Puppy Program

Below is some general information about how we raise our puppies. Please take a few minutes to read through it and contact us if you have any questions.

Our goal? Hunting Labs with classic looks

We strive for the dual-purpose Labrador Retriever who will become a cherished family member, but could also be trained to excel as a hunting companion or in competitive events. Trainability and temperament are traits that are important to us, as is the Lab’s desire to please.

When planning a litter, we do so with the intention of keeping a puppy for ourselves. We spend time reviewing many factors, including health, soundness, retrieving desire and conformation.

Labrador puppy retrieving his first bird
Cute black Lab puppy decides what to explore next

We evaluate each potential sire and dam based on the following criteria:

  • How is the dog’s retrieving desire? A retriever that isn’t interested in retrieving just won’t cut it with us.
  • How is the dog’s temperament and disposition? It’s possible to have a dog with excellent retrieving drive AND be a wonderful house pet and companion.
  • How is the dog’s structure and type? Although the dog doesn’t have to be a show champion, he or she should look like a Lab and should have proper structure to enable him or her to spend a day retrieving in the field.
  • Are there any known genetic problems in the dog? If there is a genetic test and the problem is a simple recessive – such as PRA, EIC, or CNM – we will consider the breeding, provided one of the parents is clear. In those cases, none of the puppies will be affected by the problem.

Most of our puppies will be family dogs. Many will hunt on occasion. Some become therapy dogs or will compete in one venue or another. But their most important job is being a part of their family.

How we raise puppies

Puppies are born and raised in our home. They experience the noises, sights and smells of everyday life (at least once their eyes and ears open). When the weather is good, they get to play outside and, if it’s warm enough, splash in water.

As each puppy is born, it is checked, weighed and given a colored ribbon collar. We check their weight every day for the first few weeks to make sure they are getting enough to eat and seem happy and healthy.

During their time with us we work to give them a solid foundation that will help them later in life.

From birth, they are handled daily and exposed to various stimuli. For more information about these early experiences and the importance of starting early, check out this video about Early Neurological Stimulation.

After their eyes and ears open and they’ve thoroughly explored the whelping box, they’re ready for expanded horizons. They get to climb on, chew or play with things like a miniature tunnel, a tiny teeter-totter and a wide variety of toys. They also experience a variety of flooring textures, such as newspaper, carpet, tile. And they hear an assortment of sounds, such as a radio, TV, vacuum and clanking pots and pans.

About week five they’re introduced to birds! Usually it’s a duck wing with an attached string to make it dance. They also get to see a variety of dead birds, including pigeons or chuckar and duck. When available, we get a few wing-clipped pigeons too.

The more our puppies experience as babies, the better they can react to unfamiliar objects and places later in their lives.

Puppy Evaluations

We don’t take reservations for a particular puppy nor do we do ‘first pick, second pick.’ Instead we spend countless hours evaluating puppies in order to place them in the right home. We also host an evaluation day at about 7 weeks when we have other breeders come over and we look at personality, retrieving desire and structure.

Evaluations start with the Volhard Puppy Aptitude test. Check out more information about the test and watch an actual evaluation of a puppy (test starts at about 2:48).

The evaluations are best done between week 7 and week 8, which means we cannot tell puppy buyers which puppies will be available before that time. We do our best to match puppies with families based on each family’s wants and needs.

Using the evaluations, plus our daily interaction with the puppies, gives us a good idea of which puppy is best suited for each home. Sometimes a few of the puppies are very similar and each would be a good choice for a family. When that happens we also factor in things like whether one caught your eye or seemed to untie your shoelaces each time you visited!

We’ve been using this method for over 10 years and have had lots of positive feedback.

Warranty

There is no 100% guarantee that any puppy will be free of health problems. We take great care in evaluating the health and soundness of our Labradors and the parents we choose for our litters. However even health-tested parents can produce a health problem from time to time, but screening does reduce the chance of problems.

Another aspect of dog health is the way in which they are raised. A breeder can only provide a solid foundation, but it is up to the owner to provide proper care. No reputable breeder want to hear there is something wrong with a dog they bred.

Health tested parents for healthier puppies - Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

Our warranty includes:

  • Good health at the time of sale. The buyer has 3 working days to have the puppy checked by a veterinarian of their choosing.
  • Free from severe / non-functional hip dysplasia for 26 months provided the puppy has not been bred prior to certification by OFA
  • Non-affected by the genetic disorders PRA, EIC and CNM

(Other qualifications and restrictions may apply. Please be sure to read the entire sales agreement before signing.)

Bringing your puppy home

Pups will be ready to go home after 8 weeks of age. They will be up to date on vaccinations and wormings, will be microchipped and will come with their health record. We also provide a puppy packet with information on the puppy’s parents and suggestions for feeding, vaccinating and training.

Lab puppy peeking out of the whelping box

We register all puppies with AKC. This means we’ll need to know your choice for a registered name by the time you pick up your puppy. Each litter has a theme and we can provide lots of suggestions for the registered name. By the way, you don’t need to know what you’ll call your puppy that soon.

We do this because some puppy buyers forget to send in the registration and lose out on all the benefits, including the lifetime registration of the microchip and help if your dog ever gets lost. Being a responsible owner is one way to help keep your dog safe.

We don’t ship puppies. However we’re only about an hour away from the airport in Denver, Colorado (DIA) and have had several people fly in. If this works for you, please coordinate with us well in advance. You will need to buy a carry-on soft sided crate (eg Sherpa) and make your own arrangements. You will also need to arrange for a health certificate so your puppy can fly with you.

As it gets closer to go-home day, we’ll start making appointments. Plan to spend 60-90 minutes going through paperwork and going over feeding and care instructions.

We’ll send home a few days worth of the food your puppy has been eating so you have time to switch him over to your choice of food. We also have some bags of our food in case you want to continue feeding it.

All puppies are sold with AKC limited registration. Basically the puppy IS registered and can compete in everything except the show ring. The biggest difference is that if a dog with limited registration is ever bred, the puppies cannot be registered. The vast majority of our puppy buyers have no interest in breeding. For the few who may be interested, we can discuss changing from limited to full registration after the dog has passed health clearances and has proven itself in competition.

After pickup

Please take your puppy to your vet within a couple days of taking him home. It’s great to get them introduced early! We’ll send along a letter for your vet that details what vaccinations your puppy has had and when he’s been wormed. It will also include our recommendations for additional vaccinations to give and when and which vaccinations to avoid and why.

We recommend waiting to spay or neuter until at least 18 months. Studies show early spay or neuter increases the risks of certain cancers, orthopedic problems and sometimes even aggression.

We also recommend more natural care which includes limiting chemicals:

  • in the dog (eg food and vaccines),
  • on the dog (eg flea and tick products and shampoos) and
  • around the dog (eg carpet cleaners and weed sprays).

And we will always welcome back a dog we have bred if the owner can no longer keep it. We will either work to find another suitable home or keep him or her with us. We understand life sometimes involves unexpected twists and turns.

Ready to get started?

If you’re interested in purchasing one of our puppies, please complete the Puppy Questionnaire and return it to us for consideration. Be sure to include a detailed list of what you consider to be your ideal dog as well as what you will be using the pup for: hunting,  competitive dog sports, search and rescue, family companion, etc. We want to make sure that your puppy is great fit for your family.

Once we’ve had a chance to look over your questionnaire and talk with you, we can put you on our waiting list. We’ll also let you know when we’ll start taking deposits to reserve a puppy.

Deposits are non-refundable unless we don’t have enough puppies of the requested sex and/or color. In that case, the deposit can be applied to a puppy of a different sex and/or color in the litter or it can be applied to a future litter or it can be refunded. But please don’t expect a refund because you changed your mind. Your deposit is a commitment to buy a puppy which means we’ve had to disappoint another puppy buyer. If at any time, including go-home day, we find someone has made false or misleading statements or if there is any question about their ability to properly care for the puppy, we reserve the right to refuse the sale.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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