Cold, frigid weather presents the same problems for pets as it does for some humans. If your Labrador Retriever is uncomfortable in the cold, expect him to shiver or hold up his paws as he walks. Left outside for extended periods of time, your dog can experience frostbite or hypothermia.
Look for discoloring of the skin, especially on the ear tips and other extremities. If you find any signs, contact your veterinarian. Salt or other ice-melting chemicals as well as antifreeze can be extremely hazardous and life-threatening for the dog that ingests them. Road salt also can cause sores if it becomes lodged between your dog’s footpads. dogs at risk from the cold and winter-related hazards, whether they live indoors or out, need special care. Here are a few tips:
1. Place a flannel sheet over your dog’s bed for extra warmth.
2. To keep warm, your Labrador Retriever may like to sleep on floor heating vents that can catch the identification tags attached to his collar. If your dog likes to snooze over a floor vent, put his tags in a Pet Pocket, which attaches to his collar.
3. In cold weather, your dog will need more energy to fight the cold in the form of extra calories, so don’t be afraid to offer him additional food in the winter.
4. Be sure to wipe off your dog’s paws when he comes in from the outside to prevent salt and other chemicals from sticking to his feet.
5. Keep antifreeze out of your dog’s reach, and be sure to clean up any that may have spilled in the garage or driveway.
6. If your dog is accustomed to living the good life indoors, don’t allow him to stay outside for extended periods of time in cold weather.
7. Make sure your dog has a warm, draft-free place to sleep. Since warm air rises, offering him a bed off the floor will add extra warmth and comfort for winter dreaming.
8. Don’t allow your Labrador Retriever to be off leash in a snowstorm or ice storm. If he gets lost, he will not be able to use his sense of smell to find his way home.
9. If your dog is short-haired, elderly, or sensitive to the cold, even for short walks, consider purchasing a sweater for him to wear in cold weather.
When you adopt or gain custody of an adult Labrador Retriever, there are many important items that you need to be aware of. It’s not like getting a puppy that is brand new to the world and accepts everything with enthusiasm. Adult dogs are a bit more stubborn when it comes to joining your pack and learning his role in the family. And of course this dog’s history may include some negative dog training or abuse.
One complaint that new adult dog owners have had is growling then they make eye contact with the dog. At first you may think that this is normal or will pass, but the fact is that this is a form of aggression, and it could turn out to be worse if the staring continues. So what is this behavior all about? Where does growling with eye contact come from with adult Labrador Retrievers?
Eye contact is a form of communication between dogs. When aggressive puppies are very young they learn that they can easily stare down their more submissive brothers and sisters. As they mature, if two aggressive male dogs meet, they often challenge each other’s dominance by staring at each other. If one dog doesn’t back down, the staring match will end in a fight. A naturally aggressive dog that hasn’t been obedience-trained may try not to make eye contact with a person to avoid a confrontation. But if eye contact does occur it will attempt to dominate its owner by staring him down.
Below are a few ways in which you can help treat the situation:
1. If an adopted older dog shows signs of aggression by staring at you in a challenging way, drop your eyes. This is not a cop-out, but a way to avoid a confrontation until you can deal properly with the dog’s aggression.
2. Immediately take a dog that shows aggression to a well-established trainer who will help you teach the dog obedience and at the same time show you how to establish a leadership role with your pet.
3. Once you have begun to train the dog, don’t allow it to challenge your authority.
4. Don’t deliberately challenge any aggressive dog by looking it directly in the eyes, whether the animal belongs to you or not. The old theory that you should “stare down” an aggressive Labrador Retriever probably led to a lot of dog bites.
Most animal shelters are private nonprofit shelters do the best they can with what they have to work with on low funding levels. Their buildings could use some work, their budgets are always tight, and they do the best with what they have to provide for the animals in their community.
New buildings don’t necessarily make a good shelter, but you certainly want to work with a shelter that clearly cares enough for its charges to make sure they are kept in areas that are clean and don’t facilitate the spread of disease.
Shelter work is difficult and stressful, and employees and volunteers can suffer burnout quickly. A well-run shelter is as compassionate to its staff as it is to the animals, because one has a lot to bear on the treatment of the other. Look for a shelter where employees are helpful and knowledgeable and clearly interested in helping the shelter’s animals find responsible new homes.
The best shelters have a good handle on a dog’s history, health, and temperament before putting her up for adoption and have done what they can to enhance her chances of success in a new home, through socialization and screening for the right home. They provide not only pre-adoption counseling but follow-up help, with behavioral advice or reduced-cost training classes.
These are the shelters you should seek out when looking for a Labrador Retriever dog or puppy. If you want to go one step better, look for ways to help the shelters that don’t measure up. Usually it’s a question of money and volunteers, and you can do a lot to contribute in these categories. Contact your local shelter to find out how.
“Humane Society” and “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” (”SPCA”) are generic terms freely used in the United States and Canada by animal organizations that have no connection to one another or to national organizations such as the Washington, D.C. based Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA in New York City. And yet, local shelters are often stymied in their fund-raising efforts by people who have “given to the national organization” and consider their charitable efforts complete - even though money given to the HSUS and ASPCA is used to fund their own programs, not the local shelters’. Which is why it’s important not to forget your local animal shelter when giving.
A bit of a war in the animal-welfare community occurs over those organizations that call themselves “no kill” shelters. There are more pets than there are suitable homes, which sets up a grim game of “musical homes” resulting in the death of millions of animals every year. “No kill” shelters get that way by refusing to accept animals that are not adoptable or by refusing all animals when they are full. The turn-aways often end up at another shelter, one whose staff often very much resents having to be the bad guy.
Pavlov, the great Russian researcher, struggled with a theory that inhibited dogs had a “weaker” nervous system than normal animals, a concept largely discarded due to later findings that a combined structural chemical interaction determines the balance of the nervous system. Both excitability and inhibition can be heightened or abated by many herbs and synthetic drugs, as well as those extracted from living tissues. The fact that such drugs do not affect all individuals (dogs or people) in the same way supports the belief that the balance among internal neuro-chemicals may be the primary factor influencing the behavioral expression of excitability or inhibition.
The individual body chemistry of animals develops and fluctuates throughout life. Hormonal imbalances produce not only structural and physiologic, but behavioral changes as well. Among the body’s hormone-producing glands and controlling organs, the emotional centers of the brain’s limbic system appear to exert considerable influence. It may be that excitability and inhibition depend to a large degree on what has been called the “brain, pituitary, adrenal, gonadal axis.” Further, not only can drugs influence the balance among these factors, but mild or extreme psychological stress can produce subtle and gross neuro-chemical imbalances.
The fact that seemingly mildly stressful experiences induce these reactions may help explain a good deal of what is generally described as “spontaneous aggression” if we consider yet another nervous system process called facilitation. In this, the nervous processes responsible for defensive behavior, such as a dog’s biting, can be sensitized but not fully activated by mildly threatening stimuli. However, depending on the particular dog’s nervous system makeup, repeated stimulation can push the dog over the brink and into a full-blown “rage avalanche,” wherein up to several minutes of furious behavior are necessary to exhaust the imbalance and restore equilibrium. The dog then often resumes its usual gregarious personality or appear contrite and confused.
In investigating the histories of many aggressive cases, you will find most of the dogs to be excitable or highly excitable types exhibiting a behavior problem for which the owners have applied various degrees and types of punishment. These included finger-in-the-face scolding (a stimulus that can facilitate a snapping response), muzzle-clamping with the hands, shaking by the scruff or jowls, physical take-downs, and mild to severe hitting with the hands or objects such as rolled up newspapers.
Reflexes occur where nervous pathways transmit impulses from one pathway to another. The well known unconditioned knee-jerk reflex occurs when the incoming sensory nerves from just below the knee cap sense a jolt, which is transmitted to the spinal column, where there is a junction (synapse) with a motor nerve, which is activated, transmitting a message to the extensor thigh muscles, which suddenly constrict, causing the lower leg to jerk forward.
Knee-jerk reflexes are easy to understand, since they do not involve the brain. However, thousands of other reflexes involving the brain are constantly at work. Some of these are activated consciously, others operate unconsciously. Hence, the nervous system is defined in two branches of control; voluntary (under conscious control) and involuntary (controlled unconsciously).
In Ivan Pavlov’s experimental work with dogs, he sounded a bell and then gave the dogs a bit of solid food (meat or bread) which produced salivation. This was repeated until the dogs salivated for the bell just as if it were food. He called the food an unconditioned stimulus and the bell a conditioned stimulus, even though solid food for dogs is actually a conditioned stimulus.
Surprisingly, salivating for solid food is not an inborn, unconditioned reflex. In another Russian experiment, puppies were weaned and fed only milk for several months. They did not salivate when they smelled, saw or ate solid food until they had eaten it several times!
So, Pavlov’s famous bell-food experiments actually conditioned salivation from one conditioned reflex to another. On the other hand, injecting lemon juice into a dog’s mouth and producing salivation, or pricking a leg with a pin and causing a withdrawal movement, were genuinely innate reflexes. Pavlov’s work, and the resulting publicity, have helped explain a great deal about both animal and human behavior, some of it to the benefit of dogs in general.
However, there is a down side to Pavlov’s publicity: It created the general impression that discoveries about laboratory dogs, in a totally unnatural environment, explain the behavior of wild animals and/or domestic pets living in active, often hectic social environments. The result is that some behaviorists still struggle to diagnose and solve behavior problems using purely conditioned behavioral theory, disregarding principles derived from empirical (practical) experience. Perhaps more unfortunately, Pavlov’s work tended to validate some popular concepts that animals can’t think, they merely respond to stimuli and behave like robots.
Most nutritionists agree that reproduction is the most critical stress encountered by a female Labrador Retriever. While the healthy male dog can sire hundreds of puppies without any stress whatever, the female is called upon to use tremendous amounts of energy and nutrients during pregnancy and lactation. If her feeding program does not adequately supply these nutrients and energy, she will obtain them by using up her own body tissues. If neither dietary nor body sources of nutrients and energy are available, a multitude of problems will result.
The manifestation of an inadequate diet during early phases of reproduction may take on several forms. Those most likely to be recognized are:
1. An “out of condition” appearance of the dog. This may not become apparent until after the pups are born. An actual loss in body weight throughout gestation can occur, but is unusual in most instances.
2. An uncontrollable diarrhea following whelping and throughout much of lactation. This is most often seen when she must increase her food intake excessively to meet increased lactational demands because the food she has been eating is poorly digestible or low in calories.
3. The “fading puppy” syndrome. The puppy may appear normal at birth, but several hours to several days later it is found crying or whimpering and chilled. It is off by itself, obviously disowned by the mother. Attempts to reunite the two are usually met with failure. The puppy’s stomach will be empty and its body will be dehydrated. When weighed, it will weigh the same or less than the day before.
4. Anemias. When an anemia occurs as the result of a dietary deficiency during reproduction, it will be present in both the dam and pup. When both mother and pup are anemic, the first place to look for its cause is the diet.
Once pregnancy is terminated by the whelping of the pups, an inadequate diet during lactation is most likely to appear as:
1. Lactation failure (agalactia). This is a complete failure of the mammary glands. The Labrador Retriever dog produces no milk at all from which the pups can be nourished. These pups cry continuously, fail to gain weight, and unless immediate remedial feeding is started, the pups will die.
2. Lactation depression (dysgalactia). While the mammary glands are functional, they are unable to produce adequate amounts of milk to fully support the pups’ complete nutrient needs. The pups are restricted in growth rate and may become stunted.
3. Deficient milk. The milk, although it may be produced in adequate amounts, is deficient in one or more nutrients.
A healthy newborn Labrador Retriever may lose weight in the first few days of life but should start to gain weight by the time she is forty-eight hours old. In fact, she should double her birth weight in eight to ten days. A good indicator of a pup’s potential to put on healthy weight is to see if the mother is gaining weight, as this is a sign that she has the nutritional support available to pass on to her litter.
A Labrador Retriever puppy that loses 10 percent or more of her birth weight in the first two days of life and does not start gaining by three days probably will not survive unless she is hand-fed. Learning how to properly hand-feed your puppies is imperative, as mistakes in feeding can result in trouble. A puppy who at birth weighs about 25 percent less than her litter mates should be placed in an incubator and hand-fed. Many underweight puppies can be saved if quick action is taken and their weakness is not complicated by disease or hereditary defects.
To a Labrador Retriever, a new baby entering the home is simply a new member joining the pack. Instinctively, most canines are tolerant of infants, whether they are puppies or human babies. What is the best way to handle a child’s arrival? Keep in mind that dogs are routine-oriented creatures. If your dog has been the center of attention for several years and suddenly has to play “second fiddle” to a new baby, the dog is likely to experience stress. Your actions and attitude can go a long way toward alleviating his anxiety.
Think about the routines you and your dog have together. If a morning walk after breakfast is a daily habit, make every effort to keep doing that after the baby arrives. Do you always play ball in the yard with your dog after work? Keep it up without fail. Even though your household routines changed dramatically when the baby arrived home, preserve as many old routines for the dog as you can. This will give him a bit of security when his world seems turned upside-down. If you have no “old” routine with your dog, establish one before the baby joins the household and stick with it.
It is advisable to socialize your Labrador Retriever with children before a new baby arrives. Take your dog to visit friends who have children. While supervising closely, evaluate your dog’s reactions and attitudes. Make sure that the visit is an agreeable one so the dog will have positive associations with children. Play with a ball, go for a walk together, and so on. Be sure that the children are not rough with the dog. Do not permit games such as tug-of-war or wrestling. Play should not be so vigorous as to inspire nipping.
When the new baby arrives, make sure that the dog again makes positive associations with the youngster. For example, sit the baby on your lap and give the dog a few treats. Take the dog for a walk at the same time you walk the baby in the stroller. Pet the dog while you feed the infant. This assumes, of course, that the dog is not going wild and that you have some control mechanisms over him. That’s why obedience training the dog is so important before you have your hands full with a newborn.
As the baby matures, the dog may become more assertive with him or her. The dog may try to maintain his position in the pecking order of the pack by growling or snapping at the youngster. An adult dog generally begins such assertive behavior when a child is about one- and-a-half to two years old.
Many people think that their Labrador Retriever is “jealous” of the child. I do not believe dogs are capable of feeling the emotion of jealousy. But I do know that they will compete for attention. An example of this would be the dog who is sitting by the owner’s leg, craving attention. Suddenly the two-year-old child climbs into the parent’s lap, and the dog growls or snaps at the child. The anthropomorphic dog owner will interpret the dog’s competitiveness for attention as jealousy. Whatever it is termed, this behavior should not be tolerated. Correct your dog immediately with a firm “NHAA” and make him lie down and stay. When you are ready, release him and then give lots of attention and praise.
Allowing your Labrador Retriever to roam free will make training him much more difficult. The primary reason that humans can train dogs is because of the dogs‘ submissive instinct. As trainers, we develop a structured pack order and use the submissive instinct to condition each dog to think of us as the pack leader. The dog’s role in the pack is that of a follower. The dog who is allowed to roam free has a weaker submissive instinct. Roaming free - and doing whatever the dog pleases - is counterproductive to following direction from a pack leader.
Besides making training more difficult, allowing a dog to roam free is like playing a game of Russian roulette with the dog’s life. Visit any veterinarian’s office and ask for a tour. You will see the painful results of allowing a dog to roam free. You will see dogs who have been hit by cars, dogs who were attacked by other roaming canines, and dogs who had ingested poison from someone’s garbage pail. These are just a few of the hazards that roaming dogs are exposed to. There are many more. Consider the following:
There are a number of dogs with gunshot wounds. These wounds were inflicted illegally by people who did not like dogs and did not want them wandering through their yards. Every year dogs running in packs are shot legally by farmers who, in many states, have the right to protect their livestock.
Labrador Retrievers who roam free are sometimes caught in traps placed in the woods by hunters. dogs have been known to lose legs or to starve to death after what we can only imagine was an excruciatingly painful struggle.
In small hometowns there are many small ponds and lakes. Every spring roaming dogs drown by falling through the melting layers of ice. This tragedy can be avoided by not allowing your dog to roam. Injury or death can happen suddenly to any dog who roams. The dogs who make it to the veterinary hospital are the lucky ones - if they can be helped. Many never get that far.
Also, neighbors do not appreciate their yards being ruined by wandering dogs. Male dogs often mark territory by lifting their legs and urinating on trees and bushes. Both males and females urinate and defecate wherever they please when they roam. No one likes to clean up - or step in - defecation from someone else’s dog.
Every year pounds and shelters throughout the country put to death several million unwanted dogs. Roaming dogs - both males and females - bear much responsibility for the problem of canine overpopulation. Male dogs are uncanny about finding a way into the pen or fenced yard of a female dog in heat. Many unwanted puppies are born as a result.
In most towns and cities, it is against the law for dogs to roam free. Animal control officers can pick up roaming dogs. If your Labrador Retriever has been picked up, you will not get him back without first paying a fine - sometimes a very stiff one.