Category Archives: Dogs

Why Do Labrador Retrievers Always Seem Hungry?

You may think the friendship between you and your Labrador Retriever is a bond that cannot be broken. But the truth is, for some Labs, there is no love greater than the one between them and their food. Seriously, test it! Some of you may have a Lab who is entirely focused on you and won’t give a second thought to that bit of food on the floor. But others could place a treat on the ground and watch as they entirely disappear from the planet for a few seconds while their dog eats.

Believe it or not, there is science behind this phenomenon, and the answer isn’t as simple as “animals like food.” It’s very specifically related to Labradors, and it offers some pretty interesting insight into why your Lab treats you like a second-class citizen when there’s food to be had.


A 2016 study in the journal Cell Metabolism rounded up 400 adult Labrador Retrievers to answer a question: why do a lot of dogs in this breed appear to be so motivated by food? The Labs were weighed. Drool samples were taken from 33 of them. The owners completed surveys about the eating habits of their dogs. Finally, after some research, scientists came to an interesting conclusion: if your Lab is obsessed with food, his or her DNA is likely to blame.

As it turns out, there’s a gene variant your Lab can have that affects how hungry and how full he or she feels: POMC, or pro-opiomelanocortin. A Lab can have one copy of the variant, two copies of the variant, or zero copies. The more copies your Lab has, the more food-focused they are, and research shows that around 23% of Labrador Retrievers have at least one copy.

Watch Their Weight

Because Labrador Retrievers are likely to be more food-crazy than dogs from other breeds, it’s especially important to keep an eye on their weight. Did you know that, amongst all dogs in the developed world, between 34 and 59 percent are overweight? That fact, combined with what we know about Labs and their propensity for zeroing in on food like they’ll never see food again can lead to some serious health issues down the line.

Heart disease is one such side effect of a dog who’s become obese. Damage to a dog’s joints over time, due to the increased weight, is another. Canine diabetes is a real danger if eating habits aren’t kept in check, and if you think human diabetes isn’t fun, wait until your dog has it. All of these concerns can shorten the lifespan of your Lab and provide you fewer wonderful years with your lovable pup, so take care to keep them on a measured meal schedule so you know how much they’re taking in, and be sure to exercise them daily.

Is your Lab infatuated with food? We’d love to hear your story down below in the comments.

Do Labradors Understand Words?

It can sometimes seem like our Labrador Retrievers understand every word we’re saying — or not saying, if you’ve ever given your dog pause with a stern look when they’re ready to do something they shouldn’t. But can they truly understand? Are the words we speak traveling through those canine brains in the same way they would a human brain? It’s an often-asked question with an answer that might surprise you.

Labs and Words

According to researchers at the United Kingdom’s University of Sussex, dogs are able to process words, including their meanings and the emotional inflections within them, the same way humans do. Victoria Radcliffe, the research project’s co-author, says our loyal Labs can “respond to different parts of human speech — including the actual words and the emotional tone.”

Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, Ratcliffe is quick to tamp down our expectations. We shouldn’t expect to be having full-on conversations with our Labradors anytime soon, stretched out on the couch spilling all of our secrets while the dog sits nearby with a notebook. “That doesn’t mean that dogs actually understand all the words people say,” she adds. It’s just likely the way dogs understand our language can be compared to the way humans do in a very broad sense.

There are sounds that have meaning for our dogs. Anyone who has ever said the word “sit” or “treat” knows this. Most Labs who have been taught these words associate them either with a thing (the treat, for example) or an action (either sitting, lying down, or rolling over).

They’re also able to know when the tenor is different. If you’ve ever playfully told your dog to sit while you’re prepping a treat for them, you’ll know they react a bit differently than when you tell them to sit when they’re misbehaving. They know things are serious then, and they react accordingly.

Dogs Studying Us

The same study claims, “Dogs have been studying us for a long time.” How did the researchers come to this conclusion? They placed dogs in between two speakers which played the British version of “come,” which is “come on, then.” The dogs tested heard two recorded versions of the phrase: one where aspects of the human voice were removed to place more emphasis on the words and their meaning, and one where more emotion was injected and the phrase was exaggerated.

When the version with more word emphasis was played, most dogs turned their heads to the right, which meant they were using their brain’s left hemisphere to process the words. In humans, the left hemisphere processes word sounds and their syntax.

For the more emotional version, most dogs turned their heads to the left, which meant they were processing the phrase using the right side of their brain. Humans use the brain’s right hemisphere to analyze the tone and emotion in the words they’re hearing.

It appears dogs do the same, and it’s likely they learned it from us. As animal behavior professor Nicholas Dodman states, the study seems to indicate “dogs have been studying us for a long time.”

So there you have it. Our Labradors can’t quite take in a whole conversation — and they certainly won’t be embedded spies anytime soon — but they’re a bit more like us than we might have imagined. The next time you say something to your dog, remember: their brain is working to decipher the meaning and intent in a very similar way to yours.

Training The Intelligent Labrador’s Retriever

Labrador retrieverImage by jfch via Flickr

Training The Intelligent Labrador’s Retriever

Labrador retriever owners are blessed with a breed that loves to learn. All training must enforce the idea that learning not only is fun but it will bring positive responses from the owner. Learning is not a game, but it need not be unpleasant either.

Training your Labrador retriever to be a mannerly adult is begun at birth, by its mother. Once the puppy arrives at the new owner’s home, it has already been given some basic instructions on behavior – so don’t be fooled into thinking it is too young to behave. A puppy is, of course, too young to teach formal commands, but early lessons in manners and on who is in charge can begin at once.

The Labrador retriever is a highly intelligent animal and a capable learner. It embodies many natural instincts and abilities that make this breed distinct among others of similar heritage. But at the core, a Labrador retriever is a dog – originally a pack animal. From earliest times, pack animals have exhibited a pattern of behavior that affects the process of training:

A pack animal assumes it is the boss until proved otherwise (the leader-of-the-pack syndrome). At birth, the dam assumes the leadership position and keeps her young in line. As the puppies begin to assert their independence, she will remind them of their place through low growls, a swat of the paw, or an occasional shake of the neck. Little else is necessary. She admonishes her young swiftly, fairly, consistently, and unemotionally, and they respect her position as leader. The wise owner follows the dam’s example.

Consistency is vital. Should the dog misbehave, respond accordingly and appropriately. Do not let his “cute little antics” go uncorrected as this will undermine your leadership. Respond firmly but fairly, letting him know what is expected of him and what will not be tolerated. Brute force is not required and is counterproductive. When a dog is testing your authority, correct it in a manner a dog will understand – a firm vocal reprimand, a stem look, a shake of the neck. Little more should be necessary to make your displeasure clear if you are carrying out the corrections authoritatively. Be sure never to whine, nag, plead, or preach at the dog, as these are clearly not the actions of a leader and the dog will not feel compelled to obey. Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A Healthy And Happy Lab

A Labrador participating in dog agilityImage via Wikipedia

A Healthy And Happy Lab

Labrador Retrievers can become lazy if they are not encouraged to exercise. Compound this problem with over-feeding, which is very common, and extra pounds are easily put on. Taking them off again is harder work, requiring a more appropriate diet and an effort to increase vigorous exercise time (gradually, of course, to prevent possible muscle injury or overexertion).

Swimming and retrieving games are natural outlets for Labrador Retrievers. These activities are ones that the breed excels at and enjoys, and they give a complete, full-muscle workout that tones the entire body. Having access to a swimming area may be a problem for most owners, but retrieving games can be played anywhere.

Labradors have great stamina, but owners must use common sense. During the summer months, limit strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day and provide an ample supply of fresh water. In the winter, a Labrador in good trim should be able to withstand the cold very effectively and should not be kept housebound. If the dog is out in the rain or snow for any length of time, he should be dried off when he returns to the heated indoors.

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Choosing Healthy Treats For Your Lab

Milk-Fed Veal Calves - Group housing in NYImage via Wikipedia

Choosing Healthy Treats For Your Lab

Put table scraps where they belong, in the garbage, not in your dog’s food bowl. Many people think that giving your Lab that nice chunk of fat from their sirloin will add luster to his coat. While it may put joy in his heart, it may also give him loose bowels. An occasional veal bone, if very sturdy (a knuckle, for example), can give him a tooth cleaning and some jaw exercise, but be careful, since most bones are constipating as well as dangerous (an ingested splinter of bone can be fatal).

Nylon or rawhide “bones” are safest. They are available in most pet stores, groceries, supermarkets, and online. If you want to give your dog more than his everyday food (even though dogs generally do not get bored with their meals, unlike humans), try small amounts of fruits, cereal, and vegetables. They do not upset the intestinal tract by their oiliness or indigestibility, and actually promote effective digestion. You may also try well-trimmed (no visible fat) bits of meat. However, a dog raised on snacks of sirloin tips will not take kindly to a change to vegetables, so pursue this course with considerable caution.

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Coming out in Kid Lit

Today is National Coming Out Day, which got me thinking about LGBTQIA+ representation in YA and children’s literature. While there certainly can be more stories featuring realistic, nuanced representations of LGBTQIA+ characters (protagonists! friends! heroes! parents! etc!), I’m heartened by the books young readers do have today, to let them know that their feelings are valid and that they can be the main characters of their own stories.

Which means that, of course, I need to share some of my recent favorite reads featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard: a great look at sexual identity and gender identity, as Pen struggles against her family and friends’ ideas of what it means to be a young woman. I also loved the minor characters in this. #teamblake

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown: a twist on the coming out story, as very out Jo hides her sexual identity when she moves to a small, conservative town.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: bi, gay, and asexual representation in this super fun and touching historical adventure. I’m psyched for the sequel, which will follow Felicity!

George by Alex Gino: one of the sweetest and most sensitive coming out stories, about a young trans girl who just wants to be Charlotte in her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: one of my new favorite contemporary YAs, about theatre and friendship and first love and figuring out who you are and how to share that with the world.

As I Descended by Robin Talley: in case you want some classically-inspired scares and intrigue with your representation, this one’s a female take on Macbeth, starring two young women at an elite boarding school.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour: one of my new favorites full stop, this is a fantastic look at first love and friendship and loneliness and grief and reaching out to those we love.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: a powerful and hopeful story about a young trans girl trying to make a new start for herself.

Other books you’d add to this list? Share ’em in the comments! In the meantime, remember–you are valid and you deserve love.

Feeding Your Older Lab

A Pet's Place store in Hatert, NijmegenImage via Wikipedia

Feeding Your Older Lab

Keep in mind that as your Labrador ages, he will need less food to maintain a constant weight. With elderly dogs it is important to cut back on the amount of protein (particularly meat) that is ingested, because high levels of protein can put a strain on the kidneys.

Overweight dogs should be brought back into their ideal weight, primarily through gradually increasing the amount of their daily exercise. Cut back on the number of calories in the dog’s diet by substituting low-calorie fillers such as grated carrot or apples, unsalted popcorn, or low-fat cottage cheese for a portion of their meal.

Underweight dogs can be brought up to a good weight by adding high-calorie boosters to their meals, such as an occasional raw egg, cheese, or hamburger. Such caloric supplementation may also be needed during the winter if your Labrador is kenneled or worked outside much of the time, and during peak working periods when extra calories are burned. A high-calorie supplement can be purchased from your vet, pet stores, and online catalogs.

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Covers, Skates, and Dessert Pizza – Any Way You Slice It Cover Reveal!

When I was in middle school, I took skating lessons with my best friend and her brother. They were legit good skaters, whereas I was just happy to learn the basics, but I loved being at the rink with other skaters, trying out new skills and feeling a little magical as I swished over the ice.

So of course I’m super psyched to share the relaunched cover of Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin, which not only features life at the rink, but also family struggles, a new crush, and yep, pizza. Plus the book has a gorgeous new cover, which I get to share with you:

If you live in the MA area, you can help celebrate the relaunch of Any Way You Slice It on Saturday, November 18. In the meantime, you should pretend you work with Penelope at Slice Pizza and make her dessert pizza:

ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT – Penelope’s Dessert Pizza
*1 can(s) crescent rolls
1/4 c butter, cold
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c flour
pinch of salt
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp butter, soft
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1-1 1/2 Tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 400.2. First things first, roll out the crescent rolls into 8 triangles—be sure to use an ungreased cookie sheet. These babies are pre-greased so you don’t need anything else.
3. Cut in the butter to the mixture of sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour to form crumbles. Use a fork or a pastry blender or your fingers! Be sure the butter is COLD for best results. Try not to eat too much of the crumble, but it will be tempting. (Licking fingers is excusable.)
4. Sprinkle the dough with crumbs and throw those bad boys into the oven for 8 to 12 minutes.
5. After it all cools, cut into smaller triangles and drizzle with glaze.
6. And now the fun part: EAT and Enjoy!

If you make these, take a picture and post with #AnyWayYouSliceIt and don’t forget to tag
@KristineAsselin w/ all your pizza photos.

Thanks to Kris for letting me share the Any Way You Slice It goodness. Can’t wait to snag a copy of my own!

*Penelope would have you know that using a pre-made dough is cheating; I am super with you, Penelope. But whatever way gets you pizza is a win in my book.


How to Stop A Dog Fight

Labrador RetrieverImage via Wikipedia

How to Stop A Dog Fight

Labradors usually will not start a fight, bit if another dog starts one your dog will certainly defend himself. Stud dogs often fight one another, and some dogs become jealous of their owner to the point of fighting any dog that comes near the house or car.

It is dangerous to try stopping a dog fight. While fighting, the dogs are emotionally out of control and may bite a person at this time. It is no use shouting at them to stop and you should not try to separate them, as the dogs are generally stronger than you are. The most effective way to stop a fight is a pail or two of water dumped on them or best of all a hose with spray nozzle attached and the water turned on full force.

Since fights often happen near the house, it might be wise to keep a hose in readiness if you have the bad luck of possessing any dogs that do not get along together. Labradors are not at all of mean temperament, and they are certainly not bred to be fighters. However, certain dogs (male or female) may form dislikes and it is usually rather hopeless to attempt reconciliations and more practical to prevent encounters which can lead to fighting.

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Labrador Retriever Coat Color Inheritance

Labrador Retriever Coat Color Inheritance

There are three acceptable coat colors in the Labrador retriever: black, yellow (with variation from fox-red to light cream), and chocolate. Black is the most common color, but the numbers of yellows and chocolates are on the rise.

Coat color is determined by the type of genes received from each of the parents. Black is the dominant color genetically. Simply put, if there is a black gene present in the dog’s makeup, the dog will be black. A yellow coat is produced when a dog receives a recessive gene for this color from both of its parents. In the absence of a dominant black gene, the recessive genes can be expressed. Because of this, a black dog can produce yellow or chocolate offspring if it carries both a dominant black gene and a hidden recessive.

The chocolate color is also a recessive, but many variables come into play regarding the inheritance pattern of this color. The recessive chocolate factor can be carried by both black and yellow Labradors. There may also be a crossover or modifying effect involved with the chocolate recessive, because in several generations of breeding chocolate to chocolate a breakdown in pigmentation, eye coloring, and overall coat color often occurs.