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THE SOGGY DOG BLOG: EAT THIS, NOT THAT

March 30th, 2017|

One of the most common health issues we see in Labs today (and dogs in general, really) is obesity.  I know we’ve covered this topic in previous posts, but with the number of dogs we continue to see struggling with weight issues, the message bears repeating, but perhaps with a different twist.

Dog Food | Soggy Acres RetrieversWe’ve already explained in previous posts how to tell if your dog is overweight and what the health consequences are.  This post, we’re going to focus on correcting the nutritional issues that are half the problem (with lack of adequate exercise being the other half).  It goes without saying that a dog doesn’t control what he eats: he cannot go through a drive-thru and order combo meals number 1-5 supersized, skip the sodas.  He eats what you give him.  You are solely responsible for his caloric intake.  Here are some tips to help monitor and control that intake:

  • Always pre-measure your dog’s food for the day. Chose a container that becomes your dog’s permanent daily food container and store it out of reach.  Using a measuring cup to be exact, measure out his morning meal and afternoon meal into the container.  Yes, you should actually use a dry ingredient measuring cup: you would be shocked at how “off” your estimate of two cups is!
  • If you are training your dog or rewarding him with a “treat” for any kind of good behavior, do not reach for a mini bone or other calorie bomb. Just a couple of these little biscuits are the equivalent of a whole meal! Instead, reach inside his daily food jar (mentioned above) and reward him from his daily allotment of kibble.  This makes absolutely certain that your dog isn’t consuming hundreds of extra calories.
  • Use the back of the bag of dog food as a guide only. If your dog is overweight, or worse yet obese, they should not be consuming the bag’s recommended cups of food per day.  If you’re on a diet, do you continue to eat the same quantity of food as usual?  It’s no different with a dog.  Curbing caloric intake is key.  You can cut the number of cups of food your dog eats per day more dramatically than you think.
  • Caloric values vary dramatically between brands of food, and even between blends of the same brand. Look at the kCals per cup and the protein percentages noted on the back of the bag of food.  Foods with very high kCals and protein levels per cup are for young adult dogs that are extremely active.  If this doesn’t describe your dog, he’s likely eating the wrong food.  You may want to trade down to a different blend with fewer calories and less protein. Your dog isn’t using it for growth and energy.  He’s storing it as fat.
  • If you do opt to treat your dog, be mindful of the caloric impact if you choose not to use his daily kibble. A 2013 study by the AAHA of the popular “bully stick” revealed that these treats averaged 8-22 calories per inch, which for a small dog, could be as much as 30% of his daily calories in just one 6” treat!  Vegetable-based treats, like frozen carrots or a few tablespoons of pumpkin, may not entice your dog as much initially as a bit of bull penis (yes, that’s what a bully stick is), but it won’t blow his diet either.  Dogs’ bodies don’t digest plant fibers so foods like raw pumpkin act as fiber, which isn’t a bad thing for the dog on a diet.  Unsweetened applesauce and pumpkin can also be frozen inside a Kong toy or white sterilized femur bone to provide an “active snack.”  Do double-check with your vet or with a reputable resource online (http://www.akc.org/content/health/dog-nutrition/) before feeding your dog any human food, including fruits or vegetables: some are toxic to dogs!
  • Cut the Table Scraps Out. Include the infants in your family in this endeavor.  Dogs eating “people food” really pack on the extra weight, whether they are given tidbits from the table by the adults or they are positioned on high-chair duty around the infants.  “People foods,” other than non-toxic plant-based items, are major calorie bombs for dogs.  Thinking in terms of percentages, just a few potato chips is like the equivalent of you adding an entire cheeseburger to your diet!  A few small bites of people food each day can be the equivalent of your dog eating one or more additional meals.  This is in addition to the fact that many types of foods are harmful and even dangerous to your dog’s health.  Potato chips, for example, are extremely high in salt and can quickly dehydrate your dog; grapes can be toxic.

If you own a Lab now or have in the past, you know that one of their key personality traits is a voracious appetite.  Because you love your Lab, you’re probably going to want to show him your love by obliging his lust for treats.  Keep in mind those mini bones you sneak him don’t even give him a second of enjoyment as he gulps them down, but they are adding pounds that can take years off of his life.  The best “treat” you can give your dog is that of your time.  Give him a long belly rub or get out the tennis ball for a game of fetch.  Spending time with your Lab is more beneficial to him physically and mentally and will create a deeper bond between you and him than any pig ear ever could.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

THE SOGGY DOG BLOG: PICK OF THE LITTER

March 23rd, 2017|

We often get requests from clients for the “pick of the litter” puppy.  In other words, the client wants to be able to review the litter in its entirety and have first choice on pups.  There’s nothing unnatural for a consumer to want choices, or for someone to want to go first.  After all, this is the country that punishes kids for skipping in line and lets you order your burger any way you want it.  Going first and having choices is the American way.  But does this follow in choosing your puppy?  How important really is “going first” and what are the real pros and cons?

Yellow Lab Puppy | Soggy Acres RetrieversWe’ve probably made this point too many times already, but it’s 100% relevant in this conversation: As a puppy consumer, the product you are actually buying is genetics.  You aren’t buying waggy butts and floppy ears – all puppies have those.  You can look at two litters of yellow Lab pups –mine and those of an unknown breeder – and likely, you won’t be able to tell the difference on the surface.  But our pups are really nothing alike, beyond their childish good looks.

When you place a deposit with a reputable breeder, you are making a purchase of that breeder’s genetics.  A reputable breeder has spent years perfecting their lines, taking care to include dogs with good looks and temperament and excellent drive, and no testable genetic defects.  We spend the first two years of a female’s life evaluating her looks, temperament, and drive; at two years of age, if she fits the bill, we pursue her health clearances and proceed to breed her at her next heat cycle.  If she doesn’t meet all of our stringent criteria, she is spayed and retired to the foster guardian family that we assigned her to.  Good breeders have a large enough pool of dogs that they don’t need to breed any animal that doesn’t measure up, and good breeders also have relationships with other good breeders from which to infuse new genetics into their own lines.  Good breeders know where to find good stud service and when and where to purchase new dogs for their programs.  Managing good bloodlines is a full time job. 

Assuming then, that you have located a reputable breeder that has been managing his bloodlines for a decade (or two!), you now understand what we mean when we say that you are purchasing genetics and not (just) a puppy.  ALL of the pups in a litter will share their parents’ good looks and drive.  If mom has a beautiful fox red coat with excellent luster and dad is a waterfowling beast, guess what?  Their sons and daughters will have these characteristics too.  Pups that today look larger or smaller, more tame or more wild, darker or lighter in color, etc., will generally all be reset to the same point, given time, because they all share the same genetics.  The smallest pup will eventually end up about the same size as mom or dad, the “quieter” pup will be the same beast in the field as dad, and the lighter colored one will likely have a deepening in coat color to match mom’s.  And it’s not just mom and dad’s looks and drive entering into the equation: it’s several generations of looks and drive making these pups the dog that they will grow up to be someday.

You hopefully now understand the difference between picking a puppy and buying genetics.  When working with a good breeder and excellent bloodlines, you should feel confident in taking home any dog produced by their kennel, whether you have a pick of ten or one.  Bright eyes and waggy tails aside, if you’ve done your homework on the front end, you can’t go wrong with any pick!

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

THE SOGGY DOG BLOG: MALES VS FEMALES

March 9th, 2017|

New clients of ours sometimes struggle when trying to decide on which gender Lab they should choose.  Sometimes they are influenced by dogs they have had in the past: If they previously had a male, this time they might want to try a female.  Or, conversely, they will always have males because of the positive feelings they’ve had for their dogs in the past.  Other times, we see that their decision is being made by a series of assumptions and myths.  We’d like to dispel a few of those here and really break down the difference for you on male versus female Labrador Retrievers.
Callie Belle - Soggy Acres Retrievers
Size Matters:  The biggest difference between male and female Labrador Retrievers is simply size.  Males generally run 10-20 pounds heavier than females.  The AKC standard for a female Labrador Retriever weight is from the low 50’s to the low 60-pound range, whereas males fall more into the 70-80 pound range.  That isn’t to say that either can’t be a little more or less and still be a healthy dog.  Our fox red stud Pappy Boyington is about 60 pounds, and our original founding females were over 60 pounds.  If you hunt snow geese, choosing a male dog that has an easier time retrieving these large birds may be the better choice.  However, if you are an avid waterfowler, having a more petite female to share the boat or blind with may be preferable.  The most notable difference between male and female Labs, or the difference that is closest to certain, is their size.

Rommel Desert Fox | Soggy Acres Retrievers

Bathroom Break:  Unfixed males, or males that were neutered later than puppyhood, have an interesting habit of “browsing” the yard.  Sniff this tree, sniff that tree, pee a little here, spot a little there.  This can be a lengthy process (and an annoying one when it’s ten below outside).  As the Charmin commercial says, they “Enjoy the Go.”  Females are more down to business when it comes to potty time.  (They aren’t out there combing their fur and reapplying lipstick.) The easiest way to level the playing field here is, of course, to get your male dog neutered at the earliest age your vet recommends.  From there, both genders are quickly outside and back in and the only difference you’ll note is their stance (although we have seen males squat!)

Just Drive:  One of the more common myths we hear is that one gender (usually males) are “known” to have more drive.  This isn’t true.  Drive is determined by genetics.  Your dog’s bloodlines are what’s going to make him go ga-ga over geese.  Both the male and female pups in a litter have the same parentage and therefore the same bloodlines and therefore the same drive.  All of the pups in a litter are either going to want to hunt –or not.  Certainly, all animals have their own unique personalities: littermates are not carbon-copies of each other.  But generally speaking, drive is determined by genetics and an entire litter has the same genetics.  The puppies with X chromosomes have the same drive as those with Y.

She’s Got Personality:  So does he.  Both male and female Labs can have loving, nurturing personalities.  Our giant stud dog Pickett is one of the most affectionate dogs you’ll ever meet.  But he’s a machine in the field.  And guess what?  His mother was a lover too.  We breed our dogs first and foremost to have a pleasant disposition.  Our pups get their dispositions from their parents.  And just like drive, personality is not segregated to one gender in the litter.

So which gender should you choose?  It depends on your circumstances if size is an issue, as size is the only material issue typically at hand.   If size isn’t an issue, you can really go either way.  If you have always had one gender dog in the past and you were happy with that, there’s absolutely no harm in letting your heart choose the same.  Either male or female, if you’re working with an experienced, reputable breeder, you will likely be overjoyed with the dog you pick.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

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