Our family is obviously a bit dog crazy. Our pups are such a special part of our family and the most willing participants in our silly shenanigans! And while we will never claim to know it all, Tim and I do find ourselves answering a lot of questions about 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 and engage in endless doggy-speak. 🙂 Tim and I both grew up with dogs and a beagle was our very first pup together. I’ve personally always loved labs for their temperament, personality, child-friendly nature, and trainability. We travel to the Outer Banks a lot, so love of the water is a huge plus for us, too! Our first lab, Oakley, was one of the greatest dogs I’ve ever known. He was loyal, smart, and just 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 and 12.5% Golden Retriever. 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 American Journey 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 American Journey for many reasons but mostly because they use quality ingredients and Chewy delivers! We order our food from Chewy.com or you can purchase locally at Tractor Supply or PetSmart.
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 and 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: My brutal honesty is going to come out screaming here. Dogs are expensive and one must be able to properly care for one before considering pet 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 and the time commitment 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 by his former owner.
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 by bringing us 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 plays musical beds and 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 short leash. 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.
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: I’d skip on the filled cow hooves. They smell horrific. 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. For our female lab, this was at 7 months and our male was neutered at 1 year of age.
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: In the past, we fostered dozens of labs and lab mixes for a local rescue. We really enjoyed helping to find so many pups forever homes. We chose to pause fostering because it began to be stressful for our super-skittish pup, Wrangler. We support 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 still support many rescue organizations. If you’re in the Richmond area, we love Lab Rescue of Greater Richmond.
I hope this post has been helpful! Feel free to leave any further questions in the comments or shoot me an email!
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