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Are You Having An Authentic Relationship With Your Dog?

    Learning how to communicate with your Dog is essential in establishing a strong & bonded relationship.  Like all relationships, there is a process and dynamic that occurs from the very start that deepens and builds.  

    Just as it’s important for your Dog to understand clearly what your expectations are, it is equally important for you to understand your Dog.  Dogs are different from humans in that they don’t “reason” as we do, yet, their basic emotional make up and brain processes are similar to ours.  

    When I was doing Rescue in NYC and fostering Dogs, I realized that many of them were never trained but beyond that I came to realize that many of them came from Spanish speaking neighborhoods.  So it didn’t matter one iota what I SAID to any of them.

    This was the very first step in my realization that Dogs truly are NON VERBAL BEINGS and no matter what background and ethnic language from which they originate, there is always a barrier with humans when it comes to verbal language.  They feel as you might feel if you were suddenly taken & dropped into a foreign country and then required to get around not knowing one word. That even trying to ask a local where the bus stop is can be a stressful experience.  

    So if that happened to you, what would you do?  Well, it’s what I did with this Spanish neighborhood Foster Dog.  I simply started POINTING.  I pointed to her food bowl when I wanted her to go eat.  I pointed towards the door when we were about to go out for a walk.  I pointed when on leash when we were about to change direction.  I pointed towards her crate when I wanted her to go in.  I simply pointed and never said one word, didn’t make a sound.  And guess what?  She responded!  She understood exactly what I wanted and did so without any hesitation.  Eureka!  We were communicating!  

    While this might not seem particularly pyrotechnic for many, for me, it was a powerful experience. It felt like there was a Secret revealed.  In fact, beyond being one of my very first Lessons that Dogs taught me, it changed the course of my Life.  It opened a door to go deeper with Dogs, to study Behavior and begin to try to master the Language of Dogs.  So far, it has been a dedicated 18 year journey that continues to unfold. As a Teacher, that little moment forged a new trail for me to wander without books but to use my own methods of simple observation and conclusion.  To assess both successes and failures equally.  To learn through experience and  “feel” my way through.  It established the fundamental question I now ask of every Dog I work with, “Who are you?  And what do you have to teach me?”  To be a good Teacher one must always be a good Student.

     I became more open and curious as I met & approached Dogs.  Instead of using human arrogance “thinking” that I was going to show them MY way, I began to use a different part of myself - my senses ,energy & silent signals to connect with their Spirit, their Hearts and find THEIR way. And I discovered that we met somewhere in the middle.   For isn't that what authentic relationships are all about?  Are they not:

*A fundamental exchange of mutual respect even when there are differences? 

*A give and take?  

*A sharing of affection and a commitment to growth and evolvement?  

*A partnership where both parties support one another, sometimes even help heal our broken hearts?

* Provide encouragement to keep going through the challenges that Life can bring?  

*Where true partnerships can reflect our failures without judgement so we can notice them yet inspire us to do better?  

*To give each other space in which to grow without inflicting our Agendas upon each other? 

*Where we learn about commitment and work through challenging times and not give up?  

*And the fruition of a well established, honest & communicative relationship is that we also experience a mutual Joy that can arise when two energies co-emerge and attain a mutual goal.  

    Those qualities, to me, are some of the aspects that define a healthy and authentic Relationship.  And the dynamics in a relationship with a Dog are no different than those with humans.  

    Opening people to considering the possibility that there is a different way to be with our Dogs is at the core of all of my work.  In fact, I prefer not to use the word “Trainer” but Teacher as my focus is very much on the people.  If they understand some basic Principles, the relationship with their Dogs will continue to flourish long after they graduate from one of my Programs.  The Dogs are easy, but people?  We are a far more difficult species to learn new ways and habits.  I always try to point out when people are struggling with handling skills or feeling like their not getting the best response from their Dogs to turn that around and know that their Dogs are often feeling the same. They, too, are struggling to learn new ways, understand our expectations and become fluent in this new world of humans.  Simply pointing this out to my human students often relaxes the entire process.  And when people relax, so do their Dogs and then learning can begin.

    Training a Dog to perform rote Cues (or that macho word that many Trainers still use, Command), is not really the fruition of a communicative relationship.  It is just one side of the coin.  It is just a start of teaching them what our human sounds mean.  One word/one action.   Once some muscle memory is established & associative response is achieved , a Dog will SIT when he has been conditioned to hear that word but without connection with one another, it’s really not having a communicative relationship particularly.  And sometimes these conditioned responses are taught with aversive and harsh, if not on the edge of abusive, methods.  Your Dog will do it but is he offering the behavior or is he simply fearful if he will not?  But that’s another topic for another day - my point of this entry is about considering if what you have with your Dog is authentic?  Have you really established a mutual understanding of one another’s language? Relationship is a current buzz word in the Dog World lately and it sounds really good.  But is that what is really happening between you and your Dog?  Or is he just on rote control?  Are you really exchanging your Hearts?   Is your Dog just functioning because you said so or is he truly understanding your expectations and responding because he or she is engaged in a dialogue with you?  Do they feel your Smile and encouragement, your support, or do they just do it to avoid getting a harsh tone of human voice, or worse, discomfort and/or pain inflicted?  Do you speak a little bit of Dog and teach them to understand a little bit of Human?  And most importantly, does your Dog know when he has gotten the right answer?  Given the correct response?  

    As with all relationships, it will be fraught with mistakes, misunderstandings and sometimes conflict.  If your Dog seems resistant it is often the simple fact that we are not being clear.  The good news is that Dogs are very forgiving, so erase the blackboard and try again.  If you are willing, so are they.  Relationships grow and flourish over time just as it does with people.  So take your time, keep it simple and fresh.  Think about the word “connection” vs. “command”.  This can truly change the dynamic and open a swinging door.  It will establish what I call a “Rhythm & Flow” with your Dog.  A synchronicity.  Synchronized teamwork where you work together as one.  There is no longer object/subject, the Dog over there, me over here - but we connect and move together.  We accomplish this by working with the two languages of both parties.

I encourage you to consider these comments.  To consider that if you listen to your Dog with your senses, with honesty, openness and curiosity, they will teach you what you need to know.  To stop chatting so much with our running stream of verbals, for it is just gibberish to our Dogs.  But instead, to speak a little “Dog” - which is getting out of our thinking Heads and simply focus on our body signals, for that is how Dogs fundamentally communicate with other Dogs and how they interpret the World around them.  So try it.  Just Point with a quiet Mind.  Point with clarity and silence. Dogs will greatly appreciate your efforts. They will give you a response of understanding with their entirety, showing you their willingness to send their Hearts and a willingness to learn because you have shown them yours.  Slowly, over time, we will find ourselves in a Relationship that is authentic.  Truthful, honest and clear.  Where two individuals share a mutual love and respect for one another.  

    Be kind to your Dogs.  Be patient. Be respectful.  Let them be Dogs, not robotic responders.  Think about the Relationship you currently have with your Dog and re-evaluate.  Maybe today, if you are not already, you could go at it a different way - their way.   So begin to speak some Dog - simply Point.  Point the way and direction to establishing one of the most heartfelt Relationships we are privileged to undertake.  The rewards experienced by both parties are simply immeasurable. 

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Harsh Modalities, Realities & the Lack of Ethics in the Dog Training World

Moving from NYC to Upstate NY, I am continually surprised and sometimes shocked at the methods of Training used here.  I call them "old school" - they range from more subtly aversive ways to downright confrontational & extreme.  I hear myself continually questioning to myself, 'Why do people feel they have to go to battle with their Dogs?!"  "Why do people still regard their Dogs as something to "tame", "conquer" or "dominate"?"   More upsetting are Trainers who utilize these harsh methods are schooling other Trainers to do the same.  They're everywhere it seems, everyone wants to get in on the recent booming Dog Biz.   And beyond the old school modalities is the daunting lack of Ethics as well.  

If you are searching for a Trainer, know that there are little ethics that many Trainers hold themselves to. Why?  Because they don't have to. There are no Professional Standards required in the big picture.  Yes, you will often see many Trainers who have an entire ABC Alphabet strung after their names that represent organizations.  While some of these organizations were founded long ago & DO have hands on requirements criteria, many do not.  You can obtain them taking an on line course.  When I researched them for my own educational furthering, I couldn't make sense to spend thousands of dollars when my own experience far exceeded these courses. So for someone like me, and stated by my own Advisor & Teacher in NYC,  I just have to stick to my guns.  Keep my head down and not freak out too much at what is going on around me.  But it is hard to do.  Because often, I get some of these students who have formerly trained with other Trainers, so I am aware of the methods they use & it keeps coming up.  I listen to what their Dogs were subjected to & my hair stands up on end.  I now have simply more direct information about what methods other Trainers in my area are using.  So I'm speaking out.  Here.  Publicly.  

I no longer use words like Obedience & Alpha because these denote dominance.  I don't feel we need to dominate our Dogs but work towards the Goal of Cooperation.  It can be done.  If you are interviewing a Trainer and they use these words, know that there is an attitude behind it and decide if that way is how you want to train your Dog.

 I am posting a Credo below that many of us Trainers have taken and that aligns with those of us committed to Training in a compassionate, educated and more scientific way.  I feel that these words embrace what all Trainers should take to Heart and hold themselves to.  Hopefully, it will serve as a guide when searching for a Trainer and to use as a comparative.  Know that many will use the current and on trend "buzz words" but should you begin to take a Class and find that your instincts say somethings not right and the Trainers words are "interpretive", they are probably true.   

The Manifesto

Progressive Reinforcement Training Manifesto

By Emily Larlham

The Need for a New Term:

A type of animal training exists that involves no forms of intimidation, confrontation, violence, reprimands, or domination. This non-violent type of training has gone under many names: “Clicker Training,” “Positive Training,” “Positive Reinforcement Training,” and “Reward Training,” among others.   There is a need for a more specific, more accurate, more inspirational term.  The above terms have been used so loosely in recent years that they have lost their original meanings.  How has this happened?  Trainers who use compulsion methods may incorporate a clicker (a noise maker to mark desirable behavior) and refer to themselves as a “Clicker Trainers.”  Trainers who use painful or intimidating methods may include food or toy rewards in their training and refer to themselves as “Reward Trainers” or “Positive Reinforcement Trainers.”  It is already possible that a member of the public may seek the guidance of a trainer who claims to be “Positive,” only to find out that this trainer routinely uses physical violence towards animals. I propose a new term that trainers and members of the general public can use to refer to this type of modern training – a training system that is not only humane, compassionate, and reliable, but is also based on the latest scientific studies.  Because this form of training constantly incorporates the latest and most reliable scientific findings, and because it furthers an evolutionary progress toward a more harmonious relationship between humans and the animals who live with them, it shall be referred to as Progressive Reinforcement Training.

Progressive Reinforcement Training essentially means teaching animals by rewarding desired behaviors and excluding the intentional use of physical or psychological intimidation.

Progressive Reinforcement Training means:

1) Training by rewarding desirable behaviors so they will be more likely to occur in the future, while preventing reinforcement of behaviors that are undesirable.

An example:  Letting a dog walk forwards while the leash remains loose to sniff a bush as a reward for not pulling, while not letting the dog reach the bush if the leash becomes tight (so that pulling on leash is never rewarded).

Another example: If you are training a dog to greet guests politely, you first reinforce the dog for calmly keeping all four feet on the floor (not jumping) in exciting situations, and then when the dog does jump up, you remove your attention briefly (by turning away from the dog- as attention is rewarding). However, if you simply tried to train a dog not to jump up by turning away from the dog repeatedly without rewarding him for the correct choices – the dog could become frustrated.  It is true that if the dog figures out that the jumping is not getting attention, the dog will try an alternate behavior – however, a dog will more likely try jumping higher, barking, whining, and nipping over standing still or sitting for attention. By rewarding the dog for what you want him to do first, you give the dog a default behavior to try when what he is doing is not working.

Examples of Rewards:

Food, toys, attention, people, other animals, running, sniffing, swimming, going outside, coming inside etc.

Keep in mind the animal chooses what is rewarding, not the trainer. This means that if you give your dog a treat for sitting, and then ask him to sit again and he doesn’t sit, it’s very likely that the dog does not find the treat rewarding.  Other things to keep in mind are that rewards will not be effective if the animal is full, or the animal is stressed.

2) Interrupting and preventing undesirable behaviors without physical or psychological intimidation, as well as rewarding an alternate response (training a behavior you find desirable in it’s place).

An example: If you want to train a dog not to lie on your couch, you train the dog to do what you want him to do first.  That is, you train him to go and lie on his dog-bed.  Then when he does try to go on the couch, you interrupt him and redirect him to the appropriate location (his dog bed) so that climbing onto the couch remains unreinforced.  During the training process you, also use management and prevention: while you are away from the house, you block the dog’s access to the couch, as he would likely choose to lie on the couch – and be reinforced for it – in your absence.

You can interrupt an animal’s undesirable behavior so that he is not self-rewarded without using physical or mental intimidation.  To do this, you can train the animal to respond to an attention cue or a recall: something that means, “stop what you are doing and look at me”, or “stop what you are doing and come here immediately”.

A very basic training plan for training an attention noise to interrupt behavior:

First you can make the noise that you want the animal to respond to (a whistle, or a kissy noise) and then feed a treat. Repeat this until the animal is expectant of a treat after the noise.  Next make the noise while the animal is looking away from you and AS the animal turns to look at you (for the treat) mark that behavior with either a click (using a clicker) or by saying “yes”.  Once you have repeated this step you can then add distractions.  Have the animal on a leash so he cannot reach the distraction (perhaps a low value piece of food on the ground)- make the attention noise, and click or say “yes” and then feed a treat if the animal turns towards you after hearing the noise. If the animal does not turn towards you, do not click or say “yes”.  The animal should not be allowed to reach the distraction that it is interested in.  You can take a step backwards from the distraction to make it easier so the animal can succeed.  You can condition this attention noise or a recall to muscle memory in the same way a driver responds to a green light traffic signal (green light means go!).  Once you have created many different scenarios where your animal can disengage in what he is interested in to come towards you and look at you, you can start using the sound to interrupt behaviors that you find undesirable.

Keep in mind that if you ignore the animal and only pay attention to him when he is doing undesirable behavior, you will be training the animal to do exactly that which you do not want by providing your attention whenever the behavior occurs.  So the GOAL is to reward the animals alternate responses to the same situations in conjunction with interrupting and preventing the undesirable behaviors.

Example: If your dog steals your underwear and runs around the house with them to get your attention, you have got to reinforce your dog with your attention when he is calm and doing NOTHING.  When your dog is lying at your feet quietly, that is when you will reinforce him with MORE attention than when he runs off with your underwear.

 3) Taking an animal’s emotional state and stress levels into account.

Trainers practicing Progressive Reinforcement read an animal’s body language to the best of their ability for signs of stress or arousal and adjust their training approach accordingly.

Example: Removing a dog that is offering stress signals from a situation where a child is chasing or pestering the dog.

4) Socializing and teaching an animal to cope with his environment using reinforcement.

You can use Progressive Reinforcement Training to socialize and teach an animal to cope with his environment by letting him experience low or non-stressful situations in which the animal is likely to succeed and earn rewards for desirable behavior.  You can then increase difficulty and distractions as the animal succeeds, with the goal of creating a confident well-adjusted animal.

An example: Teaching an animal to be relaxed and calm while being handled or restrained by using reinforcement.  Pavlov’s dog was trained to have a new emotional response to a bell because the sound of a bell was followed by food. You can train your dog to enjoy handling, very simply put, by touching the dog and then feeding the dog a treat, and increase the invasiveness as the dog remains unstressed by the situation.  If the dog were to shy away, the trainer would have to go back a step to where the dog was comfortable (Classical Conditioning).

Another example: Feeding a dog a reward for remaining relaxed and calm around an exciting situation (perhaps a road with loud traffic), first from a distance and then as the dog succeeds from closer and closer.  If the dog were to become too excited or stressed, the trainer could go back a step in the training process until the dog was successful.

 5) Using a marker to train, whether it be a clicker, some other noise-maker, your voice or touch, or a visual marker.  Or, on the other hand, not using a marker, and instead for example reinforcing an animal by feeding a treat directly to his mouth.

A marker can be used to pinpoint behavior.  It tells an animal that what he is doing at that exact moment in time will win him reinforcement.

For example: If a dog sits, the trainer can click as the dog is sitting, and then feed the dog a treat.  Or the trainer can say, “Yes!” in a positive tone as the dog is sitting and then feed the dog a treat or release the dog to get a toy or go out the door.

Reinforcing behavior is also possible without using a marker.  For example, you can feed a dog a treat for looking at another dog to change his emotional response to the other dog (Classical Conditioning).  You can also reinforce your dog for calmly lying around the house or outside by tossing him a treat between his paws while he is not expecting the treat and he will be more likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

 6) Employing humane, effective, respectful training based on the latest scientific evidence.

A commitment to Progressive Reinforcement Training means strictly following all of the above principles – not just in training sessions, but during 100% of the time spent with an animal.

Progressive Reinforcement Training does not mean:

1) The intentional use of physical or psychological intimidation.

Using your voice, touch, body language, a device, or the environment to intimidate an animal for the purpose of continuing, initiating or ending the animal’s behavior.

Examples: staring at an animal, intentionally leaning over him, poking, jerking, shocking, squirting with water, startling with a noise, or using your voice in an intimidating way to suppress behavior (saying “no” or “eh!”).

 2) Intentionally disregarding an animal’s stress levels or signals.

Intentionally putting an animal in overly stressful situations in which he cannot cope, rather than exposing the animal in a way that he is under his threshold (the animal can make choices and cope).

Example: Forcing an animal to meet a stranger while the animal is offering a wide range of stress and avoidance signals.

Example:  Dragging an animal across a surface he is frightened of and refuses to cross, instead of teaching the animal to feel confident and calm crossing the surface using Counter Conditioning (rewarding the animal for choosing to take steps across the floor until the animal is confident to cross calmly on his own)

 3) Holding selfish or uncompassionate goals for your training.

Intentionally putting an animal at risk for physical or emotional damage to satisfy ones own interests.

A commitment to Progressive Reinforcement means never intentionally using the intimidatory tactics above – never in training sessions, and never during any other time spent with an animal.

 

Why refrain from using Physical or Psychological Intimidation? 

For scientific, moral, and ethical reasons. Using these forms of conditioning can produce unwanted side effects in addition to the basic trauma they do to an animal.

 The many problems with using physical or psychological intimidation:

1) Without perfect timing, intensity, and consistency, the “training” amounts to nothing more than abuse.

2) The animal learns to avoid the punisher in order to indulge in undesirable behavior.

3) These techniques can cause irreversible emotional damage to the animal.

4) The punishment can increase stress hormones, arousal, and aggression.

5) Animals can habituate to the punishment – meaning that the intensity of the punishment must keep increasing to have any effect as the animal learns to endure it.

6) You cannot change an animal’s basic emotional response to find children, adults, or other animals (or anything for that matter) reinforcing by using intimidation; you can only suppress the dog’s punished behaviors.

7) Intimidation can cause dogs to hide their warning signs before attempting to bite.

8) Dogs trained with punishment can feel trapped by their handlers, since the decision to leave a ‘stay’ or to leave the handler’s side (to escape from a bothersome child, for example) can cause punishment.  Animals who feel they have no escape tend to bite rather than move away.

9) Intended intimidation can actually increase the behavior you wish to extinguish, as intimidation involves giving a form of attention to an animal.

10) The presence of the punisher becomes less reinforcing for the animal.  If you punish your dog using intimidation, it is harder to compete with the reinforcement value of other things in the environment.  Your dog will find other stimuli in the environment more reinforcing than you as the dog increasingly associates you with punishment rather than reward.

11) Dogs who have been trained with physical or psychological intimidation do not offer behaviors on their own as readily when asked, making complex behaviors difficult to train

12) Handlers who use intimidation as punishment will punish their animals more readily in the future as punishment is rewarding to the handlers themselves (they get the result they wanted- hitting a dog made it stop barking, so they will be more likely to hit the dog in the future).  In other words, using physical or psychological intimidation causes one’s own behavior patterns to change.

In conclusion, Progressive Reinforcement Training is not a permissive form of training.  It requires providing consequences to all behaviors.  The trainer takes on the role of a benevolent leader and guide using these ethical and scientifically based methods.

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How to know if a Breeder is Reputable?

So You’re Looking For A Puppy …  Some Tips & Pointers to consider …

    You simply couldn’t stand one more crying Kid begging … (that was my story long ago) or finally decided to pull the trigger & it’s time to add a Furry Family Member. So you begin the journey of finding that perfect Puppy or Dog and the options can be overwhelming.  

    I’ve recently had a few phone calls from people asking my advice and guidance about finding a Puppy.  So I thought I would highlight some of the points we discussed as they might prove helpful for others as well.  As the World is an impermanent place, nothing is set in stone or unchanging.  The following are not definitive Rules per se, just some insights to consider to help give you options.  It’s mainly focused, as was my conversation, on finding a Reputable Breeder and how to tell if you’re actually dealing with one.

SHELTER or RESCUE GROUPS

    I’ve been in Rescue for more than 15 years, so I am always supportive & encouraging for people to Adopt whenever possible.  There is a Stigma attached to Shelter Dogs but know that many of them are there for People Reasons, not a “Bad Dog” reason.  And when a Dog is relinquished to a Shelter, I’m always happy that the people chose to do that over simple abandonment, in an empty home or on the side of the road, which is more frequent than you would think.  Dogs do not reflect the character of the people either, they are their own individuals.  And not all Shelter Dogs are “abused” as often assumed.  The most common reasons for relinquishing is abrupt Lifestyle changes of their family - moving, illness or rental restrictions.  There’s no reason to judge people who do this because ironically, the one Dog they did relinquish could wind up being your Forever Friend!  Lucky You, Lucky Dog!  The Universe often works in mysterious ways. 

    For the most part, Shelter Dogs are usually Mutts (mixed breeds) and the plus side is that nature organically & instinctively optimizes for survival the DNA to produce the Dog - so often, they wind up being stronger health wise.  But not everyone wants a Mutt and that’s ok!  Hopefully they’ve done their homework and researched Breeds that are suitable for their Lifestyle as well as committed to meet the needs of that particular Breed.

      And for the record, for every Breed in existence, there is pretty much a Rescue Group dedicated to that Breed as well.  So I always suggest this be the first Stop to see the many “pure breeds” available and again, often relinquished for a host of reasons beyond the stigma of what a Rescue Dog is.  This can be a very educational process about the breed as well for there are many experienced people re-Homing out there.

BREEDERS

    You’ve honed it down to your very favorite Breed and now you enter the often overwhelming pursuit of finding a “reputable Breeder”.  Sometimes that is very difficult to define, so let’s look at some of the “tells” of those that ARE NOT.  Before you start the search, here are some “red flags” and pointers to know and look for that might help you determine a good Breeder from perhaps a not so reputable one.

    Firstly, Breeding is a very specific Science, Skill and almost an Art.  And know that there are thousands of people calling themselves such.  Just like there are thousands of people saying they are “Trainers” yet have no hands on experience under their belts, you will find this common in the Breeding World as well and in this case, experience matters.

    1. Some of the signs of a Reputable Breeder are they are extremely picky about where their Puppies go.  While this may be a bit inconvenient or make you feel put off, this is a very big sign that you are dealing with serious people who care about the integrity of the Breed and the Puppies that they are breeding.  So hang in there.  It’s good.

    2.  You need to “interview” the Breeder as well.  Find out information on the lineage of the Puppies you’re considering.  A good Breeder is proud to show you.  And they will be able to trace it back to the very very beginning of when they started Breeding.  There are many people who claim they are “breeders” and have started off with two Puppy Mill Dogs!  And they usually use the buzz word, Adopt to pull you in. ie. “Puppies for Adoption”.  You will find them all over Craig’s List and Facebook and other similar venues.  Reputable Breeders rarely use this form of advertising. 

    3.  It helps to be able to physically meet the Puppies and as important, the Dog Parents, so trying to find one that is a decent travel distance is optimum so you can actually SEE for yourself the conditions where your Puppy is coming from.  You simply can’t believe websites and photographs, people are very dubious in this business.  Very.

    Yet I know some good Breeders that do interactive Videos for people buying at a distance.  So you can watch your Puppy grow in it’s formative stages and begin to develop some bonding and get to know a little bit about your Puppy even before they arrive home.  In today’s culture of technology, this is pretty easy to do.  And if they don’t offer, you should ask.  A solid Breeder is usually more than happy to oblige for the most part.  A good Breeder might ask the same of you to see your Home environment, etc. because they care about where their Pups are going.  So don’t be put off by this.

    4.  Know that AKC Registered means nothing more than if they said they were a Member of Sam’s Club.  Why?  The American Kennel Club SELLS their Logo for use.  They make a lot of money doing that, too.  Big money.  Perhaps you’ve read some of the controversial issues about this in the news lately.  They rarely check the Breeder as they claim that they do before selling a license but as there are so many, it’s simply impossible.  While it might look impressive stamped on the Dog’s papers, know that it is nothing to base your final decision on.  The “tell” is that a reputable Breeder will have their Dogs registered, however, they don’t use it as a form of selling promotion.  

    5.  Trust your instincts.  If you’ve done your homework, you will be able to have a pretty good idea if the Breeder really knows the Breed or is simply a production house.  If something FEELS fishy or they dodge or ignore your questions, trust that this might not be the best source for finding your Forever.  It’s ok to move on.  

    6.  There is no such thing as a “Designer Dog”.  Know that two Breeds bred together are Mutts.  There’s nothing wrong with this by any means as I know and love many a GoldenDoodle or Morkie.  And there are reputable Breeders who do breed these mixed breed Dogs - it’s just the term that bugs me. And reputable Breeders of this type of Dog don’t use that term either.

7.  Reputable Breeders, for the most part, do not sell their Puppies under 8 weeks and some prefer keeping them with their Mother & Siblings a bit longer.  While you might be anxious & excited to get your new Baby, trust that the longer they stay with the Breeder, the better.  This is because there are critical developmental events occurring with the Puppy and important for their overall emotional stability.  A reputable Breeder cares about this.  Under 8 weeks is a “tell” that they simply want to quickly turn a sale.  A reputable Breeder also will discuss with you what is going on developmentally with the Puppies, both physically and emotionally.  They know.  If they avoid talking about this, you might want to move on.  It’s expensive and a lot of Labor during the whelping process, so Backyard Breeders or Puppy Mill types will sell you some story or other.  If you’ve researched Puppy’s, you will know that under 8 weeks is simply not a good thing.

8.  Ask other people who have the same Breed about their experiences.  Many, when speaking in retrospect, realize that they sometimes missed or overlooked some of the points I made above.  Or they ignored their instincts.  Or wound up with Puppies that had Giardia (just one example & a common one) - which is usually reflective from unclean environments.  And they were told that it wasn’t a big deal when they called the Breeder to report it.  It IS a big deal and can effect your Puppies health overall for a lifetime.  Treating a young Puppy with antibiotics is simply not a good thing.  A reputable Breeder will give you Vet Reports & take care to explain to you Vaccinations, etc.  They should come to you healthy and some Breeders will even offer to pay for incidents like this if they occur.  They care.  But know that it sometimes happens and does not particularly make a Bad Breeder.  But talk to others who have purchased Puppies from that Breeder or others with the same breed.  Information is power.  Exchange! 

9.  Often, a reputable Breeder will make you wait for a Puppy because they don’t breed as often.  Or they don’t have a string of kennels with lots of Dogs, they usually only have a few.  This is usually because they are focused on maintaining the integrity of the Breed, not just trying to optimize sales as much as possible.  The reputable Breeders I’ve spoken to usually only have two litters max a year from one Dog.  More than that and one must wonder the health of the Mother.  And the ethics of the Breeder.

10.  A reputable Breeder will ask you to keep in touch.  To report any illnesses or problems that occur later on well after the Puppy has left them.  Why?  They will take this information into consideration, put it on the records and sometimes, if it’s something radical, they will cease breeding the parents of the Puppy depending. Genetic information is critical and of interest to a reputable Breeder.  

11.  A good Breeder will sometimes make you commit to Training.  They care about the future happiness of their Puppies.  I have filled out a few Forms and letters stating that the future owners of a Puppy have committed to Training with me and even pre-paid as a gesture of commitment.  This is not particularly standard, but it demonstrated the care and reputation of the Breeder.  Their website was also full of correct and helpful information.  Ex:  How to help your Puppy acclimate.  Potty Training. and a host of other great info.  They are also concerned about how the Puppy will be transported, so there should be careful discussions occurring about this.

12.  Puppy Mills.  What are they?  They are exactly what it sounds like.  Puppies are generated in large, if not mass, numbers. There is absolutely no care or focus on the emotional health & stability of the Parents of the Puppy you are considering.  There is no care or focus on the physical Health of the Puppy either.  They receive little human contact, are bred by Dogs overstressed and often, in deplorable conditions.  Know that the emotional state of mind of a parent Dog directly impacts your Puppy.  They are conceived in frightening atmospheres, they develop in very poor quality environments and they are transported with terrifying conditions.  This all contributes to unstable Dogs - separation anxieties; fearful behaviors and a host of other issues hidden by the fluff grooming job they often receive after being delivered and “stocked” at the Pet Store.  Most Pet Shops accept their Puppy Deliveries at night to hide the poor conditions, commonly, dehydration that most suffer from long, unventilated truck rides and hold back the sick ones so the Customer’s will have no chance of seeing.  

And one more thing about purchasing a Puppy in a Pet Store.  As they are often shipped to Stores way to early in age, this terrifying experience directly impacts their emotional balance.  Their behavior is shaped by fear and this creates a powerful environment that the Puppy is struggling to survive.  At night, the Puppies cry and share their panic with all of the other Puppies in the room.  So instead of feeling confident & comforted by their Mother & Litter mates, they feel extreme panic searching for them.  Where did they go? This experience goes very deep and the trauma results are exactly like PTSD.  So the chances of getting a Puppy suffering from emotional trauma is more likely than not and these behaviors will slowly emerge later, long after you’ve already grown attached and feel overwhelmed at the unhappiness of your Dog.  That is the grim reality of purchasing that cute Puppy in the Store.  

WARNING:  In addition to Pet Stores, there are other forms of Puppy Mills, usually those who sell Puppies on line to the general Public.  There are no “interviews” and the only question they ask is for your Credit Card.  Puppy Mills are very clever in masking who they are.  They have lovely photographs of darling Puppies romping in the grass; falsified testimonials; AKC logo blasted very large on their site pages, etc etc.  There was an old TV Ad run years ago that said, “An educated consumer is our best customer”.  That would never be used for a Pet Store selling Puppies or on line Puppy Mills. They simply don’t want you to know.

    If you’ve read the points above, you should be able to gain some very good indicators and signs to look for.  It is sad that there are people out there duping the public, particularly when it comes to living sentient Beings, but there are.  And the Dog business has boomed, so they’re everywhere - breeders; trainers; food brands; etc.  They use “buzz words” that sound great but it’s simple lip service and marketing ploys.

    So before you get emotionally involved, educate yourself as much as possible.  These are hard realities, I know.  But set your Criteria and approach finding a Puppy as objectively as possible.  Once you’ve determined the best Breeder or reliable source, than it’s OK and actually wonderful to get emotionally involved!  Just protect your Heart from potential Heartbreak.  Do your homework & research, trust your instincts and then decide.

 Know that every single Dog found in a Pet Shop or Store is from a Puppy Mill.  They will SAY they have special Breeders but those special Breeders are either local Backyard Breeders or Mills.  NO reputable Breeder would ever sell to a Pet Store.

Know that you are not “rescuing” the Puppy from that awful little cage, you are actually helping to turn the Mill Wheel.  If there is no demand, Pet Stores will simply put more profit gaining products on their shelves instead.  Dogs are permitted by Law to be sold this way & any way actually.  That is because the Law considers them “Property”.  The only way to stop the Production of Unhappiness is to change our Laws and not purchase from these BYB’s and Puppy Mill generated Pups.  If there is no demand, there is no supply.

I hope some of these Tips & Considerations were helpful.  It is not a definitive List particularly, meaning not ALL of these points are found, there are of course combinations or sometimes just one singular.  But they are important considerations to help you begin and process along the Path of finding your Forever Family Member.  Try not to be swayed by personalities of the people but stick to the facts.  Just follow some of these guidelines and use them as a sounding board.

No Dog is a Bad Dog.  In my work, I would never prejudice a Dog based on his or her origins.  Ever.  But I do want to help people try to optimize the results and support those Breeders who are ethical. There ARE great Breeders out there, they are just a little more difficult to find.  But all things worthy require effort.  

I wish you much success on your Journey and years of Love and Friendship with your new Puppy!  In my direct experience, few things are as wonderful!

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Sources - Local NY

For All Things Dog - the Capital Regions exclusive Ruffwear retailer; harnesses, leashes & the prettiest collars, I highly recommend DAWGDOM on VanDam Street in Saratoga Spring, NY www.dawgdom.com  Super Customer Service, they also offer top brand Food like Acana & Sojo's.  Their Dog Spa Self Wash Rooms are simply gorgeous!  Call to inquire & reserve.  518-306-6600

Dog Food Brands I recommend to clients;

          Acana;  Honest Kitchen;  Logic;  Sojo's;  Natural Balance LIT (venison/sweet potato)  

My FAVORITE Rescue Groups:  Perfect Pets Rescue, Inc in Poughkeepsie, NY area & Saratoga County Animal Shelter in Ballston Spa, NY - both on Facebook

Pack Walk Groups: (great for Reactive Dogs who need some feelings of friendship)  http://www.meetup.com/Saratoga-reactive-dog-walking-group/

PET LOSS:  Loosing our beloved Pets is perhaps one of the saddest and more challenging Life events we experience.  But there comes a time when this moment is inevitable and knowing ahead of time by gaining a Plan can be in itself, comforting.  I currently have aging Dogs that are coming to the end of their wonderful Lives, so I want to do whatever expresses my Love for them and my profound gratefulness of the Joy they offered.  Most of our Veterinarians offer after Life Services, but sometimes we need just a bit more to help us through our grieving process.  I highly recommend the following:

Infinity Pet Services, Inc.       www.InfinityPetServices.com       Eagle Bridge, NY

They can discuss with you the many options they offer to ensure that your Beloved Pet is treated with dignity, care and integrity.  Knowing that there are people who have tremendous compassion and understand your grief is for some of us, a necessary component.  They truly put my mind at ease.

 

 

 

 

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The New World of Dog

Welcome to our new web site! It was put together by a very clever Australian Sheepdog named Mel. 

Check back often as we post tender and tasty morsels to interest you and your doggie friends. 

Is that a squirrel? 

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