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What’s In A Lab?

December 29, 2009 3 comments

Daisy - A Yellow Lab with a lighter shade coat color

I recently had another pet sitter ask me where I get the topics for my blogs. Honestly, they just come to me, usually through my every day interactions with animals and people.

For instance, I was at a department store the other day buying some things to give as gifts next year. While at the register, the cashier noticed that I had a lot of items with a dog or cat theme to them. I explained to him that I was a pet sitter, and just like that I had my next blog post! Kind of…really, it was what happened next.

The cashier asked me if I knew of any AKC breeders who had Red Fox Labs. Huh? Red Fox Labs? What the heck? Was this a new way for breeders to create a designer dog and call it something familiar? Was there a new Lab making it’s appearance into the Labrador Retriever world that I didn’t know about?

I had to find out.

It turns out that in addition to the standard yellow, black and brown Labrador Retrievers, there are also these Labrador Retrievers that certain breeders sell as “White or Snow”, “Silver” or “Fox Red” Labs. Who knew? I was floored because I thought I was pretty well educated on dog breeds, but here were these new Labradors Retrievers that I had never heard about. Except, they’re not… New… I mean. Genetically, Labs only come in 3 colors: black, brown and yellow. What some breeders call “White Labs” or “Snow Labs” are really just yellow Labs with a lighter shade of coat. What some breeders call “Silver Labs” are actually brown or chocolate labs with a mismarking in coloring or simply a cross between a Weimaraner and a Lab. And now for the Red Fox Lab… it turns out it’s just a Yellow Lab with “red fox coloring” – as defined by AKC standards.

When I first adopted Daisy, people would always ask me if she was a “White Lab” or a “Snow Lab”. Honestly, I had never given it any thought because I had always thought of her as a yellow Lab who just happened to be white in color. It turns out I was right. She was a yellow Lab… with a lighter shade of coat. And, I was lucky enough to adopt her. Not buy her from a breeder.

But, people who are buying White Labs, Snow Labs, Silver Labs and Red Fox Labs from breeders, usually for exorbitant prices, are actually buying… A LAB. Not a rare breed. Not a new breed. Just a Lab. And, in some cases, a Lab that isn’t even recognized by the AKC, but is considered a mismarked dog.

So why do I tell you all of this? It’s not because I really care what color Labrador Retriever you want. It’s a preference. I prefer my Daisy, and love her white coat color. If you prefer a yellow Lab with a reddish coat color I’m not going to judge you for having a preference for that color.

But, as a consumer, you need to be aware (here’s a great place to start). Know what someone is selling you. If the word “rare” is being used to describe the Labrador Retriever you are interested in buying, walk away. Anyone who would lie to you about this isn’t likely to tell you the truth about the dog or it’s parentage. If they want to charge you an exorbitant amount of money for this “rare Lab”, question it. Chances are they are just looking to make a quick buck and if that’s the case they’re not a reputable breeder. And chances are they could be a puppy mill or backyard breeder – not the type of people you want to buy a dog from anyways.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what color Lab you get. Because what’s in a Lab is A LAB. If you want a special coat color, great, just remember that color doesn’t change the breed or the price. It’s still a Lab.

“Alpha” What?

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I read a great article on Pack Theory (“Pack Theory – Pack It In!”) and why we should stop using this theory when it comes to relating to our dogs.

I would like to supplement this article (which I highly recommend reading if you use the terms “alpha”, “pack leader” and “dominance”) with some additional information.

Did you ever wonder where the term “alpha wolf” came from? Or, how it came to be a part of our public discourse when discussing wolves and dogs?

It all started with a Senior Research Scientist named L. David Mech. Back in 1968, he wrote a book called “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species.” It was published in 1970 and republished in 1981 and is still in print today. In that book, David Mech described something called the “alpha wolf”. “Alpha” wolves were described as “competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle.” At the time this book was written, there was a belief that wolves competed for “Alpha” status and therefore led the pack and held all of the power within the pack. It was based on research at the time and on studies done on an artificial wolf pack (not a wolf pack living in the wild).

In the 40 years since that book was published a whole lot of new information has been discovered about wolves and wolf packs. It turns out that the concept of there being an “Alpha” within a wolf pack is no longer accurate. Take a listen to L. David Mech as he describes how the term came about and why it is no longer accurate when it relates to wolves out in the wild.

So why does the concept remain a part of our vernacular? And, why is it used to apply to dogs?

I think the article I mentioned above does a good job with answering these questions. What I will say is that we need to stop using the term “Alpha” when talking about wolves. It is no longer applicable, even L. David Mech (the man who coined the term) says so. And, it certainly should not be used to describe dogs, who are not in any way like wolf packs. We do not need to be “alpha” in order to have well-behaved dogs. The reality is that the amount of dedicated time and training you do with your dog are what really works. “Alpha rolls” or pining a dog down do not. And, if you don’t believe me, then read this and learn what the newest research tells us about what works in working with dogs.

Wednesday Winner: Posing Paws

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

DSC_2710

Daisy and Jasper

Today, I am plugging an event put on every year by the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) in Burnsville, Minnesota.
The event is called Posing Paws and is a great fundraiser for the shelter. If there was ever a time to support your local animal shelter, it is now. All of them are struggling to get by with less in this economy, and MVHS is no different.

For $50 you can get pictures of you and your pets, or your whole family and your pets (so far I’ve seen families with cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs!). You can choose from 4 scenes, which by the way, are fantastic! And, about 10 minutes after your sitting, you’ll have a CD of all your pictures that you can crop or touch-up in photoshop. Or, you can take it to any store that processes photos and get cards made up for the holidays. Personally, I use my pictures for my business holiday cards and they look great!

Check it out! There is only one weekend left!
Posing Paws

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Me, Daisy and Jasper

Dogs: Adopt Me Please! The Shelter Pet Project

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

42-17304144Anyone who knows me, or has read my blog to any extent, knows that I am passionate about animals. But, I am also passionate about something else… animal adoption.

A lot of people assume that adopting a dog or cat from a shelter means that they will be adopting a pet with physical problems or behavioral issues. This could not be further from the truth! Most of the dogs I have worked with at the shelter over the past 7 years have been wonderful and loving dogs. And, most of them were at our shelter due to circumstances outside of their control… home foreclosure, job loss, an owner’s death, an illness in the family, divorce, etc.

I know it’s hard to believe, but most pets are NOT in a shelter because their owner found them to be an awful pet. And yet, somehow the image still persists that adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization somehow means that the pet is “flawed” in some way.

The first dog I ever adopted from a shelter was a Shepherd/Collie mix named Indy. Read more…

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