $700 - $900 depending on the location of the breeder (this is the California price range, prices in different states/countries may vary), shipping charges (if applicable) and experience of the breeder (a well established kennel may charge much more). You should not expect to pay any less for a runt since the size of a puppy at birth means nothing to what size it will be at two years old (many times, they are bigger than their littermates!) Some breeders may charge more for females than for males, but that is not always the case. In any case, a pet quality puppy should cost the same regardless of gender or color. A show quality prospect, of course will cost more and will, in most cases, have stipulations attached (breeding/stud service contracts). Every breeder's price range will vary so inquire with each breeder you are interested in as to their pricing.
Just be careful if the cost of one puppy is more or less than another puppy and find out why. If a puppy is significantly less or more than this range just beware and do your research. No puppy should be less than the others unless it has a some significant defect or health problems. Find out what they are charging for the other puppies in the litter and if your puppy price differs, make sure you are informed as to why. You should feel comfortable with your purchase regardless of the price. Do your homework! Remember, this is life long investment! It's better to pay more for a well-bred, healthy, sound Labrador that will be your companion for over a decade then to get a bargain that costs you thousands more just to nurse it back to health or keep it healthy. Expect to get what you pay for!
There should be no such thing but unfortunately some breeders are taking advantage of unsuspecting puppy buyers and making a fortune off of them! A silver Lab is a representation of a combination of some recessive chocolate genes. It is NOT recognized by the AKC as an acceptable. color. Although breeders of this rare color advertise them as "exotic" and charge a much higher price than they are worth ($1000 and up!), they do not meet the breed's standards. So you are not getting a true representation of what a Labrador is supposed to be. They are not exotic, they are an intentional "mistake" of breeding the wrong colored dogs together. This color will not occur by breeding two ordinary chocolates together so those of you interested in chocolates, do not worry. These breeders have worked very hard at creating this unacceptable color. They appear gray/silver in color with gray noses, feet pads and have very light eyes. All of which are unacceptable. They are being registered through AKC as "chocolates" when , in fact, they have no representation of chocolate anywhere on them! They even charge you a fee to see their dogs' pedigrees and pictures. Now why would they be doing that if they had nothing to hide? Why should any prospective buyer have to pay for a look at the background of their purchase. The problem with these "rare" silver Labs is that they are being bred based on the notion of their unique colors and not their temperament, conformation, working ability or health. Although, they may give you a guarantee with your puppy, remember that that puppy was produced out of a goal and desire for a specific COLOR that they feel they can charge a lot of money for and nothing else! They are charging you for is a novelty, not quality. In this case, you would not get what you pay for except a conversation piece that may lose it's appeal after the initial excitement wears off.
Please read my article about purchasing a puppy during the busy holiday season.
First, remove any flea collars. They can cause irritation and really are ineffective. Second, how often are you bathing him? Lab's don't need fancy shampoos or frequent bathing. Just some water will do unless they are really dirty (I mean with real dirt on them not just dust). Use a mild oatmeal shampoo and no more than once a month. Don't use too many chemicals on their skin (perfumes, sprays). You could also try a supplement. It can give them some extra vitamins and minerals that will put the moisture back into their skin and aid them in healing. I recommend Nu Vet Plus. You may order it by calling 1-800-474-7044 and give them order code 5057-5. Call them for prices or you may contact me for more information. If it is causing them discomfort, bald spots or scabs, take them to the vet immediately. They may need medication or may have another health condition. If it is not and you have exhausted my first three recommendations, then please let a vet take a look at them.
Puppies (and adult Labs) are very curious. So please be extra careful about your puppy chewing on or accidentally eating some of your plants. These are not ALL of the plants that are harmful to pets but they can be the most common around the house:
These cause rash after skin or mouth contact:
Fig; Creeping and Weeping
These cause mouth swelling and may cause staggering and collapse:
Lily; Calla, Tiger, Peace and Easter (all varieties)
Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Snake Plant)
These may cause vomiting and diarrhea, cramps; some cause tremors, heart, respiratory or kidney problems:
Bird of Paradise
Holly (potentially fatal)
Here is a good article about the "how to's" to crate training. It is much simpler than most believe. It is really a great training tool as well. Labs generally love their crates and will take to sleeping in them rather easily so it is much worth reading about:
NO! Breeding is done to improve the BREED not the individual dog. Each generation is to better than the one before. There is no behavioral or health benefit to breeding your dog. There are health risks as well as monetary risks involved. If you really love you family pet, than please don't expose him/her to the health risks of breeding. It won't change them for the better, it may in fact do the opposite and make their behavior worse. A male may become even more territorial and harder to handle as he tried to escape your yard or leash to get at bitches in heat. Females may become exposed to health problems, may be territorial to protect her "den" and will also try to escape to find her a mate. I urge novice, pet-owning people to leave breeding animals to those who make a commitment to do it in the best interest of the dog and the breed.
I don't even know where to begin on this one. I think most well-written way I've seen it put is at the link. This is the only way I know to get the point across how important breeding for personal reasons is not a responsible way to go. It doesn't teach your children anything that you yourself as parents couldn't teach them at home. The more responsible value to teach them would be respecting animals so that when they grow up don't think unwanted litters are "cute." Sorry, enough said, just read the article....
All I can do is give you some suggestions and things to cnsider. I am here to educate not to preach. You can first start by reading this article on a reputable breeder's site: Just One Litter. It is straight, to-the-point and doesn't mess around. Breeding is not all about cute little puppies and a happy, glowing new mom. So if you haven't gone and got your dog all his or her eyes and hips clearances, they are not over 2 years old and do not meet the Breed's Standard -- then I am sorry, but I can't help. These are the BARE minimums of breeding, while the actual list is a mile long.
I feed and recommend Nu Vet Plus. It is all natural and made of human grade ingredients. It helps reduce or eliminate many common health problems that can effect your dog. Arthritis, tumors, cancer, cataracts, dysplasia, strokes are just a few of the diseases it can help alleviate or reduce symptoms. You may order it by calling 1-800-474-7044 and give them order code 5057-5. It is $19.95 for a thirty day supply and it is even cheaper if you buy it in bulk. Call them for prices or you may contact me for more information. I can also order it for you.
Please refer to my supplement section. First, recommendation is always take your dog to the vet for a complete exam. If it is diagnosed with a long-term health problem, discuss alternatives with your vet. If your dogs has been diagnosed with arthritis or dysplasia, there are some over-the-counter products that can't cure it but can alleviate some of the discomfort. Click here.
This is my most common question asked and if you'd like more help on this, please give me a call. I believe very strongly about breeders breeding for the love and the sport of improving the Labrador not for personal, financial or economical reasons. I am going to just give some basic guidelines and things to look out for. A "bad" breeder or "puppy mill" may not have all of these cues as well as a "reputable" breeder may still participate in some. It is up to you to really research the breeder you are considering. Follow you gut and get references.
Be cautious if:
1. Sends puppies home at six weeks old - many breeders don't want the added expense of feeding and caring for the pups longer than this. They get out of giving additional doses of vaccinations, cleaning, bags (& bags) of puppy food. There is nothing good about letting pups go home that early. (read my section here) Only consequences. Eager families can sure wait two more weeks for a pup who will mentally healthier and a more stable companion. Puppies should not go home before eight weeks old.
2. Has more than a few litters per year - now this is a tricky one. Look at this way, if a breeder has a kennel license and has 20 dogs, 10 of them bitches of breeding age, you could expect 10 litters a year. But this is still a VERY large amount. Even with 20 dogs, many will be under 2, many just pups, many studs, so having more than a few litters a year, even for larger breeders is rare. Be cautious they are over-breeding their dogs. Find out how many litters each females has had and how far apart and how young did they start. Any dog should be at least 2 years old and with clearances. Find out how many litters each female is allowed to have overall. Be careful if a breeder has more than 2 litters at the same time. One litter is hard enough, two is a handful and means not enough care may be given and they are spreading themselves thin. Three or more is a puppy mill. I have seen sites where they are releasing pups at 6 weeks old, 5 litters all a week apart from each other. Puppy Mill....
3. Accepts credit cards for payment or advertises that they do - this is another questionable one. A breeder may opt to take credit if shipping out of state and wants payment for a pup without dealing with out of state (or country) checks. To take a credit card, makes you a "business." Breeding should never be a business. Puppies are living things not a commodity to be sold like retail (pet stores). Credit card merchant accounts also cost the breeder money. Visa takes a portion of the charge for themselves as a fee so the breeder must be doing enough "business", selling enough puppies to make it cost effective.
4. Doesn't provide you pedigrees or charges you up front to see one - now no one should charge a person money to investigate a prospective litter. They are definitely hiding something. Even if not posted on the Internet site, they should be able to fax or mail you one. This is a "silver Lab" trick. They don't want others to see what they are up to so they charge money to see a pedigree. Puppy mills may not want you to see up front, changing your mind, that they have inbred or over-bred their dogs.
Now again, these are just some things to think about. there may be a very reputable breeder who takes Visa for some other good reason. There may be a good reason they had four litters this year (maybe none last year, one was an accident) but there's never a good reason to send a puppy home at 6 weeks or breed your bitch back-to-back or breed any old two dogs together that will give you puppies!
A fellow breeder summed it up nicely also: Puppy Buyers Check List
This is a really easy way to see if your dog is getting enough (or too much) to eat:
This summarizes it nicely. Although I disagree with the second section that talks about what breeders to consider if they do place an ad. I think ads in general can be very misleading but this article gives you the idea: http://www.canismajor.com/dog/clasfied.html#Consider
Often after a swim in the cold river or a long day in the pool a Lab's tail may be carried like its broken. It may just hang there, hardly wag, the dog may seem uncomfortable (or not)...don't be alarmed. Its not broken - its the phenomena of "Cold Tail" as some call it. Most Labradors experience once in their life. I have a bitch who has had it several times and one who has never had it. Both their tails still clear off the coffee tables. Read more about it:
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