Life of a Labrador
Larry Hindman, owner of Yellowdog Retrievers, talks about raising pups and a love for the Shore’s beloved breed
Labrador retrievers (black, chocolate, or yellow) are the most popular dog in both the United States and United Kingdom. Originating in Newfoundland in the 1700s, they were first known as a “St. John’s” or “lesser Newfoundland” dogs and are widely used for retrieving upland game birds and waterfowl, serving as guide dogs, and even saving lives as explosives detection dogs.
The Earl of Malmesbury first termed the phrase “Labrador” in a letter referring to his “Labrador dogs.” This hearty animal first served by retrieving fish and helping drag in fishing nets. In England, Labrador retrievers were recognized as a Kennel Club breed in 1903 and first registered in America in the AKC in 1917.
Larry Hindman, former chief biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (retired after 42 years), helps run the retriever demonstrations at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton.
Owner of Yellowdog Retrievers, he sells AKC Labrador retriever puppies. He said is a naturalist first, then a hunter. At the same time, Hindman said, he has always had a passion for dogs.
“When you get a puppy, you make memories for a lifetime. A dog gives nothing but unadulterated love, companionship, and understanding.”
Because of their gentle disposition and ability to sense the moods and health of their owners, dogs make superb companions.
Hindman said selling puppies is more a passion than a business. He said his father inspired his appreciation for the outdoors and credited the time he spent hunting with his father as most significant and the reason the dogs are so important to him.
As a result, he is particular when selling his puppies and is an advocate for keeping dogs healthy. He interviews purchasers and asks for references. Every weaned 8-week-old puppy comes with a 26-month guarantee on hips and elbows. (He can do this because he has the puppies’ parents genetically tested.)
Those considering acquiring a sporting dog should follow four tips:
Find a quality breeder who produces healthy puppies.
Establish a relationship with a good veterinarian.
Take advantage of all the resources that abound for owners of sporting dogs.
Get ready to experience the friendship of a lifetime.
“If you are going to invest in a sporting dog, it only makes sense to get a healthy pup with a good genetic background,” he said.
He adds that having a relationship with an exceptional veterinarian is essential to a dog’s ability to perform as a sporting dog. Hindman also is a firm advocate of not overfeeding.
“An overweight dog can get hurt, so I keep my dogs trim and feed them quality food twice a day. I feed my puppies 34 percent protein and the older dogs a mixture of 30 perent protein and 20 percent fat,” he said. “Feeding dogs properly is the best thing you can do. We also supplement our food with raw green beans. And my dogs are always raiding our tomato plants.”
After decades of training dogs, Hindman smiled and said “patience” is most important.
“When running a dog and it makes a mistake, it is either confused or hasn’t been properly trained,” Hindman said. “I then go back and simplify, do drills, and when the situation happens again, the dog will have the confidence to handle the situation better.”
He also has learned persistence from watching his animals perform. When his oldest dog Teal (who has retrieved more than 4,000 birds) was only 6 months old, he doggedly chased, without giving up, a duck that dove nine times before finally Teal retrieved it.
“You would be better taking a puppy and training it than buying someone else’s dog with all its mistakes. By properly training a dog, even when it can’t see the bird you are directing it to, the dog will keep after it and heed your directions because you have created trust,” Hindman said.
A good relationship between a man and his sporting dog can be seen in how they work together. A well-trained dog is the result of considerate leadership, and this is obvious with Hindman. Safety is his paramount concern.
“I don’t put my dogs into dangerous situations. I also do not let my dogs jump down off the truck; they use a ramp to prevent needless injuries,” he said.
While he does not train his dogs with e-collars (previously called “shock collars”), he does use them to reinforce what he teaches, for example, stopping a dog from running out into the road and getting hurt. He finds more significant training advantage though in using verbal praise and treats.
As sporting dog competitions grow in popularity, knowledgeable trainers, good home care and trusted veterinarians will help new owners. Competitions are fun, social events with a spirit of camaraderie (versus ruthless competition) because the dogs compete against a standard, and not against one another. Watching dogs perform under different mock hunting scenarios can be exhilarating. Owners can consider numerous clubs, where they can meet other owners and make new friends.
Owning a sporting dog is a challenging endeavor. But, as noted trainer and breeder Steve Reider says, “Owning a dog will make you live longer; dogs find a direct path to your heart without saying a word.”