As our babies age, we have books and the internet telling us what to expect. We anticipate these milestones and are preparing for the day our babies make that first trek across the living room. With all of the excitement, it can be easy to forget that our dogs are not anticipating these same milestones. Our dogs wake up expecting the baby to be an immobile creature who takes up most of mom and dad’s time during the day, and instead they get a small human who is suddenly coming towards them. For some dogs, they can take this in stride and continue living in peaceful harmony. For others, this can be extremely startling. Whether it is because your dog is now fearful of this moving baby, or because movement gets your excited dog overly aroused, it is important to remember that this is going to be a big change for your dogs. Expecting your dog to ‘just get over it’ may not be the best approach in this scenario, as it can place both your baby and dog in harm’s way.
The Fearful Dog
It’s hard to know exactly why your dog becomes fearful of your baby when s/he suddenly starts moving, but it may be due to the fact that dogs do not generalize well. They also do not have the mental capacity to reason, which would tell us that we expect our babies to eventually walk. What we mean by generalizing, is that once dogs get used to something being one way (our baby doesn’t move), a sudden change in environment (our baby crawls) can be very unnerving for them. This can take some time for our dogs to get used to the change. Some may not get over it without help from you or a trainer if it is particularly traumatizing to them.
The Excited Dog
Some dogs have a little more spice in their lives than others. If your dog has a tendency to get overexcited about things in their environment, a moving baby can definitely be one of them. It may be they are a little anxious about this new change, or that the baby may be invoking just a little bit of their natural prey drive. This does not necessarily mean that your dog thinks your baby is the new squirrel of the neighborhood, but it is the same reason we tell people not to run away from strange dogs. The game of chase is quite exciting for our dogs.
Management is Key
Managing the baby and dog household was important as an infant, but I believe it is even more important once they begin moving. Making sure your baby and dog are never left alone in the same room will become very important at this time. Not only to keep your baby safe, but to keep your dog safe. Every interaction between your dog and your baby should be supervised. Children, especially toddlers, do not automatically know how to correctly interact with dogs. Teaching toddlers about gentle hands and keeping away from the face is extremely important. Your knowledge as a parent on dog body language is also important. Many people do not realize how uncomfortable their dogs actually are with children until their dog gets to the point of growling, snapping, or even biting. Many parents claim that bites were ‘out of nowhere’, however, the dogs had been giving off major signals that the parents were not aware of. Whale eyes, turning their heads away, freezing, and yawning are all signs that your dogs are uncomfortable with the interaction. I urge every parent to read up on body language before allowing interactions between children and dogs.
Another part of the house that needs to be constantly supervised is where your dog eats. Children should never be allowed to bother a dog that is eating or drinking. While your dog may show no signs of resource guarding, we do not appreciate our dogs in our faces as we try to eat dinner, and our dogs would also appreciate the same respect. Food bowls can be quite interesting to children, but they should be taught from day one not to play with them. Placing the bowls in a baby free room is an option until our children are older. We can then begin to incorporate them into feeding time by allowing our children to help up prepare our dog’s food. The same rules would apply to any food toy or chew that your dog is using.
If you begin to find that management is not enough to help your dogs feel comfortable in the house with a moving baby, it may be time to call in a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist depending on the severity of the issue. Since there are no national regulations on dog trainers, it is important to do your research before hiring one, especially when children are involved. Finding a trainer who utilizes a ‘least invasive minimally aversive’ training protocol is the best plan to help your dog become comfortable with your children. This means that the trainer will work with you and your dog to help your dog feel confident and safe around your children. The use of punishment in this situation can be detrimental to your dog’s well being.
A Child's Best Friend
Starting the relationship between your dog and children off on the right foot can lead to an amazing relationship down the road. Teaching our children that they do not always have to interact with dogs will go a long way to building a trusting relationship between dog and child. Your dog will learn that just because the child is in the room doesn’t mean he has to interact. And your child learns how to let the dog come to them to interact instead of forcing the dog to interact. This will teach both of them how to relax in each other’s company. Relaxation is key to a cohesive relationship between dog and human.
When I saw the opportunity to give Ines Gaschot's new Leash Aggression Classroom a try, in exchange for a review, I knew I had to participate. My career as a dog trainer started in a small city where there were hardly any options for me in regards to dog training. The ability to work with a trainer virtually would have been a great asset to have at the time. I have had a few months to play around on the Leash Aggression Classroom website and have gotten a feel for what Ines is hoping to accomplish with this program.
Leash Aggression Classroom
Trainer: Ines Gaschot
Price: $150 for a 3 month enrollment
The Leash Aggression Classroom is broken down into three sessions where she specifically goes over the materials you will need and the exercises to work on. Each exercise is broken down and given very specific instructions so that the student can obtain the most information from it. Videos and games accompany some exercises to make them more clear. Each session builds on the last, until you get an end result that will help your dog work through their reactivity problems. Like all good training, these exercises require the owner's dedication and are not a cover up to make your dog look like they are fixed. After each session, the students must submit a video that Ines will constructively critique to help her students out. Once Ines okays the video, they can move on to the next session.
The first plus I give the Leash Aggression Classroom is that they utilize all force free training exercises. It is very important to gain your dog's trust with force free exercises so that you can grow together during this journey. The exercises Leash Aggression Classroom utilize are broken down very well and explained in a way that a novice can understand them. Ines is always amazing at explaining things to novices who just do not have experience with dog training. This is no exception. While I may not teach the same exact exercises she uses to combat reactivity, I do believe that her exercises will be successful in helping teams curb reactivity. However, it is important to remember that each dog is different, and one set of exercises may not work for every dog.
The website layout for Leash Aggression Classroom is clean and simple. Everything is explained well, so students should not feel overwhelmed by information or feel like they can't find their way around. Offered to the students are a trainer directory, a site dictionary, blog, podcasts, videos, and a member area forum. These are excellent resources to have when working on reactivity. Ines also allows her students to pick a 'track' to follow depending on how much time they have to commit to training. I think this is an excellent idea because not everyone has the same amount of time to dedicate to reactivity training. Ines' 'tracks' permit students to spread the training up to six months, or tackle it as soon as possible.
I think Leash Aggression Classroom can also be a great resource for other trainers, and Ines agrees. She is starting a program that allows other trainers to offer this site to their current students. If you are working alongside a trainer, you can pay a reduced fee and get access to the sessions, without needing to submit videos. This lessens the burden on trainers, because they don't have to worry so much about giving the students homework, and it also offers the students another resource of information on reactivity.
In the end, I don't think there is any replacement for physically working with a qualified trainer, as they can give immediate feedback and possibly catch something a video could not. However, for those who are not lucky enough to have a qualified trainer nearby, or need some extra support, I definitely think Leash Aggression Classroom is an excellent asset to those in need. Ines has limited the amount of students she takes on to 35 per month. I have a feeling she may eventually need to take on another trainer to admit more students if and when Leash Aggression Classroom catches on. :)
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
Believe it or not, most people do not want to be greeted by your dog's two front paws and a nice slobbery tongue to the face. Even if your dog can only reach the knee caps, it can be a safety issue, or sometimes people just don't like dogs.
Dogs have a whole different language than we do, which deals a lot with body language. While a nose to your butt or crotch may be terribly embarrassing to you, it's just how dogs get information. Dogs also enjoy getting in your face and possibly giving kisses too, and because your face is all the way up there, well they just have to get to it! So, how do we teach our dogs that some people just don't appreciate a full frontal greeting? We teach four on the floor!
When to Start?
Ideally, you should start managing and teaching this concept to your dog or puppy as soon as you acquire them. It is so much easier to teach this to a puppy who has not had a long history of reinforcement for this behavior. If your dog has already practiced this for years and you are just sick of it, or you recently acquired an adult who came with this sometimes annoying habit, there is still hope! Just remember that your dog has had years of reinforcement for this behavior, so it is likely that you won't fix it in a day.
Manage the Situation!
Before we can start teaching our dog or puppy to keep his four feet on the floor, we have to stop the behavior in it's tracks. The longer your dog can practice this behavior, the more reinforced the behavior will become. This is making sure your dog never has the opportunity to jump on someone.
If you are expecting house guests, either keep the dog on a leash so he cannot get to the human, or separate him in another room or crate. If you are not able to train your dog when someone comes into your house during the training period, do not allow your dog to practice this undesirable behavior, remove him from the situation to make it easier for him. It is not nice of us to expect our dogs to know better before we have had the chance to show them what we want. They are not mind readers, even though that would be wonderful!
But I want my dog to be able to interact with my house guests! We're getting there. :)
It is easier to train your dog in a 'training' situation. Do not pull out some treats and a clicker when you have a novel guest coming over, as it will likely be too much stimulation for your dog and he will likely jump.
First, we have to think of what we want our dog to do, instead of just saying, "I don't want my dog to jump up." Okay, so what can our dogs do instead? Sit? Stand? Down? Most people want our dogs to sit when we have house guests, but sometimes that is just so hard to do with a wiggling tail in the way. So let us just say we want our dog's four feet on the floor as they go up to our guests.
I am going to assume that if your dog is jumping on house guests, they also jump on you. So since they see you every day, we will start with using your own self as the target. Grab a clicker, some yummy treats, and tether your dog to a rather sturdy object. (Heavy couch leg, tree, door, etc.)
With a clicker and treats in hand, start out of reach of your dog's legs. As you approach your dog, click immediately for the dog's four feet on the floor before he has the chance to jump up. Throw the treat on the ground so the head goes down, making it impossible for your dog to eat the treat and jump up at the same time. As your dog is eating the treat, click again for four on the floor and throw the treat down again. Do this a few times rapid fire (click/treat, click/treat, click/treat, rather close together before your dog has time to practice the bad behavior). After four or five times, add a slight pause as your dog is eating the treat, and they will probably start lifting their head to look up at you, click this and throw the treat back down. Slowly begin lengthening the time between each click/treat, getting a feel for that moment right before your dog begins to even think of jumping up on you. After thirty or so seconds, back away and give your dog a break. Frequent breaks are important. It allows the dog a few seconds to process what just happened and for them to store away the 'lesson' they just learned.
After a few seconds, approach your dog again and click/treat before they jump again. Continue working on lengthening this process in short 30 second sections. Don't forget the breaks! Okay, so now your dog is catching on to the game. Approach your dog again and wait a second before clicking as they stand there looking up at you. Click/treat and walk away! Work on the approach quite a few times as that can be the hardest part sometimes! Now the next time you approach, bring your hand out towards your dog like you are going to pet them, and click/treat before they can jump and before you even touch them, and walk away. A hand going out to pet them can be so hard sometimes. Sometimes they just don't want to wait for that hand to get to them, so they speed the process up by meeting the hand half way. Always remember four on the floor, even if the paws aren't touching the person. Begin to work your hand closer and closer to the dog without them jumping until you can scratch them on the head or underneath their jaw (wherever they prefer).
So now that your dog is appropriate when you approach them, let's teach them how to be appropriate to guests. Enlist the help of a close friend or someone who your dog sees quite often. We want the novelty of this person to be pretty low so the dog isn't too excited.
You can either hold the leash now or keep your dog tethered to the object. I recommend tethering your dog to an object if you are new to clicker training, that way you don't have to juggle the clicker, treats, and a leash together. Your treats may have to be more novel or 'high value' for a new person, so that our dogs will be more interested in the reward than the person. For very people driven dogs, that can be hard. It's a matter of trying different treats with your dog and seeing what really gets them excited. Most of the time it will be something moist and smelly.
You will repeat the above steps with the new person. When you go to take your breaks, I would work on calling your dog's name once, and then click/treating them for turning towards you and walking away with you. If your dog is tethered, I would stand a few feet from the dog, call them, and click/treat as they walk towards you, having your guest also walk away at the same time. This builds the value of your dog's name, and helps your dog practice leaving an exciting situation, which can be hard for them.
Start doing these training sessions with as many people as you can and in as many different places. Dogs do not generalize well so it takes many repetitions with many new people and places to generalize this no jumping idea. You can now begin to utilize this training when you have random guests come over. Remember that it might be harder when you have multiple people over, so always take that into account. If you don't feel like training for that particular guest, or you fear your dog will be too overwhelmed, remove them from the situation so they cannot practice the behavior.
Being persistent is a big part of having a dog who does not jump on guests. It's something very simple to work on, but it does take commitment to yourself and your dog to never allow them the opportunity to jump on someone. Accidents do happen, but it is our job to make sure they do not happen often enough that it selectively reinforces the behavior and makes it even harder to get rid of.
"While we were training, my dog was still able to jump up on me!"
Then you were moving too close/fast for your dog. It takes some practice, but you have to work on getting that click/treat before they have the opportunity to jump. Is it while you are approaching? Click/treat before you get close to them, and toss them the treat. Work the rapid fire click/treats while you approach them, and then leave. Do this a few times until you don't have to click/treat as fast as you approach.
If the jump happened at a random time while you are training, remove yourself from the situation without acknowledging your dog (including pushing them down or saying 'No!") Give them a few seconds to regroup and go back and continue your training. Removal of reinforcement will speak volumes to your dog when they want your attention and the food you're giving out.
"This this and this happened, and my dog was accidentally out while a guest came over and he jumped all over him. How do I stop this situation?"
Make sure your guest removes his attention. Again, no pushing or talking to the dog, or saying oh, it is alright. Once the dog is not getting any reinforcement from the person, if you are confident your dog will come to you when you call his name, do so and reward your dog for listening to you. Remove your dog from the situation, but don't forget to reward your dog coming to you first! If you don't think your dog will listen to you, but is okay with you collar grabbing, remove your dog how you see fit. The most important thing here is the stopping of reinforcement from the guest, and you getting your dog away from the situation. Just remember that there is no reason for you to yell or hit your dog in this scenario, as obviously it is not their fault they were able to practice this behavior.
If you have any other questions that arise in this training scenario, feel free to comment. I may or may not try and make a video tomorrow with a dog who is new to clicker training and the idea of four on the floor.
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
There are many blog posts and studies proving that you do not need to be a 'pack leader' to your dog. If you would like more information on this, I am more than happy to point you in the right direction. This post is more about what I AM instead of what I'm NOT (a pack leader!).
There is a video going around right now of many trainers stating their name and that they are not a pack leader. I would like to join them. I am Monica Callahan. I am a KPA-CTP, business owner, and owner of two dalmatians, yet I am not a pack leader. My dogs do not run the house, they abide by the rules, yet I am not a pack leader. I am an owner, partner, and friend at different points in our relationship.
I am an owner, and a responsible one at that. I provide food, exercise, and shelter for my dogs. This is what is expected of you as a responsible owner. I do not make my dogs eat after me, I do not withhold food for bad manners. My dogs are still well behaved.
I am a partner. It is my responsibility to show my dogs how to act and to teach them the rules of the house in a humane, safe way. I do not expect my dog to listen to me because he should automatically respect me. That respect develops and is earned just as you would earn it with a child. My dogs are my partners in the show ring. When we start gaiting the circle, or begin the agility course, we work together because we enjoy it, not because I am commanding my dog to follow me.
I am a friend. Who wants to live being afraid of your fellow housemate? I am not afraid that my husband will hit me, nor my child, why should my dog be afraid that I am going to hit them? When we go for walks, when we enjoy a night in, I am enjoying the company of a companion, a friend. We are comfortable with each other, we enjoy each other. We do not fear each other.
Monica Callahan KPA-CTP
By Monica Callahan KPA-CTP
One of the most popular items to work on in dog training is loose leash walking (llw). No one wants to be dragged around by their best friend from tree to tree. You would think it's just something a dog should KNOW, but it's not. In fact, being tied to a tether is something dogs have to get used to, because its just not natural.
Before beginning your journey of loose leash walking, you first have to desensitize your dog to being on a leash if they are not already. This is a very common practice with puppies. Bringing the leash out and click/treating when the dog interacts or sees the leash is a great place to start, as you're beginning to associate a tether with good things. If your dog was a stray that you adopted, there's a good chance your dog may have never been introduced to a tether as a puppy, so this is also great to work on with adults as well.
Soon you can begin to bring the leash closer to your dog's collar/harness and click/treat for your dog allowing you to do so. Eventually we would like to clip it to the collar/harness. And so at this point, we have to begin teaching our dog that as long as there is slack in the leash, he will get good things.
The first step to loose leash walking:
(There are many different techniques that can be used to teach loose leash walking, this is just one of them!)
- The left side is the good side! We don't want to constantly be tripped by our dogs crossing in front of us to go sniff over there or see this twig right here. We would generally like our dogs to stick to a certain side of the walkway while we stick to ours. You can teach your dog that the left (or right) side is the side to be on. We generally pick the left side because when teaching the sport of obedience, it is all performed on the left side, so it's just easier for people to remember. So how do we teach our dogs that the left side is the place to be?
It is up to you if you would like to start with your dog leashed or not. If you are afraid that juggling a clicker, leash, treats, and your dog will be too much, eliminate the leash for now. Begin inside your house, where there are not a lot of distractions. Let your dog wander around you a bit, and if they happen to cross your left side, go ahead and click/treat. Feed your dog the treats from your left hand, keeping the clicker in your right hand. It may take a few tries, but eventually you should be seeing your dog moving to your left side in hopes of a treat, and then eventually staying there.
When your dog is consistently moving to your left side, try turning to your right. If your dog takes a tiny step with you, click the instant they step with you. The important thing to remember now is to click as your dog is moving (but clicking while your dog is stationary on your left side will never be harmful). We want your dog to understand that moving as we move is what we are reinforcing, making sure they aren't forging ahead of us.
Once your dog is comfortable moving in a circle with you, try to take one step forward. Did your dog move along your left side with you? Click/treat as you're moving! Stay with one step for awhile, make sure your dog has the hang of it. You can introduce a cue before you take your step. I tend to use 'Let's Go!', then step, click/treat. Use the cue before you take a step whenever practicing loose leash walking.
I am going to stop here, and show a video of Megan and Kevin, one of my students, in the beginning stages of loose leash walking. Megan and Kevin have accomplished their loose leash walking inside and are bringing it outside. There are many more distractions outside than inside, so we have to lower the criteria a lot in order for Kevin to be successful. Remember, we always want our dogs to be successful. If they are not, then we moved too quickly and should go back a step until they are.
Look for the next step in our loose leash walking journey soon!
Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
By Monica Callahan KPA-CTP
Dress codes are always a big thing in the human world. What do you wear to a wedding? A night out on the town? How about when you work out? Surely you wouldn't wear a ball gown to go play baseball! People know when you wear a certain outfit, you do certain things. It's the same for our dogs!
Dogs are actually quite smart, and they can know when a certain item means a certain thing to do. A good example is when you pull out the leash. If a dog loves going out of the house, they are going to become conditioned to know that a leash means they get to leave. Leash= excited dog! Well why can't flat buckle collar= loose leash walking and back attachment harness= okay to pull? It can!
If you are consistent with your dogs, they can even learn the difference between types of collars and harnesses.
Whenever you want to work on loose leash walking, choose what collar/harness they will always wear whenever you expect it, and only use that when training and loose leash walking. Many prefer to use a front attachment harness, martingale, or flat buckle collar when loose leash walking. Make a commitment to your dog and yourself that you will never allow your dog to pull in this item.
Sometimes while we are training, we just don't have the time to not let our dogs pull. This is when conditioning to harnesses/collars can come in handy. Running late to the vet and just don't want to worry about your dog loose leash walking? Decide something they can pull in (usually a back attachment harness as it will do the least amount of damage on the body/neck/esophagus) and use that whenever you want to allow your dog to pull. It also comes in handy because concrete is very good at wearing your dog's nails down. If you take a long walk once a week wearing their back attachment harness so they can pull, it can help your dog to keep their nails groomed.
Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
A whole new year is upon us, the year 2013. As the New Year starts, everyone is busy making resolutions about weight loss, career goals, and being an all around better person. A lot of times, people forget about the furry four legged friend in their family when it comes to New Year's resolutions.
Nobody's dog is perfect, and there is always something that can be worked on in the human/canine relationship. People look at dog training as boring and tedious, when it can actually be quite fun when you find the right way to train. With endless possibilities of things to train with clicker training, why not work on that problem behavior your dog has, and maybe teach a few other fun things along the way? You'll be hooked on training for the rest of the year. Maybe you will have that perfect dog!
Anything's Possible is looking to help you with your New Year's resolution. Throughout the month of January, keep an eye on our Facebook page for challenges, videos, tips, and deals all in celebration of the New Year and National Train Your Dog Month!
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
(A repost from my old blog, March 10, 2011)
Charging the Clicker–
This gets the dog knowing that when I click the clicker, you get a treat! Best thing ever!!! My trainer tells me you should even do this after they know what the clicker is. It keeps the clicker charged and it’s just good to refresh with your dog sometimes.
After the dog knows what a clicker is, start saying their name, click/treat. This gets attention every time you say the dogs name. I can see a big difference between Delta and Doc with this. Every time I say “Doc”, no matter what he is doing (even when highly aroused around a dog), he flips his head back towards me and looks. That’s because he’s used to hearing Doc, click/treat. I always make sure to reward him somehow when I say his name. I love having this recognition. Delta, although I am now working on it a lot with her, will still wait a few seconds or possibly not even listen depending on how aroused she is.
This is the basis to leave it. Doc has picked up on leave it so much faster than Delta has. You put a piece of food in your hand. Close the fist, put it down so your dog can sniff it. Your dog, depending on how demanding they are, and if they have done this before, will try to mug your hand. You can have a dog that will bump your hands a few times and stop, try to eat your hand, or anywhere in between. As soon as they pause away from your hand or pull back a bit, click/treat. You’re telling your dog that when they aren’t pushy and leave the treat alone, they get the treat.
You can eventually open your hand and if the dog goes to the treat, close it. When they pull away for that split second (when your hand is open), click/treat. You will eventually have a dog not going towards the treat in your open hand. Eventually this leads to putting it at different areas around their head in your hand and they leave it alone. And then eventually putting it on the floor with your foot close to it in case you have to step over it so the dog doesn’t go get it. When they leave the treat alone for a second without you covering it, click/treat.
This is where I see Doc surpass Delta the most. Doc and I work on eye contact ALL the time. In the beginning, I would just sit there with Doc on a leash and wait for him to look up at my face, click/treat. It begins to happen more and more. For dogs that have trouble with eye contact, you can shape it, beginning with a turn of their head towards you. Then move to looking at you anywhere on your body, and slowly pull it up to your head. Eventually, I would expect longer periods of eye contact before click/treating. As I upped the distraction, I lowered the amount of time I expected him to focus on me. With no distractions, I would up the amount of time I expected him to focus on me. Now, while it is quite creepy sometimes, Doc will just stare holes into me in obedience class. He is lucky he has such beautiful eyes. :)
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
It was brought to my attention that I should also speak about WHERE to find a reputable breeder.
It is usually recommended to start with a local breed club. Sometimes this can be in your town, sometimes this can be five towns over. Even if the club isn’t exactly ‘local’ they should always be willing to help you and lead you in the right direction. Here is an example of a local breed club. This is the club I am a member of. Breed clubs sanctioned by the AKC will throw puppy matches and breed specialties. There will be lots of members that are involved in lots of different dog sports. There are also the national breed clubs. So your local breed clubs are kind of like the city, the national breed clubs like the state, and the AKC like Washington DC. Now, there are ethical breeders that do UKC, and some breeds are not recognized by the AKC, and you will have to do the same amount of work to find a reputable breeder through them also.
Usually the breed clubs will recommend you check out a dog show. I think these are great places to meet and learn about the breed you’re interested in! It can seem very intimidating walking into a place with people and dogs running around, but really, you’re just another person there to watch. As long as you don’t interrupt someone while they’re preparing to go in the ring, they’re generally very kind! Who doesn’t love to talk about their favorite breed. You can see the dog’s behavior both in and out of the ring. People can give you advice and answer any questions you have. A lot of people there are also breeders and so they can give you their websites or business cards and you can go snooping to see if they are really a good breeder by your new standards.
I think for most reputable breeders, you will find out about them through word of mouth or stumbling across their websites. They don’t advertise their puppies on craigslist, kijiji, etc. They don’t post their puppies on puppy sale websites. They don’t hang fliers on the corner of the most busy street of the city. A good reputable breeder has good puppies and people want them. They don’t need to beg with signs or posts for people to buy their puppies because half the time most of them are already on a waiting list before they’re born.
Take the time to look for a good breeder and to get to know them before you take one of their puppies. You want to be confident you’re going home with a good, healthy, even tempered dog.
If anyone else wants to add on to where to find a reputable breeder, please feel free to comment below!
By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP
You read that right! All breeder’s are not created equal, and finding a good one takes a lot of research and time. Buying a puppy should never be done on impulse, and a good breeder would never let you buy on an impulse. I feel this is a really important subject near and dear to my heart because there used to be so many problems with the dalmatian breed, and it’s because of breeder’s who are doing it for the wrong reason or just generally don’t do the research before they decide to breed. Below I have listed a few things you should look for in a breeder before deciding to buy one of their puppies.
1. Health testing on the parents: I cannot stress enough how important this is. A lot of your puppy is genetic, and for your puppy to start off on the right foot, the parents need to be healthy also. There are different tests for each breed. If your puppy’s parents have their CHIC number, that’s awesome because you know they have taken the time to test their dog’s for the breed’s most common problems. Here is the example for the dalmatian and what they need for their CHIC number. Once the dog’s tests have been done, the results are sent to CHIC and they get a number specific to that dog. This makes it easy for potential buyers to look up that parent’s information.
With health testing, should come a knowledge about the breed this breeder has picked. They should know the ups and downs of the breed, and common breed problems. Knowing the problems can help the breeder to breed away from those problems, or know there is a chance it may show up in their lines. They should have knowledge on genetics so they know, when you bring a and b, you’ll get c. They should be able to tell you why they chose the sire for the dam and what they hope each parent brings to the puppies. (I.E. Mom has a gorgeous head but doesn’t have an AMAZING rear head, however dad has an AMAZING rear end so the breeder hopes the father can bring the rear end into their line.)
2. Titles on the parents:Be it conformation or performance. This shows me that the breeders are active with their dogs and really care about how they perform and their body structure. Sure, you say, “But I don’t want a show dog, just a family dog.” But you know what, you want a family dog that’s going to last, right? A dog that titles in conformation tells me that it meets breed standard and should have a body that is ready to work and should carry that dog through the rest of it’s long life. Performance titles show me that it CAN work and has a good enough body structure that should carry the dog through the rest of it’s long life.
Particularly, obedience titles/rally titles show me that the dog has a good head on its shoulders and is willing to put in the effort to have good teamwork with it’s owner. Other sports such as agility, schutzhund, flyball, tracking, lure coursing, etc. shows me the dogs are good at what they are bred for and have the structure to excel at it. So while you may never aspire to do any of these things with your dogs, it really is good to see in the parents because you know they can work and they are of sound body and mind.
Oh, and to add, you really want to see these titles on the PARENTS. Anything past grandma and grandpa really doesn’t directly connect to how your puppy may end up. Saying you have champion blood lines doesn’t mean a thing to me unless the parents are also champions. A lot can happen in one generation to a dog’s conformation. And not always for the best.
3. Health Guarantee: A three year health guarantee on a puppy does me no good. I want to see a lifetime health guarantee on genetic problems. If this problem is from the parent’s lineage, I want that breeder to take responsibility. A puppy will hardly ever show genetic problems before age three.
4. Taking the Puppy Back:A reputable breeder will always take the puppy back if you can no longer care for it. It hurts them just as much as the rescuers to see all of the dogs in rescue that are of their breed. A reputable breeder never wants to add to that problem. Now don’t expect your money back if you need to get rid of the dog, but at least you know they will have a good home and a good chance at being rehomed.
5. Visiting the Home: When you go to visit your puppy, they should always allow you to see all of the puppies and the mother. Sometimes the semen is shipped in or the sire is owned by someone else so he may not always be there. But they should always be willing to share the sire’s information.
6. You Pay for What you Get: Sure, this breeder’s pups may be way more expensive than the breeder down the street, but you pay for what you get. If the breeder is reputable, you know at least most, if not all, the money you are paying was put into raising this litter. Reputable breeders hardly make any money off their litters, and sometimes they even lose it. This is where research comes in. Research many different breeders (reputable) and see where the price range usually lies. You’ll find out what the average is for your breed so you can know what you are expected to pay for a good puppy.
7. The Interview:Yes, a good breeder will interview you. Yes, they expect you to know something of the breed you are about to buy. They will tell you both the good and the bad about the dog you are about to bring home. You wouldn’t let just anyone come watch your children, and they won’t let just anyone take their puppies away from them. Those puppies will always be a representation of that breeder.
8. Spay/Neuter Contract:I would expect all puppies to be sold on a spay/neuter contract unless you show true eagerness to show, in which case they will take you under their wing and help you become a great representation of them and their line of dogs. At which age the spay/neuter should happen is up to the breeder, and I have my own opinions as to when it should be… but at least it is there so they know no unwanted pregnancies can occur in their line. These puppies are their line, and not all dogs are good enough to breed. This should be left up to a professional (breeder) and should not be your average pet owner’s decision.
9. Care of the Puppies:Obviously the breeder should be willing to tell you what they do with the puppies, what they feed, etc. You should generally agree with everything they do with the puppies. This is where I can add in, research the food they are feeding!!! And find a good food for you to feed your puppy at the same time. Not all foods are equal, and generally, grocery store bought foods equals BAD BAD BAD. Read the ingredients!
Generally puppies are not able to leave mother until at least 8 weeks, many people don’t release until 9 or 10 weeks. This is not selfish, and while it may be hard to wait, PLEASE DO!!!! These weeks are so vital for the puppies to still be together. It will help them in the long run with bite inhibition and how to play appropriately with other dogs. These weeks are sooo important. Just because they are on solid foods does not mean they are ready to leave. Quite the contrary!
10. Little Bits and Pieces:Here are some other random things I felt don’t need their own bullet point, but are still very important. They NEVER sell to pet stores… they keep their puppies until they are gone. Doc’s breeder held onto his brother until he was 9 months old. Will hopefully want to start a relationship with you. Breeders love to hear how their puppies are doing after they are gone. They want to stay connected with you. They can give you references from vets and previous puppy buyers.
Yes, buying a puppy is a lot of work. AS IT SHOULD BE! If you take the time to find a good breeder and a healthy puppy, you will be so happy in the long run. There is less chance that you will have health problems in the long run, including behavioral problems (of course this also deals with socialization of the puppy before 16 weeks and training). You will always have a friend in your breeder because they love to hear about their puppies.
Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP is the owner of Anything's Possible LLC in North Olmsted, OH. She graduated from The University of Findlay in 2011, double majoring in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Biology. She also has a minor in Chemistry. Monica went on to attend Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior, and graduated with distinction in January 2012. That is when she decided to open Anything's Possible LLC.
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