Labrador Retriever related questions answered
- My puppy is biting too hard. Is this normal? How do I stop it?
- What is a microchip? How does it work?
- Is crate training a good idea?
- What is the best way to housebreak my puppy?
- Is it acceptable to leave my Lab crated while I go to work?
- Will my dog come with AKC papers?
- Fearful dog advice
1. My puppy is biting too hard. Is this normal? How do I stop it?
Tripp and Chip demonstrate how to perform this procedure.
Often a puppy will chew too hard on fingers and toes, or any other exposed body parts. Don’t worry. This is completely normal. (It is often mistaken for aggressive behavior).
When a puppy is in the pack, he will chew on his litter mates. This is a form of play. His mouth is like our hands. Puppies do not experience the same pain we feel. They have fewer nerve endings in their skin. To chew on your hands is a sign of endearment.
Stopping this habit is extremely easy – as long as you follow these directions exactly. I have tried many tactics, but none even came close to working as well as this. It will work for the children, too, even if you are the only one giving the lesson. This will take place in about five minutes on one particular day. You will probably never need to do it again.
You are going to play the game with him. Do not scold or punish him. Just play the game. Here’s how:
While he is biting your hands, use your thumb and index finger to force his upper lips up against the sharp canines. (The area between your thumb and finger will rest on his nose). Give a squeeze just hard enough to make him yelp. Once you let go, he will probably charge you for more. Give it to him. This time, squeeze just a little harder, and hold the pressure for about three seconds of yelping. He will either give you a disgusted look and disappear behind the sofa, or charge you again. He may appear madder than heck, and growl as he’s charging. This should not be taken as aggression. Remember, this whole thing is a game to him. Each time he returns for more, let him have it again. Extend the hold time for two seconds every round. Do this for as many times as he returns and bites too hard. (If the biting becomes gentle mouthing, there is no need to continue). Do not quit in the middle of the game. Keep playing until he learns he can’t win. Otherwise, he wins by default, and you’ve created a monster. Eventually, he will go off and pout. Don’t go after him. Leave him alone. He will come back in a better mood after a good nap. (Remember how you felt the first time you lost pitifully in Monopoly?)
If you find it necessary to do this over and over, it means you are being too soft on him. (It should only take one five minute session to teach him). Remember, the whole idea is to convince him he can’t win at this game.
Do not hold his mouth closed! This will encourage him.
2. What is a microchip? How does it work?
This provides protection to your pet, so that he can return home after being lost or stolen.
A microchip is a piece of silicon, about the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted hypodermically under the skin, just above the shoulder blades. (This is usually a painless procedure). The chip does not transmit a frequency, but will transpond a unique number when queried by a microchip scanner. This number can then be checked against a worldwide database, which provides the contact information that you give the recording agency. (There is a one time recording fee of $15.00 that you will pay directly to the recording agency). Nearly all vets, dog pounds, and humane societies have the microchip scanners, and can therefore get your pup home to you.
You will not know the chip is in place. It has not been known to cause infections or other complications. The chips have been credited with literally thousands of pets going home. Do not rely on dog tags alone – these are usually lost just after your pet disappears. Only the microchip can greatly increase the chance of return. You can lose your pet in nearly any country, and have the same protection. (Being lost is the number one cause of death in pets). The microchip should be installed by a trained professional, such as your breeder or vet.
3. Is crate training a good idea?
NO. I know many books and breeders swear by this method, but after years of trials I am opposed to it with little exception. Crate training takes advantage of the Lab’s natural tendency to use the bathroom in a place other than what they consider their immediate living environment. Supposedly, you come home and let him out, and he immediately dashes for the bushes. He therefore gets used to going in the correct place, and it becomes habit. Good in theory. There are a couple of drawbacks that make other methods more attractive.
The primary goal in “housebreaking” is to establish good communication between Master and Puppy. When you crate a puppy, he barks almost continuously for a week, unless he is sleeping. (Go to the cage to comfort him, and he will bark for eternity). How do you know the difference in the bark that says, “Let me out of this cell!” and the one that says, “I’ve really gotta go!” You miss the visual cues that tell you he needs to go. Another drawback is that all puppies will eventually get to the point where they can no longer hold it. (Remember, puppies also get upset bowels from time to time). When this happens, they are forced to defecate in their crate. They get it on their coats, and are forced to smell it. You have just trained your puppy – in reverse! Now he has no problem going – anywhere!
What about that claim that the Lab likes his kennel? I have heard people say, “He goes there anytime he gets stressed – he really likes it!” Of course the Lab goes there – he finally got used to it. Just like a hostage gets used to his closet. Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. If your child spent excessive amounts of time in small dark rooms, you may choose to take him to a head doctor. However, if you had locked your child in this type of environment during infancy, he would have grown accustomed to it. Would you consider this healthy?
I know you may have friends that swear by this method. I also remember when everyone swore by Asbestos tablecloths. For alternative methods, see “What is the best way to housebreak my puppy?”
4. What is the best way to housebreak my puppy?
If you are considering crate training, please see “Is crate training a good idea?”
Let me offer an alternative method. I have been through many methods over the years, dozens of times. Here is the best one I’ve found.
Keep to the same strict diet that your pup was on when you picked him up. Food changes, even a morsel of a doggie treat, will cause diarrhea. Use the same food your pup was on. Do not switch foods during training. Do not give any other food or treat at all.
First, remember the primary goal is to establish a communication between yourself and your new pup. You need to speak the same language. The more you can see each other, the better, as you will start off with visual cues. Place your pup in an area where you can observe him. I like to baby gate off a room with a hard floor, such as the kitchen. When he begins to act strangely, (quick movements, excessive sniffing in different locations, etc) I know he is ready to explode. Grab him, and get him outside. Leave him at least five minutes. If it was a false alarm, no big deal. Bring him back inside, and keep watching him out of the corner of your eye. (Remember watching the children?) Repeat this process as necessary.
Let’s say that you missed his cues. (You may swear he didn’t even give one, but he really did). He went to the bathroom on the floor. Its O.K. Chances are he went to the far end of the room to go, and he won’t be wearing it. The idea is to let him put distance between himself and the lovely gift he left for you. Otherwise, he gets used to having it in his environment, and then you have a challenge! Since you have a hard surfaced floor, a few paper towels and some disinfectant will take care of the problem. (Don’t worry – it’s only temporary). Don’t bother fussing at him at this point. He won’t understand.
If you see him in the act of going, make a loud guttural noise that will scare the hair off him. (Pretend you just found your little brother spray-painting your first car). This will make his muscles tighten, and he will stop for a few seconds. Get him outside, and leave him until he goes, even if it’s fifteen minutes. (Unless he finished in the house). Remember, puppies get bacterial infections just like babies, and there may be a time when he has to go several times in a row, or even has diarrhea. He will have very little control, and very little warning. Just ride through these times. Your pup will be housebroken within a week, which is a lot better than a baby! Remember not to hold it against him if there was no one to let him out when you were gone, and he had an accident. If you come inside after an unsuccessful attempt and then he decides to unload, that means you did not stay out long enough.
For the occasional puppy that just doesn’t get it by his tenth week, you may need to use some negative reinforcement. (For those really frustrated few, please put the baseball bat down). Just a simple fussing will do. Let him know you are displeased, but don’t rub his nose in it. Just take him to the vicinity. He will know it’s there better than you. You know you have succeeded in getting through when he quits smiling, and his tail quits wagging. This aggressive approach should be reserved for puppies with normal bowel movements, and no diarrhea.
5. Is it acceptable to leave my Lab crated while I go to work?
No. I know you may have friends that do this, and they may even talk about how much their Lab loves his crate. There are even books that promote this. That is simple justification for those desiring a Lab, but unable to properly care for one.
Labs were bred to be active dogs. Crating leads to a sedentary lifestyle that is extremely unhealthy, both physically and mentally. You should be able to trust your Lab with the run of your house while you are gone. Train him early, put up with a few chewed items, and you will have an actual family member – not a parrot in a cage.
If you are crating your Labrador, have yourself caned and seek forgiveness. (I’m just joking about seeking forgiveness, but please get him out of the crate!).
6. Will my dog come with AKC papers?
All pups are issued with AKC limited registration papers, unless otherwise indicated. This means that your dog will be AKC registered, but any pups your dog has will not be eligible for AKC papers. (In some cases, we will change the limited status to a full registration in the future. This is done through our lease back program).
7. Fearful dog advice.
Q: My Labrador has been fine up until now, but suddenly became overly fearful. He hides behind me, pees and growls at strangers. What happened? How do I correct this behavior?
(This problem is almost always encountered by women handlers. Husbands may not have the same problem when on their own with the Lab).
A: This sudden onset of behavior is usually caused by a visit to the veterinarian where surgery is involved; most of the time neutering or spaying was the reason for the visit. However, before we get into the details of that, let’s take a look at the basics to rule out other causes.
Some Labrador puppies are naturally more cautions than others, even from the same litter. Much depends upon development within the litter, and their reaction to litter mates. (Contrary to popular belief, the one that is picked on the most, seldom becomes the scared dog). While a Labrador’s caution is fine, we must make sure as owners we do not manifest this caution into the reactions stated in your question. First look back and see if your dog is only reacting to those people wearing hats, carrying umbrellas, or wearing orange. If so, skip down to the “What Do I Do Now? section, answer #4.