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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Jinx.

Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson

Dear Lisa: I recently bought my two grandsons each a chocolate lab pup from a local breeder.  They were 9 weeks old when we picked them up.  They are 12 weeks old now.  One outweighs his brother by 2 lbs (16lbs. and 18lbs) and is much darker, which is not unusual.  But the smaller one has a 2 inch wide strip of wavy hair starting at the shoulders and going to the tip of his tail.  I have owned 6 labs in the last 40 years and have never seen this.  Is it common to certain bloodlines? - Wavy Littermate

Dear Wavy: I’m sure your grandchildren are thrilled with their new puppies. I hope their parents are equally thrilled with all the new activity in the house! I’m sure you can spend some time with them, as a longtime Lab owner, to teach them the ropes of what it means to be a responsible dog owner.

As far as your question, we look to the official breed standard for an answer. According to the Labrador Retriever Club’s breed standard about coat:

The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible. Woolly coats, soft silky coats, and sparse slick coats are not typical of the breed, and should be severely penalized.

As you can see, there are no worries here. A slight wave is okay and happens often enough in Labs that the parent club makes mention of it in their standard in case judges and breeders come across this coat pattern. 

Dear Lisa: My husband and I adopted a magnificent Havanese puppy two months ago. We're retired seniors and spend a great deal of time at home with our puppy. He is house broken, extremely intelligent, well-disciplined and very loving!! He has been with us day and night since he arrived in our home. We have had zero success in training him to be in a solitary space for even 5 minutes. He cries and barks even if we go to the mail box for a few minutes.Our lives have become very restricted because one of us has to stay with him all the time. –Homebound Havanese

Dear Homebound: Congratulations on your new puppy! This National Dog of Cuba is very trainable, intelligent and possesses a naturally affectionate temperament which, as you are finding out, makes this breed an ideal pet. Although a toy dog, they remain energetic and require some form of daily exercise. You don’t mention how old your puppy is, but it’s time to get to work socializing and training this youngster before he “trains” you to stay home with him any further.

I’m curious, have you ever left him in the house and stayed outside for longer than 5 minutes to see if he settles down on his own? You may want to try this first. If not, move on to plan B. Usually to curb this type of behavior you want to build up the amount of time he is left alone without reacting to your absence. This is accomplished by rewarding him for good behavior in small amounts of time.

Where do you leave him when you exit the house? Is he in a room where he can see you leave the property or in an interior room where he has no idea when you may have left the premises? Do you place him in his crate or let him have the run of the house? Start to make notes of what works and doesn’t work when following the next steps.

A Room  

First step, create a nice environment for him in an interior room where eventually you plan to leave him when you are out of the house. In this room, play some music or turn on the TV to create some distracting noise so he can’t hear you leave. Then give his active mind something to focus on, one of the new “figure it out” toys that have hiding places for treats or the old stand by Kong with peanut butter or frozen vegetables stuffed inside. Giving him this fun treat/activity will keep his mind busy long enough for you to make your getaway. Hopefully, he won’t notice you are gone and then won’t react as if he has separation anxiety. I would create this routine as a fun activity and for the first couple of days give him the toy and stay in the room with him, offering him lots of praise for being a good boy. When he learns to love this new activity, then try to add some separation time into it. Maybe walk out of the room, turn around and come back in. If he doesn’t cry or bark, lots of praise. Next day, try being out of the room for 30 seconds or 1 minute and if all goes well, come in with lots of praise and tasty treats to reinforce his good behavior. Next time, try two minutes and slowly build the time up he is left alone.

Other tactics

I would also enroll him in some training classes, such as STAR Puppy or basic obedience, to help build his confidence. Also, plenty of daily exercise like walking, ball tossing, playing with a toy, will help him focus on other fun activities with you. You are changing his response from not liking when you leave, to having him be happy each time he sees you because he knows it means a fun activity.  

Bring him places away from the house as another way to stimulate his mind and expel that mental energy. As his confidence grows with positive reinforcement training from classes, socialization around town meeting new people and seeing new things, and his new activity based alone time in the house you should have a puppy that grows into a well-rounded mature dog that can handle a few hours home alone quietly while you get on with your life.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.