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Finding the Right Dog for You

Are you ready for a dog?

Many of us become so excited about brining home a new puppy or dog that we fail to take into account all that is involved in actually caring for a dog. I’m guilty of this mistake too, so no judgement from me – we’re here to help not judge! We think of our relationship with a new dog we envision beautiful walks, playing fetch, cuddle time and the like, but it’s important to have a clear and complete picture of what to expect. The number one way you can show your dog you love them is to understand the responsibilities involved in caring for it, and making sure you’re properly prepared ahead of time. Not being prepared can quickly tarnish your vision of dog ownership, cause resentment, and lead to dissatisfaction in your relationship with your dog.

There are many aspects of ownership to take into account, but the two most important are breed selection and training and socialization. If you love relaxing when you get home from a long day of work then a husky or shepherd would not be a wise choice for you. These dogs fall into the AKC breed classification of Working and Herding dogs, respectively. They’ve been bred for hundreds of years to run…all day. So if you’re heart is set on one of these two breeds, you should have a good plan in place for how you can deplete their energy level, or they’ll do it for themselves while you’re at work; this often manifests in the form of home remodeling.

The primary reason dogs are turned into shelters is because of a lack of training and socialization. Shelters are filled with dogs that have potty training, socialization and obedience issues. (1) More than half of these dogs will be euthanized. (2) Most dogs can be trained to behave in a manner that we humans desire, but it takes time, money and patience.

The column to the right contains a checklist that will help you make sure you’re ready for the exciting and wonderful experience of dog ownership.

Purebred vs. Mixed Breeds

I used to think a purebred dog was the way to go, but there is no evidence that going this route will make you happier, or that the dog will be smarter or healthier. Also, keep in mind that there are millions of dogs (usually of a mixed breed) being euthanized at shelters. If you still want a certain breed look into rescue shelters that focus on specific breeds first. It will be much cheaper and you may get some valuable history about the dog to ensure a better fit in your home. I like this article about the difference.

Puppy vs. Adult

This is one of the most import questions you must ask yourself. Puppies are the cutest things on the planet, but they are an immense amount of work. Honestly, I think I would take time off work if I were adopting a puppy. You have to let them out every couple of hours, even in the middle of the night, clean up messes, puppy proof your home and commit time to train and socialize your pup. That’s if all goes right! An adult dog on the other hand has already learned many of the skills you like and with an adult you can get a better sense of the dog’s temperament and if it’s a good fit for your family and home. Adult dogs are often last to be adopted too, so consider giving these older dogs a second chance. Here’s a nice article that will help you consider all the factors to consider when deciding between a puppy and an adult.

Finding the Right Mixed Breed Dog

Okay this guide is exhaustive and will take you some time to get through, but statistics show that the guide works and has reduced the number of dogs returned to shelters because it helps to look past the cuteness factor and adopt based on compatibility, much like a dating service.

Find the Right Dog Breed For You

This quiz is a decent start, but not perfect. The key is that you do some research and understand that breeds are vastly different. If your gone all day and don’t like to exercise outside, getting a German Shepherd could be a catastrophic mistake. I can’t tell you the number of people that have done this and then called me for training to stop barking, lunging, and destruction, all caused (in my professional opinion) by a lack of socialization and exercise. There is no quick or easy fix to this situation so choose your breed wisely. It’s one of the most important decisions you can make. Some breeds are more susceptible to medical problems, barking, aggression, allergies, etc.

Finding a Reputable Breeder

Don’t be fooled into believing your breeder is reputable or that it is not that important to find a reputable breeder. Even if the person you’re dealing with seems like a super nice person and they are asking for a lot of money, it doesn’t mean they are a responsible breeder or are breeding dogs that should be breed. Some dog lines shouldn’t be breed because many unwanted behavioral issues are genetically passed on. This doesn’t mean the behaviors are immutable, but it does mean that you will have to spend more money and time working with a trainer. The number one way to find a reputable breeder is to get a referral, but don’t stop there. One or two referrals do not take the place of your own research. Some breeders are just puppy mills in disguise. Dogs from puppy mills often have severe behavioral and health problems due to the poor conditions in which they were raised. Here’s a great one page article from The Humane Society that gives lots of great information on how to select a reputable breeder. Please note: The AKC does NOT vet breeders, they only list them! A sad truth I confirmed when I called and asked them this question. I know it doesn’t appear this way from their website, so please call them and ask them yourself if you’re skeptical of what I’m sharing with you.

Hire Someone to Help You

Having a qualified trainer help you select the right dog for you can save you from years of frustration. A certified trainer will also be very helpful in selecting a reputable breeder. Many of my clients will tell you that they would have rather paid a professional when selecting their puppy, in an effort to avoid some of the problems we’re now addressing. If you decide to go this route be sure to look for a dog trainer that has a Certified Professional Dog Trainer license. If you’re not local to me, you can find CPDTs at the link provided.

Understanding Dogs

Think Like a Canine

It’s easier to think like a canine than to expect your dog to think like a primate. Dog’s don’t speak English. Sounds obvious but then why do we keep talking to them and then repeat ourselves louder and louder when they don’t behave as we’d like? It’s an easy trap to fall into. It turns out there are many dog behaviors that we as primates don’t understand or misinterpret. Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book, The Other End of the Leash is an excellent book that helps us understand our dogs. Dr. Karen Pryor’s book, Don’t Shoot the Dog is another good read. Both books do an excellent job of explaining the differences in our behaviors in layman terms. I enjoy Dr. McConnell’s sense of humor and story telling wit.

Dog Body Language

Dogs are talking to us with their bodies all the time. Have a look at The Stress Escalation Ladder, created by Colleen S Koch Adapted from Turid Rugaas. This is an excellent document which helps you recognize the varying levels of stress or anxiety your dog may be feeling. Identifying these signals can help you avoid stress for your dog. The Fear Posture Poster created by Dr. Sophia Yim DVM MS provides a nice visual of what anxiety looks like in our dogs.

Next Steps

If you enjoyed the above reading and want to learn more have a certified trainer come to your home for an hour to talk about any specific issues about your dog that concern or puzzle you. The previous information is just the tip of the iceberg and each dog is unique. Sometimes they defy basic body language signals or have body parts that are difficult to observe because of their unique bodies, like a cropped tail or hair covering their eyes. A good trainer will help you understand how to put what you’ve learned into context.

Training

Why is Basic Obedience Important?

Basic obedience is important for so many reasons it’s hard to decide what’s at the top of the list.  Of course, most of us imagine training results in a dog that is well behaved and obedient, but the truth is that basic obedience is a spring board to so much more. Dogs that bark and lunge at other people or dogs when they’re out on walks  often missed the opportunity to socialize as puppies, an overlooked and under emphasized component of training.  In fact many behavioral issues that develop throughout a dog’s life are preventable with training and socialization. A couple of important points about basic obedience:  1)  You should start at 7 – 8 weeks.  From 7 – 16 weeks your puppy’s mind is like a sponge. You can fill it with knowledge about what you do and don’t like and teach your dog all kinds of skills with training. Without training your dog will do as he pleases and begin to develop behaviors that most of us don’t appreciate.  2) If you missed that ever so important window, it’s not too late, but every day that you delay training is another day your dog’s unwanted behaviors become stronger, since most are self-reinforcing.  So just start as soon as you can.

When Should I Start Training My Dog?

This is one of the easier questions to answer. Start training ASAP. Seven to 16 weeks of age is the best time to begin training, but if you can start earlier while the pup is still with its mother and liter mates that’s even better. If your dog is an adult and you have unwanted behavioral issues, start training ASAP since the behavior is self-reinforcing and will continue to become stronger each day that you wait to start training.

Which Training Program is Best?

The key to finding a good training program is to find a good trainer. Unfortunately, training is not regulated in the United States, so anyone can be a self-proclaimed dog trainer. However, some trainers do seek certification. Currently, the gold standard certification in the industry is through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. Achieving certification through the CCPDTs requires a deep understanding of how dogs think and learn, at least 300 hours of training experience and the recommendation of another CCPDT trainer. You should also know that punishment training although still popular on TV is not the best initial approach – ever. All CCPDT trainers must agree to LIMA, which specifies “least intrusive, minimally aversive” techniques be tried first before introducing punishment. However, some certified trainers may still suggest punishment. Trainers that use positive reinforcement and punishment are referred to as balanced trainers. Personally, I have never found the need to use any positive punishment training methods.

Why Punishment is Frowned Upon by Some Trainers, but Not Others?

Some trainers are okay with using punishment because it often works faster, but it’s hard on the dog. They come out looking like stars at the dog’s emotional or physical expense. My personal opinion is that positive punishment is animal abuse. If you read my answer to which training program is best than you know I tried positive punishment. I’ll always carry that guilt, but at least I know I’ll never recommend it to a client. I recommend finding a trainer that is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) or working towards their certification. Just to sit for the CPDT exam requires 300 hours of hands on training. CPDTs are primarily focused on positive reinforcement.

Do I Need to Show My Dog I’m the Alpha Leader?

There was a time where dog training took a page from wolf behavior research and pack theory. With the modification of pack theory research, dog training has dismissed it’s relevance to training, and positive reinforcement has replaced it long ago. However, there is a certain appeal to this type of dog training, not helped by the rise of a certain reality TV star with ZERO dog training certifications. As I’ve mentioned before this is in part due to the fact that there is no regulation in the dog training world and anyone can claim to be an expert trainer. So then what makes me the expert? I’m not, and you should be wary of anyone that boasts about their expertise. I learned decades ago in my IT career that the person claiming to know everything was not the person to go to for answers. Rather a consensus from the people who have repeatedly demonstrated past knowledge and skill would usually help me decide the best path forward. I’ve applied that same logic to my career as a dog trainer. I’ve provided an excellent article from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and a link to an excellent video called Tough Love. Note that most of trainers and behaviorists in this video came from a background of domination and punishment training. After all, that is how dogs were trained 50 years ago – with a stick. I know that some of you reading this loved Cesar or have been taught by someone still believing in dominance and pack theory. If you feel the necessity to rebuke my stance, understand this first; I’m not saying that dominance or a pack mentality doesn’t exist in the dog world. I just don’t think it is necessary in dog training. In fact I believe reward based training works better. It may take longer, but in the end I have a dog that truly understands which behaviors are appreciated and which are not. I also have a dog that is less likely to have developed unwanted fear or aggression and is my buddy. I think dominance training will serve you well if you’re looking to have a confrontational relationship with your dog, but that is not what I seek, nor is what any of my clients have asked for.

Nutrition/Health

What’s in My Dog’s Food?

This subject can quickly head down the path of debating raw vs. non-raw, grain vs. meat and much more. I’m not going to take a position here, but encourage you to educate yourself and do what you think is best for you and your dog. What we hear from the scientific community is often coming from industry or scientist bought by industry. So, let me just make this one statement, know your source. Are they actually a scientist? Do they provide sources for their statements or reference scientific research by renowned research institutions? Dr. Karen Becker is a holistic wellness advisor and doctor of veterinary medicine. She has a long list of credentials and associations. She regularly publishes educational information and cites all her accredited sources. In general I find that what she says makes sense and I encourage you to watch her videos about dog food. One comment to add, in this first video Dr. Becker says you will never find the foods she recommends in big box pet stores like Petco and PetSmart. I believe this may have changed since this video was made in 2012. Additionally, there are boutique pets stores now in many cities and of course you can likely find them on Amazon as well.

Should I Go Raw?

This debate can get to a level like that of religion and politics, so I will tread carefully! Let me share my personal experiences with raw diets. I fed my dog raw meats at the suggestion of Dr. Becker when I took my German Shepherd to see her in 2009. It did not solve his rare neurological issue, but he clearly loved it much more than the very expensive Solid Gold dehydrated kibble that I was feeding him before that and at 9 years old his coat was still shinny and soft. He also never got sick from eating raw food, nor did I get sick from handling it because I washed my hands. Yes, it was much more expensive and I couldn’t afford to feed him just raw, so I fed him a mix of kibble and raw. Also, keep in mind that there are in-between options that Dr. Becker covers in this first video. The decision doesn’t need to be gross smelling, species inappropriate kibble with rendered meat or really expensive raw meat. There are homemade recipe books, canned foods and dehydrated foods that fill that in-between space. Here are some of my favorite videos that can help you make an informed decision.

Should I Go Grain Free?

As if there wasn’t already enough confusion about which diet is best for your dog, a new study released by the University of California Davis suggests there may be a correlation between some grain-free or legume rich dog diets and a nutritional deficiency causing heart disease. I have included a link to the article, which has a link to the actual study. Does this mean you shouldn’t give your dog a grain-free diet? I don’t have the answer. It doesn’t seem that science does either. Even within our human diets, what is considered good for us seems to change every few years, with some more obvious exceptions, like diets rich in sugar and highly processed and refined foods. Personally, I believe there is a lot of benefit from eating different foods in moderation. As it pertains to dog food, perhaps continually varying your dog’s food is the simple answer. After all, who among us would like to eat the same thing for breakfast and dinner every day for the rest of their lives? Keep in mind though that changing your dog’s food suddenly may cause an upset stomach and loose stool. Your dog’s food should be changed over gradually, mixing the new food in with the old for a few days and gradually increasing the proportion of new food.

Should I Vaccinate My Dog and How Often?

Another contentious subject that we must consider as dog owners is whether or not vaccinate, and how often. As a dog care provider I’ve learned something that I didn’t know as a dog owner. That is that vaccination schedules vary by veterinarian! In fact, some veterinarians don’t even recommend some vaccines that others do. It actually makes a lot of sense, since some diseases are more prevalent in certain climates or environments. Some dogs don’t respond well to vaccinations, others have allergic reactions and some dog owners may worry about over vaccination. Titer testing determines the amount of antibodies left in your dog’s system and although more expensive, can help to prevent over vaccination. More veterinarian practices are now providing titer testing. Titer testing can be invaluable as it has shown that some dogs seem to retain their antibodies for many years after the initial vaccinations, while others do not. I’ve included three articles that I think are very relevant here. The first by doctor TJ Dunn about the importance of vaccinations from a veterinarian’s perspective, where he addresses the push from some holistic veterinarians not to vaccinate at all or to partially vaccinate. The second article from the American Veterinary Medical Association dives deep into titer testing so that you can have an informed discussion with your veterinarian if this is something you would like to do to ensure you’re not over vaccinating your dog. The last article by Dr. Becker talks about the administration of the monthly heartworm pill. It makes a lot of sense, but I read this after the passing of my dog, so I’ve never had this conversation with another veterinarian and I would recommend that you do so with your vet before following my advice or that of any other veterinarian.

How Often Should my Dog See a Vet?

I think there are some variables to consider like your dog’s age and state of health, but in general most vets agree that a yearly wellness exam is best for keeping your pet healthy and possibly avoiding expensive to treat diseases that may develop. My vet and I agreed on a yearly exam, until my dog developed a rare disease at which point we changed it to twice a year plus anytime he showed signs of a flare up or other unrelated changes in his mood or physical activity levels. The American Veterinarian Medical Association also recommends a yearly wellness exam.

when Should I Trim My Dog’s Nails?

Nail trimming can be a traumatic experience for both owners and their dogs, but it’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed. If you don’t you risk causing injury to their toes. It will also be more likely that your hardwood floors show more wear than they would have had you kept your dog’s nails trimmed. If you want to save the money and learn to trim them yourself, ask your vet to show you how because if you trim too much nail you can hit what’s called the quick, and it will cause your dog pain and the nail will likely bleed profusely. It will also be very difficult to get your dog to trust you to clip his nails in the future. One great suggestion I have is train your dog to enjoy a nail clipping before you ever actually try to clip their nails. I found this great video on YouTube that shows you how. Don’t rush it – in the video the trainer is working with a dog that he’s already trained. The whole process he runs through can take up 2 or 3 weeks with daily training. Every dog is different so progress at a pace that your dog is comfortable with. If you rush it, you risk a major setback. Also, unlike the trainer in the video that has extensive experience clipping, I suggest you get at eye level with your dog’s paws so you can see clearly where you’re clipping. Some dogs have translucent nails and you can actually see the quick in the nail. Lastly, Keep a styptic stick on hand just in case you do cut the quick. I also, decided to share this second video with you. I used to also use a Dremel on my dog to file his nails. Just cutting them would leave them rough and sharp. This video gives you an idea, but I’m sharing to show you what not to do. I don’t doubt this guy loves dogs, but most of these dogs are showing a lot of stress signals. Check out the tucked tail of the first dog. Why not just take the time to teach your dog not to fear this process?

Should I Have My Dog’s Teeth Cleaned?

Of course this too is debatable. Luckily, it’s not difficult for those of us that aren’t veterinarians to make a personal choice about teeth cleaning for our dogs. The American Veterinarian Medical Association says that you should have your dog’s teeth cleaned. It’s important to recognize though that they are promoting the use of their own members, so of course this is their stance on the matter. On the flip side of this debate there are people that argue that dogs have been around for millions of years and did fine without having their teeth brushed for the majority of that time. Here’s my simple recommendation, do what you can yourself to maintain the health of your dog’s teeth in an effort to avoid having your dog anesthetized yearly for a professional cleaning. A few things you can do: 1) Give your dog real cow femur bones to gnaw on. You can buy them at most grocery stores – ask your butcher. I’ve included a link to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health confirming that this help to keep your dog’s teeth clean. The bone marrow is also very good for your dog. 2) Brush your dogs teeth after teaching your dog to enjoy it. I’ve included a link on how to teach your dog to love getting his teeth brushed. 3) Ask your vet to give you a tutorial on how to inspect your dog’s teeth so you know what to look for. Just these few steps may help you avoid having to have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned which requires the dog be restrained in a manner that is not pleasant, or risk having your dog anesthetized

Can My Dog Have Bones?

You can give your dog bones, but here are some good practices to adhere to. 1) Stick to cow femur bones since they are the toughest bones available and are less likely to splinter and cause your dog harm. 2) Don’t cook or smoke the bones as this makes them more likely to splinter. 3) A good idea anyway – learn dog first aid so you know what to do if your dog is choking, whether it be a piece of bone, or a toy. 4) Stay in the proximity of your dog when he has a bone so you are there for him if he begins to choke. 5) No matter how sweet you think your dog is, never take a bone away from him without using a distraction or some other method to get him off the bone before picking it up. Not adhering to this rule may result in you being bitten. 6) Never give your dog a bone around children or other dogs. Keep them separated while your dog is on a bone to avoid any type of guarding instinct, even if you’ve never before seen your dog display this type of behavior. 7) Be prepared for the mess. It will make a mess, but your dog will love you so much!

How Do I Care For My Dog’s Coat?

Before you change anything, give your dog a bath with a decent shampoo and conditioner, wait 24 hours, brush them, and take a picture of them in the sun. Now you have a starting point so when you feel the pinch of the expensive “prescription” dog food that your vet said would help, you can repeat the above steps and then compare pictures and know for sure if the change in diet is making a difference. Brushing your dog’s hair daily and giving him a bath is something you should be doing regularly and will help to maintain a healthy and shiny coat. The frequency depends on your dog’s breed and how much time your dog spends outside rolling in the dirt. For my German Shepherd I brushed him once every day or two and bathed him about once every 6 weeks in the winter and once every 2 weeks in the summer. If you think your dog’s coat still looks dull, your dog sheds excessively, or its skin looks flaky and dry, check to make sure it’s getting the omega 3 fatty acids appropriate for its weight. Check with heck with your veterinarian to determine the best dosage and then consider gradually switching food (see “What’s the Best Food for My Dog?”) or add fish oil to your dog’s diet. In addition to helping to make your dog’s coat look shiny and feel soft, fish oil has many other benefits. Just take note that not all fish oil formulas are the same. Many are rich in omega 6 instead of omega 3, so be careful about the one you select and consider using a human grade product. Odds are good you’ll pay less for it too. I’ve included this informative link about fish oil from the VCA Hospitals.

What to do About Eye Discharge?

There are many causes of eye discharge that range from allergies, infection, dust, injury, and more. The best thing to do is clean the corner of your dog’s eyes regularly with a tissue. You’ll get used to seeing what the discharge looks like and how much accumulates daily. This helps to prevent staining of the fur around the eye and more importantly gives you a baseline so that when you see a discharge that is not what you are used to seeing, you know it’s time for a visit with your veterinarian. Yellow or green looking discharge usually indicates an infection so if you see this talk to your vet as soon as possible. Here’s some good information on eye discharge from Pet WebMD.

Exercise

Do Dogs Need Mental Stimulation?

Yes, just like humans, dogs benefit from mental stimulation. As the AKC says a mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog. Here are the three best ways I’ve found to keep dogs mentally stimulated. Training without a doubt is one of the best ways to keep your dog mentally stimulated. A dog that gets regular training looks forward to training sessions as if they were a fun game. If you’re training your dog correctly that is exactly what your dog should think. Meeting new people and experiencing novel sights and sounds is what puppy socialization is all about. It sounds simple, but the list is endless. If you introduce your dog to the big scary world a little bit at a time when they are young, they are less likely to develop behavioral problems in adolescence and you’ll wear them out doing it. Sniffing and exploring every 2 inches of grass may seem extremely boring to you, but your dog loves it and catalogs all those smells. There are so many more possibilities so I will have to dedicate a blog post on the subject, but these three suggestions will get you started.

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

Once, a retired couple hired me to help them with their 1 year old German Shepherd. Here was the list of behavioral problems they wanted to address: digging, jumping on people, nipping, chewing on furniture, barking and lunging at other people and dogs, as well as barking at the owners, and pulling on leash. First question I asked, “how much exercise does your dog get daily.” Answer: “he’s allowed to run in the backyard as much as he wants in the morning and then again in the evening”. While I searched for the words to explain to them that wasn’t enough, my mind flashed back to my dog Ike and I coming home from a 5 mile cross-country ski and playing Frisbee in the park. He ran through the house and stood at the backdoor as soon as we came in. I robotically opened the backdoor to let him into the fenced yard. He bolted out, spun around and looked at me. As the door closed in his face we looked at each other in amazement, him wondering why I wasn’t coming out to play some more and me wondering what I could do to tire this dog. After explaining to the couple the high energy requirements of a GSD, I took their dog on a skateboard ride. 30 minutes later we were back and I began to provide more detail about the GSD breed, why exercise was so important and how that related to the behavioral issues they brought up. While I was talking to them, instead of trying to invoke attention from the owners as he was doing before our skateboard ride, the dog took a long drink of water, laid down in the grass and panted to cool down for about 5 minutes. Then he moved to the brick pavers, sprawled out and crashed while we talked. This is the power of exercise. PP Dog breeds that are members of the working, sporting or herding groups will often have amazing energy capacity. It just so happens that dogs are also highly social, so most won’t run around in the backyard unless there is another dog or human out there with them, squirrels to chase, or the exercise is a result of a game you’ve taught them, like fetch, which, unless you purchase a ball throwing machine, still requires your presence. Selecting the right breed is the best thing you can do to ensure you can meet your dog’s exercise requirements! Once you’ve done this you have a great starting point in determining your dog’s exercise requirements. Now take these additional factors into consideration. 1Reduce exercise intensity and duration in extreme heat or cold. 2 Consider your dog’s age and physical capability, including its current state of health.3. Keep in mind that as dogs age they may take more pleasure in brain activity over physical activity.4. How rowdy is your dog at the end of the day? If you’ve exercised him properly, he should be content to lay next to you.

FAQs and Answers from Dog Life Pro

Is it Safe to Let My Dog Play with Other Dogs?

For the most part, yes, it’s safe to let your dog play with other dogs. However, if your dog missed it’s critical socialization period around 8 weeks of age they may now display anxiety when they see other dogs. Further complicating the matter, it can be difficult to decide if your dog is showing anxiety because it wants to play with the other dog or wants to escape the area.  Call us if you need help.

How do I Find Playmates for My Dogs?

Finding playmates for your dog can be challenging, but it’s so important that you do. Dogs that don’t get to interact with other dogs on a regular basis often become anxious around other dogs and display anxious behavior that we humans are not fond of. Most prevalent here is barking and lunging on leash and behind gates, and at windows. The K9 Playtime database can help you find your dog’s perfect match!

Is it Safe to Take My Dog to the Dog Park?

The answer is, it depends on a few factors.  I would say dog parks are for experienced dog owners with well socialized dogs.  Owners and dogs that are anxious should start with one on one play and slowly add more dogs.  This is especially important if you’re contemplating taking your small/toy breed dog to a dog park. Dog owners and dogs that have had limited experience introducing dogs and meeting other dogs, can find a dog park overwhelming.   I started K9 Playtime for this sole reason. 

Can I Let My Dog Play With Sticks?

Not a great idea, but they do obsess over them! Here’s my suggestion, don’t panic and don’t stick your fingers in your dog’s mouth. Instead ask for a hand target or other skill. Of course the skill will need to be taught and made strong before your dog will give up a stick!

Why does my dog eat grass?

I’ve often read that they do this to settle their stomachs, but I see it more often when dogs are excited or bored. I try to discourage it after letting them have a few nibbles. If your dog chronically eats grass they may have poor gut health and you might want to consider Bernie’s Perfect Poop, which contains enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics

Why is it so important to select the right size leash for my dog?

The length, width, loop size and clip size all matter. While a 6 foot, 1/2 inch, leather leash may be perfect for a 100 lb German shepherd, it’s not a great choice for a Bichon Frise. Finding a thin, 3/8″ wide, nylon leash with a small clip is best for small dogs. The length is also important if you’re working on training your dog not to pull on leash. No sense in constantly winding the leash around hand if you’re trying to teach your dog to walk nicely next to you. In that case a 4 foot leash is better for training.

Why is it a terrible idea to attach a leash to my dog’s collar?

A regular flat collar was specifically designed to display tags and add a pleasing aesthetic look to our dogs. When attached to the leash of an excited dog, your dog may pull to the point that it damages its larynx, but continues to pull because the excitement is so great. Dogs can also easily slip out of collars as soon as they realize they just need to pull backwards, which they will figure out in a state of panic.

What’s the best harness for my dog?

Different trainers like different harnesses, but most are in agreement on the similar style of a front clip harness. I prefer the EasyWalk harness and have had remarkable results with dogs that pull on leash. I suggest the deluxe version because it has more padding, but for some reason the regular version has 8 sizes while the deluxe has only 4, so you may find the regular version is a better fit.

Is a prong or choke collar okay to use for walking my dog?

These collars inflict pain on your dog to get it to comply and are considered positive punishment. Science tells us that dogs can learn from this type of punishment, but there’s substantial risk of damaging your dog physically or emotionally.  Before I became a trainer, I had a trainer recommend a prong collar to me for my German shepherd. In hindsight and with lots of training education I learned that using a prong collar was a huge mistake and resulted in my dog becoming aggressive towards other dogs.  You see, dogs have what’s called superstitious learning.  In my dog’s case, he saw another dog, got excited, pulled on leash, received a correction from me and then associated the pain in his neck with the other dogs.  This illogical association can be made to children, fire hydrants, basically whatever your dog sees when it experiences the pain.  Please save these devices as a last resort. If you feel you’ve already tried everything else first, consider hiring a certified trainer to make sure you’ve selected the right size collar, fitted it correctly and are using it as intended.

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