How Do I Choose a Good Kennel?

Sometime, in your dog's or cat's life, you will have to travel without him/her and you will not be able to find a family member, friend or neighbor to look after Fido or Kitty while you are away. When you are faced with this dilemma you have two choices:

  1. Use a Boarding Kennel
  2. Use a Pet Sitter

A boarding kennel should be a safe place to leave your pets with people who know how to properly look after them. A pet sitter is someone who visits your home once or twice a day to feed and exercise your pet. They can also water plants, pick up the mail, etc. These people should be bondable for security reasons. Sometimes you can arrange to have a pet sitter come in three times during the day. However, unless you can get a pet sitter who will live in your home, there will be periods of time during the day that the pet is left totally alone.

I like to think that we operate one of the finest boarding kennels in the Edmonton area. We have a lot of happy pet owners who trust us in caring for their furry members of the family. When you are looking at selecting a kennel here are some tips on what to look for. If you are a pet owner you should try to set yourself up with a kennel you know about and that you have previously inspected. Don't wait until there is an emergency and you have to board your pet wherever you can.

  1. When you are making your initial "cold calls" what is your initial gut feeling/reaction about the person you are talking to on the other end of the telephone? Does that person appear interested in you and your pet? Does the person you are talking to give you the feeling/impression that he/she is doing you a favor by talking to you? Do they want to tell you all about their kennel and services they provide or is it like pulling teeth to get information out of them?
  2. Select 3 kennels out of your "cold calls" that interested you and you felt good about.
  3. You should be able to view kennels anytime during their business hours … not just by appointment or for a few hours they have set aside during their business hours. So what if they are cleaning - there is a big difference between a mess and filth. So what if they are busy exercising the pets staying with them or feeding, etc. What you want to see is how the kennel is run, how they treat their guests, the routine your pet will be on. If everything is all done when you come for an inspection/tour, all you will see is what they want you to see.
  4. Is the kennel clean? Take a good hard look. Do the animals appear to be alert? Is there fresh water available? Do the kennels look safe and secure? Is there wire between the animals or solid partitions? When we were viewing kennels (across Canada and the US), prior to building our own facility, we looked at many different designs and believe that solid partitions between the dogs keep the dogs more relaxed and cleaner…the dog or cat next to yours cannot pee or poo through the wire into the next kennel or on their neighbor. Also, their neighbor is not constantly intimidating Fido and/or Kitty. Ask the kennel manager if they partner pets up to maximize the space. Some kennels do this without telling the owners…particularly at peak times. When you are viewing kennels look for signs of this happening. A good indication would be 4 or 5 dogs together in one kennel. Have a look at the tag on the kennel - do all the dogs appear to belong to the same owner. Ask…let the person doing the tour explain why so many dogs are together in one kennel. If you notice quite a few kennels like this at the same establishment ask yourself…. how many people do you know who own more than 2 or 3 pets?
  5. Really try to see how they exercise the dogs and cats. How do the people who work or manage the kennel treat these animals when they are taking or letting them in and out for exercise? Some kennels will put 5 or 6 cats and/or dogs together in one common area/yard for exercise. I've even seen over 10 dogs turned loose in a common area. At our facility we have 20 individual large outdoor yards so that each dog has his or her own yard to run and play. Cats are exercised individually in the Cattery. Find out what safety precautions are taken to minimize fights or the spread of disease. What do they do if a fight does happen - who pays the vet bill? Are you asked to sign a waiver that states that the kennel is not responsible? While a "social kennel" may appear to be a fun place to board your dog and/or cat, there are risks involved and it is up to you to find out how these risks will be addressed by the kennel. All it takes is one instance for a cat or dog to be seriously injured.
  6. What are their requirements for vaccinations - do they have low standards?
  7. Do they offer a good variety of food so you have a selection to choose from? Will they allow you to bring your own food (at no extra expense)? Yes…some kennels do charge a storage fee when you bring your own food.
  8. Do they have an action plan in place if your pet requires medical attention…through no fault of the kennel?
  9. Are any rules they may have brought to your attention at the time of inspection so that there are no surprises when you bring your pet in?
  10. Are their rates for boarding and/or any other extra services they provide posted in plain sight? Is this reviewed with you at the time of your inspection/tour?
  11. Are you given a tour of the entire facility or just a quick glimpse of one or two kennels closest to the office?
  12. Will they allow you to accompany your pet(s) to the kennel they are going to occupy at time of check in? Some kennels take your pet(s) from you at the office and disappear into the bowels of the kennel. Think about this.
  13. Will they allow you to accompany them to the kennel your pet(s) are in when you arrive to pick them up?
  14. If the kennel states that your dog is walked every day, ask for how long and see where the pets are walked. Again, try to arrange your tour when this activity is actually taking place. A 5 or 10 minute walk once or twice a day exercises the walker but not a young, active dog.
  15. Some kennels offer a myriad of extra services and if you want to take advantage of these services ask a lot of questions and see where these extra services are actually performed/done. Try to meet the groomer, trainer, dog walker, etc. so you can ask them questions directly about what they do.
  16. Check with veterinarians and also friends who you know board their pets. Find out whom they use and would they recommend them.
  17. Once you have selected a kennel that best suits you and your pets needs do periodic tours of the facility, even if you are pleased with their services. This way you know for sure that their standards are being maintained.

Good luck – sometimes a little luck goes a long way.

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How Do I Become a Dog Breeder?

Unfortunately, ANYONE can breed dogs. In fact, just turn your non-spayed female dog loose when she is in heat, let her breed and have a litter of pups, and BINGO you can call yourself a dog breeder. There are no licenses, standards or prerequisites to breed dogs. No one watches or monitors breeders and/or investigates what they are producing - not even the kennel clubs. Remember this when you are looking for that special pet for your family!

I do believe that most people who deliberately breed dogs (purebred or mixed breed) do so because they think their dog is fantastic and want to have other people enjoy progeny from such a wonderful dog. HOWEVER, if you base your whole breeding criteria on only the one dog (male) or bitch (female) you own you are very short sighted. Do you know how that dog's sisters and brothers turned out? What about the parents and grandparents of that dog? Impossible you say, rubbish - what does that have to do with anything? Think for a moment how genetics play such a big part in human development. That, alone, should give you a big clue how important this really is. Do you want people who get your puppies to inherit all sorts of problems that could have been avoided if you had only done some research/homework, etc.? If you are using a mixed breed dog for breeding you cannot even say for sure what the progeny out of that dog will look like or what their behaviors/temperament will be. There can be throwbacks to the grandparents and even great-grandparents and beyond.

Responsible breeders who want to maintain and/or improve the breed they have chosen to breed do a whole lot of investigation and work before they decide to breed their dog. They know the history of their dog AND its parentage - at least 3 generations. They know what the good and bad traits of their breed are. They try to minimize health and/or structure risks associated with their breed and dogs in general. In a lot of cases they compete in recognized dog sports (conformation, obedience, tracking, search & rescue) to prove to themselves that these dogs are worthy of being bred. Their dogs are vet checked and vaccinations are kept current. They spend the money to have their dog’s hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, etc. cleared/certified for possible inherited problems. They do not overbreed their dog(s). They belong to dog clubs, kennel clubs, professional affiliations; they read numerous articles about their breed and do not breed unless they have a waiting list for their pups. They screen puppy buyers carefully and do not sell to just anyone. They give written health and temperament guarantees. A lot of good breeders will even buy a puppy back from the owners if they owner is unable to keep the dog. They will only use good quality male dogs for stud – not just any male (even if it is purebred). They will want to see a three-generation pedigree on the male and talk to the breeder and original owner of the dog they are considering using to ensure that they have not encountered any health or structure problems in their line. They will also want to check to make sure that the owner of the male dog has had the necessary checks done on hips, eyes, elbows, etc.

If you own a male dog you are not considered a breeder. It is only if you own a female dog that you can be a dog breeder. Owners of male dogs are paid a stud fee that is usually equal to the value of 1 pup. If you own a male dog that is highly pedigreed and titled or comes from exceptional stock, you will have people clamoring for his services. However, there are lots of people who will use inferior dogs on their inferior females just to have one litter so they can get a pup out of their bitch or because they want to have their children experience the miracle of birth. What kind of criteria is that for a breeding program? How much thought have they put behind their action(s)?

So, you think you can make some extra tax-free pocket money by breeding dogs? Well, the reality of it is you can – if you keep your expenses down and unless someone (who is pissed off at you) reports you to Revenue Canada.

Let's see, start by buying a purebred but unregistered dog – hey, who needs registration papers? Even better, get a free dog. Your dog turns out great but you have no idea about its history – so what! You spent the $200 for a dog – no questions asked – and you may have even gotten it for free. You know there are lots of people out there who want dogs just like this, right? Well, again this could be true.

Now, find a person who has a similar dog to yours or, hey, be creative – let's try mixing two different dogs together and see what happens. If you really search around you can find an owner of a male dog who thinks that it is mandatory and natural that their male dog have sex and it won't cost you a dime. The owner of the male dog doesn't have to think about the puppies or where they are going to eventually end up – that is the female dog's owner responsibility, right? The owner of the male dog may have even got a few bucks for providing the stud service or a pup out of the litter.

Complications can and do arise. The pregnant female may require a C-section, for example; find out how much that costs. And because you probably didn't take her to a vet to have her checked out before she was bred or even during her pregnancy, she will probably decide to have her pups and need a C-section after the vets are closed.

Okay! Your pups are now on the ground – gee, this is easy! Mom feeds and looks after the pups for the first 3 weeks or so. However, what happens if mom gets sick and can't care for the pups. What happens if the pups require veterinary attention? Oops - boy this is starting to cost some money. Now the pups are 3 to 3½ weeks of age and mom doesn't want to feed or clean up after them anymore. Now this becomes YOUR job. Do you have a safe and clean area for the pups to stay and play? Are you going to buy high-quality puppy food or just the cheapest stuff you can find? The pups are starting to keep you up at night. "Hey", you reason, "if the pups are on puppy food lets sell the little buggers fast so I can keep my expenses down and get some sleep. They're so cute who can refuse them?"

So you advertise…uh oh - a bit more expense there. You may or may not even get the pups examined by a vet and have them get their first booster. You can even reason that because you are selling the pups so reasonably that the new owners can get all that done – you save some money there. So what if the pups are only 5-6 weeks of age - if they can eat on their own, they're old enough to leave, right? The first couple of pups sell quickly but you are left with 2 or 3 pups and the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months. You have to maybe re-advertise, maybe get the shots for the remaining pups, feed and care for them and continue to lose sleep. You figure the easiest thing to do now is take them to the local animal shelter and let them find the pups a home. Maybe they can and maybe they can't - it's not your fault now, is it?

Uh oh, one of your puppy buyers has decided he doesn't want the pup anymore - his girlfriend has left him and he has been kicked out of his apartment and he wants YOU to do something for him. After all, you sold or gave him this puppy. Oh well, you say, tough luck – these things happen in life and you should have thought things through better before getting the pup. You recommend he advertise the pup or perhaps take the pup to the local animal shelter – after all, that is what you did when it didn't suit YOUR purpose anymore.

It became too much work, too much hassle for the few measly bucks you maybe did make.

Still want to be a dog breeder?

Let's hope you do want to be a responsible dog breeder.The best advice I can give you is to interview breeders and start with the best dog you can find. This is not going to be cheap or easy. Responsible breeders sell their puppies on non-breed contracts – you are not allowed to breed the dog. Be honest with the breeder about what you want the dog for. Have them tell you the conditions you may have to fulfill before they will lift the non-breed contract. Try to find a breeder who is willing to become your mentor and learn all you can from that person. Read books about your breed, visit dog shows, compete with your dog, and find out all you can about training the dog. Visit the animal shelters and breed rescue clubs and find out why people get rid of dogs; you will become very angry at most of the reasons given. Find out how many dogs and cats are put to sleep every year because there are not enough homes out there to accommodate all these unwanted animals who never asked to be born in the first place.

So you still want to be a dog breeder? If you do, please – PLEASE! – be a responsible one!

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My Dog Is Lost – What Should I Do?

It’s hard not to panic when your best friend goes missing but it’s really important to keep your wits about you. Check with all family members to try to establish when the dog was last seen and to ensure one of the family has not taken the dog out with them. If your dog is truly missing and you have no idea when he went missing start searching for your dog in your own neighborhood first.

Hopefully your dog will come to you when he/she is called.
Try to have another person start calling local animal shelters, local police, and local veterinarians to see if someone has picked your dog up and/or reported that they have found a stray dog. Leave these people/organizations with a detailed description of your dog, its name and a contact person to call. If your search is unsuccessful increase the scope of your search. Perhaps enlist a friend, who the dog knows, in your search…that way you can double your efforts. Have someone call the local radio stations advising them that your dog is missing and ask if they can make an announcement on air. Be sure to give them a detailed description of your dog and its name. Of course, leave your name and a telephone number you or someone who knows the dog can be reached at.

If you have still not found your dog, make up flyers to post in the neighborhood and run an ad in the local paper and offer a reward. If you are in close proximity to a major center, you should place an ad in that paper, too. As well, check with other animal shelters around your area – people do pick up stray dogs and transport them out of their own area and drop them off at animal shelters close to where they live, not necessarily close to where you live. You may have to make routine visits to all the shelters to check yourself to see if they have your dog.

Unfortunately, the longer a dog is missing the higher the likelihood of the dog remaining missing or being found killed on the road. If you are out in the country, a neighbor farmer may have had to shoot your dog if it is caught chasing his horses, cows, etc. Remember, it is your responsibility to keep your dog on your property.

The safest place to keep your dog is in a secure, fenced enclosure. All family members should be taught to close the gate and make sure the dog is in the yard or in the house before they leave. Periodically check to ensure your dog is still in the yard or house. If your dog routinely runs free, with little to no supervision, it has a high risk of being killed by a car, poisoned or shot by an irate neighbor, or being stolen. Did you know that if your dog causes an accident – some poor shmuck goes off the road trying to avoid hitting your dog – you can be charged with causing the accident? You can also be held financially liable if your dog chases and injures your neighbor’s livestock or attacks people and/or their pets. Talk about causing friction between you and your neighbors!

People in your neighborhood should be able to drive their cars, ride their bikes, use their skateboards, jog, and take their own dogs for a walk (on leash) without having your dog chasing them and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Should I Get a Dog?

I am often asked to help people determine if they should get a dog or not. In a lot of cases, one or two members of the family are pressuring the other members to get a dog. Most of the time it is the children who are doing the whining, begging and promising the moon if only they could have a dog. For your benefit I have written down some guidelines to use when considering welcoming a four-legged addition into your home:

Is your home life stable? Are you a renter or homeowner? It is sometimes difficult to find a place to rent that will allow dogs and even cats. Even some condo's/townhouses have restrictions on pets. Lastly, landlords can change their mind from one day to the next about allowing pets.

Do you have a safe & secure area/yard for the dog to play in? Dogs generally do not stay on the property unless they are confined. Your neighbors will not appreciate your dog using their property as a toilet or playground. Motorists do not want to have to constantly watch for dogs running loose on the road. The safest place for your dog is on your own property.

Are you prepared for the time commitment required to raise a healthy & well-adjusted dog? Dogs are social animals and need attention and training. Lack of attention, socialization and training can result in behavior problems such as excessive barking, digging, chewing, and biting.

Are you financially prepared for the costs involved in owning a dog? Regardless of how much the initial cost of purchasing a dog is, the upkeep can vary anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 over the lifetime of the dog. This includes food, treats, toys, training, annual vaccinations, grooming, boarding, and any other medical bills.

Do you have children and if so, what are their ages? Certain breeds are better than others with small children. If you think your children will be responsible for looking after the dog THINK AGAIN. The novelty wears off quickly if they are MADE to walk the dog, feed the dog and poop scoop after the dog. Accept the fact that these will be your responsibilities 75% of the time. If the only reason you are thinking of getting a dog is for the children, you are in fact adding another child to your household for YOU to look after and train.

You love dogs and your partner doesn't. Don't think that your partner will change his/her mind after the fact. Discuss the addition of a dog to your family with your partner. Do not HOPE that he/she will change after you bring the dog home - in most cases it causes friction in your relationship with your partner.

So, are YOU ready for a dog? Only you can answer that question.

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Top 10 Reasons People Get Rid of Their Pets

Over the years I have had numerous people call to ask if I can help them find a new home for their dog. I have compiled the top 10 reasons I am given why people say they can’t keep their dog.

I think anyone who is thinking about getting a dog should read this list BEFORE they get a dog.

The dog turned out differently than I thought he/she would. There are usually a myriad of reasons given, i.e., grew too big, too hairy and requires professional grooming (costly), too rambunctious, too destructive, too noisy, too needy, not good with the kids, etc. Do I know anyone who would like their dog? And then, in the next breath, I am asked, can you recommend a different dog/breed that would suit me better?

I’m pregnant and when the baby is born I won’t have time for the dog. I really don’t want the dog licking the baby and picking up the baby’s toys, etc. I’m also not really sure if I can trust the dog with the baby. I’ve really spoiled the dog (he was like my child) and he/she will probably be extremely jealous. Do you know someone who would like my dog – perhaps a farm or acreage so he/she would have lots of room to run free? I’m really doing this for the dog you know.

I have too many dogs now (I have 3) and would like to be able to find homes for 2 of them. I thought they would all get along and amuse and exercise each other. Now I have 3 dogs that are scrapping, wrecking my yard and my house. My first dog is pretty well trained so I will be keeping her/him. I would prefer the other 2 go together – maybe to a farm or acreage.

My landlord says either the dog goes or I do and I can’t find anyplace that will rent to me with a dog. How much is boarding for a month until I can find someplace that will let me keep him/her? WHAT?! Why that’s almost a half-month rent. Do you know someone who will foster my dog – I’ll provide the food until I can take him/her.

The pet store/breeder said that if I took two pups together they would be great company for one another. They wouldn’t bark or be too destructive because they would entertain and play with each other. Now my house looks like a bomb struck it. The deck is all chewed up, and they won’t stick around or come when I call them. They probably should be outdoor dogs as they really never got the hang of not messing in the house – particularly in the basement where I had to leave them when I went to work. I would really prefer if they went together to a new home – an acreage or farm would be nice.

I am moving from my acreage to a new house in the city and it wouldn’t be really fair to the dog to have to adjust to a smaller yard that is fenced with neighbors close by. He’s used to running free and chasing rabbits. No, he is not really that well trained, but he is a lovely dog. I would prefer he go to an acreage or farm.

I’m getting complaints from my neighbors about my dog barking too much and I just got my third fine. I’ve tried everything to shut this dog up and it just won’t listen. Yes, it is strictly an outdoor dog. Obedience training? No, I haven’t had the time; I wanted to though. Hmm, well actually I might spend at the most an hour or so a day with the dog, walking, playing, etc., but of course, I am very busy and I might miss a few days during the week but the dog has a great dog house, good food and water. I’m looking for a new home with people who can spend more time with the dog – do you know anyone?

My son/daughter got the #### dog when they lived on their own. Now he/she is back home and this is really the worst behaved dog I have ever seen. Peeing and pooing everywhere, chewing anything in sight, jumping up on people, etc. No, my son/daughter doesn’t have the time or money to try to train the dog and I want the dog out of my house. No, I don’t want to bring the dog in for training either. He/she shouldn’t have got the bloody dog in the first place. What fool would sell an 18 year old kid a dog anyway? The darn dog cost him $800 on his Visa. I was thinking we would put an ad up asking for $600 – what do you think? What are registration papers? What do you mean I won’t get that much?

My dog keeps biting people. This third time is the last straw. I was out for a walk and it lunged at and bit a jogger. Couldn’t the jogger see that I was struggling to hold onto my dog and make a wide path around me? Now he has filed a complaint against me and I want to try to find the dog a new home. No, I didn’t know this breed of dog could have a high herding drive and chase and nip at joggers, skateboarders, etc. No, I didn’t know that some temperaments/breeds of dogs are a higher biting risk. I thought that if you just loved a dog it would turn out okay. No, I don’t want to try to modify his/her behavior; I just want to find a good home for him/her. Preferably with someone who has no children out in the country. Can you help me?

We got the puppy for my children for Christmas. They had promised to feed the dog, walk the dog, train the dog, poop scoop the yard, and watch him in the house. Now the pup is 6 months old; he’s not house trained, he’s chewing things up, and my children are scared of the dog (he jumps all over them and nips at them) and I don’t have the time for the dog. How many children do I have? Two: 4 and 10 years of age. No, I didn’t know that I would be the one who would have to do most of the chores and all of the training. The kids just won’t cooperate so I want to teach them a lesson – can you help me find a good home for him?

Believe it or not, the least common reason I am given by people who want to get rid of a dog is because of allergies.

While some of the reasons for getting rid of a dog may strike you as rather amusing, I don’t think the dog finds them amusing at all. Please, think about your lifestyle and realize that it can change before you get a dog.

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What Are Puppy Mills?

I believe that the average Joe Q Public’s definition of a puppy mill is a breeding facility where puppies are being mass produced, strictly for profit, and the breeding animals and their puppies are kept in deplorable conditions, unfit for man or beast. Most of us have read newspaper articles and watched TV documentaries on such facilities and our hearts break and we wonder WHY isn’t something being done to permanently shut these facilities down. However, my question is even more basic: Why do they exist at all? In my opinion, there is one big reason why they exist and you may be shocked how you may be innocently supporting them and keeping them in business.

When you buy a puppy from a pet store you don’t get to meet the people who actually produced your puppy. You don’t get to inspect the conditions that the adults and puppies are kept in. You don’t get to meet the sire (dad) and dam (mom) of the respective puppies, see the adult dog’s temperament and see how they relate to their owners and to you, etc. The only information you get about your puppy is from a sales clerk in a store that markets puppies strictly for profit and, as with most sales people, they get a commission for each puppy they sell. Believe this! They will tell you exactly what you want to hear so you will buy a puppy. They are relying on the impulse and "love of that puppy in the window" mentality not to question what they are telling you. Some of these stores have signs attached to the cages explaining where these puppies came from, i.e., Fort MacMurray, Vegreville, etc. Some even have heartwarming pictures of puppies playing on a beautiful lawn. However, think about this!

If the producers of these puppies actually gave a #### about their puppies they would want to meet YOU and show off their dogs, breeding facilities; let you actually see where and how they keep their dogs, etc. And YOU should care enough to really find out where your puppy came from and actually meet/talk to the breeders and see their facility and not believe everything you are told. AND you should do this before you buy that puppy in the window.

Ask yourself - who are these people who are mass producing puppies for sale to the pet stores? Whether these people are only producing a few litters a year or hundreds, none of them have the guts to try to market their own puppies and actually have people in their homes and interview and meet the people who are going to eventually end up with the dogs they are producing. They just sell their entire litters to the pet stores, no hassle, no fuss, with very little work on their part. These puppies are weaned as early as possible so that they can get them into the stores so they have a longer shelf life, and believe me: Their shelf life is short before they are "marked down" like stale dated dairy products or bread.

The "breeders" of these puppies hide behind the pet store and don’t have to assume any risk, accountability or responsibility for what they are producing to the actual pet owner. Ninety-nine percent of pet stores who market puppies have no spay or neuter program in place for the puppies they are selling. Don’t forget: The SPCA euthanizes thousands of dogs every year – there are simply not enough homes for the dogs that are being recycled. Everyone wants a puppy until it starts to grow up and becomes more and more obnoxious. Picture this if you can: Pet stores displaying badly behaved, untrained young dogs, say between 9 months to 2 years of age. How many of you would want to buy that dog? That is the reality of what the volunteers at the local pounds, rescue clubs and SPCA have to face each and every day.

Pet stores will sell a puppy – or even two or three puppies – to ANYONE who has the cash or enough credit on their cards. Some pet stores even have monthly payment plans/financing and they are selling these puppies at over-inflated prices. Come on folks, $500+ for a mixed breed dog and $800+ for dogs they say are purebred (but without registration papers) or an identifiable tattoo or microchip to prove it can be registered? One of my students was given the name and telephone number of the breeder after she paid $1000 for an unregistered Shar Pei. When she contacted the breeder she was told that if she wanted the puppy registered she would have to pay to register the entire litter. By the way, that is against the Canadian Kennel Club rules. It also shows the type of "breeder" who supplied that litter of Shar Peis to the pet store in the first place. Of course, my student told the breeder that the papers weren’t that important. Personally, I doubt if she would have been able to register the litter anyway. Please ask yourself: If these breeders could get the kind of money pet stores are getting for these puppies, why are they selling their litters to a pet store?

Next time you are in a pet store that markets puppies, try to get the sales clerk to give you the name and telephone number of one of the producers of these puppies without you having to buy it. If you are successful – you’ll have to be really persistent – phone that person and ask if you can come out and view his/her facility or at least ask them some questions about their dogs and the puppies they are producing. Even if the facility is too far away for you to go, lie: Tell them you are going to be in their neighborhood and want to drop in to see what they do and see what they have to say to that. Dollars to donuts they won’t want to spend much time with you answering questions or having you come out to view their facility or they will never be available at the same time as you are – watch them hedge.

Please, don’t buy a puppy on impulse or because it is convenient at that moment in time. The pet stores, puppy mill operators, and irresponsible breeders rely on these impulses. They also rely on the laziness of the average consumer who decides they want a puppy – there it is on the shelf with lots to choose from. They can get it fast and get it now without much thought as to what will happen in 2 weeks or 6 months from now when the puppy starts to grow up. God forbid they might have to wait until a good breeder has puppies available. The sales clerk will never send you home and encourage you to think over your impulse to buy a puppy right now, today. A good breeder will; they actually care about their puppies. And if you don’t know much about dogs or puppies, that is even better – they can dazzle you with … you know!

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When Should I Call a Vet?

Because you know your pet better than anyone, you should be able to pick out differences in your pet's health and behavior that would necessitate you calling the vet. Some signs to look for are:

  1. Change in appetite
  2. Noticeable loss or gain of weight
  3. Noticeable decrease or increase of water consumption
  4. Noticeable change in attitude or energy level
  5. Change in behavior
  6. Diarrhea (not just loose stool) - particularly if there is blood in the diarrhea
  7. Vomiting (particularly when in conjunction with diarrhea)
  8. Running a temperature (particularly in conjunction with diarrhea and vomiting)
  9. Obvious bloating of abdomen
  10. Disoriented and/or noticeable lack of coordination
  11. Increased urination
  12. If your pet has eaten/digested something you are not sure about
  13. Physical injuries (cuts, burns, etc.)
  14. Agitated - pacing, won't settle, constant whining, panting, trembling - could be signs of poison, seizures, etc.
  15. Prolonged limping, lameness, stiffness
  16. Swollen gums, inflamed gums, grey gums (when they are normally pink) - cold, clammy, greyish gums indicate shock and/or blood disorders
  17. Swelling of glands
  18. Growths, bumps, lumps, etc.

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Where Do I Go to Find a Dog?

If you are looking for a purebred registered (CKC - Canadian Kennel Club) or AKC (American Kennel Club) dog you will be looking for breeders who belong to either of these kennel clubs. However, not all purebred breeds are recognized by these two organizations. There are other organizations that register purebred dogs as well. However, both the above kennel clubs will assist you in finding that rare dog you so desperately want.

The best place to find out about purebred registered dogs is the CKC or AKC Dogs Annual. This is available at major bookstores. Breeders advertise across Canada and the US in these magazines, as well, hundreds of interesting articles are available about the different breeds, training, grooming, etc. They even have a special section on cats and cat breeders. Some rare breed dog breeders also advertise in these magazines.

You could also contact your local kennel club to find out about local breeders. Also visit dog shows and talk to dog people about their dogs and where they came from. Talk to the obedience people as well. Learn all you can about the different breeds of dogs. Visit veterinarians - ask them what they have learned about the different breeds of dogs and mixed breed dogs as well. Don't forget, they have dogs of every shape and description visit their offices.

Visit dog training schools and watch classes. Ask the trainers for breeder references in their area. Ask them what they recommend and why.

Visit the local animal shelters but try to not buy a dog your first visit. LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN AT HOME. Talk to the staff, the people who actually work with and care for the dogs. Try to remember that not every dog in the local shelter has been abused – most are there because their owners could not care for them, they became too much work, the owner’s lifestyle had changed, or the behavior/temperament of the dog could not be tolerated by its owners. Some dogs are strays so the staff has really no past history to share with you. This is where YOUR knowledge of dogs will come in real handy.

Visit the purebred rescue organizations in your area. Most of the reasons these dogs ended up in Rescue were due to the exact same reasons as the dogs ending up at animal shelters.

Pet Stores also sell puppies but they rely on impulse buyers who "fall in love" with that doggy in the window. Again, be very well educated so you know what questions to ask when you are dealing with pet store clerks. Consider this as if you were buying a car. Most times the prices being asked for purebred registered dogs and mixed breed dogs are much higher than if you were dealing with local breeders or the shelters/rescue clubs. Pet stores deal mainly in puppies (usually younger than 12 weeks old) because they DO capture the attention and tug at the heart strings of the public and their families – mommy please, please, let's get this puppy! Everyone loves and wants a puppy. However, should you actually get that puppy, are you in it for the long term, through thick and thin?

Breeders also advertise in local papers. There is usually a mixed bag of registered purebred, non-registered, cross-bred and multi-breed dogs and puppies for sale. You can even find free dogs in your local paper too.

Again, the more educated you are about dogs the better you will be at finding and choosing the right dog for you and your family.

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Why Are There 7 Groups of Dogs and What Are They?

When you are looking at dogs be aware that each breed of dog falls into a group. Individual breeds in each group have common temperament traits, strengths & weaknesses that pertain to the use/purpose of the breed/group. Before you choose your dog based on looks alone it is VERY IMPORTANT that you learn all you can about the temperament, health/structure, exercise requirements, grooming requirements, etc. before you make your final decision.

To help you in your decision-making I have listed each group and briefly described the purpose/use of the dog breeds in each group. I have also provided examples of some of the breeds in each group.

Sporting Dogs: Group 1
The primary purpose of breeds in this group is to point, flush, and retrieve game, i.e., pheasant, grouse, geese, ducks, partridge, etc. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Irish Setter, Gordon Setter, Vizsla, and Weimaraner. However, read a good book on Group 1 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Hounds: Group 2
The primary purpose of breeds in this group is to hunt game by sight and/or smell. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Basset Hound, Beagle, Dachshund, Greyhound, and Saluki. However, read a good book on Group 2 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Working Dogs: Group 3
The primary purpose of breeds in this group are to guard and do draft work. Do some research if you don't know what draft work is. That is one of the reasons you are doing research on different breeds of dogs in the first place. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Rottweilier, and St. Bernard. However, read a good book on Group 3 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Terriers: Group 4
The primary purpose of breeds in this group are to go to ground after vermin, i.e., badgers, rats, mice, fox, rabbits, etc. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Airedale, Staffordshire Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Fox Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, and West Highland White Terrier. However, read a good book on Group 4 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Toys: Group 5
The primary purpose of breeds in this group is to be pets and lap dogs. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Poodle (Toy), and Pug. However, read a good book on Group 5 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Non-Sporting Dogs: Group 6
This group is a catch-all for breeds of dogs not easily categorized. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Chinese Shar Pei, Dalmatian, Keeshond, Lhaso Apso, Poodle (Miniature & Standard), and Shih Tzu. However, read a good book on Group 6 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Herding Dogs: Group 7
The primary purpose of breeds in this group are to herd sheep, cattle, and other livestock. Some breeds you may be familiar with in this group are the Australian Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Bouvier, Collie (Rough & Smooth), German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Border Collie. However, read a good book on Group 7 and investigate other breeds, that are included, that may interest you.

Now comes the hard part, trying to decide on the perfect pet for your family. To help you out I have designed an easy and fun questionnaire that will only take a few minutes of your time to complete. Based on your "families temperment" you will try to find the group whose breeds best match your family. Even though this is for fun, you may be surprised at the outcome.

FAMILY PERSONALITIES (Choose the description that best describes your family)

Outgoing, energetic, doers more than watchers, outdoor minded, competitive spirit (loves all types of games), impulsive, adventuresome, single

Same as A+ only married (no children).

Same as A only married with children.

Friendly, loyal, responsible, sensitive, positive, hardworking, trustworthy, non-impulsive but inquisitive, factual, single

Same as B+ only married (no children).

Same as B only married with children.

Quiet, reserved, responsible, homebody, wary, non-adventuresome, reliable, single

Same as C+ only married (no children)

Same as C only married with children Now, you say, my family is mostly an A- but we also have some B and C tendencies.

Congratulations!!! You are starting to understand how difficult it is to categorize breeds of dogs and the different temperaments/personalities of each dog even though they may be the same breed. Good breeders test their puppies using similar criteria, as I have provided above, to assist you in choosing the right dog/puppy for your family.

Now we get into matching/categorizing the personality/personalities of the different breeds within the different groups as they pertain to family temperaments/personalities:

Group Personalities


Groups 1, 2, 3, 4, & 7

Type: A

Groups 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, & 7

Type: A-
Groups 1, 6, & 7

Type: B+

You could be looking for the dog/puppy that is in the middle of the pack (temperament speaking) from any of the breeds of dogs within any group

Type B

Same as above

Type B-

Groups 1, 3, 6, & 7

Type C+

Groups 5, 6, & 7

Type C

Same as above

Type C-

Groups 5, 6, & 7

While the above is not an exact science it should help you look at these matched groups more closely. Examine whether you are choosing your future dog based on looks rather than personality/temperament. If you have special needs (allergies, physical limitations, size restrictions where you live, etc.), this fun questionnaire did not take any of these factors into account. If you do have special needs I would recommend a private consultation with a trainer who can look deeper into what you actually need and can handle.

The last thing I want to mention is that in every litter there are A+ down to C- temperaments/personalities, regardless of what breed you are looking at. So in addition to choosing the right breed, you then have to choose the right temperament/personality of the individual dog/puppy to suit your family. As much variety in temperament/personalities that exists in people, so does this variety exist among dogs. The groups exist to group the natural talents that some breeds of dogs have together – not necessarily temperament/personalities.

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Why Should I Spay/Neuter My Pet?

What with so much literature out there on the benefits of spaying and neutering it always surprises me that well educated people are reluctant to have this done. For some reason they believe they are taking their dog's/cat's manhood and/or womanhood away from their pet. Another reason, I believe, for the reluctance (which most owners won't admit to) is the cost. However, these are usually the same people who don't believe in vaccinations. Some of these people actually believe the veterinarian is trying to rip them off…make them spend their money on things that their pet really doesn't need. They reason that years ago people didn't spend money for these things why should they? Are you one of these people? A small group of people, men primarily, actually take the neutering of a male dog very personally…as if you were asking them to get fixed. However, they see no problem with female dogs and cats being spayed. I even had one gentleman explain to me that it absolutely normal and necessary that a male dog remain intact. Get those bitches fixed – they're the ones producing all these unwanted animals. GET REAL!

There is only one valid reason NOT to get your dog or cat spayed or neutered. You plan to become a dog and/or cat breeder. If that is your intent, please refer to our How do I become a dog breeder? section. There is really no other valid reason to keep your pet intact.

Did you know that the animal shelters destroy/kill/put down over 5,000 to 7,000 unwanted pets each year? Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Did you know that the cancer rate increases 50%-60% in dogs and cats that are not fixed?

Some of the old wives tales are still part of some people's rational as to why they don't want to spay or neuter their pet:

  1. Reduces drive in male hunting dogs, herding dogs, tracking dogs, etc., etc. Most people don't want or need that much drive in their dogs anyway and I have not seen that much difference in drive between dogs that were fixed or not. Don't forget, in most cases these dogs are also pets. In competitive hunting/obedience/tracking dog trials females are penalized when they are in season by not being allowed to participate – it would be too distracting for the male dogs that are entered. Hey, if these male dogs have so much drive to work, why would a female in season bother them? I have seen male dogs jump, scale and chew through all types of fencing to breed with females in season. They will fight with other dogs, hump people (adults, children and other dogs – male or female), etc. That is how distracting a female dog in season is to an intact male. That is how dominant the urge to breed can be. On occasion they will actually breed through a fence.
  2. Cats don't mouse as well if they are fixed.
  3. Why put my pet through unnecessary surgery. God made them this way why should we mess around with perfection?
  4. It’s the other pet owners fault – why didn't they confine their female dog/cat when she was in season.
  5. Boys will be boys. It is up to the female dog/cat to say no.
  6. Male dogs and female dogs should be bred at least once – it gets all the organs working better and they develop/mature better. These same owners usually believe that female dogs should always have one litter - it's the way Mother Nature meant for it to be. Try telling that to all the unwanted animals that are destroyed every year.
  7. It changes the pet's personality.
  8. Don't worry about it – my dog/cat NEVER gets loose! Try telling that to all the unwanted animals that are destroyed every year. Where did they come from??
  9. It costs money! We can't afford it. Hey, it's part and parcel of responsible pet ownership.

Now that I have given most of you a good laugh, let's get serious.

The NUMBER 1 REASON you need to spay and/or neuter your pet is because YOU ARE A RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER.

You want to be part of the solution NOT part of the problem and you want to increase your pet's chance for a longer and healthier life.

Can you think of a better reason?

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Why Should I Have Monthly Physical Exams of My Pet?

This topic is always well received when I review WHY and HOW to do a proper physical exam during my obedience classes. A lot of novice dog owners do not understand the importance of knowing your dog's and/or cat's bodies as well as you do your own. Just like physicians tell us to do monthly physicals checking for any abnormalities, the same holds true for your pet. Of course, you pet and stroke your pet on a daily basis but there is a big difference between showing affection and an actual physical exam. I always tell my students that this is not an obedience exercise but rather a loving exercise between you and your pet. Choose a quiet time when you are both relaxed. In the past, I did not have a formal write up on this exercise but I have been asked by existing students and previous students to prepare a list of things to watch for in dogs' health in general and what to do. You can also apply this to cats. So, here is a short list of what to cover during your monthly physical exam and a few other pointers regarding your dog's health. Remember, this list is not to deter you taking your dog to a vet; it is to enable you to better communicate your concerns to your vet!

There should not be any foreign bodies floating in the eyes. Watch for discharge and puss from the eyes and if this occurs take Fido to the vet immediately. Check under the lids for seeds, grass, etc. that can get lodged in the eye and trapped under the lids. If you are running Fido in tall grass this should be done immediately after his/her run. The whites of the eyes should be white, not yellow, and the colored part of the eye should be clear, not hazy (particularly in young dogs). There should not be any scratches on the cornea or iris. Check to see if he/she is getting flesh warts on the lid of the eye – common in older dogs and then discuss with your vet what treatment is best for your dog.

Floppy ear dogs are more prone to ear infections than perky ear dogs. Some symptoms of ear infections include the dog shaking his/her head a lot, rubbing ears/head on the carpet, discharge from the ear (you maybe hadn't noticed the other symptoms and now it is really bad). Even if your dog is not showing any symptoms you should check the ears during the monthly physical. Look into the ear canal – is it clean – if not use a good ear cleaner and gently wipe out with tissue. Do not poke deep into the ear canal. If the ear looks clean but smells musty (like a dirty old sock) than he/she probably has an infection or dirt built up deep in the ear canal. Have your vet check this out.

Dogs can sniff up the most unusual things, much like a child. Check to ensure Fido isn't carrying around a pebble or shard of grass lodged in the nostrils. The nose should be moist and somewhat cool to the touch. A hot nose is usually a sign of a sick dog. If your dog's nose is hot and he/she is lethargic, throwing up, not eating, diarrhea, etc. call the vet. If he/she has something lodged in the nose don't try to take it out yourself. Go see the vet.

Dogs are prone to cancer just like people – every month check your dog’s throat, chest, upper and lower body, sides, legs, penis, genitals, etc. for lumps, bumps, etc. Just like in people early detection can mean the difference between life and death. Your dog may appear to be just fine but a lump that goes undetected is like a time bomb. Also watch for a change in your dog's coat - what was once healthy and shiny is now dull and listless. There may be a medical reason for this. I am not talking about normal shedding but a change in the actual coat itself. On long-haired dogs it is also important that you check to make sure the dog doesn't have poo stuck to his back end – this can sometimes be so serious that the dog can't go to the bathroom because the poo builds up in the hair and blocks the hole. Also watch for fleas and lice; lots of scratching going on or you are starting to notice bites on you. A daily brushing helps keep your dog's coat healthy and cleaner and prevents the buildup of poo on their back ends. A good bath, massage and brush can help keep your dog's coat and skin healthy. However, do not over bath as this can dry out your dog's coat and skin. If you are not sure, you can talk to a professional groomer or to your vet. Some breeds are prone to anal glands becoming blocked/impacted or infected. Some signs of this are bad smell, the dog is rubbing/dragging his back end on the floor/carpet, secretion, etc. If you are not sure you can take your dog to a professional groomer who has experience expressing the anal glands or to your vet.

Pads & Toe Nails

Watch to make sure that your dog doesn't get grass, mud, ice, etc. trapped in the hair between his toes or the bottom pad. Also keep your dog's nails trimmed so that they are not scratching people when he comes up for hugs and more importantly to prevent the splaying of your dog's toes. You can imagine how your feet would feel if you didn't cut your toenails. I have seen long haired dogs come in for grooming and because the owner can't see the nails, they grow so long that they curl back into the dog's bottom pads. I'm sure you will not let this happen to your dog. If your dog is difficult to handle for nails take him to a groomer or to the vet…they will be happy help you with this.

Teeth & Gums
Your pet needs dental care just like you do. Some breeds have more problems with plaque and tarter build up than other breeds. However, generally a good brushing once a week (or daily depending on the dog and/or your vets recommendation) will reduce tarter and plaque. Some dogs and cats will not allow their owners to actually brush their teeth. Not even when you are using special brushes designed for pets. There are even special toothpastes now for pets. One alternative is to use a soft cloth and you gently rub the teeth and gums. Another alternative is to use one of the many solutions available from pet stores and/or your veterinarian that is squirted into the dog's mouth and works with the saliva to soften plaque and tarter, making it easier to remove with your cloth. Whatever way works best for you and your dog, the most important thing is that it gets done. Symptoms of gum and teeth problems are: Smelly breath, hard brown build up of plaque/tarter on the teeth, receding gum line (more of the tooth is exposed…maybe even part of the root), broken teeth that are turning black, bleeding gums, etc.

Veterinarians will tell you that they see a lot of cats and dogs that are overweight. Just like people this can be detrimental to your pet’s health. I always tell people that dogs and cats can't open a refrigerator themselves. Many pet owners are literally killing their pets by feeding them too much or the wrong kind of food. The best person to advise you on this is your veterinarian if you are not sure. Remember that dog food manufacturers want to sell you food, and lots of it. Then if your pet becomes overweight they can sell you higher-priced diet food. Your pet requires food that will give him/her all the daily required vitamins and minerals to maintain good health (structure, bone/muscle, teeth, skin, and coat).

In the past your dog's or cat's vaccinations (distemper series and rabies) were done yearly. Nowadays this whole philosophy is changing. Please follow YOUR veterinarian's advice as to how often your pet requires vaccinations. Good boarding kennels do require up-to-date vaccinations if and when you require their services. It is one of the ways you can prevent a multitude of serious health problems from occurring.

You are your pet's first line of defense against sickness and disease. The better you know your pet the better you can help your veterinarian care for your pet.

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Why Should I NOT Get 2 Puppies at the Same Time?

Puppies at 8-10 weeks of age are absolutely adorable. They are usually very affectionate/loving, playful, tire out easy, do not require much exercise, and sleep lots of the time. When you see a litter of pups playing among themselves you can’t help but think maybe I should get two of them so they can be playmates for one another. Or, how about this one: let’s get each of the children their own puppy. That way they won’t be fighting over who gets to hold, feed, play, etc. with only the one pup. HOWEVER, PLEASE THINK AGAIN!

When you bring home two puppies they will, of course, play with one another, sleep together, eat together, and keep you entertained with their antics. However, instead of having to watch only one pup to see where it is going, what it is getting into (destroying/chewing/eating), etc., you will now have to try to watch two puppies and they are fast. Don’t expect your children to keep that close an eye on the pups; children get easily distracted too. As well, if the pups are together all the time they won’t develop their own independence, apart from each other, and you may end up being NOT the most important thing in their life. They’ll follow each other’s lead, not yours.

As they mature they will both require training which is a lot of work even if you only have one dog. There are also the added costs over and above the initial cost of the puppies themselves, including vet care, food, toys, training classes, boarding, grooming, repairs, and more.

The only people who benefit from you getting two puppies at the same time is the person(s) and/or pet store you get the puppies from. No matter if the pups were free or cost a mint, it’s two less puppies for these people to have to worry about feeding and finding homes for. In the case of pet store puppies, the sales clerk makes his/her living marketing puppies and it is to their financial benefit to sell as many puppies as they can.

If anyone tries to sell and/or give you two puppies at the same time, really listen to these people and figure out who it’s really going to benefit get that cheque or credit card out hey we even have a monthly payment plan.

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Can My Dog’s Annoying Habits Be Trained out?

While disgusting dog habits can take your appetite away, annoying dog habits are usually very embarrassing habits as well. I have selected the top 5 annoying dog habits for your entertainment. Most of these habits can be diminished or solved through training or dog management strategies. ENJOY!!!

  • Humping cushions, toys, blankets when you have your boss and his wife over for dinner, bridge, etc.
  • Humping the boss or his wife.
  • Greeting your guests with the standard dog greeting - nose to crotch. "Hi! Boy, you smell nice!"
  • Carting out your dirty laundry in front of guests - bras, underwear, etc. and lying down for a good chew OR they try to give them to your guests (retriever owners beware)
  • Digging up/chewing your roses, trees, lawn, deck, hot tug, garden tractor, tins of oil in your garage, your garage, etc. While this is not usually embarrassing, this annoying habit can be very pricey!

Are dogs worth it? Absolutely!

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Are My Dog’s Disgusting Habits Normal?

The #1 disgusting dog habit I am asked for help with is eating poop – their own, other dogs, cats, deer, cows, horses, etc. You get the idea. Please – no kisses!

Even though I agree that this is disgusting it is completely normal. It does not mean your dog lacks anything in his/her diet. Not all dogs do this but probably 50% of dogs will eat some form/type of poop. Some may be more discriminating than others as to what kind of poop they like. While it may be normal, there is always a risk of disease being transmitted from one animal to another.


The easiest ways to stop your dog from eating poop are:

  1. Maintain a zero tolerance of poop in your own yard. Pick poop up immediately after it is deposited, be it your own dog(s) or other animals.
  2. Teach your dog the "Leave It" command so that when you are with him/her you can actually stop the dog from gulping down that appetizing morsel. Of course this will not work if you are not around.
  3. Try to startle the dog when he tries to eat poop by using a tin/can with pennies in it, hidden behind your back, so that when he/she starts to eat the poop you shake this (keep it hidden) and shout NO, leave it. This can work well to deter the dog not to eat poop even when you are not around. He may be afraid of the poop.
  4. If your dog is only eating his own poop (or is only given this opportunity) there are pills you can buy or additives you can add to their food that makes the poop unappealing to the dog. However, this does not work on all dogs.

Nothing really works 100% on all dogs except if you take the opportunity for getting the poop away before he gets it.

I know that dog owners cannot watch their dog every minute of every day the next obvious solution is to clean their mouth/teeth after they have been eating poop and want to give you kisses. While this is time consuming you will actually be killing two birds with one stone – providing good dental care for your dog and making his/her breath sweeter smelling so you actually enjoy those kisses.

Other disgusting dog habits:

  1. Eating poop and then throwing up all over your kitchen or dining room floor (particularly when you have guests for dinner). I was hungry! 
  2. Grabbing dirty diapers and cleaning them for you.
  3. Eating grass and again throwing up all over your kitchen or dining room floor. Why can't dogs eat grass and throw up outside before they come in.
  4. Cleaning your toilet bowel before you had a chance to flush.

I am sure that there are many more disgusting dog habits, but chose the top 4 that disgust people the most and that I am asked for help with most frequently.

Because there is a difference between disgusting and annoying, I have prepared a separate list of the Top 5 ANNOYING dog habits for you to have a chuckle/gag over.

Are dogs worth it? Absolutely!

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What Are My Responsibilities As a Dog Owner?

When you are considering getting a dog or puppy you must be prepared to undertake and/or provide:

  • Good quality food.
  • Veterinary attention when required (annual vaccinations/checkups, sickness, etc.).
  • Spay or Neuter your dog - the only reason you would not do this is if you want to become a dog breeder and have a breed that there is a demand for, i.e., you have a waiting list of people who have ordered a puppy from you. If you own a mixed breed dog there is really no valid reason to keep the dog intact.
  • Grooming - some breeds only require a simple bath, brush & nail clipping, while others require extensive grooming, including hair clipping and trimming – this can end up being expensive if you are on a tight budget. Whatever breed or mixed breed of dog you have, routine grooming is necessary. Don't forget that your dog’s teeth also need a good cleaning every week or so.
  • Safe and secure area for your puppy or dog to play outdoors.
  • Daily walks (at least twice a day) no matter what the weather.
  • Training: take your puppy or dog to at least 1 level of formal obedience classes. Both of you will learn how to work together as a team. These classes also help your dog focus on you regardless of distractions.
  • Be prepared to keep your dog for the life of the dog – not until it becomes inconvenient and then you take it to the local animal shelter hoping someone else will take on the responsibilities you so casually dismissed.

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How Should I Deal with My Children’s & Dog’s Interactions?

I believe that children who are raised WELL with pets are better adjusted, take responsibility better, learn patience and tolerance and learn to share and be gentle. However, the key phrase here is raised WELL.

Dogs themselves do not teach the above life skills to children. Rather, parents teach their children these skills through their own actions and responsibilities towards the pets they own and share with all family members. Dogs are not baby sitters or toys for the children to pick up and discard when they are tired of them. Nor should adults buy a dog as a child substitute. DOGS LOVE BEING DOGS!

If your children are old enough – 5 years of age and up – they can certainly be involved in the research of dogs and contribute to family discussions as to what type of dog would be best suited for the family. However, the final decision should never be left in your children's hands. Would you trust your children to decide what kind of vehicle you were going to buy, what medicine should be administered if they or you were sick, what kinds of foods they should eat. Well, the addition of a dog into the family should be made by the adults in the family who understand that buying a dog is not a whim or an impulse to satisfy right now.

Children will promise the moon to convince their parents that they NEED a dog. They will promise to feed, walk, train, poop-scoop, and do all the chores normally associated with having a dog. However, the novelty quickly wears off, particularly if parents try to MAKE the child follow through on all the promises that were made. Owning a dog can turn into a real power struggle between parents and children if the only reason you got a dog in the first place is because your children pressured you into getting the dog or you got the dog for the children.

One common mistake adults make is believing that children can housetrain and/or actually train dogs to listen and obey. Hey, adults can have difficulty here - why would you expect a child to be able to achieve this. Unless you have an uncommonly gifted and mature child this is just not going to happen. Dogs and even puppies quickly pick up the pecking order in families and unfortunately they view children as other dogs or litter mates. However, because children have little POWER in the family mechanism they do and will want to have POWER over a dog or cat. This is normal but children can try to express their power and control in very negative ways that could be detrimental to the development and safety of the pet.

When you do decide to add a dog to your family you should never leave the dog unattended with children under 10 years of age. Children and dogs do the darndest things and you can never be 100% sure what could happen. Children and dogs get easily distracted and can get into trouble when not supervised. Try to establish a routine in the family so that both the children and dog know the parameters of what will be tolerated and what will not. Teach your children how to properly choose and care for a dog through your own actions. After reading this you may decide that it is not the right time to bring home that puppy AND maybe by making that decision you will have ultimately taught your children that dogs are not disposable creatures that can be picked up and discarded when they no longer suit or fill your needs.

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What Games Should I NOT Teach My Dog?

Everyone loves to play with a dog/puppy. However with young dogs there are some games that should be avoided until you have a well-trained and mature dog. A lot of the behavior/temperament problems dog owners encounter with their dogs have been created by themselves or by their children and friends.

If you do not want your dog jumping up, discourage this from the day you bring your puppy home. Gently push his/her little bum down and then stroke and/or pet him. If you always do this, the dog will learn he will only get patted or stroked if he/she is sitting. If you don't want your dog on furniture, don't ever let him up on the furniture. Teach him/her the command "off". So many people use the command "down" for a myriad of different behaviors – get off furniture, get off people, get off counters, and of course to lie down. I believe it makes it easier if a command pertains to the behavior you want to correct or teach. "Off" means to get off things. Down means to lie down.

Do you want a gentle, calm dog? One that is not jumping at your clothes, hands, face, body slamming you? Then do you not allow wrestling with a young dog? Wrestling reduces you to the same level as your dog. It teaches a young dog that it is OK to jump up, tackle you, growl, body slam you. What happens if the dog does that to a 5 year old? Young dogs DO NOT know when it is ok to do this and when it is not.

It's so much fun to have a young puppy play tug of war with you, isn't it? However, you are teaching this young dog not to give things back, to actually pull against you – pit his body strength against yours. As small pups you can always win but do you want to try to wrestle your beloved leather jacket away from a 90-pound, snarling and growling demon. Do you want your child to try to do this?

If you have chosen a breed or mixed breed of dog that has natural/genetic tendencies to be protective, aggressive, prey driven, etc. the wrong kind of play can escalate these tendencies.

Any type of play that encourages young dogs not to cooperate, to show dominance, to snarl, growl, etc. may actually escalate more dominant behavior than what you are prepared for. I know dogs play among themselves this way. However, are you a dog? Is that how you want your pet to perceive you, as an equal?

People find it hard enough to train dogs to listen to them – dogs do not listen to and obey people they perceive as other dogs, equals, or God forbid even lesser to them. They do love their owners and family members but dogs only obey people they RESPECT. That is why children have such great difficulty training dogs.

You do not have to be mean (verbally or physically) to get your dog to get respect. Actually the reverse is true. Calm, fair, consistent people get the best out of their dog.

One other game that can create problems is football. Children and men in particular love to teach FIDO all the evasive moves used in football. "Evade – don't be caught! Bounce 5 feet away from your opponent but don't come close enough in for them to grab you." Dogs love this game too. However, can you imagine how frustrating it is to call “come” and your dog comes within 5 feet and he/she decides to start playing football. Don't forget, he/she knows this game well – you can't catch him.

The last game I want to cover is using a stick for your dog to fetch/retrieve. While this may seem harmless enough, a stick can cause serious injury to your dog and a large vet bill for your pocketbook. I have personally seen instances where the owner has stabbed the dog with a stick while he was winding up to throw the stick and the dog jumped up at the exact same moment the owner started the throw. I have seen dogs try to catch the stick and have it get stuck/lodged in their mouth sideways and/or lengthwise. Ouch! One of my most recent stories about a stick involved the dog pouncing on the stick and a piece of the stick breaking off and becoming lodged in a gland under the tongue. It was only after numerous visits to the vet and expensive surgery was the piece of stick found and removed. It is only natural for dogs to cart sticks around in their mouth and/or chew on sticks, however, very seldom does a dog injure himself while playing on his own. It is only when they are excited at the prospect of playing fetch with their owner does the risk factor increase. Lastly, for people who want to train their dog for hunting, if your dog has been praised for bringing you a stick and he/she can't find the bird, a stick may be the next best thing to bring back to you – think about that.

If you are having behavior/temperament/training problems with your dog it is always wise to call a trainer. Well-meaning friends can give you the wrong advice.

Please refer to our How to Choose a Good Training School? section.

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How Do I Become a Dog Trainer?

I get asked this question at least four or five times a year, most often from young adults who love dogs and are investigating ways to put their love of dogs to work for them. I am sure they are also investigating other career opportunities that does not involve staying in school or having to go back to school for numerous years. Dog training seems like it could be lots of fun. You get to work with dogs!

The first thing I recommend to people who are interested in becoming dog trainers is to talk to as many trainers as they can. I know that a lot of trainers, breeders, boarding kennel owners, groomers, etc. don't want to talk to people who may end up going into competition with them. However, I am of the opinion that people are going to do what they are going to regardless of whether you help them or not. I believe it is better that you arm these people with the truth and give them all the facts so that if they do decide to go into the dog training, grooming, breeding, etc. business, they will do it well and become a credit to other fellow professionals.

There are a few dog training schools in the United States that offer accreditation in dog training. Up here in Canada I have not heard of any schools that specifically offer to train dog trainers. I, personally, would love to see standards and accreditation set for trainers but at the moment none exist. Anyone can hang up their shingle, whether they have any experience actually training dogs or not and if they are any good at it or not. Refer to our How to Choose a Good Training School? section.

When you are talking to dog trainers, find out exactly how many of these people are actually making a living only doing dog training. Most training facilities also offer combinations of grooming, boarding, retail sales of dog and cat supplies, breeding, etc. If they are only doing dog training they usually have a partner who is employed elsewhere, or they have another job themselves and run a dog training business as a side-line OR they are independently wealthy!!! Most trainers do this as a hobby and as a means of generating extra cash - it is usually not their only primary source of income. In any training establishment there is usually one principle trainer and then their assistant trainers. Most of the time these assistant trainers are volunteers who want experience and/or are trading their services for free classes for their own dogs. In some cases they are paid a small fee for helping with classes. However, there is not too much money to be made there. These assistant trainers started the same way most dog trainers running a dog training school started: They took their own dog to obedience school!

Usually, when people take their dog to obedience school all they want is to have a dog that will listen to them. Rarely do they have aspirations to become dog trainers. However, you do encounter exceptions to that rule.

A good trainer will be able to pick out the exceptional dogs and exceptional novice dog trainers they have in class within the first hour. Unfortunately sometimes, exceptional dogs have non-exceptional owners/handlers/trainers and vice versa. Fortunately, sometimes you will see that special team of an exceptional dog and an exceptional novice owner/handler/trainer. However, the norm lies somewhere in between. Good trainers can motivate and train even the most novice, inexperienced dog owners/trainers to achieve reasonable success with even the most difficult of dogs. Good trainers can make the exceptional dog and exceptional novice trainer absolutely shine. However, good trainers show no preference or discrimination between the exceptional dog and the absolutely worse dog you can imagine. The dog trainer is being paid to produce results in both the best situation and the worse situation. From the norm or middle of the road dogs and their owners/handlers you can achieve either higher expectations than what was expected or below-average results. This is a fact of life when you are teaching people and the dogs they bring to you. Just ask teachers who teach children, high school, or university. They will tell you the exact same thing.

On rare occasions (thank goodness) you will encounter a dog that is so highly aggressive (of other dogs and/or people, including their owners) that the methods you are using just won't work. You have to be knowledgeable and confident enough to be able to tell the owners the truth. This is not easy to do, believe me. This is like telling a parent that their child is going to grow up to be a Ted Bundy or Paul Bernardo.

It is usually from within the exceptional dog and exceptional novice owner/trainer combinations that future dog trainers come. On occasion you do see an average dog and average owner/trainer advance beyond their initial capabilities and actually learn more than you thought they would and become a proficient working team. A good trainer will recognize all of these things and encourage these people to compete with their dogs in obedience trials or guide them into other dog sports where they will do well and have fun. Not every dog and/or every dog owner/trainer have that special combination to enable them to compete in dog sports. Nor in a lot of cases, do they want to. In reverse I have seen exceptional dog/owner teams that love to train but have no interest in competition or becoming dog trainers.

After working with students and their dogs at the higher levels of training a good trainer starts to recognize qualities in some of these people that may make them into effective dog trainers. However, don't forget: All the trainer has seen up to this point in time is how they handle and taught their own dog. A good trainer/instructor will want to challenge the limits of another good, but inexperienced dog trainer. At this time, a good trainer/instructor may ask the student he/she has been monitoring if he/she is interested in helping with a beginner class to see how she/he likes it. It will also give the trainer an opportunity to watch this person work with other people and their dogs.

Herein lies the crux of the whole dog training/dog trainer scenario. Only 10%-15% of the people who have been very successful training their own dog can transfer this talent, knowledge, or magic (whatever you want to call it) to training other people and their dogs. While they may have had exceptional success with their own personal dog(s) they may not be capable of producing these same strong results with other people and their dog(s).

I believe that a good trainer can produce good results with most owners and their dogs. Not exceptional results with only exceptional owners and exceptional dogs.

Dog trainers are teachers. They teach people how to train their dogs. Even if they were to take a dog, train it and give it back to its owners, the trainer still has to be able to transfer some of their training knowledge to the dog's owner so that the dog will listen to the owner. Dogs are not robots who will listen (once they are trained) to just anyone.

The best example I can give is the case where a gentleman brought his dog out for me to evaluate for CDX/Open training. This dog had been trained for competitive fieldwork on an electric collar. The trainer had achieved much success with this dog and it was highly titled in that area. However, the dog would not listen to the owner AT ALL – it was, in fact, completely dominating the owner. The owner joked that the only way the dog would listen was if he put the electric collar on the dog. The owner was not concerned at all because the reason he wanted the dog trained, trialed, and titled was so when he bred her he would have a better market for the puppies.

However, this is NOT what 99% of dog owners want. They want their dog to listen to them, not just to the professional dog trainer or to a training device.

What you have to ask yourself, if you truly want to become a good dog trainer is if you have the time, the energy, the money, and commitment to train my own dog and showcase my own dog? Do I want to volunteer my time, if I am asked to do so, to learn how to teach other people and their dogs? Do I understand that I may find out that I am not very good at working with other people and their dog(s) and/or do not enjoy it? Even if I am good at it and enjoy it, do I have the financial capability to set up my own training school? Do I understand that this cannot be my only source of income? In other words, you will still have to do/be something else besides being a dog trainer.

Only YOU can answer these questions.

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How Do I Choose a Good Training School?

  1. Make telephone enquiries and select 3 schools that have impressed you over the telephone and find out if you can drop in to watch a class. Strike any school that will not allow you to watch a class off your list. Close proximity to a training school should not be the only criteria you use to select a school. We have had people from as far away as Jasper attend our training programs.
  2. Go and watch at least one class at each of these schools. If you are unable to do this or if classes are not operating at the time you are interviewing prospective trainers/schools, ask if you can at least come out and view the training facility and meet the trainer face to face. If you can, bring your dog with you. If the trainer is not interested in meeting your dog at an interview ask why? After all, this is the person you may be entrusting yours and your dog's education to. Ask the trainer if he/she can demonstrate training methods or results accomplished with one of his/her own dogs.
  3. Watch and see how the instructors work with the owners and their dogs. Do you see anyone in the class who is not getting the required attention? Do the owners and dogs appear to be enjoying themselves and do the instructors look like they are happy to be doing what they are doing?
  4. Are the instructors willing to take the dog from the owner to demonstrate how an exercise should be done with that dog or are they only instructing?
  5. Is the instructor patient with the owners and their dogs? Does the average dog owner give the instructions clear and achievable?
  6. Does the school offer written homework sheets so you can't forget what was covered in class?
  7. Are there enough instructors for the size of class? Our ratio is 5 dogs and handlers to one instructor. Small class size does not guarantee you high quality training. Group classes are to provide outside distractions so that your dog learns to listen and focus on you regardless of how many other people and/or dogs are around. The most important thing is that the school has enough qualified instructors for the size of class.
  8. Is there enough room in the facility for you to actually work with your dog? Years ago I took classes in someone's garage and he had only five dogs in the class, but we had no room to actually work the dogs.
  9. Is the facility clean and well maintained? Is the equipment in good repair and safe?
  10. Are the instructors willing to stay around after class is finished to work with you and your dog in areas that you are having trouble in?
  11. Are the instructors willing and able to answer questions not related to training but general doggy questions as well?
  12. Do they give a test at the end of each level to gauge exactly where you are? Do they offer any type of guarantee?
  13. Are they willing to offer you a make-up class or allow you to attend a different class time to make up for a class you have missed?
  14. Do they show a genuine concern and affection for all the dogs in their classes or is preference noticeably shown to certain dogs and owners?

If you use this list as a guide when you are interviewing trainers and schools you will learn not all schools offer the same quality of training or stand behind their training. Now you can make an educated decision.

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How Do I House Train My Puppy?

Hopefully your pup is at least 8 weeks old when you bring him or her home. Pups at that age are mentally mature enough and physically developed enough to begin house/toilet training. Pups younger than that are often too immature mentally and/or physically to be put on a proper house/toilet training program. When you are serious about house/toilet training you understand that the pup is to be taught NOT to eliminate in the house. That means no paper training and/or locking the pup in the basement, kitchen, bathroom, etc. where he/she is allowed to eliminate in a certain area in the house because you are away or too busy to watch the pup. The most common and successful method of house/toilet training is the use of the portable kennel. The kennel also keeps your pup and household belongings safe when you are not at home. Remember that while your 6 month old pup may be house/toilet trained he/she is still teething and may do extensive damage to your belongings if left alone in your home. It is also your pup's safe spot when you have visitors or are traveling. You will need an outside area that is safe for the pup to romp and play and to use as a toilet. If you do not have a fenced area/yard/dog run, it is a good idea to build one unless you like going out with the pup each time you are putting him/her outside to eliminate and play.

The portable kennel does not need blankets nor do you leave food and water inside the kennel. The pup can have a non-edible chew toy in the kennel to occupy him/her. The pup's water bowl should be easily accessible when the pup is outside the kennel. Remember to also have fresh water outside in his/her yard as well. For pups between 8 to 12 weeks of age, water should be taken away 1 hour before bedtime and the pup should not be rigorously exercised during that time. The last thing you do before the pup is put to bed is to give him/her one last chance to eliminate outside.

You should feed the pup in the kennel but the food is not left in there for hours at a stretch. Your pup can be given 20-30 minutes to eat the food and then it is removed. This helps owners regulate the pup's bowel movements. Pups between 8-12 weeks of age should be fed 3 times a day (breakfast, lunch and supper). For some breeds the breeder or vet may even recommend 4 smaller meals during the day. Pups over 12 weeks of age should be fed 2 times a day until they are between 10 to 12 months of age. Your breeder and/or vet are the best people to advise you on your own dog's development and feeding requirements. After each feeding the pup should be immediately taken outside to eliminate. If your pup is under 12 weeks of age and you are going to be gone for long periods of time, i.e., work, you should arrange for someone to come in at lunchtime to feed and exercise the pup. You have to gradually build up the time the pup is left in the kennel, which in turn will build up the time the pup has to wait to be taken outside to eliminate. This way the pup is conditioned positively rather than negatively. At bedtime, the same holds true. Pups between 8 to 12 weeks of age can generally be expected to sleep 5 to 6 hours without having to eliminate. You cannot expect a pup to stay clean in his/her kennel longer than that on a regular basis. Between 12 to 16 weeks should start seeing the time gradually build to 7 to 8 hours. Once your pup is sleeping at night for that length of time, without getting you up to be taken out, then you are well on your way.

When the pup is not in his kennel and not in his outside yard, it is important that the pup be supervised. Accidents happen when the dog is not being watched. When the pup is out with you in the house remember to take it outside every hour and encourage it to go. You won't get success each time but when you do really praise the pup. This will also give you insight as to what times of the day your pup most likely will have to eliminate. If your pup starts to eliminate right in front of you make sure you discipline him/her immediately. I personally don't believe in hitting the pup and rubbing its nose in the mess. What has worked really well for me is to startle the pup with my voice "NO!!!" and pick the pup up by the scruff (support the back end please) and carry it outside. However, with large breeds and if they are over 12 weeks of age I would not recommend you picking him/her up by the scruff. This could bruise the skin. Instead take its collar and gently pull him/her out the door. When you get the pup outside, you must change your whole demeanor - become happy again and really encourage the pup to continue doing its business outside. Praise the pup when you get success. If the pup does not go within 15 minutes of being brought outside then bring it back inside the house and kennel it for 10-15 minutes and try again. You usually get successful elimination after the pup has had a "quiet time" in his/her kennel…particularly if you were successful in interrupting the pup at the time the accident was occurring.

When you are at home, the pup should have mid-morning naps and mid afternoon naps (30 minutes each time) in his/her portable kennel. This way the pup gets used to being kenneled even when you're at home and doing things. I call this "time out" for both the pup and his owner.

When you get an older dog that is not housetrained but you want to housetrain it, treat it as you would a puppy and follow the same routine. You should see faster results than you would with a young pup.

Good luck.

Funny you should say that! At one of my beginner level obedience classes I was showing the owners how to properly sit their dog. I asked if there were any questions and one sweet woman put her hand up and quietly asked, “What if my dog doesn't want to sit?”

Our one-hour private consultation offered on housetraining sets up a program designed for your personal lifestyle and family situation.

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Is It Really Necessary to Take My Dog/Puppy to Training School?

We all know people who own or have owned perfectly behaved dogs that have never went to school. When you look at your dog and the frustration he/she is causing it makes you wonder, "Why is this happening to me? What am I doing wrong? Did I just get the wrong dog?”

Did the person with the perfectly behaved dog have some sort of magic? Was the dog just born that way?

You ask yourself time and time again, “Why, when I love this dog so much and treat him/her so well, won't he/she listen to me and learn what I am trying to teach him/her?”

Sometimes it is just a matter of HOW you are communicating with your dog. Reading training manuals gives you knowledge but it cannot evaluate how you are doing the exercises, how good or bad your timing is, or what kind of dog you are working with and how that dog's needs are different from what is being covered in the book. Each dog has his or her own temperament and personality.

When you take your puppy/dog to training school, the instructors should be able to adjust training methods to suit you and your dog to achieve maximum success. They should be willing to spend one on one time with you and your dog to help you overcome problems you are encountering.

Some people think dogs and particularly puppies outgrow bad behavior. Unfortunately, bad behavior can become part of your dog's programming. A puppy is like a blank computer: How you program the computer is part and parcel of the results you can hope to achieve with the computer. The longer bad behavior is allowed and not corrected, the harder it is to reprogram.

The optimum age for dogs to begin to learn and retain training is 4 months of age or older. Younger puppies may appear to be learning but their focus and retention skills are not well developed.

Puppy kindergarten is all the rage nowadays. However, because of the risks involved in allowing puppies that are not FULLY vaccinated to socialize, I am not a great supporter of this. Puppy kindergarten is also touted as a means of preventing behavior and social problems down the road. If you were around 25 years ago, the same was said for putting children into preschool and even kindergarten. As we all know, this was and is not the case with children even to this day. Unfortunately, breed specifics (herding, retrieving, protectiveness, aggression, etc.) are genetically programmed into dogs and in the case of mixed breed dogs can result in a mixture of genetic traits. When you get a dog THAT is the dog you have to work with and live with. You will have hopefully done your homework and picked the right breed/mixed breed for you and your family. All the training and love in the world cannot change breed specifics; in other words, no one can turn a Golden Retriever into a Doberman or a Cocker Spaniel into a German Shepherd. Even in breeds of dogs there are exceptions to every rule and I have seen bad tempered Golden Retrievers and non-protective German Shepherds. However, this is not the norm, thank goodness.

All dogs and their owners can benefit from attending training classes. You, as the owner, can be shown the proper ways to gain your dog’s RESPECT and focus. Most dogs love their owner(s) but listen to and obey people they respect. Think about this in terms of your own relationships. Would you listen and obey someone you don't respect? That is the number one reason children are usually incapable of training dogs.

I am not a great supporter of the hitting and smacking school of training. Nor am I a great supporter of using treats to bribe the dog to do everything or using artificial/outside stimulation to praise or punish the dog. The methods we use are tried and true and the dog is taught that YOU are the treat. That YOUR PRAISE is what he/she wants and works for.

I always recommend that you visit at least three training schools and watch a class or two. See what different methods are being used and what results are actually being accomplished. Are the methods being used reaching 75% of the class or is more than half the class struggling. Look carefully at what the instructors are doing to reach these dogs and their owners. Do the dogs appear to be happy? Do the owners appear to be happy? Do the instructors, owners/handlers and the dogs appear to be having fun doing the class? Talk to the students in the class (if the instructor will allow this). Get their feedback and choose the school that will best suit you and your dog.

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What Are the Dog Visiting Rules of Etiquette?

All of us appreciate the friends and family members who welcome our furry family members into their homes when we come for a visit. Even some of our non-doggy friends will let us bring our dogs as long as they stay in the back porch, garage, or out in the yard.

When friends and family afford us this wonderful opportunity it is nice that we recognize this gesture and make sure our pets behave appropriately. Some rules of etiquette you might want to consider are:

  • If your dog is "crate trained" bring his/her own bedroom with you so that the dog has his/her own familiar place to sleep. Bring a familiar blanket from home to sleep on if you don’t have or can’t transport the crate. This way there are no hairs in the bed or on the blankets of your host.
  • Don’t let your dog wander all over the house. Make sure he/she stays within eyesight. Perhaps keep your dog on his leash and collar if you can’t watch him. While your own home may be "puppy proof," don’t expect your host’s home to be.
  • Obviously your dog should not eliminate in the house. However, accidents can occur. Make sure you promptly clean up after your pet and take him/her out for exercise frequently.
  • Bring your pet’s own food and water dish; don’t expect your hosts to provide this. Don’t forget his/her food, treats, toys, etc. A change in diet coupled with the stress of a new location can cause diarrhea.
  • If your pet is going to be exposed to an extreme temperature difference make sure you think of this and prepare accordingly. Your dog’s vaccinations should be up to date and you should have checked with your veterinarian about other vaccinations or medication that your dog may require when visiting areas outside your local vicinity – i.e., British Columbia – dog’s should be on preventative heartworm program 60 days prior to leaving. As well, Alberta has little problems with fleas, ticks, etc. but other provinces have an ongoing problem with this so ask your veterinarian about preventative treatment as well.
  • It would be obviously rude to bring your flea infested dog with you to infest your host’s home.
  • If you are going to be exercising your dog in your host’s fenced yard, make sure you check the fencing to ensure it is secure before you let your dog run around unsupervised. Even if your hosts have a dog that never escapes remember this is not your dog’s yard so he/she may find weaknesses that your host’s dog has not. Also ask your hosts if they have treated the grass/shrubs, etc. with any chemicals before you let your dog romp around, as well as any poisons/pest control substances that they may have in the yard. Your dog’s life depends on you making sure the area you are exercising him/her in is safe.
  • Pick up any and all solid waste where your dog may have eliminated. It does not matter whether it is truly your dog’s waste or not – if you are visiting pick up any solid waste you may encounter.
  • If your hosts have no fencing it is your responsibility to walk your dog on leash or a lunge line. It is extremely unwise to turn your dog loose and expect him/her to stay around while you are in the house visiting. Don’t forget, while your dog may stay on his/her own property without fencing, in a new location there are so many NEW and EXCITING things to do and to explore.
  • If your dog does break something or causes damage to their belongings, home or yard it is only fair and responsible to offer to compensate your hosts in some manner.

These 10 rules of etiquette can help you be the type of guests that will be invited back with your dog.

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What Are the Dog Walking Rules of Etiquette?

My pet peeve is people who walk their dog up to my fence line and get all my dogs going. While it may be entertaining and amusing to the people and dog on the other side of the fence, my dogs are desperately trying to protect their property and alert me and all my neighbors to a possible intruder.

As well, because I have multiple dogs out in my yard, the chances of one of my dogs being hurt in the ruckus is high. Did you know that when dogs become agitated and frustrated they may turn on their own family members or other dogs in the household?

One other pet peeve is letting your dog pee on someone else’s dog through the fence. Have you ever thought that perhaps this person just spent good money having their dog groomed and here comes along Mr. Macho that has to lift his leg on everything, including someone else’s dog.

While I am a great proponent of people exercising their dog by taking them for a walk, let’s not lose our good manners and sense of good neighborship by deliberately setting up our neighbors’ dogs for possible injury or for the need of a good wash.

There is really NO REASON IN THE WORLD to walk your dog up to someone else’s fence line. While dogs who live next to other and are fenced next to each other usually sort things out and can live peaceably next to each other, strangers’ dogs on the other side of the fence are not visitors; they are trespassers. In some cases these trespassers are attacked by the same dog they terrorized when the fenced dog finally gets to meet them face to face.

Lastly, don’t forget to pick up after your dog while out on your walks. Only someone who is absolutely irresponsible and selfish/self-serving would leave their dog’s droppings on the sidewalk or in parks and other people’s property.

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What Is Submissive Peeing and What Can I Do about It?

While this can be annoying and frustrating be assured that more than 50% of young dogs have this problem. Young dogs can become so excited they forget themselves and dribble. The reverse is also so, if the young dog gets scared or feels threatened. This may last in some dogs until they are 2 years of age, while others may grow out of it more quickly. However, you should always check with your vet before you diagnose your dog as having this disorder. It could also be a sign of urinary tract infections or kidney problems. When you are sure your dog is exhibiting submissive peeing disorder there are a few things you can do to minimize accidents.

  1. When you first come home greet your dog outside the front door. That way he/she will dribble outside and be calmer when you both come in. If you have your dog confined in the house, quietly go and get the dog and bring him/her outside so he can greet you.
  2. Have your dog greet guests outside the door.
  3. If you don't want your dog greeting guests as they come in, when or if he/she is allowed to finally greet guests have the guests remain seated and calm and quiet.
  4. Don't get your young dog overly excited in the house.
  5. If your dog is peeing because he/she is afraid, you are having an argument with another family member, or you are trying to discipline the dog for something he/she has done, etc. your discipline of the dog has to be done calmly and quietly. The dog still has to be taught manners, etc. but don't be so harsh that he/she actually dribbles in fear AND don't yell at the dog for dribbling.

Treat submissive peeing as another extension of housetraining but know that the dog is not doing it to be bad. Like I said above, most dogs outgrow this disorder as they mature.

Keep your cool!

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Is It Safe to Exercise Groups of Pets Together?

Is it safe to exercise groups of dogs or cats together that do not live together or know each other, while they are boarding?

Some boarding kennels will team up dogs and cats that are boarding with them with playmates and/or boarding partners.

However, because we are trainers we do not do this because of the risks involved where one of the dogs and cats could get injured or viruses/diseases can be transmitted. Many of these "social" kennels will have you sign a waiver releasing them from liability should this occur. Some won't even bother to tell you.

When interviewing prospective kennels you may want to ask about this. If they are advertising a social kennel you may want to ask what they do if and when fights or sickness occurs and who is responsible for payment of vet bills.

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Choosing the Right Mixed Breed Dog

Believe it or not, the same principles hold true whether you are picking a highly pedigreed purebred dog out for your family or a loveable multi-breed pet. However, because of the mix of genetic factors in multi-purebred or cross-bred dogs you have to do a bit more homework and try to pinpoint, as close as possible, what breeds the dog in question is made up of.

You will, hopefully, have a good understanding of the different groups of dogs and the personality/temperament traits associated with each group and the different breeds within each group. Now, if this seems like a lot of work or taking too much time, consider this: most impulse buys do not result in long-term dog relationships. That is why so many animals are destroyed every year at the animal shelters.

If you do not do your homework you are at a high risk of choosing a dog based solely on looks or size , not temperament. Unfortunately, temperament and behavior go hand in hand. It is usually the uninformed prospective dog owner that ends up recycling dogs because of an initially poor judgment call.

First off, think carefully what you actually want the dog for - companion, watch dog, competitive dog, children's dog, jogging partner, or protector (people or property). Next, either buy or go to the library and find a book about dogs that explains what each breed of dog is bred to do. Most dog books also indicate the exercise requirements, feeding requirements, grooming requirements, training requirements, and temperament of the breeds in question. Select at least three breeds that you would be interested in owning. Now, have a look at common denominators that are mentioned in the three breeds. If you have selected three radically different breeds and there are no common denominators, then you should reevaluate what you want the dog for. You should be able to find at least two common traits in the three different breeds that you have selected.

If the common denominators are strong temperament/genetic traits, then you will have selected a breed/mixed breed that will be very strong in that area. No amount of love and training can change the genetic programming of a dog breed. In other words, why get a Golden Retriever/Lab cross if you don't want a dog that needs lots of exercise and loves to carry things around in their mouth. The same would hold true if the common denominators expressed a high degree of protectiveness and aggression. How about the herding dogs (Sheltie/Blue Heeler cross) – are you ready for him/her to herd/chase you, nip at your children's heels, chase cars, bicycles, skateboarders, etc. Remember that to a herding dog a fast moving adult, child, cat, goat, cow, car or bicycle are there to be herded. Herding dogs that are worked are usually not kept as pets - they work the livestock and are then confined. The higher degree of herding desire, the more difficult it is to stop the dog from working.

Again, there are exceptions to every rule but generally speaking - like begets like! Strong common denominators in mixed breeds can result in strong personality/behavior traits.

If, after narrowing the field down to three breeds/cross-breeds, or multi breeds, consider talking to a dog trainer (before you talk to dog breeders, shelter workers, pet store clerks, etc.). The dog trainer has no vested interest to sell you a dog but should be interested in helping you choose the right dog/breed for your family the first time!!

As a dog trainer, I see dogs being passed from one owner to the next in the elusive search for the "perfect dog". In most cases if the prospective dog owner had thought things through there would be no recycling of dogs. Let's try to stop this vicious circle.

The last thing I want you to consider when looking at different mixed breeds: will this dog be able to adjust to a change in lifestyle, habitat, or family additions (children and maybe other animals)? No one's life is stagnant – changes do occur – and you should think about this BEFORE you get a dog.

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Choosing the Right Purebred Dog

First off, think carefully what you actually want the dog for – companion, watch dog, competitive dog, children's dog, jogging partner, or protector (people or property).

Next, either buy or go to the library and find a book about dogs that explains what each breed of dog is bred to do. Most dog books also indicate the exercise requirements, feeding requirements, grooming requirements, training requirements, and temperament of the breeds in question. Select at least three breeds that you would be interested in owning. Now, have a look at common denominators that are mentioned in the three breeds. If you have selected three radically different breeds and there are no common denominators then you should reevaluate what you want the dog for. You should be able to find at least two common traits in the three different breeds that you have selected. If the common denominators are strong temperament/genetic traits, then you will have selected a breed that will be very strong in that area. No amount of love and training can change the genetic programming of a dog breed. In other words, why buy a golden retriever or Labrador retriever if you don't want a dog that needs lots of exercise and loves to carry things around in their mouth. The same would hold true if the common denominators expressed a high degree of protectiveness and aggression. How about the herding dogs - are you ready for them to herd/chase you, your children, cars, bicycles, skateboarders, etc. Again, there are exceptions to every rule but generally speaking - like begets like!

If, after narrowing the field down to three breeds, consider talking to a dog trainer (before you talk to dog breeders). The dog trainer has no vested interest to sell you a dog but should be interested in helping you choose the right dog/breed for your family the first time! As a dog trainer, I see dogs being passed from one owner to the next in the elusive search for the "perfect dog". In most cases, if the prospective dog owner had thought things through, there would be no recycling of dogs. Let's try to stop this vicious circle.

The last thing I want you to consider when looking at the different breeds is if the dog will be able to adjust to a change in lifestyle, habitat, or family additions (children and maybe other animals). No one's life is stagnant - changes do occur - you should think about this before you get a dog.

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Feeling the Vibes with a Breeder!

How to pick-up good / bad vibes when dealing with a breeder.

The most important thing I am going to tell you is breeders, owners, the pound, rescue clubs, pet stores, etc. want to sell or give you their puppies/dogs. Yes, they love their dogs and yes, they believe that their dog/breed is the best thing in the world. Shelter and rescue case workers want to save dogs. In the case of adopting an unwanted puppy or dog, the owners will have a myriad of reasons why they can't keep the puppy or dog. Most of these sob stories will tug at your heartstrings and make you want to rescue the poor unwanted, mistreated or neglected puppy or dog. However, rest assured that NONE of these people or organizations have YOUR BEST INTEREST at heart. It is your responsibility to know what you want and how to get AND find it. A good professional breeder/responsible pet owner/breeder can make suggestions and guide you in your decision but it is ultimately YOUR decision.

The following is a guideline to help you get a FEELING about the people you are interviewing or dealing with and to help you decide if you want to buy/get a puppy or dog from them or not. Remember, YOU should know what you are looking for (breed or mixed breed, size, temperament, genetic behavior traits, personality traits, and breed-specific health problems) BEFORE you start your search.

  1. Is the person you are speaking to about puppies and/or dogs knowledgeable about the breed or mixed breed? Do they know at least as much as you?
  2. Ask how long they have been involved with dogs and what experiences have they had with their own dogs and dogs in general.
  3. Do they ask YOU questions about yourself and your family or do they immediately start selling you on their puppies/dogs, etc.? Does it appear to you that they would sell/give their puppies/dogs to anyone?
  4. Do they encourage you to come out and visit their facilities without making you feel pressured to buy? Do they immediately put you off by appearing as dog snobs who have no patience for your questions or concerns?
  5. Do they explain their criteria (hopefully they have one) for breeding dogs? If they don't have a good reason and/or criteria for breeding dogs, why are they doing it? Don't be afraid to ask this question. If it was an accident find out why/how the accident happened. Were they responsible dog owners who truly just had an accident or were they irresponsible in their actions? If you are looking at mixed breeds or cross-bred puppies that were deliberately bred ask them why they did the breeding. Sometimes people breed dogs so they can have 1 puppy for themselves out of a litter and have given little thought to what they are going to do with the rest of the pups. Sometimes they will have a litter so their children can experience the miracle of birth with little regard as to the outcome of their actions. WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR, WHEN DOGS ARE DELIBERATELY BRED BY PEOPLE, ARE PEOPLE WHO RECOGNIZE THE CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR ACTION AND HAVE AN ACTION PLAN IN PLACE. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD ALSO KNOW THAT THE SPCA AND LOCAL POUNDS PUT DOWN BETWEEN 3,000 TO 5,000 UNWANTED DOGS AND CATS EACH YEAR. Ask yourself: Are these people a solution to the problem or a contributing factor to the problem?
  6. Have they taken the necessary steps to safeguard against breed-specific health problems? Do they voluntarily explain to you what these health problems could be?
  7. Do they explain the temperament traits of the breed and/or dog and what types of behavior (that are genetically programmed) these dogs/puppies could have? Both good and bad. No breed or mixed breed is perfect and the breeders/owners/pound/rescue clubs, etc. should be able to be frank and go over with you both the good and bad traits of their dogs/puppies.
  8. Do they offer a health and temperament guarantee? Is their guarantee vague or is it detailed and in writing? Even when you are looking at getting a pound dog or rescue dog there should be some type of guarantee or probation period where you can return the dog (and get your money back) if it is not a good match between owner and dog.
  9. When you arrive at the breeder's home do they spend some time talking to you and your family before getting you to look at puppies or the dog they are trying to sell or find a home for? Remember, you have to get a feel of the people you are dealing with - do they seem honest, caring, responsible or are they just trying to sell/give you a puppy or a dog?
  10. If you are there to look at puppies do they immediately take you to the puppy pen – remember puppies sell themselves but you have to be strong enough to resist the impulse buy. What you really want to see is their adult dogs - remember like begets like. Do they just show you their adult dogs in their kennels or do they let them out to visit with you? How do the adults behave? Are they well-adjusted, friendly, social, and interested in you and your family. Beware of buying puppies from parents that are only used for breeding and show little social skills. Can the breeder/owner of the adult dog(s) demonstrate some kind of training, i.e., obedience, field, conformation, any type of training they have done with their adult dogs. This demonstrates time and attention that the owner/breeder has invested in his/her dogs. Ribbons and titles don't amount to a hill of beans if the adult dogs demonstrate shyness, aggressiveness, fear, limited training, or an 'I don't care about people' attitude.
  11. Is the facility where the adult dogs are kept clean and sanitary? Is fresh water available? Do they show you their entire facility or just what they want you to see? You should be shown where their adult dogs live, sleep, and play. The same holds true with puppies.
  12. How old are the puppies before the breeder/owner/supplier allows them to leave to go to their new home? In the olden days, dogs were let go at 6 weeks. Nowadays, good breeders and animal behaviorists agree that the ideal age for puppies to leave their littermates is between 8 to 10 weeks old. This also makes it easier for the new owners to housetrain their puppies. Beware of breeders/ owners/ suppliers who are encouraging you to take a puppy earlier than 8 weeks, particularly if they are really pushing for you to take a 6 week old or even younger puppy. Puppies learn a whole lot of behaviors and social skills between the ages of 6-10 weeks of age if they remain with their litter and have a chance to play with them, their mom, and their human caregivers. It is up to the breeder/ owner/ supplier to properly socialize and interact with the pups they have produced.
  13. If the breeders/owners tell you that the puppies/dog(s) are purebred then they should be able to show you registration papers from the CKC, AKC, or other accredited kennel clubs. If you are looking at puppies and you are told the parents are registered purebreds, ask to see the registration papers on the dogs. Do either the sire's (dad) or dam's (mom) registration papers have non-breed stamped across them? If either of them does, be aware that progeny from these adults will not be eligible for registration. In fact, the breeders/owners of one or both of the adult dogs used in the breeding have broken the original agreement they signed and attested to when they bought their own dogs from a breeder. Ask them why you should trust them at all when they did not live up to their end of the agreement they originally had with their own breeder. If one of the dogs is eligible for breeding and the other is not why would they put these two dogs together to make puppies? Why would they breed dogs that could not be registered - what criteria/purpose did they have in their breeding program? If you are told a dog is purebred, by law, you are entitled to registration papers. If they tell you that they don't want the hassle of registering the litter and individuals within the litter, or it is so expensive your puppy would be twice as expensive, or they tell you they are only breeding pets so it's really not a big deal, think again. What they are really telling you is that it is easier and more convenient for them. They really did not have to put much thought into their breeding program and usually they don't spend the money checking for structure and/or health concerns prior to using the dogs for breeding. Ask how many litters the female has had, how old the sire (dad) and dam (mom) are. Are they breeding puppies to make more puppies? How responsible is that? What is their guarantee and how do they back it up?
  14. Ask if they have a waiting list for their pups or did they just breed two dogs together to produce puppies that they could sell without really thinking things through? Ask them if they are prepared to keep all the puppies they produced for their whole life, if they can't sell or give them away to good homes. Really try to figure out what commitment these people have to their adult dogs and the puppies they are producing.
  15. If you have an interest in breeding dogs, showing dogs, competing in dog sports (i.e., obedience, tracking, agility, etc.) then I would strongly recommend you visit dog shows, numerous breeding kennels and talk to breeders who are honest and frank about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how you could be an asset to the dog world.

I hope the above has given you food for thought and will help you in your dealings with breeders/owners and suppliers of puppies and dogs. Good luck. Sometimes a little luck goes a long way.

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Getting a Second Dog

I am often asked by my students when they should consider getting a second dog. I believe that the best advice I can give them is to have them wait until dog #1 is well trained and they have proven to themselves that they are capable of looking after and training dog #1. If they started with dog #1 at 8-10 weeks of age (and hopefully picked the right size, breed and/or mixed breed, and temperament suitable for their family, etc.) and put the time into the housetraining, house manner training, boundary training, obedience training (on and off lead), socializing, and establishing a healthy relationship with dog #1, then the ideal age to get a second dog would be when dog #1 is approximately 2 years of age. At 2 years of age, all the owners’ hard work is finally paying off with a good canine citizen. One who is a joy to live with and live next door to. A dog that responds to commands on and off leash. A dog that has a good disposition and knows his/her place in the family and is happy in that place. If dog #1 is a problem dog then work on fixing those problems before adding a second dog to your family.

Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself BEFORE you get a second dog:

  • Are you thinking about getting a second dog because dog #1 is bored and needs a playmate?
  • Do you believe that your barking dog wouldn’t bark so much if he/she had someone to play with?
  • Do you feel guilty because you do not have the time to exercise dog #1 and feel he/she would get more exercise if she/he had someone to run and play with?
  • Do you believe dog #1 who is destructive wouldn’t be so destructive if he/she had someone to play with?
  • Do you believe that dog #1, who is constantly leaving your property to go and play with your neighbors’ dog, cattle, horses, etc., wouldn’t leave the property if you provided a playmate?
  • Do you believe that dog #1, who is dog aggressive, could be taught to tolerate other dogs if he/she had a playmate?
  • Do you believe that two dogs can’t really be that much more work than one?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then PLEASE CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

  • If dog #1 is bored, perhaps you aren’t stimulating this dog enough either mentally or physically. And if you don’t have the time to do this with dog #1 then why would you want to get a second dog? Dogs don’t train themselves.
  • If dog #1 is a bad barker he/she could actually teach your second dog to join in. Why not try fixing the problem with dog #1 before adding a chorus? If you can’t fix this problem yourself consider getting outside professional advice.
  • If you don’t have the time to properly train and exercise dog #1, it won’t be any easier to train dog #2. In fact, now you will have two dogs that don’t listen to you. Twice the frustration.
  • If dog #1 is destructive you probably haven’t spent enough time teaching dog #1 how to behave. Because dog #1 is an experienced destructor, he/she will only be too happy to teach dog #2 all his/her tricks.
  • If you haven’t been successful teaching dog #1 to stay on his/her property (and you refuse to build a dog run/dog yard) then dog #1 will want to show dog #2 all his/her favorite "watering" holes. Twice the complaints from your neighbors. If you are tying up dog #1 to keep him/her on the property, you will eventually end up with two tied up dogs.
  • Dogs that are dog aggressive can never be fully trusted around other dogs. Depending on breed and temperament characteristics some of these dogs enjoy having another canine family member to play with. However, this does not mean they will love all dogs. Why do we expect more from our canine companions than we do from human companions?
  • If you really believe that two dogs are not any more work than one dog, try taking two untrained dogs for a walk on a leash at the same time. Forget about going to the gym – you won’t need to. Try having two untrained dogs come reliably off leash. At least if one dog is trained the younger pup will emulate the trained one initially, which helps build positive patterning. Twice as much poop, twice as much urine on the grass, twice the vet bills, twice the food bills, twice the toys and treats bill – need I go on?

One of the other BIG reasons people get a second dog is, in a lot of cases, the exact same reason they got their first dog: They fell in love with that "doggy in the window.” BUT please remember just how much more time, energy and money that second dog is going to cost you. Dog #1 is not going to raise and train dog #2 all by himself/herself – they will both need YOU.

Please, make an intelligent and well thought-out decision.

Thank you.

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