We tried a new type of show this week, discussing recent news stories that we thought would be of interest to pet lovers.
We started off discussing the success of Green Acres 9th annual fundraiser for the Eastern Area Agency on Aging Furry Friends Food Bank. We raised a total of $6195 from the community for this important cause and added $2000 for a total of $8195. Thank you!
Next, we announced Green Acres’ participation in the Pet Professional Guild Project Trade program, a way for customers to earn discounts when they turn in aversive training equipment such as; choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, and citronella collars. FMI – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/articles/project-trade.html
We talked about lawsuits within the pet food industry. Pet food manufacturer Wysong filed a lawsuit in September of 2016 claiming that the defendant’s (Nestle Purina Petcare, Mars Petcare, Wal-Mart, Hills Pet Nutrition, BigHeart/J.M. Smucker, Ainsworth/APN) are misleading consumers into believing their pet food contains higher quality ingredients than the foods contain. Purina filed a similar suit against Blue Buffalo over a year ago and won, so this could be interesting. http://www.wysong.net/WysongLawsuitClaimsMajorPetFoodCompaniesareMisleadingConsumers
A post on PetFoodIndustry.com reports on a lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Northern California (Case number 3:16-cv-7001). The plaintiffs claim that the pet food businesses charged consumers more than was justified for certain foods by making those foods available by prescription only. The plaintiffs allege that these prescription foods contain no drug or ingredients that are not found in conventional foods. – http://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/6188-prescription-dog-cat-foods-face-anti-trust-lawsuit
It is not just veterinarians that are issuing new position statements that promote fear-free handling and training of pets. The day after Kate and I recorded The Woof Meow Show episode on How to choose a trainer, The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) released their new Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Devices. The PPG statement is much like our own in that it states that aversive equipment should never be used for the management and training of pets. You can read that statement here – http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Equipment-Used-for-the-Management-Training-and-Care-of-Pets
Don and Kate also recognized two Green Acres team members. Michelle Harmon, Green Acres Assistant Manager, has completed the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) 4-Day Pet Care Technician Certification Program Workshop and has achieved the Certified Pet Care Technician (CPCT) designation offered by the PPG. The four-day workshop in Wesley Chapel, Florida, covered; 1) How Pets Learn, 2) Canine Behavior & Social Communication, 3) Canine & Feline Anatomy and Physiology, 4) Canine & Feline Health and Handling, 5) Pet First Aid and Emergency Protocols, 6) Pet Care Tools, Equipment, Toys & Supplies, 7) Consent and Preference Testing, and 8) Pet Care Policies and Protocols.
Lois Dimitre, a Lead Dog Training Instructor at Green Acres Kennel Shop, has recently graduated with distinction from the Karen Pryor Academy and has been named a Certified Training Partner. Lois is committed to force-free training techniques that make a difference in the lives of pets and their owners. Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior is an innovative institution committed to educating, certifying, and promoting the next generation of animal trainers. Lois has completed an intensive education process and demonstrated a high level of skill in training dogs as well as teaching dog owners. “Our graduates are not only skilled trainers, they are excellent teachers,” said Pryor. “I’m proud to be able to welcome Lois Dimitre to the growing family of KPA-Certified dog trainers nationwide.”
For the past several years, Green Acres Kennel Shop has been recognized by Market Surveys of America as the Best Kennel, Best Pet Store, Best Dog Trainer and Best Pet Groomer in the greater Bangor region. Last month, Best Businesses of America, an affiliate of Market Surveys of America, ranked Green Acres Kennel Shop as one of the Top 15 Kennels and Top 40 Dog Trainers in New England.
I first created this list in January of 2017 as a handout to accompany a presentation for the staff of the Bangor Humane Society. Since then I have continued to update this list as I believe the resources on it are beneficial to any pet care professional or those aspiring to join the field. While my emphasis has been on professionals, pet parents may find this information useful and educational as well.
One of the best ways to stay current in the pet care profession is to join The Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Membership is open to all who work with pets professionally (behavior consultants, boarding facilities, breeders, daycares, dog walkers, groomers, pet sitters, rescue workers, shelter workers, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, anyone who works with pets professionally) as well as pet owners.
The PPG’s Guiding Principles set a standard that I believe most people with pets want to see for our industry. All members of the Green Acres Kennel Shop team must agree to follow the Guiding Principles, and I enroll all as members in the Pet Professional Guild. When I am asked to recommend a pet care professional, the first thing I consider is whether or not they are a member of The Pet Professional Guild.
Important Position Statements Related to Animal Welfare & Care in the USA by Leading Organizations – How we care for and train animals are very important to me. The following organizations; the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), have all been leaders in taking the position, based on scientific evidence, in declaring the use of pain, force, and fear have no place, at any time, for any reason in the care and training of animals. At this blog post, you can find links to their position statements on this subject. – https://bit.ly/Pos_HumaneTraining
How to Choose a Dog Trainer – Don and Kate believe that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet. In this blog post and podcast they suggest criteria you can use when looking for a dog trainer. – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer
Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this podcast from The Woof Meow Show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The guidelines outline how the continuing promulgation of erroneous information about pet behavior and the ongoing use of aversives to train and manage pets are major causes for behavior problems, and recommend that concepts like dominance and the use aversives are not scientifically sound and are, in fact, counter-productive and harmful to the pets in our care. Every pet care professional needs to be aware of the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/
Reward Based Training versus Aversives – This blog post discusses how dog training has changed from using aversives to being aversive-free. Dog training should be fun and that means it is pain-free, force-free, and fear-free, a position supported by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Both the AAHA and the PPG have position statements that clearly indicate that aversives must never be used in the training or management of a dog. – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Podcast) – While Don and Kate would never recommend using a shock collar on a dog for any reason, they recognize that not everyone who uses a shock collar on their dog does so understanding the harm it can cause. Sadly, often the companies that sell and manufacture shock collars do not provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision. This podcast addresses the following questions; What is a shock collar?, How are shock collars used?, How does a shock collar change a dog’s behavior?, What makes the use of a shock collar inappropriate?, What do experts say about shock collars?, and what can people concerned about a dogs well-being do to help prevent dogs from getting shocked? We invite you to tune in and learn more about shock collars and their dangers. – http://bit.ly/ShockPodcast
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Blog Post) – This article provides a detailed analysis of shock collars, how they are used, and why there is always a better choice for both training and management. References to the scientific literature supporting the conclusion of this article are listed. – http://bit.ly/ShockCollars
Dominance: Reality or Myth – Both a podcast and blog post, this article discusses the myth of dominance and explains why it is so detrimental to the human-dog bond. The blog post also cites the scientific articles referenced and provides links to those articles, where available. – http://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth
Introduction to Canine Communication – This blog post discusses canine body language and contains photographs illustrating common calming signals. – http://bit.ly/CanineComm
How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? Most behavioral issues with dogs are rooted in anxiety. It is essential for anyone working with dogs to have a thorough understanding of the signs of anxiety. This blog post list resources that will help you to understand better what a dog is trying to tell you. – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear
Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – The following articles were originally published in Downeast Dog News in January of 2018 through May 2018. These articles discuss how one can use the five freedoms to help ensure their dog has a long, fun-filled life. I examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of a dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life. Anyone that shares their life with a dog, as well as all pet care professionals will benefit from understanding Brambell’s Five Freedoms. – http://bit.ly/Brambell-1thru5-PDF
Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – This post from Don’s blog is a handout from his presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29, 2016, as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis. It discusses the importance of addressing behavior as well as the reason for behavior problems becoming a bigger issue for pets. – http://bit.ly/PetBhxWellness
Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – Stress is a major contributor to behavior problems. This post from Don’s blog looks at both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), discusses their physiological effects on the body, and reviews what animals do when afraid. Common causes of stress are reviewed along with how you can identify stress and reduce it. How stress can escalate and go from an acute event to a chronic condition is reviewed. Any dog exhibiting behavioral issues is under stress as are most dogs in a shelter or rescue environment. That is not typically due to any fault of the shelter it is just the nature of being homeless and uncertain. – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress
Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – This post is was first published in Downeast Dog News as a three-part series in July, August, and September of 2017. It discusses the seven breed groups currently defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and examines behavioral traits in these groups and why the matter. – http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter
A Rescue Dogs Perspective – Written from the perspective of Don’s rescue dog Muppy, this article first appeared in The January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News and on dogs blog. It discusses training from Muppy’s point of view and why sometimes delaying starting a training class can be in a dog’s best interest. – http://bit.ly/Rescue-Muppy
Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know – This article was originally published in Downeast Dog News in May and June of 2017. It addresses how the law defines dangerous dogs. – http://bit.ly/Dangerous-Dogs
Dr. Sophia Yin – Canine Bite Levels – This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how dog bites are classified by canine professionals, the legal system, and the insurance industry. You can download a copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at http://info.drsophiayin.com/download-the-bite-levels-poster
Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – In two podcasts and a blog post, Kate and Don discuss factors that one should consider before getting a dog. They discuss; fear of dogs, allergies, who will care for the dog now and in the future, kids and dogs, other pets in the household, the role the dog will play in the family, whether to get a puppy or an older dog, the importance of breed, size and the importance of the size of the dog you choose, coat-type, and the resources necessary to care for a dog. Then they discuss where to get a dog and what to look for when selecting a breeder, shelter or rescue. – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou
Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog
The following are a series of articles I have written where I acknowledge some of the mistakes I have made during my journey with dogs. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and I share this material with the hope that others can learn from my experience and save their pet from suffering from human error and ego.
Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011, 2012 – Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and if you look at recent scientific papers on dog or cat behavior, you will often find Bradshaw listed as one of the authors. In Dog Sense Bradshaw summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward based training over the old training model based on force and intimidation.
Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018 – If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book! The science of canine behavior and dog training is continually evolving. As such, every year I like to select a new book to recommend to my students, my staff, area veterinarians, and my colleagues that I feel will be the most beneficial to them and their dogs. For 2018 I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. Case’s book addresses several issues which anyone with a dog, or anyone working with a dog, needs to be aware of and must understand. These are dominance, dog breeds, the importance of puppy socialization, and the unnecessary use of aversives for the training of dogs. Her book is packed with the latest science on dogs and offers excellent advice on the best and most humane ways to train them. You can read my full review at http://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2013 – I first read John Bradshaw’s two previous books on cats; The True Nature of the Cat and The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat back in 2003. Cats, and specifically cat behavior is still under-researched compared to dogs, but Cat Sense nicely sums up what we do know. Bradshaw also discusses how the cat and society are changing and suggests what that means for the cats future. Bradshaw has posed some important questions and concerns about neutering and breeding which merit further discussion and action.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006 – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to better understand what they are trying to tell us, and in turn, she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.
Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language,’ for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.
Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001 – This book refutes a great number of the popular myths about the domestic dog with sound science. Dr. Coppinger is a professor at Hampshire College where he teaches evolutionary biology. He and his wife Lorna have over 40 years of experience living and working with all varieties of dogs.
The main premise of this book is that humans did not create the dog by taming and domesticating the wolf, but instead the dog self-evolved from the wolf. Tamer and less energetic wolves started hanging around human settlements for the discarded food and over time these wolves evolved into today’s village dog. Only in the last few hundred years have humans become involved in consciously, and not always responsibly, engineering the village dog into the many breeds we see today. The Coppinger’s have studied village dogs (feral dogs living in human communities) as they exist in the world today in places like Mexico City, and Pemba.
For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006 – This book explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We do not know what it is they are feeling, but it is obvious the have a rich emotional life; in some cases very joyous and others quite sad.
After reading For the Love of A Dog, you will have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why our dogs and we get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for pet professionals and dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park, you MUST know this stuff.
The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2002 – An information-packed, immensely readable book. In it, you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach are very confrontational to a dog.
Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying “sit, sit, sit, ahh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who knows how to communicate to dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!, Niki Tudge, Doggone Safe, 2017. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! is written to be used as an interactive resource and uses cartoons and photographs to illustrate body language dogs use to signal when they are happy, afraid, and angry. By teaching children, and adults, how to read and respond to these signs the book helps keep people and dogs safe. The world is full of children and dogs, and it is essential that we teach them how to interact safely. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! combined with a parent or teacher does just that.
I love dogs. That is one of the reasons why my wife and I decided to get into the pet care business over 21 years ago. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a family get a new dog and watching them bond and grow old together. However, that does not happen automatically. Dogs can make wonderful companions, but not every dog is the right dog for every person or family. Finding the right fit takes time and work, something that does not happen when you get a dog or puppy on impulse. The odds are your dog will be with you longer than you have your car. It is worth taking the time to do it right.
In my business, I see thousands of dogs every year, and I know that some of them, as happy as their family is with them, would not be the right dog for me. Sadly I also see some dogs and families that are terrible mismatches; neither dog nor people are enjoying the relationship. That is why I like to sit down with people and help them learn how to find the right dog and the right source for a dog so that the dog and their family have a wonderful life-long relationship.
This article is something we provide to people when they come in for one of our FREE consultations. You are welcome to use it without the consultation, but I would encourage you to give us a call (945-6841) and set up an appointment. We think you will be glad you did.
Getting A Dog Is A Commitment
Getting a dog can easily be a 10 to 15-year commitment, so it is imperative that you pick the best breed or mixed breed for your family, and the best individual dog. Selecting the right dog is an important decision and one you should research thoroughly before making a decision. Once you think you have decided on a breed/mixed breed, do lots of reading, talk to pet professionals such as veterinarians, trainers, kennel and daycare owners, and groomers as well as others about your choice. Make sure you ask for both the good and the bad points of a specific breed. No breed is the perfect dog for everybody. Consider the bias people may have when recommending a breed or individual dog. If they are trying to sell you a dog; which is what a breeder, pet store, or shelter/rescue is trying to do, then they may not be giving you sound, objective advice.
Factors You Need To Consider BEFORE You Start Looking For A Dog
Is anyone in your immediate family afraid of dogs? If so, you need to seriously ask yourself if getting a dog is a good idea. Living with a dog is not necessarily going to help the person afraid of dogs and may end up in your having to rehome the dog. That is not fair to the dog.
Is anyone in your family allergic to dogs? If so, spend a significant time around dogs to determine if this will be a problem before you get the dog. Beware of claims by people trying to sell you that they claim is “hypoallergenic.” While some pets shed less and cause less of an allergic reaction than others; I do not believe any breed of pet is truly hypoallergenic. My wife and I are both allergic to dogs and cats, and we cannot imagine a life without pets; however, not everyone is willing or able to put up with allergies.
If you live alone or are the dogs only caregiver, have you considered who will care for your dog if something happens to you? Hopefully, nothing will happen to you, but we do suggest that you have planned ahead of time just in case.
Do all adult family members support the idea of getting a dog? Dogs are not for everyone. They are also very good at reading humans and knowing if someone wants them. We have seen more than one situation where the dog was not welcomed by the entire family, and that does not always change over time. I recommend that everyone be on board with the decision to get a dog.
Will your dog be around children? I am not just asking about your children, but also the children belonging to your neighbors and other family members. Not all dogs will enjoy the company of children. You need to choose both the breed and the individual dog wisely to have the best probability of dogs and children living in harmony.
Will you take your dog to work with you or will they be around your business? Not all dogs enjoy other people and may, in fact, be a liability in your business. Selecting a dog with the right temperament will be very important.
What time of year do you want to bring this new puppy or dog into your family? Depending on where you live and what you do for a living, there are times of the year that are better for getting a dog. The first few months with your new dog will most likely require a significant amount of your time, and you and the rest of the family may need to adjust some priorities, in particular with a Below are some factors to consider.
The end of year holidays – For most people, November and December are the two most hectic months of the year. Most of us celebrate three major holidays, we are invited to more gatherings than average, and children have a wide variety of holiday-related school events. Are you ready to miss some of those events due to a new dog or puppy in the family? A new puppy or a rescue dog, and the latter will most likely also have some behavioral baggage, will need lots of your time, as well as stability, and in many cases quiet. Can you and your family commit to that during the holidays? If not, waiting until January or spring may be a better option for you and your new canine companion.
Housetraining and the weather – if you live in the snow belt, you will need to take the puppy out several times per day for housetraining no matter how cold it is or how hard it is snowing (see http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2014/02/16/housetraining/). Even though an older dog may be advertised as being housetrained, that is not always the case. Living in a state that can have harsh winters, I would not get a new dog between November or mid-March.
Family Vacation – This can be a nice time to get a dog if you are planning on staying home. However, if you are going away and traveling, I would postpone getting the dog until you return. The first few months with a dog are important for developing the bond between you and your new friend. If the dog is with you for two to four weeks and then you are gone for two weeks, you may need to spend some extra time rebuilding that bond. I cannot imagine taking a puppy or a rescue dog on vacation immediately after they join my family. As mentioned above, they need stability and consistency the first few months with us. That typically does not occur when you are traveling.
Do you have other dogs in your family? Not all dogs will get along with other dogs. A puppy may be more than an eight-year-old dog wants to handle. They may grow to tolerate or even like each other but will require close supervision until they do.
Do you have other pets in your family? Dogs and cats do not always get along (ask me about Batman and Tikken) and small rodents or chickens often may be very tempting to a dog. Remember your dog is a predator. Some breeds will do better than others around other animals but remember supervision and training will also be important.
Why do you want to get a dog? What will be the dog’s role in your family? Do you want a companion to share your days? Do you want a dog that will be your teammate in dog sports? Do you want a dog that can be a Therapy Dog and bring joy to people in nursing homes? Do you want the dog to go hunting with you, or do you want one or more of these things or something else? Not all dogs will be well suited to all of these tasks and even if their breed suggests that they have a probability of doing well at something, say retrieving, that does not mean that will be the case. Are you ready to accept your dog for whomever they turn out to be?
Who will be the dog’s primary caregiver in your family? If you want your children to take part in caring for the dog, that is fine, but please understand that based on 21 plus years of experience, I am confident that it will be an adult family member who will be providing most of the care for a dog. Children often drive a family’s decision to get a dog, and when I meet with a family for a consultation, I always ask about the children’s extracurricular activities. Today it is not uncommon for a child to be involved in several afterschool activities every week. If your children want a dog, I encourage you to ask them what activities they are willing to give up so that they have time for the dog. If they say they want a dog but are not willing to give up any other activity, it may not be the right time to add a dog to your family.
Do you want a puppy, an adolescent or an older dog? Dogs of any age can become great family members, but there are pros and cons at every age level. The first twelve months of a puppy’s life can keep you quite busy; however, by knowing the breeder and the dog’s parents and having control over their early learning and development, I believe that you have a greater probability of getting what you want when you choose to get a puppy. However, that does depend on you putting in the time and energy to manage and train the dog.
Adolescents, typically the dogs between six months and three years of age often end up being rehomed because of behavior problems. These problems are often the result of inadequate or no socialization and little or no training or inappropriate training. These dogs can become wonderful companions, but you need to be patient and be willing to invest time and love in training and rehabilitating these dogs. Theses dog can be a great deal of work so carefully assess if you have the resources to give them what they need. Loving a dog is seldom enough.
Older dogs, those five and up, often end up in a shelter or rescue due to financial reasons or other family life changes. If the dog has only had one prior family and lived in the house as a companion, they could be a perfect dog for you. Often these dogs have had a basic level of manners training, are housetrained, and are just looking for a home where they can live out their years, getting affection and giving it back. Shed, was adopted when she was five and fit in our family very easily.
Do you want a pure breed, a mutt or a designer breed? Selecting the type or breed of dog to get may be one of the most complicated decisions you will make and also the one with a significant amount of emotional content.
Pure Breed – You are NOT a bad person if you choose to get a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder. I would rather have you get the dog you want than get a dog from a rescue because you have been told that is the “right” thing to do. Paula and I have had both purebreds from breeders and mixed breeds and purebred dogs from rescues. They can all be good However, I have also helped many clients who had a bad experience with a rescue; both with pure breds and mixed breeds, who have since had great experiences by getting the dog they want, not the one friends or family told they must get. Get the dog that you believe will be the best fit for you and your family and do not be swayed by emotion.
If you do choose a pure bred, make sure you thoroughly understand the genetic health issues that they may face as well as some of the human-made features that can affect a dog’s health. Dog breeding is probably one of the longest running examples of genetic engineering, and it has not always ended up benefitting the dog. Due to breeding for certain facial structures, some dogs will be breathing impaired their entire life. Other breeds cannot even breed or deliver puppies naturally.
Mutt/Mixed Breed – The loveable mutt, and yes they can often be quite lovable, is typically the result of an accidental breeding. How did that happen? Well, two
people with dogs were not responsible enough to get their dogs spayed/neutered or to prevent them from breeding. Shed, that five-year-old I mentioned above, was a mixed breed and was delightful; however, it was quite evident from her behavior that she was well cared for and trained from an early age.
The problem with a mixed breed dog is that you never know what you are getting from both a physical and behavioral perspective. For example, let’s say you get a Bassett Hound/German Shepherd mix. These are two breeds with fundamentally different temperaments, and you may not know which will be the predominant personality until you have lived with the dog for a while. It may or may not be the dog you had hoped to have.
Mixed breed puppies can be great if they are properly raised between birth and eight weeks of age but if the owner was not responsible enough to prevent the breeding the likelihood of doing everything else that is necessary for two months with a litter of puppies seems unlikely. Leaving the puppies in the barn with mom until they are eight weeks of age is a disaster waiting to happen.
For years it was presumed that mixed breeds would be healthier due to hybrid vigor. The latest research suggests that is not the case and in fact, mixed breeds are just as likely to have the same health issues as pure breed dogs.
Also, recognize that when a shelter labels a dog as being a certain mix of breeds they are often inaccurate. A recent study indicated that the determination of a dog’s mix of breeds by shelter workers or pet care professionals (veterinarians, trainers, and boarding kennel operators) were wrong 87.5% of the time when compared to DNA testing. The fact is, unless someone saw the actual act of conception, the odds of picking correctly are only 12.5%
Designer Breed – The designer breeds (the Doodles, the various Poo’s, and others) are typically the deliberate breeding of two purebred dogs to create a “designer-breed” that is then often sold for much more than the typical purebred. As the designer breeds have become increasingly popular, breeding them strictly for monetary reasons has become more common; this has never been good for dogs. Some of these designer breeds can be great dogs, but they usually do not have all of the “benefits’ that they are advertised as having. For example; the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle are often promoted as being “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic.” The Poodle does have a very different coat type from the Labrador or the Golden, but the coats of doodle puppies can vary wildly within the individuals in the same litter. To claim that they are all “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic” is pure nonsense. As a potential purchaser of one of these dogs, it is also important to understand that very few reputable breeders of purebreds are going to knowingly sell one of their dogs to be used in a designer-breed breeding program. That means that it is possible that these designer-breeds are the offspring of lower quality breeding stock which can have a detrimental effect on both health and temperament. I am not saying never to get a designer-breed, but it is important to understand that when one breeds for physical characteristics, it also can affect temperament, and often in a negative way. This is a case where you will want to physically see both mom and dad and as many generations of this lineage as possible, before committing to a purchasing a puppy.
What size dog do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of sizes; everything from a 4lbs Teacup Yorkie to a 200lbs+ English Mastiff. If you plan on a life of outdoor activity for you and your dog, especially if you will be hiking off the beaten path, I strongly encourage you to get a dog that you can physically carry from wherever you are to a vehicle. If your dog injures itself out in the middle of nowhere, you may have no other choice. If your physical abilities are limited or if you are just getting older, you need to ask yourself “can I carry my dog up and down the stairs or out to the car?” When our Golden Tikken passed at 16 years of age, my wife and I decided that we needed to “downsize” for our next dog. Tikken only weighed 50lbs, but the last year of her life we had to carry her up and down the stairs, which with bad backs was not always easy nor was it healthy. Our new dog, Muppy, weighs a lean twenty-five pounds.
Size also play a role in other ways. Big dogs eat more which will affect your wallet, and they will also leave larger deposits for you to clean up in the yard. Caring for a large dog can also end up costing you more at the veterinarian and the groomer.
Within the specific breeds, there are those breeding for incredibly tiny or gigantic dogs. Often these dogs also have extremes in temperament and health issues. If the words “Teacup” or “Giant” are affixed to a breed you are considering, talk to several professionals, knowledgeable about dogs and not trying to sell you a dog, about the pros and cons of getting a dog of unusual size.
Lastly, large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs. One of the hardest things about owning a dog is knowing that they will probably pass before you, and no matter how many times you experience a dog’s death, it never becomes easier.
What type of coat do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of coat Everything from the short-haired easy to maintain Beagle to the long coated dogs like the Samoyed, Rough-coat Collie and of course the elaborately groomed Poodle. No matter what breed you choose, you will need to spend time brushing them at least once a week. The longer haired breeds will require much more time and effort and more frequent brushing. In some cases, dogs will require professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks in addition to the brushing you do at home. That needs to be considered when you look at the expense of owning a dog.
Do you have the resources necessary to care for a dog properly? – Living with a dog and caring for it takes time and money. A dog needs to be trained when you first get them, and training does not stop until they have passed away. They will minimally require an annual trip to the veterinarian as well as annual licensing. On a daily basis, they will need to be fed, exercised, taken out to go to the bathroom several times, and provided with adequate mental stimulation and companionship. Depending on their coat type a dog will also need to be brushed, bathed and have their nails trimmed on a regular basis. They may require annual teeth cleaning at your veterinarians, and you really should consider brushing their teeth daily. If you go away, and cannot take your dog with you, you may also need to consider the cost of boarding your dog or hiring a pet sitter. If you are already limited on time or if you need to watch your budget closely, it may not be the right time for a dog.
Are you prepared to travel to see the dog you want? – No matter if you choose a purebred or mixed breed, breeder or rescue, you may need to travel to get the dog you want. We have clients that have driven 12 hours north into Canada and flown to Texas to get the dog they desired. Others have had dogs flown over from Europe and elsewhere. If you follow only one of the recommendations I suggest, please let it be this one: NEVER purchase a dog or a puppy without seeing it in person first. Over the years we have had far too many clients that have been sent dogs with severe health or behavioral issues, or in some cases, they were sent a totally different dog than the one they saw online. This has happened with both breeders and rescues. In some of these cases, these breeders/rescues then made it very costly or next to impossible for the client to return the dog.
Where Will I Get the Dog I Want?
When looking for a source for a puppy, you will typically go to a breeder if you want a pure bred dog or a shelter/rescue if you are looking for either a purebred or mixed breed dog. I have listed the traits you will want to look for in these two sources.
A reputable breeder will typically only breed one or two litters a year. The best breeders will have committed homes for their puppies before the mother is ever bred and therefore will probably have waiting lists. They will not need to advertise in the newspaper or put up signs along the side of the road nor will they give their puppies away to be auctioned off at a fundraising benefit.
They will typically only breed one or at most two breeds of dogs.
They will not breed adult dogs until they are at least 2 to 3 years old. Many health and temperament issues will not be apparent in a dog until it is at least two years of age.
A bitch will not be bred more than once per year.
They will discuss in detail, with anyone interested in their puppies, the health issues affecting their breed. They should be able to provide documents from a veterinarian certifying that the parents and at least two previous generations are free of any of these health issues. Common health issues with many purebred dogs include hip dysplasia, central progressive retinal atrophy, subvalvular aortic stenosis, and others. For more information on breed specific health concerns you can check the Canine Inherited Disorders Database maintained by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at https://cidd.discoveryspace.ca/
Educate yourself about these genetic health issues before visiting any breeders, and rather than bring them up with the breeder, see if they tell you about them first. If they fail to do so, you may want to consider a different breeder.
Also, understand that you can choose the best breeder, who is doing everything right, and these genetic disorders can occur in a puppy. That is just the nature of genetics. While this may be unlikely to happen, I would encourage you to have a discussion with the breeder in advance, so you understand their policies if this should occur.
Ask the breeder what type of temperament they see in their dogs and how that affects their breeding program. Since most dogs in the US are pets and companions, the best breeders will focus on breeding dogs with a sound, friendly temperament. If the breeder focuses on working dogs (protection, field trials, tracking, livestock guarding, and herding), their dogs may not have the best temperament to be a family companion. Working dog breeders may have puppies that the breeder believes are not suitable for the job they were bred for, which they will then sell as “pets.” That does not mean that they will have an ideal temperament to be a family dog.
The best breeders will raise the puppies in their home along with the adult dogs and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.
The best breeders will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to go to their new homes and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the breeder needs to find another mother dog to take her place.
The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.
The best breeders will allow you to see both parents so that you can evaluate their health, behavior, and temperament. If the mother has been artificially inseminated, they will put you in contact with the breeder that owns the stud and the best breeders will have a video of the stud so you can observe his behavior. Being informed about both parents temperament is crucial, as studies have indicated that if either parent is shy, anxious, or timid, then the puppies will also have this temperament Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better.
The best breeders actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with you. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The best breeders will have this documented in a daily journal.
The best breeders will not suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one.
The best breeders will offer a written contract with health guarantees that also offers to take the puppy back, at any time, for any reason. State laws may require a breeder to provide you with certain legal documents at the time of the sale. Make sure you know what these documents are so that you can make sure that the seller provides them.
The best breeders will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be wary of breeders that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the breeder has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best breeders will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.
Ask how the breeder feeds the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread with these puppies.
The best breeders will ask you lots of questions about why you want a puppy, why you want this particular breed, and how you will care for the puppy. They will want to verify that you have time for the puppy, that you will enroll it in a reward based training class, and have a yard and home suitable for the puppies exercise needs. They will ask you for references. They will often require a fenced yard.
The best breeders will discuss the advantages of spaying/neutering your puppy and if it is not suitable for breeding will require that you have the puppy spayed/neutered.
The best breeders will be licensed as a breeding kennel if the state where they live is wise enough to require breeders to be licensed. When you find a breeder, call the agency responsible for licensing breeders and verify that the breeder is licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed against the breeder. In Maine, breeding kennels are licensed by the state Animal Welfare Program, and they can be reached at 1-877-269-9200.
Ask the breeder how they train their dogs and what types of tools and methods they use and what they recommend for their puppies. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:
“This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem-solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.
Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.“ [Emphasis added]
I recommend that you avoid any breeder that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines.
Dogs that end up in a shelter or rescue are typically strays or have been surrendered by someone locally because they can no longer care for the dog or no longer want the dog. Dogs are surrendered for a variety of reasons, including finances, where someone lives, or health issues. Surrendering a dog is hard for most people and as such the reasons they give may not always be entirely accurate, nor are their descriptions of the dog’s behavior. They might paint a picture of a wild, crazy dog to make themselves look better or that of a mild, easy-going dog to increase the dog’s chances of adoption. Bottom line, the information on the dog may not always be accurate.
Often shelters have little or no information about strays. Dulcie, one of our Cairn Terriers, was a stray, so we had little information about her when she became part of our family.
Some shelters and rescues are also bringing in dogs from out of state, typically from the south. These dogs may be surrenders or strays, but often the quality of information about them is not very high. I have mixed feelings about bringing in dogs from out of state. In full disclosure, our newest dog Muppy came here from Mississippi. Muppy has been a great dog for us, but we did meet her in person before we adopted her and I also asked the Maine rescue some very pointed questions before we did adopt. Specifically, I wanted to know what the rescue was doing to stop the overpopulation problem in the south. This Rescue, Canine Commitment of Maine (now Helping Paws Maine), is helping to fund mobile spay/neuter services in Mississippi. Not all rescues are doing things like that, and some of the groups down south have discovered it is very lucrative to sell dogs and puppies to us folks up north. They are essentially puppy mills without the breeding program, so buyer beware.
The best shelters and rescues will give all dogs that they adopt a thorough veterinary exam, will spay and neuter them and will make sure they are current on all necessary vaccinations before they ever leave the facility. Before adopting a dog from the south, verify its heartworm status. Heartworm is endemic in many parts of the south, and it is unlikely that a rescue dog was on a heartworm preventative.
Many shelters and rescues will also give dogs a temperament test to determine what type of home would be best for a dog or to assess whether the dog is even safe to adopt. Sadly some dogs end up at shelters due to aggression issues; facts that those surrendering the dog failed to disclose. What you need to understand about temperament tests is that they are not a guarantee. Not all people performing the tests have the same level of skill and experience. A temperament test is also only a snapshot of what a dog’s temperament was like at a specific movement in time. When you consider the fact that a dog in a shelter/rescue situation is under a great deal of stress, it is not unusual at all for a dog to act very differently after they have been in your home for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it may take a couple of months before you see a rescued dog’s true Because of this, the value of temperament testing by shelters is being questioned.
Puppies may end up at a shelter because someone left them in a box in front of the door; in which case you will know very little about those puppies. A shelter may also have puppies available because a pregnant mom was surrendered. In those cases, the best shelter will find a foster home for the mom, where she will live until she has the puppies and they have been weaned and are available for adoption. The same requirements for raising those puppies during that time frame are the same as those that apply to a breeder.
The foster parents will raise the puppies in their home along with the mom and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.
They will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to be returned to the shelter at eight weeks of age and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the foster parent needs to find another dog mother to take her place.
The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.
Studies have indicated that if either parent is shy/anxious timid the puppies will also have this temperament trait. Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better. Unfortunately, when you adopt a puppy from a shelter, it is seldom that you will even know who the father was and possibly may know nothing about the mother. In other words, they have less information on which to assess what the pup’s behavior might be like as an adult.
The shelter/rescue/foster parent should actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with people. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The puppy raisers should have this documented in a daily journal.
They will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be aware of shelters that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the shelter has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best shelters will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.
Ask how they feed the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread.
No reputable shelter/rescue will suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one and may not allow you to get more than one.
A reputable shelter/rescue will offer to take a dog back, at any time, for any reason. They should never make you feel guilty about returning a dog or make it difficult to do so. A client of ours adopted an adult dog from a rescue which they quickly discovered was aggressive towards children. The dog’s aggressive behavior not been disclosed by the rescue. The rescue begrudgingly agreed to take the dog back but told the client it would be as long as six weeks before they had a foster home available. Before you adopt from a rescue or shelter, make sure you have their return policies in writing.
A shelter/rescue may ask you lots of questions about why you want a dog, why you want this particular dog, and how you will care for the dog. They will want to verify that you have time for the dog, and may require you to enroll it in a reward based training class. Many shelters/rescue will ask for references and may even do a home visit. They will often require a fenced yard. If you have other dogs, they will require that your dogs meet the new dog before adopting.
Some shelters work with trainers and behavior consultants to help prepare dogs for adoption. Make sure that they are only working with trainers committed to Force-Free, reward based training. Preferably these trainers will be members of The Pet Professionals Guild and certified as a Professional Canine Trainer (PCT-A) by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (http://www.credentialingboard.com/), or certified as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (http://www.ccpdt.org/) or credentialed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (https://iaabc.org/) as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC).
Ask the Shelter/Rescue how they train their dogs and what types and tools they use and what they recommend for training. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:
“This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.
Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.“ [Emphasis added]
I recommend that you avoid any Shelter or Rescue that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines. I would also avoid them if they refer to trainers that use those techniques.
A reputable shelter/rescue will be licensed as a shelter/rescue in the state of Maine. When you find a shelter/rescue, call the Maine Animal Welfare Program and verify that they are licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed about their practices. The phone number for the AWP is 1-877-269-9200.
Lastly, understand that most shelters and rescues are non-profits and may ask for donations. That is fine as long as they are legitimate non-profits; however, not all have filed the necessary paperwork required for their non-profit status to be legal. Why is that important? It is important to make sure that the money you are donating is being put to good use. In 2013, an individual representing a rescue group in our area was arrested and convicted of embezzling over $100,000 from the group. That is a great deal of money that never went to helping rescued dogs. A place you can check on any non-profit organization is http://www.charitynavigator.org/ and http://www.guidestar.org/.
If you need assistance or advice in finding the perfect dog for your family, do not hesitate to contact us. We want to help you find the best dog for you and your lifestyle.
Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law and Your Rights As A Consumer – While getting a new pet usually goes very well, occasionally people have a bad experience when purchasing a new pet. This can happen when getting a pet from a pet store, a breeder, and even when getting a pet from a shelter or rescue. In this show, we address consumer’s legal alternatives when things do not go as you wanted.
Selecting A Pet Care Provider – How to choose a dog trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible.
The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017.
Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this week’s show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.
Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work by causing fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don serves on the PPG Board of Directors and Steering Committee. In addition, he chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
As someone who has been living with dogs since 1975 and teaching other people how to live happily with dogs since 1995, I can assure you that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet.
In the USA, dog training is currently an unlicensed profession. Therefore, there is no legal standard that a dog trainer must meet to demonstrate that they have the requisite knowledge, skills, and ethics to be a competent and humane trainer. It is essential to be cautious when selecting someone to work with your family; you, other adults, your children, if you have them, and your dog!
Below you will find criteria, in order of importance, that I suggest you use when selecting a dog trainer.
Select a dog trainer that is knowledgeable on the latest professional research and standards in dog training and canine behavior, such as:
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), and the American Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recognize the danger posed by choosing the wrong dog trainer.
In the following excerpts from the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, the AAHA explains the type of dog trainer one should avoid and the type one should choose.
“This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques.1 Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem-solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. 1
Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior1. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. “– [1 Emphasis Added]
The Guiding Principles of the Pet Professional Guild state:
To be in anyway affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.1 The PPG Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Devices defines which training tools should and should not be used and explains why this is so important to your dogs quality of life. [1 Emphasis Added]
In the introduction to their Position Statement on Humane Dog Training, the American Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) states:
Evidence supports the use of reward based methods for all canine training. AVSAB promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification.
The application of aversive methods – which, by definition, rely on application of force, pain, or emotional or physical discomfort – should not be used in canine training or for the treatment of behavioral disorders. [1 Emphasis Added]
In summary, avoid dog trainers that tell you to be “dominant,” alpha,” or the “pack leader.” Also, avoid trainers that use or recommend; choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, alpha-rollovers, or any tool or technique involving force, intimidation, fear, or pain.
Select a dog trainer that has demonstrated their knowledge and skills by being accredited by one of the following independent credentialing agencies:
While the government does not currently have licensing requirements for dog training and behavior professionals, two independent organizations within the profession have created a psychometrically sound examination process. That means the test applicants must pass has been developed by an independent body other than the organization that taught the individual being examined. Additionally, the examination meets industry standards for being a reliable, valid, and ethical assessment of the individual.
Level 3 – Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A)
The PPAB offers the only Accredited Training Technician & Professional Canine Trainer certification for professionals who believe there is no place for shock, choke, prong, pain, force, or fear in pet training and behavior practices. They also offer the only psychometrically sound examination for Training & Behavior Consultants supporting these humane and scientific practices.
Personal Note from Don: For many years, I held credentials issued by organizations other than the PPAB. I have surrendered those credentials and am now credentialed by the PPAB. I did so because, at the time of this writing, the PPAB is the only credentialing agency in the USA that explicitly states that “…there is no place for shock, choke, prong, pain, force or fear in pet training and behavior practices.” as supported by the AAHA, PPG, and AVSAB documents noted above. [ FMI – https://bit.ly/DJH-PPAB ]
A training facility may have some trainers on staff working towards their certification. Ideally, they should be under the direction of at least one certified professional. In the case of the PPAB and CCPDT, a professional dog trainer must be in a lead teaching position for a minimum of 300 hours before applying to take a certification exam.
It is essential to understand that there are many “certifications” available, and they are not all equal. The credentials mentioned above are all issued by independent organizations and require testing, compliance with ethical standards, and continuing education to maintain certification. A “certificate” from “Don’s School of Dog Training” or “The XYZ Dog College” is far from being equivalent to the credentials above.
Certification by one of the above organizations is NOT a guarantee that a dog trainer’s methods are free of the use of force, pain, or free. Always ask, and if you find that a dog trainer uses fear, force, or pain, find a different dog trainer.
Dog training is a rapidly evolving profession, and those committed to it are members of these organizations to stay current in the field. The mentioned organizations offer a wide variety of continuing educational opportunities for pet care professionals; however, they have different ethical standards.
Personal Note from Don: I am a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) because of their Guiding Principles, which state: “To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild members understand Force-Free to mean that: No shock, No prong, No choke and No Pain, No fear, No Force are ever employed in the training, behavior modification, care, or management of any pet.” I also serve on the Board of Directors for both PPG and PIAI.
Look for dog trainers who treat people and dogs respectfully rather than with an “I am the boss” attitude. Remember, you will be the one being taught by this person. Professional dog trainers not only need to be able to train dogs, but they also need to be able to teach people of all ages to train their dogs. Therefore, classes should be such that you and your dog look forward to attending.
Ask the instructor about their methods for teaching people. Do they provide comprehensive written materials? Do they demonstrate how to teach a behavior? Do they coach you as you practice with your dog? Are they available for questions outside of class? Not all people learn the same way. Training classes, whether private or group, should accommodate an individual’s learning style. Many training programs today also offer videos you can watch in the comfort of your home to supplement in-person learning. In the case of a puppy class, where most of the teaching focuses on the people, a virtual training program can be very effective.
Look for classes with at least one instructor for every eight students. At Green Acres, our Basic Manners program is a semi-private class of two students and one instructor. A forty-five-minute lesson with 15 students and one instructor, not uncommon in the profession, leaves very little time for individual instruction.
Avoid trainers who object to using food as a training reward. Food is an acceptable and highly effective positive reinforcement training tool. Just like us, our dogs do things because there is something in it for them, usually food. Research demonstrates that food is a better reinforcer for most dogs than play and touch. Praise typically has the lowest value as a reinforcer. If a trainer insists that dogs should work for praise only, ask him if you can take their classes for free if you tell him he is a fantastic trainer. You can be assured that your praise will not work in that scenario.
Ask to observe a training class in-person or via video before enrolling. Are the dogs and people having a good time? Talk with a few participants and see if they are comfortable with the trainer’s methods. If a trainer does not let you observe a class, don’t enroll.
Check references. Ask area veterinarians, animal shelters and rescues, boarding kennels, daycares, and groomers whom they recommend for training and why they recommend them. Check several references so that you know you are getting objective recommendations.
Avoid trainers who offer guarantees about results. Trainers that guarantee results are either ignoring or do not understand the complexity of animal behavior. No living thing is one hundred percent predictable, and training a dog involves many variables that a dog trainer cannot control. These include your commitment level and compliance with the trainer’s In addition, most professional training organizations have a code of conduct or ethics statement that strongly suggests that trainers should not guarantee specific results.
Ensure your dog trainer will take care to protect your dog’s health in a group setting. Ask if dogs and puppies in classes must be vaccinated before class and, if so, which vaccines are required. Make sure you and your veterinarian are comfortable with the vaccination requirements.
The PPG suggests you ask any prospective trainer ten. I have reproduced these questions below and how we would answer them at ForceFreePets.
What dog training equipment do you use when training a dog or do you recommend I use? – We recommend using a 6-foot leash, a regular flat collar or a front-connect or rear-connect harness, a treat bag, treats, and a clicker. We do not use choke, prong or shock collars or any equipment intended to punish, scare or hurt a dog in our classes, nor do we allow them their use at our facility.
What happens in your training program when the dog responds in the way you want him to? – When a dog responds in a manner we desire, we reward the dog with food, a toy, or attention, something the dog likes. We remind people that the dog is often ignored when they are good and gets lots of attention when they are doing something we do not like. Make a point of looking for opportunities to reward your dog for being good.
What happens in your training program when the dog responds in the way you do not want him to? – We teach you how to manage your dog and its environment to prevent undesirable behavior. We suggest that you ignore or redirect any behavior that occurs that you do not like as long as it is not dangerous to any living thing or could result in the destruction of something valuable. Paying attention to this “bad” behavior could be an unintentional reward to your dog, making it more likely to occur again. For example, if the dog jumps up on you and you push them off, saying “No,” you have just given the dog attention in three ways: touching them, looking at them, and speaking to them. Jumping on a person is often an attention-seeking behavior. If you did what I just described, you have rewarded it threefold. After the “bad” behavior is interrupted, you can look at ways to reward a mutually exclusive behavior or prevent the behavior from happening in the future.
How will you punish the dog or advise me to punish the dog if he gets something wrong or exhibits a behavior I do not like? – We do not punish dogs for behavior because it is counterproductive. Instead, we focus on teaching you how to train and manage the dog to offer desirable behavior. Often people expect too much from a dog too soon, leading to frustration by both. That is why in addition to teaching you about training, we also teach you about normal and abnormal canine behavior, the importance of meeting your dog’s physical and emotional needs, and how to manage them and their environment to prevent behavior you do not like.
How do you ensure that my dog is not inadvertently being punished? – All of our staff, not just the trainers, receive extensive training on canine communication, body language, and stress to ensure your dog is having a good time. We aim to have you and your dog love ForceFreePets and Green Acres Kennel Shop! If we see that a dog is feeling anxious or stressed, we will let you know and look for ways to help reduce their anxiety.
How do you know that the type of reinforcement you have selected to train my dog is appropriate? – We have experience in using a wide variety of reinforcers to motivate your dog. We will start teaching you about reinforcers and how to choose the right one for a specific situation in class.
How will you know or how will I know if my dog is stressed during the training? – Our entire staff is trained to look for signs of stress so that we can prevent it. Additionally, we do extensive training on canine body language and communication with all employees. We will also cover some of this material in our training classes. If you read our blog, you can find information on this topic that you can use at home. To read Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress <Click Here>
Which professional dog training associations are you a member of? – All members of the Green Acres team, customer service, groomers, pet care technicians, trainers, and managers are enrolled as members of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) as soon as they complete their employee training. Green Acres Kennel Shop is also an organizational member of Pet Industry Advocacy International and ForceFreePets. com is a member of PIAI through our membership with the PPG, a founding member of PIAI. PPG and PIAI require that we comply with ethical standards. You can read our policies here by < click here >
We encourage you to ask any pet care professional you are considering to provide you with a copy of their ethical code of conduct and associated policies and procedures.
Will you guarantee your training results? – We do not guarantee training results because we are dealing with a living, breathing, sentient being. In reality, we cannot control all variables, including you and what you do at home. We are here to give you all the support we can, but you live and work with your dog for far more hours per week than we do, so you will significantly influence how well your dog does with training.
How do you think a dog’s behavior should be addressed if the dog is growling or snapping at people or other dogs? – Safety for all the people and dogs in our classes is our first concern. If your dog has a history of growling and snapping at people, please let us know before you enroll in a group class, as that may cause your dog’s aggressive behavior to get worse. If your dog is growling or snapping at people outside of class, talk to your veterinarian and us as soon as possible. Growling is often the result of fear, and it is something we can help you with through our behavior consulting services < FMI – Click Here > For more information on growling, read Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls? < FMI – Click here >
Dog lovers use a variety of words when talking about their favorite subject. Sometimes we use a word because it is it is the only one we know, or sometimes we use a word out of habit, even when we know there is a better choice. That is why, as our knowledge of dogs has changed, it is important to reevaluate some of the words and phrases that we commonly use to define our dogs and the relationship we have with them. Word choice is especially important when we are teaching someone new to dogs, such as a child.
Words can be very powerful. The word we choose can alter perceptions, and not always for the better. A change in perception can alter attitude, which can then cause our behavior towards our dog to change, again, not always for the better. Sometimes we intentionally choose a word because we want to change perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. For example, let’s look at two words that are often used when discussing a dog’s bathroom habits; “Housebreaking” versus “Housetraining.”
Housebreaking suggests that we are breaking the dog of a bad habit, which in turn causes many to think that punishment is the best way to deal with a dog that urinates or defecates in an inappropriate location. Whereas housetraining suggests that we need to first teach the dog where and when we want them to go to the bathroom and how to inform us of their need. When I adopted my first dog, I was told how to housebreak her. I dropped “housebreaking” from my vocabulary many years ago, because I believe it sets up a counterproductive relationship between dog and human.
Many of the words long associated with dog training have negative connotations. Obedience, which dictionary.com defines as “the state or quality of being obedient., 2. the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance: Military service demands obedience from its members,” is one of the words most canine behavior professionals no longer use. Most dogs are considered to be part of the family, and while most families want a well-behaved dog, they are wise enough to realize that the concept of instilling blind obedience in any living species is difficult and often leads to a rather, joyless existence for everyone. When you consider that you can teach your dog to be well-mannered without the military rigidity of obedience training by using rewards and kindness, deleting the word “obedience” from our dog training vocabulary makes perfect sense.
Two additional words directly associated with the militaristic concept of obedience are command and correction. Traditional dog training suggested that one gives a dog a command, whether they know it or not, and when they do not perform the behavior indicated by the command, you correct the dog. Using the word “correction” was probably an intentional choice to soften what was actually occurring, which was punishment. For example, I would say “sit” and if the dog did not “sit” I would correct the dog by jerking on a leash, connected to a choke collar, which would momentarily cause the dog pain or discomfort which would hopefully teach the dog to appropriately respond to the command the next time it is given. Now I am not arguing that this technique is ineffective, but there is a much better way to teach a dog, which is why the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), and most modern trainers will tell you that commands and corrections no longer have a place in dog training.
I use the word “cue” instead of command and use rewards instead of corrections to teach a dog everything they need to know. The word cue suggests that we need to teach the dog to respond to our visual or verbal signal and that we cannot and should not expect blind obedience without teaching. Dog training is us teaching our dog to respond to specific cues. Rather than setting the dog up to fail so we can then correct the dog for an inappropriate response, why not set the dog up to succeed so that we can then reward them? It makes the training experience more enjoyable for both our dog and us. I think that we can all agree that if we are enjoying ourselves, we are more likely to do something, and when it comes to training, the more we work with our dog, the more success we will have.
The last two words I suggest that dog lovers remove from their vocabulary are dominance and alpha. Science has proven that the whole concept of being dominant or alpha has been misunderstood when applied to both wolves and dogs, which is why the AAHA Behavior Management Guidelines state “…if the trainer explains behavior in terms of ‘dominance’’ … advise clients to switch trainers”. [for more information on this subject read Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth on my blog]
Whether you are a dog owner/companion/caretaker/guardian or a professional that works with dogs, I hope you seriously consider the words you use when thinking about your own dogs and when talking to others about their dogs. It really does matter.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.