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July 5th, 2017|

We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog in the past talking about coat color.  Now let’s spend some time addressing care for that coat, specifically a condition that affects a lot of Labs: dryness.  It’s not uncommon to see a Lab scratching at himself, or to see those infamous little white flakes speckling his otherwise shiny back and chest.  What causes a Lab’s coat to become dry and what can be done about it?

Rommel and Kat | Soggy Acres RetrieversI hear quite often from prospective clients that they have had or know someone that’s had a Lab with allergies.  Don’t get me wrong, dogs can certainly develop allergies just like people do, whether it’s the solution used to clean the floors or the spray used to deodorize their pet bed.  Allergies definitely do happen.  But before you stop washing Duke’s pet bed and change him over to a grain-free diet, let’s consider some of the other factors that could be giving him a dry coat – because a simply dry coat is not the same as allergies.

At Soggy Acres, we can’t stress enough the importance of a good diet for your Lab.  We’ve talked at length about the importance of keeping your Lab a good weight, but proper diet isn’t just about weight.  A healthy diet will also show in your Lab’s coat.  Fed the right blend of ingredients, your Lab will have a shiny, supple coat.  Your Lab’s food should have enough fats in it to nourish his coat.  If your Lab is on a dog food for less active dogs or on a weight management blend, these foods have less fatty content and can contribute to a dry coat.  Consider giving your dog a fish oil supplement with his meals.  Given on a consistent basis, you’ll really notice an improvement. Don’t forget the importance of hydration.  If you were constantly dehydrated, how do you think your skin and hair would look?  Make sure your Lab is getting plenty of fresh water.  If you work long hours away from home, live in an especially hot climate, or have multiple pets, consider having at least two water bowls available.  The last element related to your dog’s diet that impacts coat health is the presence or lack of “people food” in his diet.  If you’re feeding your dog things he shouldn’t be eating, like potato chips and French fries, expect the results to show in his coat.  Your dog’s body isn’t equipped to process a lot of human foods (some of which are even toxic) and foods like pretzels can be severely dehydrating.  Even “cheating” occasionally can add up much quicker in his smaller body.  Garbage in yields garbage out, and his coat will show the signs.

Climate is on par with diet for impacting your Lab’s coat.  There’s only so much we can do about where we live, and a Lab’s coat can get brutalized no matter which extreme he lives in.  In the north, we have brutal winters which require running the furnace as much as 8 months a year.  All that hot, dry air can really wreak havoc on your Lab’s coat.  Unfortunately, the natural long summers of the south aren’t much better, because then he’s exposed to the cold, dry air of air conditioning!  A Lab will chose air conditioning over heat stroke any day, don’t get me wrong, but again, you may want to consider supplementing his diet with fish oil in the months that you’re running a lot of A/C or heat.  There are companies that even specialize in liquid oil blends for dogs that can be added right on top of his kibble.  If you notice his coat looking particularly natty, grab a rat tail comb and gently work it through small areas to loosen up and remove the dead fur and skin.  Labs tend to go through two major sheds a year, usually concurrent with the changing seasons.  So if you’re reaching to adjust the thermostat, now would be a good time to reach for the comb.  Not only does combing or brushing your dog remove the dead bits, but it also helps redistribute the natural oils he has throughout his coat.

The last issue possibly causing your Lab to have a dry coat is over-bathing.  Unlike many other breeds, Labs do not need to be on a regular bath schedule.  (Even my pro groomer doesn’t get this, and religiously phones to schedule an appointment if she hasn’t seen one of my dogs within 8 weeks.)  Labs are like a fine garment: spot clean as necessary.  Avoid the full-dip bath if at all possible.  Labs are water dogs and have a natural oil coating their fur, rather like a duck’s feathers.  When you bathe them, a lot of this natural oil is stripped off, leaving him dry and itchy.  The more often you bathe your Lab, the more likely you are to see itching and scratching and flakes.  Just use a wash cloth and a bit of soap to spot clean what’s dirty (i.e. paws, ears) and leave the rest alone!  If you must full-dip bath, use a sulfate-free shampoo.  Did you know that most pet shampoos, including the so-called gentle oatmeal ones, are not sulfate free?  Most people and pet shampoos are filled with harsh detergents such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, or “sulfates,” which are what causes the dryness in a Lab’s coat (and in your hair).  I use a human sulfate-free shampoo on my Labs when they absolutely must be bathed.  It gives their coats the gentlest cleaning and doesn’t strip the oils as much as the alternatives.

Take these tips into consideration when considering the health of your Lab’s coat.  A Lab’s shorter coat and natural oils can easily fall prey to bad diet and incorrect grooming habits.  Like all other aspects of his care, a Lab can’t care for his own coat.  He’s dependent on you to feed him properly and groom him when appropriate.  Luckily, the fixes for a dry coat are easy enough and should have your Lab shining in no time!

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


May 18th, 2017|

We have a petite, comical chocolate female that you’ve undoubtedly seen in a variety of Soggy Acres and SportingDog Adventures pictures and videos, and if you’re local, you’ve probably met her at any number of area sportshows.  She’s the family “ham,” a born entertainer that likes to sing, dance, and wear crazy outfits (she has her own tutu collection).  Never camera shy or afraid to ask new acquaintances for a “butt scratch”, this little girl’s personality is larger than any Lab’s and disproportionate to her 50-pound size.  This goofy little girl is Lucy Belle, born October 13, 2008, to the gorgeous huntress, Sadie Belle.  We typically refrain from waxing lyrical on this blog and try to focus on educational posts, but this week we’re going to make an exception and tell you about the life of Lucy.  You see, Lucy was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer on April 3 – exactly two months to the day of the passing of her illustrious grandmother, Dixie Belle – and before Lucy goes, we want to share her untold story.

Our story starts in the whelping box at Soggy Acres in fall of 2008.  If having puppies was a sport, Sadie Belle would have been a champion, and the litter born that October was no exception.  Squirming – barely– in that litter of 15 (!) was the future Lucy Belle.  Lucy was more than the stereotypical “runt,” she was downright pathetic, weighing a mere 2 pounds at seven weeks, when her brothers and sisters were all full-sized and healthy, raring to go home.  Her ears stuck out like Yoda (a fact she’d rather we forgot) and she just wasn’t putting on weight.  Her frequent visits to the vet earned her the nickname “Dead Dog” by the staff, who clearly didn’t see much of a future for her.  It was decided that if “Dead Dog” survived, the Fuller family would keep her for themselves and name her after a Charles Schulz “Peanuts” character.  (After all, Happiness is a Warm Puppy was the book that really catapulted Schulz’s career.)  Survive she did, and Lucy Belle became a central figure in the Fuller household from then on.

Lucy worked her first Milwaukee sportshow that following spring, hanging out in a basket for her comfort and protection.  She’s worked every MJS Sportshow and Madison Deer and Turkey Expo since.  Annual visitors to the event invariably inquire when they see her whether this is the “same doggy from the basket.”  Lucy loves doing sportshows and actually gets completely impatient with her family when it’s about time to go.  She has a “tip jar” and we’ve taught her to “sing” for tips, head thrown back or prancing on her back haunches.  She knows those tips go to her friend Jill who operates the doggy treat booth in the same aisle.  Her childish good looks spurn the same dialogue hundreds of times at each show:

“How old is she?”

Answer: 9.

“9 months?”

Answer: No, 9 years!

And she loves the attention – and the occasional opportunity to try and steal a crock pickle or jerky stick from an unsuspecting fan!

Lucy works hard for our TV show as well.  She’s had the opportunity to run with professional sled dogs and track deer, to name a few of her favorite moments from SportingDog Adventures.  No one would know, but she’s the only dog we have that doesn’t “weird out” when being asked to eat on camera: she has no objection to eating with a camera in her face!  Never professionally trained, her hunting skills are all natural, thanks to her great bloodlines, and she’s not afraid to show them off in the company of much larger, titled dogs.  Nothing intimidates Lucy.

In her downtime, Lucy is a “rider.”  If it moves, she wants on it.  When we brought home our American Landmaster UTV, she popped her front paws up on the car trailer to check it out before we had even taken the bungee cords off of it!  As part of her bucket list, we make sure she gets a daily ride on something, whether it’s a lap around the pond at home on the UTV, or a jaunt out into the marshes on our Argo at our Lodge.  In a pinch, the Big Dog lawnmower deck will suffice (she thinks she’s a better spokesdog for the brand than Rommel anyway).  She’s spent many a dusky evening making her boys paddle her about the Soggy Acres ponds on “her” paddleboat.

Lucy isn’t going to be with us much longer –a few days to two weeks by our estimates – but we’re enjoying every last minute of her company.  Lucy has lived an incredibly full life, more so than many people!  With over 25,000 people attending each sportshow each year that she works (and she usually works three), think how many people have been enchanted by the puppy-faced chocolate Lab singing in a tutu.  How many smiles has she brought to peoples’ faces, young and old, whether at a sportshow, during a puppy go-home at our house, or by hunting ‘em up on our TV show.  We’ll never know how many lives this pint-sized dynamo has touched, but we know for certain that the lives in the Fuller household are forever changed for the better.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


May 10th, 2017|

The weather in Wisconsin is finally starting to warm up (at least a little), and our thoughts turn to BBQ’s and picnics, traveling, and getting out to enjoy the fresh air with our four-legged friends.  Wisconsin lags behind the greater part of the country in warming up, so this blogpost probably should have been written earlier in the year – but it was just last weekend that something I saw inspired me to post this, and reminded me of an email we received last fall while my husband was very ill.

Last fall, we received an email from a SportingDog Adventures viewer telling us about how much he had loved his dog – yes, past tense.  He had a habit of popping her in the back of his pick-up truck on the way to and from his favorite hunting spots, but this past fall would prove to be her last trip.  Just a ten minute drive proved fatal for his beloved dog, who jumped (or was unintentionally toppled) from the back, never to be found.  This past weekend, in our own small town, I was driving behind a small pick-up truck with a panting dog in the back, pacing back and forth freely, a scene that reminded me of that devastated young man’s email from last fall.

Dogs are not cargo and do not belong tossed as such in the back of a pick-up truck!  The dangers are just too great.  Dogs of all sizes, ages, and training backgrounds belong safely secured in a kennel or crate if travelling in the back of a truck, or inside the vehicle with the human passengers.
Soggy Acres Lucy Belle | Soggy Acres Retrievers

Even Well Trained Dogs Can Jump Out.  Our dogs have master hunt titles, and I would never put it past them to leap from the back of our F150.  Between being afraid or excited, coupled with all of the interesting sights and smells, there’s nothing stopping your dog from deciding to have a look about, ultimately jumping to his death from the impact or from being hit by another car.

Accidents Happen, Especially Close to Home.  We’ve all heard the statistics about the higher incidence of accidents happening close to home.  That means that your dog isn’t safe even on a five or ten minute ride in the tailgate.  You’re not doing you buddy any favors taking him on that trip to the local hardware store Saturday morning if he’s riding in the back and some idiot hungover from the night before slams into the back of your vehicle.

Don’t Forget About the Elements.  Even if no other drivers existed, your dog has other potential threats when riding in back.  Temperatures that don’t seem that high to you are going to be a lot more intense in back, beating down on your dog’s furry head and baking the metal floor of the tailgate touching his paws.  Debris flying through the air, even at slow speeds, can lodge in his eyes.  Think about riding a motorcycle with no sunglasses or goggles and no helmet, barefoot, and in a fur coat, and then you’d be close to what he’s up against.

Plan Ahead.  If you have a small cab on your truck and plan to take along or pick up additional passengers leaving no room for your dog inside, leave him home!  He’d rather be alive and well at home than bleeding to death on the side of the road.  If you plan to hunt him, he’s likely to be dirty and wound up at the end.  If you don’t want a dirty, wound-up dog inside the cab with you, all the more reason to plan ahead and bring his crate.  If you have to take the crate out to make room for hauling something else, take the time right then to put it back in after you offload.

Have the Right Gear.  Not all kennels are created equal.  Before investing in a kennel or crate for your pick-up, do your research.  (Very few have any kind of crash test ratings.)  Do a Google search for “crash tested dog kennel.”  Safer kennels are going to cost more, but isn’t it worth it?  Your dog is both a financial and emotional investment worth preserving.  Consider not only the crate itself, but how you will secure it.  Make sure the kennel is secured with bungee cords or ratchet straps, or has a way of being mounted or secured to your BedSlide or other tailgate organizer.  An unsecured kennel is no better than none at all.  A flimsy wire crate unsecured in the bed of your truck is just a death trap.

Make it a Habit.  Just like you should be fastening your seatbelt on every trip, no matter how short, your dog should always be secured.  Don’t make exceptions because “it’s a short trip” or because you “don’t have time.”  Would you toss your baby in the backseat because you “don’t have time” to strap him into his carseat?

We’ve come a long way in the U.S. in terms of our awareness of animal health.  We have Lyme Disease vaccines, grain-free pet foods, and sulfate-free pet shampoos, but in many ways, we’re still lacking in our understanding of pet safety.  You may or may not feel as though your dog is your “child,” but regardless, his life is in your hands.  Hopefully, you value that life more than you do job site material or hunting gear, because those are the only things that belong unsecured in the back of your truck.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


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