The sleek and easy-care Lab coat has two layers: a short, thick, straight topcoat, and a soft, weather-resistant undercoat. The two-layer coat protects him from the cold and wet, which helps him in his role as a retriever for hunters. The coat comes in three colors: chocolate, black, and yellow. Black was the favorite color among early breeders, but over the years, yellow and chocolate Labs have become popular. Some breeders have recently begun selling "rare" colored Labrador Retrievers, such as polar white or fox red. These shades aren't really rare — they're a variation of the yellow Lab.Grooming doesn't get much easier than with a Lab, but the breed does shed — a lot. Buy a quality vacuum cleaner and brush your dog daily, especially when he's shedding, to get out the loose hair. Labs need a bath about every two months or so to keep them looking clean and smelling good. Of course, if your Lab rolls in a mud puddle or something foul, which he's apt to do, it's fine to bathe him more often.Brush your Lab's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and prevent your legs from getting scratched when your Lab enthusiastically jumps up to greet you. His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear. Because ear infections are common in Labs, also clean out the ears after bathing, swimming, or any time your dog gets wet. This helps prevent infection. Begin accustoming your Lab to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult. As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
If the dog parent is the self-help type, Sonia Nathan, owner of Sonia’s Pet Grooming, recommends The Other End of the Leash by Patricia M. McConnell. “Better than any other writer, McConnell helps us appreciate that our relationships with our dogs are enriched by an understanding of ourselves — knowing how we differ from dogs and how we are comparable. It’s more than a ‘how-to’ book. It’s a ‘why-to’ book: why we behave in certain ways around dogs, and why understanding that will help us engage in a more gratifying manner.”
Filtering devices like the Brita pitcher have become common household items for people who live off a municipal water supply. Well, dogs get thirsty too, and they don’t like chlorine or prescription drug residue any more than their owners do. Plenty of dog owners spend half their paycheck to feed Scooter a 100% organic, gluten-free, grass-fed, non-gmo, antioxidant-fortified, anti-inflammatory, superfood mega-diet, but they couldn’t care less if he drinks out of the toilet. Something’s wrong there. A water purifying doggy fountain rights that wrong.
Labs are famously friendly. They are companionable housemates who bond with the whole family, and they socialize well with neighbor dogs and humans alike. But don’t mistake his easygoing personality for low energy: The Lab is an enthusiastic athlete that requires lots of exercise, like swimming and marathon games of fetch, to keep physically and mentally fit.
Labs are easily trained, being naturally patient and obedient, but they are probably not the best guard dogs. Despite an alert instinct and an excellent sense of smell, they tend to be more friendly than aggressive with people they don’t know. Also, Labs are not particularly noisy, barking only at unknown sounds, yet they’ll often bark protectively when someone approaches your home.
The Friend took home the National Book Award for good reason. Nunez’s novel renders questions of loss, love, and art in sparse, elegant prose. But let’s face it: The best part of the book, as with any great work of literature, is the dog. In The Friend, it’s the curious bond between a lonely writer and a Great Dane named Apollo, who lumbers into her life after grief strikes them both. Give this to the loved one who reads with their own best friend curled in their lap or at their feet.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from two of the most common health problems: obesity (which makes joint problems even worse) and eating inappropriate objects. Keeping a Lab at an appropriate weight has been proven to add two additional years of life, and close supervision of what he’s chewing on can save you big bucks at the veterinary hospital. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The rest is basic maintenance. Trim the nails every week or two, as needed. They should never get long enough that you hear them clacking on the floor. Long nails can make it uncomfortable for the Lab to walk, and they can get caught on things and tear off. That’s really painful, and it will bleed a lot. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good dental health and fresh breath.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Forequarters should be muscular, well coordinated and balanced with the hindquarters. Shoulders-The shoulders are well laid-back, long and sloping, forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees that permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with strong forward reach. Ideally, the length of the shoulder blade should equal the length of the upper arm. Straight shoulder blades, short upper arms or heavily muscled or loaded shoulders, all restricting free movement, are incorrect. Front Legs-When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good strong bone. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and short legged, heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed. Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and well under the body. The elbows should be close to the ribs without looseness. Tied-in elbows or being “out at the elbows” interfere with free movement and are serious faults. Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg.
Making a donation on behalf of your friend in her dog’s honor is an excellent alternative to standard gift-giving. Consider local shelters or the ASPCA (read our interview with ASPCA’s CEO to learn about some of the great work they’re doing to help shelter animals all over the country). Most animal rescue organizations have online donation forms that allow you to pick the amount. As an added bonus, the ASPCA even lets you pick out a card design to be emailed or mailed to the recipient!
Kate Perry, dog trainer and author of Training for Both Ends of the Dog Leash, likes to give “practical items that help stimulate the dogs mind and help owners have a better relationship with their dogs.” One of her favorite interactive treat toys for pups is the Busy Buddy Twist and Treat, which keeps dogs working for their food. “Great as a gift for new dog owners, and great for training a dog to work for their food.”