More detailed information is provided through pdf's emailed to our puppy families the week before Puppy Pick Up Day and again, the week before Pick Up Day. If you would like this more detailed information emailed to you earlier than that, please let us know.
Now, on to Puppy Care.....
We recommend that prior to bringing your puppy home, you acquire an appropriate Crate that will serve your puppy through all life stages. Crates come with a divider that allows you to limit the available space for the puppy until such time as they require the entire crate for comfort.
Crate training serves several purposes; it provides safety and security for puppy during the "rapid growth" period (from 8 weeks until approximately 9 months); it aids in "house breaking" the puppy as most will not soil their "den"; it allows for the confinement of the dog after spaying, neutering, or recovery from illness or injury.
Labrador's are "piranha puppies" and "velcro dogs"......confining a young puppy into a safe place will limit the chance that shoes, books and other items will be destroyed by puppy teeth when you are unable to give them complete supervision.
More importantly, it protects your puppy from any older dogs you may have in your home; from over-stimulating attention that might be given to the puppy by your children or visitors to your home; and finally, it is a sure way to protect them from ingesting things that are dangerous or that may require surgery to remove.
Raising a puppy is very similar to raising a toddler; silence is not always golden and nap-time is looked forward to by the parents!
Introduce the crate very shortly after arriving home with your new puppy (within the first hour). Done correctly (enticing him to enter by putting kibble in it, letting him walk back out, then repeat), he will be able to sleep in it the very first night. Do a potty break at 11 p.m. and again at 3 or 4 a.m. and pop him back in with a small milk bone or other lo-cal treat and he will learn to love his crate.
Frozen Kongs are a great help in teaching the puppy that the crate is a special place to be. Fill them up with kibble, run water through it (if you soak it too long, they won't be able to work it out of the Kong), top it with a bit of peanut butter (zylotol free) or fat free yogurt, pop in the freezer for two hours and you've got a wonderful treat/toy for the puppy to engage with in his crate.
Save trick training for about 3 - 4 weeks after he comes home to you. The first days are about bonding and learning house rules - no couch, no bed or whatever it is you decide to make a house rule - AND getting him on a schedule. He already knows how to sit or lay down or raise his paw, just call it what it is as he volunteers it. Then when you begin to really train those to be done on command, the word is already familiar to him.
Get a schedule going early. Use the natural sleep wake play routine to set the schedule. Young puppies sleep 18 - 20 hours a day, make sure it is done in the crate and house training is going to be so much easier.
Puppies potty on a schedule already Sleep then Wake/Potty, Eat/Potty, Play/Potty and Repeat - Set your schedule according to that already ingrained schedule. Out of the crate - Outside for potty on demand (no play until potty is done/praise and say "free"), outside or inside play for 20 - 30 minutes and (after potty if it was inside play) pop into the crate with a Kong because he is going to be ready to go sleep. Set your timer for a specified amount of time OR wait for the puppy to wake up and begin again with potty on demand. (As the days go by, work towards a schedule like this: 10 a.m. - Noon = Crate Nap and 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. = Crate Nap. These forced rest periods will go a long way to avoid over-stimulating your young puppy and provide you with breaks for your own sanity! At about six - seven months, move to a 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. = Crate Rest schedule which we continue until 18 months to 2 years of age depending upon the energy level and reliability of the individual dog to behave. Continue to crate at night until at least 12 months.)
Provide appropriate chews:
Again, Labrador's are "piranha puppies" - We do NOT recommend giving them raw-hide chews as these are not easily digestible for all dogs.
We provide our dogs with Nylabones - a nearly indestructible item that gives them hours of pleasure; we use them to teach appropriate chewing. When our puppies begin to nibble on a hard object, that object is exchanged with their nylabone; they quickly learn what is and what is not appropriate for them to chew. (Match texture to texture - puppy chews on a sock, puppy gets a soft toy or old tea towel with a knot tied in it.)
Labs are intelligent dogs; one of my favorite memories of raising Angus Demetrius is from the day he finally "got it" regarding what things were his and what were mine. Dog toys are kept in one basket, my yarn for crochet projects are kept in another....one day, there was a ball of yarn sitting on my desk - I had recently removed it from Angus' mouth!
Angus kept on eyeing it for play fun and I kept reminding him that no, that was mine and that his toys were in his basket. Suddenly, he reached up to grab that ball of yarn in his mouth and then carried it to HIS basket and dropped it in. He then sat down and looked at me as if to ask, "Now. Is it mine?".
Ideas for inexpensive temporary "toys" - Milk cartons and empty boxes are great toys to distract your puppy for a few minutes during the day under supervision. An ice cube or a running hose will also provide interest, stimulation and a means of getting rid of excess energy.
Kennels (outside dog pens aka exercise pens):
While not every home will have need of these, we find them indispensable at our place. A multi-dog household brings some dangers to the table when bringing home a puppy and a safe place outside is a requirement to ensure that play time between the older dog and more fragile puppy is restricted. They are also great for safely confining a puppy while you tend to outside chores. Our Little Cain loves to play with new puppies BUT he also loves to keep them dancing just out of our reach when they are free together in the larger yard. To avoid this, he is allowed to play with them in the ex-pens only. This ex-pen training is valuable for camping, visiting relatives, or after illness or injury to allow the puppy a place outside to play.
When my parents were breeding Labs, we fed them Puppy Food until the age of 6 months. By the time we brought home Angus Demetrius in 2013, much had changed. Many Vets and Breeders were recommending "Large Breed Puppy" food until the age of 12 - 18 months. We followed the advice of the majority.
We made sure that there was the correct phosphorus and calcium ratio; we bought a 5 Star large breed puppy food and fed it according to the directions given. Angus still grew much too rapidly and was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia even though the Breeder had bred dogs with excellent and normal OFA ratings and never had a dog develop it in a decade of breeding.
When we brought home Kona of the Storm in 2014; I had spent months researching this subject in order to ensure her steady but slow growth (along with the important safe and REGULAR and LIMITED exercise). Having raised Labs for most of my life and with only one ever having hip issues, I decided to go back to what I knew....
Kona and Dreama were both fed Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Food until approximately 4 - 6 months of age at which time we started them on Purina Pro Plan Sport - an All Life Stages food - with the appropriate fat and protein levels for their very active lifestyle.
What YOU feed your puppy is up to you after you have done your own research (we do recommend that the bag state that AAFCO Feed Trials - where actual dogs are fed and monitored - show that the food is suitable for large breed dogs who are over 70 lbs at adulthood); here are some links to get you started.