5 Fall Fun Ideas with Fido!


Summer time often means beach days, hikes, and outdoor play, as the weather starts to change beaches may be exchanged for other activities you can enjoy with your dog friends.

1)    Enjoy the Fall Colors - As the air begins to cool this may be a perfect time to go for longer walks in the woods where heat exhaustion is less of a risk and you and your furry friend can enjoy the fall foliage and the changing of the seasons. Sniff the air for that tell-tale wood smoke and listen to the leaves crackle crisply under foot. It’s almost like heading off into the woods for a fall meditation with your dogs. Make sure to continue flea, tick and heartworm treatment as these pests are still around. Just because the air is chilling out, doesn’t mean the common pests that plague your dogs are.

2)    Go for a Weekend Getaway – Take some time to enjoy a weekend away with your furry friend. Fall is often lower season for many pet friendly resorts so look at taking advantage of off-season prices. Find something that you and the whole family can enjoy – even your furry family members.

3)    Enjoy the Great Outdoors – This is the time to romp and play, especially on clear days. As the leaves fall and you rake up piles play fetch or head off to a nearby dog park and enjoy some fetch. Always make sure your dog is up to date on all the needed vaccines.  This will keep your fur pal safe during dog on dog interactions in public play areas.


4)    Halloween Festivities – Check out the area for dog friendly fall festivals and Halloween parties, and find some fun attire for your dog. Giant spider? Ballerina? Fan dog of any sports team? Lion? Get creative and turn heads as you head out on the town with your costumed pal.

5)    Snuggle Time by the Fire – If it’s cold enough get a fire going – inside or out. Roast your marshmallows, drink your hot cocoa and snuggle up by the fire pit, or under the covers on the couch with your dog. Turn on your season premiers, and scratch behind the ears because if it’s something you enjoy, your 4-legged best friend will enjoy it too!

Seasons change, and so do the activities you enjoy, so why not include your dog in those. Their ultimate goal is just to be around their favorite humans.


Volunteer Spotlight: Alice Magby

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Our Volunteers span the country even though our rescue is localized to a 5-hour radius of Alexandria Virginia. This month’s Volunteer Spotlight falls on Alice Magby who lives in Hamilton, New Jersey and wears several hats behind the scenes that keeps the rescue running.

Alice is the Database Administrator, Pre-Adoption Puppy Coordinator, and Home Check Coordinator for the DC Area.  She also occasionally acts as an Adoption Coordinator and she handles transports for dogs once they are in the North.

With a long history of rescue volunteering, Alice spent 5 years in the high stress roll of coordinating transport for another rescue, where she met Luisa, the founder of Lu’s Labs. Always impressed by Luisa’s dedication to the dogs, Alice kept in touch and was thrilled when she heard Luisa was starting her own rescue. She began volunteering for the rescue in November of 2015 and the rest was history.

Alice has had many successes and fulfilling experiences while working in dog rescue. One of Alice’s most memorable moments was her first adoption as an Adoption Coordinator.”  The excitement of that young family adding a new member to their family was special, and knowing I had a small role in making that happen was beyond heartwarming,” says Alice. One of her favorite parts about being involved in rescue is “definitely knowing that I had a role in helping the dogs find their happily-ever-afters.”

With so many roles to fill Alice keeps busy with rescue activities but she says every minute and hour she spends is worth it when she sees dogs in need find their forever homes.

There are many aspects about working for this rescue that Alice find’s rewarding, and so many ways she loves this group.  She says, “I love the fact with this group that it is truly all about the dog and not about the egos of the volunteers.  You are allowed the opportunity to grow and learn with this rescue.  You are not limited to one role.  I love the fact this group truly works together as a team.  Someone is always available if you have a question or concern.  I have made so many wonderful friends in this group and I only wish I lived closer.”

As most of our rescue volunteers, Alice has her own resident dog love. She has an 8-year-old White German Shepherd named Cotton.  In July of this year, she lost his brother and litter mate, Max.  While not Lu’s Labs dogs they are honorary members and enthusiastic supporters of the Lu’s Labs family.

If there was ever an advocate of becoming a volunteer in dog rescue, that would be Alice! Her advice to newbie volunteers is to be prepared for some of the best moments of your life and also to take some of the sad things you see in rescue and understand the difference we are making. “Working with a rescue and helping dogs in need find their forever homes is extremely satisfying and truly warms your heart.”

For anyone considering working with rescue there are all levels of commitment and time investments that can be made to fit your schedule. Like Alice says, “If being a part of a team is important to you, Lu’s Labs is the rescue for you.

Falling in Love and Adopting - The Lu's Labs Way


Sometimes the dog you fall in love with on our website isn’t the dog you end up with – but you always end up with a dog you will love.

Our adoption process can be a little bit different than other rescues. It takes a little time to get through the vet checks, the reference checks, the interview, and the homecheck. But once you are approved your dedicated Adoption Coordinator (AC) works tirelessly to make that perfect match. Sometimes the dog that may have caught your eye on the website, is no longer available by the time you can start looking in earnest for your forever companion. And remember, there are other people like you who are also in the process of finding their family friend. So sometimes someone who has already been going through the process may be in line in front of you for the same dog.

We know it can be frustrating when you at first see a pup that you think you want, and he or she is not available to you. But the thing is about rescue, there is always another dog that needs rescuing. And they all have that endless capacity for love that labs exhibit. Each dog needs to be pulled from a shelter and given a chance at a wonderful life. And that’s what we do.

All our dogs are pulled from high kill shelters and bad situations in the south. (And now in some cases in Puerto Rico.) We have a great network of southern fosters that bring these dogs into their homes and show them love, sometimes for the first time for some of our dogs. They work with them on their manners, give them a roof over their head, make sure they experience treats and fun, and they get them all their initial vetting. The dogs get their shots up to date and go through a battery of tests. When needed dogs are spayed or neutered in the south, microchipped, and sometimes, if a dog needs surgery that will happen down in the south as well.  

With our well thought out process, the dogs start out in the south, and once they are ready for adoption they head to the north and are transported by another network of loyal volunteers who make up our transport team. Sometimes, when we have a concentrated group of dogs coming up from the same area, and we have it in our budget, we will pay for transport to the north. Once here they go into northern foster homes that can be anywhere from as far south as Suffolk, Virginia to as far north as Pennsylvania.  Once they are in their northern foster home, they are ready for their meet and greets. Most of our dogs are met within 7 days of arrival and go to their forever homes. AC’s explain the process in detail to each one of their applicants. 

AC’s work hard to help find the right matches and they are always hoping that their people will be the ones who get to meet the dogs of their applicants dreams. But just as there are many AC’s there are many qualified applicants. Patience is key and being willing to wait ensures that you will eventually get a dog that will be perfect with your family. We don’t try to force matches. Not every dog will match each person’s needs – no matter how soulful their eyes are.

Volunteer Spotlight: Preethi Manoharan


Our volunteers are gold to us at Lu’s Labs, without them our organization wouldn’t be able to function. Lu’s Labs runs 100% on volunteers and each person brings a special energy and set of expertise to the table.

It’s not a surprise that many of our volunteers are often previous adopters, this is the case with Preethi who adopted Watson a very special dog who was lucky enough to find a very special human.  Preethi did not wait for that perfect dog who seemed like he failed out of service dog school for being too social. Instead Preethi has been patiently loving and caring for Watson with his anxiety issues. She has taken him in and loved him unconditionally.

Preethi has seamlessly fit into the Lu’s Labs family as a volunteer filling a very important role. She keeps the website and the pet finder sites updated. This is no small task as dogs are continually adopted and are replaced with new rescues into the organization. Not only has she taken on this responsibility, but whenever she sees a need to update and improve the functionality of the website she puts in hours of coding time to enhance the website she inherited and put her own stamp of perfection on it.

In addition to her webmaster role, she is also involved on the fundraising team. “I’ve previously volunteered with other rescues as way to spend time with dogs and learn how to be a dog parent prior to being an adopter,” says Preethi. “When I was looking into adopting from Lu’s Labs I knew I wanted to volunteer here, it’s definitely my way of giving back.”

Every time Preethi gets to update the website because of an adoption it brings joy to her heart. “I love adoptions! Every time I update a dog to being adopted, I do a mini celebration with Watson,” says Preethi. In general, Preethi has a lot of fun with her role, she enjoys looking at photographs and videos of the dogs, reading their bios, and researching ways to edit and improve the website. Whenever anyone sees a need on the website and asks Preethi if she can create, fix, or improve something she flies into action making our website more user friendly.

“All this work helps me emotionally and mentally,” she explains. It is so painful to see the neglect and cruelty that is out there in the world toward animals, but knowing we are making a difference and to be a part of that difference keeps Preethi investing her hours into the rescue. “You become invested in every single dog and it feels good.” 

Since Preethi works behind the scenes she can fit the time in around her work schedule after her normal work day is done. She knows she may be putting in hours after work, but to her, “All the time is totally worth it!”

If you are interested in getting involved on the volunteer side of Lu’s Labs, please let us know. We are always looking for Foster Families, Adoption Coordinators, Bio Writers, Fundraising Volunteers, Homecheck Volunteers, and so many other places where you can help out. You can put in as few or as many hours as fit your schedule and we always welcome the help.

Tales From An Adoption Coordinator


It’s really important that you understand we are all volunteers. We do this because these dogs have a piece of our hearts. All of them. Every time a dog is listed on the Facebook page, or the website, a little piece of us says, “I want that dog!” But you know if you were to follow through with that, then you would be considered a dog-hoarder, and someone would come and take you away.

So that’s why you help other people get their dog “fix”. In fact, some have referred to us as sales people, dog pushers, and also dog angels, on any given day. Our priority is to find the best home for the dog. At Lu’s Labs it’s all about the dogs. But of course, there is the human element. If it’s the best home for the dog, it automatically must mean it’s the best dog for the home, the family, and the new life everyone will experience.

This means we need to get to know you. It means we may ask very personal questions. We want to know what your intention is with our dogs. At times it may seem harder to adopt a dog than it might be to adopt a child. And you know what? We are okay with that. At times it may mean we turn off a very qualified adopter. But you know what? That’s okay. If you take our questions too personally and defensively you really don’t understand what we are here to do for the dogs.

We know you are really excited and want a dog and you want it NOW! Many, many of us were once like you! We were on the other side of the adoption emails dealing with our own Adoption Coordinators, and we were thinking…but that dog on the website, I want THAT one!  And it’s sometimes hard for us to tell you that patience is a virtue, especially in this fast-paced world of instant gratification we live in.

But the truth is, we get far more qualified adopters -- wonderful people who want to adopt through us -- then we have the funding and the fosters to pull dogs. So, it may take time. But every adopter who has waited a while will tell you it was more than worth it. We AC’s are pretty good at helping you find your heart dog. The dog that will just melt your heart every time you look at his or her antics and that beautiful face and say, “where have you been all my life.”

We are here in your corner, but we are also here for the dogs. That is the binding factor that brings us all together after all. Rescuing dogs. As volunteers, as owners, we all want to see these fur babies have the best homes possible.  It’s well worth the wait!



Willow – Lu’s Labs Best Kept Secret Needs to Be Adopted


Willow is Lu’s Labs best kept secret. She is actually a success story that needs to be told. Remember success comes in many forms so as you read this tale of where we are from where we were, you have to give Willow high fives and breathe a sigh of relief for this girl. She’s come so far, and now we only ask that we find the perfect home that will take this love in and make her their own and help her continue on her path to healing.

Today, you wouldn’t know the journey she has been on. This happy go lucky affectionate girl knows all her commands, is fine in and out of a crate, and loves her people. She loves children and one of her favorite things is to find a patch of sunlight in the backyard and bath in it. This smart loving girl gives kisses and has figured out every puzzle game. She can be redirected from barking with treats and she has never destroyed anything. No counter surfing, no chewing on things that don’t belong to her, and she likes to be touching you, and when she truly trusts you she may even end up curled up in your lap or sleeping with you in bed. But this wonderful girl will not fit the rule of 3’s. She will not be quite like this in the first 3 days, or 3 weeks. She needs time. And you need to know her story.

This lovely black 4-year old girl came to Lu’s Labs from Louisiana and was adopted in July of 2017. At the time she was leash reactive and a barker. While the adopters worked with her with a trainer, they were exhausted with a new baby, and they lived in a very social environment with lots of dogs in the neighborhood. This just wasn’t an environment for Willow, so she came back to us in February of 2018. The adopters were so sad to see her go and continued to check up on her.

With so much change, Willow became even more dog reactive. If she saw a dog out the window she would bark for hours on end and could not be redirected. This was a hard situation because she is such a love. She is great with people. She is like a little kid, she is a creature of routines. Her favorite game is to pull all her toys out of the toy box looking for a squeaky toy that her adopters gave her. She has been so gentle with it and rolls over on her back and hugs the toy. Intelligence in this dog is an understatement. She can complete every puzzle game and learns fast.  She was generally anxious but if kept focused in the house she was fine.

Her foster family could not even take her for an evaluation with a behaviorist because at the front door she could hear other dogs barking and she wouldn’t go in. She was beside herself at every dog that passed by the windows and would be spread eagle across the couch barking her heart out. Finally, a trainer came in to do an evaluation and suggested covering the windows. This began to help. The vet put her on doggy Prozac and Clonidine which was basically like a doggy tranquilizer. Even increasing to maximum doses only had a minimal effect. This poor baby was stressed. And her day of reckoning was coming.


The hardest discussion to have in rescue is whether or not it’s time to have to put a dog down. What kind of life was Willow living? Constant anxiety, stress, and fear was not a good quality of life for the dog. We never take the task of putting a dog down lightly, and her foster was attached to this barking mass of nerves. “She is a really sweet dog. If she was a maniac and not a sweet or smart dog, or there was nothing precious about her, I don’t know if I would have been pushing so hard for more time.  She was unhappy. She had her bouts of sweetness and you could see her come through.”  Her foster mom wanted to make sure we investigated every avenue before making the final decision on Willow. No one wanted to see her have to make that trip over the rainbow bridge at just 4 years old. 

When foster mom raised the idea of CBD oil, the board deliberated over this new method. This would be the last attempt to see if we could find better results for Willow’s extreme reactivity. We researched it and made sure it was safe before beginning treatment. The results were like night and day!

Once we began the CBD oil with Willow her whole life changed, and the world opened up to her. Where she used to bark for hours on end at the German Shephard next door, now she can be out in the yard and if he comes to the fence she may bark a couple times, but she can be redirected. In 5 months with her foster, she is a completely different dog after a month of treatment on CBD oil. She is going for more walks and can be redirected from barking. She loves all the children in the neighborhood and every person she meets. Willow is a smart girl and knows commands like sit, down, stay, (come) here, and leave it. Treats motivate her, and she can be redirected now with the aid of the CBD oil.

This girl needs a patient forever home. A family that realizes this jewel is worth waiting for. It may take a couple of months for her to settle in, but once she does, her love and affection shines through. Over time she has become so comfortable she can cuddle up into foster mom’s lap after dinner and watch TV. While not a huge cuddler she is learning to give kisses. She is great with kids and people and is becoming less anxious and reactive thanks to the CBD oil. Her first adopters really loved her, tried hard with her, and wanted to keep her. But the barking and the new baby just were not conducive and the attention that was needed for Willow was just not available. She needs a home that will love her where she is and want to constantly work with her to provide love, comfort and training to continue her on her journey of healing and happiness.



Will You Be My Valentine - This is the Girl for You!


I can’t believe there are 54 adorable photos of me and yet still no one is stepping up to give me a forever home. I am truly an awesome, loving dog. I had a rough start when I came into rescue. I was found along with my 6 puppies, but I took wonderful care of them and they all found amazing homes. 

I am approximately 2 years old and weighing in at 44 pounds - I’m the perfect size. Not too big and not too small. I’m like a pocket lab.  I wish I could tell you more about my early years, but I’ve blocked that time out. It was not the loving environment I’ve experienced at my foster mom’s home. Once my babies were all adopted I went down to Richmond to live with this nice lady while I went through my heartworm treatment. She is patient and loving and her kids who are home from college think I am an awesome dog. I absolutely love my people. Being the fly weight that I am I make the perfect lap dog.

In my early weeks with the rescue, I was still figuring things out. I had never experienced love before, so naturally I was a little fearful. As time has progressed though I am quite comfortable in my own skin. Let’s face it, I kind of own my foster mom’s house, and all the people know I’m a soft black ball of love.  I love the outdoors, and I equally love to chase squirrels, but what healthy happy dog doesn’t?  I’m good in and out of my crate, I don’t need to be fed in there, but if you want me to eat in my crate I will. I have no problem with that thing these days, but my preferred happy place is to be as close to humans as possible. If you let me snuggle in your bed I will spoon with you. But if you want me to sleep on the floor I will respect your space, and only come up when invited.

I’ll do anything for a treat. Just so you know. And my happy dance? It could be on So You Think You Can Dance. I do the happy dance whenever I see my people when they come home, when they let me out of my crate, I’m just a super happy girl. Foster mom says I have an innate ability to sense when someone needs love, because if she’s feeling sad, I’m Johnny on the spot with kisses and nudges to make sure she’s okay.

With all this love I lavish upon people it should be a small ask that I have my own yard, and you understand that I may not take kindly to other dogs. I need to be an only child, and come on, with all the love I have to give, I really don’t see why you’d need any other pet. It’s just a fact. I’m gonna bark at other dogs. But I am rock solid in a thunder storm and I don’t react to fireworks.

Maybe over time, with the right training and consistency I can get over my reactions to other dogs, but you must love me for who I am right now. I think the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

Disclaimer: Please know this is a recently rescued dog that is still transitioning into a new home environment. Training, and even personality and energy levels are constantly evolving as the dog starts to feel better emotionally and physically. Your new dog will take days or even weeks to fully settle into his or her true self. What you read in this bio is a snapshot of this dog’s evolving personality. Additionally, the age listed is an estimate provide by the shelter and/or veterinarian. Different vets can provide different age estimates. So always consider the lab you are adopting to be within an age range of a couple years of what is listed

3 Steps to Calming Your Dogs During Fireworks


More pets are lost on the 4th of July than any other holiday.  This is mostly because of firework displays and the stress or anxiety they can bring on for dogs and pets in general.  Animal control officials around the country report on average a 30% uptick in lost pets each year between July 4th - 6th.

It’s not just rescues, but all dogs may or may not react to the loud noises and booms that the 4th of July or any holiday worthy of fireworks may bring. Your otherwise well-adjusted dog may have issues so it’s good to know these steps in order to keep your dog safe, secure, and as calm as possible during the festivities.

1.     Make Sure Your Dog has Proper Identification – If your dog does get out of the house as it’s seeking refuge either from your yard, or bolts through an unsecured door, making sure it has proper ID can save its life.  According to nationwide statistics, only 14% of lost pets are returned to their owners, and 30-60% are euthanized because they cannot be properly identified and returned to their owners.

2.     Stay Inside – Keep your doors secured and keep your pet inside safely during loud noises such as fireworks. In a perfect world someone will stay home with your dog and make sure they are not stressed out. But if not, make sure your dog is in a safe place. If you have to be outside with your dog, keep them leashed and under firm control.

3.     Comfort your Pet – There are a variety of ways to keep a pet comfortable and comforted during loud noises.

·      Safe spaces like their crates as a retreat

·      Thunder coats to make them feel more embraced

·      Calming treats and chews

·      Pheromone plugins

·      Aromatherapy – high quality essential oils diffused or applied topically*

·      Rescue Remedy and other supplements*

·      Calm Music

This 3-step approach will help your dog weather the artificial storm brought on by fireworks during the festivities to celebrate our independence. It may mean making modifications to your celebration plans but keeping your dog safe and stress-free is something to celebrate as well.

*please always use high quality aromatherapy products and supplements, learn how to use them before applying topically or aromatically, and make sure they are safe for your pets.




Can A Lu’s Lab Rescue Dog Go to Homes with Cats?


As an Adoption Coordinator for Lu’s Labs as well as a cat owner, and a Lu’s Labs adopter I feel I have the trifecta of experience to help other would-be adopters who also own cats… or who are owned by cats, whichever the case may be. Simply having a cat does not disqualify you from adopting a dog through our rescue. But it may take more time as we have to make sure that the dog will fit into a cat friendly household.

One of the reasons I volunteer for Lu’s Labs is because of how thorough they (we) are. When I first was looking at adopting through Lu’s Labs there was a dog I was absolutely in love with. She did indeed get along with cats, however the southern foster characterized her as “liking to play with cats.” I knew in my house of 3 cats who had been used to a dog that pretty much left them alone, that sort of personality would probably not work. But Luisa was patient with me and she found me the right dog that fit our home. Luisa was always caring about the resident cats as well as wanting to make sure she made the best match for one of her babies – the rescue dogs.

We never even “tried out” the first dog in my home because of my concerns, even though it was a foster to adopt situation. At Lu’s Labs, the goal is always to have the least transition for a dog. Rescue dogs have been through enough, we do not want them hopping from home to home as people “try out a dog.” And this is especially true with homes with cats. We want both the safety and well-being of the resident cat to be thought of, as well as the safety and well-being of one of our rescue babies. To that end, we have 4 different designations we use internally in all of our communications. This is done between the intake coordinators and the VP of Adoptions, VP of Fosters, and Medical Director so that they know where and how to best place a dog. Not only into a foster home, but into a forever home. All the adoption coordinators have access to this information on the dogs.

Lu’s Labs has a very definitive 4-part rating system to help the AC’s coordinate with their adopters and explain which dogs may be available to adopters with cats.

No – Well if a dog is a “no” with cats, it’s a no. This means the dog has, for whatever reason, proven itself to be untrustworthy living in a home with cats. Something has been observed either before Lu’s Labs took in the rescue, or during its evaluation, medical, or stay with a southern foster. We’ve deemed it not a safe dog to adopt to a home with cats. No means no.

Unknown – This means that we have not had a chance to observe this dog around cats. We have no idea how it will react, whether or not it will have prey drive toward a cat, and whether or not the two can co-exist in a home together. In these cases, we err on the side of caution and do not adopt these dogs out to homes with cats. Why tempt fate? Unknown dogs are just as much a no to cat homes according to Lu’s Labs, as a “No.”

Maybe – In a maybe situation that means the dog has come into contact with a cat but doesn’t necessarily live with one. It may be that the dog was temperament tested with a cat at the shelter, but that does not give a full picture. It may mean that the dog saw a cat out on its walk and didn’t chase it. It may mean that the dog encountered a cat and chased it but did not seem to want to harm the cat.  These scenarios are very short-term and have not been proven over longtime exposure through Lu’s Labs or previous owners. In a “Maybe” situation, then we will adopt the dog out to a home where the people have experience with dogs, and the cat is dog savvy. This still means proper introductions need to take place. Please see our protocol.

Yes – This is the rating with cats that a first-time dog adopter who owns cats needs to be looking for when it comes to adopting a Lu’s Lab. When a dog is a yes with a cat, that means that it has lived with a cat and has proven itself not to harm cats. But here’s the rub. Every dog and cat is different. Just like you aren’t going to be friends with every person you meet, not every dog and cat are going to be friends either. It is a process that takes time, energy, and effort. Just like my story in the beginning. I knew my cats well enough that I knew introducing a dog who wanted to play with them, wasn’t going to work. You have to know your cat. Yes does not automatically mean yes for every situation. And EVEN in a yes case, you MUST use proper protocol for introducing a dog and cat.

As a dog and cat owner you HAVE to want to take the time to introduce a dog to your cat and vise versa. Not all cats are easy going, and not all dogs are either. You have to have a plan in place. And if you are going to give up after a couple of hours, a day, or week, and return the dog because it’s not adjusting fast enough you are missing the point of adopting and rescuing a dog. They are not all perfect right out of the chute. But with love, care, and time they will learn and grow with your family. It may mean special training with a personal trainer that comes to your home, or a very patient and deliberate supervision that spans months.

Please check out our separate blog detailing cat and dog introductions and protocol.

Lu’s Labs Protocol for Introducing Cats and Dogs


The first introductions between the resident cat(s) and the new dog are a very important part of the process. One of the best methods is to separate the animals for the first few days to weeks. Others do it differently, but for the sake of it making or breaking an adoption, this is the best option.

Before bringing the dog home, the adopter should put the cat(s) in a room (e.g., a bedroom, a bath room, or a spare room). The room should be one the dog cannot access and doesn’t need to access. For example, if the dog sleeps in the bedroom with you at night, don’t pick that room for the cat. In the “cat room”, give the cat all needed supplies: litterbox, toys, food, and water. The idea is to separate them and only allow them to view each other during specific times. The best way to do this is by the use of a baby gate across the door. The gate needs to be a barrier that allows the cat and dog to see one another but does not allow them to access each other.

To begin desensitization, while keeping the new dog on a leash, let the dog view the cat briefly through the gate, and then get the dog to focus on something else such as playing with a toy or practicing cues. Praise and reward the dog for being able to focus elsewhere. Continue to give the dog short viewings of the cat throughout the day.

Sometimes even seeing the cat at first is too exciting for the dog. If this is the case, close the door and begin feeding each animal on his or her side of the door. The cat eats his food in his room, right next to the door, and the dog eats her meal on the other side of the door. This allows each animal to associate the smells of the other with something good: food. You can also swap out the blankets and bedding of each animal, giving it to the other that way, the dog can get used to the cat’s smell and the cat can get used to the dog’s smell, without overstimulating either.

Hopefully through this process of slowly letting the dog see the cat and get accustomed to the cat’s presence, the dog will eventually become desensitized and lose interest in the cat. In some cases, the dog will lose interest in the cat within a couple hours, but it can take days, weeks or even months. Each dog (and each cat) is an individual and will learn at his or her own pace.

Once you have given the cat and dog a chance to “smell” one another, the next step is to make leashed introductions. One person should hold the loose lead and watch the dog’s body language. If the cat is not raising his back or hissing around the dog he can be allowed to move around freely. A cat is rarely a threat to a dog, but some cats will be on the offensive when meeting dogs. Allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep the dog securely leashed. Continue with this type of introduction until the dog is calm and ignores the cat, and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally. Continue indefinitely until both the dog and the cat seem happy and relaxed around each other.

If the dog is calm around the cat, you can ask the dog to sit, or lie down and stay, if she has been taught those cues, while the cat moves freely, sniffing the dog if he wishes. The dog should be praised and rewarded if she ignores the cat. If the dog is too fixated on the cat (e.g., staring at the cat, has stiff body language, will not listen to you when you call her name) or if she lunges and tries to chase the cat, you should try a different strategy for getting them to share space, such as putting the dog in the crate and allowing the cat to walk freely around the crate.

***When no one is home, the dog or cat should be securely confined to separate areas so unsupervised interaction are not possible. Unsupervised time together can occur after the cat and dog have been supervised around each other for a significant period of time (A month or so) and you are positive they will not hurt each other.

Animals with good past experience often adjust well and quickly to a new pet in the house. But if introductions don’t go well, the adopters may need to seek help from a professional dog trainer. Punishment is never the answer, it will not help a d it could make matters much worse.

In an upcoming blog post we will go into more detail on how we decide a dog is okay to go to a home that has a cat. If you are interested in how we make these decisions please look for this upcoming blog post.








7 Reasons to Consider Adopting A Senior Dog

 Charlie, our available Senior at Lu's Labs

Charlie, our available Senior at Lu's Labs

“While some may call me a senior dog, I will just say that it means I have years of experience in the fine art of love and friendship,” Says Charlie, one of Lu’s Labs current senior dogs ready to find his forever home.

Charlie isn’t wrong. Adopting a senior dog can be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life. And not all seniors are created equally. Did you know that for labs, they are considered seniors around 7.5 years old? Yet many labs still have lots of energy at that age, and love to run and play. And lab mixes may have even more playful energy than their purebred friends. In many cases they still may have more than half their lives to live, and they are looking for a forever home that will love them just as much as a puppy.

1. Easy Going Energy

Often these older ladies and gentlemen come with a more laid-back life experience and are perfectly happy to perch on a couch, with a head in your lap and watch the world go by. While others may have a desire to run and jump and play!

2. Know Just Where to Go

Most older dogs have already learned the fine art of potty-training and will be a lot kinder to your floors. You may have to learn their cues to get the hang of when they want to go out, but often they are already in the know about indoors vs outdoors.

3. Your Wish is My Command

Older dogs don’t make it around the block a few times without learning a couple of basic commands. Often an older dog has had the opportunity to learn a little. And you know that old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” That’s not true. An old dog will learn if you give him or her a chance. The same as with puppies, gentle, positive reinforcement training, a few treats, and soon your older dog will get the hang of things.

4. Happiness is Everything
Most of the time older dogs end up in shelters through no fault of their own. Some common reasons why seniors end up in shelters include the death of an owner, a move happens where the dog can’t follow, a new baby is in the family, someone has developed pet allergies, the loss of a job, or some kind of change in the family dynamics or schedules where someone no longer feels they can care for their dog. Finding a happy home for these dogs who have been removed from their own warm secure place, is more important than ever before. Knowing love, and then losing it can be just as hard as never having known it before. A shelter can become a very scary place for these lovable seniors.

5. You are Saving a Life

Dogs that fall on the older side have a much harder time getting adopted. Too many people come into it with a preconceived notion that they will have less time. Yet time stands still when you have a loving dog. Each day is a great day. And at the end of a dog’s life we shouldn’t weigh it by how much time we had, but how great that time was. That’s why it’s so rewarding to give an older dog a home.

6. Health and Wellness

Sometimes there is a stigma attached to older dogs that they may be costly in vet bills. But the truth is, dogs of all ages cost money throughout their lifetime. Young dogs can develop unforeseen issues just as easily as older dogs. And for highly active young pups there are possibilities of ACL tears and other injuries associated with heavy play, not to mention just about anything else under the sun. Having an honest assessment of a dog’s health as you adopt them will prepare you for the future costs of care. But remember, just like your kids and your own health, a dog will stay healthier if you work toward prevention and wellness before anything develops by keeping up healthy exercise, food, and proper doggy weight, and find out some of the key supplements and preventative actions you can take along the way. Make sure no matter the age of a dog you adopt, you always think about a reasonable budget for health along with the regular expenses, such as training, food, treats, toys, and other doggy essentials.

7. Age Has no Guarantees

Whether you adopt a puppy or a senior dog, there is no guarantee that they will live to a certain age.  With dogs, it’s not the number of years we have with them that’s important, it’s the quality of life we bring to each other. And with each dog that enters our lives, they leave a piece of their heart with us. The longer we live and the more dogs we have, the more our hearts will become dog hearts full of love and loyalty. The next time you see a senior dog in need of a home, think of the loving heart inside that dog, and how he or she can be a sweet addition to your family.

Next time you see a little grey in the chin and around the eyes that means this dog has lived, and you have the opportunity to help them grow older into their golden years. Senior dogs are rewarding, loving companions, that warm your heart and enhance your life. Don’t pass up the opportunity to help a senior.


Adopt Don’t Shop: 8 Reasons Why - They May Surprise You


No doubt you’ve heard the phrase adopt don’t shop, and you may often wonder what that means. After all, when you adopt a dog through a rescue there are fees attached to that. So, isn’t that also shopping? I mean the dog isn’t free… When you rescue a dog, you are not buying a dog, you are rescuing it. At the same time, you are funding an organization, saving a life, and sometimes you are even keeping money out of the hands of people who are more concerned about making a profit off the lives of animals vs. considering their health and welfare.

Likewise, when you decide to buy a dog from a breeder, a pet store, a craigslist ad, a yard sale site, a backyard breeder…you are not adopting a dog. You are buying it! Your money is not going to fund a charity, or a help organization. It is not helping to remove dogs from shelters or keep them out of harm’s way. It is funding the future breeding efforts and financial gain of the person or organization selling the dog. Even worse, it could be funding a larger industry like the puppy mills who prey upon people’s lack of knowledge about a breed, and the conditions where they operate.

And no…please don’t say you are saving the dogs from the puppy mill. Supply and demand. If you continue to purchase from sources that will utilize these mills, you continue to unwittingly contribute to the problem.

In the rescue world we really want everyone to get the semantics right. It’s important that you understand what you are supporting when you “buy” a dog. You may be supporting a reputable dog breeder…but have you truly done your homework?

The Following are the 8 Reasons Why You Should Adopt Not Shop

Save a Life – Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year nationwide according to the ASPCA. While not all are doomed to the fate of euthanizing, according to a study done by Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine approximately 780,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters per year. When you adopt through a shelter or rescue, you are helping to make it possible for as many dogs as can be saved, to live a wonderful life.

Breeding Shouldn’t be Done by Novices – The term is backyard breeders. Backyard breeders are often pet owners that want to make a few bucks by breeding their purebred pet, but actually have no knowledge about genetic health issues in the pet partners. If it seems like a bargain-basement price for a purebred there is probably a reason. Even if it’s not a bargain price, do your research on the breeder, the blood lines, the possible genetic disorders, and make sure you are well informed. Don’t just get that “cute purebred” you’ve always wanted because a litter is available.

Fund a Rescue and Save Even More Lives – When you adopt through a rescue, not only are you helping to save the life of the dog you are adopting, the money you pay toward adopting that dog will go toward helping to pull another dog to safety, vet that dog, and give that dog a chance at a wonderful life. And the cycle continues to free dogs from the threat of being euthanized.

25% of the dogs in Local Shelters are Purebreds – Owner surrender and even breeder surrender can be the cause of purebreds landing in shelters. Truly examine why you are looking for a purebred in the first place. Is it a necessity? And why? If it is, you can find purebreds when you go through shelters and rescues. It will be harder to verify, but is your plan to show the dog? To present its papers? Or is it because you’ve heard that a certain breed sounds like a perfect fit for your family?

1 in 10 – Only one out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.  Rather than supporting those that will continually breed dogs, consider adoption and lets all hope this number will become more equal over time by the choices we make.

Don’t Support Puppy Mills – You’ve heard the term, but do you know what one is? This is a commercial dog-breeding facility that focuses on quantity and profits over the health and wellness of the dogs. Female dogs are bred repeatedly, with no breaks between litters, and are discarded to shelters or killed when they can no longer reproduce. An estimated 2.11 million puppies originate from puppy mills each year, and yet the conditions can be deplorable. Medical attention is atrocious. Food and water can be contaminated. Do not support the continued demand that allows these kinds of conditions to flourish. Being uninformed about where your purchased pooch is coming from supports the continuation of these inexcusable situations.

Purebred Health Risks – Purebred dogs, may look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, there can be many issues depending on the breed, and the breeder that cause these dogs to have a short and sometimes painful life. These genetic issues have developed over the last two centuries when popular characteristics were desired, thus caused by inbreeding to get the desired results. Anything from hip dysplasia in labs, breathing problems in bulldogs, serious heart conditions or neurological disorders in King Charles Cavaliers, and the list goes on… to maintain purebred lines, there are often inbreeding practices that shorten the lifespan of your beautiful dog. Would you rather have a dog with papers that will live for 8-10 years (Or less) Or a healthy happy mutt that has a life of 14-17 years. (Remember no life span is guaranteed no matter the dog, but the quality of life for a dog is just as important as the quantity.)

The Emotional Rewards are Endless – There is just something about adopting a dog who has been dealt a bad hand, that can tug at your heart strings and make you feel happy every day that you made a difference in your 4-legged family member’s life. This is something that’s unquantifiable yet anyone who has ever rescued a dog can tell you, there is a level of emotional attachment, that comes with knowing this animal was lost, and now it is found. And in a happy, warm, and loving home. Often the rescues actually rescue us instead.

We hope you will consider adopting through Lu’s Labs, but if we don’t have the dog for you, please adopt through another reputable rescue, or shelter and give a dog a chance at life and love.

(Below is a helpful chart that everyone who breeds dogs should think about before breeding, it's also an eye opener for people who are considering buying a purebred and why.)


Is Your Heart Large Enough for a Doghouse Fire Puppy?


Dog house Fire Puppies (aka St. Patrick's Day Litter)

We are all drawn to Lu’s Labs Labrador Retriever Rescue for many reasons. Some of us want to adopt Labradors, some of us want to facilitate the rescue of Labradors, and some of us look to Lu’s Labs to care for and find homes for dogs we can no longer provide for.

The sad story we want to share today illustrates all those different kinds of Labrador love. On December 14, a litter of 7 puppies was born in Louisiana. Mom is a pure bred black girl, who days before her spay appointment, was visited by an AKC registered golden retriever, Duke, who could not resist the temptation of Misty. The kids in this family begged and pleaded and won the approval of their parents to keep the puppies. Kids and puppies, right? They were made for each other!

The puppies came, were weaned, and received their shots and regular veterinary care. On January 31, tragedy struck. The heat lamp in the doghouse caused a fire. The fire was discovered quickly, and all the puppies were saved. Although the owners sustained severe injuries and were rushed to the ER.

The puppies have scars, understandably. But, they have all been lovingly cared for with regular penicillin shots, special baths, and creams administered daily to their skin. Their family showered love on them to help them heal, through and through. And, Lu’s Labs has added daily laser treatments to their regular care in an effort to reduce the scarring and increase the healing.

Despite this tragedy, these puppies have thrived. The love showered on them by their first family and the careful care that was administered to their wounds have allowed these puppies to be the best they can be. These puppies like all young puppies are playful, curious, and love to have things in their soft mouths. They are scarred. But their labbiness has conquered all and shown though as they healed from this awful, awful calamity.

Overwhelmed and understandably exhausted by this responsibility, this family turned to Lu’s Labs to find homes that will continue to show these very special puppies the care and comfort they deserve.

So, we come to the third type of person drawn to Lu’s Labs. You, dear adopter. You are the answer to all our prayers. The prayers of these puppies, especially. These puppies who literally survived fire and are now with Lu’s Labs. These puppies, now 4 months old, healed after their misfortune, need you, dear adopter. They need you to continue to love them and cherish them. These puppies are very special. They survived tremendous odds to become a member of your family. There is no question that these puppies will give love freely and unconditionally, as labs do. But also, as survivors of a horror few of us can imagine.

Is your heart large enough for a Doghouse Fire Puppy? Please fill out an application on our website and let us know that you are specifically interested in the Doghouse Fire Pups! We have 3 girls and 3 boys available!

Spring Has Sprung – Tips for Your Dog's Safety


FINALLY. If you are in the Northern VA, MD, DC area - up until the other day it’s felt like day 182 of January.  But now that the weather is getting better what sort of spring hazards may exist for your dog?

Chemical Care in Gardening – Many soils, fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides contain harmful chemicals that aren’t good for your four-footed friends. Make sure to find as many toxic free options as possible, if you do have to use dangerous chemicals, make sure to read pet recommendations and store away from your animals. Also supervise your pets when around them in the garden.

Be Aware of Toxic Plants – While colorful blooms are a pretty addition to any spring garden, make sure to be aware of which plants can be toxic to your dogs. Spring staples like azaleas and rhododendron can be fatal if eaten. The list of toxic plants can be long, it’s best to do your research before planting your garden, or make sure your fur babies are supervised and staying out of the flower beds.

Riding in the Car – Nothing is more fun for doggies than going for a car ride to parks, hikes, and outdoor adventures! While your pal may like the wind in his face, make sure to buckle up with doggy seat belts and harnesses for safety. Likewise allowing your dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, or with heads stuck out windows of moving cars can be dangerous due to flying debris, bugs, and other vehicles. Buckle up for safety.

Hazards of Home Improvement – Spring is the time we break out the paint, the cleaners, and other materials to spruce up the house. Just make sure to be aware of storage and use of such products and keep Fido out of the fray. Whenever possible look for green cleaners that are not toxic to your pets.

Buggy Beware – With spring showers, mosquitoes and other menacing pests are more prevalent. Make sure you are staying current on all of your heart-worm and flea and tick prevention. It only takes one mosquito bite from the wrong bugger to transmit heart-worm to your pet. The same goes for tick-borne diseases, and no one wants a flea infested home.

Allergy Alerts – When the seasons change it’s not just us humans that find ourselves allergic to the elements, sometimes our dogs are too. This may manifest in itchy skin, and even anaphylactic reactions to stingy bugs. If you are concerned your pet may be sneezing, sniffling, or exhibiting other possible allergy issues, make sure to make a trip to your vet. Relief can be simpler than you may think.

Now that the weather is FINALLY getting nicer, enjoy your time out and about and bring your pups with you, but make sure when you do they are safe and sound.

3 Ways to Combat Counter Surfing - Remove, Redirect, Reward

 Photo by LucBrousseau/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by LucBrousseau/iStock / Getty Images


Counter surfing, this all too frequent dog behavior is actually quite natural.  In order to curb counter surfing it’s important to understand the potential reasons for the behavior as well as some ways to combat this unwanted circumstance or to reshape their behavior.

Why Does My Dog Counter Surf?

Counter surfing is a dog’s drive to cruise counters and tables for food items – not just objects. Objects would fall under the category of attention seeking, while food is a much more primal drive.

·      Seeking food is a primary instinct for dogs as well as other animals on the planet, so it’s no surprise that when a dog smells something yummy on top of the counter, it may be something that requires investigation.

·      Your dog has been successful before in finding food on a counter top or a table either because food was left on a counter and they found it, or you fed them scraps as you were cooking. This has now been established as a hunting ground.

·      It’s a high value reward, and thus something your dog is seeking. Let’s face it, your most food motivated dogs are the ones who become counter surfers.

How Can I Deal with This?

The main wait to combat counter surfing is simply to remove the temptation. This works 99.9% of the time, however it means we need to make a change in our own behavior. Even if a dog is taught to leave food on a table or during training on the floor, when left unsupervised, that training may only go so far. Why set your dog up for failure?

Remove – Control the environment. Why set your dog up for failure? It is up to us as dog owners to change our behavior.  If you have a habit of keeping bread, pastries, etc. on the counter tops move them to inaccessible locations. (This does not mean the back of the counter.)  Ideal locations are away in pantries, refrigerators – on top or inside – inside the microwave, the oven. Anywhere that will best remove the temptation. Do not feed scraps to your dog from the table or the counter top.

Redirect – The truth is, if you are cooking and a dog smells those amazing smells we have all likely experienced dogs under foot. Redirecting their actions and activity to another diversion is key in safely cooking without a dog in your cooking space, or worse…on a counter. Teaching a dog to go to their bed, their place, or to play in another room can be done through effort and household cooperation.

Reward – As you are teaching your dog to utilize a different behavior such as going to their place, make sure you reward them with high value treats (not from your counter tops) for complying with your training. Reinforce this with clicker training, and soon you will be able to redirect your dog out of the kitchen while you are preparing food.

Can I Train the Dog Not to Counter Surf?

Well, again, short of removing the temptations training is a difficult thing. There are 4 phases when a dog counter surfs. When the spot the food, when they put their paws up on the counter to investigate the food, when the dog grabs the food, and when they eat the food.

If you are not catching the dog in the early phases and using positive ways to redirect them, your corrections will be frustrating and ineffective. Yelling at a dog once they have jumped on the counter, pulled the food down, or eaten it, won’t compute to your pup.

You need to find ways to positively redirect the dog when it discovers there is food on the counter. If you see the dog move to the counter, or jump on the counter, plug a dog treat into his nose and lure him off or away from the counter. When his feet hit the ground say yes or click and give him the treat. After much practice incorporate the command off.

But let’s face it, we don’t want to entice our dog to jump on the counter in order to train the off command. In reality we don’t often see when our dogs jump on the counter because it is a crime of opportunity. Rather than driving yourself insane with this behavior. Remove the temptation, redirect them to their place when you are cooking, and reward their good behavior.

On a side note, sometimes rescue dogs are persistent counter surfers because they had to scavenge for food. Who knows how long they may have been strays. Or under fed because they were not well treated in their previous circumstances. But over time, as they realize they have a consistent food source, with a loving family, and no longer have to forage – you may see their behavior dissipate. But it can take months and months or even years.

Should Your Dog Be a Therapy Dog?

 Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

In our last blog post we talked about the difference between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support dogs. In this segment we are going to talk more about Therapy Dogs – the pros and cons of certification, and whether or not your dog should be a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs are not registered service dogs, and do not enjoy the same benefits on a personal level of helping their handlers but rather are trained and used to help others in a variety of situation. Therapy dog’s may be found in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice situations, schools, disaster areas – just about anywhere comfort is needed. Recently you may have seen a picture of the therapy dogs greeting the survivors in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting.


Does My Dog Have the Ability to Become a Therapy Dog?

It takes a certain dog to really be a therapy dog.

We all think our dogs are the sweetest angels on the planet, but when it comes to control and personality there are several things to consider and weigh when deciding whether or not to pursue therapy dog activities.

Therapy dogs typically have gentle, friendly, confident dispositions. They are tolerant, and well behaved in a variety of situations. They don’t startle, and they do not exhibit behaviors such as jumping, nipping, or shying away from touch. Their primary purpose is to make contact in therapeutic situations. To this end they must be comfortable with strangers, clumsy petting, and responsive to commands given by their handlers/owners.

A Lu's Lab Alumni, Svamal Machang, who has taken his Lu's Lab Ollie through the PAL's Program (See below) Says, "I think it comes down to trusting and knowing your dog. Is this something they would enjoy, and do you know your dog well enough to gauge how they’ll react in unpredictable situations."

Is There Required Training?

There are a variety of organizations out there that “certify” dogs as therapy dogs. For the most part, there is no set training program that is required. Nor a set of standards by which a dog must be trained before being certified. However, the best certification agencies do require dog and handler to go through a rigorous test of temperament and behavior. 

"Turns out, there’s no legal definition or status called therapy dog," says Machang, "It’s mostly about being under the umbrella of a group that can take care of the paperwork and insurance."

What kind of Registration is Required?

Well this is where it gets tricky. There are lots of organizations out there that offer “Certification” from websites to actual training facilities. Some don’t require any training at all, you just have to pay your fee. It’s important that if you want to take this on and really have your dog become a therapy dog, that you research reputable programs and make sure your dog has the temperament and manners to behave in a variety of situations.

Of the program Machang went through, he says, "You basically need to show that both you and the dog are friendly, communicate well and get along with other dogs and people."

What are Some Resources to Start?

Therapy Dog’s United – A non-profit with its own certification and testing program as well as connections to a network of facilities that utilize volunteer certified therapy dogs.

AKC Therapy Dog Program – Both purebreds and mix breeds can go through AKC certification programs. This is mainly a title and recognition program for a dog that is already performing visits on site with an agency.

Therapy Dogs International – Founded in 1976 this is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing, and registering therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers.

Local Resources

Alliance of Therapy Dogs -  This used to be called Therapy Dogs, Inc., or TD Inc.  Lu’s Labs, head of training Linda Deam, did Pet Therapy through this group with two of her dogs several years ago.  The dogs were tested prior to being accepted into the TD Inc. program.  She worked with a local group and they followed a strict set of rules.  TD Inc. set the rules and everyone paid a yearly fee to join.  TD Inc. provided insurance as well.

PAL -  This is the local group some of our Lu’s Labs alumni, including Machang have used. PAL’s certification process is 3 steps, one orientation and two on site evaluations, there is a $100 application fee.

Pet Partners - This is another well-known therapy dog program that is worth checking into.

Ultimately this is an activity that can bring dog owners (Handlers) and their dogs together in a rewarding activity. "Seeing the joy in children’s faces as they read to Ollie, and how they persevere through their difficulties to read to him. There’s no fear of judgement, just a kid reading to a dog," Says Machang.

Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Animals: What's The Difference?


Wouldn’t a world where we could take our pets anywhere with us be an amazing thing? From planes to restaurants, some of us want our pets to be a part of our everyday life. So much so that some try to side step the system. This can be harmful to those in true need.

In reality our pets don't cross over to the category of service dogs. There are 3 types of categories when it comes to dogs that “assist” us. Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals. Each category is important to understand especially if you are considering a dog for a specific need, a specific task, or a specific reason. Under the law they all have varying degrees of rights and they are not all equal.

Service Dogs

While not to diminish the role of therapy dogs and how they can be helpful to many people in a variety of situations, nor discount the role of emotional support animals and how they impact the lives of their owners - A service dog is the only animal of this group that is highly trained and afforded special access where other animals would not pass.

Service dogs are highly trained team members that work with their handler’s specific needs. They help mitigate their handler’s disability and afford them safety and independence that may otherwise hinder an individual’s daily life without a Service Animal. This is the only case where the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to bring their into otherwise forbidden places. It is also important to note that under the DOJ/HUD/FHA The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act, Service Animals cannot be barred from otherwise pet restricted housing. The DOT Air Carrier Access Act also provides accommodation for Service Animals.

It is not possible to simply send away for a certificate or pay a fee and have a dog certified as a service animal. Simply buying a vest doesn’t cut it either.

Therapy Dogs

While therapy dogs also receive special training, they are for completely different purposes than service dogs, and the training is much more broad and forgiving. Whereas Service Dogs work for their handlers to provide specific needs and tasks, therapy dogs are utilized to assist individuals other than their handler/owner. These dogs are often chosen for their easy-going personalities and steady temperaments. They are often utilized in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other locations to provide companionship and comfort for patience, residents, and students in need.

Therapy dogs have many benefits and have a variety of jobs, they are not afforded the same rights under the ADA, DOT, and DOJ/HUD as Service Dogs. Therapy dogs go through their own set of standardized training and certification depending on their purpose.  At the end of the day they do not have the same jobs or legal designation as Service Dogs.

Many pet owners do seek out and successfully have their own pets certified as therapy dogs. We will explore this in more detail in our next blog post.

Emotional Support Dogs (Animals)

From Hamsters to Peacocks we’ve heard it all lately when it comes to emotional support animals, the truth of the matter is emotional support animals are far different from service dogs and therapy dogs.

Emotional support animals can be virtually any animal that its owner finds to be supportive for their emotional needs. There is no specialized training, required behavior, or certification necessary to be an emotional support animal. And no species classification. While not to diminish the role of an emotional support animal and the comfort they afford their disabled owners, there is very little oversight in designating an animal as emotionally supportive.

But in all seriousness, there are many scams out there providing quick certificates for animals claiming they are emotional support animals. A true emotional support animal is not a pet, but a companion animal to an individual with a verifiable mental or psychiatric disability. As such it is this type of animal that, while not afforded the rights under the ADA, they are given rights under the HUD and FHA – Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and landlords must make reasonable accommodation for such animals. And Emotional Support Animals are not required to have any kind of specialized training.

Emotional Assistance animals do not bypass rules for air travel or fall into the same category as Service Dogs. And with more and more people abusing this status airlines are cracking down on animals allowed on flights. On the lighter side of things for a good laugh, read this emotional support animal journey with The New Yorker contributing writer, Patricia Marx.

Since many people often wonder how to get their dogs certified as therapy dogs, we will explore the pros and cons of therapy dogs in our next blog post.


Guest Post: My Experience with Seperation Anxiety


The following blog post is from a Lu's Lab adopter and Volunteer, our very own Samme Menke Drake. This post may help anyone experiencing separation anxiety with some tips and tricks. This is no substitute for visiting with your vet, a trainer, or a behaviorist to come up with a plan that is specific to your dog. But it is good to know that you are not alone, and that with patience and love you can overcome hurtles and provide a loving home for a rescue dog in need.

"We adopted our dog through Lu’s Labs Rescue in the fall of 2015 and had learned through our adoption coordinator that Henry (then Cooper) had spent at least the last year, and possibly longer, living out his days in a crate on the back porch of his family’s home in Georgia.

We were happy that the family had decided they could no longer care for him so that we could give him a better life. When Henry came to live with us, we were on the 9th floor of a high-rise apartment and while we were providing him plenty of space and exercise, we quickly discovered his separation anxiety.

The first week we had him, we were working from home to ensure that he was bonding with us and learning to trust us. We were crating him overnight and whenever we left. He escaped the crate a few times when we left, so we used extra zip tie closures to completely secure the crate.

The next time we were gone for roughly one hour, he had a complete panic attack. When my husband came in from his doctor appointment, Henry couldn’t even see him he was so crazed – spitting, screaming and slamming his head into the crate until he bled. After that, we stopped crating him and left him out in the open. While he mostly behaved out on his own, he constantly tried to escape the apartment, including learning to open the door. It was also clear that he had been pacing around the door as his “happy tail” wound had opened back up and left blood marks all over our walls around the entrance.

The next time we left him alone, we decided to put him in our bedroom and close the door so that he wouldn’t accidentally let himself out of our apartment. We left him for 45 minutes and when we returned we learned that he had another panic attack and dug the carpet all the way to the subfloor trying to escape.

Finally, we decided to put him in the bathroom with our laptop computer to watch him from our couch to see how he would react in the room alone (note: we didn’t even need to leave the apartment). We gave him a frozen kong treat and shut the door. Within the first 30 seconds, he abandoned his kong. Began to cry and started pacing. He then tried to open the door and began to panic. He peed on the floor and laid down in it. Then paced again. We watched him for 12 minutes as he completely lost it – exhibiting pretty much every symptom of a panic attack except drooling. (Note: the key to most of these symptoms is two-fold. 1. He clearly focused on exit points of the home. It wasn’t general destruction – it was an attempt to escape. 2. He struggled with being in enclosed spaces – even just being in a room by himself.)

Note: If your situation is far less intense, it could be a number of different things. Maybe your dog needs more exercise, more mental stimulation, is generally bored, or isn’t getting enough routine/discipline.

If your situation sounds similar, I highly recommend meeting with an experienced and licensed trainer to determine the method forward. Below is a description of what we went through and honestly, having someone to help us through it was the only way we would have been able to do it.

After this episode, we called a licensed trainer who specialized in this particular issue. After describing all of the above, she said it sounded very much like Separation Anxiety – not just a transitional issue, boredom or lack of exercise – it was much more than that.

Our trainer came to do an in-person evaluation and confirmed that this was indeed a Separation Anxiety issue, but he was also exhibiting some low-level anxiety symptoms in general (which she actually said was a positive thing because he may respond better to medication). We sought the advice of our vet and he was prescribed Fluoxetine (i.e. Prozac).  We were also given other ideas – such as a pheromone collar, Rescue calming drops, thunder shirts – some we tried, and some we didn’t. We didn’t really see any improvement with those.  

The method she recommended was incredibly intense and would definitely be a challenge, but she said if we put in the time and effort that he would end up being an amazing dog.

Devastated, but refusing to give up, we took on the challenge. Essentially, for six months we did not leave our dog alone (combination of daycare, babysitters and working from home made this possible).

We began with some easy training – teaching him the basics including sit, stay, down, etc. Our trainer emphasized that giving him these commands helped him to trust us and would teach him to be less impulsive. It helped him understand that we were in control and that we would take care of any of the “scary” things he might encounter when we are in the elevator, or walking outside.

Then, we taught him to “go to place,” which was essentially his bed that we would move around our apartment and practice sending him to it from various places – then slowly backing away or jumping up and down – the more focused he was and if he stayed in place, we would reward him with a treat. Then we gradually started moving out of his sight line.

Getting him to stay while we left the room was a major victory. Once we mastered that, we introduced a baby gate barrier. And again, started rewarding him for staying on his “place” for various time frames, or if we moved out of sight, etc. We aimed to spend about 30 minutes to an hour a day practicing these things.

Because Henry is very food motivated, we saw progress in him immediately – not with the Separation Anxiety because we still weren’t leaving him alone yet. After a few months, our trainer said it was time to start popping out of the apartment for less than 30 seconds a few times a day. We slowly built that time up from 30 seconds to minutes until we reached 20 minutes.

We invested in Nest cameras so that we could monitor him through the process. If he showed any signs of a panic attack coming on, we could come back in. We would go sit in the lobby and watch on our phones. After he was able to handle 20-30 minutes alone – that’s when we were able to start pushing the envelope further. Finally, we built up to a few hours and continued to see Henry improve. Our lives were back to normal.

Then we moved.

We were really concerned that the move would set him back, so before we moved in, we would take him over to our house to get a feel for it. We knew in the long-run the house (with a yard) would be better for him, but we didn’t want him relapsing. We let him warm up to the idea by leaving him alone for very short periods of time and watching him on our cameras.

We realized that the front door was a source of anxiety, so we stopped letting him near it when we left – basically putting the baby gate at the top of the stairs so he was forced to stay in the main living space with the comfort of his couch and a big window to look out of.

Aside from a few tiny bumps in the road, Henry has fully recovered from his Separation Anxiety. He is still on his medications, which we may consider weening him off eventually, but for now it’s working and he’s happy.

Overall, I definitely think the house environment is much more suited for him. Because he came from such a rural area, I think the constant interactions with people in the apartment building, as well as the construction noises and everything else he was adjusting to, exasperated his issue. He feels much more at home in our house."

As you can see, with love, patience, and time as well as the advice and intervention of experts it is possible to get through seemingly difficult behaviors with your dogs. Remember, whenever you adopt a dog from rescue their behaviors may take a while to come out, and they are not solvable overnight. You are helping save lives when you rescue and adopt. With it comes responsibility.

Ice and Snow: 7 Tips to Keep Your Dogs Safe in Extreme Cold Weather


Okay we concede that extreme is different in different locations and Lu’s Labs rescues dogs all over the south and brings them up to the north, so some dogs may not like the cold. How can we protect our dogs against extreme weather no matter where we live?

1 - Deciding What’s Too Cold for Your Dog – First off, think about what is too cold for you, and it’s probably too cold for your dog. Weather and wind-chill below 32 Fahrenheit can cause hypothermia and frostbite for your dog. (And of course for you too!)

2 - Stay Indoors -  If anyone knows our rescue, dogs are indoor family members, not outside pets. At least not to us. That means that in extreme whether you shouldn’t be leaving your dogs outdoors and dog houses are not sufficient shelter for a dog. Maybe their ancestors were pack animals that lived outside, but our domestic dogs are not. And when they ran in packs they had other warm bodies to curl up with. Dogs, especially Lu’s Labs, belong inside, by the fireplace, snuggled in your blankets, and, for most of us, on the couch.

3 - Check Your Dog’s Paws – Walking in ice and snow can damage your dog’s paws. Check for cracking and bleeding, and make sure ice is not accumulating between toes. Some people go to extremes and get dog socks or boots, and while this may be helpful in some cases, also examine your dog’s level of comfort. The best course of action is to limit walks in cold weather.

4 - Wipe Down Feet, legs, and Bellies – While walking around your dog can pick up de-icing chemicals, salt, and antifreeze along with other chemicals unsafe for your pets. If you keep dog safe wipes by the door you can wipe down their paws and under carriage and legs to reduce the possibility of poisoning and illness from these harmful chemicals.

5 - Use Pet Safe Chemicals – While you can’t help what your neighbors do, you can help what is in and around your sidewalk and driveway. There are pet safe de-icers out there that will reduce your dog’s exposure to harmful contaminants. Again, try when you can to avoid walking across chemicals. It can cause burns and abrasions to your dog’s paws. Refer back to tip number 4 whenever in doubt.

6 - Avoid Anti-Freeze Spills – It is common practice during winter months to change or top off car coolant and anti-freeze. Chemicals within the anti-freeze have a sweet smell and taste that can seem attractive to your dog yet are extremely toxic when ingested. The ethylene glycol in these substances can cause severe illness and death to pets. Minutes can make a different when it comes to getting your dog help.

7 - Rock Salt Poisoning – Rock salt is a mixture of salt (Sodium Chloride) and grit and is commonly used to de-ice winter roads. It can be harmful to dogs though it’s hard to say how much needs to be ingested in order to cause damage. Ingesting rock salt (And even common table salt) can lead to high blood sodium which can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargic behavior.  In severe cases there is a risk of convulsion and kidney damage. If suspected dogs should be taken to a vet for evaluation.

Bottom line, when in doubt, when it’s cold out, keep your dogs’ exposure to a minimum to severe temperatures. Make sure you have plenty of indoor games and things to keep them occupied. Brain games, toys, and supervised play…otherwise you may just lose a shoe or two while waiting for the winter weather to subside.


Be Aware of the Dangers of These 4 Dog Toys


How do you choose the best dog toys for your dogs and how do you avoid the pitfalls and hazards that come along with dogs…toys…and chewing?

This is a never-ending question that doesn’t always have a straight forward answer because some dogs treat their toys differently than others. Some dogs are prolific chewers. Some like to disassemble toys but don’t swallow the parts. Other dogs, will ingest anything they can get their paws on… so how do you know what is safe for your pets?

This could be a really long post if we tried to tell you all the toys you can buy that are tough, and all of those that you should stay away from. Instead we will talk about 4 of the most common toys and chews on the market.

As we discuss toy dangers it is important to know that 95% of the time, when your dog swallows foreign objects, they will pass through their system without incident. It’s that other 5% of the time that can be life threatening and result in expensive vet bills or worse.

Rope Toys – From a tug of war stand point and if you play with your dog or supervise your dog this can be a fairly safe toy. BUT if you leave a dog to their own devices and their goal is to pull the rope apart and ingest it, then it should be a toy kept out of reach.

The Dangers: Strands of rope can be very dangerous when swallowed. Vets categorize this as a “linear foreign body.” The danger occurs when one part of the rope is stuck in the stomach and the other part of the rope makes it into the intestines. The digestive system attempts to pass this through its system, and it begins to cinch on itself like the drawstring in a pair of sweatpants. This slowly tightens the digestive track and can become life threatening and painful. Even small pieces of rope overtime can accumulate like hairs in a shower drain causing a blockage.

If your dog is continually trying to strip off the pieces of rope, even if this is a favorite toy, it’s best to find a different toy for your dog friend.

Nylabones – In the constant quest for something for prolific chewers some pet owners are divided about Nylabones.  There are pros and cons to these synthetic pet chews and you will get varying opinions on the use of these chew toys. While the pros are that these help promote healthy chewing (And saves your couch from time to time) and provide mental stimulation, there are some cons as well.

The Dangers: When unsupervised some dogs can chew these into small pieces that are not digestible. They can cause intestinal blockage, and when chewed into sharp shards can also pose a threat by puncturing the intestines.

Sometimes ring chews give a dog less purchase to break off small pieces and Nylabone does have some rings that may work well for your needs. Again supervising is the key. Know what your dog is doing to the toys you provide.

Rawhides – Again, the debate is real. So many vets, rescues, and dog experts steer away from the use of rawhide bones. While once a staple in dog families when they first became popular in the 1950s, our knowledge has evolved and the sources for rawhide varies. While dogs need to chew, and some people still gravitate toward rawhides because they are cheap and easy, the risks are worth keeping in mind. Especially with questionable sources from China containing such toxins as formaldehyde, arsenic, and other contaminants.

The Dangers: Some rawhide bones have been found to have trace contaminants and toxic chemicals not good for your dog’s consumption. Choking and blockages can occur when your chewer ingests pieces of the rawhide bones. Your dog may be sensitive to rawhide and it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of poor health. 

Balls and Tennis Balls – This is an all-time favorite for most dogs who have any kind of fetching skills or ball drive.  Who doesn’t think tennis ball when they think of retrievers? But most people aren’t aware that tennis balls and balls in general can actually be dangerous for larger breed dogs. (Or any size ball that is the wrong size for the dog in question.) The most important thing is to be aware, be smart in choosing your ball toys, and know what to do in case of an emergency.

The Dangers: Balls are a major choking hazard for dogs. Especially if the ball is wrong sized. Typical tennis balls can be too small for larger breeds like golden retrievers and, you guessed it, Labs. The ball can get stuck in your dog’s throat when he or she catches it and cause a blockage.

When this type of accident happens, you will not have time to get the dog to the vet before he could choke. It’s important to get to your dog immediately, straddle the dog, open the mouth and grab it out of the throat, it may mean sliding 2 fingers down to try to get it un-wedged. If it’s lodged too deeply you may need to work on the outside of the dog’s throat first and try to roll the ball up. The faster you can get the ball out the better your dog’s chances of survival.  At the end of the day it’s important to consider oversized balls that won’t go down their throats when engaging in play.

The bottom line is, that when our dogs are left to their own devices it’s important we don’t leave them with toys that can be harmful. It’s also important to supervise their play and know the right toys for the right sized dogs.