Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Choosing a Shelter Dog


You have decided to adopt a shelter dog--- Congratulations! You have chosen to save a life and provide a second chance for a dog that has had a bad turn in life. There are certain things you must do before you adopt and things you will need to do once your dog is part of your family.

Before You Adopt: 
  • First and foremost-- decide how many dogs you want, because you will want them all when you walk into that shelter. Stick to that number. 
  • Decide what kind of dog you want. Do you want a small dog or a big dog? And active dog or a laid back dog? An adult dog or puppy? You will want to try to find a dog that fits your lifestyle. Stick to the plan. If you are planning on getting a small dog, don't come home with a Great Dane. 
  • Research, research, research-- Do you know what you will be feeding your dog? How much exercise your dog will need? What things are essentials for getting a dog (bed, bowls, leash, crate, ect...)? What vet are you going to use? What do you need to do to get a dog license in your city? What kind of paperwork do you need to adopt a dog? Buy those things.
  • Lay down ground rules for your humans before the dog comes home. There should also be rules for your new four-legged family member and all humans should stick to these rules. Will your new dog be allowed on the furniture? Where will he eat? Who will feed him? Bathroom schedule? ect.... The more consistency and less stress in the household, the better.
  •  Do you have other animals in the house and how are you going to transition them?  
At The Shelter: ** First and foremost: Remember that a shelter is a stressful place for animals. Any animal you are considering will be under some amount of stress.
  • Ask Questions: Don't be afraid to ask questions about animals you are interested in adopting-- Why is this dog at the shelter? Are there any medical issues? If so, consider whether you have the financial means to take care of the vet bills. Has it had a temperament test?
  • Watch and assess the dog you are considering from a distance: Is it sitting calm and watching? Is it engaging with people in friendly manner? Is it exhibiting signs of stress (pacing and whining)? Do you have a super-excited dog on your hands (jumping, barking, ect)? Is there aggressive traits, such as lunging, growling and charging? Is this dog fearful (won't approach you, hunching and hiding)? 
  • Walk up to the kennel and watch the dog's language. 
  • Take the dog to a quiet room. Does the dog pay attention to you? Or is he trying to hide and ignore you? Try to gently pat the dog, how does the dog react? Offer the dog a toy or treat and see what happens. Do they take it gently? Growl? Ignore? 
  • Take the dog for a short walk (if the shelter will allow): How does the dog react to surroundings? Are they barking at everything and pulling at the leash? Are they hiding behind you and fearful?
 All of the above will help you assess the dog's personality and temperament, but will not give you a perfect guarantee. Remember, to keep your two-legged family lifestyle in mind as well. If you choose a dog that is scared and fearful, you will need to give them a little bit more patience and a longer time to transition at their new home and to new surroundings. A fearful, scared dog will not do well in a home of people who like to throw parties. If you have small children, you may not want to get a big, adult dog that likes to jump up on people. 

Once Home:
  • At first, limit your dog to one area of the house and slowly open up new areas as they get used to things. 
  • Keep you dog on a leash while in the house for the first few weeks while he learns house rules. BUT, never leave your dog on a leash unsupervised.  
  • Do not leave your rescue dog unsupervised with current household pets. 
  • Limit the amount of guests you bombard your new dog with for the first few weeks. Remember that your rescue dog is coming from a stressful situation (the shelter) to a new stressful situation (a new home) and learning new rules.
  • Establish the rules and keep consistent with the rules. Consistency is key with all dogs. 
  • Remember that accidents will happen and that training is lifelong---Consistency and patience!
  • Dog's are den dwellers-- provide a crate for your dog, but do not use it as a punishment box. A crate should be their private den that allows them to retreat from stress.   
 Last but not least, remember that whether you are getting a purebred puppy or rescuing a shelter dog, ENVIRONMENT PLAYS A HUGE ROLE in a dog's behavior. A shelter dog can come from deplorable conditions and through love and patience become the best family dog ever. You can also have a dog that comes from a perfect breeder and become a nightmare if left with humans that have no idea how to communicate and train a dog. Pets are an unwavering commitment of time, love, money, patience and responsibility. 
 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How To Choose A Dog Breeder


Last week, I discussed the pros and cons of choosing a pure bred dog vs. a shelter dog. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. If you have already decided against adopting a shelter dog, and have your heart set on a pure bred, it's REALLY important to research your breeder and choose a reputable one. This will help ensure that your puppy has minimal health problems, is properly socialized and is not coming from a puppy mill. Below is a list you should go through while researching dog breeders:

  • First and foremost, make sure you have chosen a dog that fits your lifestyle. Remember, each breed has it's inherent traits, but that does not mean there are not pure bred dogs that stray from that norm. Nothing is set in stone. Choosing the right breed just helps point you in the right direction.
  • Do not buy a puppy from a pet store or website. Reputable Dog breeders will not sell their puppies through a pet store. Most likely, these puppies come from a puppy mill which is a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility that favors profit over well-being. 
  • A reputable dog breeder will screen all potential buyers. They won't just give a puppy to the first person to fork over the cash. They will ask you questions about your home life, what you like to do, how you will raise the puppy and most likely make you sign a contract. They want to minimize the risk that this puppy will end up in the humane society.
  • Ask the breeder about early socialization for the puppy. They should be socializing every puppy before re-homing. 
  • Get referrals.
  • A reputable dog breeder should allow you to visit multiple times. When you visit, look at the living conditions. Are the dogs in healthy living conditions that help foster physical and psychological health? Do the dogs appear to be healthy? There should be no signs of malnutrition, sores or illnesses. Are the dogs socialized? Is the interaction between the breeder and dogs positive or are the dogs showing signs of fear, ect...? Look at the dog's language! Visit the mother to see what kinds of behaviors she exhibits as well as her interaction with the breeders.
  • A dog breeder should provide you with a written contract and health guarantee. They should also show you records of vet visits with health screenings for the puppies and parents along with proof of OFA and CERF certificates. 
  • Breeders should explain potential genetic problems your pure bred may encounter. 
  • Provide documents of the parents and grandparents. There should be no crossbreeding and certainly no inbreeding. 
  • You should not be required to only see one particular veterinarian when you sign a contract. In addition, interview the veterinarians that the breeders have been using along with any other local vets. Veterinarians have a wealth of knowledge with it comes to local animal "gossip".
  • Breeders should be specializing in one specific breed or just a few and there will not always be puppies available. You may have to be put on a waiting list.
In addition to all of this above, you should make sure your breeders provide the paperwork for the puppies and parents as well! Here are a couple of links that will tell you what kind of paperwork to expect:

Dog Papers and Registration, RaisingSpot.com, http://www.raisingspot.com/adopting/dog-registration-papers

AKC Facts and Stats, American Kennel Club, http://www.akc.org/press-center/facts-stats/puppy-buyer-fact-sheet/

A Puppy "With Papers" from a "Registered Breeder", Some Thoughts About Dogs, http://leemakennels.com/blog/dog-breeding/a-puppy-with-papers-from-a-registered-breeder/

Recognizing An Unethical Breeder, Pit Bull Chat, https://www.facebook.com/notes/pit-bull-chat/recognizing-an-unethical-breeder/161253470577118/  

Next week, I will be writing about how to choose a shelter dog! Stay tuned!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Purebred vs. Shelter Adoption

The time has come where you are thinking about adopting a dog into your family. One of the big decisions is whether to adopt a shelter dog or a purebred dog. There are pro's and cons for both sides and some individuals can have very strong opinions one way or the other. I am going to lay out the basic pro's and cons for both sides in Layman's terms without veering into the opinion category.



Basically, what it all comes down to is genetics. A purebred dog will have a high chance of being predictable in behavior and physical appearances. After all, that is the whole philosophy of breeding animals. Certain dogs are "hardwired" for certain work behaviors and energy levels. If you are going to adopt a purebred, you must make sure you DO YOUR RESEARCH on that specific breed and provide a living environment that caters to their genetic tendencies. Purebred dogs also will have a higher likelihood of having health problems. The genetic breeding for physical appearances and the limited gene pool are what cause this problem. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do your research when deciding on a breeder. This will help minimize the health problems in your dog. Some breeders are not reputable and are just in it for the money. (Next week, I will write about how to choose a dog breeder.) And lastly, be prepared to spend time researching your dog breed and forking over cash. Purebred dogs are a lot of money.

A shelter dog, on the other hand, is wide open when it comes to genetics. You most likely will have no clue as to what kind of breed (or most likely BREEDS) you have. This can cause a guessing game as to how to properly provide a living environment for your dog's tendencies. It will take time to figure out what Fido does and does not like. If you are adopting an older dog (as in not a puppy), you will not know the past history and have "surprise" behaviors pop up. But, adopting an older dog does have a plus-- most likely they will be house-trained! Shelter dogs are also less money upfront and most come with their shots, spay-neuter, microchip already completed. Health wise, you are working with a wider gene pool, so the likely hood of a chronic health problem is smaller than in a purebred.

I know I've talked a lot in this post about how genetics play a strong role in behavior for dogs of both purebred and shelter. But environmental factors should not be overlooked. Environmental factors do play a role in dog behavior. A dog needs a good starting point in life for socialization. If you are adopting a purebred dog, you will most likely have more control over what kind of environmental behaviors your four-legged friend has learned. A shelter dog is more complicated because the history can be anything and everything. The shelter can provide you with some background, but most likely you will need to be prepared to be dealing with a dog that has some bad habits. Whether a purebred or shelter dog, you need to make sure you are providing a family life that promotes positive environmental behaviors for your dog. Even if your dog comes from the most perfect background, if you do not continue offering a positive environment for your canine, your dog will develop bad habits. And vice versa, a dog that comes from a deplorable past can become the perfect family dog with time and love. Environment does play a role in behavior.

With all that said, choosing to have a dog in your life is a big decision. It takes time, research, money and commitment. You should never give an animal to someone as a gift and you should only adopt an animal if you are mentally and financially prepared to take care of it for the rest of it's life. With time and love, your furry friend will soon become a family member, not just a "pet".

Monday, June 6, 2016

Potty Training 101 (for dogs)


Whether you just adopted a puppy or an adult dog, chances are you are going to have to house train your dog to do the business in the appropriate place. For most dogs, it will take 4-6 months to a year of diligence to potty train. But, depending upon your new dog's previous living conditions and already developed habits, it could take longer or they could already be trained! If you have a straight out of the womb puppy, you will need to begin potty training at about 12-16 weeks. Whatever the scenario, you are going to need:
  • consistecy
  • patience
  • positive reinforcement
When you first bring your new addition to the house, limit where he/she can roam. This will give you a more controlled environment and give your dog less options to use as a toilet. Then, follow these steps:


Dog language for using the bathroom:
  • Whining
  • Circling
  • Sniffing
  • Barking and Scratching at the door
 As training progresses, you can offer more freedom for your furry family member to roam around the house. But, I would advise to slowly offer more roaming space... like one room at a time... until trust is established. Remember, you need to convince your new friend, that the great outdoors is the best place to go to the bathroom! This is done through consistency, patience and positive reinforcement.