Labor Day Was Labrador Day! Raising a Puppy - Part 1
Labor Day Weekend is usually a lazy weekend where you just soak up all of the last bits of summer sun you can during a holiday weekend. There are boats on the lake, but not as many, because now people are going to college football games, parents are cutting oranges for elementary-aged kids’ soccer games and most school activities are in full swing. It’s usually a really nice relaxing weekend on the lake…..
Not so for us this year! Let me introduce the newest member of the Costello Family: Lucy! Our adorable new 8-week-old chocolate English Labrador Retriever. And yes, she already retrieves balls!
Getting Lucy was a real process. She is a long-awaited treasure to our family. It had to be the right timing. After a painful good-bye to our sweet dear black lab mix, Cassie, last December, our family definitely had to go through a grieving period and then it became “When can we dedicate the time a new puppy deserves?” We decided it would be after our family trip to Europe.
Our last canine family member came from a shelter, so we automatically put the feelers out at Wayside Waifs, a wonderful big temporary home for rescued dogs and cats in Kansas City. They were so helpful and kind in contacting me immediately when we got home from our trip. There was a black lab mix puppy waiting for a new family. This was an exceptional puppy but we still felt the pangs of missing Cassie when we thought of owning another black lab.
So the search began for the hard-to-find chocolate lab puppy! Harder than you think - since they aren’t a regular guest at shelters. After contacting several lab breeders whose litters were not at the right time for us or who didn’t have chocolate labs, I got a call from Jodee Horseman and her husband, Jeff from Platte City, Mo. It was like a miracle - they got my name from another breeder and voila! They had a whole litter of English chocolate labs who would be ready to go “home” in a couple of weeks!
Jody and Jeff of Horseman Hilltop Labradors (HHL) have been breeding labs for over 20 years. Their first litter of lab puppies came shortly after they got married and were their first “kids.” They love the breed because they are compassionate, family-oriented and very loving. They are so good natured that you can walk up to them, pet them and not be afraid. They want to please you with unconditional love.
I had been told by several friends that when choosing a breeder, it is best if they invite you into where they live and hopefully you see the parents of the litter. You also want to be sure to research what testing should be done for the breed you are buying and whether or not the breeder has done these tests for the health of the dogs. Jodee and Jeff met all of the criteria and more. Their house and farm were immaculate and the puppies were all so well cared for with beautiful coats and sunny dispositions. I highly recommend them, and I have appreciated all the help and advice they have given us in this transition time of Lucy going from sleeping with her siblings and living on a beautiful farm with rolling hills to coming into a new home with a new family. It’s a lot of new things at one time for a puppy, and they have helped us to help her all along the way.
I will be sharing on this blog as Lucy grows, learns new things and develops, both the challenges and successes in hopes that it helps other puppy owners. One important thing is NUTRITION. We are continuing Lucy on what the breeders recommended - Nutro Wholesome Essentials Lamb and Rice dry dog food for large breed puppies. It is made with absolutely no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Jodee also recommended the Stewart Freeze Dried Beef Liver Treats for dogs. These are completely natural with only one ingredient, a healthy snack and great training treat.
Another key for puppies is SUPPLEMENTS. This is something new for our family. Jodee has story after story how these supplements have helped dogs get healthy from disease and also prevent disease. Made by NuVet Labs, the supplements Lucy takes are NuVet Plus and NuJoint Plus. NuVet Plus is a general supplement that strengthens the immune system, promotes healthy skin and coat and supports healthy eyes and ears, to name a few. NuJoint promotes healthy hips and joints, rebuilds cartilage, keeps joints lubricated and improves mobility. (Using the link above left, enter Code 35500 when ordering.)
Once you give a puppy the right nutrition, it comes down to ROUTINE, says Jodee. One routine that really helps with potty training is using a crate that becomes the puppy’s safe haven, their comfort zone. They will keep their sleeping space clean, so using the crate helps them to “hold it” as they learn to potty outdoors. We have been using the bells on a rope to help train Lucy. When she is not in her crate, she is behind a gated area, and the bells are on the door. Every time we go outside, we have her ring the bells with her nose, and now she is starting to ring them when she needs to go outside! As Jodee says, labs are quick learners. Believe it or not, I can be working at my computer in my office, and I hear her ring the bells. It’s amazing - she knows I don’t come if she’s just barking, but if she rings the bells, I do.
EXERCISE with a puppy needs to start slow and build up as they get older. When we first got Lucy, she would get tired from just walking around the room or playing for a short time. All of a sudden, her legs would spread out underneath her to a frog pose and she would take a rest! After two weeks at her new home, she is now more used to her surroundings and it takes more to wear her out. We take her around the large island in front of our house twice a day. Soon we will take her around the block when she is older, but puppies need to develop before they go on long walks.
And finally, SOCIALIZATION is important for puppies, according to Jodee. A well-rounded dog is able to enjoy the company of other dogs, with respect to size and personality. She says Lucy can socialize with similar mellow breeds but we should hold off on the more hyper aggressive breeds for now. It will be fun to visit a dog park some day and also visit other dogs in our extended family. I will let you know how that goes in a later article.