Columbus, Dublin, Powell, Westerville, Lewis Center, Hilliard, Delaware, New Albany, Blacklick and others 20 miles from Worthington
Certified Professional Trainer
Training and Behavior
Over the past several weeks I've been sharing some thoughts regarding sources for finding a new pet based on my own experiences. This is the last article of 3 consecutive threads regarding breeders, pet stores, and shelters/rescues. The purpose of these posts is not to say one source for finding a new pet is best, but to offer some pros and cons of each from my perspective as a trainer. Today I will discuss Rescues and Shelters
To start, I think many owners would like to adopt rather than buy a pet. If you've been reading my posts regarding finding a new pup over the past weeks, I also think a lot of people believe that shelter dogs often have behavioral problems or issues. In my own experience, both as an owner and a trainer, this simply is not true. Yes, there are problem dogs that wind up in shelters, but there are also problem dogs that come from breeders. How do you find your perfect pet?
One nice thing about shelters is that you often have many choices. If you can get past choosing a dog based on looks and spend some time getting to know a potential adoptee's personality, you'll be taking the single most important step in choosing a good pet for YOUR family or home. When dogs are in shelter they may not always show their true colors due to the stress of the environment, but a long walk with a pet you are considering can tell a lot about how interested the dog is in pleasing, whether the dog exhibits any problem behaviors, conformation, and many other items.
Shelters also have a distinct advantage in providing choice on age. I always tell clients "puppies are hard work". If you want to take on that work, shelters can provide. But if you choose a dog 8 months or older, you'll generally find more maturity, learning ability, and see a more adult (finished) personality. This means you'll have an even better sense of how well the dog will fit in with your particular home. Many shelters and rescues will also have older dogs needing adoption, often they wind up in these situations due to family changes and no fault of their own. An older dog can provide great, calm companionship, and be a good choice for families or individuals that can enjoy mature dogs.
Finally, if you're looking for a pure breed, almost every shelter has them. There are also numerous breed specific rescues that can help you find a dog of particular breed in need of rescue. But if you're willing to look at a mixed breed dogs, you'll have more genetic diversity which statistically provides better health and vigor. Also, almost every mixed breed is a unique, one-of-a-kind animal - you can't get more individual than that!
Many shelters will provide some level of screening before placing a dog with a new family, Larger shelters/rescues typically have more resources in this regard, although many small rescues do a great job as well, Regardless, if you are exploring adopting a dog, please schedule the time necessary to get a very in depth sense of a dog's personality. When I go to the shelter to pick a new dog I often spend around 4 hours and "interview" 4-6 dogs. All I'm looking for is a sense of their personality. No particular personality is best, but owners should understand every dog is an individual, and you should spend the time making an informed decision vs an emotional one.
pros: diverse breed and age choices, socially encouraged, mature dogs available, mixed breed vigor
cons: often unknown backgrounds, varied screening programs
Currently I've been sharing some thoughts regarding sources for finding a new pet based on my own experiences. This is the 2nd of 3 consecutive threads regarding breeders, pet stores, and shelters/rescues. The purpose of these posts is not to say one source for finding a new pet is best, but to offer some pros and cons of each from my perspective as a trainer. Today I will discuss pet stores.
There are not very many pet stores that still sell dogs. Political and social pressure has made this a very hotly debated issue, and many retailers do not wish to be in the middle of these arguments. However, I do see many dogs annually that come from pet stores. If you feel their origins may be socially questionable, let's not hold it against the dog! Many of these dogs can and do make very good pets.
My first comment regarding pet store puppies is that you will never know the dog's origin. Buying from a pet store allows an owner no opportunity to meet and evaluate the parents of a given puppy. While this is also true of most rescue dogs, an owner is at a bit of a disadvantage not knowing. An owner has no way to research whether there are any health or behavioral issues in the breeding line.
Early, favorable exposure to people, places, and things is critical to the healthy development of young puppies. Pet store pups spend considerable time during their imprint period in a pet store. This exposure generally allows plenty of interaction with diverse people, and exposure to a multitude of public area sights and sounds - which is good. But these pups may lack opportunities for exposure to varied places and common household items, especially if they languish in the store for longer periods.
Also, many pet stores have pups in crates with open, wire floors which allow the dogs to eliminate any time. This can cause some real challenges when the pups are taken home and house training starts. Since the puppies are used to eliminating at will in their crate, the help offered through confinement in a crate is lost - some of these dogs will take considerable time to develop the ability to "hold it". These dogs can (of course) still be house trained, but the process is usually more difficult.
Finally, pet stores seem to have a knack for charging premium prices for their dogs. While any business is free to charge what the market will support, I've had numerous clients over the years that eventually paid 10-20% of the original asking price. I suspect these stores find that when a puppy has been around for a while, deep discounts are cheaper than keeping it and continuing to feed and care for the animal.
pros: helpful early socialization during imprinting generally finds these dogs very people friendly, dogs that don't sell quickly will often be deeply discounted
cons: unknown parental lines, socially shunned, house training often more difficult
With the holidays approaching, many families will consider adding a new dog to their home. I thought I'd share some thoughts regarding sources for finding a new pet based on my experiences. I will be posting 3 consecutive threads over the coming weeks regarding breeders, pet stores, and shelters/rescues. The purpose of these posts is not to say one source for finding a new pet is best, but to offer some pros and cons of each from my perspective as a trainer. Today I will discuss breeders.
For many people wanting a new dog, they often look for a particular breed. Seeking a new dog based on breed is very common, and there's certainly no problem doing so. Dogs of a particular breed will obviously have genetic similarities that can assure certain physical traits and provide likelihood of certain behavioral traits. I think it's critical owners understand that every breeds has individual dogs that are outstanding and others that are real problems. Getting a dog of a certain pedigree is no guarantee the individual dog you choose will have a personality that is a good match for your home. In other words, just because a breed is reported to be laid back and good with children, a specific dog of that breed might be hyperactive, skittish, or dislike children. Choose a dog based on the individual's personality, not the breed!
For owners exploring what breed may be best suited for their home and family, I would caution that most online information tends to advocate for each individual breed. It's very hard to find sites that offer balanced information including the downside(s) of specific breeds. Breeder sites, in particular, are very prone to making their "breed" sound like the best dog breed in the world. In reality, all breeds have pros and cons, so any research should keep this in mind. If you know people that have the breed you are considering, a visit is a very good idea. Additionally, if you are considering a variety breeds in your search, going to a dog show or other event that features many breeds can be a great way to gain some exposure and knowledge as you talk with handlers and owners. Along these lines, if you are choosing a dog based solely on looks or physical characteristics, you are likely to have an unpleasant ownership experience. Choose a dog based on the individual's personality, not looks!
Another consideration here is that all pure breeds started out with inbreeding. This practice assures certain breed traits at the expense of weaker genetic vigor. In other words, the lack of genetic diversity in breeding programs creates health issues in those same breeds. Good breeders try to manage this, but many popular breeds see people breeding dogs that have absolutely NO understanding of genetics who contribute significant health and behavioral issues into the gene pool. I've run into many dogs from questionable "breeders" that clearly had breeding stock with serious behavioral or health issues - stock that should never have been producing puppies.
IMO purebred shows and awards are based too much on form, rather than longevity, vigor, and temperament. The more awards gained, the higher the price a breeder may charge for pups. If a breeder is going out of their way to show your ribbons for parents, I'd be wary. I'd prefer to actually see both parents, to get a first hand impression of their health and temperament. What are the typical lifespans and health of the line you are considering for your pup?
Good breeding is tremendously hard work, so best breeders typically have only a few litters annually - breeders churning out large numbers of puppies are another reason to be cautious. Best breeders will also have clearly defined socialization programs in place for pups under their care. Also, ask any breeder you are considering whether they will take back a puppy that has any significant health or behavioral issues - reputable breeders will want such pups back, and should be as concerned about giving you a good puppy for your home as you are finding one.
pros: known physical characteristics. common behavioral tendencies, known lineage, can research breeder's reputation
cons: behavior not guaranteed, breed specific health issues due to lack of genetic diversity, breeding and marketing on looks vs health and temperament
Stay tuned for pet store dogs in 2 weeks!
I've seen a growing trend over the past few years of medications being used to help owners reach behavioral goals with their dogs. While I am not a Veterinarian, and I do agree that some behavioral issues can be helped through medications, I think the trend is a bit concerning. All medicines carry risks, and using them should be a matter that is well thought out and researched by an owner. I would also suggest that if medication is being considered, that decision should be made after an owner not only consults their Veterinarian, but also a certified professional trainer.
In my own dog training business, I'm working with around 400 dogs annually. Of those dogs, I probably have 1 dozen each year where I suggest an owner discuss medications with their Vet. Most of these cases involve dogs with deep seated anxiety which is deteriorating the dog's quality of life or putting the dog at risk for injury. Again, IME dogs needing medication are fairly rare and account for a very small percentage of behavioral issues I am called to see.
In the past I've mentioned a new trend in Veterinarian practice toward specialized services - one of which is behavioral sciences. Veterinarian behaviorists are available in our area, and while any owner is free to decide which therapies may be best for their dog and situation, I would like to offer that the dogs I've seen coming out of these programs are ALL on medication. I find it very interesting that of the studies I've seen regarding medication and behavioral issues, ALL of the studies have concluded that training in conjunction with medication was far more effective than medication alone. Food for thought...
A recent client with a very energetic, hyperactive, adolescent dog started puppy classes through a local, positive only, Veterinarian behavioral service. The training used only treats, and I was eventually called to help train the dog and address several developing behavioral issues, By 6 months I was dealing with a large dog that had little respect for its owners and was clearly ruling the roost. The dog responded very quickly to a more effective and balanced training approaches, which included correcting many of the developing problem behaviors (instead of ignoring them). Once the owners began to USE obedience routinely in the home, there were no longer any behavioral issues. This is a dog, at 1 year of age, I would be very proud to own myself.
However, the dog was later going to a doggy day care and began misbehaving with rough and wild behavior. After a period of time at this facility, an incident occurred where this dog's uncontrolled (by the staff) energy caused another (stressed) dog to bite a staff member. My client's dog was expelled from the facility for "agitating other dogs", and sent home with a letter indicating the dog needed intense behavioral care from a Veterinarian behaviorist. The Veterinarian specialist office advised an initial visit would cost over $400, and that the dog would likely require medications. When the owner called me I had to chuckle. I advised their dog had no deep seated behavioral issues requiring medication - what this young dog requires is consistent leadership, supervision, and regular use of obedience. If he's not getting those things at doggy day care, shouldn't we put those things in place before condemning the dog to expensive behavioral consults and pharmacological interventions? I think so.
We live in a society that values quick results. Medications can certainly effect fast changes in a dog's personality, but are we really at a place where simple, common, adolescent, behaviors will be dealt with using pharmacological solutions vs effective leadership and teaching? I certainly hope not, and I think most owners would prefer to find solutions that don't require long term (or life long) regimens of potent psychotropic medications. While medication in rare cases may be helpful, when they're being used as a 1st line of therapy I'm very concerned. I strongly believe our dogs deserve better.
Some time ago I published a quick list of the 10 most common myths I encounter when working with owners. Today I thought I'd expand a bit on these items based on my personal experience over the years...
MYTH # 10: All aggression is fear based.
While many dogs that bite do so out of fear, there is a considerable percentage that do so to control. The latter group are dogs that don't particularly like working for humans, and which I consider truly "dominant". They can be very pleasant when things are going their (the dog's) way - but ask them to do something they'd rather not and they will challenge you. These dogs won't be made better with good will, treats, or negotiations. These dogs require a very experienced and strong leader early in their life.
MYTH 9: All fearful or skittish dogs were abused.
There are a number of factors that go into a dog's individual personality. There is very substantial evidence that genetics and lack of early imprinting can both contribute to skittish personalities. In my experience, these 2 factors are more likely than actual abuse.
MYTH 8: All dogs of the same breed will be similar.
Just like brothers and sisters will all be different in many ways, dogs of the same litter will actually vary a great deal. So while some breed traits are worth considering, IMO they take a back seat to a dog's individual personality.
MYTH 7: The most important ingredient for training success is a dog's intelligence.
I believe the most important ingredient is a dog's willingness to please. Intelligence is nice, but intelligent dogs can actually be quite a handful at times.
MYTH 6: My young dog will outgrow its problem behaviors.
Problem behaviors generally start early, and owners believing a dog will outgrow them are actually allowing that problem to further develop. If a dog isn't behaving as you'd like, the sooner you address the issue(s) the more likely you'll see better and faster results.
MYTH 5: Dog parks provide healthy socialization.
Not all dog-to-dog interactions are healthy socialization, regardless of what you may read online from dog park advocates. In my own business, I see dogs every week where too much rough interaction with other dogs has gradually led to severe social handicaps with other dogs. Owners will ALWAYS be better served by teaching their dogs to be calm around other dogs. They will also be better served spending time building a human-to-k9 bond with their pet, rather than running their dog around town for play events.
MYTH 4: Dominance is common in many dogs, and letting dogs sort out pecking order is natural.
Truly dominant dogs, in my experience, are actually very rare. Most dogs enjoy following, and want to please us - this is why we (humans) love them so much. When owners are living with multiple dogs, being in charge of the group negates any need for dogs to set order among themselves.
MYTH 3: Ignoring a dog when mis-behaving removes the attention it seeks, and will teach the dog to stop the behavior.
This is very popular mantra with positive only trainers. This tactic in my experience simply confuses a dog. Removing attention is not the same as making an educational point with a misbehaving dog by calmly correcting a problem. Dogs learn through information. Showing your dog you're going to ignore something you see as a problem is not the information you want to be sharing.
MYTH 2: Correcting a problem degrades the relationship an owner shares with their dog.
Again, dogs not only need information to learn, they respect those who offer that information in a fair and consistent fashion. Dogs correct each other, so why wouldn't we want to use part of their natural language in teaching?
MYTH 1: Good behavior and reliable obedience come from relationships based entirely on friendship.
This is the cornerstone belief of positive only trainers, and I've written numerous posts in the past regarding this single topic. Good behavior, listening skills, and RELIABLE obedience come from a dog that respects its owners. Such owners live a life of leadership with their dogs. I love my dogs, and they love me - but they listen because I provide daily leadership which teaches them my expectations are not optional. Dogs love friends, but they need and obey leaders. These two items are not exclusive - you can be a friend to your dog AND a leader. Being ONLY a friend, however, will provide very limited results.
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