Diet and Nutrition

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All Timber Ridge puppies begin on a raw food diet of cut up chicken necks and fruit and veggie puree. I understand that to many the raw diet can seem like unnecessary and messy work when there are so many kibble choices in the grocery and pet food stores with the words healthy, balanced, and complete scrawled across the bags. However, just like processed human foods there are synthetic additives, fillers, sugars, and natural flavorings that could be anything from dyes, preservatives, and solvents to chemicals that increase craving. Artificial and natural flavorings can contain 50 to 100 ingredients. I eat whole foods, and I want the same for my dog, which is why I strongly recommend raw, a balanced diet of varied proteins and vegetables. It’s harder, it’s messier, and it requires a bit more thought than scooping kibble out of a bag each morning, but your dog will be happier, healthier, and will likely live longer with fewer, if any, allergies, kidney and liver issues, and with stronger joints and bones. Please read Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy Schultze in your puppy packet or get a copy of Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson. Other excellent books on dog nutrition are Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats by Beth Taylor and Karen Shaw Becker, DVM, See Spot Live Longer by Steve Brown.

If the idea of whole foods for your dog is too overwhelming or if you are totally against having meat in your house, take time to research quality kibbles such as Merrick’s Raw Infused, Blue Buffalo, Canidae, or Call of the Wild, and consider supplementing with bones and raw eggs. (Never feed your dog cooked chicken or turkey legs as the bones can splinter and cause choking or internal damage.) And watch your dog’s weight. Kibble diets are higher in sugars than raw and can cause weight grain, even if you exercise your dog daily. Your dog’s rib cage (just as your own) shouldn’t be hidden by a layer of fat.

A healthy weight for a female shouldnt exceed 60 lbs at 1 year and 75 lbs at 2 years; healthy weight for a male shouldnt exceed 70 lbs at 1 year and 85 lbs at 2 years.

Please contact me with questions or advice on a raw food diet. I welcome discussion as I understand how confusing nutrition can seem when there are so many dog foods available and veterinarians with conflicting opinions. Doreen Metcalf: 207-602-8521


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All Timber Ridge puppies begin taking short field trips between five and six weeks of age. A field trip can consist of following mom and the pack leader up to the barn or down to the pond. There are lots of sniffing and pee breaks along the way. Exercise is good for the mind and the body, but too much of any good thing can tip the scale to bad. Think chocolate and wine. Some people believe that physical exercise is key to tiring a puppy or dog, especially the working dog breeds, but take a moment to consider how you feel when someone tries to explain advanced trigonometry to you or the genetic history of a tomato, or if someone shows you every picture with painstaking detailed commentary of a two week family vacation to the beach. Your mind slows, your eyelids become heavy, and you begin to yearn for your recliner or bed.

Puppies need exercise, but they do not need a lot of it. They are growing and their joints should not be taxed by high impact jumping, biking and running at your side. For example, you should not bring your puppy on a three mile run or even on a steady mile jog if he is getting into things and asking you for attention. Your puppy wants YOU not an hour of hard exercise. Give your friend quick short bursts of physical activity by playing fetch, chasing you in the yard, walking around the block to check out the local smells. Give him a chance to add his own smells to the mix and to explore his environment. The more you do with your puppy (continuing into his adult years), the more confident and settled he will be in his own home and on trips, including around other people and their dogs. Start teaching him to sit and down when guests arrive and to ignore other dogs on your walks by rewarding him each time he successfully walks by another dog walking duo like the gentleman he should be. He should never be allowed to bark or pull on the leash. You are the leaders and leaders do not allow their followers to charge ahead of them and yell. Mental stimulation such as introducing your puppy to people, places, and things, teaching your puppy tricks (every puppy should know how to sit and paw/hand shake when there is a guest), and behaviors like peeing outside instead of on the smelly soft carpet which is much closer and has the benefit of no splash-back. Interacting positively in play and school will tire your puppy, but most importantly it will build an unbreakable and loyal bond.

Swimming is excellent exercise for your puppy (as long as there is no current and you have a towel to dry him off if it is a chilly day), and will tire him quickly, so be attentive to his ability to keep his head above water. Once your dog reaches a year of age, you can begin jogging, increasing mileage slowly and allowing for breaks if you notice labored breathing, especially if the temperature is above 78 degrees. And keep in mind hot sidewalks. Begin conditioning your dog to run longer distances with you just as you would condition yourself. Dogs will get sore muscles and sore pads with sudden mileage increases or footing changes so check for pad cracks and bleeding if you have been out longer or in unfamiliar places. Bring water for you and your dog during all summer activities. Often on mountain hikes in mid-summer, streams are dry, so pack water then too along with protein snacks for when you reach the peak.

Working dogs love movement of their minds and their bodies, so move your mind by thinking up all the things you can teach your dog. Work your body to make it happen.

Please contact me with questions or advice on exercise. I welcome discussion as I understand how confusing not biking and running with your puppy can be when you see so many people doing it every day. Doreen Metcalf: 207-602-8521


1Vaccinating your puppy and revaccinating your dog yearly is one of those can of worm topics that keep pet owners, pet owning friends of pet owners, and their veterinarians in perpetual debate. It is easy to get lost among the varying opinions, especially when you bring in your beloved puppy for her first shots and the veterinarian speaks of complex scientific new findings that can result in serious illness, possibly death, for your new family member. Suddenly it can feel as if every walk through the dog park or the woods is a gamble with disease and you would be remiss as an owner if you didn’t immunize your furry friend against everything from water and tick borne diseases to new strains of colds (kennel cough). It can be overwhelming, a little scary for some, a lot scary for others, and it can feel as if the veterinarian is judging you as a bad pet owner if you decide to pass on the new canine flu shot.

I recommend you read all you can on canine vaccinations before your first visit. And don’t just research the U.S. European veterinarians are cutting back on annual vaccines, having learned that in some situations, immunizations last for several years if not the lifetime of dogs. I encourage you to wait until your puppy is at least 14 weeks for the parvo and distemper vaccines and 6 months for the rabies vaccine. Some veterinarians offer the parvo and distemper separately, and I prefer this option as it is the least stressful for your puppy. Until several years ago when one my of my shepherds nearly died from an annual immunization, I vaccinated for everything my vet recommended. After Jack Naspo’s sudden autoimmune reaction, I began to view shots a bit differently and decided to vaccinate for only distemper and rabies and, even then, to do titers to reduce the risk factors of over vaccinating and causing serious health issues. I still take my dogs to the veterinarian for annual physicals, Lyme, heart worm and fecal tests. Consider your dog as a family member and care for her as you would care for yourself. Protect her as she will always try to protect you.

Spay, Neuter, and Everything In-Between

More to come!

Up Ears, Up!

HJP_5029-EditHJP_4988Those little ears are adorable when they flop, half rise and then fully stand upright in a Ta dah- here-we-are position. Some German shepherd puppies with smaller ears finish their magic ear act before they leave the nursery. Others, with larger ears and/or softer ear cartilage take months and their loving owners wait like an expectant yet skeptical audience for the ear performance finale. The general rule is that ears will stand up anywhere from seven weeks to seven months. However, Arko’s ears, one of my first breeding males, didn’t stand up until he was a year old. All dogs are individuals and like all generalizations, there are exceptions. Each dog is an individual just as each ear is an individual. Sometimes one ear will stand for a few days on its own and other times another ear will stand and then drop back down after a few minutes, creating suspense and confusion in the audience. You can’t rush a magic act. That’s why it’s magic.

Large ears take longer. We always notice how cute the puppies are in the nursery with their upright little ears atop their adorable puppy heads, but the side effect of cute upright ears at seven weeks is small ears. Size might not be important to some, but German shepherd people appreciate magnificent ears atop the German shepherd’s notoriously intelligent noggin. The down side of dramatic ears is that they seem to attract square tails and other flying insects that enjoy superior vantage points.

Ears that stand up but wave a bit at the top when your athlete runs are ‘friendly ears’ and are acceptable in the competition/show ring. Sometimes tall ears can get into trouble if they hit the electric fence wire if your dog happens to share his home with horses or other large barnyard animals. I have had a dog’s ear drop at the tip for a few weeks and then come back up. Do your best to train your dogs to stay away from fencing. Puppies can get gravely hurt by them.

Ears that never stand up are ‘soft ears’. Some people recommend taping to help the ear stand, but the puppy doesn’t like it, and no one has solid proof that it works. But, consider Arko and his puppyhood of down ears, and don’t worry until the dog is a year or so. Some advocate vitamins and others say that teething interferes with rising ears. Love your puppy and give him the time he needs to do his magic.

Breeding & Rescue

More to come!

Puppy Health: RV

1Female puppies can be born with a conformational condition called a recessed or juvenile vulva (RV). A RV is when a puppy’s vulva is inverted or when there is an extra fold or flap of skin around the genital area. Often the inversion will correct itself after either the first or second heat cycle. Think of it like a belly button, some are sunken (an innie) and can fill with lint and dead skin cells, while others are popped out. The innie vulva will likely pop out as the puppy matures, making it is essential to delay spaying until after the six month mark, the age that is often recommended by veterinarians. Most dogs will go into heat before they are a year old. A puppy with a RV has a higher risk of urinary tract infections, but there are several things an owner can do to prevent UTIs. The most successful way to prevent infections is to gently wipe your puppy dry with a clean soft cloth or baby wipe after each bathroom event. This will prevent the urine from pooling in the folds of skin, growing bacteria, and/or burning the puppy’s skin. Bacteria thrives in moisture and heat.

Secondly, you can clip the hair around the genital area to discourage collecting dirt and urine. Thirdly, keep your puppy fit. Rolls of stomach fat will give urine additional places to hide—forming dams—and will make it difficult for your puppy to clean herself. Fourthly, many people tell me that cranberry caps or small amounts of cranberry juice mixed daily into a puppy’s food will guard against infection. It’s a holistic approach and your veterinarian may be able to give you more information on the efficacy of this treatment.

I have known several puppies with RVs to get only a single UTI because once alerted to the condition, the owners take the steps to prevent further infection. Some veterinarians advise surgery (Episioplasty) to correct the vulva and reduce the chances of a UTI and vaginitis, but where RVs often self-correct, I strongly urge you not to put your puppy through surgery until after her second heat cycle. If at that time there is no change and your dog has a history of UTIs, then surgery might be the best answer.

Spaying early will result in a permanent inverted vulva. Many rescue organizations spay and neuter their dogs too early, which translates to the problem of rescued puppies being denied the necessary time to outgrow juvenile conditions. Additionally, early spaying is not advantageous to your puppy’s bone growth and development. Hormones are important. However, if you decide not to spay your puppy, you cannot breed her. While it is entirely possible that she would not pass on this conformational condition to her offspring, there is always a risk. I strongly advise that you monitor your puppy regularly for infections. UTI and vaginitis symptoms are excessive licking of the genital area, scooting, and sometimes dribbling and/or urinary incontinence. UTIs burn, especially after voiding, so if your puppy licks at herself quickly as if bitten post-urination, you should get her urine tested immediately. I am always available to answer any questions and to write a letter to your veterinarian if you would like support in waiting to spay.

Doreen Metcalf: 207-602-8521

Puppy Health: Umbilical Hernia

More to come!