It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I adore Labrador Retrievers. My fondness for them went up exponentially when we adopted our pup, Django, four years ago.
She is the perfect blend of friend, companion, and fun for our crazy family. But I’m not the only one who has a special affection for Labs. In fact, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds for families year after year.
Because of the breed’s popularity, there are generally many Lab-mix pups in shelters around the country. If you’ve fallen for this loveable breed, please consider merits of adopting a mix before shelling out big bucks at a breeder or, worse yet, a pet store. Here are some reasons we love our Lab-mix:
Easy Grooming Their coats are easy to care for, and they only require a bath here and there. No hair cuts or any extra grooming required, and their fur dries off in minutes because their thick outer coat naturally repels water.
Original Water Dogs Most are wonderful swimmers and have (really cute) webbed feet to help them swim well.
Kind Temperament Most Labs are well-suited to family life and like to feel as though they are part of a family's daily activities. Django accompanies us in everything we do. If we are in any given room, the yard, or porch, so is she. When we sleep, she sleeps. When we eat, she eats. You get the picture.
They Can Get Big—But Not Huge Although some males can grow to 100 pounds, generally, Labs tend to be about 22-24 inches tall and 60-75 pounds. Females are typically 21-23 inches tall and 55-70 pounds.
Well-Loved Labs are widely considered one of the most popular breeds not only in the U.S., but around the world.
Intelligence and Service They often serve as guide dogs and therapy dogs and are sometimes used in police work thanks to their supremely good sense of smell.
Even a Little Lab Will Do Ya There are usually many Lab mixes available at shelters all over the country. Our pup is a Lab mix (with what, we have no idea), and she has all the adorable traits of a full-fledged Lab.
Good Health As far as health goes, Labs are slightly prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and eye disorders but often lead long, healthy lives.
Lots of Exercise Labs need to be walked a lot. Without enough mental or physical stimulation, they can become destructive. But this can be a beneficial side effect for you and your dog, and it needn't be a chore. If you incorporate at least one long walk into each day, your Lab will be pleased as punch.
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
Wearing Orange. Our family has committed to wearing orange every Saturday in support of the ASPCA‘s mission. This is an easy task for us to execute with younger kids.
Donating Supplies. We are also planning to donate some items to our local shelter, including towels, placemats for the kitties to rest on, plastic bags and baby wipes. Our daughter Gabriella is looking forward to dropping off these items to help the animals.
Visiting Our Local Shelter. We have started to talk to Gabriella about how families looking for pets should visit animal shelters to take a friend home. Our visit to our local shelter to drop off supply donations will be Gabriella’s first time at an animal shelter, but certainly not her last!
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor to Vetstreet.com and other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site, Crayons and Collars.
Do you have a young animal lover in your family? If so, look no further than your local animal shelter to introduce your child to a variety of ways she and her friends can help animals in need.
Make DIY Projects Animal shelters are always in need of toys, beds and more. Contact your local shelter or rescue organization to find out what types of items they use that you can make at home, such as fleece blanket beds, cat wand toys, ping pong ball toys or even frozen “pupsicles.”
Hold a Supplies Drive Kids can hold a supply drive to collect used items that friends and neighbors no longer need but the shelter does, such as towels or old sheets.
Some shelters use empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, milk jug caps or empty plastic water bottles to make toys for the pets in their care. Visit your local organization’s web site to see what types of items they need, then start collecting!
Sign up For Camps at Animal Shelters Some shelters hold fun summer day camps for kids of all ages. From preschoolers to high schoolers, kids who love animals get a lot out of these week-long immersive summer experiences. Some shelters also offer camps over spring break and winter holidays, too.
Celebrate a Birthday Looking for something unique for your child’s next birthday party? For a fee, some shelters will throw the party, provide exciting animal-related activities and let the kids meet some of the resident animals. You can also ask that, instead of gifts, guests bring food or supply donations.
Earn Scouting Badges Some scout troops offer badges that troop members can earn by helping animals. Many shelters have programs in place to help scouts to earn their badges by helping the animals in their care. And, if your local shelter doesn’t offer a program now, consider working with them to create one!
Denise Daniels is an award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert and author who specializes in the social and emotional development of children. Denise hosted her parenting show, Parents Helper, on NBC’s cable network and has appeared on numerous morning and primetime TV shows. Read more by visiting Denise’s website or by following her on Facebook or Twitter.
One of the greatest lessons of my life came from a dog. It was Christmas Eve, 1989, and it happened as our house was burning to the ground. As we stood in the snow in our jammies, our Newfoundland, Alfie kept running back toward the house to make sure all the children were out and that everyone was safe. (We were, thankfully). That action was the most powerful lesson in pure, selfless, unconditional love that I’d ever witnessed.
While not everyone’s experience will be that dramatic (I hope!), pets are invaluable in teaching families, especially children, “emotional intelligence,” or EQ—their ability to empathize, understand and connect with others. EQ can grow and be nurtured, and what better way than with a loving pet who is a gift to the whole family? Here are 10 ways in which pets can help children develop their EQ:
By teaching children to care for something besides themselves. One of the cornerstones of EQ is empathy. Hearing a kitten meow when it wants to eat or seeing a dog run to the door when it wants to go outside gets kids to think, “What are their needs, and what can I do to help?”
By being a non-judgmental pal. If your child got in trouble at school, is struggling to read, or has difficulty with homework, pets love them regardless. While parents have to be disciplinarians, pets don’t. Pets show children the meaning of true friendship.
By teaching children to read nonverbal cues. Children aren’t born understanding facial expressions, body language, or gestures, but loving a pet can help them learn. When my husband leaves for the airport, our dog pouts. Parents can point out this kind of thing: “Look, Fido is feeling sad today” or “Max the cat is turning his back because he doesn’t want you to leave.” Children will learn how that applies to other humans and animals.
By teaching responsibility. I’ve heard people say, “I’m not getting a pet because I’m the one who will end up taking care of it.” We do have to be aware of our child’s ability level, but at a very early age, children can be taught graduated levels of responsibility.
By letting boys practice nurturing. All children need to learn this skill, but this is especially important for boys, who—for all our efforts and awareness—may not be taught to show tender feelings. With a pet, it’s socially acceptable to be loving and gentle, scratching pets’ ears and tummies.
By providing a natural stress buster. At the National Childhood Grief Institute, we conducted a study with the Delta Society (now called Pet Partners) using dogs in children’s support groups. A therapy dog would sit in front of an emotional child and put its head in the child’s lap. As the child started petting the dog, you could visibly see the child relax. We studied the blood pressure readings of the dogs and the children, and the experience lowered the blood pressure of both. There’s almost no better way to help a child deal with stress than with the company of a loving pet.
By boosting confidence. Learning to read can be stressful for a young child. And while reading out loud is critical for literacy, it can be difficult for a child who’s intimidated or embarrassed. The answer? Read to your pet. Children can go at their own pace and sound out difficult words with no fear of judgment.
By providing stability. After our house burned down in 1989, our family was displaced for months, and our Newfie couldn’t stay with us. It wasn’t until we were reunited in our new house that our family was truly whole. People and situations can be unpredictable, but pets are stable, loyal and true.
By helping children express their emotions. It can be hard for children to talk about powerful emotions. I’ve worked with children all around the world who’ve dealt with the traumas of war and natural disaster. In these cases, a loving animal is invaluable. Besides reducing a child’s stress, an animal provides safety and comfort. Dogs and cats listen and are there for you.
By making children laugh. Whether it’s chasing laser pointers or their own tails, jumping into cardboard boxes or rolling in snow, there’s no greater source of free entertainment than a pet doing its goofy thing—and there’s nothing healthier or more joyous than a child bursting into an unselfconscious peal of laughter.
News for young readers who love animals: Studio Fun International (formerly Reader’s Digest) has premiered a new line of ASPCA Kid's books, which are based on true pet stories. The line’s The Pet Rescue Club series is aimed at children ages 6-8, and the Rescue Readers series is for children ages 4-8. The line will also feature two board books for young children.
The ASPCA will receive 4 to 5 percent of the purchase price of each book, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $25,000 through December 2017. The books are available for purchase at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million and IndieBound.