Bringing home your new puppy is exciting!
Below are some of our suggestions on raising your new addition to the family.
Remember, Puppies, like toddlers, will eat anything.
While your puppy is small and when they are supervised something as simple as a water bottle (remove cap and paper) is great fun. It makes lots of noise and doesn’t matter if it gets dirty outside.
Stay AWAY from rope toys. Ropes fray and puppies/dogs can digest the pieces. We are sure your vet will agree. Stuffed toys are another type to be careful with, as they do get holes. These toys should be available to your puppy only while he/she is being supervised. You can buy ‘stuff-less’ toys, but sometimes it is nice to have the stuffed to play with them, as puppy teeth are sharp and it makes more room between your hand and their teeth.
As your puppy is a natural born retreiver you can start playing ‘fetch’ right away. This is a game that can be done indoors or out to start, as you will only want to throw the toy a few feet away at the beginning.
‘Fetch’ is a great way to start teaching your puppy ‘Come’. At first they will likely chase the toy and play with it in the same spot (This is one reason not to throw too far at first). Let them play for a few seconds and then take the toy and playfully bring it back to you, telling your puppy ‘Come’ (or whatever command you choose), when the toy is back in front of you praise your puppy telling them ‘good come <name>’ (We will try to start putting up some videos for everyone soon!). It won’t take long for your puppy to start coming back on their own, but don’t always play fetch, let them play with their toys as they will start running the opposite way thinking you are going to take it away! Maximum of three or four throws is a good start. Be sure to praise and never correct when you call your puppy to you, come must always be a positive experience.
We also recommend staying away from playing ‘tug-of-war’ with your puppy. It’s just not a good trait to teach a dog. If they have something in their mouth they shouldn’t and you go to get it they will think it is a game.
We know the first thing you will want to do is spoil your puppy with treats. But, this can cause an upset tummy, so stick to their kibble as the treats BUT only after 12 weeks. See the “Food” section on why.
You can introduce treats slowly. For instance, putting a 1/4 tblsp of peanut butter in a Kong or similar type toy will keep them entertained and happy.
We feed and recommend Eukanuba. There are many diet options out there these days, but our Labradors do best on a high fat/protein food. We feel more comfortable feeding a food that has been around for over 40 years and does proper testing and research, than a fad that has only been around for a short time. Of course, this is partially opinion, but having tried different foods over the years, we can honestly say our own dogs do best on Eukanuba.
It is very important that you soak your puppies food in hot water until it is easily crushed between your fingers and not too hot to eat. Puppies swallowing ability isn’t well formed until after 12 weeks. We usually do this until 14 weeks. After 14 weeks you can still soak it but it can then be a bit hard in the center.
How much to feed? If your puppy is 7 week you can start with 1 cup in the morning and at dinner time. You will slowly increase this amount over time until you are at 2-cups twice a day (note, that you may even go up to 2.5 cups if they are looking lean during a growth spurt, and then back down to the 2 once they look a bit chubby again). By 10 weeks you will probably be feeding 1.5 cups in the morning and 1.25-1.5 cups at dinner time. You really need to watch your puppy to know when to increase the food. You will notice that after your puppy eats they are going to have a round belly. It is okay to slightly increase and decrease food as a puppy goes through growth spurts.
Slightly chubby is typical young puppy with a more lean outline in around 12-14 months. Then around two they will begin to develop full muscle tone. Be sure to keep your dog in optimum weight, not too heavy but also not to thin. Muscle development is critical to their overall weight, as it is with us. Proper amount of exercise and diet imperative.
If your puppy eats too fast consider a smaller bowl.
Remember: E.S.P! Eat, Sleep, Play. Your new puppy will need out after each of these activities. Young puppies need out nearly every time they change direction. Setting up a consistent routine (feed and walking at same time) as well as proper use of a crate help to ensure successful and quick house training.
Eating (and drinking): After they eat or have some water some puppies need out right away, while others prefer to wait 10 or 15 minutes. If your puppy is one who needs out right away after eating a great tip is to feed them outside (weather permitting), it will help them get the hint.
*Don’t leave water available 24/7 (give them water in the morning, early afternoon, dinner time, and a last round at 8PM – this is just a suggestion, depends on your schedule ie. if you work nights it may be reversed) otherwise you will have a much harder time house training as they will always need to pee. Lab puppies also are known to play in their water bowl.
Sleep: Almost all puppies will need to go out right after waking up, so be ready. If your puppy wakes you up in the middle of the night take them outside, but (as tempting as it is) don’t play with them. Take them out to do their business, quiet praise when they’re done and then back to bed … they are very smart and will start waking you up just to go out and play!
Play: After playtime take your puppy out. Even if they woke up from a nap and were out ten minutes before, it is still suggested for the first couple of days until you know their needs. Good time to provide a drink after a play time, remember though play time should be short when they’re very young. Through till they’re full adults and even then use caution and avoid jumping after a Frisbee or pulling a chart without proper harness. If winter be careful of ice and snow. Monitor their environment as with any youngster their growth plates and bones are soft until they’re adults. Labradors love to please and will do things that are not recommended to make you happy.
We know many people don’t like the idea of a crate, but would you leave your child unattended while you go to work? The crate is as much for their safety as it is for your convenience.
Puppies will chew unsuitable and sometimes dangerous objects such as a lamp’s electrical wire. Puppies eat things they shouldn’t, and make an un-contained mess. Crates are also important when traveling, or if you need someone to dog sit … there are many examples. Just like you want your dog to know “sit” and “come”, they should also be happy in a crate.
Aside from that our dogs love their crates because it is their personal space (in the wild they have dens, in homes the crate replaces this). When we are home, we leave our crate doors open so our Labs can go in and out as they please, and you will often find them napping in their crate.
Your puppy will bark for the first few days when in the crate. Some may bark for two minutes, others may bark for twenty, it really just depends on the puppy. We put the puppy’s crate in a quiet place where we can close the door (this way they can’t see everything going on around them and want to join in).
Try not to take your puppy out of the crate while it is barking. Of course there are exceptions, like if your puppy was napping and wakes up, you need to get him/her outside. But, if you are going to take the puppy out because the neighbour comes over to meet him/her or you feel bad, you will only prolong the training process and make it worse for both you and your new puppy.
If your puppy is barking and you want to take them out get them to stop first. Usually just talking to them they will stop and listen to you. Be sure to tell them ‘quiet’ in a quiet but firm tone, at the beginning of whatever note you decide to use to interrupt their barking. Once they stop quickly tell them ‘good quiet <name>’ in a positive tone, then take them out (if they start barking before you open the door then tell them ‘no, quiet’ … and talk to them while opening the door. They are babies, so we can’t expect perfection from the get-go, they won’t understand exactly what good and no mean but this will help plant the seed.
Line the bottom of the crate with newspaper. Puppy pads can also be used, but only if you are sure the puppy won’t eat it as they are lined with plastic on the bottom. You can put toys in the crate, but we recommend putting something they can’t destroy like a Nylabone or Kong. Something you can easily wash is recommended as well.
How much exercise does your puppy need? By 6 months old about 20 minutes twice a day. You do not want to over-exert your puppy … especially Labrador puppies because they will keep going even if they are tired.
Playing with your puppy is exercise for them. So if you take your 8 week old out 8 times a day to start and play for 5 minutes, you made up 40 minutes.
Jogging long distance with your puppy (no matter the breed) is a serious no-no. If you are doing a short 10 minute light jog and they are 8 months or older this would be okay, but running/biking miles, the dog should be at least 18 to 24 months old.
Walking your puppy is okay. Just watch them for fatigue and be sure to bring some water. Also, while young stay away from long grass and hilly areas, as puppies are very fragile and often more than a little bit clumbsy, so if they slip or full the wrong way it doesn’t take much for them to hurt themselves. Stop every 8-10 minutes (even if they don’t look tired) to give them a break.
Dog parks are very popular in the city, but we don’t recommend them. Especially with young pups. They absolutely have to have all of their shots to go for a walk on the street, let alone the dog park, and young puppies should never go because it is too easy for them to get hurt.
Obedience training is something you can start very young, as long as you are gentle with your puppy. You can’t expect them to know “sit” at 9 weeks, but you can start the process.
As we mentioned under the toys section, fetch is a great thing to start, as we firmly believe that ‘come’ is the most important command your dog needs to know.
Training with food is very popular, and we understand why. But, remember that with Labradors you show them how to do what you want with the food the first couple times, but you don’t have to keep using it. You should change up food, toys, and praise so they love all three. You may not always have a cookie or toy on you but you will always have praise available.
There are many obedience classes out there, which even if you are an expert with dogs, we still think it is a good idea to attend as it will help teach your puppy how to socialize with other dogs. Again though, your puppy must have all of its shots for at least two weeks before enrolling.
*If your dog runs away (this is a tip to pass onto every dog owner) and you can get their attention, run the opposite way (away from them) … sounds strange, but they will think it is a game and that it is their turn to chase you instead of you chasing them.
There are many amazing vets out there, but likewise there is the opposite too. We can’t tell you which to choose but you are always welcome to contact us if you have questions. For instance, which type of heartworm works best for our Labradors, how many sets of shots they should have, are they too skinny, and when we recommend to spay/neuter.
Side Note: A concern that breeders across Canada and the U.S. are seeing these days is early detection of dysplacia (not just in Labradors). Dogs are not fully developed until after 18 months, and often when a puppy is neutered or spayed young (say at 6 months) the vet decides to do an x-ray of the hips or elbows and claims there is dysplacia even though the puppy has not developed any symptoms or settled enough to make this diagnosis.
Thankfully, we have not had this happen to any of our puppies, but it is one that breeders are reporting more and more of, so we feel that it should be mentioned. Nothing is scarier than thinking you puppy is sick, and the automatic knee-jerk action is to fix it, but we can’t stress enough that you should be very careful and use common sense. If your puppy is happy and healthy, never hurt itself and doesn’t limp then you may want a second opinion.
A question we are usually asked is how much a Labrador should weigh. We don’t mean to point fingers, but vets these days feel that dogs should be very skinny … and this is true for some breeds, like whippets, and even some Labrador lines are sleeker than ours (ie. field pedigrees). However, our labradors are bred to meet the Canadian Kennel Club standard (you can read it here), and you should NOT be able to count their ribs!
Keeping your dog lean is okay, but keeping them skinny is not healthy, and understanding their build is essential in determining the difference. Our dogs are quality bred and tend to be “big boned”, have barrel chests with spring of rib (they are wider than a breed like the pointer) and have thick coats, so this alone will make them weigh more and look bigger than a dog of similar height. Our dogs typically live until 13-15 years and we have never had a health issue resulting from their weight.
This said obesity is also undesirable and to be avoided. Generally a dog in good weight when looking above the dog down his back, from shoulders to rump the dog will be a straight line, slight indentation at the withers (waist) okay but should not be defined and neither should he bulge out at the withers. Spine will be felt but not protruding and if you grab the skin at his side it will be loose from his body but have only about an inch of thickness.
Hope these tips are helpful, best of luck with your new family addition.
From our family to yours.