More detailed information is provided through pdf's emailed to our puppy families the week before Puppy Pick Up Day and again, the week before Pick Up Day. If you would like this more detailed information emailed to you earlier than that, please let us know.
Now, on to Puppy Care.....
We recommend that prior to bringing your puppy home, you acquire an appropriate Crate that will serve your puppy through all life stages. Crates come with a divider that allows you to limit the available space for the puppy until such time as they require the entire crate for comfort.
Crate training serves several purposes; it provides safety and security for puppy during the "rapid growth" period (from 8 weeks until approximately 9 months); it aids in "house breaking" the puppy as most will not soil their "den"; it allows for the confinement of the dog after spaying, neutering, or recovery from illness or injury.
Labrador's are "piranha puppies" and "velcro dogs"......confining a young puppy into a safe place will limit the chance that shoes, books and other items will be destroyed by puppy teeth when you are unable to give them complete supervision.
More importantly, it protects your puppy from any older dogs you may have in your home; from over-stimulating attention that might be given to the puppy by your children or visitors to your home; and finally, it is a sure way to protect them from ingesting things that are dangerous or that may require surgery to remove.
Raising a puppy is very similar to raising a toddler; silence is not always golden and nap-time is looked forward to by the parents!
Introduce the crate very shortly after arriving home with your new puppy (within the first hour). Done correctly (enticing him to enter by putting kibble in it, letting him walk back out, then repeat), he will be able to sleep in it the very first night. Do a potty break at 11 p.m. and again at 3 or 4 a.m. and pop him back in with a small milk bone or other lo-cal treat and he will learn to love his crate.
Frozen Kongs are a great help in teaching the puppy that the crate is a special place to be. Fill them up with kibble, run water through it (if you soak it too long, they won't be able to work it out of the Kong), top it with a bit of peanut butter (zylotol free) or fat free yogurt, pop in the freezer for two hours and you've got a wonderful treat/toy for the puppy to engage with in his crate.
Save trick training for about 3 - 4 weeks after he comes home to you. The first days are about bonding and learning house rules - no couch, no bed or whatever it is you decide to make a house rule - AND getting him on a schedule. He already knows how to sit or lay down or raise his paw, just call it what it is as he volunteers it. Then when you begin to really train those to be done on command, the word is already familiar to him.
Get a schedule going early. Use the natural sleep wake play routine to set the schedule. Young puppies sleep 18 - 20 hours a day, make sure it is done in the crate and house training is going to be so much easier.
Puppies potty on a schedule already Sleep then Wake/Potty, Eat/Potty, Play/Potty and Repeat - Set your schedule according to that already ingrained schedule. Out of the crate - Outside for potty on demand (no play until potty is done/praise and say "free"), outside or inside play for 20 - 30 minutes and (after potty if it was inside play) pop into the crate with a Kong because he is going to be ready to go sleep. Set your timer for a specified amount of time OR wait for the puppy to wake up and begin again with potty on demand. (As the days go by, work towards a schedule like this: 10 a.m. - Noon = Crate Nap and 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. = Crate Nap. These forced rest periods will go a long way to avoid over-stimulating your young puppy and provide you with breaks for your own sanity! At about six - seven months, move to a 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. = Crate Rest schedule which we continue until 18 months to 2 years of age depending upon the energy level and reliability of the individual dog to behave. Continue to crate at night until at least 12 months.)
Provide appropriate chews:
Again, Labrador's are "piranha puppies" - We do NOT recommend giving them raw-hide chews as these are not easily digestible for all dogs.
We provide our dogs with Nylabones - a nearly indestructible item that gives them hours of pleasure; we use them to teach appropriate chewing. When our puppies begin to nibble on a hard object, that object is exchanged with their nylabone; they quickly learn what is and what is not appropriate for them to chew. (Match texture to texture - puppy chews on a sock, puppy gets a soft toy or old tea towel with a knot tied in it.)
Labs are intelligent dogs; one of my favorite memories of raising Angus Demetrius is from the day he finally "got it" regarding what things were his and what were mine. Dog toys are kept in one basket, my yarn for crochet projects are kept in another....one day, there was a ball of yarn sitting on my desk - I had recently removed it from Angus' mouth!
Angus kept on eyeing it for play fun and I kept reminding him that no, that was mine and that his toys were in his basket. Suddenly, he reached up to grab that ball of yarn in his mouth and then carried it to HIS basket and dropped it in. He then sat down and looked at me as if to ask, "Now. Is it mine?".
Ideas for inexpensive temporary "toys" - Milk cartons and empty boxes are great toys to distract your puppy for a few minutes during the day under supervision. An ice cube or a running hose will also provide interest, stimulation and a means of getting rid of excess energy.
Kennels (outside dog pens aka exercise pens):
While not every home will have need of these, we find them indispensable at our place. A multi-dog household brings some dangers to the table when bringing home a puppy and a safe place outside is a requirement to ensure that play time between the older dog and more fragile puppy is restricted. They are also great for safely confining a puppy while you tend to outside chores. Our Little Cain loves to play with new puppies BUT he also loves to keep them dancing just out of our reach when they are free together in the larger yard. To avoid this, he is allowed to play with them in the ex-pens only. This ex-pen training is valuable for camping, visiting relatives, or after illness or injury to allow the puppy a place outside to play.
When my parents were breeding Labs, we fed them Puppy Food until the age of 6 months. By the time we brought home Angus Demetrius in 2013, much had changed. Many Vets and Breeders were recommending "Large Breed Puppy" food until the age of 12 - 18 months. We followed the advice of the majority.
We made sure that there was the correct phosphorus and calcium ratio; we bought a 5 Star large breed puppy food and fed it according to the directions given. Angus still grew much too rapidly and was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia even though the Breeder had bred dogs with excellent and normal OFA ratings and never had a dog develop it in a decade of breeding.
When we brought home Kona of the Storm in 2014; I had spent months researching this subject in order to ensure her steady but slow growth (along with the important safe and REGULAR and LIMITED exercise). Having raised Labs for most of my life and with only one ever having hip issues, I decided to go back to what I knew....
Kona and Dreama were both fed Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Food until approximately 4 - 6 months of age at which time we started them on Purina Pro Plan Sport - an All Life Stages food - with the appropriate fat and protein levels for their very active lifestyle.
What YOU feed your puppy is up to you after you have done your own research (we do recommend that the bag state that AAFCO Feed Trials - where actual dogs are fed and monitored - show that the food is suitable for large breed dogs who are over 70 lbs at adulthood); here are some links to get you started.
- Calcium and Phosphorus
- Dog Food Standards by the AAFCO - Choose a dog food that has had live feed trials rather than a food that is simply formulated to meet the standards. The statement will be found on the bag.
- Purina Pro Plan - We recommend Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy till 4 months of age and then Purina Pro Plan Sport 30/20 All Life Stages.
- Canine Nutrition
(Note: if the links above doesn't take you to the article, do a site search. From time to time, while checking links throughout the website, I find that some have been changed. To search, simply copy and paste the words here into the search field there : )
Again, no matter what you decide to feed your Labrador, make sure that the bag has a statement regarding AFFCO feed standards and that it is used in live feed trials AND formulated for "all dogs including those who are over 70 lbs. at maturity". (Note: the Sport 26/16 is NOT formulated for dogs over 70 lbs at maturity.)
Did you know that eggs are high in phosphorus? For many years, folks fed their puppies an egg once or twice a week for their health and their coat. Now, with the complete nutritional needs provided in commercial dry kibble, feeding eggs regularly may upset that delicate phosphorus/calcium balance. Avoid feeding eggs regularly during the rapid growth periods (to 12 months to be extra safe) unless you are also feeding the shell which helps to maintain the phosphorus/calcium balance (everything in moderation when you are feeding dry kibble). And don't go overboard on the peanut butter stuffed Kong - it too is rather high in phosphorus which can upset that delicate balance - alternate between peanut butter and lo-fat yogurt as the topper for a frozen Kong.
How often to feed?
We recently moved to feeding our own puppies (from 8 weeks to 20 weeks min.) FOUR times per day rather than the often recommended three times. The rapid rate of growth plus the high energy levels of most Labrador Puppies means that they are burning off calories at a near constant rate. Feeding four times per day is like a time-release capsule, ensuring that their energy is fed by the calories they take in each day with no slumps.
We joke that we should have registered Angus Demetrius as "It's All About The Belly"! Kona might just as easily been given a version of that name as well. Don't be swayed by those begging eyes, stick to the LOWEST recommended amount on the bag of the food you choose that works for your puppy's activity level and age. If you can see a "waist" and with a slight amount of pressure, feel (but not see) the ribs, you can be pretty sure that your puppy is at a good weight - check with your Vet if you have weight concerns.
Your puppy should weigh 2 pounds per week of life on average until reaching their adult weight. An 8 week old weighs about 16 pounds and a 10 week old about 20 pounds; a bit lighter or heavier is not a cause for concern, but keep track of the weight gain to ensure that it is not too much or too little.
Calorie Requirements for Dogs and Puppies - Find the Kcal per cup of your dog food and feed as many cups per day as needed to reach the requirement shown in the chart. Adjust to the individual need of your puppy - if too much weight is gained, adjust accordingly. Remember to include treats in the daily counting of calories.
How to determine how many kcal per day to feed your puppy
Your puppy needs 70 kcal per pound of weight through 16 weeks. So, in example:
16 lbs - 930 kcal per day minimum
18 lbs - 1017 kcal per day minimum
20 lbs - 1098 kcal per day minimum
At 16 weeks, your puppy will weigh about 32 pounds:
32 lbs - 1631 kcal per day
At 20 weeks, your puppy weigh about 40 pounds
(We stop feeding puppy food at this age and move to an All Life Stages Food. See above paragraph on that subject.)
40 lbs - 1848 kcal per day (20 weeks, you can begin to move towards three meals per day.)
At 32 weeks, your pup is 8 months old and should weight about 64 lbs.
64 lbs - 1774 kcal per day - Your puppy is through the rapid growth stage and will now grow more slowly. Some may find that that kcal recommendation is too high while others may find it to be just right. At this point, how much your INDIVIDUAL puppy needs to maintain good body condition will be up to you to determine.
More about that 2 lbs per week of life rule of thumb
If your puppy weighed 18 lbs at 8 weeks, then 20 lbs at 9 weeks and 22 lbs at 10 weeks, don't panic just because the average is 18 lbs at 9 weeks and 20 lbs at 10, your puppy is following it's own individual growth curve....slow growth and "seeing a waist, feeling the ribs with a slight bit of pressure" are are more important than that weight on the scale. Each puppy is an individual and the 2 lbs per week of life is a guideline.
However, if your puppy was 14 lbs at 8 weeks and 20 lbs at 10 weeks, THEN you should be a concerned and adjust your feeding amounts accordingly. If your puppy seems to be growing too fast, immediately lessen the daily caloric intake by switching to an ALL LIFE STAGES food - NOT an adult food! And remember that TREATS count towards their daily calorie limits. If you must use "high value treats" in your training, give them less of their kibble during meals.
Most Vets will allow you to stop in and weigh your puppy during the rapid growth period. In the beginning you can use your own scale by weighing yourself alone, then the puppy and doing the math to see how much your puppy weighs.
Our Puppies weight between 65 lb. and 85 lb. at about 12 months of age. This is your goal for your own Aisling Puppy. A Lab that weighs 100 lbs is very likely over-weight - a heavy Lab is NOT a bragging point and in fact, may contribute to join issues.
A Safe Environment:
Our puppies come with a limited Health Warranty as part of the Sales and Purchase Agreement...I always cringe when I hear someone say "well MY Breeder offers a warranty on Hips and Elbows so I don't have to worry." Usually, this is spoken in the context of exercise and feeding their Labrador and it is ALWAYS a red flag to me knowing what I know from experience with our Angus. Do not take our Health Warranty as a license to not take care while your puppy is growing and maturing or you may end up with a dog whose entire life is filled with pain. Please read the following carefully.....
All large breed dogs are genetically susceptible to skeletal issues due to their rapid rate of growth and these dogs need special care to protect them until they are mature. With careful and reasoned restrictions on activity (to include not being allowed to jumping off of furniture/out of vehicles and not allowed unrestricted use of staircases), you can help your puppy "be a puppy" while at the same time do everything possible to ensure healthy hips and elbows. Repetitive Trauma to their joints is to be avoided. We did our part by providing your puppy with healthy parents and with an environment that was dedicated to giving your puppy the best start for its hips and elbows - our litters are raised on lambs wool whelping pads for the first two to three weeks of life; are on indoor-outdoor carpet from that point until they go home to you; and have a ramp rather than stairs to provide access to an outdoor Puppy Paddock that has been professionally leveled and covered with K9 grass.
It is important that all our puppies families understand that it is NOT enough to test and breed "normal to normal" range hip and elbow scores. "Excellent" to "Excellent" have produced dysplastic dogs while "Fair" to "Fair" have produced dogs with "Excellent" hips and dogs with "Normal" elbows have produced dogs with elbow dysplasia and dogs rated "borderline" have produced dogs rated "excellent". IF genetic testing and careful breeding were the whole solution, 30 generations of selective breeding would mean that dysplasia would no longer be an issue. Once your puppy goes home with you, the rest is up to you.
Read the links provided to learn more about how you can protect your puppy.
Learn more about Dysplasia
Hips and Elbows
Do you have uncarpeted floors in your home? If so, we highly recommend you place secure area rugs in rooms your puppy will be walking, running and playing in. TEACH them to stay "on the carpet" from DAY ONE.
In our home, we have mats in every doorway since these seem to be a place where even our mature dogs tend to pick up speed and slip going through them. We had bare floors during Angus Demetrius' puppy months. Did slipping and sliding affect his joint health? We will never know for certain, but immediately after his diagnosis, our floors were covered with area rugs. And our litters are on non-slip surfaces from birth. Be safe, not sorry.
Are you a jogger? If so, when your puppy reaches maturity (18 months - 2 years), he or she will be a wonderful partner on those jogs...but not until then. Forced running on hard surfaces, and even grassy runs, are very damaging to a young dogs joints. (Some Vets STILL recommend jogging with a Labrador under the age of two who is high energy - DO NOT LISTEN to that advice. Deal with that excess energy with feed cubes and puzzle feeders and training sessions (sit, stand, roll-over, stay, wait, come, drop it, leave it, paw, speak, leash walking in large figure eights on grassy surfaces) rather than risking your dog to a pain filled life!)
DON'T overdo leash training with lots of sits and turns during the early months. Never push on your puppy's hips to force a sit.
Even though your puppy will have attained almost its adult height as early as 9 months of age, wait until the growth plates are closed (between 18 months and 2 years for Labradors) to include your Labrador in jogging for short distances. Walking is fine and of course, leash training along with it. Free play is important and allows the dog to adjust its own turns and stops safely. Swimming is a great energy burner.
What about retrieving?
Introduce this early but limit the number of times you request a retrieval and the distance required for it to what is appropriate for the age and development of your puppy. There are some studies that show that dogs that retrieve every day are more prone to dysplasia....so limit this until they are at least 12 months old. ROLL a ball rather than throwing it; save the frisbee until they are two years old; teach them to retrieve a thrown stick or bumper AFTER it hits the ground by training to a release command - all of this helps to protect your puppy's growing bones and muscles AND allows it to still have fun!
Regulating the exercise:
Labradors have a very high pain tolerance and love to have fun so regulating their exercise will be up to you! They WILL continue playing even after an injury unless it is very severe.
5 Minute Rule - Limit forced exercise (leashed walking, retrieving etc.) to 5 minutes per month of age. (8 week old - 10 minutes/12 week old -15 minutes and so on. Don't rush the "trick" training either; it is much more important that your puppy learn the house rules the first month home than it is that they learn to roll-over or shake paws.
No Stair Climbing until after 12 weeks of age - Carry your puppy up and down staircases until after 12 weeks; then progress to walking them up and down while on a short leash to control their speed. Teach your dog to WALK up stairs and not to run or jump down them; if they begin to run up or down when they reach adolescence (8 months or so), go back to the leash until they are in the habit of walking the staircase in both directions. Restrict the use of stairs to only when it is necessary i.e. down in the morning and up for bedtime. We have a crate on each floor for our puppies.
No Jumping out of a Truck until after 2 years of age - Use a ramp. Along these same lines, do NOT allow your puppy to jump off beds, couches and chairs. Their joints cannot take repeated trauma without some damage occurring during their growth period. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are not the only issues that this type of behavior can lead to; OCD is another concern. All large breed dogs, and some medium breeds, are susceptible to these conditions through repeated trauma throughout the rapid growth period and until maturity. Remember, healthy joints and bones are 30% genetic predisposition and 70% the environment you are providing them.
No Weekend Warriors - If you work full time and your dog spends 40 - 50 hours a week alone or crated with about an hour each evening devoted to exercise, don't exercise it for several hours on Saturday and Sunday. Remember the "5 Minute Rule". A consistent schedule of balanced exercise and activity is best for the growing Labrador. Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't take them to the beach on Saturday (take plenty of fresh water and limit the beach trip to about two hours) or on a hike on Sunday. It just means that you need to be careful not to overdo the activity. If they get an hour a day Monday - Friday, then they should have only a hour or two a day of heavy exercise on Saturday and Sunday until they are 2 years old.
What about "play dates"?
Many people schedule play dates or dog park visits into their week to help socialize their dog. Again, this is very good but must be done with caution.
Try to match the age of the dogs your puppy will be playing with; research shows that there is much less damage to the joints, tendons and muscles when growing puppies play with others at or near the same age. Also, evaluate the play style of the dogs involved; some dogs play much more aggressively, mouth grabbing legs or deliberately taking the feet out from under their playmate...
When Kona came home, I allowed short spells of outside play time with Angus who was 18 months at that time and a bit more time with our Callie who was 9; this was based not only upon age but also on play style - at 8 years old, Callie was more loving and gentle than Angus who was still a puppy.
When Dreama came home, there was four months difference in her age and Kona's (she was 6 months); they were allowed to play within the confines of a large exercise pen for short, supervised periods of time....when Kona became bored with the confined play, I would let her out where she would butt-tuck through the back yard on her own, leaving Dreama safely confined in the exercise pen. Once she'd released all that puppy energy, she would go back in and play contentedly for a while longer at an age appropriate level for Dreama.
As they reached the same size, I gradually allowed them more supervised free time together in the yard. Both Dreama and Kona, with the extra care taken in both nutrition and exercise, tested OFA Hips Excellent and OFA Elbows Normal (the highest level given). This is also tied to athletic ability (the conditioning of muscles) - just like with humans, some dogs are natural athletes while others are not. Evaluate your puppy to decide which he/she is and exercise and play accordingly.
This need for caution is not permanent....but is necessary to give your puppy every advantage in attaining maturity without longterm physical damage.