Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Howloween

Labradors are remarkable in how they tolerate silly costumes, trick or treating children, and the general hocus pocus of Halloween. There are some who take offense at putting costumes on dogs, but actually I think that the dogs love all the attention. I've not yet seen a Labrador look downcast because it was wearing a silly costume and getting lots of attention. This photo is one of the cutest that I've seen. What a forechest! Although the mismark and long hair genes are obviously present, I don't think the dog really cares. Hope that you and your dog had a great Howloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Labrador Fun Day Nov. 4

Be sure to mark your calendars and plan to attend the Labrador Fun Day hosted by the Coastal South Carolina LRC. This year, the fun day will be held at Roberta Dwelley's farm on Wadmalaw Island. There will be games that are challenging (mostly for the humans), and demonstrations of obedience events as well as grooming and other practical things about Labrador ownership.

The event starts at 1 PM and will last until around 4 PM. This event has always been a hit with the public and club members alike. The games are hilarious and you have to be there to see why I say that. Trying to dress a happy Labrador in human clothes when being timed is quite a trick. The demonstrations of obedience trained dogs are great to see.

So if you would like something fun to do on a nice fall afternoon, then plan to attend this fun event. You can email Roberta at for directions. Also check out the CSCLRC web page for further information.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Permanent Identification

If you've ever experienced the disappearance of a dog, you know the heartache that occurs. Although it's not possible to lessen the heartache unless the dog is found, there is one way to insure that your dog has a permanent identification, just in case the dog is picked up by someone else.

There are the obvious things such as dog tags that will help with the return of your dog. Having a tag with your name and phone number is a big help in locating the owner of a lost dog. But what if the dog doesn't have a collar on? There are other ways to determine ownership through the use of tattooing and microchipping.

Permanent identification by tatoo or microchip not only provides a means to recover a dog if it is lost but it also satisfies the AKC’s policy for record keeping and identification. A microchip is a rice-sized device encoded with a unique and unalterable identification number. The "chip" is implanted in the trapezius muscle over the withers and is read by a scanner. Most shelters have scanners and personnel are trained to look for microchipped animals and those with tattoos.

We microchip all of our dogs. The identifying microchip number must be noted on the dog or litter record. Microchip identification is not required in any way for AKC registration or to participate in AKC approved events. Tattoos remain an acceptable form of identification to comply with AKC’s rules; however, I find that the microchip is a much less traumatic way to go. With tattooing the dog must be held down by a number of people and it takes a much longer time to complete a tattoo than to implant a chip.
Other means of identification that are used by breeders include DNA analysis. The use of certain genetic markers in a dog's DNA for the production of a unique genotype provides a method of absolute identification of individual dogs and parentage verification from one generation to the next. A dog's genetic constitution, called a "genotype," can be determined by an analysis of a simple bristle swab swirled against the inside cheek portion of a dog's mouth. The AKC has initiated a program by which breeders can now have their dogs voluntarily DNA certified. A Certificate of DNA Analysis is issued with the dog’s name, registration information, DNA Profile Number, and genotype. If the dog is registered, Registration Certificates and Pedigrees issued after the dog has been DNA certified will contain the DNA Profile Number. The AKC has also initiated a Frequently Used Sires Program in which every sire producing seven or more litters in his lifetime or producing more than three litters in a calendar year must be 'AKC DNA Certified.' Dogs with DNA profiles from the voluntary DNA Certification Program or from the Parent Breed Club Program have already met this requirement. Furthermore, AKC DNA Certification is required for all stud dogs collected for fresh extended and frozen semen use, including foreign stud dogs collected for imported semen use in the UnitedStates.
Whatever method you use is fine but the best method is to keep your dog secured behind a fence or on a leash so that it will never be a "lost" dog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What about rear ends?

The AKC standard states:
"The Labrador's hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short hocks. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel. Viewed from the side, the angulation of the rear legs is in balance with the front. The hind legs are strongly boned, muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle, and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of the patellae while in motion or when standing. The hock joints are strong, well let down and do not slip or hyper-extend while in motion or when standing. Angulation of both stifle and hock joint is such as to achieve the optimal balance of drive and traction. When standing the rear toes are only slightly behind the point of the rump. Over angulation produces a sloping topline not typical of the breed. Feet are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and well-developed pads. Cow-hocks, spread hocks, sickle hocks and over-angulation are serious structural defects and are to be faulted."

What this means is that the rear should have a moderate angulation and not be overangulated as one would see with a setter or in the extreme, a German shepherd. The Labrador topline should be straight and not sloping. If there is too much angulation, then the front and rear aren't in balance and there will likely not be the smooth reach and drive that a good moving Labrador should have. A weak rear that has a straight stifle is contrary to the power that is needed in the rear of a Labrador. This breed needs to use its rear to propel through the water as well as handle marsh and upland terrain that is challenging. I personally like to see a strongly muscled and thick second thigh.

I always look at the hock joints and like to see clean hocks. Hock OCD does occur in the breed and can be crippling. The hocks should be well bent but short and strong. The first photo above shows what a sickle hock looks like. The bottom photo (of Can. Ch. Ranbourne This Bud's for You, Tilly's sire) shows what I like to see in a rear.

The rear not only needs to be balanced with the front when viewed from the side but it's important to look at how the hind legs are positioned when viewed from behind the dog. The hind legs should be straight and parallel with good bone and muscle tone. I like to look down the back of the dog from above and see whether the rear is strong and not winnowed.

You can read more about the rear end and other points of the Labradors by looking at the illustrated standard put out by the The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada. The link is

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blowing coats

With all the warm weather that we've been having, I'm really hoping that my dogs hold their coat for the upcoming specialty shows. It has been like summer for the past week. The dogs are in good coat right now but I'm not sure what will occur over the next month or so.

I've read that daylight really triggers the shedding process. In other words, as the days get shorter the winter coat comes in. The reversal occurs in spring. However, there are other factors that affect the coat such as heat cycles and whelping. Essentially, hormones affect the shedding process. And there are certain lines that tend to carry very heavy coat regardless of the time of year, while others don't have much coat.

Coat is such an important attribute of the Labrador. And it's essential that the coat be a good double coat and not an open coat. The top image shows a good coat in a Labrador. It's okay for there to be some wave to the coat. The bottom photo shows an open "fluffy" coat. Such a coat will allow water to penetrate and get to the skin. A good double coat that is harsh basically insulates the dog when in the water.

It's important when examining coat to not only look on the back of the dog but along the sides. An undercoat is essential. It's usually the first thing to blow and will generally turn brown on blacks. Getting that dead hair out will help the new coat to come in quicker and will prevent itchy skin and hot spots.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Otter tails

I gave a talk at the local aquarium the other day and afterwards toured the exhibits. I was struck by the otters who were frolicking and zooming through the water in their tank. Their tail was used as a rudder and has a thick base.

As you know one of the characteristics of the Labrador is the otter tail. It does resemble a real otter's tail and is also thick at the base and wrapped with hair. A Labradors tail should not reach below the hock and it should have a "bump" at the base nearest the rump that can be felt with the hand. The hair on the tail should be tightly wrapped and not loose or fluffy like a setters.

Of course, when Labradors are out of coat, the tail may look skinny and thin. Ideally, the shape of the tail should be like a carrot. It is fine to have a twizzle at the tip but many handlers will trim that off (something that isn't necessary at all).

Labrador tails are strong and are used as a kind of rudder when the dog swims. They are also capable of clearing a coffee table of items in a second.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Does your Labrador need supplements?

As a rule, if you feed good quality dog food, you won't need to add supplements for coat in your Labrador's food. Their coats are naturally oily, and a good coat is determined mainly by genetics. In other words, if the parents have a good coat, then it is likely that their get will also have a good coat.

That being said, I have added Mirra Coat to the food of our Labradors for years. It has amino and fatty acids and the dogs love the taste. I've also added salmon to their diet on occasion, and they loved that. I don't know whether the dogs would have had good coat regardless of these additives, but I suspect that they would.

I can say that the dogs have a nice oily coat, very little dandruff (except during shedding), and their skin is good. I tell puppy owners about Mirra Coat but if not fed, it probably wouldn't make much difference. It's a funny thing about dog foods and supplements though. Everyone will have a differing opinion. If something works, then why change it? So if your dog's coat looks great with just the kibble that you're feeding, then I wouldn't rush out to buy any supplements.

One of the supplements that you don't want to ever use is calcium. I can remember when people would talk about adding calcium to their dog's diet. It is actually deterimental to development of bones in Labradors, because excessive calcium intake can result in hypercalcitoninism and hypoparathyroidism that will actually retard bone maturation, inhibit osteoclastic activity, and will slow cartilage maturation. These effects on bone and cartilage increase the incidence of osteochondral lesions in articular and physeal cartilage, thereby contributing to the incidence of OCD.

Calcium is sometimes given to near term bitches at low doses to help during whelping. I don't add calcium except for about a week before whelping. Yogurt is another good source of calcium as is cottage cheese. Calcium in the form of Pet Tabs can be given safely after whelping to provide supplementation of lactating bitches.

Another supplement that has been reported to help prevent hip dysplasia is vitamin C. Studies have found that excess vitamin C supplementation is generally considered to have little or no effect on the skeleton. The relationship between vitamin C and developmental disorders of the skeletal system in the dog is as yet unproven. No valid scientific studies have demonstrated a positive effect of oral supplementation of vitamin C in preventing CHD in growing dogs that are genetically at risk for the disease. The relationship between vitamin C, joint laxity, and CHD in the dog is suspect because a decrease in systemic vitamin C levels could be expected to affect other joints.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Getting entries in the mail

I filled out entries for the Raleigh-Durham Labrador specialty last night. I'm really looking forward to going to this show as I missed it last year due to puppies being born. I'm taking four dogs with me: Deacon (the 9-12 month puppy), Amelia who will be in Bred-By, her dam Stella who has now reached the age to be eligible for Veterans Class and Emily who will be in American Bred.

It's hard to believe that Stella is a veteran as it only seems like yesterday that she was prancing around the yard as a cute puppy. It will be fun to show her in the Veterans class as she really likes dog shows. Hopefully, I will be able to show her and her dam Tilly at the upcoming LRC of the Piedmont specialty.

What I've noticed is that like everything else, entry fees have markedly gone up. When I first started showing entry fees were $10 and now a class entry is $24. Taking a van load of dogs to a show is getting to be an expensive thing because not only are there the entry fees but there is gasoline cost, hotel bills, food bills, and other incidentals. This is definitely not a sport for the budget minded person. I've always said that I could have several new BMW's with what I've spent on dogs over the years. I probably would also have fewer worry lines if I'd just stuck to gardening!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

News about some of the Surry kids

I heard some good news about Tupac who is a Surry boy living in Israel. Evidently, Tupac is doing well at the shows and needs another win to complete his championship. Esther can perhaps fill things in a bit, but I believe that he is also working towards an FCI international championship.

Simon has also been doing great. He is out with Katherine Mines who is a good handler. Simon finished up his Canadian championship and is now being specialed in the US. He recently got a Best of Opposite Sex award at a specialty show.

It's nice to hear about how the dogs are doing. I appreciate the fact that their owners are happy and take pride in their accomplishments. The most important thing of all is that the dogs are much loved and will always have a couch to come back to when they are done with their show career.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Judging Weims

Well, I traveled to Georgia on Friday to meet up with the AKC Field Rep. so that I could take an oral exam on Weimaraners. I had submitted my application to judge them about 2 months ago. I met with Mary Dukes today, discussed the history of the breed, the salient points of the breed as well as problems that occur. Mary is a good AKC rep and is sharp. It's like having a conversation with someone who knows dogs. All went well with the history and the judging interview.

Next, I had to do the wicket test. Mary used her Italian greyhound Steven as the test dog who we pretended was to be wicketed for being undersized. I then went through the procedure for wicketing and did indeed find that Steven was below the 24 inch minimum for a male Weim. No surprise there!

I was pleased that the interview went well and that once published in the Gazette, I'll be able to accept assignments as a provisional judge of Weims.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Getting ready for my interview

I have been studying for my interview with Mary Dukes, the AKC Field Rep. I've applied to judge Weimaraners as a second breed and have to discuss with her the breed history, the standard, what makes a good Weim and what are the problems in the breed. I'm not worried about any of this part as I think that I have read a lot about Weims, plus having Elena Smith Lamberson as a mentor for several years, ingrained in me a sense of the Weimaraner.

What I'm dreading a bit is the Sticky Wicket. Because Weims are a breed that has a height disqualification, like Labradors, I have to demonstrate the use of the wicket and go through the entire procedure. For Labrador judging, I did not have to demonstrate use of the wicket as Mary just explained what to do. However, for this interview, I actually have to do it.

I've printed out some information on line and plan to get to the show in plenty of time to actually work with the wicket prior to my interview. I would rather actually work with the wicket than read about how to do it. Now, I'm off to study some more!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Square Sit

Getting a good square sit such as Russel is demonstrating above is really nice to see. It's an easy thing to teach your dog at home. Essentially, find a food that the dogs likes. Extend the food to the dog enough for a sniff, then move the food just out of reach and towards the back of the head. Most dogs just naturally sit while trying to follow your hand. Say "Sit" as you are doing this and when the dog sits, then give soft praise and the treat. It may take a few repetitions to get the dog to actually sit but if you keep moving your body in front of the dog's, eventually the dog will sit.

Do this exercise several times. Once the dog does a good sit, begin to withhold the food and do verbal rewards. If the dog breaks the sit, then re-do the exercise. Remember to give a release word, like "okay" when the work is done.

For conformation, we don't want the dog to sit but to stand at our side and be examined by the judge. Sitting in the show ring is considered not desirable as the judge is trying to see the structure of the entire dog. I do use "bait" to get the dog to stand freely and happily. Some are food hounds and want to jump about until they realize that they won't get a treat unless they stand. Others decide that they would rather just be deadheads and even ignore the bait. All are just being Labradors!