Tag: rescue

Finding the right Puppy

Finding the right Puppy

If my last post didn’t horrify you then let’s move on!

What flavor of puppy would you like?

Have you met the breed?

Done your research to decide if this breed is a good fit for you?

Found a responsible breeder?

“What does this even mean!? I just want a puppy”

I see many puppies each year. I can definitely see the difference between someone who has done their research and one who impulsively got a puppy because it was cute, or someone once said this breed would be a good family pet. (I am going to gear this article to families looking for a pet, because that is most of my clients, but if you are looking to do a dog sport then the same principles still apply, but your criteria will be a bit different.)
When you look ahead 2 years, what does your image of life with a dog look like? What does your lifestyle actually look like right now? What sacrifices are you willing to make to ensure that your dog is getting the attention that it needs?

baby cargo
My Malinois puppy at 10 weeks old. She’s a nutcase and everything I wanted in a puppy!

I brought home Cargo, my Belgian Malinois puppy in September. When I was looking for a puppy, I wanted a dog who could do dog sports, had a stable temperament, and good work ethic. I looked for higher energy breeds who need daily training and exercise because I like training and I am a fairly active person. In two years, I hope to be competing in agility and dock diving with this dog. Right now my lifestyle is fairly flexible to allow me to adjust to having a high energy dog in my life (yay self-employment!) My day now begins at 5:30am, and includes about 2 hours of devoted “dog time” to my existing dogs, and the puppy. This also includes a financial sacrifice as my puppy will also require training classes and equipment to meet these goals. (yes, the dog trainer’s dog goes to training classes!! Class is not for the human, it’s for the puppy!)

This is not a sacrifice that most people are willing to make. Keep that in mind as you look for your next breed.

As you choose your next breed, read and understand breed characteristics. There will be variation in each breed, but genetics is a very good predictor of your dog’s temperament when they get older. If the breed characteristic uses descriptive words like “strong,” “intelligent,” “trainable,” or “stubborn” then training is going to be required for the life of your dog. Getting through a 6 week puppy class will not be enough to keep these dogs happy. Make sure this is something that you are prepared to give your dog.

Once you have settled on a breed, now to find a good breeder! The Pet World at the mall is not the place to go! (Google puppy mills and pet stores for more information on that) Start on the internet, avoid places that are selling more than one breed of dog, or places who seem to always have a litter ready to go.
Good breeders will require that you contact them. They will interview you to make sure their puppies are going to appropriate homes. Ask about the parent’s and grandparents temperament. Even if you are not planning to show or do a dog sport, that is a good place to start with finding a good breeder. A good breeder should be able to tell you about the puppies lineage back a few generations.
Ask if they are part of their breed club, and what sports or shows they have done with the parents. Many show litters will only have one of five puppies who are show quality. The rest will need pet homes, look for one of those puppies. The research has been done by the breeder to make sure they get the puppy they want, reap those benefits!
Good breeders put a ton of time and energy into every litter, making sure they have the strongest genetics carrying the breed forward. They will also get your puppy started on the basics of potty training and crate training before they leave. Look for breeders who use puppy programs like Avidog, or Puppy Culture to raise their litters. The difference in litters who are raised with a program like this and one who is not, is truly

boston puppy
This litter of Boston Terrier pups have not opened their eyes and they are being exposed to regular handling, novel substances under their feet, and obstacles to overcome.

incredible.
Do not pick up the newspaper or craigslist and find a breeder that way. Most of the time backyard breeders are only into dogs for the money, and do not put the time and effort into making sure they are breeding for the best of the breed. More often than not, these dogs do not look anything like the breed standard when they are adults, and we are usually questioning if that dog is actually the breed you chose.
If you have chosen a breeder and you arrive to conditions that are not at all what you expected, or temperament of your puppy is not what you want, WALK AWAY! Do not let all that research and money go to waste. A puppy will be with you for 10+ years and is an investment. If the “breeder” was not honest with you, then do not give them money! You are not “rescuing” this dog by paying for it. You are simply allowing the person to continue to breed poor quality dogs.
If breeding and looks don’t matter to you, then consider rescuing a puppy from a local shelter or rescue. Depending on the time of the year, you can usually find a pregnant momma or a litter of pups dropped off or picked up because someone had an “oops litter”. The shelter will do the best they can to label a breed to stray pups, but without knowing who momma and daddy were, it’s a shot in the dark. If you do get the chance to see momma then you have a good idea of temperament. Genetics doesn’t move far between parents and offspring. Training can do some temperament change, but genetics is what lands you on the spectrum. If mom is super happy and outgoing, then chances are you will also have an outgoing pup, if mom is more reserved and wary of new people, there is a good chance your pup will be aloof towards strangers and that is something you will have to be aware of for the remainder of your pups life.
There is no difference between getting a family pet from a shelter or breeder. Just make sure you are making an informed decision, and one that best fits your needs for your new companion. More often than not, disaster strikes when there is unfair expectations placed on the new pup or the family. If the dog is not a fit for the family, then usually it’s the dog that suffers the most.
If you would like help evaluating a particular breed for your lifestyle, please contact me! I am happy to give you my insight and help you find the best path for you and your family!

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Take a moment to be grateful

Take a moment to be grateful

Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful for all that we have. Your friends have started with the social media challenges to post something they are grateful for each day.  Today I want you to be grateful for your dog training journey. Even if you have never needed a professional trainer, or you think you have never taught your dog anything (you have, I promise!), be grateful for the journey you and your canine pal have embarked.

Think about the one thing that your dog has taught you. Reflect on past companions too. Opal taught me that I love training and behavior modification, and sent me on this crazy business journey. Max, my first dog, taught me to do things on my own. I was the kid who needed to know someone before I went to the party, or walked around the mall. With Max, he needed to go to the park, and sometimes there was no one to go with me. He taught me to just go do what I want, when I want.

opal by maria
Opal, my heart dog, and the namesake of The Freckled Paw

Pixie continues to teach me things every day. We won’t even touch on the training skills she has forced me to learn. She reminds me that it’s not my fault that her personality is not what I expected, and that no one can make me feel bad about that. She reminds me that “behavior is just behavior” and that there is no emotional tie behind it. So what if she flipped out on a dog that got too close. I use that as information, and try not to let it happen again.

Take a few minutes today, and reflect on the things that your dog has taught you, and your dog training journey! If you feel so inclined, share your thoughts with us!

Until next time, make good choices!

Back to School Tips for your Dog

Back to School Tips for your Dog

September is here and that means Back to School!
If you have kids, that means packing lunches, homework time, and getting to sports practice. If you are a teacher, that means back to your normal 7am to 7pm (yes, I know that’s a 12 hour day. Teachers work a lot y’all). So what does that mean for your dog?
If you have an older pup who has gone through this routine change before, then they might be a little more prepared than if you brought home a new puppy or rescue dog this summer. That doesn’t mean you should expect them to readily adjust to a huge change in routine. Here are a few tips for helping make the transition a smooth one!

#1 Make sure your pup is ready to handle you being gone all day.
No one likes puppy surprises when they get home from being gone all day. If you have a pup who is younger than 5 months or an older dog who is used to you being home to let him out every 3 hours, then test pup on how long he is ready to “hold it.” Plan to run some errands for just a bit longer than you are normally leaving pup home alone. If pup can successfully wait until you get home then slowly make that time equal the amount of time that you will be gone for work and school. If pup is having some trouble with the extended time, plan to have a neighbor or dog walker come by for a few weeks to help with the transition. As puppy gets older, and as older dog adjusts to the new schedule, you will find that they are able to “hold it” a bit longer to meet your scheduling needs.

#2 Create a new routine for Rover too!
Since pooch is going to be waiting around all day for you to get home. Add him into your morning routine. A nice long walk early in the morning allows pup to know that you have not forgotten about him in all the shuffle, and he gets to burn off some energy. If you are not a morning person then an evening walk is fine, just make sure it doesn’t get shadowed by homework or sports practices. Most people find that waking up just a few minutes earlier to get the pup out is not that bad and they actually look forward to it. Science says exercise is good for our productivity too! Rover is tired, and we get more done. Win win situation!

#3 Invest in some new toys.

IMG_20170324_090704_143I know, one more thing to spend money on! The kids got new backpacks and lunch boxes, why not spend some money on the pup too! A new puzzle toy or game for Spot to work on when you leave will spare you his ideas of remodeling your kitchen. A frozen kong or bully stick wrapped in a paper bag allows your pup the opportunity to do something constructive while you are gone. It also has the added benefit of reducing stress in your pup by allowing him to forage. This allows him to use different areas of his brain that we have inadvertently shut off by offering food in a bowl. Scavenger activities for dogs is like taking a relaxing bubble bath for us!

Little things will make a big difference for your pup this September. If you find that your pup is having a hard time with the life changes of back to school, schedule a vet visit as soon as you notice the change. Often behavior changes are linked to health problems that are masked until something stressful happens. If all checks out well and you are still having some trouble, look for a certified trainer who is knowledgeable in behavior modification and separation anxiety. There are lots of things we can do to help you out, but we need to address it sooner rather than later!

Just a reminder to my local clients: I am quickly counting down the days to my Wedding! Things are moving along smoothly so far! Make sure you get your appointments scheduled so I can see you before all the chaos really begins! If you are interested in scheduling a consultation with me, please contact me soon! I will be limiting the number of new clients I see in October so I can give you the attention you and your pup deserve!
Until next time!

Is frustration affecting your dog walking?

Is frustration affecting your dog walking?

I want to touch on the idea of giving your dog a choice. Is your dog ready to go for a walk? Are they actually capable of listening to you in the moment you are speaking? Sometimes the answer is no.

Most of the time your dog does not respond to the cue given because their brain is elsewhere. You know the look I am talking about, the one where their nose is twitching and their head is on a swivel. They have no idea you actually exist in that moment. They are looking off to the hills, and have forgotten about the leash and the walk that you are ready to go on. From a training point of view, that is a problem!

Many traditional trainers teach that the dog should obey what you say no matter what, and that level of sharp obedience is what you strive for. If you are not getting the result you want, then a sharp pop of the collar to remind the dog what he is supposed to be doing will help him get there. If this is how you were taught to train your dog then one of two things are happening. (I was also taught this way originally, so I know your frustration) One, you are now constantly popping the collar and giving cues that your dog is ignoring. Two, your dog is giving you a half-hearted sit when you collar pop but still no actual focus to do what you ask. A very frustrating problem.

A story: Pixie loves dock diving. Her favorite thing in the whole world is jumping from the dock into the pool and going for a swim. She loves it so much however, that she leaves her brain in the car when we get to the pool. All of last year I struggled with her staying on the dock. I could see in her face that there was no brain in her head. The more training I did on the dock the more frustrated I got because I could not get any thought processes while near the pool. So I stopped going to the pool to let her jump. The first time we went to the pool this year, she didn’t get anywhere near the dock. I just let her sniff. We sniffed in the parking lot, and the fence line. We sniffed the parked cars, and watched the dogs go into the vet clinic. Any time she offered me some eye contact, I would reward, and move her a little closer to the pool. Thoughtfulness, gets you closer to what you want.

What would happen if you just gave your dog a few minutes to sniff? Hang out on the porch, and let your pup get all the sniffing out of his system before you asked him to move forward. I’m not saying let your dog drag you all over the yard to sniff every blade of grass, you stay in one space, giving your dog as much room to sniff as the leash will allow and just wait. Let me know how this goes, and the difference you see in your walks with your pup!

The Secret Club of Dog Owners

The Secret Club of Dog Owners

Tragedy struck this week in our area. An elderly woman was killed by a dog who was recently adopted from a local rescue. My heart goes out to the family who is now dealing with this unbelievable heartbreak. For more information on the story, you can take a look at the Virginian Pilot, I will not post the story here, as that is not the point of my post.

There is a divide between the people who have only lost dogs due to medical issues or old age, and those people who have had to make that decision based on a behavior issue. The latter folks, do not talk about the heart wrenching decision they had to make because they know they will be judged for it. Someone somewhere will say, “you didn’t do enough” or, “what did you do to make that dog act that way.” Know that you are not alone, and plenty of people stand behind your decision.

Being one of the only positive reinforcement trainers who will see aggression cases in this area, I have spent many hours being a therapist for these owners. The conversation begins with history, and I have heard everything from this started at 7 weeks when I brought the puppy home, to we began seeing issues around 2 years old, to the aggressive behavior has gotten worse quickly. These dogs are from breeders, or rescues, they are large and small, young and old.  In each of these situations, there was nothing that the owners did except love their dog, and do the best for them that they knew how.

My heart breaks each time I think about the families who have to make the decision to euthanize their dog because of aggression issues. (If any of those families are reading this, know that I think about you and your dogs, all the time, even if we only met once) Working with dogs means you are not only in it for the dogs, but for the people first and foremost. I really do not look forward to the conversations about euthanasia that I have, but I am glad I get to be that shoulder for people who are truly looking to do what is right.

I want to thank the owners of these dogs for making that difficult decision. They were responsible enough to put the safety of their family, and the general public over that of a dog that they loved.  They were kind enough to recognize the demons that their dog was living with, and end their suffering. They were smart enough to realize their dog was not capable of living in our world, and by our rules.

I also want to thank the responsible rescues who refuse to put any owner through this heart wrenching process. There are thousands of healthy stable dogs in shelters and rescues, waiting to be that fantastic family pet that you envision living your life with. Responsible organizations, have no problem understanding the liability behind a dangerous dog, and the thought of “rehabilitation” never crosses their minds.

So to the owners of the dogs who left us because they were truly broken, you are a stronger person than the people who run this “rescue.” To Luke, Raj, Bella, Ranger, Fenton and the others, run free at the Rainbow Bridge where you are safe from your demons. We think of you often!