Maggie May the chocolate Labrador Retriever at 4 years old—"This is my Valentine Puppy, Maggie May. She was born in 2010 on February 14, Valentine's Day, which is funny because she is a chocolate labby:) I got Maggie in the spring of 2010. She was 4 1/2 months old. And totally crazy. For the first few months I had her, I had a tough-love relationship with her. Because she was pretty much out of control, along with being a very dominate puppy, I had to make sure from the beginning that she knew that I was the pack boss. As she got older she also showed some signs of aggression to dogs and people outside of our pack (family). I did not mind the aggression very much, as people don't expect Labs to be aggressive and that was good security thing to me, but I had to make sure that she knew that when I said "Stop it", "No", or "Knock it off", she would immediately cease her barking and/or growling. Maggie took to training like a pro. She loved to "work", as I called it. Her attention and focus on me was, and still is, out of this world. When she is playing with her doggie friends, I can call her out and she will practically fly to me, completely forgetting the other dogs and instead focusing on me. Her focus on me was so great that she was off leash trustworthy in nearly any situation by 11 months. Now at almost 5 years old, she is perfect. It takes a lot to get a dog close to perfection, and Maggie is as close to it as a dog can get in my opinion. Maggie has 3 canine siblings: Sugar, a 14 year old Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, is her best friend. Angus (3 year old mix breed) and Tippy (1 year old Pit Bull/Corgi) are her partners in crime. I call them The Three Hoods."


Labrador Retrievers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Labs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.Hip Dysplasia: Hip dyplasia is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It's thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog's elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem or medication to control the pain.Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. It causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding of "growth formula" puppy foods or high-protein foods may contribute to its development.Cataracts: As in humans, canine cataracts are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens that can grow over time. They may develop at any age, and often don't impair vision, although some cases cause severe vision loss. Breeding dogs should be examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthamologist to be certified as free of hereditary eye disease before they're bred. Cataracts can usually be surgically removed with good results.Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, dogs become night-blind. As the disease progresses, they lose their daytime vision, as well. Many dogs adapt to limited or complete vision loss very well, as long as their surroundings remain the same.Epilepsy: Labs can suffer from epilepsy, which causes mild or severe seizures. Seizures may be exhibited by unusual behavior, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. It's important to remember that seizures can be caused by many other things than idiopathic epilepsy, such as metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, severe head injuries, and more. Therefore, if your Lab has seizures, it's important to take him to the vet right away for a checkup.Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD): TVD is a congenital heart defect that has been increasing in prevalence in the Labrador breed. Puppies are born with TVD, which is a malformation of the tricuspid valve on the right side of the heart. It can be mild or severe; some dogs live with no symptoms, others die. TVD is detected by ultrasound. Research is ongoing to learn how widespread it is in the breed, as well as treatment.Myopathy: Myopathy affects the muscles and nervous system. The first signs are seen early, as young as six weeks and often by seven months of age. A puppy with myopathy is tired, stiff when he walks and trots. He may collapse after exercise. In time, the muscles atrophy and the dog can barely stand or walk. There is no treatment, but rest and keeping the dog warm seems to reduce symptoms. Dogs with myopathy should not be bred because it is considered a heritable disease.Gastric Dilataion-Volvulus: Commonly called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs like Labs, especially if they're fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, or drink large amounts of water or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively, and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. If you notice these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.Acute Moist Dermatitis: Acute moist dermatitis is a skin condition in which the skin red and inflamed. It is caused by a bacterial infection. The more common name of this health concern is hot spots. Treatment includes clipping the hair, bathing in medicated shampoo, and antibiotics.Cold Tail: Cold tail is a benign, though painful condition common to Labs and other retrievers. Also caused limber tail, it caused the dog's tail to go limp. The dog may bite at the tail. It isn't cause for alarm, and usually goes away on its own in a few days. It is thought to be a problem with the muscles between the vertebrae in the tail.Ear Infections: The Lab's love of water, combined with his drop ear make him prone to ear infections. Weekly checking and cleaning if necessary helps prevent infection. If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Labs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
The Secret Agent Leash by Paww is made with soft webbing that's surprisingly durable and has reflective fabric woven into the length of the leash to improve nighttime visibility. The best part is the quick-tether clip that allows you to securely attach your four-legged friend to fence posts and parking signs without ever having to unleash him. [$20; paww.com]
Labs typically have litters of six to eight puppies. Most breeders like to keep puppies until they are at least eight weeks old. This gives the puppies time to learn how to behave toward other dogs and gives the breeder time to evaluate the puppies’ personalities so she can place each one in just the right home. A bonus is that puppies of this age are more mature and more easily housetrained.
The StarMark Bob-A-Lot treat-dispensing toy rolls around as your dog tries to get treats out of it. It's great for play and exercise, plus your pup gets a great reward every time. With a 3-cup capacity, you can fill this toy with your dog's kibble or a handful of his favorite treats to keep your pup entertained for hours. It's one of our favorite dog toys.
The second half of the “gift pack” is the perfect wine glass. Honestly, when I first saw these I sent them to all of my fellow dog mom friends and demanded we get them. Swimming dog wine glasses! Riggins doesn’t like water, but I feel like he would make an exception for wine. Just kidding. Don’t let your dog swim in wine. First of all, it’s a waste of good wine. Second, alcohol is very bad for dogs.

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
The Labrador Retriever has a short, thick, dense, weather-resistant coat which can be black, yellow (varying from cream to gold or almost red) or chocolate brown. There is also a rare silver variety which some think to be the result of a Weimeraner cross. A small white marking on the chest is permissible. It is possible for all colors of Labrador Retriever to appear in the same litter.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

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.”
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