Breeding your Labrador retriever can be exciting for the whole family. Labs come in three colors: yellow, black and chocolate. Your expectant litter may contain puppies in all varieties. The exception is when both the mother and father are yellow; in that case, the puppies will also be yellow.
Screening for Pregnancy
Before breeding your Labrador, perform a variety of tests to ensure there are no health defects that can be passed on to the puppies. Labradors are prone to several conditions including hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cause joint pain. X-rays can determine if your Labrador is genetically predisposed to these issues. Retinal dysplasia, which can cause blindness in puppies, and progressive retinal atrophy, which can produce blindness later in life, are also concerns. Schedule an eye exam with a veterinarian before breeding your Labrador.
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Dogs are pregnant for 63 days with litters ranging from five to 10 pups. It is critical that your pet receive adequate nutrients during pregnancy. If she does not receive the proper amount of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals, the health of the puppies will be compromised. Select a well-balanced, high-calorie food to feed your pregnant Labrador. Puppy food or formulations designed for all life stages are good choices. The food should be 17 percent fat and 29 percent protein. An average adult Labrador should get 980 to 1300 calories daily. Throughout the first five to six weeks of pregnancy, increase your Labrador’s food intake by no more than 10 percent. Since the puppies will grow rapidly during the last three to four weeks of pregnancy, increase food intake 15 percent to 25 percent as the pregnancy goes along.
Excercise During Pregnancy
Exercise is important for your pregnant Labrador, a naturally active breed. It will help her stay in shape and prepare her body for labor and delivery. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that the average lab needs a 3-mile walk or 30 to 60 minutes of active play daily. Since Labradors have natural retrieving abilities, they enjoy playing Frisbee or Flyball. As the pregnancy progresses, though, avoid strenuous exercise such as running, jumping and agility. During the last few weeks, exercise will become more difficult -- even walking can become tiring. Watch your dog for signs of exhaustion and stress. This could include panting, drooling and a desire to sit down. As she gets closer to delivery decrease the length and intensity of her walks and exercise.
Finding Homes for Puppies
According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog in America—a spot it has held for 22 years. Finding homes for your new puppies should be easy. Labradors make excellent family pets and are always in high demand. The important thing is to make sure each puppy goes to a loving home. Screen prospective owners carefully. Ask if they have ever owned a Labrador before, if they have a fenced yard, how long the puppy will be alone each day and whether they have ever given a dog up to a shelter.
- The American Kennel Club: The Care and Feeding of the Breeding Bitch
- Michigan State University: Care and Feeding for your Pregnant or Nursing Dog
- Everything Dog Health Book; Kim Campbell Thornton, Debra Eldredge
- Gundog Training Magazine International: Care and Exercise of the Pregnant Bitch
- Pudget Sound Labrador Retriever Association: Frequently Asked Labrador Questions
- The Wall Street Journal: Top Dogs
- AKC News: Living Large! Bigger Breeds Shake Up Top 10 On Most Popular List
- Tips for Finding a Home for a Pet
- The Retriever News: Retinal Dysplasia in the Labrador Retriever
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images