Archive for August, 2014

Popular Dog Breeds: Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds of dog in the world today. They have been ranked as the number one dog in the United States for over 20 years. They are also extremely popular in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Affectionate, extremely intelligent, easy-going, and fun-loving, Labs make excellent family dogs. They are the ideal dog for many people.



The original Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada from crosses between Newfoundland dogs and small water dogs found in the area. When bred together these dogs produced dogs called the St. John’s Water Dog which became the ancestor for many retrieving breeds today. These dogs were used for hunting and retrieving as well as helping fishermen with their nets. In the early 19th century the British Earl of Malmesbury saw some of these dogs at work in the field and imported some to England. The St. John’s Water Dog later died out in Canada due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law but Malmesbury’s dogs thrived in England and it is there that the breed continued to develop. He introduced some other breeds into the basic St. John’s Water Dog stock but they stayed essentially the same dog. They got the name “Labrador Retriever” because Malmesbury said that’s what he always called them. Pedigrees of Labs today go back accurately to 1878 and the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1903. They were recognized by the AKC in 1917. They first became popular in the U.S. in the 1920s and ’30s.



The Labrador Retriever is known as a gentle, friendly dog. They are very affectionate with their family and loved ones. They are not quite as outgoing and welcoming to strangers as the Golden Retriever but they don’t usually make very good guard dogs. Labs can be rather friendly with people they don’t know and they will happily welcome someone into the house once you invite a person inside.


Labs are excellent with children of all ages and can be protective of small kids. They are recommended for families looking for a breed that’s good for kids. Labs are also known as one of the most intelligent of all breeds and are often used as service dogs, assistance dogs, and therapy dogs. They work as guide dogs for the blind and are trained to work with people with other disabilities. They are good at these jobs because of their brains and because they are gentle and patient. They love to please their owners. They also make a good dog for older people.


Labs are a sporting breed and they do require regular exercise. This is especially true when they are young. A young Labrador Retriever can be quite exuberant. Young dogs can also be mouthy and will probably want to chew on things so be sure to provide a Lab with plenty of toys and safe things to chew on.


Since this is such a loving, affectionate breed, they need to be around people quite a bit. A Labrador Retriever will never be happy if he is left out in the yard, living in a dog house. He wants to be part of the family. If he is left alone too much, he can develop behavior problems.



The Labrador Retriever is a medium-large dog. They weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, with males being a little heavier than females. In height they stand from about 21 ½ inches to 24 ½ inches tall at the shoulders, with males being a little taller than females. Overall, the dogs are strongly built, athletic, and well-balanced.


Labs have a short, dense double coat that is weather-resistant. Their coat sheds seasonally but it can shed a lot when it sheds. Regular brushing will help cut down on the amount of dead hair that is shed in the house. Labs come in black, chocolate, and yellow coat colors.


The breed also has an “otter” tail that acts as a rudder when the dog is in the water. The Lab’s head is clean-cut with a broad back skull. Their eyes are kind and friendly. They should express character, intelligence, and good temperament.


There are also field-bred Labrador Retrievers in the U.S. which are typically a little taller and have a lighter frame but they are still able to fit the AKC breed standard. Breed standards in other countries can vary slightly but Labs are still easily recognizable all over the world.



Labradors are considered to be a generally healthy breed and most dogs have few issues during their lifetime. Life expectancy for the breed is 12-13 years. However, like all dogs, there are health issues found in the breed, in general. Things that sometimes occur in the breed include:


Hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas (slipped kneecap), eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and retinal dysplasia.


Very rare conditions include hereditary myeopathy, autoimmune disease, and congenital deafness. Exercised induced collapse is also possible.


Labs can also suffer from health problems associated with being overweight or obese. Labs are highly food-motivated and they can easily become too interested in food, especially if the owner is not careful about watching the dog’s food intake and exercise. These dogs love to eat. If you have a Lab, watch his weight. Obesity can lead to problems with diabetes, the heart, respiratory disease, arthritis, and other serious health issues.



Because of their intelligence and eagerness to please, Labs are usually very easy to train. In fact, they love to do things with their owners so they usually love any kind of training. They respond very well to positive reinforcement – using praise and rewards for training. Labs can excel at obedience, agility, rally, hunting, any kind of water sports, tracking and scent work, search and rescue, or just about anything else you would like to do with your dog. They are one of the most versatile of all breeds.


Even if you just want to have a Lab as a wonderful pet, training is recommended. Your dog will benefit from it, especially as a puppy or young dog when he’s frisky and very active. Training is also a great way for you to bond with your dog.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are about 70 million pet dogs in the U.S. today. Today, more than ever before, when someone thinks of getting a pet dog they think about getting that dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. It’s estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of dogs in homes come from shelters and rescues.


Reasons to adopt

There are many reasons to adopt a dog such as the following:


  • There is a good selection of dogs
  • You are probably saving a dog’s life
  • Prices are usually reasonable
  • You can feel good about yourself
  • Lots of people like mixed breed dogs


Things to consider before adopting a dog

There are some things to consider before adopting a dog – or before getting any dog.


  • Is this a good time for you to get a dog?

It’s easy to love a dog but that doesn’t mean you should own one. Owning a dog takes a lot of responsibility. It also takes a commitment in terms of time and finances. For example, if you’re heading to college in the fall and you will be leaving your new dog at home for your parents to care for, this probably isn’t the right time for you to get a dog. If you are starting a new job and you know you will be working long hours for the next year or so, this probably isn’t the best time for you to get a dog. Before getting any dog you should ask yourself if you can afford his food and vet care, as well.


  • Do you have kids?

If you have kids it’s often a good idea to zero in on a specific breed that is known for being good with children. A dog’s good temperament is extremely important, especially if he will be around children. Another factor to consider if you have children is the dog’s size. In most cases a large dog is preferable to a small dog. Large dogs are less likely to be injured if a child tugs on the dog or falls on him. A small dog can be seriously hurt if a child pulls on him or falls on him. Some of the best dogs for families with kids are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Newfoundlands, and similar dogs. If you would like to adopt one of these dogs, try contacting a rescue group that specializes in one of these breeds. Make sure you tell them that you are looking for a dog that is good with children.


  • Do you have allergies?

People who have allergies often have problems when it comes to adopting a dog due to the dander found on dogs. There are some breeds which are often good for people with allergies but they can be hard to find in shelters. If you are allergic to dogs and you would still like to adopt one, try contacting a rescue group that specializes in one of the breeds recommended for people with allergies such as Poodles, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Schnauzers, the Bichon Frise, the Chinese Crested, the Portuguese Water Dog, the Bedlington Terrier, the Maltese, and others.


  • Consider your lifestyle

Before getting a dog you should consider what kind of dog would be right for you. Do you want an active dog who can go hiking with you? Do you want a dog who will curl up and keep you company at home while you read and watch TV? Do you prefer a bouncy, active dog or a quiet, gentle dog? Do you like a big dog or a small one? Male or female? Do you like a long coat or a short one that’s easy to groom? Think about all these things before heading to the shelter.


How to adopt a dog

If you decide that it’s a good time for you to bring a dog into your life and you have considered the kind of dog you need for your lifestyle, then you can find a dog in several ways. Most towns have an animal shelter and larger cities usually have several shelters. You may be able to check online to see what their hours of operation are. Some shelters also post photos of some of the dogs they have available for adoption.


If you like a particular breed or mix you can also contact a rescue group for that breed to see if they have dogs available. Be aware that some rescue groups can be hard to work with, however. They often have harder requirements for adopting a dog than your local shelter. Dogs usually cost more to adopt from rescues, too.


Finally, you can visit a site such as which lists thousands of shelters and their dogs across North America. Some of these groups (but not all) will only adopt locally but you can find a greater selection of dogs, especially if you are interested in a particular breed or mix.

Separation anxiety in dogs can be a serious condition that causes a dog to have anxiety and behavior problems. Many dogs are temporarily sad when they are left alone but most of them have the coping skills necessary to soothe or entertain themselves until their owner returns. You may feel very guilty when you go to work in the morning and your dog looks at you with pitiful eyes, but chances are that your dog spends the day playing and napping. Some dogs, however, have such problems with anxiety that they don’t relax until their owner returns.


Symptoms of separation anxiety

A dog that truly has separation anxiety will display the following symptoms:


  • Barking and howling when the owner leaves – and it continues more than 15 minutes
  • Seeking contact with things that belong to the owner, such as clothing, for comfort
  • Drooling and panting
  • Soiling in the house from anxiety
  • Ignoring other people in the home when the owner is absent
  • Wanting to see and touch the owner when the owner is home
  • Ignoring toys, chews, and other things meant to comfort the dog
  • Digging in the house, chewing in the house, and destroying furniture out of anxiety


As you can see, separation anxiety can be emotionally distressing, not just for the dog, but also for the dog’s human family. It can also lead to many destructive behaviors in the home.


Although many people think their dog has separation anxiety because their dog may become “anxious” when they leave the house, remember that true separation anxiety is a serious anxiety condition. It is more than a dog that is simply sad or temporarily upset when you leave the house. Virtually all dogs display some emotion when their people leave home.


What causes separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is more common in dogs that have been taken from their mothers and littermates at an early age. It is also more common in dogs from animal shelters and other dogs that have had an unstable start in life. The more emotional security a dog has at an early age, the better. Any dog that has been through a lot of changes and upheavals can show signs of separation anxiety.


How to help your dog with separation anxiety

One way of helping your dog with separation anxiety is through desensitization. This approach is most helpful for dogs that have mild cases of separation anxiety. In essence, you can get your dog to become used to being left alone for short periods of time and gradually increase the time he spends alone until he feels all right being alone. However, it can take a long time to work up to the point where your dog feels okay being alone all day.


You can start desensitizing your dog by picking up your car keys or purse – something your dog associates with you leaving the house. Your dog probably starts becoming anxious at this point. Then put them back down. You can praise your dog when he relaxes. Keep working on this one item until your dog seems relaxed when you pick it up. Then move on to going to the door. Again, your dog will probably be anxious when he sees you going to the door. Instead of going outside, sit back down. Praise your dog when he’s relaxed again. Again, it can take some time before your dog is relaxed when he sees you going to the door. If you continue in this manner, you can gradually work up to the point of going for a short ride in your car and returning. Praise your dog when he is relaxed about you taking this short ride. You can slowly increase the length of time you are gone. When your dog can stand for you to be gone for more than 45 minutes, he should be all right with you being gone for longer periods without feeling anxious.


Desensitization works for mild cases of separation anxiety. If your dog has a more severe form of separation anxiety you will probably need to work with a canine behaviorist. You should talk to your veterinarian and see if he or she can recommend someone. Frequently a canine behaviorist will also recommend that a dog take a short course of anti-anxiety medication during training. Your vet can prescribe this medication. The medication calms your dog’s anxiety enough so that he can learn new, more productive behavior. You will not have to continue to give your dog medication after the training is complete.

Helping Your Dog With Socialization

Whether you have a new puppy or an adult dog, or whether you have a dog from an animal shelter or from a breeder, one thing that all dogs share is a need for good socialization. Socialization helps the dog learn the social skills he needs to deal with other dogs and with humans. It helps dogs know how to behave in public. Well-socialized dogs learn about the world and develop a self-confidence that helps them in every aspect of their lives.


Socializing a puppy

The easiest time to socialize a dog is when he’s a puppy. This is because puppies don’t have any fears yet. You can introduce your puppy to everything for the first time and help him have good experiences. If he is reluctant about something or afraid, you can show him that there’s nothing to fear and help build his confidence.


Some of the things that you should introduce your puppy to in the home include the following:


  • TVs
  • Radios and stereos
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Kitchen appliances (dishwasher, blenders, other things that are noisy)


If your puppy is fearful of some of these things, such as the vacuum, you can encourage him to investigate it when it’s turned off. Let him play around it. Praise him and give him treats. Do not scare him with the vacuum or other things that could frighten him. Instead, show him that they won’t hurt him even when they are making noise. Don’t force your puppy to be close to these objects if he is scared. Let him get used to them and praise and reward him when he is relaxed around them.


For other common house and yard items, such as the lawn mower or weed eater, you should not encourage your puppy to get too close to them since they can be dangerous. However, you can praise and reward him for being calm when you use them.


Outside the home you can take your puppy to places where puppies and dogs are welcome so they can meet friendly strangers. Some people like to take their dog to pet supply stores that welcome dogs so people can pet them. You can also take your puppy to the park if dogs are welcome there. It’s best to avoid the dog park with a young puppy since some dogs can play too roughly and your puppy could be hurt. Dog parks can also be a place where canine diseases are passed so please don’t take your puppy there if he has not had his vaccinations.


One excellent way to socialize puppies is by enrolling them in a puppy preschool or puppy kindergarten class. These classes are often offered by pet supply stores, dog trainers, and kennel clubs. You can probably find one in your area. They are aimed at young puppies so they can gain some socialization with other puppies, have some interaction with other people, and learn some basic good manners. They are highly recommended. A puppy who goes to puppy preschool class will be ready to start a good basic obedience class when he’s a little older.


Socializing an older dog

Socializing an older dog can be a little harder but it can still be done. If you have obtained an adult dog from an animal shelter or from a breeder, you can cover the same things you would cover with a puppy. Try to find out if the dog has any particular fears or problems that you need to address. For example, some dogs can be fearful about men in hats. You’ll need to keep this in mind, especially if you encounter any men in hats. It might take some time for you to help your dog overcome this issue. Do not force your dog to meet men in hats. This will only make your dog more fearful. Instead, you can let your dog get used to hats, meet women in hats, meet men who put hats on and take them off, and so on. This can be a slow process and some dogs might never overcome this kind of issue. But this gives you some idea of the things you can do. You should praise and reward your dog for any small progress. And remember not to do anything to force your dog or scare him further.


Older dogs often benefit from a good obedience training class with their owner. Being in a class setting with a good teacher and learning new lessons often helps the dog build confidence which, in turn, is a good way to help with the dog’s socialization.

Most of the common worms associated with dogs are found in the gastrointestinal tract: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Although these worms are pesky and they can cause diarrhea, anemia, and other symptoms if left untreated, they can be easily treated and eliminated from your dog. If you suspect the presence of any of these worms your vet can do a simple exam to confirm their presence and treat your dog for them relatively inexpensively. Some owners worm their dogs a couple of times per year as a preventive measure.



Heartworms are different from these intestinal worms. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. The mosquito first bites an animal that is already infected with heartworms. This animal has tiny microfilariae – small, thread-like worms — in its bloodstream which the mosquito can transmit to another animal, such as your dog. Once these larvae are in your dog’s bloodstream they start to migrate toward the dog’s heart and lungs. When they are in the heart and lungs they become established and begin to grow. Adult heartworms can reach over a foot in length and live for years. A dog can host up to about 250 heartworms.


It takes several months from the time the dog is first infected for the heartworms to reach the lungs and heart and for them to be detected in a test by your veterinarian.


Where are heartworms found

In recent decades heartworms infections in dogs have been found in dogs in all 50 states. Heartworms have been found in dogs as young as a year old. Areas with higher mosquito populations are more likely to have heartworm-infected dogs, but any dog can get heartworms.



The symptoms may be barely noticeable at first, especially if the dog does not get a great deal of exercise. The heart and lungs are the organs more often affected but the liver and kidneys can also be affected. The first symptom is often a cough that becomes chronic, followed by exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds. When the disease is severe the dog may have difficulty breathing, enlargement of the liver, temporary loss of consciousness because of poor blood flow to the brain, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, abnormal heart sounds, and death.


Diagnosis and treatment

Your veterinarian can diagnose heartworms. There are several tests available. Most dogs can be successfully treated for the illness, especially if it is caught early. Treatment usually costs several hundred dollars depending on the method chosen and where you live. Complications can sometimes occur with heartworm treatment, especially if the dog has many adult heartworms present.


Heartworm prevention

By far the best, easiest, and least expensive way to keep your dog safe from heartworms is by keeping him on monthly heartworm prevention. Heartworm preventives work by killing any microfilariae which have been transmitted to your dog by mosquitoes each month – before they can do any harm. There are several different drugs used in various heartworm preventives for this purpose but they all act in the same way. Products include daily and monthly chewables as well as topical preventives that are applied to the skin. Some of these products are combined with products to kill other worms or with flea and tick medications. You should talk to your veterinarian to decide which heartworm preventive would be best for your dog.

The summer months can be lots of fun for you and your dog but they also pose some special challenges. Specifically, the noise from holiday fireworks and thunderstorms can be upsetting to many dogs. Even dogs who have never been bothered by these loud noises before can suddenly develop fears about them as they get older.

If your dog has issues with fireworks or thunderstorms, we have some suggestions for you so you can help your dog.

Dealing with loud noises in general

Most puppies are unaffected by loud noises. They don’t yet have any fears or negative experiences associated with noise. You can encourage your puppy to take noise in stride by petting him, playing with him, and showing him that things are fun if someone in the neighborhood is shooting off fireworks or if there’s thunder. Your puppy will take his cues from you and your attitude. When there is noise you should:


  • Stay positive and upbeat
  • Play with your puppy with toys
  • Keep your puppy entertained
  • Act like the noise is no big deal

You should not do the following things:

  • Do not make soothing sounds
  • Do not coddle, cuddle your puppy or offer sympathy
  • Don’t act like the noise is scary

If you do any of these things, your puppy will think that the noise is something to fear. The more you cuddle and soothe him, the more convinced he will be that he should be afraid! It doesn’t take very long for a puppy to become a basket case when he hears any kind of loud noise.

The happier you act when there is any kind of fireworks noise or thunder, the easier it will be for your puppy to think the noise is okay. Show him that the noise is good or no big deal.


Puppies and dogs that are well-socialized are also better able to cope with loud noises. These dogs are typically calmer and they have more self-confidence. They are less likely to become fearful when they hear unexpected noises. It’s easiest to start socializing a dog when he’s a puppy but you can work on socialization with a dog at any age.


If your dog is scared of the noise associated with fireworks, there are some things you can do to help him.

  • Do not take him to fireworks displays
  • Do not put him outside when you know there will be fireworks, such as the 4th of July
  • Make sure your dog is safely indoors when you expect fireworks
  • Turn up the TV or stereo to drown out the noise
  • Consider staying home with your dog to keep him company when you expect fireworks nearby
  • Ask your veterinarian for a sedative for your dog if he still has problems relaxing when fireworks are expected

You can also work on desensitizing your dog to the noise associated with fireworks. This involves recording the sounds of fireworks and playing them for your dog. You start with the sound very low and gradually increase it until your dog becomes comfortable with the actual noise level.


Thunderstorms can be a little trickier than fireworks since some dogs are also sensitive to the static electricity in the air and the drop in air pressure, and not just the noise. They can sense a storm approaching several minutes before there is any thunder. If your dog gives you this kind of warning about an approaching storm there are several things you can do to help him. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a thundershirt for your dog. A thundershirt wraps snugly around a dog’s body and gives him a feeling of comfort. It also keeps static away from his body. You can also use a snug-fitting T-shirt or tube top for the same purpose.
  • Give your dog a gentle herb to calm him such as valerian. Valerian is used to help people sleep and relax and it helps many dogs with anxiety about storms. You can also use rescue remedy made from flower essences.
  • Some dogs like to take cover in a place where static electricity won’t collect, such as a bathtub. If your dog heads for the bathtub or the tile floor in the bathroom, let him go there. These places make him feel more secure.
  • Finally, you can also work on desensitizing your dog to thunderstorms the same way you work on fireworks. Record the sounds of a storm and start by playing it for your dog very quietly. You can gradually increase the sound level until your dog is comfortable with the full sound.

Noise phobias are not easy to overcome but you can help your dog get through them.

Dogs have been connected to royals throughout history. While Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is known today as a famous dog lover, kings and queens have always had their favorite canine companions. Here’s a look at some of the dogs remembered today for their place in history.

Ancient times

The ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to celebrate the dog. There are paintings of hunting dogs similar to Pharaoh Hounds, Ibizan Hounds, and other similar breeds in many royal tombs dating back thousands of years. The Egyptians also favored the fast, graceful Saluki for desert hunting and paintings of these dogs can be seen on the walls of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Favorite dogs were often mummified to accompany their owners into the afterlife.

In China, there were several breeds considered to be “royal” dogs over the millennia. One of these royal dog breeds was the Pekingese. The breed is over 2000 years old. The dogs were carefully bred and guarded in the Imperial Palace and only people within the royal circle could own one. A number of Chinese breeds, including the Pekingese, were unknown in the West until the 19th and 20th centuries because they had been so closely guarded.

Europe and the UK

Europe has many stories of famous royal dogs. Some of the most famous are the Pugs that belonged to William of Orange. Prince William of Orange (in the Netherlands) had his life saved when his Pug named Pompey alerted him to the approach of assassins in 1572. Thereafter, Pugs were often associated with the family. A Pug traveled with his descendant, William III, when he left the Netherlands to become King of England in 1688.

Pugs were also popular in France in the 19th century. The Empress Josephine had her Pug named Fortune carry concealed messages to Napoleon when she was imprisoned before their marriage. Later in the 19th century, Queen Victoria of England bred her own Pugs. Her involvement with the breed, and with other breeds, helped launch Britain’s Kennel Club. Victoria was so passionate about dogs and such a devoted dog breeder, that she helped develop a number of breeds we have today. For instance, she was instrumental in developing the Pomeranian as we know the breed now. Victoria was also responsible for making Collies and other Scottish breeds popular.

The royal Stuart family of Britain had a number of devoted dogs. One of the most famous was the dog Boye. Boye was the companion of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, nephew of Charles I, and one of his most dashing and accomplished military commanders during the English Civil War. Boye, a white Poodle that Prince Rupert used for hunting, often accompanied the prince into battle. Enemies of Prince Rupert and his dog alleged that Boye had supernatural powers. Prince Rupert received the dog while he was imprisoned during the Thirty Years’ War to keep him company. Boye accompanied Prince Rupert from 1642 to 1644 when he died at the Battle of Marston Moor. While he lived, Boye was a symbol of the Royalist cause and much-loved.

Mary Queen of Scots was also an animal lover. After she was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle in February 1587, it was discovered that her small Terrier had been hiding inside the folds of her gown. The dog refused to leave the side of his dead mistress.

One of the great dog lovers among British monarchs was King Charles II. He was famous for the small spaniels that always surrounded him – King Charles Spaniels or English Toy Spaniels. A different breed, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are probably named after his father, Charles I, who was also a dog lover.

Some breeds could only be owned by royals and nobles. The Scottish Deerhound – a Greyhound-type dog with a harsh coat for protection from the elements – could only be owned by people of the nobility in Scotland at one time. They are known as the Royal Dog of Scotland.


Today Queen Elizabeth II is known for her beloved Corgis. She is said to have 10 dogs: four Corgis and three Dorgis (a cross between Corgis and Dachshunds). She also cares for three Corgis that belonged to her late mother, the Queen Mother. According to a recent news story, one of the Queen’s Corgi’s nearly took the ear off Princess Beatrice’s Norfolk Terrier, Max, at Balmoral during a vacation.

There’s also Kate and William’s dog Lupo. Lupo is a black Cocker Spaniel. There are American and English Cocker Spaniels though they used to be a single breed. Lupo is what Americans would call an “English” Cocker, though he’s simply a Cocker Spaniel in Britain.

You can see that not only are dogs man’s best friend, but they’re often a king or queen’s best friend.