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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!

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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.

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February 3rd, 2017|

We’d like to take a moment to share some information and dispel some common myths about the fur coat of a Labrador Retriever. It may surprise you the number of questions that we get asked by new Lab owners and experienced ones alike that relate to their coats.
Labrador Retriever Puppies | Soggy Acres Retrievers

Are there differences in personality between Labs of different colors? This is one of the most common questions we get. The answer is a resounding NO. Coat color in dogs is no different than human hair color and there is absolutely NO connection between the color of your Lab’s coat and his personality. Do you believe that blondes are dumb? Do you believe that redheads are fiery? Hopefully you recognize that those are stereotypes. Stereotypes exist in dogs too, believe it or not. Coat color in a Lab is determined by one allele in their entire DNA and it has no impact on anything other than their color.

My Lab pup is very fair/ dark: will he stay this color? Not likely. A Lab pup’s coat is much like a baby’s hair: the color is going to change as he matures. (Both a human and pup’s eye colors will change too.) Black Labs’ coats don’t change much, other than as they gray, but a yellow Lab and a chocolate Lab can change quite a bit. Yellow Labs can turn lighter or darker (a lighter yellow or a redish) and chocolates can look more redish or more black as they age. Environment can affect this too. Our chocolate stud Pickett looks positively orange from the sun bleaching his fur after a summer running hunt tests!

What’s a Fox Red Lab? What’s a White Lab? What’s a Silver Lab? The only three AKC-recognized Lab coat colors are black, yellow, and chocolate. However, in recent years, Lab breeders have been experimenting with coat variations. A “Fox Red” Lab is simply a yellow Lab with a deeper yellow coat, sometimes verging on “strawberry blonde.” A “White” Lab is also a coat variation on a yellow Lab, just in the opposite direction. Instead of being more pigmented, their coat is less pigmented, verging on white. These “fancy” coat colors resulted by breeders simply selecting Lab males and females that had darker (or lighter) yellow coats than their litter mates and breeding them together…and then breeding those offspring to other males and females that were also darker, and so on.

Much debate is currently ensuing about the status of “Silver” Labs. In theory, the Silver Lab is a coat variation of the chocolate Lab. However, some research has shown that Silver Labs may actually have been the result of Lab breeders breeding chocolates to Weimaraners, in which case a “Silver Lab” then would be a mixed-breed dog and not a purebred Lab. Studies are still underway.

Do Labs shed? I’ve heard they don’t need to be groomed. Yes and wrong. Labs are not hairless and they do shed. However, I find their shedding to be less than many other breeds and that it’s easier to clean up. A quick two minute session with a hand vac picks up the fur in our house that tends to aggregate behind doors and near baseboards. It’s pretty simple. Labs do require grooming as well, and in fact, regular grooming can massively reduce shedding. We have another blog post on grooming your Lab, but if you aren’t up to it, it’s relatively inexpensive to have done professionally. If you do have the time, most Labs love it and it can be a great bonding experience for you.

Should I schedule my Lab for regular baths? No. Your Lab’s coat is like a duck’s feathers: it’s covered in a natural oil because he is a waterdog. This oil is put there by nature intentionally. Excessive bathing can strip this natural oil and cause excessive dryness. This excessive dryness can present symptoms that look like dandruff, dermatitis, or allergies. We tell our clients to treat their Lab like a fine garment: spot clean as necessary. A full-dip bath is only needed once in a while if he is really dirty or stinky.

Now that you have the facts about your Lab’s fur coat, you can hopefully enjoy it more fully! Don’t forget, research has shown that petting a dog can trigger the release of favorable hormones that make us feel happy and relaxed.* Go enjoy those benefits now with yours, I’m sure he will be an obliging participant.

* http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/03/09/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other

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