My goal with this blog is for you to enjoy your time here. Most of the posts talk about my experiences raising my two yellow Labrador Retrievers, some are just for fun, and others share the best dog related information and products I have found.

Use the tabs above for quick navigation. I have imbedded links for as much as possible so that you can find the resources easily from this blog. The links in the side bar are for websites that have been helpful to me. I hope that you find them useful for you and your canine "family member"

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Top Ten List of Things You Should Never Give Animals

This list "Top Ten List of Things You Should Never Give Animals" was compiled by Dr. Karen Halligan, the Director of Veterinary Services at the SPCA of Los Angeles.

  1. Bones
  2. Chocolate
  3. Alcohol
  4. Milk
  5. Ham & other salty meats
  6. Onions
  7. Caffeine
  8. Avocados
  9. Tuna fish (for cats)
  10. Grapes/Raisins
Always good to know!!

I have been humbled . . .

When I Got My New Dog

I asked for strength that I might rear her perfectly;
I was given weakness that I might feed her more treats.

I asked for good health that I might rest easy;
I was given a "special needs" dog that I might know nurturing.

I asked for an obedient dog that I might feel proud;
I was given stubbornness that I might feel humble.

I asked for compliance that I might feel masterful;
I was given a clown that I might laugh.

I asked for a companion that I might not feel lonely;
I was given a best friend that I would feel loved.

I got nothing I asked for,
But everything that I needed!
~ Author Unknown

Pure Humor Moment

Here's a link that was shared with me today that I had to add to my blog. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Great Online finds . . .

The Lab through a Lover’s Eyes:
What It’s Like to Live With a Field Trial Champion

The reasons that Labradors give the impression of being hard-headed is because they are physically insensitive. We have bred the Labrador to go through ice and briars where no man would go to retrieve a duck, so you can’t easily hurt them, which in a way, is why they’re a good dog to have around kids. People put a leash and buckle collar on them and try to keep them from pulling and when that Labrador doesn’t even notice, people say, "look at the stubborn dog." I would say, "No, that’s not a stubborn dog, he’s just physically insensitive." I don’t think that they are emotionally insensitive. If you’re willing to train in a way that says to the Labrador, “Hey, I’m here, I intend to be a part of your world.” I have found that Labradors will turn around and say‚‘Well, glad to meet you, what would you like me to do for you’?”
Yes, my dogs come from some of the finest field trial champion breeding lines but they are our pets and companions not hunting or trial dogs. And with simply a consistent exercise routine and basic training they are the best companions anyone could want. Of all the breeds of dogs Labradors offer the greatest challenge for the greatest reward. They are constantly learning which is what makes them such great members of the family. Labradors are some of the most emotionally intuitive dogs because of their love to please.
Get The Facts: What’s Really in Pet Food
Animal Protection Institute
What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.
Safety Tips and Smart Ideas:
  • It is good practice to always have your dogs earn their treats and food. Teach your pet commands such as come, sit and down, then give a command for the dog to obey before you provide the meal or treat. Dogs like the opportunity to show that they understand their people and enjoy interaction that leads to rewards and praise. Other advantages of teaching dogs to take food only upon your command: your pet will be less likely to try to steal food, ingest unauthorized substances indoors or outdoors, or accept treats from strangers.
You can also teach your dog to "go to your place" before getting fed, which is especially helpful for dogs prone to begging at kitchen counters and dinner tables.
  • "Go to your place" is an extremely useful command when you're cooking, cleaning or engaged in any activity in which the dog's interference could lead to distraction and injury. You can designate a place, say, in the far corner of the kitchen or family room, and place a mat or dog bed there. Teach your dog to associate that place with a special word, such as "place," "spot" or "bed." Then, using positive reinforcement, incorporating praise and small treats as rewards, teach him to "go to your place." This gives the dog something good and acceptable that he can do.
I didn't realize where I had read this great tip - "go to your place" before getting fed - until I started going back through some of my bookmarks to share on the blog. This tip in particular with a two dog household has been invaluable. Some of the ideas expressed here I don't completely agree with but the information is still worth reviewing.
Where to hike with your dog: (Northern California Area)
Bay Area Hiker was created to fully explore the diverse and wonderful spectrum of hiking in the San Francisco bay area. This is a work in progress, so if you want to share your thoughts about any hikes that are not yet featured, drop me a line.
Featured hikes will range geographically from around Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the north, to Mount Diablo in the east bay, Henry Cowell State Park to the southwest, and Henry Coe State Park to the southeast.
The Vinegar Institute
With so many commercial cleaning product out there that are not safe or less than ideal for a household with pets I began using vinegar for cleaning my kitchen floors. I use a 1:1 vinegar:water and it works beautifully on my linoleum. Check out the webiste for more ideas.
Adolescence: The Teenage Dog from
  • If you got your dog as a puppy and provided good training, you have an advantage when adolescence arrives but your work is not done. The adolescent dog needs training experiences that the puppy was not ready for. The adolescent dog has questions that didn’t occur to the puppy.
  • Best of all, the adolescent dog is ready to begin to bond with you in a whole new way, to form a real bond. Puppies “love everybody,” and if you have a puppy who hates everyone but you, beware! That puppy is not likely to have a good adult temperament.
  • Adolescent dogs are ready to make distinctions about the world and the people and other dogs in it. You become an important person in this dog’s life, a beloved partner, if you earn it. This is the time that good leadership with your dog, including good management, good handling and good training, begin to really show results. This is when your dog becomes your dog by the dog’s choice.
  • Stay in training classes with your adolescent dog until at least a year of age. Many dogs will need training classes longer. Attend training class with your dog each week and practice the class homework every day. Apply the training in all possible situations so that it becomes integrated into your life with your dog, keeping communication clear between the two of you. Working with a private trainer is a reasonable alternative to classes, provided you and your dog also work in controlled situations around other dogs as you would in a class.
  • Be patient with your dog. Don’t interpret your dog’s error during a training session as deliberate defiance. The dog needs to ask questions, and you will be wisest to answer those questions kindly as well as consistently. The dog won’t be any better trained because you get mad in the process.
  • As a matter of fact, training done in a playful tone is more effective than getting mad, because this is the most receptive state of mind for learning—and that goes for your brain as well as the dog’s! Have fun when training, and make it fun for the dog, too. Hold the line on the limits of behavior because the dog needs this from you. But don’t fault the dog for having questions. That’s the nature of an adolescent.
Some of the suggestions in the article may seem general, but there are really some great specific suggestions. For instance, with two dogs I knew that the first year was going to include training. I just didn't realize at first how valuable training would be.

Start early, the day they come home, progress to indoor puppy class by at least 3 months, and stick with training well into 18 months especially those of us who have big dogs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Meet the siblings

After reading the previous posts some of you may be curious to see the two charmers that inspired this blog. So I'm putting up a couple pictures of the "brother & sister" pair.

Shelby & Nutmeg - 8 wks
This picture was taken the first week they came home with us. My husband captured this moment and it has forever been my favorite picture. They are the best of pals and have been from their first day home. They were two from a litter of eleven. Eight of the eleven stayed with their mom the full 8 weeks so Shelby and Nutmeg came to us with their bite inhibition learning all but done. What remained they figured out on each other instead of us. Truly a blessing!!

Shelby & Nutmeg - 9 mo
This was from their second time at the beach midway through adolescence just before we started with Trish. I needed a change of scenery and to really wear them out. The day was perfect for both. I love how happy, tired, and relaxed they are in this picture. Just what my husband and I needed to see to remind us why we started this venture to begin with.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Surviving Puppy Adolescence

Hitting the skids . . .

Everything seemed to be going well until my two dogs hit adolescence. Then things really changed. It didn't help that I had majorly sprained my ankle as they were entering this stage and the weekly hikes came to a complete stop. When we headed back out over a month later all hell seemed to have broken loose. Hiking became a complete battle. With two 7 month old Labradors vs. My arm, shoulder and neck I was losing and losing fast!! Beginning obedience had gone so well with my two labs out performing in every way. My husband and I were so proud. Now intermediate obedience was off to a bumpy start with things going from bad to worse. The suggestions from our first trainer were worthless. I felt she was at more of a loss than we were. She should have been able to help. She was a trainer!! The class format left no room for helping with our challenges and we dropped out and lost half our money - for two dogs. I began my research in earnest at that point. I searched every where for some insight as to how to work with the personality components of a Labrador through this stage of development. I finally found some links that began to make sense of what we were going through.
Surviving Your Puppy's Adolescence, by Tehani Mosconi
Puppyhood and Beyond, by Sue St. Gelais
This was the best I found. The second link really helped put things into perspective. But there were still no details on how to deal with my specific day to day issues.

The simple act of taking a walk had become a nightmare. Shelby, our boy, would bark and whine incessantly. Any distraction from a bird or squirrel set him into fits and boy could he bark. Nutmeg, our girl, would take her cues from him and it would go from bad to worse in a heart beat. We were lucky if I could take it for more than a block.

I franticly searched through Amazon's dog training books and the recommendations for each book. Soon I was more confused than when I started. Then by some miracle I found the "Dogwise" web site and the books by Turid Rugaas. I cried as I read her book "On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals". Finally, I began to understand that they had been trying to communicate with me despite their change in behavior. I now understood when they were trying to calm themselves down, when they were trying to calm me down, and how I could help calm them down in turn. I learned that I could help facilitate the valuable calming behaviors shown here "Calming Signals Picture Gallery". Skills they needed to continue with their training despite the increased impulsivity and highly distractable stage they had entered. Not to mention, these skills were vitally necessary for them to have in order to safely and properly communicate with other dogs they interacted with.

It was
also around this same time as well that good fortune also allowed me to find an awesome trainer. The first time we talked Trish spent twenty minutes on the phone with me and never once mentioned that her usual fee is $35/ half hour. Then, knowing full well what was going on with my dogs, she invited me to a class that had been going already for two sessions. A generous offer as a new dog with issues was going to be added to a class just settling down and working well together. I decided to take Shelby as he was the worst offender. Shelby added his fair share of chaos to the class. Trish was patient and understanding. At the end of class Trish worked with us one on one and showed me in a matter of minutes that simply ignoring him until he calmed down was the first and biggest step towards changing his behavior. I didn't need to respond to his bad behavior to effect the change I wanted, I needed to ignore it. As soon and he would stop his whining he immediately got a treat. If he jumped up he was immediately given her back. Quickly taking cues from her that night I ignored him completely but stayed close, giving him my back and offering no eye contact unless he was quite or calm. It was amazing the change in him in just five minutes. Even so they were the longest five minutes of my life.

Things changed dramatically at home after that. When my husband came home from work he would ignore the dogs until they were calm. He would stay in the same space as them but they got no affection or eye contact or verbal acknowledgement until they were calm and quite. By the end of the week the over excitement level at arrival moments was gone within seconds not minutes. We had made a big baby step, but it was only the beginning. The incessant barking during walks took three month to fix. Huge improvement happened in the first month giving me the encouragement I needed to keep going. But they were the longest months ever in the first year.

I found another good book during this time:
Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide.
I quickly realized after reading Turid Rugaas's book that the more I understood what my dogs were saying to me the more I knew what I needed to do so they understood me. I was more sensitive to there needs because I could make sense of their body language. Trish did warn me to take this book with a grain of salt. The book goes into extensive detail describing the slightest changes in facial expression and puts a label on it. Even I found that keeping it simple and looking for generalities makes more sense. Is your dog happy, sad, fearful, relaxed, or negotiating. These are the basic simple things you need to be able to see, not just in your dogs but in the dogs you encounter in the community while walking your dog. Here's a great article from another very generous trainer that has posted articles to the web:
The Fine Art of Observation, by Suzanne Clothier

We continued with the training classes with Trish and even she was pleased with the changes. In every class there was always compassion and empathy from her and new tricks to try for the next week. Things began to turn around. I was getting my dogs back and learning more and more about them every day. I was falling in love, head over heals in love!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Where to begin . . .

Hindsight is always 20/20.

There are many things that I wish I had known before I started my own adventures into the world of living with Labradors. Hopefully some of these resources that have been invaluable to me, even though I found them a bit later than I really needed them, will help you avoid some of the problems that I encountered.

• The first resource that any dog owner, regardless of breed, should have in their house are the two books by Pat Miller: 1) The Power of Positive Dog Training, and 2) Positive perspectives: Love Your Dog Train Your Dog

• Another absolute must for owners of every breed of dog are the resources of a brilliant women named Turid Rugaas: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals.

• Then there is: The Whole Dog Journal.

None of the above recommendations cost very much at all and are worth far beyond their weight in gold. If you truly want to raise your dog(s) to be happy well mannered members of your family not to mention good citizens of the community you work, live and play in than start off on the right foot.

Yes, this past year was my first venture into living with two large dogs. So you may be saying to yourself "what could she possibly know about dogs", "she barely knows what to do herself". You may be right, but what I can tell you is that I've done my homework. I've run into problems and found nothing out there to point me in the right direction. I've spent countless hours doing research. I was fortunate to finally find a good trainer to work with who complimented what I was reading in these books. My "good trainer" did not cost me a small fortune or give me false promises. And, the first thing she invited me to do was come observe her classes. All signs of a good trainer - trust me on this!!

Perhaps that is why I felt inclined to start this blog. I remember running into trouble as my "boy" Shelby hit puppy adolescence and looking to see if there were any internet forums or blogs that had some insight to offer. I was open to anything; trainers, experts, even first timers like me who were out there sharing their knowledge. I found nothing really useful. What I did find were commentators on Amazon bashing alternate training books. This only left me spinning in circles between books. Most of the rest of what I found were forums with poor answers to real questions, nonsense web sights that were more concerned with the politics of training approaches and told you nothing of real value, or sites that pushed a product for a price.

The resources I've listed above come from people and entities who simply love dogs and want everyone to experience the full amazing benefits of adding a canine companion to your life. The links on this site will take you to good quality resources that I hope will help you as they have helped me. My hope is that this blog will be a starting point for you to find the answers you are looking for.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Falling in Love

Selecting a puppy

Because there are breeders like Mary Howley you and I can own an amazing caliber of Labrador Retriever. Our breeder here on the west coast has gotten all his dogs from Mary.

That said you have to experience it for yourself.
Not ready to do that yet, well than here's the next best place to start:

Nutmeg @ 6 wks w/ her mom Meg & our Breeder
Falling in Love

Getting A Lab? Why not go to the top?, By Dennis Guldan
Proven Results: Something About Mary
Mike Lardy Nation Ranked Trainer
Meet the Breeder, by Dennis Guldan
Candlewood's Tanks A Lot - "Lottie"

And for a lovely book with a sentimental side from the voice of a hunter and lover of Labradors there's:
Season's Belle, by Bob Butz

"Season's Belle" is a Mary Howley bred Candlewood Labrador
A beautiful coming of age story about a Mary Howley Labrador