Author Archives: discoverydog1

The Leash

I have found myself saying this even more frequently here lately, so I thought I would expound upon it in a post:

The leash may be the most underutilized puppy training tool.

Now, there are several really important training tools for puppies and dogs alike – the crate being the other potentially most important that comes to mind – but I find the leash is horribly underused indoors.

Yep – INDOORS.

Your puppy runs off behind the couch to pee.
Your puppy steals your shoes out of the closet and chews them.
Your puppy bites at your legs as you walk down the hallway.
Your puppy runs away from you or hides in unsafe places where you can’t reach.
Your puppy launches at other members of the family (usually kids) whenever it is given the opportunity.

In each of the above scenarios, a leash worn indoors, and possibly even tethered to you, could have either prevented or significantly mitigated the issue.  Now, your crate plays a large role in the above as well, but your pup can’t live in a crate all day every day – nor would you want him to!*

When your puppy is out of its crate, it should be 100% supervised until it is old enough/mature enough/trustworthy enough to be given a little freedom.  The easiest way to do this and still be able to do some things around your house?  A LEASH.

Need to do laundry and take care of your pup?  Tether your leash to your belt and have the puppy follow you from room to room, to the laundry room, and then lay calmly next to you or chew a bone while you fold it.  Use the “Sit on the Dog”** exercise often.

Want to allow your pup some freedom but know he’s likely to grab a shoe and run under the bed?  (First of all, if that’s a big issue, maybe freedom isn’t the answer.)  Let your pup drag a leash so that when he dives under the bed, you can just grab the end of the leash to retrieve him safely and end the “game” of stealing and chewing.

Now, don’t let your puppy drag around a $50 custom leather leash that you hope to use with him as an adult.  That just begs for trouble.  Go buy a cheap little nylon leash – something easily replaceable if you forget to watch your pup for a moment and he chews through it.  If your pup is a horrible chewer, you may even want to get a thin metal line to start.  And bonus, for pups who really hate leash walking, this is part of getting them used to the idea in the environment that is the most comfortable and familiar to them.

People are always amazed that I was able to raise Tucker, my Labrador, without loosing any items to puppy teeth.  This method is how I did it.  You wouldn’t leave a little baby alone in a room with no direction, protection, or supervision – so why would you do that with your puppy?

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In this photo, I am using a leash to control Tucker’s movements as he meets my friend Suzie’s dog, Apache.  This kept Tucker from 1) jumping all over Apache if he got excited or 2) running away and practicing “flight” if he was scared.  This allowed me to have a lot of control over the situation and help walk Tucker through the appropriate behaviors and reactions.

*Puppies DO need a fair amount of structured rest in their crate.  Most puppies need to be getting 18-20 hours of sleep a day, and the crate is the best way to make that happen.

**Sit on the Dog – essentially placing the leash under your foot close to your puppy and just standing on it until your puppy settles into a sit or down.  Only give the pup as much leash as it needs to stand next to you – no more.  If your puppy flops around a little, it’s okay.  Most will settle quickly next to you when they realize it’s the only option.  Start creating a “coffee shop mentality” early with your dog.

Categories: Blog, dog training, freedom, Puppy, training tips | 1 Comment

Is that a Lab? A few thoughts on dog weight.

“What kind of dog is he?”

You’d be amazed how many times I’ve had this question asked about my yellow Labrador Retriever.  According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever has ranked as the most popular breed every year since 1991.  If they’re so popular, why on earth do some people find Tucker so hard to identify?

Answer: Because he isn’t overweight.

The most common follow up comment when I identify his breed is, “Oh, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t fat!”  Or, sometimes they say, “I’ve never seen one so skinny!”

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Tucker, 6/20/2020

In my role as a trainer, I actually see far fewer fat dogs than I did when I worked at a veterinary clinic several years ago.  And, while I do think there is a greater understanding now of canine health than there was ten years ago, I think the largest reason I don’t see fat dogs is because fat dogs are less active – and therefore not displaying the same kinds of behavior problems that we see in healthy, energetic dogs.

Regardless, I think it’s important to take a brief moment to talk about weight and the way it impacts your dog’s quality of life.

Just as in humans, overweight animals can suffer from many of the same ailments: decreased life expectancy, bone/muscle problems, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes to name a few.

While all of the medical issues I mentioned are of concern, I’ve always been a stickler about my dogs’ weight because I know how great the impact of excessive pounds can be on their joints.  Since Tucker, my Labrador, has had his fair share of medical issues, I always joke that since his joints have always proven themselves to be in good shape, I am going to do whatever I can to keep them that way!

So how can you tell if your dog is overweight?  There are some very helpful charts on the internet to help you visualize this, but in most cases, when looking at your dog from above, you want to see a slight waist between his rib cage and hips.  While you don’t want to be able to easily see his ribs, you want to be able to feel them when you very gently press your dog’s side.  (Note: some very athletic dogs/breeds may have more defined ribs without being unhealthy/underweight.)

At their annual check ups on May 20, 2020, Tucker and Ellie were both identified as being at a “perfect weight” by our veterinarian, so we’ll let them serve as your visual for the moment.

 

If you’re now suspicious your dog may be overweight, ask your vet!  For dogs who are severely overweight, your vet will need to guide you on the best and safest way to slowly work your dog down to its ideal weight.  Remember, it’s hard to be on your best behavior when you don’t feel well, so don’t discount your dog’s health as a part of your training plans.

Let’s do our best to keep our pups happy AND healthy!

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Tucker, 9 years old – Ellie, 3 years old

 

 

Categories: Blog, dog food, dog health | 1 Comment

Dogs and Social Distancing – Keep it Up!

Most of us simply cannot wait for this “social distancing” stuff to be over.

But what if your dog is enjoying it?

Now, I’m not referring the time you’re spending at home (although your dog very well may be enjoying that, too).  I’m talking about social distancing on your walks and in public spaces.

Allow me to explain:

I recently had the pleasure of attending Nelson Hodges’ Relationship Based Behavior Modification workshop.  As often happens to me at workshops, I learned how to verbalize and put words to something that I may have noticed, but hadn’t yet defined in a repeatable way.  Allow me to use that information to frame this discussion.

  1. Anti-Social –  dogs who are against interactions with others
  2. A-Social – dogs who are indifferent about interaction
  3. Social – dogs who desire interactions on their own terms – usually pushy and rude
  4. Pro-Social – dogs who use proper interaction as part of a social unit – their actions benefit the group

Here’s the thing folks – only the dogs in category 3 – Social – are upset about social distancing right now.  The other dogs are saying, “hallelujah, strangers are staying out of my space!”

I’ve seen meme after meme from dog trainers about how nice the social distancing is at the park – because it’s keeping us and our clients from being bombarded by well meaning, but uneducated, people.

Let me speak to the owners of the “Social” dogs for a moment.  I know it breaks your heart when you have to tell you super ooey-gooey labrador puppy that he can’t just run up and say hello to every person and dog he sees at the park.*  But guess what?  I say this with love – it isn’t about him.  It’s about the shy dog who doesn’t like strange dogs rushing up into her space.  It’s about the owner who is working hard to reduce her dog’s leash reactivity and is trying hard to prevent an explosion.  It’s about the owner who has a pro-social dog who has no problem with you or your dog, but knows that face to face leashed greetings with strange dogs often end poorly.

Socializing doesn’t mean you have to touch, wrestle, lick, or be within so many feet of another dog.  Socializing is getting out and seeing the world – taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and doing so in a responsible way.**

So maybe, just maybe, our social distancing practice during this pandemic can encourage some of you to really analyze your behavior out in public with your dog.  Are you the person who asks every dog who walks by to say hi?  Are you the person who always says, “but my dog is friendly!” without ever pausing to consider the feelings of the other person or dog?  If so, I would ask you to consider trying to see the world from the other owner and dog’s perspective.  Try to practice respectful distancing when this is all over.  Am I suggesting you should never ask to pet a puppy at the park again?  Not necessarily.  But you should be willing to graciously accept a “no” if the owner/trainer doesn’t want to participate, and you should DEFINITELY stop forcing attention and interaction on the people and dogs who don’t care for it.

 

*Training tip – the folks who let their puppy spend the first several months doing whatever they want at the park, and saying hi to everyone all the time, are the ones who call me between 6-8 moths old and say, “my dog just can’t focus and he pulls me towards every dog and person in the park!”  Guess what, you accidentally taught your dog that this is exactly how the park works and what he’s supposed to do!  It’s okay to set boundaries early and show your puppy that the park is about the two of you getting out and having a great time – not about seeing how many people and dogs you can rush up to and smother with kisses.  There are times and ways in which saying hi is appropriate – but it has to be done responsibly and within reason.

**We fully support supervised, guided playtime/social time at daycares and boarding facilities where the staff are not only supervising, but stepping in and teaching the dogs what Pro-Social behavior looks like and how to read the body language of the other dogs involved.  There is a big difference between an off leash scenario like this and randomly walking head on at another leashed dog out in the park.

 

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Photo just for attention – and because they’re adorable.  Our dogs, Ellie and Tucker, with Search and Rescue dogs Sabre and Reign.

 

Categories: Behavior, Blog, dog health, dog training, Dogs and COVID-19, Fearful dogs, leash laws, owner encouragement, Puppy Socialization, Rescues, training tips | 2 Comments

COVID-19 and Crate Rest

If your schedule hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, aka Coronavirus, then you are in the minority.  We have many friends who are trying to figure out new schedules for themselves, their employees, and their children.

But what about your dog?

Many folks won’t realize that these changes may be affecting their dog until a negative behavior begins or occurs.  Dogs love structure and schedules, so as you make your plans for creating a new normal over the next few weeks, don’t forget to include the dog!

We’re all basically on two weeks of “crate rest” – so don’t forget to give your dog crate rest*, too!  Most adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day.  Puppies under 10 months old need to be closer to 18-20 hours!  When we disrupt our normal schedules, it is very easy for our dogs to miss out on their normal nap times and rest periods and become anxious, grumpy, or otherwise off their normal.

You have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.

Let me say that again – you have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.

If your dog is struggling with finding a new normal, help him out by keeping his sleep pattern as close to his previous normal as you can.  Schedule naps, play, training, and feeding times.  You’re the human – it’s your job to advocate for your dog and help him navigate your world.  And sometimes, that means putting him down for a nap whether he likes it or not.

I can already hear some folks saying, “But my dog goes crazy if I crate him while I’m home!”  This is exactly why we encourage our clients to practice utilizing their crate for a variety of circumstances and at different times of the day.  Normally, we encourage this habit because of the potential of a medical reason on the dog’s part for unexpected crate rest (kennel cough, surgery, pulled muscles, etc), but today, we can add “just in case you get stuck working from home during a pandemic” to the list.

If your dog struggles with being crated while you’re home, try some of the following:

  • Begin feeding your dog his meals in his crate.
  • Make sure your dog is getting adequate exercise – we’re talking planned and purposeful exercise, not just “walking around and barking at birds out the window.”  Go for a walk (6 ft way from other humans, of course), play structured fetch, paper plate recall, or any number of other structured activities that use both your dog’s body and brain.  (Your training homework can also count here – hint, hint!)
  • Cover the crate – for some dogs, seeing everything going on outside the crate is just too hard and they settle better with a blanket over the kennel.
  • If covering the crate isn’t helping, move the crate to a central location so you can provide feedback more easily – treats and/or release from the crate for good/quiet behavior, verbal reminders or crate pops for poor behavior.  Rinse and repeat in small increments.
  • Allow the dog to have special edibles or toys while in the crate – and in the crate only!  Make the crate a desirable place to be.  (Please be sure to only provide edibles or toys that are safe, especially for unsupervised use.)

To be clear, the concept of making sure your dog has adequate rest applies in a wide variety of circumstances, not just during a pandemic.

The nature of our work and schedules means that our dogs, Tucker and Ellie, are very accustomed to having a slightly different schedule most days.  At the moment, however, we are practicing down time and crate rest because we have ended up with a foster dog in the house.  Even at 9 years old, this dog needs the rest and downtime because she was an only child until three days ago.  As she navigates her new world, new people, new siblings, it’s important to be sure that we aren’t asking her to do all of that with a low battery.  So right now, as I write this, she’s crated and her crate is covered to encourage her to take some deep breaths, nap a little, and give her space to process.  She’s doing well so far, but it’s our job to be sure that we do everything we can to set her up for success.

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Daisy – 9 year old Weimaraner 

 

*If your dog is able to rest well  without a crate, modify the advice to fit a dog who can rest on his “place” or in a particular area of your home.

Categories: Behavior, Blog, crate training, dog training, Dogs and COVID-19, owner encouragement, Rescues, training tips | 4 Comments

Cared For Is Best

As summer draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about the number of conversations I had over the last few months with clients about options for their dog(s) when they go out of town.

And I’ve been frustrated by the number of judgmental comments that have come with those discussions (either with clients or seen online from others).  There are folks who cannot believe owners would choose to leave their dogs in a boarding facility and typically refer to it as “doggie jail.”  There are others who cannot believe an owner would trust a stranger to come into their home while they are away to care for their dog.  And there are others still who cannot believe anyone pays for either service and believe instead that dogs should be left with close friends/family.

So what’s best?  Boarding facility, pet sitter, family friend?

In my opinion, CARED FOR IS BEST.

What does that mean?  It means that what’s best for me and my dog might not be what’s best for you and your dog.  Here are some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of each option:

Pros:
> Boarding Facility: In North Carolina, boarding facilities must be inspected/licensed by the state to legally provide overnight boarding or daycare.  This should give owners confidence in the cleanliness and proper/sturdy construction of their animals’ living quarters.  Boarding facilities also very often provide supervised social/play time for your dog, which can be a great enrichment while you are away.
> Pet Sitter: Hiring a pet sitter allows your dog to stay at home in its own environment, which may be much preferred by some dogs (especially those who may be shy or older).  It would also be assumed that a good pet sitter would be able to give your dog good one-on-one attention.
> Family/Friends: Asking someone close to you to watch your dog can be a lot of fun and usually much cheaper.  This allows your dog to stay with someone it is hopefully comfortable with and who may know its habits well.  As a bonus, they usually don’t charge as much (if anything) compared to a pet sitter or boarding facility.

Cons:
> Boarding Facility:  Depending on the facility, boarding kennels can be somewhat loud and chaotic places with a lot of dogs and limited staff.
> Pet Sitter:  Allowing a stranger into your home may make you feel uncomfortable and it may be hard to be sure that your pet is receiving the type of care and attention you desired.
> Family/Friends:  Let’s be honest, sometimes family and friends who are doing you a favor for free don’t put in the same time and care you might appreciate.

I’ve used all three of these options at some point, depending on my circumstances at the time.  And thankfully, I’ve had almost all wonderful experiences.

At the moment, I choose to leave my dogs at a boarding facility – and my dogs LOVE IT.  The facility is inspected/licensed, the people are great, and my dogs get to play four times a day with other dogs while I’m away.  While Tucker could likely be adequately cared for by a small child, Ellie the Warrior Princess requires a little bit more expertise and focus.  A well run boarding facility, with secure housing, supervised play time, and an employee who will play ball with her, is exactly what she needs to be well cared for and happy.

So please, unless you see a situation that is going to be unsafe for the animal, hold the judgment.  Making sure your dog is well cared for while you’re away is the goal.  How you choose to do that is up to you.

***A word on boarding facilities or pet sitters who keep animals at their own homes.***
Both must be inspected/licensed by the state to be legal!  (Pet Sitters keeping animals in their own homes are actually considered kennels/boarding facilities.)  There are A LOT of folks who are knowingly, or unknowingly, breaking the law in Watauga and the surrounding counties.  Spoiler alert – there are only 5 stand alone kennels in Watauga County who are legally licensed to board (vet clinics with attached boarding are licensed differently).  As of a search on 8/9/19, in alphabetical order, the licensed facilities are: Fetching Ridge Pet Hotel and Spa, Happy Paws Dog Den, Mountain Mamma’s Bed and Biscuit, Pet Prairie Dog Retreat, and Woof Pack Pet Services.

Here’s a link where you can check your own NC county for licensed facilities and view their inspection reports.  Click here.

 

Categories: Blog, dog boarding, Holidays, kennel, Kennels, owner encouragement, Pet sitting | Leave a comment

UltraCell CBD – for Dogs and Humans!

I am a total skeptic about most supplements – but I have experienced some really amazing results while taking Zilis’ UltraCell CBD.  Since this product is also approved for use in dogs (and cats), we want to share it!

This blog’s purpose is to announce these new products that we will be adding to our shop and offering online through www.zilis.com/highcountrycbd.  The UltraCell CBD product and the boosters, Ice and Dream, are safe for dogs.  The other boosters should be used for humans only at this time.

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First, allow me to explain that this product is made from hemp, not cannabis, and it’s THC contents are incredibly low – the bottle I am currently using tested at 0.0155% THC.  I know this because Zilis has each batch tested at an independent lab and then puts a QR code on each bottle so the end user can access the lab results – pretty cool!

Second, I’ll tell you that for me personally, it has done wonders for the symptoms of my anxiety and my productivity levels.  I’ve never even considered selling supplements, but after my husband and I saw the effect it had on me, we decided we wanted to promote the product and tell all of our friends about it!  If you have any personal questions about my experience with the product, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I am also giving it to Tucker, my Labrador.  He loves the taste (I feed him his 6 drops on a spoon) and it has not had any adverse side effects on him that I can tell – which is great since Tucker is such a sensitive boy (epilepsy, irritable bowl syndrome, acid reflux, allergies, etc).  We started giving it to him to see if it would have a positive effect on some medical conditions.  He seems slightly more energetic, but he can go through phases of higher levels of energy, so we look forward to seeing if this is a phase or a new normal for him! (UPDATE as of 4/15/2019 – he DEFINITELY has more energy – he’s eager to play, explore, and even be a little more silly than normal!  It did also have a positive affect on some other medical conditions.)

I can also share with you a testimonial from one of our clients, Stacy, about her dog Brit.  If you follow our Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen photos of her.  She has always had some anxiety, but it got worse and became somewhat aggressive after she was attacked at a park.  Eventually she lashed out at one of the family’s other dogs and became very reactive on walks.  She also had recurring shoulder pain and limping from time to time.  Here is what her mom has to say about UltraCell:

“Our 7 year-old Labrador, Brit, has been taking UltraCell for the past month.  She has been more playful and energetic since starting the product.  Prior to starting UltraCell, she had back pain and right front shoulder pain.  Now, she actively plays with our two 5 month-old puppies.  She loves the taste (and so does our puppy, who seems to know when we open the bottle!).  We are very thankful for UltraCell.”

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Brit and her sister hanging out with Ellie at a lesson in September 2018.

I am so excited to see how adding UltraCell CBD oil to a solid training regimen will help some of our clients – dog or human!

We hope to have some samples for sale at our shop as early as next Monday, 3/25/19.  If you’re interested in purchasing one, please let us know!  Remember, our office hours are by appointment only – contact us if you’d like to come by.  828-699-3977  discoverydog1@gmail.com

You can see the dosage chart by clicking this link! 20180830-ultracellpetdosageflyer

Consult your qualified veterinarian provider prior to using this product. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Categories: Behavior, Blog, dog health, dog training, owner encouragement, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breed Stereotypes – Valid or Not?

Miriam-Webster defines the word stereotype as, “something conforming to a fixed or general pattern – especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.”

I recently had a conversation with someone about a certain breed and the “stereotypes” associated with that breed.  While stereotypes are generally seen as negative, I do think we have quite a few stereotypes in our world that are neither positive nor negative, and do clearly come out of a place of at least partial truth.  (An example might be that “all Southerners love sweet tea.”  While we clearly know that not ALL Southerners love sweet tea, we can see by the drink’s geographic distribution that it is most definitely a beloved item in the Southern US more than in other regions.)

While dog breeds can and do suffer from negative/false stereotypes, I found in my conversation with this young person that in his/her mind, “stereotype” and “characteristic” had become synonymous – and therefore were not of much importance because he/she deemed all stereotypes to be false.  Allow me to give a few examples of how these two items become muddied in the dog world:

  1. Pitbulls
    • Stereotype – All Pitbulls are dangerous and aggressive.
    • Characteristic – Pitbulls, as part of the Terrier family, are naturally tenacious and, as the AKC website jokes (about the American Staffordshire Terrier), “eager for a spirited argument.”
  2. Labrador Retriever
    • Stereotype – All Labs are hyperactive and goofy.
    • Characteristic – Labradors are bred to be working dogs and are generally very energetic and friendly.
  3. Border Collie
    • Stereotype – All Border Collies are bad at chasing cars, people, and bicycles.
    • Characteristic – Border Collies are bred to herd livestock and have a natural desire to control movement.

Here’s why I feel we can’t dismiss a breed’s “characteristics” just because it closely resembles the breed’s “stereotype:” WE BRED THEM TO BE THIS WAY.

While a person may be inappropriately stereotyped based on nationality, dog breeds have been specifically and carefully crafted over (in some cases) hundreds of years!  A need for certain characteristics to become common or even close to “guaranteed” in a litter is exactly why different breeds emerged in the first place.  Humans needed/wanted dogs to perform certain tasks, so they bred the dogs who showed the most promise until they had refined the kind of dog they were looking for to do the job.

You’re lost in the woods.  You can choose a Bloodhound or a Great Pyrenees to come find you.  Who do you choose?

You’re a senior adult with mobility issues.  You can choose a Beagle or Pug to be your companion.  Who do you choose?

You’re blind and you need a guide.  You can choose a Golden Retriever or an Akita.  Who do you choose?

If you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with these breeds, I hope you chose the Bloodhound, Pug, and Golden Retriever. 🙂  And while it is possible to get a Bloodhound with a bad nose/work ethic, a Pug who wants to run marathons, or an anti-social/unintelligent Golden Retriever, those aren’t the most likely scenarios.

So, when you’re choosing a BREED – not a specific dog – please keep in mind that whether you call them stereotypes or characteristics, certain breeds do generally possess certain behavioral qualities.  Now, if you’re adopting or buying an adult dog, you can sometimes easily see where he/she differs from the generalized characteristics of a given breed.  However, when you’re adopting/buying a puppy of a certain breed, I highly suggest you feel prepared to handle whatever those generalized characteristics may be!

What’s my point?

Choose wisely.

Don’t choose a high drive working breed and hope that it turns out to be a couch potato!  Don’t choose a low drive, stocky breed and then be surprised if it doesn’t want to run an agility course with you!

Yes, there are ALWAYS exceptions, but I feel those exceptions are normally minor.  Let’s use my dogs as an example using some buzzwords from their breeds’ AKC website listings:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATucker: Labrador Retriever
Friendly – Yep!
Active – Ha! Nope!
Outgoing – Yep!
High-Spirited – Nope!
Affectionate – Yep!

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1Ellie: German Shepherd Dog
Confident – Yep!
Courageous – Mostly!
Smart – Yep!
Loyal – Yep!  To a fault.
Steady – Nope!

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.
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What you see here aren’t two dogs who are totally opposite of their breed standards, but who are individuals who carry most, but not all, of those breed standards.  Tucker is still very Labrador and Ellie is still very Shepherd even though neither one of them is a perfect textbook example.

So please, as you search for your next dog or counsel a friend about his/hers, don’t allow yourself to assume that yours will be the exception.  When we are choosing a dog, I feel it is our responsibility to do so with great care, research, and thought.  Yes, sometimes dogs (literally) just wander into our lives and we end up with a breed we never imagined – and that’s okay!  But when you’re calling the shots and making the decisions – please do so responsibly!

 

 

At Discovery Dog Training, we treat every dog as an individual and we don’t have a “no-go” list of breeds we won’t train.  We understand that genetics (physical health) and training play a huge role in every dog’s characteristics/personality, regardless of breed, and we feel honored to have been able to work with so many diverse breeds – and mixes thereof!

 

 

Categories: Adopting a dog, Behavior, Blog, Buying a dog, dog training, Purebred dogs | Leave a comment

Leash Laws – They Aren’t Just About YOU!

This one is going to step on some toes – sorry folks!

I often hear people explain their choice to have their dogs unleashed in public/leash-required areas by saying, “My dog is super friendly – he won’t hurt anyone!”  I’ve also heard, “He doesn’t go too far, and he almost always comes when I call.”

These individuals assume that the leash law is just for them – and that because their dog is friendly or usually comes when called that the law is irrelevant to them.  Friends, this simply isn’t the case.  Nearly every week, I hear my clients complain about off leash dogs who run up on their leashed dogs.  And here’s the thing – most of these client dogs ARE REACTIVE.  Dogs who are aggressive or fearful do not need your happy-go-lucky pup running up into their faces – no matter how much of a social butterfly your pup may be!

I have clients who have worked extremely hard to improve their dog’s behavior, but they are still nervous about going to our local Greenway because of the large number of off leash dogs who show no obvious training or manners.  That is simply unacceptable.

Listen folks, I get it.  Most of you don’t have large yards to let your dogs run and we only have one dog park (which I hear negative reviews on regularly) in the area.  Regardless, it doesn’t give you the right to ignore a law or rule that has been put in place not only to protect other dogs and people, but your dog as well!  If you need to practice obedience at a distance, or even play a small game of fetch, why not use a lightweight long line to make sure you remain in control?

Please, respect your fellow dog lovers and keep your dog leashed where required – especially when that area is a high traffic area.  Remember that some of the dogs you see at the Greenway have been attacked by off leash dogs – and they are still affected by that fear and anxiety!  

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Fall 2017 – I needed to work on off leash obedience with Beau, but since we were at the Greenway, I used a green parachute cord as my long line to make sure we were still being respectful of other patrons.  Choosing a material that blends in and isn’t heavy helps simulate an off leash environment.  

Categories: Aggressive Dogs, Behavior, dog health, Dog Parks, dog training, Fearful dogs, freedom, leash laws, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Freedom is Earned

In my domain, my dogs have always earned freedom.  What does that mean?

It means that before Tucker earned unsupervised free run of the whole house, he had to show good unsupervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned unsupervised free run of my bedroom, he had to show good partially supervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned partially supervised behavior in my bedroom, he stayed in his kennel when I wasn’t able to watch him – because that was the safest place for him (and my stuff).

It would surprise most people to know that Tucker was not left outside of his kennel if I wasn’t home until he was somewhere between 2-3 years old.  Why?  Because I knew his kennel was safe, and when he was an adolescent, I didn’t 100% trust him not to stick his head in a trashcan or steal some kleenex.

I have received numerous calls, emails, and text messages from folks who have provided their dog (usually a puppy) with too much freedom too fast.  Young dogs are like children – they get distracted, they “forget” rules, and they are easily tempted.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for limiting your dog’s unsupervised freedom – it can save you money and your dog injury!  I have heard of dogs destroying couches, digging through walls, and even ingesting foreign objects – all because they were trusted too soon.

But here’s the reality folks – as you begin providing freedom, you may have great success for a while and then your puppy does something very “puppy.”  So what then?  Just like a parent with an unruly teenager, it’s okay to take freedom AWAY again for a time until you feel it can be handled appropriately again.

Exhibit A:

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Ellie just turned a year old this past Saturday.  She’s a firecracker, so she has not been given much freedom yet.  It’s only been in the past few months that she’s even been trustworthy enough to leave in the living room while I walk down the driveway to get the mail.  Lately, she had been showing much improved maturity – so the hallway gate blocking off half the house was used less frequently and fewer doors were closed when she was out of her kennel.

This morning I took a phone call from a client.  I didn’t realize that Ellie was no longer in sight until the call ended – less than 10 minutes.  I found her ripping up Tucker’s bed in the back room.  So what now?!  We’ll take away some freedom – we’ll spend a while using the gate again and closing more doors – and when she has gone a while without an incident, we will slowly begin providing more freedom again.

Restrictions and boundaries aren’t mean folks – they’re a safety net for you AND your dog.  Don’t feel guilty – feel in control!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Behavior, Chewing, crate training, dog training, Ellie the Warrior Princess, freedom, kennel, owner encouragement, Puppy, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Purebreds VS Rescues

Purebreds VS Rescues
Please note that this post is geared mostly towards those looking to adopt or buy a puppy – not an adult dog.  I am also using “rescues” to generally refer to dogs of unknown history and breeding – not necessarily purebreds who need a new home or end up in shelters.

As with almost every other subject, people can get very defensive, and downright mean, when it comes to purebreds versus rescues.  So, just in case anyone is curious, here are my two cents on the subject:

BOTH ARE GREAT. 

And here’s why: each owner’s needs, and each dog’s purpose, is different.

Rescues
I love rescues.  They come in all sorts of cool and sometimes funny looking combinations.    I grew up with Dingo, a “pound puppy” who was mostly Golden Retriever and a little bit of who-knows-what-else.  We had her for nearly 16 years and loved her dearly.  As a adolescent, I never dreamed I’d ever grow up to own a purebred dog.  After all, I’d had a great rescue, rescues are cheaper (initially, at least), and there are a ton of them available.  So, how did I come to a place where I now own two purebred dogs?

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Dingo

Purebreds
I love purebreds.  They may be cut from a relatively similar cloth, but they are all still individuals.  I ended up with my first purebred dog, Tucker, because I volunteered to be his Puppy Raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  When he was career changed at a year and a half, they gave him back to me.  During this time, I also had the privilege of becoming good friends with a couple who train Search and Rescue dogs – all of whom just happened to be purebred German Shepherds.

Then I became a dog trainer.  As my business grew, my Labrador (who is atypical in my opinion) decided he didn’t want to have to work every day.  He’s mellow and he’s lazy.  He didn’t seem to enjoy being the one and only demonstration dog or training assistant.  So, we began thinking about our next dog.  And although a working dog will always also be a family dog in our home, our business needs were a huge priority.  I needed a dog with a great work ethic, a confident personality, and a good temperament.  The more time I spent with my search and rescue friends, the more I fell in love with the qualities of the German Shepherd Dog.  And now we have Ellie the Warrior Princess.

Tucker and Ellie

Ellie and Tucker

 

So, if you’re looking for a dog, and you have friends on one side yelling, “adopt, don’t shop!” and friends on the other side yelling, “you don’t know what you’re getting!” how on earth are you supposed to decide what to do?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Health
    • Most people have heard the statement, “mutts are healthier than purebreds.”  In my experience, that has been true to a point, but not 100%.  My parents currently have a rescued German Shepherd mix and she has had very few health issues so far.  Dingo, however, had poor hips and allergies, and was on arthritis medication for roughly 8 of her 15.5 years.  Tucker is a mess of weird health problems – acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, poor tooth structure – while Ellie, thus far, hasn’t shown any issues other than a birth defect in her eye (which doctors say isn’t necessarily genetic).  When you rescue a dog, you don’t know their health history.  When you buy a dog, you can (and should!) look at their lineage and health history, but it isn’t a guarantee.
  • Physical Characteristics
    • Some people like big dogs and some people like small dogs.  Some people live on 50 acre farms and some people live in one bedroom apartments.  The size of dog you have, and their other physical characteristics (such as their fur), can have a great impact on your life.

      My dad took me to the pound and let me pick out Dingo all on my own – at five years old.  I wanted a “golden colored” puppy – that was my only requirement.  My parents had no idea how big she would or wouldn’t get and what her temperament would be like.  Newsflash y’all – rescues organizations and shelters GUESS at a dog’s breed to the best of their ability, but when they don’t have any history on a puppy, they are guessing in the dark based on the physical traits they can see at a young age.  Thankfully for us, we had the space and finances to handle what turned out to be a 70 pound Golden Retriever mix – not all families have that luxury.  Another example:  I worked for a wonderful veterinarian for a few years who will readily tell you that guessing a puppy’s breed is not her best skill.  She currently owns an 80 pound hound dog because her son brought home a stray puppy that she thought was a Beagle pup…

      While size is an important factor, another important one for a lot of families is the coat.  If you know a family member is allergic to dogs, you may not want to invest time and money into a rescue who MAY be hypoallergenic when you could buy a specific breed known for that quality or even one who has already been tested and proven mostly hypoallergenic.  And besides that, some people just don’t want to deal with fluffy tumbleweeds floating around their house!

  • Purpose
    • To me, purpose is one of the most important factors to consider in this debate. If you’re looking for a family pet, a companion, or a walking buddy, you may not care exactly how big he gets or what his level of trainability might be for advanced commands.  If you’re looking to train for a specific task or skill, or you need certain physical characteristics because of your environment, you may be wary of adopting a rescue puppy when no certain history is available.

      And do you know what I think?  I think that is perfectly acceptable.  I don’t think either of these sides should be judged too harshly.  After all, if you believe as I do that a dog is a long term commitment, you want to be sure that you’re committing to something you can handle and that serves its intended purpose.  Now, there are always exceptions to the above thoughts.  There are organizations who are willing to take the time to comb through shelters and pick out dogs with certain characteristics to train for high functioning jobs – and that’s awesome.  There are breeders/shops who are in it for the money, who are irresponsible, who sell dogs with horrible health and temperaments and who contribute to our shelter dog problem – and that’s repulsive.

      At the end of the day, you should think long and hard about your decision to adopt OR shop and make the choice that will be best for you, and the dog, in the long term.  Don’t let someone bully you into rescuing a dog with a laundry list of issues that you don’t have the money/time to handle.  Don’t let someone bully you into going to the most expensive breeder in town because they think a dollar sign is the only qualifier of worth and value.  Seek out people on both sides of the road, do your research, and make the decision for yourself.

      Mixed breeds and Purebred dogs

      Between my parents, sister, and myself, we have two rescues and two purebreds.  They are all dearly loved and serve their purpose well.  My sister’s dog Harley, who is a who-the-heck-knows-husky-mix?, fits in well as a patient big brother to my nephew and cuddle buddy for my sister/brother in law.  My parents’ dog Kalli, a shepherd mix, lives a happily introverted life with two empty nesters and has amazing mole catching skills.  And then there’s my kids – the German Shepherd Dog who cries when she doesn’t get to go to the office and the lazy Labrador who enjoys sleeping next to kids at the elementary school while they read.  They all have purpose – they are all valuable – and they are all exactly where they need to be.  

       

 

Categories: Adopting a dog, Blog, Buying a dog, dog training, Mixed Breeds, owner encouragement, Puppy, Purebred dogs, Rescues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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