Our family is obviously a crazy dog family. If you follow my personal Instagram, you know that some (okay, maybe a lot) of my photos are of our dogs. They’re such a special part of our family and the most willing participants in our silly shenanigans! And while we never claim to know it all, Tim and I do find ourselves answering a lot of questions about puppyhood and dog-raising. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things we’ve learned over the years as dog owners and enthusiasts. This way, we will always have a place to refer those who ask us questions. I’ve been creating this post for quite awhile, so there is a ton of information! Read on!
Why we have labrador retrievers: We love all dogs, seriously. Bring any dog to me and I promise I will melt into a puddle of goo and endless doggy-speak. 🙂 Tim and I both grew up with dogs and a beagle pup was our very first purchase together. I’ve personally always loved labs for their temperament, personality, child-friendly nature, and trainability. Loving water and traveling wonderfully is a huge plus for us, too! Our first lab together, Oakley, was one of the greatest dogs I’ve ever known. He was loyal, smart, and goofy enough to make us laugh daily. Annie and Wrangler definitely have that same nature, although Annie got an extra helping of goofy. Willys is turning out to have those same qualities as well, although he’s 25% bloodhound. He’s just charming with his droopy ears. L O N G legs, and all the “talking.”
Food and Feeding: We’ve tried our dogs on many different foods over the years. From grocery store, to boutique pet store, to prescription diets, our dogs have eaten them all. We rely on dogfoodadvisor.com as well as professional recommendations to choose the best food for our dogs within our budget.
Over the past few years, we’ve been feeding Earthborn Holistic Grain Free dry food and have been very pleased. Even our dogs with allergies (poor Wrangler!) have done great on it. Their eyes are bright and coats are super thick and shiny. We love Earthborn for many reasons but mostly because they use quality ingredients and have never had a recall! They pay attention to little details such as the zip closure bag which keeps the food super fresh and easy to handle. If you follow Earthborn on social media, they often host giveaways on brand merchandise and one time sent me a free t shirt! Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll receive coupons on a monthly basis. Earthborn will even plant a tree for every proof of purchase you mail back to them! We order our food from Chewy.com or you can purchase locally at Tractor Supply or Southern States.
Now, how much to feed your dog. We feed our dogs twice a day, in the morning and evening. The amount our dogs receive in their bowls is calculated based on their IDEAL weight (ask your veterinarian!), activity level, and the calories per serving of food. You can find the calories (kcal) on the back of dog food labels. We used this calculator to easily figure out how much to feed each day. Annie and Wrangler are at their ideal weight while Willys still has a bit of catching up to do from malnourishment as a puppy. He’s doing really well and should continue to gain weight over the next year!
Supplements and Treats: We don’t feel the need to give many supplements since we feed a high quality food, but there are a few things we will give our dogs to enhance their health. At their dinner meal, we place about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in their bowls on top of their food. This is great for their skin, joints, and coat. Make sure you purchase virgin, unrefined coconut oil. We get a large container at Costco for about $18.
We give grain free treats as well as raw vegetables such as baby carrots, slices of apples, oranges, lettuce, and bananas. Our dogs especially salivate for anything citrus, it’s hilarious! They also really love popcorn on occasion!
Heart worm and Flea & Tick Prevention: I’m going to come out and say it, dogs are expensive and one must be able to properly care for a one before considering ownership! Just like us, dogs need proper vaccinations and preventative treatment. Dogs should be on heart worm preventative every. single. month. such as Heartgard. Not only does it protect against heart worms, but also tape worms, round worms, and whip worms. Here in Virginia, we’ve been seeing mosquitoes since February, so stopping treatment during winter months isn’t recommended. It only takes one mosquito bite to cause deadly heart worms which take up residence in their heart and causes irreversible damage. Yes, prevention is costly, but have you priced treatment for heart worms?
Flea infestations and diseases from tick bites can also be easily prevented with monthly medications such as Nexgard. Our poor Willys came to us with ehrlichiosis, a common tick-borne disease. While he wasn’t showing any symptoms yet, he could have easily become ill very quickly. We were able to treat him with several weeks of antibiotics, but it could have easily been prevented.
It’s so sad to see the countless number of dogs in shelters or rescues who are have heart worms or tick-borne illness. In fact, most of our foster dogs have a tick-borne illness or some type of worms when they come to us. This just shows the vast number of widespread animal neglect or uninformed pet ownership. Please protect your pets! Okay, off my soapbox… 🙂
Sleep: They say healthy, well-exercised dogs can sleep up to 18 hours a day. Of course this depends on their age, breed, health, etc. Our pups are crate trained and L O V E their crates. Labs puppies can be a bit crazy and get into trouble if left to their own devices at nighttime. Until they’re a bit older, we keep them crated at night and when we leave the house. Annie has slept in our bed during a thunderstorm, but decided to wake us up to play with kisses and squeaky toys at 3 AM! Also, make sure to take collars off when leaving your pup in their crate. Strangulation accidents from collars getting tangled in wire are real and we never take chances!
Annie and Wrangler still share a large crate and cuddle all night. It’s so sweet. Willys is huge, so he has his own crate but sometimes Annie sneaks in with him instead. Haha! We also crate train to help with house breaking, as dogs are very unlikely to soil their own “dens.”
Our dogs are not destructive types, but we really like the shred-proof beds from K9 Ballistics. This is another great company who makes a superior product. They have an orthopedic line that’s fantastic and supportive of a larger dog’s joints.
Collars and Leashes: Right now our dogs have on Blueberry collars which we purchased on Amazon. These collars are strong and easily buckle on and off when they come out of their crates. I also really like the paracord collars from Leashes by Liz. They’re super soft and easily adjustable.
We use a 6 foot basic black nylon leash from Petsmart. Since we travel a lot with our dogs, most places require them to be on a leash 6 feet or less. Labs are strong and because ours don’t regularly leash walk since they have free reign of our back yard, we use Easy Walk Harnesses. These are safe, effective, and keep them from pulling. They’ve learned very quickly how to walk with them and we feel safe even letting Noah take a leash.
Our views on bones and rawhides: Like I stated before, this information is solely based on our personal experiences and our own research. Years ago, we had no issues giving our dogs rawhide treats. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding which kind is safe as well as their ability to quickly dissolve in the digestive system should your dog swallow a large piece. Our beagle loved rawhide bones, but after a frightening episode of uncontrollable coughing and bleeding from a piece that got lodged in his airway, we stopped giving rawhides altogether.
Our veterinarian highly recommends beef marrow bones for chewing and keeping our dogs teeth clean. We purchase only beef bones made in the USA, for authenticity reasons. Our dogs love the Redbarn peanut butter filled marrow bones. And just a tip: never purchase the filled cow hooves unless you want your house to smell like a cat hoarder without a litter box. Seriously, the most disgusting things ever!
Spaying and Neutering: We have no interest in breeding and we like the health benefits of altering our dogs. So, yes. All of our dogs are spayed and neutered at the appropriate age determined by our vet.
Training: Our dogs know basic commands which are taught using positive reinforcement. Honestly, I lack skills in anything past the basics in the training department, so I defer to the pros if you have a really hard to train dog or want to do teach more advanced skills. We use small training treats for rewards. With multiple dogs, I highly suggest training them separately so you have that dogs full attention.
Fostering, rescue, and the purebred dog: We’ve had a lot of interest in our fosters and Lab Rescue since we started working with them last fall. I’ve also answered a number of questions on rescue vs. breeder dogs. We are supporters of rescue as well as small, purebred family-based breeders with solid intentions. We strongly oppose puppy mills and irresponsible breeding with intentions other than to preserve the breed standard. We have appreciation for the purebred dog as well as rescue efforts, and do not feel one contradicts the other as breed-specific rescues would not exist without the breed. We’ve also had many friends interested in our foster dogs. This makes us so happy! If you have an interest in adopting a rescue lab, we encourage you to start the application process at Lab-Rescue.org. Only approved adoptive families can apply to adopt one of our fosters and the process does take some time. It’s best to be ready when the right dog comes along!
Fostering has been a wonderful decision for our family. We were presented with the opportunity to foster after we had applied to adopt a lab with Lab Rescue. We were originally considering a special needs dog, but helping many dogs find forever homes sounded just wonderful! Fostering has been a special family outreach project and it keeps our resident labs well-socialized. Yes, it’s sad when a foster leaves, especially for softies like us. But, it’s an amazing feeling when we hear back from adopters and how perfect their dog is for their family!
I hope this post has been helpful! Feel free to leave any further questions in the comments or shoot me an email!