Shannondoah Kennels
'Labrador Retrievers'




Once we've selected that very special puppy, it's time to take him or her home. The ride home can be a special event or horrible experience, whichever you choose to make it. I always suggest letting the puppy, let's call it "Sparkie", ride on the front seat with you. After all, you are the Alpha leader, someone Sparkie is going to look up to and try to please. The motion of the car and your hand will reassure and settle Sparkie in no time. Chances are, Sparkie will fall asleep along the way.

Whenever someone purchases a puppy from me, I always send the puppy home with several days supply of dry food and some drinking water. By seven weeks of age, the puppy should be eating dry food only. This is good exercise for those sharp little teeth. If the puppy is started on dry food, later on in life you can give him canned food if you wish. But, if you start the puppy out on canned food, it's extremely hard to change him over to dry.

Often, a sudden change in food and water can give a puppy diarrhea. If you have decided to change Sparkie's food for whatever reason, blend in the food supplied by your breeder for several days while you gradually change over. Water can be handled in the same manner.

Housebreaking Sparkie can be very difficult if you are fighting diarrhea. Housebreaking can be easy, however, if you follow some simple guidelines: 1) Crate Sparkie from day one (or should I say night one). 2) Always use the same door whenever you take Sparkie out to do his/her business, 3) When Sparkie wakes up take him/her outside immediately.

When I got my first Labrador puppy, K.T., he slept beside the bed in a corrugated box because I thought crates were only for traveling. During the night K.T. would cry and let me know he had to go out. Puppies do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep. I would reach down and scoop him up in my arms and carry him outside. When K.T. did his business, I would use the key phrase "run along". Some owners/trainers use "go play" or "high on" when housebreaking puppies. Before you know it, whenever you tell Sparkie to "run along" that's exactly what he will do. For those of you who might be thinking about entering Sparkie in some form of competition this can be very important. In competition, if the dog stops to relieve itself while on the way to a retrieve, it shows lack of enthusiasm. So, needless to say, handlers need some way to get their dog to go before they're under judgement. This also works well if you can get Sparkie to "run along" before going to bed, traveling, or climbing into your hunting blind.

It's a good idea to purchase something called a "moisture magnet" as part of your training equipment, in case Sparkie does have an accident. They are also great for drying off wet dogs. Moisture magnets or synthetic chamois cloths can be purchased at pet or boat supply stores. Moisture magnets are useful because they are reusable and can be machine-washed.

Crate training can be easy. I prefer the poly crates over the wire crates. If Sparkie has an accident in his poly crate, it's contained and easy to clean up and rinse out. With a wire crate, Sparkie can accidentally damage the carpet or the wall. I purchase a large crate, approximately 24" W x 36" L x 26" H. Hopefully, the large crate will be all that you ever need to purchase for Sparkie.

When Sparkie arrives at his new home, introduce him to the crate. Toss a toy or biscuit into the crate where he can see it. The first time you might need to encourage him with a gentle push. Once he enters, praise him, "good dog"! After he has entered several times, close the door behind him for a few seconds. Lots of praise goes a long way. You're trying to expose Sparkie to his new cave. The first night or two Sparkie is going to let you know he's not overjoyed with his new home. Something that might help with those first few nights would be a towel you take with you when you go to pick up Sparkie at the breeder's. Rub the towel on the mother several times. When you arrive at home, place the towel in the crate for Sparkie to sleep with. He is going to cry, but you'll have to decide if he is just missing mom or he needs to go out: Better safe than sorry.

Some puppies are going to be easier to housebreak than others. WR Shannondoah Beggar Bush Buie, SH was purchased on Sunday, at seven weeks of age. The following Saturday, he went to the front door on his own, turned around and looked at me. Not all puppies will be housebroken in one week, but it shouldn't be months, either.

Give Sparkie a biscuit whenever you put him to bed in his crate. Before long, when you say "time for bed, Sparkie", he'll beat you to the crate. It's his cave, it's where he feels safe.

After several nights Sparkie will begin to sleep longer and longer with fewer and fewer trips outside during the night. Before long, he should be able to make it through the night.

When you take Sparkie out to "run along", always use the same door. Don't use the front door one time then the back door, then the side door. You might be watching the back door while you're working in the kitchen, meanwhile, Sparkie is waiting at the front door. BE CONSISTENT.

Whenever Sparkie wakes up from a nap take him out. If he acts like he's looking for something, chances are he's looking for a place to go. TAKE HIM OUTSIDE IMMEDIATELY.

If Sparkie has an occasional accident, which he will, you need to decide if it was his fault or yours. Did you ignore all the signs until Sparkie couldn't help himself? If that's the case, count to 10 - better luck next time. If it was Sparkie's fault, let him know you're not pleased and take him outside.

It's not too early to start rolling that tennis ball or teaching Sparkie to sit. Next issue we'll start Sparkie's obedience training.