Adoption Counseling

We have a new dog in the family!

I had the privilege of accompanying my cousin to our local animal shelters to find his new best friend. He’s never lived with a dog, his parents didn’t have dogs growing up so he only had my train wrecks to play with. (I didn’t get a dog until I was 19, that would have made him about 8 years old.)

Decompression nap

Sleepy pup after a bit of training.

Purebred or rescue?

Since I know a bunch of dog people I was able to provide contrast. We were able to see both the world of purebred dogs with introductions to many friends who are breeders and show their dogs in conformation or sports.  I also have friends who work in shelters and with rescue groups so I was also able to show him that side of the dog loving world. We discussed the pros and cons of each path, and what he was comfortable with.

We also discussed in depth, what his goals were and what he envisioned life to be like with a dog. From those discussions he decided that a rescue dog was the way he wanted to go.

There is no right or wrong answer to the question of rescue or purebred. I have 2 rescues and one purebred currently who were acquired them for different reasons, and they serve different purposes. I love them all the same.

Back to our story…

We planned a day to go to the shelters and take a look around. Since I know people, I asked those in the know to recommend a few dogs who might match our criteria. This also helps with the feeling of overwhelm. If you have ever wandered through the kennel area at a shelter, all the dogs essentially look the same. Knowing you can choose from any of them can be a bit daunting! Having a list, from the people who see these dogs everyday was certainly helpful! (Thank you Amanda, and both Jessicas!)

We visited with 8 dogs in two shelters before he made his pick. I let him make the emotional choice, but if I saw any red flags I would point them out. He chose one affectionate walker hound at the first shelter, that was not at all what we had discussed as a goal for a dog. Taffy was sweet, but clearly had been a discarded hunting dog, and with that comes little to no house manners, and she was heartworm positive, which would delay adventure time by about 4 months. Taffy is going to be a great dog for someone who can give her some rules, and be patient while she figures out life inside a house, but it was not the dog that my cousin had described to me prior to our trip.

So happy to be homeThe seventh dog we met with was Harley, a barky, jumpy girl who had been returned for some resource guarding of her food bowl (easily fixed, I saw no problems there)  I noticed some crouching and tail tuck when coming into the playroom. We let her take a good while to sniff around the room. She sniffed the caretaker helping us, she sniffed me and continued around the room until she sniffed my cousin seated on the floor and plopped into his lap.

Sold.

Don’t judge a dog by it’s kennel behavior

Harley jumped and barked at us when we walked by her kennel. Actually, all the dogs we saw had terrible kennel behavior. Jumping, barking, growling and retreating. If it had just been me, I might have passed her over. Luckily for Harley, I had a list!

In the meeting room, Harley was not taking food from me and not playing with the toys like the other dogs we had visited, but I saw some resilience in her. She has a natural curiosity about things, she was calmer now that she was outside of her kennel, and was seeking out people for affection. This could be a good match after all.

There is no guarantee that a dogs behavior at the shelter will in anyway be a predictor to how they will act outside of the shelter. The same idea that a well bred puppy will not necessarily act like its parents. The biggest struggle I see with people comes when the dogs temperament is not matched to what they expect it to be. Adopting a dog can be a very emotional decision and having an impartial 3rd party to help you make a clear headed decision might be the difference between the best dog ever, and an emotional train wreck!

So far, a happy ending!

So far Harley, now Ayla, is transitioning easily for my cousin. He’s done all the things I have told him to which has helped her to ease into her new life with less stress.

If bringing home a new dog is in the cards for you this year, reach out to us, or another qualified trainer to help be that impartial 3rd party. Your forethought will make them jump for joy! It will also give you a bit of peace of mind that a person trained and certified in dog behavior is helping you find your new best friend!

Happy Gotcha Day Ayla!
Happy Gotcha Day Ayla!

The one thing you need to know about bringing home puppy!


Jon wrote our blog this week! He’s become our puppy guru and has a great tip for all the new puppy folks out there!

The one solution for most of your puppy problems!

For many, the story of a puppy being “hard headed” and obstinate is all too familiar:

“She just keeps jumping on me for no reason”

“He doesn’t ever seem to run out of energy!”

“It just seems like he’s ignoring me at times”

“It’s dog ADHD!”

These situations appear to be our puppy being disobedient, but what If I told you that it is more likely that your dog is too exhausted to even realize you’re talking to them?

Our puppies are learning everyday about life, the household’s daily routine, family dynamics, friends in the neighborhood and if you’re doing training, obedience commands. All this interaction with their environment combined with the processing of the surrounding stimulus is hard work! And not just for the physical exercise involved in going on walks, or playing with other dogs, or going to the dog park. The mental exercise coming from processing their experiences and environment is much more taxing on our dogs. It’s perfectly normal for our puppies to be tired from all this.

So what happens when our puppies get tired? Some go pick a nice spot on the couch, or their comfy bed and doze off. But there many puppies that cannot. They cannot because they are so overly tired they begin to function on basic instinct and essentially have shut off their brain. When puppies shut of their brain but don’t go to sleep, they usually make these bad decisions, like shredding you blanket. These behaviors are your dog’s attempts to tell you the following:

“I AM EXHAUSTED. PLEASE HELP ME GET SOME REST”

Our puppies most definitely need rest. Throughout our puppies development stages, it’s imperative that our puppies receive around 16 hours of sleep a day, and this could be well into the 8-14 month range before they are able to function with less sleep. So when our dogs are getting tired, how do we help them? It’s real easy.

Get started early to prevent unwanted behaviors!

Put them in their crate for a nap. Our crate should be in a quiet, neutral area where our puppy won’t be disturbed. These naps can be anywhere between 30-45 minutes, 60-90 minutes or even 120-180 minutes. You want to let your puppy wake up naturally, and to coin a phrase “don’t wake the sleeping puppy”. These naps to happen throughout the day. It’s especially important to have at least one of these naps being while you are still in the home. Even more so if you have guests over for a long time and your dog has been interacting with them. As soon as you see your puppy begins to show those “trouble behaviors”, ask yourself this.

“When was the last time they’ve taken a nap?”

If it has been some time, it’s a good call to get our puppy in the crate to help them settle down enough to finally get the rest they didn’t know they needed.

If you thought this tip was helpful, check out our Prepared for Puppy Program only available for a few more days! Get this great tip in our Prepared for Puppy e-book, and two in home sessions with one of our trainers for individual attention and personalized tips to get you through puppyhood!

 

The Conflict of Expectation

Opal in 2009

In my last post, I wrote about my hobby: Dog Sports.

In this post, I want to let you in on a bit of my human journey.

When I was in my 20’s I was very active in rescue and dog events. I could be found promoting rescues and the idea that pitbulls in shelters were not inherently evil, and could in fact, make a very nice pet. (I still work with pitbulls in rescue quite a bit, just in a different capacity)

I adopted Opal in 2009.

I’ve mentioned her quite a bit in blog posts. Since she had some pretty debilitating separation anxiety, she went everywhere with me. (this was a time before medication, you lucky, lucky people!) This means she spent her weekends at things like Woofstock or Bark in the Park. She was great at showing people that bully breed type dogs were actually nice pets and could live peacefully in normal society. One day in 2012, I was packing the car for a weekend event, and instead of getting in the car, Opal walked down to the neighbors house. We had a heart to heart conversation, and I told her I needed her today, but she didn’t have to go with me anymore, unless she wanted to. She chose home more and more often.

Pixie and I at Dock Dog Nationals in Iowa

Pixie

A few months later, I brought Pixie home from the shelter. She was a lovely puppy, quiet in her kennel, good with other puppy playmates, still very young. I figured I would foster her for a few months and off she would go to a new home. Well, y’all know, she never left. When she had been with me about a year, I decided she was staying and she would be my sport dog.

About a year later, Pixie became incredibly reactive to other dogs and people while on a walk. In some places, she was great with the chaos, but one on one it was too much for her to handle. At the time, I didn’t realize the two were related, and being a brand new dog trainer, I couldn’t understand why some places were so difficult, and others she looked like she loved.

Pixie is not the dog I envisioned when I brought her home from the shelter six years ago. I’ve mourned the idea of  the dog I thought I was getting. My husband and I have had more conversations about euthanasia and dog management than any normal couple should ever have. (Bless him for taking on my crazy dog with open arms!)

Stages of Grief

It took me about 3 years to really go through the 7 stages of grief with her. When my baby dog started acting aggressively, I was in denial and kept asking her to do more sports trying to find something we could do safely together. Because everything can be fixed with more training, I tried everything, I am a dog trainer after all! I was angry that I had the dog that I couldn’t leave the house with. The dog I always had to be 100% on top of to make sure she was safe. I wanted to show the world that she was so wonderful, what did I do wrong?!

Pixie is retired now.

Pixie in 2014 ordering ice cream

I have finally accepted that she is a dog who stays at home with 100% management. Her fear of the world is too great for her to be safe and comfortable. She was supposed to be my first real dog sport teammate. She gave me the best she could, but the more we tried, the more I could tell she was only there because I asked her to be. Genetics are a crazy thing and sometimes you get the short end of the stick.

To those of you mourning the loss of the dog you envisioned, I see you.

Going through the stages of grief for an idea seems like a crazy thing, but it is real. Loss is real, and you have lost the idea of what your life with this dog should be. It does take some time to accept that things will be different. Different is not necessarily worse, but just different.

I have been there, and I will help you as much as I can to get you close to the goals you have set. The grief is real, and I helps to talk to someone. Send me an email if you need someone to empathize. I will hear you!

May the Reinforce be with you

Ice cream is always reinforcing!

I think that was a title from a class I took recently.

Reinforcement is a big word for a very easy concept. But one that is usually overlooked. Reinforcement in dog training simply means pay your dog.

Dog does something, reinforce it.

If your dog sits during a training session, you would absolutely give him a cookie. But what are you doing the other 167 hours of the week? Has your dog figured out the game? Do they only listen in class, or when you have the bucket of cookies and the clicker in hand?

Dogs do what works for them. Does it work for you? A kibble is a small price to pay for making sure your dog is being rewarded for the things you like.

Follow this example

This is a common one in my house. Dog steals sock. Dog takes off running with sock. Human chases dog all over the house and out the dog door in the rain, to get said sock back. In my house, we reinforced bringing sock to human to trade for a cookie. Now, “can I have that” means spit out sock to get cookie.  Maybe one day I will teach her to bring the sock to me. (life goals)

Let’s discuss

Many many reinforcement strategies in this situation. To Cargo, the sock is a fun toy. It’s stinky, and it flops around when she bites it.

I don’t want holes chewed in my socks, so early on we taught a “trade” for food. Food is a better reinforcement than the sock, so it worked. If I were to chase Cargo around the house to wrestle her for the sock, then sock would become an even better reinforcement because Malinois love to tug, and I would lose a sock everytime. (Not reinforcing for me!) For a reinforcement strategy to work it has to benefit all the parties involved. Because food is the better reinforcer in this situation, I have food in small containers stashed all over my house.

Dogs do what works for them

If I had chased Cargo all over the house to get the sock back, I would be reinforcing the “stealing sock” behavior.  Chasing and tug is also a reinforcer, but since I set up her options as drop the sock for food or have her collar held until she drops the sock. Food is the only reinforcing option. She’s going to choose the food. Now, she brings the sock to me to show me she’s found it, I reinforce her bringing it to me, and we do not have (many) eaten socks.

In the kitchen, I only give her food when she is laying on the rug in front of the sink. Now, thats where she lays when I am in the kitchen. She gets a Kong or Peanut butter bone when I ask her to kennel, so she happily runs to her kennel when I ask.

This is especially important for new adult dogs in the house, or brand new puppies who are learning how to live in our world for the first time. Putting some forethought into the behaviors you want to see in the future will help you to prevent the unwanted behaviors later on.

Have any questions on this concept? Chat with us on Facebook. The next post will discuss what happens when this strategy goes wrong!

 

 

 

 

Adding a dog: the Multi-dog household

Life with many dogs can be amazing if you are ready for it!

This is a popular time of the year to think about making the jump to a multi-dog household. Is it the right time for you and your family? There are a few things you should consider before you bring home another 4 legged friend.

Is your current dog “well-behaved?”

I put that term in quotes because my definition of “behaved” might be different than yours. Many people think another dog to “play with” the current one is the answer to their problems. This is not always the case. Your current dog should be considered “easy to live with” before you bring in another.

Your current dog should be:

  • House trained. No more accidents in the house, especially if it is a small dog. No one wants to keep an eye on two dogs at the same time! We would need more eyeballs! Your current pup being able to be crated quietly while you are home is also a plus!
  • Aware of the basic rules in the house. No puppies on the kitchen counters, stay out of the office, or cat box, no rushing out the front door or chewing on the couch pillows. All of these bad behaviors will absolutely be taught to your new pup by your current pup.  It’s much harder to teach two pups who are learning from each other faster than you realize what’s happening.
  • At least 18 months old. Littermate syndrome is a real thing y’all! I do not recommend getting two puppies at the same time to anyone! (Those of you who have just raised a puppy are probably thinking why on earth would anyone want to do that twice!) In a nutshell, Littermate Syndrome is when your puppies bond very closely with each other and do not bond with the people. Puppies speak “dog” very well, and if you are not putting in the time to teach them how to speak “people” just as well, you are in for a world of trouble.

    She is cute when shes sleeping. This little terrorist keeps me on my toes!

  • Dog friendly. It is not fair to bring in another dog into a house where your current dog is not so fond of other 4 legged things. Dogs do not need dog friends in order to live a happy healthy life. (Case in point: Pixie) If your dog has never had good experiences around other dogs, then bringing home another one is only going to create heartbreak. (If you are not sure, schedule an appointment with me, and we can evaluate your situation.)

Be realistic about your lifestyle.

Bringing home another dog to “wear out” your current one is a terrible idea. So many dogs are sitting in shelters right now because people were not honest with themselves about the type of dog they actually wanted in their life. If your current dog is wearing you down, find a good trainer in your area that can help give you some ideas to “drain the tank” a bit. My Instagram (@thefreckledpawdogtraining) is full of enrichment ideas, and things I give my dogs on a regular basis. Maybe it will give you some ideas too.

If your current dog meets all these requirements, and you think you are ready for a new dog, check out this post about where to find your next adult dog. Or this post on finding the right puppy!

Know someone getting a new puppy or adopting a dog this holiday season? Why not give the gift of knowledge with a gift certificate to help them get everyone on the right path from the beginning! Find the gift certificate on my website www.thefreckledpaw.com