FINDING A VETERINARIAN FOR YOUR DOG
Choosing a vet can be a daunting prospect. It is always best to check with your friends and family to get referrals. I am fairly no-nonsense type of person and if a vet is not keen to explain things to me or is an alarmist (I despise this approach to health care), I change to a different vet. It may take you a couple of tries to find the vet that suits you and your dog, but the time and effort is worth it in the long run.
You will want to take some things into consideration when choosing your vet:
- Referrals – this cannot be stressed enough.
- Location – can you arrive in a short period of time in the case of an emergency? While this should not be the deciding factor for your choice, it is always nice to have a vet withing 15 minutes of your home if at all possible.
- Is your vet using three year vaccines? Do they perform Titer testing? What type of laboratory do they have in the facility? What type of therapy treatments do they offer at the clinic and if they do not, can they refer you to someone who does? If you are keen on raw diets and/or naturopathic treatments, will your vet support you in this endeavor? No one want a fight on their hands every time they go to the vet.
- Is your vet open on Saturdays/Sundays? This can save you and your pocket book as it can prevent the necessity of costly trips to an after hours emergency clinic.
Ultimately, you want to have a good working relationship with your vet. My own vet is located in a small facility so does not have extra room for an extensive state-of-the-art lab or to offer special hydro therapy. However, my vet is fantastic with the dogs and takes his time with each and every one. He is the most attentive vet I have ever seen and he supports my decision to Titer test. He discusses treatment options in a manner that makes sense to those of us without a degree in veterinary medicine. He is NOT an alarmist. He is open on Saturdays but not Sundays. He is the best choice for my dogs and I; he is a very important part of our breeding program and everyday health care of our dogs. I encourage everyone to find a vet they respect and trust.
The cost of pet insurance is a drop in the bucket compared to potential fees for emergency health care. In the city of Edmonton, a visit to the emergency vet clinic costs $125 just to see the vet. This does not include treatments, procedures, medications, and/or overnight observation. Years ago, we took a toy poodle in because she choked on a piece of chew bone. She had an exam and a radiograph, which cost us $298. Definitely worth it but it would have been covered if we had insurance. There are many packages available from budget friendly to premiere five-star service. As with any insurance purchase, make certain you understand under what circumstances your pet will not be covered. There are always exemptions and it is important that you know what these exemptions are. Below are some companies who offer pet insurance. I do not recommend using a vet who honors only their ‘in house’ insurance plan. You rarely get the coverage of the other companies and if you need to have treatments done elsewhere, it will not be covered. Make certain your vet will work with the pet insurance company you choose.
Your puppy will require three sets of shots before he/she is fully immunized against communicable diseases such as distemper, parvo virus, and rabies. In most instances, these shots are given four weeks apart when the puppy is 8 weeks old, 12 weeks old and 16 weeks old. Your puppy’s immunity will be at its peak two weeks after the final set of shots. Until your pup is 18 weeks of age, it is highly recommended that you not allow your pup to visit areas frequented by dogs of unknown health and immunity: doggy daycare, dog parks, walking paths frequented by dogs, pet stores, etc.
It is imperative that you socialize your puppy during these weeks of partial quarantine. Take them to coffee shops with outdoor bistro sitting, sit outside places with lots of people entering and leaving such as grocery stores, movie theatres, and malls, arrange play dates with calm older dogs that have been immunized and are in good health. They will need this socialization in order to become a well rounded mentally sound puppy. There are puppy training classes that allow pups who have received two sets of shots to attend. This can be a good time for your puppy to socialize as well. Remember, if ever you witness your pup experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, and/or lethargy, transport them to your vet clinic for immediate care. Puppy illnesses can be overcome if early intervention is had. Take no chances with your puppy’s health! They are depending on you to look after them.
Once your pup has had his puppy series of shots, it is normal practice to take them in for annual check ups during which they will receive a booster shot. Most vets are now using the three year vaccines for distemper and parvo. Rabies is given every three years but there is a five year rabies vaccine coming soon. I personally prefer to do Titer testing for distemper and parvo. My vet uses a snap test (small amount of blood is required) and the test will indicate if your pet has sufficient antibody coverage against these diseases. If they do, I do not re-vaccinate as I do not wish to continue to subject their systems to injections they do not require. My vet charges $50 for the Titer test so it is basically the same cost to me as getting the immunizations. I take it one step further with my Titers: if the snap test comes back ‘insufficient’, i will then have my dog’s blood sent to a particular lab where they can further scrutinize the sample. Sometimes, the snap tests can produce false negatives so I choose to have it checked further to ensure the readings are accurate. I personally know of many dogs who are into a decade of life and have never registered ‘insufficient’ on a Titer test, thereby not requiring additional vaccinations. HOWEVER, I will not suggest that your dog go without a yearly exam. Dogs age much faster than us and it is important for them to see the vet yearly for an overall health exam. The choice of vaccination protocol is completely up to you and I recommend you discuss it with the vet of your choice.
FINDING A GROOMER FOR YOUR DOG
Your Labradoodle is a non-shedding dog. In actuality, he does shed but the hair is caught in the curled hair around the fallen one so it doesn’t end up on your clothes, furniture, etc.
This is a huge benefit to many dog lovers but nothing comes free in this life. You must have your dog groomed regularly. You can certainly educate yourself and acquire the proper tools to do this task yourself but it is a big, time consuming job.
When looking for a groomer, ask if they have experience with Labradoodle styles. Ask to see pictures of the Doodles they have groomed. Be specific! Hair grows back and a bad cut is not the end of the world but it is annoying when you pick your dog up from the groomer to discover your dog looks like a poodle!
You can search YouTube for labradoodle grooming videos and find some great resources. Keep in mind that dog models can have different types of coats, so they may not look exactly like your pup; but the cut can be generally the same. If you have a wool coat or curly fleece coat, the possibilities are absolutely endless! You can pretty much do anything with them.
Most people, regardless of the coat type their puppy has, will opt for the puppy cut. This cut is extremely easy to maintain as it is about an inch to 1.5 inches all over the body. The face and head are left to look very doodley and the tail is left as a ‘flag’, but the body and legs are shorter.
Ultimately, you will decide how you wish to groom your dog. The more important thing is that you actually groom him! I recommend a complete brush through every day to every other day. Most people will do this while watching TV before bed. It is very relaxing to both human and dog.
You can ask your groomer to use the shortest blade to trim between the thighs and in the groin area, under the arm pits and tunnel the belly. These are all high friction areas and therefore they matt very easily. Another area that mats easily is behind the ears but you would not want to shave that area…poor doodle wouldn’t like that at all!
If you do have the coat cut to about an inch long and groom religiously, you can go 8-12 weeks before a groom is required. The coat will be very grown out by that point and you will naturally find that it takes far longer to brush and maintain. This will be your cue to take your pup in for grooming. Most people have their Labradoodles fully groomed every six to eight weeks.
DO NOT TAKE YOUR PUPPY TO A GROOMER UNTIL HE IS FULLY IMMUNIZED! (18 WEEKS AS STATED ABOVE)
GROOMING IS ULTIMATELY A HEALTH ISSUE. If you leave your dog to mat, they will become exceedingly uncomfortable. A mat feels much like someone pulling the little hairs on the nape of your neck! OUCH! If neglected, these mats become breeding grounds for fungus and infection. Flies will often lie eggs in the moist hair/sores, resulting in maggot infestation. If the ‘hot spot’ becomes infected and is further neglected, it can become septic and kill the dog. I’ve seen horrible matting on dogs and it is heartbreaking.
Be diligent in your grooming and your dog will not have to suffer from matting.
Dogs happily give completely of themselves. Providing them with quality care, training, and companionship is the very least we can do in return. I do not know about you, but I believe my dogs give more to me than I am ever capable of giving them. They are so eager to please and bring such joy to our lives without ever judging us. How can we possibly pay them back for that? I’m not certain but I will endeavor to try.
FINDING A TRAINER FOR YOUR DOG
The most important advise I can give you for finding the right trainer for you is to…
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!
Many trainers will not refund your money if you are displeased with their services and the only way to know if you are receptive to a trainer’s methods is by observing the trainer in class. It is best to:
- Call several trainers in your area and ask if you are able to observe both a beginner obedience class and an advanced obedience class. This will give you an idea of how the trainer manages the class, demanding dogs, and the training methods they use. You will also be able to see how deep the trainer’s experience and resources are. I was observing a class once and the trainer told a student to ‘work at home with the dog on his barbell release’. The dog would not let go of it and thought it was quite a fun game to play keep-away with his handler. When the handler asked ‘how do I get him to let go without engaging in play?’, the instructor replied, “Just make him let go.” Really? Meanwhile, clear across town, a similar situation arose and the instructor proceeded to explain five different way to encourage the dog to release a barbell. Any question which trainer I recommended? If you choose a trainer based on convenience of location, you may find yourself paying for a whole lot of nothing, or you may score big and find that you live close to that extra special trainer.
- Watch carefully how the trainer handles puppies who bark continuously, appear to want nothing other than to attack the dog next to her, or exhibit otherwise disruptive behaviors. It is especially common to find trainers who allow their class time to be monopolized by one problem puppy. It is the ‘squeaky wheel get the oil’ syndrome. Meanwhile, everyone else in the class is standing idle and virtually paying for the problem puppy’s private lesson. Not cool!
- Try to choose a trainer or training facility that offer a wide variety of classes and activities: obedience (all levels), rally, agility, scent detection, tricks, treiball, dock diving, therapy dog certification training, etc
- Has the trainer titled any dogs? In what disciplines? Has the trainer worked with a variety of dogs or only a couple of breeds? You want a trainer that understands the nuances of breed tendencies and can compensate for them. Even if the trainer has never worked with your breed, the fact that they have trained and worked with many different breeds makes them more experienced than a trainer that has not.
- While a demo dog is a crowd pleaser, that does not automatically translate as a trainer with teaching skills. You want a trainer who can prove they are capable of assisting clients achieve their goals with their dogs.
I am a very firm believer of continuing education for puppies. Too often we take our pups to puppy class and then never take them again. This would be akin to sending a child to kindergarten for a couple of weeks and then pulling them out and never sending them again. Early training is responsible for making connections in the synapses of the brain and creating neurological pathways for a lifetime of learning ability. A dog who is kept in classes with as few breaks in between as possible will be a stellar canine member of society by the age of two. But don’t stop! Just like humans, dogs enjoy learning new things and enjoy participating in activities they excel at. They enjoy being with and working alongside their human companions. I dare say that if you cannot devote the time for a weekly class to your dog, what kind of relationship do you expect to have with her? I have many people tell me, “Our dog is with us all the time.” Well that truly is fantastic but when do you focus on providing an activity and time wherein the dog is the focus? I’m not saying that your dog will suffer if they are not in classes for the rest of their life, but I do believe that classes provide a wonderful enrichment to your dog’s existence.