Original Article: A Guest Blog from Ari Katz on His Dog Kennel
I am an avid animal lover and enthusiast. When I was born, my parents had two chocolate Labrador Retrievers named Kaela and Joey whom we loved dearly. These Labradors were my first introductions to this wonderful sporting group breed. When I was 10, my parents purchased another chocolate Labrador, Maggie, from a reputable breeder and friend, Vicky Creamer of Belquest Kennels. I knew I wanted to show Maggie, and at age 11, I entered her in our first conformation dog show. After that one show – I was hooked.
After four years of shows every three weekends or so, I decided I needed to take a break to focus on finishing high school. I remained involved in the Labrador Retriever community and still attended some local shows with my yellow Labrador, Goodie. A few months before graduating, I contacted one of my closest friends and mentors, Fabian Negron of Gallivant Labradors. Fabian and I have been friends since I was 12 and remained in touch throughout my break from showing dogs. Fabian told me he had a female Labrador he thought I might be interested in co-owning with him. Her name was Safari. Safari is my prized Labrador Retriever and one of the prettiest dogs I have ever seen. On the day of my high school graduation, I drove to visit Fabian and met Safari. The rest is history. Last June, Safari was ranked #4 Labrador Retriever in the United States and #2 female Labrador in the country. Safari, and Fabian, renewed my love for showing dogs. Recently, I built a kennel for my Labradors on my family’s farm.
Here are some photos and a bit about my business, AK Labradors.
Here is my beloved girl, Safari. The Labrador Retriever was developed to help fishermen and hunters. Their jobs were difficult and demanding. They had to retrieve the ducks, quail, fish, and other game that hunters shot or caught in all seasons of Newfoundland’s weather. Today, the Labrador Retriever is known as “America’s Dog” and has been the most popular breed of dog in the United States since 1991. The Labrador Retriever comes in three different colors – yellow, black, and chocolate, and should be able to work in the fields and lakes all day and then cuddle up with the hunter’s children at night to keep them company. The Labrador is a kind and outgoing dog and has also distinguished itself as a very popular – and helpful – service dog. Commonly used as seeing-eye dogs or bomb sniffers, the Labrador is hard-working and loyal. Safari, in my eyes, is the quintessential Labrador Retriever as she meets all of the breed’s dispositional hallmarks perfectly as well as the American Kennel Club’s breed standard.
Here is a picture of me and Maggie at the first dog show I ever attended. Maggie won her class. It was a proud day for me and my family.
Nine years later, here is my logo for AK Labradors. My mother, Susan, Martha, and I all added input into the design. The dog in the logo was inspired by a picture of Safari I took at the American Kennel Club National Series in Orlando, Florida in 2019.
Here I am with Safari in front of my kennel I designed and built last March while safely sheltered at home. On the left are my adult females and on the right are my two puppies. It is always a good idea to separate puppies from older dogs as puppies have more energy than older dogs and could potentially get hurt playing with dogs larger than themselves. However, all my dogs are walked together daily and swim together regularly.
Here is a better picture of the kennel. I built my kennel inside my family’s livestock barn. My kennel is 315 square feet – I wanted it to be as roomy as possible. Safari and Goodie are posing here for the picture.
To the right of the kennel, I have two small stainless-steel shelves where I store tennis balls, treats, extra water pails, food containers, and leashes.
All of my dogs have access to runs that are bedded with pea gravel. When thick enough, pea gravel is actually quite comfortable on dogs’ paws and relatively easy to clean. These runs open into a two-acre paddock where the dogs run when the weather permits. Recently, the days here have been so hot that the dogs typically go on walks and swims early mornings and late evenings to protect them from the heat.
Here are my two puppies, Justus and Silka, bred by Sara Greenburg and Karen Helmers in Indiana, running in one section of their paddock on a warm morning. These paddocks are mowed weekly and cleaned daily to prevent potentially dangerous insects such as fly larvae, fleas, and ticks from bothering my dogs. I also give my dogs oral flea and tick medicine every three months.
Here is part of the pack sloshing around in the creek that backs our property. My dogs love swimming. I try to take them all for a swim once a day in the early morning before it gets too hot. In the evenings, I walk the pack around the farm on 17 acres of fenced paddocks so they can run, retrieve balls, and visit with some of the other farm animals. During this very difficult time of COVID, I am finding great pleasure in spending more time around my dogs. All the exercise really shows a big difference in their condition and temperaments. They are happier and better prepared for the show ring.
After their morning swims or walks, the dogs are brought into their kennels and given a treat – sometimes small and boring, other times more fun. On this day, the dogs were given marrow bones. Here is Silka on her Kuranda bed. These beds are very sturdy, sleek, and easy to clean. I like them especially for puppies because they are chew-proof and safe.
Because I have both intact males and females, also known as dogs and bitches, it is very important that each one is easily identifiable and has a designated kennel space. We label each kennel very carefully.
Because Labradors are double-coated and summers are incredibly hot where I live, I installed the largest fans I could safely put into the kennel. These fans oscillate and keep my dogs cool. These fans are great for kennels, barns, and greenhouses. They are not too loud and have mist features. It is so important to provide animals, including livestock, with some kind of cooling. A dog’s skin is thinner than that of a human, and their regular body temperature is higher, so they require extra protection during the hot months.
I give my dogs raw bones and raw food once a week for medicinal purposes. Not only do the dogs love the bones and meats, but they also help clean their teeth, improve their coats and skin, give them more energy and stamina, improve digestion, and reduce allergies.
Here is my reach-in freezer that stores my dogs’ frozen foods. It is from Dukers USA. It is particularly important to keep these foods frozen until used to protect against bacterial growth and spoilage. I chose the safest freezer I could find – one that won’t overheat and cause a fire. I also keep a feeding schedule and a measurement chart on the freezer so everyone knows what dog gets what and when they get it.
While Labradors seldom need baths, it is nice to have the proper equipment to bathe them before shows or when they get dirty. My parents gifted me with this sleek and durable stainless-steel bathtub from PetLift for my birthday this year. It is 48-inches long and perfect for my size dogs.
Justus sits in the bathtub and poses for a picture. I co-own him with breeder, mentor, veterinarian, and fellow chicken enthusiast, Karen Helmers, owner and founder of Paradocs Labradors in Indiana. All of my dogs are very calm and used to regular grooming, travel, and people.
For dogs with sensitive skin or if one happens to get dirty and is not getting shown within a few days, I like to use the “Day to Day Oatmeal” shampoo. I like the smell and the gentleness of this shampoo. Before shows, I use either the “Alpha White” or the “Emerald Black” depending on the color of the dog. I think both of these shampoos bring out the dog’s best color.
This great sign was sent to me by Karen as a birthday gift this year. It hangs proudly at the entrance of my family’s farm. The dog on the sign is a painting of Safari.
This is Kima, Safari’s daughter, who is just a year old. Fabian and I are both hopeful she will be a successful show dog. I am looking forward to showing Kima once it is safe to do so. I think she’s gorgeous.
Here is a cute picture of Jackie and Silka sleeping on a hot afternoon. My dogs are typically tired by the end of the day because of all the exercise they get. I always enjoy watching my dogs nap after a fun morning of activities.
My mission as a responsible breeder is to improve the breed stock. A true and reputable dog breeder cares mostly about their animals and the health of the breed lines. When choosing a dog, purebred or mixed, always be sure to research the breed characteristics. Each breed of dog has a purpose, and some may be more suitable for one’s lifestyle than others. I love my dogs dearly – they are all a big part of my life and my family. I look forward to spending time with them every day.