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Frequently Asked Questions

I Want To Get A Dog

What Dog Should I Get?

That is a question that is answered differently for every individual situation.  I will always suggest that you choose a dog by personality before looks.  The most handsome dog can be a terror if his personality does not mesh well with yours.  The ugliest dog can be cute as a button if you get along beautifully with him/her.  Personality is the key here.  This dog is going to be your best friend, and vice versa.  Pick your canine best friend just like you would your human best friend, by their personality.

Another prime decision is to decide if you want a pure breed or a mixed breed.  Very often this question can be rephrased into ‘do you want to purchase your dog or adopt?’  While there are many organizations that adopt out pure breeds, if you go to a shelter or rescue organization, you are likely to find many mixed breeds that are in need of homes.

A pure bred dog offers a certain amount of knowledge about what you are getting.  The Herding Class will behave very differently from the Hound Class and so on.  If you are choosing a pure bred dog, research the class that you are most interested in and then a breed in that grouping that will offer the things that you want out of a dog.  You can get a pretty good idea of common personality with a specific breed, as well as what medical issues will be most probable.  You can also get a pretty good idea of the problems that you will have with that dog.  Doing some research, beforehand, will allow you to get a dog that offers a nice mix for your life.

A mixed breed offers mixed blessings to its family.  While you don’t have the ease of predicting what your dog is going to be like, you also get to avoid the pitfalls of specific breeds.  A lot of the problems that can happen with inbreeding are negated by such a fresh infusion into the gene pool.  Hip dysplasia, allergies, epilepsy, and other common problems that can occur with specific breeds are not nearly as common in mixed breeds.  If you have a dog that isn’t too mixed, genetically, you can make some predictions as to its behavior, although these will be more like educated guesses, especially early on.

Choosing a dog that can move within your lifestyle will make both of you much happier.  For the people that want to go out and exercise a great deal, having a dog that can keep up with you makes far more sense.  Trying to get a bulldog to go on a nice jog with you will be impossible and dangerous to the dog.  If you like to travel and want your dog to accompany you, a larger dog will make this very difficult.  You can’t fit a Great Dane under your plane seat.  If you want a dog that will cuddle with you, then expect to pay him a great deal of attention.  If you want a dog that is more independent, then don’t expect him to be a lap dog.  If cleaning daily drives you bonkers, then a dog with a heavy undercoat will be tedious for you.  If you want a dog that can handle whatever weather is out there, then you don’t want a dog that requires a lot of grooming.

Go for personality first.  It is the factor that will create the greatest happiness or stress in your life.  Getting a specific breed or a mix will help you figure out what kind of personality that you are going to end up with.  Choose a dog that will add to your lifestyle instead of detracting from it.  If you have whittled all the possible dogs down with these factors in mind, you can then choose one that you consider cute or handsome, etc. from what is left.

Some people will choose a dog on looks first.  If you have been doing this as long as I have, you have seen the stress that these people have to go through, while they acclimate to the dog and the dog adjusts to them.  It can be done.  I won’t deny that.  It is, however, much easier on dog and human alike if the choice is based primarily on personality.  Be kind to yourself and your canine companion, and choose a dog that can naturally fit into your life.  You wouldn’t, after all, pick your friends based on looks alone, would you?

When Can My Dog Go Outside?

Your dog can go outside when your vet says he can go outside.  The vet gives the OK when the dog has had a series of shots that will protect the dog from many of the infections and infestations that are out there, waiting for him.  You will often hear people asking a puppy owner if the dog has had the third shot.  This is shorthand for “Has the dog completed his series of vaccinations?”  Vets in the City will usually give the dog his last shot at about 16 weeks old.  In Suburbia, the vets sometimes accelerate the schedule of shots and get the dog his vaccinations earlier than that.  Expect 16 weeks as the norm, though.

Some people choose to bypass the vet’s advice and take the dog outside earlier.  There are various reasons for this, from wanting to start enjoying the outdoors with the dog to wanting to bypass paper training for easier housebreaking.  This is your dog and you will have to make the decision to wait or not.  If you do decide to start taking the dog out early, there is something that you can do to significantly reduce the chances of a dog getting sick.  Keep him/her out of dirt and feces.  Feces contain various parasites that will latch onto the dog’s paws and burrow through the skin and make their way to various vital organs.  We refer to these as ‘worms’.  Dirt may have these same parasites, even if you don’t see the feces.  If you are going to take your dog out early, please keep him/her away from both dirt and feces.  It is a short term limitation and is only for the safety of your animal.

How Old Should My Dog Be When I Get Him?

That depends on what you want.  For many people, they want the cute, cuddly puppy.  They see the commercials on TV and Hallmark cards and they want that dog.  Well, you can have that but there is a lot more to it.  Puppies are busy trying to understand themselves, the world, and how they fit into the world.  This means chewing and crying and messes on the floor.  It is a tremendous amount of work, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Very few first time puppy owners know the hoops that they will have to jump through until they are going through it.  Yes, you get to see your puppy explore the world and, yes, it is fulfilling.  And yes, you will feel like you have gone through the wringer a few times before it is over.

Some people prefer the idea of a dog that isn’t a puppy.  If you are adopting or rescuing, this is a distinct possibility.  There are great benefits to this.  The dog doesn’t have to go through all of his puppy stages.  He doesn’t have to be housetrained (hopefully).  You see more fully and easily the kind of dog that you are getting.  These are all positive points.  You will, however, get a dog that has a past and previously acquired habits.  This is sometimes not a problem, in the least, but sometimes requires some adjustment on your part.  They might like to get on the sofa to sleep or need to find tasks to keep themselves busy.  If you choose carefully, then there are easy ways to reduce the chances of getting a dog with behavioral issues, so this should remain a viable option.  The dogs who aren’t puppies anymore still have tons to offer and can be far less stressful for the family that they come to live with.

Should I Get A Dog For My Partner?

Nope.  No way.  Never ever get someone a commitment this big unless they are ready for it.  And it is really a difficult sell to tell me that you know when someone is ready for this.  Unless they have gone through the decisions and readily agreed to get a dog, don’t bring one into that situation.  Don’t do that to the dog!

What Should I Look For In A Dog Run?

Assuming that your dog enjoys socializing and exercising, a dog run is a place that should be about what the dog wants.  But that isn’t the reality of the situation.  The reality is that it needs to be convenient and pleasant for you, as well.  Where the dog run is, in relation to your home, will be a significant factor, of course.  If it takes 3 minutes to walk there, you are more likely to go than if it takes you 15 minutes to get there.  Another big factor for humans is the other people that you have to be around.  If the people at the dog run you like to go to are unpleasant, then the entire experience will follow suit.

For the dog, there are several things to pay attention to.  The ground is a big one.  Some dog runs have dirt floors.  These provide a soft running surface but can be a little dirty, especially after a rain storm.  Some dog runs have a gravel floor.  This is to reduce the amount of filth, but also to cut back on the level of possible infestation (worms are carried through feces and the dirt around feces).  Unfortunately, many dogs have sensitive paw pads and the gravel makes it unpleasant to run on.  It can even lead to cuts on the bottoms of their feet.  There are also paved dog runs.  This eliminates the filth of a dirt base, and stops the cutting of the paws that a gravel base causes.  It is also a very hard surface to run on and can lead to bruising on the pads of the feet and extra stress on joints.  It also retains heat in the summertime and can be very hot for the dog to play on.

Another important aspect to a dog run is the water table.  How well does the dog run drain off fluids?  If it doesn’t drain well, then puddles and pools can collect there.  This isn’t just rain water, as urine also collects.  Aside from an unpleasant smell, this leads to infection of various sorts.  The most common cause is that dogs will drink the “water” after playing.  Please don’t let them do this.

The fencing of the dog run will also be important to the safety of the dog, as is the surrounding area.  Lots of trees surrounding the dog run will give shade and make the summer months easier to bear.  It also leads to more squirrels in the area and many of us have prey driven dogs that will leap fences to get at those squirrels.  A dog run with few trees offers less squirrel distraction and can give the sun a chance to really come down.  This is lovely on a cooler day.

Which dog run is better for your dog will depend on all of these things, as well as the members that frequent the run at the same times that you do.  If you find a run that has everything that you want but the play buddies, alter your time and you may find that your dog has all the friends that he needs, after all.

Which Vet Is Right For Me?

Which vet is appropriate all depends on you.  How can you find the one that is right for you?  Go to the dog run and start talking.  Ask people which vet they go to and ask why.  Ask them how their experience has been.  Talk to them about missed diagnoses.  Talk to them about the level of care that both the canine and the human receive from the individual vet, as well as the support staff.  You should here different stories from different people, but the same stories from the same types of people.  You will find that the people that you tend to identify with will probably offer a suggestion that you are going to be OK with.  This is, in no way, a hard and fast rule.  It is only a rule of thumb.  Also talk with your pet store and your dog walker.  If these individuals have been around for long enough to really know how to take care of your dog, then they should be able to give you a run down on vets in the area.

What Do I Need For My Dog?

Need is a very specific term and is different from “want”.  You need food, medical care, a place to sleep and a collar and leash.  But that isn’t really what you want.  That is more akin to survival, rather than living.  There are also social needs.  We need, like our dogs, some connection to the world around us, some sense of belonging.  But let’s look at the absolute requirements.

Food is a thing that is a little touchy.  There are people who like organic foods and others who like raw diets.  There are foods for delicate stomachs and others that are cheaper.  Which one should you use?  That depends on your dog.  Some dogs have allergies and need to find a food with a protein and filler that are not going to cause any reactions.  Some dogs have a sensitive stomach and will need to find a food that is appropriate.  Sometimes this is a prescription diet and sometimes your local pet food store can offer alternatives that you wouldn’t have heard about.

Dry food and wet food are two choices that most people know about.  What people don’t often know is that wet food is 70-80% water; not very economically efficient.  Wet food may also have a detrimental effect on dog’s teeth when used exclusively.  Dry food is the most common way for a dog to ‘brush its teeth’ (it scrapes the plaque off).  Wet food removes that ability.  All that being said, a finicky eater will often ‘convince’ an owner to invest in wet food.  The dogs that are not particularly food motivated are the ones that are best at this.  If you have questions, talk to your vet and/or pet food store.  They should have the answers to guide you on this issue.  Generally speaking, it is a good idea to know what canines can digest, and what their natural diets consist of.  Picking a food on these terms will lead to a healthier dog in most cases.  It is wise to avoid cheap fillers, such as ground corn, or even the various glutens (vegetable sugars mostly) which dogs’ stomachs cannot properly digest.  Dogs have what is known as ‘simple stomachs’, meaning they cannot break down plant matter efficiently for their nutritive needs.  Their stomachs are designed to digest animal protein and fat efficiently.  Generally the more meat and higher-protein a food contains the better, though one should never substitute this rule for good old fashion research.  After all, there is more to balanced nutrition for dogs than protein content; they also need numerous micro-nutrients found in gut matter and organ tissue, as well as calcium and some fiber.  There is today, a wealth of information out there for those interested in finding it.  Don’t limit yourself to one source. As a rule, the more sources you find, the more likely you are to find foods that always receive favorable assessments.  Also, consider your sources. Generally, a web site or pamphlet owned by a large company that makes dog food will not be as objective as a forum in which many people are trading information, or a book on nutrition, etc.  Just as it is true for humans, so with dogs; good nutrition can make his/her life longer and healthier.  It’s worth looking into.

Medical care is a big issue.  There are financial concerns, as well as availability concerns.  But those all fall away for me.  I am more interested in the service that you get.  All vets have a particular set of benefits and drawbacks.  Some vets are holistically minded.  For people who like this approach, that is great, but for people who don’t like it, it can be very alienating.  Some vets are going to research every possible option as to your dog’s ailments.  While getting that level of care is great, it can be expensive.  Some vets are small and intimate.  Everyone there knows your dog and cares about him/her.  But it can be difficult to get appointments.  I think that deciding what you want out of a vet is the first step to deciding which one to go to.

A place to sleep and feel safe is very important to your dog.  Do understand that the place that you have chosen for your dog and the place that your dog has chosen may be very different.  The bed and couch are often points of disagreement between owner and dog.  But, for this point, let’s assume that the two of you can come to an agreement and it is not the bed or the couch.

Should you have a crate or a bed?  It depends.  If you have a puppy and there are housebreaking issues, then a crate makes the most sense.  If your dog is a little destructive, it also makes sense.  These types of dogs have very little productive use for a bed.  Puppies will often whittle and chew on them and the more destructive dogs will tear them up.  On the other hand, if you have a dog that is well behaved and has good bladder control, there is no real reason to limit their movement for hours at a time.  A nice soft place to plop down can be a nice way to wait for you to get home from work.  There are a few cases where it makes sense to combine the two.  If you have a dog that is very boney at the joints, it may be uncomfortable for him/her to lie down without padding.  If that same dog is not to be trusted while you are away, you may want to invest in a mat for their crate.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enough to make them comfortable, as they deserve.

Collars and leashes get a great deal of subtle attention.  A lot of people have definitive ideas about what to use and why, even if they aren’t very vocal about it.  Let’s start with collars, since those are a greater source of contention.

There are many types of collars but only a few archetypes.  The standard collar is one that fastens around your dog’s neck and remains there, very often until his next bath.  They have two common types of fasteners, the buckle, like on a belt, and the clasp, like on the fanny pack that you no longer wear.  It is a great way to secure the dog’s tags in a manner that won’t allow them to be lost, easily.  If you want even more protection for the tags, don’t use the collar to attach the leash.  Use a separate collar for that.  The buckle is a sure thing that will stay there until you take it off.  It provides safety, but takes a little more effort to remove.  The clasp provides a quick release in case of emergency (such as your dog stuck on something), but the plastic they use can break if you are using the collar and leash, together.

There are also choke collars, in both steel and nylon varieties.  These should be used with care and attention, as it is possible for them lock into the choking position, particularly, if you do not understand how to use the collar.  There are Martingale collars, which provide the closing aspect of a choke collar, but can lock in the choked position.  These also prevent some of the damage that can be done with choke collars that are used too vigorously.  There are also prong collars.  These are used to simulate teeth biting on the neck of the dog.  The idea is to treat the dog like an Alpha Dog would in a pack.  While these are very effective for certain types of dogs, they should be used with care and education.

There are also harnesses that can be used in place of collars.  For some types of dogs, these make much more sense.  For other types of dogs, these are going to lead to you having a wrenched arm.  The idea of a harness is to remove the stress from the neck and place it on the chest.  For dogs with compromised respiratory tracts and/or elongated backs, harnesses make much more sense.  They remove the potential for injuring the dog, inadvertently.  For dogs with powerful neck muscles and a seeming need to go as fast as possible, the harness would provide a great amount of frustration for the owner.  There are harnesses that clasp in the front and along the back; ones that have to be worked into slowly and ones that are just stepped into.  There are ones that even go around the neck.  They can be either stable or moving (like the Martingale).  There are many types of harnesses.  If you choose to use one, then you have a lot of options.

A leash doesn’t offer such a great deal of different types, although there are a large number of variations.  The basics are the fixed or the variable leash.  A fixed leash will be a certain length no matter what.  There can be 2 foot lengths up to 30 foot lengths.  There can be single thickness, double thickness, wound cords, leather, and even steel chains.  A lot of your choice should be dictated by how much your dog wants to chew on his leash.  The other possibility is the variable leash.  There are a couple of companies that make these but they are all basic pulley systems, kept inside of a plastic housing with a built-in handle.  This keeps the leash taut but places relatively little stress on it.  Once you lock the leash into position, or it goes to the full extent of its reach, then it will operate very similarly to a fixed leash.  These can be wonderful for dogs that like to explore and horrible for owners who aren’t paying enough attention to people on the sidewalk with them.  One note about leashes; please choose one that has a clasp that is the appropriate size for your dog.  If the clasp is too small for your dog, it can bend and break.  If the clasp is too heavy, it will bang into your dog and be unpleasant, even painful.

How Is My Life Going To Change With A Dog?

I can’t answer that except to say, “a lot.”  No more going out till 4Am on Friday night.  Your dog is waiting at home to go out.  No more sleeping in all morning.  Your dog wants to go out again.  Some people can’t leave their dirty clothes out anymore.  Some people have to buy taller trash cans.  If you get a puppy, you are going to have to learn to be very calm, even when the puppy does something bad.  Basically, you now have someone with you that requires consistent care and attention.

On the other hand, things get a whole lot better, too.  Single people suddenly have a lot more access to dates when they are out and about with their dog.  You may find yourself conversing with investment bankers, artists, chefs, and reporters, all at the same time.  Dog runs and other meeting places are great social equalizers.  You will find your days more structured and have things to look forward to that you never had before.  There is always someone at home that will tell you that they love you. This bond can be very life enriching.

Things change a lot.  Some days will be frustrating and some days will be incredible.  But I can’t tell you how.  Only you and your dog can do that.

What Should I Expect From A Dog?

You might as well ask what the dog can expect from you.  Every dog is different.  You can make certain predictions, based on class/breed probabilities, but the reality is that the individual traits will always trump the breed standards.  Within a breed that is usually outgoing one may find an individual who is fear based if he/she has been abused.  A breed that is bred to be water dogs may have an individual who is afraid of the water if they have never come into contact with it.  In short, I can’t really answer this question.

I can tell you that the relationship that you create with your dog will be half you and half the dog.  If you want a dog that is more confident about life, then give him/her the encouragement and confidence that is needed for growth.  If you want your dog to calm down some, give it the steady boundaries needed for it to learn how to act.  Figuring out how to give a dog what it needs can be difficult, especially for first time dog owners.  Don’t be afraid to ask people who are trained to evaluate a dog’s behavior, in order to get more direction for yourself.

When it comes to pure bred dogs, there is a cheat that you can use.  The specific breeds out there have some fairly constant traits.  The classes that the breeds fall under often have shared traits.  These habits are dictated by physiology, very often.  For example, water dogs are water dogs because they have oily skin and fur to help them deal with water, as well as feet that make paddling easier.  But sometimes the traits are more of a mental predisposition.  For example, I call the Herding Class ‘the control freaks of the dog world’.  Anyone who has had a herding dog knows that they like to dictate everything that goes on around them.  Feel free to look over specific breeds on this website in the Breeds section.

What Should I Look For From Someone Offering Dogs?

When we are talking about breeders, we are actually looking at a wide demographic.  There are breeders who are careful with the breeding that they do.  They keep the gene pool evolving, instead of letting it devolve.  There are people who bill themselves as breeders who are not as careful.  They are more interesting in breeding as often and as many dogs as possible.  We typically refer to these places as “Puppy Mills”. Many of these have dubious reputations, so attention must be paid to the living conditions of the animals.  There are people who breed dogs more as a hobby.  Maybe they just happened to have a pair of dogs that mated and decided to make some money off of it.  There are lots of possibilities.  Don’t be fooled by someone just because they use the title “Breeder”.

Due diligence is your best friend here.  Ask for references when trying to find a good breeder.  If several people you know have gotten good dogs from one place, then that is worth looking into.  Ask a breeder for references.  If they are doing a good job, then they should have people who are willing to brag about the dog they ended up with.  Papers are not necessarily an indicator of being above the board, but they don’t hurt to have, either.  It just means that you can trace the dog’s lineage back a generation (or several).  It does not indicate the condition of the dogs that are papered.  Have a look at the dogs.  Look for any obvious problems.  Some breeders don’t like you seeing the dogs in the environment that they live in and will only bring out the dog that you are interested in purchasing.  I greatly prefer to see the conditions, but do understand if they don’t want buyers to see dogs that they have already sold but must still be weaned.  You can also check with breed specific organizations as to the quality of that particular breeder.

When dealing with adoption agencies, there are two types.  There are the ones that are City/State run and private ones.  The City/State run places have a specific bureaucracy in place to ensure that it is run in a specific manner.  They don’t always work.  They don’t always agree with what you might believe, politically.  They do have oversight, though, in order to get their funding.  When you go into these places, don’t expect a lot in the way of niceties.  They spend the money they do have on feeding and housing the dogs.  They do as much care, medically, as they can and spend a goodly amount on spaying and neutering.  When you go in, what they have is what is there.  There is no special room in back for the best dogs.  They can, however, let you know about specific situations that arise, if you talk to them.

The private organizations are a different animal.  These individuals are doing everything they can for the dogs and often feel fiercely protective of the animals.  Don’t be surprised by a series of questions that they will ask to try and determine the probable quality of your home for the animal that you are interested in.  These questions can feel invasive and people that are not very experienced may not feel like the questions are fair.  Ask the people about what they are looking for, as homes go.  It is possible to present them with information that they wouldn’t have got otherwise which may make all the difference.  These people have to deal with too many people bringing animals back later on, if they don’t ask the right questions.  It is often harmful to the dog to be shuttled back and forth to too many homes.  Many times, these people will ask for a home visit before or during the adoption process.  They only want to make sure that the animals will be safe and happy in their new placement, and that they really are being adopted by the person in question.  Unfortunately there are individuals out there that adopt animals with less than good intentions.

What Should I Look For In A Dog?

When you are choosing a dog, there are certain things that you can guess at by looking at the breed, or breeds that the dog is made up of.  But this leaves out a lot of information.  The dog also has a personality that is specific to that individual dog.  Looking for that information will also be a big help.  These clues work for puppies as well as older dogs.  Even though the older dogs may be in a restricted environment and the puppies may be too young to have a fully developed personality, the core aspects of their personality will be on display, if you are willing to really look.

The dog that is hiding in the back of the holding area is telling you specific things.  He isn’t going to be that dog that is incredibly outgoing.  He may be calmer.  He may have some issues with submission or even worry/fear.  He is in the back because he doesn’t want to or cannot compete with the other dogs that are there.  This doesn’t mean that he isn’t a good dog.  It just means that he doesn’t feel the need to be the life of the party.  You may find that this dog bonds tightly with you and isn’t as interested in others.  He might not be nearly as needy as some of the other dogs when it comes to attention.

The dog that is in front of all the other dogs, wagging its tail and demanding attention, is also telling you important information.  This is who this dog is.  He is going to be demanding attention and want to be in the middle of whatever is going on.  This dog is more likely to tell you what he wants.  Sometimes that means that he wants to go out early in the morning when you want to sleep in.  Sometimes it means that he wants to play ball and isn’t going to let you watch TV.  It can also mean that he is going to be bolder and more outgoing in the social environment that we live in.

Barking is an important behavior to pay attention to.  The dog that you are looking at will tell you how vocal he is probably going to be.  The more voice he has in the place that you are seeing him in, the more voice he will have when you get him home.  For people who want a little more protection in their lives, a vocal dog isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Derivations of this include whimpering and whining.  If you want a dog that is going to be quiet, because you prefer that or because your neighbors do, then get a dog that is showing you that he is going to be quiet.

Social interactions will be a big part of your dog’s life, as well as a big part of yours.  If you want to be able to go to the parks in the morning, or to a dog run, it is going to be a more pleasant environment if your dog wants to be there as well.  If you are a very busy person and don’t always have time for the social hour, then you might be happier with a dog that is less socially motivated.  If your dog is hiding in the back and seems scared of the other dogs, then he is telling you that this will probably continue.  This can be a little tricky though, because it has to be seen in context.  If he has had a full hour of playing before you come in and then goes to take a nap, it might look like he isn’t social.  Take some time to figure out what is really going on.  If the dog is wound up and playing like mad with the other dogs, then this is what he/she is used to, and likely most comfortable with.  Don’t be surprised when he/she doesn’t want to leave the dog run, but instead wants to play with the other dogs.

There will be other information as well.  Some dogs like to run and some like to wrestle.  Some are “mouthy” and bullies.  They will tell you all sorts of information if you are able to just watch them for a little bit and take it all in.  Just try to remember that all of the behaviors that the dog is showing you are a core part of who they are.  Be observant and consider what these actions may suggest about the individual in question, and you will have an easier time learning to live together.

Where Can I Get A Dog?

There are so many places to look for your new best friend.  There are breeders, yes.  For those people that want a specific breed, this is the most common source.  Be sure to look over the answer to “What Should I Look For From Someone Offering Dogs?” in order to protect yourself before you go that route.  But there are other places that you can get a specific breed.  There are rescue organizations that are specific to breed.  You can find many of them in the Links Section of this website.  There are also local and regional organizations that offer dogs for adoption.  Some of these are City/State run and have dogs that have been found or abandoned.  These places will hold dogs (and cats) for a certain amount of time.  After that, the animals’ chances have run out.  There are also loose organizations that have dogs as well.  These are often based in neighborhoods and are just a collection of people dedicated to saving dogs from the situation that I described above.  These people are fostering the dogs in their homes until someone can come along and offer a permanent place to live.  They are usually paying for the dogs themselves, and can only handle so many at a time.

Which source is right for you?  That depends.  There are people who want specific breeds and will go to a breeder.  This will cost a bit of money and will require some research into the breeder, to be sure of the quality of the animal.  For someone looking for an uncommon breed, this is a common choice.  There are also people that want a specific breed, but feel that adopting is a better choice, politically.  The obvious option there is to contact the adoption organizations in your area and inform them that you are looking for that specific breed.  They can contact you when one becomes available.

If the age of the dog matters, your choices will be further restricted.  If you want a very young puppy of a specific breed, you may find that you need to go to a breeder.  If you don’t want to go through the difficult, but cute, puppy time, then a dog that is a year or older may be much easier to locate.  Rescue organizations often have dogs that are not young puppies, but never the less need a loving home.  You may find that a rescue dog is just what you were looking for, old enough to be through the difficult phases, and grateful for your affections and care.

In short, look at what you want to have, in a dog, before deciding where to look.  Going to a place that is adopting out dogs, or a breeder can put you on the spot for an impulse acquisition.  There are a lot of dogs out there that want homes and look cute, but you owe it to yourself to get one that will be appropriate, not just the first cute puppy you see.

What Shots Does My Dog Need?

This is an excellent question, but one that I won’t answer.  Your vet has medical training and I don’t so this is a question that you should be asking him or her.    There are various vaccinations that are standard, but a lot more that are possible.  Your vet has a particular view of medicine and how it should be applied.  The vet will give you guidance on which of these shots to give your dog.  If you don’t agree with your vet and his/her approach, this is a good time to consider finding a vet that has similar viewpoints to yourself.

That being said, there are various shots that some vets will recommend as vaccinations.  I suggest that you research this in depth before agreeing to anything.  There are many different strains of many different diseases.  The vaccinations available are not always useful for the most prevalent strains or the strains in your part of the country.  Further, some shots may have unintended side effects.  A little research can go a long way towards understanding what is useful and what is extraneous.

Selecting A Dog Walker

How Should I Go About Looking For A Dog Walker?

There are a lot of ways to find the dog walker that will be right for you, but they all boil down to the same thing; talk to as many people as you can and find out who has a good reputation and why.  Your local pet food store has people that they know and can recommend.  Your vet has people that they know and can recommend.  The people at the dog run or that you see walking their own dogs (evenings and weekends are most probable here) will usually have a lot to say about their dog walker.

What I strongly advise against is picking a dog walker from a flyer taped to a bus stop.  Stay away from the people that walk up to you and just force a card in your hand without introducing themselves.  If you meet someone on the street and they seem to be behaving oddly with the dog, or the dog seems out of control or overly aggressive, then I would keep walking.

How Should I Pick a Dog Walker?

I have a very particular viewpoint about this one, but I think that I am fair.  Have some interviews to determine if the person seems appropriate.  They should be able to display knowledge, as well as personality.  They should be in agreement with the things that you want done for your dog, rather than telling you how they will work with your dog.  Ask your pet food store if they know this person and can give you any information.  When you start hearing a couple of names repeatedly, you can guess that there is a reason.  You just have to figure out if that is for good reasons or bad.

They should be able to provide references.  Don’t depend on one type of reference, though.  Look for clients that have various similarities to your dog.  For example, if you have a large dog that is a little afraid of the world, then look for references on both large dogs, as well as dogs that are fear based.  Many clients will want to give glowing references if they like their walker, but they may not be as eager to volunteer information that isn’t as nice.  Ask if there is anything that you wish your dog walker could do differently.  They might say “no,” but they might give you valuable information.

If your dog walker is working with a facility, or if they are boarding dogs in their home, don’t hesitate to ask to see the environment.  There are lots of places that you wouldn’t want to be in and neither would your dog.  Having a quick peek beforehand is an excellent way of figuring out this information before your dog has to cope with adverse situations.  Look for comfort, as well as functionality.  Do they have a way to cope with multiple dogs?  Do they have a way to control the dogs that agrees with how you think this should be done?  How do they feed multiple dogs without the dogs eating each other’s food?  How often do the dogs go out?  Ask all of your questions.  The temporary trouble of asking them is more than worth it if you can have peace of mind later.

The single best thing that you can do, to pick out a dog walker, is to keep your eyes open.  If you see someone who is operating the way that you want to see your dog walked, then that is someone that is worth looking into.

What References Should I Get For A Dog Walker?

Two to three references are good enough, as long as you can talk to the individuals.  Testimonials that are prewritten are often chosen because they promise the stars to whoever is reading them.  Discussing your options with a person allows you to determine if you are receiving the whole story.  It also allows you to cater the questions that you want to ask, so that you can see if your specific situation can be addressed.

What Is The Difference Between A Dog Walking Company And One Person Walking Dogs?

They offer different variations on the same idea, but there are some definite differences.  An independent walker might have broken off from a company and decided to try it on their own, or they might just be someone that decided to be a dog walker.  With no licensing agencies out there, that only involves a person saying, “From here on out, I am a dog walker.”  I believe that you have to have had enough experience to see all of the things that can go wrong before you know how to do it all correctly.  Just declaring that you are a dog walker doesn’t really provide that experience.  A person who was trained with a company has a far greater chance of providing you with the knowledge to keep your dog safe.

An independent walker will give you a greater individual amount of attention than many companies, though.  Some of the companies out there have their walkers handling 5-12 dogs at a time.  We have all seen the commercials on TV like this.  It really does happen.  An independent walker has the potential to be like this as well, but it is less likely.  They also provide a more intimate service than many companies.  A lot of companies will have a veritable army of people coming into your home and you won’t ever know who was in on a particular day.  Not all companies are like this but an independent walker is sure to be the same person every day.

Companies offer things that an independent walker cannot.  A company doesn’t get sick.  They have back up people to cover a walker when they get ill.  Companies never go on vacation.  Companies don’t forget their keys at their boyfriend’s house in Brooklyn.  They also have a place and a person that you can go and find if you want to speak to someone.  They have the infrastructure (one would hope) to handle billing, staff, and any problems that arise.  These are things that an independent walker often cannot provide for you.  The independent walker can only do as much as they are capable of doing, whereas a company has the ability to go beyond what one person is capable of.

How Many Dogs Should My Walker Have At One Time?

Three is a good number.  Four is sometimes acceptable but shouldn’t be the norm.  Anything more than that, per person, is trouble waiting to happen.  When you start getting into larger packs, then there are a couple of common problems.  The first and most obvious are aggression issues.  When you have a lot of dogs, there are going to be a couple of dogs that want to be in charge.  If you can’t handle them properly, then the dogs will fight for the alpha position.  Too many dogs will lead to aggression issues, on a consistent basis.  The other obvious problem is that when there are too many dogs,  the individual dogs don’t get enough attention.  Part of the walk should involve some sort of bonding with the walker.  If he/she has to split his attention too much, then no one will get the care that they need.

Should I Give My Keys To A Dog Walker?

That depends on how safe you feel with your walker and whether or not you have a doorman.  If you don’t have a doorman, then it is fairly cut and dry.  The walker needs access to your apartment to get the dog.  If you have a doorman, then your options are opened up.  If you feel like you know your walker well enough to trust them, then giving them the key makes sense.  Doormen go on breaks with keys in their pockets or forget where they put the key, sometimes.  This isn’t common for most buildings but you know if your building is like this.  Sometimes you might have taken the key yourself, because you left your keys at work.  There are all sorts of possibilities.  Having your dog wait extra time while these things are worked out doesn’t seem like the best idea, to me.  That being said, if you don’t know yet, or if you can’t trust your walker, then leave the keys with the doorman.  If you feel unsafe with someone having your keys, then leave them with the doormen.  There is no reason to feel unsafe about a situation that you are paying for.

Don’t be afraid to ask how the keys are handled.  Does the key have information that could lead back to your home, if they were lost?  Do the keys remain with your walker or in the area you live in?  If you do leave your keys at the office, do you have the ability to ask the walker for your keys, so that you can actually go home?

How Can I Check On My Dog Walker?

There are so many ways to find out if your walker is doing what you have asked and expected of them.  This is your baby that they are taking out and you often don’t get to see how they are doing it.  Incorporate whatever you can to make sure that everything is being done to your comfort level.  The number one best way to check on your dog walker is to pay attention to your dog.  Does he show a negative change in behavior?  Does he seem happier?  If you run into your walker on the street, is your dog happy to see your walker?  The more attached a dog is to your walker, the better.  Does your walker let you know, with notes or phone calls, what has been going on with your dog?  Taking that little bit of time out of the day adds up for your walker, but it’s a great way to show you that they are truly involved.

If you have a doorman in your building, then you have a wonderful tool to check on the situation.  Your doorman can tell you when the walker is coming in and how long they are out for.  If the walker has to sign in to the building, that is physical proof of what has happened on a particular day.  The guys working the door can also tell you how well the dog seems to be doing with that walker.  They are an invaluable tool to learn about things that happen when you are away.  For those people that don’t have a doorman, you may find that a neighbor or the super can fill that role, for you.

I tell my people that a hard and fast rule is that someone is always watching.  I believe this to be very true.  The doormen in your area that your dog likes to visit will be keeping an eye out for their canine friends.  The people that work in the shops in the area are another possible resource.  Basically, anyone who is out and about while your dog is on his walk is someone that can tell you the things that you want to know.  Friends in the dog run are another common source.

There are some people who don’t have a doorman and may be new to an area and don’t know anyone to help them keep an eye out.  There is another option for these people.  With the proliferation of webcams, you may easily be able to check on your walker.  These are easy enough to set up and you can tune in at the appropriate times to have a look at the situation.  Some people find this option to be a little too much, but others prefer the control it offers over the situation.

And before you even begin with a walker, do not hesitate to get references from other clients.  This is a great way to get a feeling for how well this other person does.  With many references, they will give some nice information, but I will always suggest asking about the things that the person you are talking to might have had trouble with.  No one is perfect and everyone will have something that others don’t like.  If the person is a smoker, then it shouldn’t be a big deal if they don’t bring that into your apartment.  If the person is flaky and forgets walks, that is far more serious.

How Do I Set Up My House For A Puppy?

What Do I Do About Wires?

For a young puppy, especially those 6 months and younger, wires can be a fun thing to chew.  Their gums are hurting from their new teeth coming in and they want to chew on things to relieve pain.  Wires, for your computer, stereo, television, lamp, ect, are a common item that they choose.  The insulation on the wires is soft enough that it does not hurt their teeth.  It also allows for them to feel powerful (“Look what I did, Mommy!”)  Those cords can also electrocute them, depending on the cord.  At the very least, you are going to lose capabilities on whatever is on the other end of that cord if your puppy gets through it.

There is a belief that some people have that you can keep an eye on your dog at all times.  I wish that this were true.  If so, the vets in the area would lose half their business, I think.  The reality is that between commercials or during a bathroom break, a dog can pull off the equivalent of breaking into Fort Knox.  They are very much like children, in this respect.

An easy and quick fix for those of you whose cords are in danger is to booby trap those same cords.  There is a safe and easy spray that you can use, called Bitter Apple.  Remember that stuff that parents put on their kids nails to keep the kids from biting their nails?  Well, this is the doggie version.  Spray the wires with a decent coat (watch out for that nice rug though) and then forget about them.  Your dog will figure out as soon as he tries to gnaw through his first wire that it is no fun, whatsoever.  This spray is not exclusive to wires, but please read the bottle closely before using on any fabrics.

This is not a full answer though.  Telling a dog not to do something is never a full response.  A full response tells the dog what he can do, as well.  Give your dog something to chew on, instead of the wires.  Rope bones are wonderous items for younger dogs that still have those little needle teeth.  The teeth slip right down through the strands of rope and massage the gums.  Hard rubber toys are also an alternative.  There are even tricks to get your dogs more interested in going after the hard rubber items, if they are not interested.  For dogs that are a little older and have a more developed digestive tract very often love rawhide.  If you limit the amount that they ingest, there shouldn’t be any digestive issues.

When your dog goes to chew on the wires and gets a mouth full of icky taste, take the toy you want them to play with and see if you can’t get them interested in that.  They should learn soon enough which toys are theirs and which toys are yours.

What Do I Do About Furniture?

Furniture is a tough one for a lot of clients.  A dog can chew on tables and sofas and pillows and anything else that you could have in your home.  Before I give a couple of clues as to how to stop this, I will first suggest, rather strongly, that you figure out why your dog is doing this.

The first reason is the same reason that I mention when answering “What Do I Do About Wires”.  Your dog is teething and his gums hurt.  Chewing on things will give him some relief.  The trick is to convince your dog that there are a limited number of items in your apartment that are available for that purpose.  If the dog is teething, consult the section I mention above to get some ideas there.

The second reason that dogs chew things is that they are bored.  More than just bored, they can be bored bored bored.  And since they are bored, they will go looking for an activity to do.  In this particular example, the activity is shortening the legs on one of your kitchen chairs.  The solution for this one is very simple.  Keep your dog from being bored.

I have seen a lot of owners try to wear their dogs out with physical activity in an effort to keep their dogs from being bored.  The idea is that they will be so worn out that they will sleep the rest of the day and not get into trouble.  It is a nice idea and works with some dogs.  With other dogs, it doesn’t work at all.  A lot of dogs, especially ones that are task oriented, want to accomplish something.  I will often suggest against fighting this, but to embrace it instead.  Give your dog mental exercise on a continual basis and they won’t be so bored.  This can range from putting treats in a specifically designed toy that requires problem solving skills to hiding treats around the apartment to hunting squirrels in the park.  Whoever your dog is, it will go better for everyone if you work with that instead of against it.

A third reason that is common for dogs to do these sorts of things is that they are mad at you or at the world.  Here are the most common reasons that this happens, that I can think of.  If you catch your dog doing something wrong and reprimand him, he might get mad at you.  If you bring a new dog into the home, he might get mad at you.  If you have construction happening next door, he might get mad at you.  The pattern continues on but, basically, it works out to a simple question; “What changed before he started acting out?”  Answer that and you know why he is upset.

Solutions to this one aren’t so easy.  Sometimes he has to get used to what has changed, such as construction next door.  Sometimes he has to come to an understanding with the new situation, such as a new dog.  Sometimes, the two of you have to have a battle of wills until one of you blinks, such as when you are trying to reprimand him and he is reprimanding you for it.  This is an issue that you will do far better to deal with on an individual basis than you will by getting answers in this FAQ section.  Call a professional or someone who has had a lot of experience with dogs and discuss the situation with them.

A Crate For My Dog

Some people like the idea of a crate.  They envision it as a little apartment that is just for their dog.  Some people hate the idea of a crate.  They envision it as a little prison cell for their dog.  In all honesty, both have truth to them.  It is like a prison cell in that it limits the movement of the dog and your dog may have a little canine fit about going in, especially in the beginning.  It is like an apartment in that it is a safe place from everything from thunder and firecrackers to an inquisitive child in the apartment.  So, which one, prison or apartment, is your dog seeing?  It probably depends on the timing and the way that you set up the crate for your dog.

A towel in the crate is a nice idea as a bed.  It is soft and can get messy if there is an accident.  It gives him a bed with little to destroy.  A real bed in there would equate to shredded padding before too long, but a towel makes more sense.  A toy or two to occupy the ever inquisitive mouth can go a long way as well.  Some water is ok at some times and necessary at others.  A lot of that depends on the heat and activity levels of the dog.  And there doesn’t have to be a whole lot more for a dog that is very young.  When they get older, you might be able to switch the towel for a bed and be safe.  You might be able to have more water in there without the ensuing accident.  And a toy that is built to take significant time out of the dog’s day will be a good idea.

These are all things that can change a crate from a place of punishment to a place of his own.  A lot of it will be when and how you choose to use the crate as well.  It is OK to use it when you are mad.  Put the dog in the crate so that you can calm down.  He will be safe in there.  It is OK to use the crate when you are leaving and can’t trust your dog to be out in the apartment.  It is OK to feed the dog in the crate.  It is ok to give the dog treats in the crate.  Punishing the dog in the crate is a bad idea though.  Once he is in there, he should be safe and hidden.  Don’t reach in and go after him.  He will be trapped and can’t escape and problems can occur.

If you want to use a crate or feel like you need to, that is fine.  Use it responsibly and allow the dog to make the crate his own.  It really will become his own little apartment if he gets to choose it later on in his life, rather than it always being forced on him.

What Do I Watch Out For With My Walker?

This is a person coming into your home.  This is a person taking your best friend and baby out into the streets of New York.  Check on everything.  Make sure that you get a good gut feeling from the person.  If you don’t, then find someone else.  There are always other possibilities out there.  If you like the company, but not the particular walker, ask for a different walker.  If you don’t like the way the company is run, then find another company.  And always get references.  They are invaluable.

Watch to make sure that the person is doing more than a job, walking your dog.  If they are only doing it for the money, then the dog will not have the positive experience that it may with someone that really wants to be there.  Along these same lines, it is clear when someone starts to burn out on the job.  It is a tough job to give of oneself physically and emotionally all day long, and people can burn out.  If they are burnt out, then they are probably not giving your dog what you want, or what he/she needs.

Watch for indications of drug use.  Depending on your political views, you may or may not believe that marijuana is an acceptable recreational drug.  That doesn’t matter.  If your walker is smoking pot, drinking alcohol, or popping painkillers, then your dog is not in a safe situation.  The dog should be outside with someone that is taking complete care of your animal and is capable of controlling whatever situation that the two find themselves in.  If they are under any chemical influence, then the capacity to handle said situations is severely diminished.

Watch to make sure that your walker is actually walking your dog.  Some walkers out there will gather up many dogs and go around a corner and hang out, while having a soda.  Then, they take the dogs home.  Some will go to a park bench and have a lunch date.  Some will walk your dog for significantly less time than you are paying for.  There are a lot of people out there that are calling themselves dog walkers that aren’t doing the job properly.  Make sure you don’t have one of them.

Finally, make sure that your dog walker understands that your home is not their home.  The walkers out there know how to find a bathroom at various businesses.  They don’t need to use yours.  They are out there all day long and know where to get drinks and food.  They don’t need to go into your fridge to fuel themselves.  If they have some time to relax, it should not be in your apartment.  I have been doing this long enough to hear about owner’s couches, TVs, and DVD players being used.  This is not their home and they should treat it as such.  While some owners want to be nice and offer a glass of water or such to their walker, firm boundaries may serve you better in the long run.

What About Day Care Facilities?

This is exactly what some owners want and exactly what others fear.  There are pros and cons to a facility situation.  If you are considering one, then please understand both.  The good parts about a facility are that they give the dog a place to be during the day (for daycare) or while you are away (for boarding).  He will probably have canine company and that can be a lot of fun.  Depending on staffing, they can have structure time and attention paid to each individual dog.

On the other hand, this is a place that may have room for dogs, but is not necessarily set up for dogs.  Cleanliness will be a significant issue.  Having a place that is soft to lie down is another issue.   Proper hydration is an important concern that is especially large in the summer months.  If your dog is not overly fond or good with other dogs, then a place where he/she is surrounded by them may not be the best idea.  Depending on the staffing, the individual dogs may not receive the attention that they deserve and you are paying for.  For the places that are outside of the City, there are additional concerns about the maintenance of the facility.

How can you check these issues out?  Easily enough, actually.  The first thing to do is take a fair assessment of your dog.  Is your dog good with other dogs or does he/she have fear or aggression issues?  Does your dog have separation anxiety or can he/she be left alone?  Is your dog going to be worn out by a good play session in the morning or can they go all day long?

Checking out the facility is a little more difficult.  Some places don’t want you to inspect the place, fully.  They allow humans in the receiving area but no further.  This does not necessarily mean that they are trying to get anything over on you.  There could be insurance issues or a desire to keep other client’s dogs away from people that they don’t know.  But, if you can’t see what goes on in back then you really don’t know.

If you can take a full tour, then, by all means, do so.  The odor of the place is a pretty good indicator.  If it smells like urine, then there should be significant questions as to the cleanliness of the place.  If the dog to human ratio seems particularly large, then there should be questions as to the amount of control over the dogs.  Check for fences that have wires sticking out that can cut a dog or holes for escape.  Some facilities in rural settings may not have fences at all.  The dogs may be allowed to run free on the property.  You will know your dog well enough to decide if this is a fun or worrisome idea.

What Do I Do About Space For a Puppy?

When you are getting a puppy, one of the tough things for many new parents is to figure out where his space will be.  The mistake that I see often is that they want him to have as much room as possible.  This will often lie in direct opposition to house training your dog.  The more room that he has, the more that he can hide from his “messes”.  A dog doesn’t want to be trapped with the mess that he made and will try harder to hold it when he cannot get away from it.  A small kitchen or bathroom is a fine amount of space for a very young dog.  Crate training is another method for people who don’t have the capability to restrict their dog into said kitchen or bathroom.

The whole idea behind this is that restricting a dog’s movement is far better than getting mad at the dog for A) chewing things up or B) not learning to be house trained.  It is a short term restriction for most dogs and the pay off should be well worth it to both of you.  After your pooch has learned the rules of the house and is going to agree with them, there will be plenty of time for him to sneak up on the sofa when you are away.

What Do I Do About Trash Cans?

When people think about this in the abstract, they think of the kitchen trash can.  This is the one with all of the left overs that you didn’t eat tossed out and those yummy scraps that didn’t fall on the floor.  This is a bonanza for dogs, should they be able to get into them.  This is also the easiest trash can to fix and the one that tends to be the best protected.  I have noticed that the trash can with the most exploration parties making their way into it is the bathroom trash can.  Without going into details, there are a great number of pieces of paper there, always fun to rip up, that may or may not have various items on them.  Your dogs can smell those things on the paper and are far too interested in them, very often.

The kitchen trash is easy to keep out of reach of tiny paws.  The most common fix is to have the trash under the sink, protected by a door.  Other fixes include lids and height.  The bathroom trash can doesn’t have this same attention to isolation, very often.  Putting the trash under the bathroom sink isn’t something that I see very often.  And New York bathrooms, being what they are, rarely have room for you to put them up high.  This gives us the easy option of having a small trash can with a lid on it.  If you get the kind that requires you stepping on it to open it, the puppy will have a harder time trying to get in it.  Of course, active discouraging is your best bet, but the lid is a nice safety measure.

A Bed For My Dog

A bed for your dog is a wonderful thing.  A bed for your puppy is an expensive exercise in futility.  Puppies chew.  That is what they do for the first several months of their lives.  If you give them a bed, they will chew it.  The stuffing that they make beds out of is really not what you want in their digestive tracts.  A proper bed for a puppy will not last very long, most of the time.  A towel for your puppy, or an old t-shirt that you have used or something along these lines, is a much better choice.  It provides padding for your pup to sleep on and specifies where said sleeping should occur.  These things can be torn and ripped and messed up on without too much consequence.  While I am sure that your puppy would love the softness of an actual bed and the added chew toy that it provides, he does not want to stomach ailments that go along with it.  Nor does he want to deal with you being upset with him for doing what comes naturally.

Later on in life, a bed becomes a prized possession.  It is his and only his and that makes it wonderful.  If you have two dogs and they have beds, they might even have a little game about who gets what bed.  It can also make for very silly pictures.

Some dogs will absolutely need a bed later on in life.  Dogs that have prominent knees and knobby joints will have difficulty lying down on the wood floor and being comfortable.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks are notorious for this.  Other dogs that develop hip dysplasia and/or arthritis will also need the extra padding to be able to find some comfort in the prone position.  For dogs like this, beds are not some accoutrements but a requirement in the “Quality Of Life” area.

Toys For My Dog

This is a huge area to cover.  The pet industry makes a sizable portion of their income off of toys.  There are hundreds of different toys that come in different materials, sizes, and shapes.  But that isn’t as interesting to me as the different purposes that the individual toys hold.  There are toys for chasing, wrestling, chewing, and task completion.  Each of these are made for dogs that have different personalities.  Some dogs might enjoy them all, but there will be one type that is their favorite.  Pay attention to your dog and learn what kind of game he likes the best.  That will give you a clue as to what he really wants and can use.

For chasing toys, there are a multitude of options.  They mostly come down to something that you have to throw for Fido, but not always.  Some of them are as simple as a tennis ball.  Some of them are hard rubber for those dogs that like to chew.  There are ones that squeak to get your dog’s attention and ones that flash light to be seen at night.  They are all derivations of the same idea; “go get it”.  There are even aids out there to make it easier for you to play this game.  The most common one is a stick that has a small cup on the end to hold a tennis ball.  This stick lets the most proper of ladies throw like Brett Farve.  These are great toys for those dogs that need to run and have the willingness to bring the ball back to you.

Wrestling toys will break down to the basic idea of a rope for tug-of-war. There are all sorts of variations and derivations, but they all come down to the same idea.  Some of them have a plastic handle on the end.  Some of them are made of a durable rubber.  Some of them have points for several dogs to grab hold to at once.  These are wonderful ways to feel strong and make sure that he is in the thick of things.  These are not necessarily the best toys for very young or very old dogs.  Any dog that has the possibility of losing a tooth shouldn’t have you tugging on his mouth a great deal.

Chew toys are for those long, lonely hours that you are gone at work.  They are also for those times that dogs are bored.  They are also wonderful ways to prove dominance over other dogs that don’t get to have the toy.  They can also be a good way to have a doggie argument.  Rawhide is the most common of these toys.  These are actually the hide of cows that have been prepared and formed to look like a bone.  Ingesting too much can lead to a messier clean up when you take them out, though.  There are hard plastic bones that I have never seen broken in two, much less ingested.  There are hard rubber toys that have spaces to fill with treats or food.

Food For My Dog

There are quite a few different possibilities for food that are out there.  If we divide them up into groupings, there are Lesser Quality, Higher Quality, Vet Prescribed, and Raw Diets.  Each of these have benefits, although the value that you place on those benefits are things that will dictate which is the best choice for you.  One hint that you can choose to use is to look at the ingredients of the food.  The ingredients are listed in order of quantity.  This means that the ingredient with the largest quantity is listed first on the bag.  This way, you can learn what your dog is really eating.

Many people will find that changing foods on a dog is a messy business.  Once a dog’s digestive tract gets used to one food, the introduction of another can lead to … explosive consequences.  Yes, this means that if the family dog, Spot, hops up on the Thanksgiving table and takes a whole turkey for his own, neither he nor you will be happy with the next couple of days of walking him.  It also means that if you switch from food A to food B, the same effects may be present.  The easiest way to minimize or altogether avoid these problems is to taper one food off and another on.  Day 1 may be 90% food A and 10% food B.  Day 2 can be 80% food A and 20% food B.  This would continue till all of food A is eliminated and his digestive tract is acclimated to food B.  If you are considering altering your dog’s diet, please keep this in mind.

I am not trying to market for or against any company so I will not be naming any particular food brands or companies in this section.  If you have some specific questions about brands, I can recommend a wonderful pet store that has the experience and research at their fingertips to give you those details, customized to your wants.

One significant question for any and all food is one of storage.  I am not talking about how you store it but how it is stored before it comes to you.  The pet food company makes the food and stores it before sending it to a distributer.  The distributer stores it before sending it off to the pet stores.  The pet stores will store the food before you purchase it and bring it home.  Don’t be afraid to ask the pet store that you are dealing with about storage and transport.  They should be able to give you a full set of answers that show the food is being kept in proper quality control.

The Lesser Quality foods are the ones that we all grew up feeding our dogs, until the 90s came along.  These are foods that you pick up in the grocery store in 40lb bags and keep in a trash can in the garage.  I won’t go into any specific names, but I think that you know what I am talking about.  These foods aren’t going to kill your dog.  They also aren’t going to give your dog as good of a diet as you probably believe that he deserves.  It is kind of like feeding your dog fast food instead of a home cooked meal.  You will also notice that dogs on this diet often have large and loose poop than some of the dogs that aren’t.  The more that your dog digests of his food, the less that he will eliminate in this manner.  That is the best indicator of how well his food is treating him.  Another wonderful indicator is to look at the ingredients and see if there is a filler, often a grain such as corn or wheat, listed as the first ingredient.

The higher quality foods have been around for quite a while now, in the main stream.  These companies have a protein as the first ingredient.  This means that the largest quantity of anything in the food is protein, similar to having a nice steak meal that has more steak than salad.  Another wonderful aspect to these higher quality foods is that they have a huge number of choices for you.  If your dog has food allergies to chicken and corn, you can choose to have duck and pumpkin based food instead.  Chicken and lamb are the most abundant choices, but there are plenty more out there.  Between allergies and extra care for your pooch’s coat, you can now make the choices that you want to make.

A couple of years ago, there was a problem with grains that were coming over from China that were contaminated.  A lot of people panicked about this because we didn’t have a lot of information about the food that our dogs were eating.  It turns out that the people that make the lesser quality foods and the people making the higher quality foods were buying the same grains.  Just because you are using a higher quality food doesn’t mean that when something big like that hits, you will go unaffected.

For some dogs out there, there is a need for a food that comes through a vet.  Why these foods need a prescription isn’t always clear to me, but the fact is that they can make a huge difference for your dog.  The most common one that I have used is the one that acts as a drying agent in the digestive tract.  There are some dogs that just have lousy digestive tracts and desperately need this.  There are plenty of other specialty diets for allergies or diet or other possibilities.  These foods are a little more expensive, but if you trust your vet, then take his recommendation.

The Raw diet is one that is gaining in popularity in the last few years.  This consists of proteins that are uncooked.  There are usually vegetables or fruits or grains in there as well.  This should all be human grade food (even though not suited to your particular tastes).  There are people who swear by it for digestive issues, as well as coat issues.  There is a specific concern that you should be aware of with this food, however.  Since it is raw, it still contains potential bacteria problems.  As long as the food hasn’t had time to grow the bacteria, this shouldn’t be a problem.  The obvious question is, “Is this food polluted with bacteria?”  If you have gone to a reputable pet food store, this shouldn’t be an issue at all.  Your pet store should have done their due diligence to assure that the food is safe in its handling.  This will include refrigerated trucks to haul the food from packaging to home.  If the food is spending more than a couple of hours out of cold storage, then you may not be safe with that food.  I mention this specifically in conjunction with some of the foods that are purchased over the internet.  Without being able to see the people, much less how they are handling the food, you can’t know if your dogs food has been frozen, thawed, and then refrozen.

There are people that will feed their dogs human food, instead of human grade food.  Ricve is a common one for dogs with upset stomachs, as is boiled chicken and pumpkin.  There is a long list of foods that you should NOT feed your dog, though.  Alcohol is an easy one for you to guess would be dangerous to your dog.  Tobacco is bad for humans or dogs to eat.  Drugs are a type of poison that you put in your body because you might enjoy the effects.  Your dog will not do well with these.  Some of the other foods aren’t quite as obvious for us to keep them away from.

Bones can cut up their throat and digestive tract as they pass through.  Onions can cause anemia in dogs and cats.  Lots of Baby Food has onion powder in it so stay away from them as well.  Grapes and raisins can cause damage to the kidneys.  Chocolate, caffeine, and hops can all cause heart issues and nervous system disorders.  Lots of dairy can cause diarrhea.  Lots of iron can cause liver and kidney issues.  Too much liver can cause issues with muscles and bones.  Letting them eat the fat off your steak can cause pancreatitis.  Citrus oils can cause vomiting.  Mushrooms are toxic to dogs and can cause multiple issues across the body.  Raw eggs have salmonella as well as causing skin and coat issues.  Yeast dough can cause expanding issues in the digestive tract, which can lead to a ruptured stomach or intestines.

One of the worst things that your dog can ingest is string.  This includes anything that can act like string, including scarves, leashes.  The problem here is that the string (or related item) can get caught in between the stomach and the intestines.  As the digestive tract tries to pass it, it works the tract in an accordion-like manner.  When this happens, surgery is needed to take care of the situation.  If your dog does get something like this, hope that you will have to give him a little helping tug at the end of his passing it.  This means that he is safe from the surgery listed above.  If he cannot pass it, you will see him acting lethargic and in pain.  It is time to see the vet right away when that happens.

Treats For My Dog

Treats are a little bit of heaven for a food motivated dog and a nice surprise in the day for others.  There are a few dogs out there than don’t really care much for treats.  This section of information doesn’t have a whole lot to offer then except telling you that it is OK.  He doesn’t have to like treats.  It is odd, but it doesn’t mean that the world has ended for your dog.

There are a lot of treats that are out there.  Some are higher quality and some are lesser quality.  Some will stink and others are messy.  The thing that they all have in common is that they are fun to eat.  They should be like us snacking on little bon-bons.  Too many and we get fat; the same goes for dogs.  Too many and we will get an upset stomach; the same goes for dogs.  Having small treats that are given sparingly is the best way to protect your dog’s waistline and digestive tract.  Sometimes we have to break them up to make sure that they are small enough, but don’t feel badly about this.  Your pooch is still getting a treat.

The most common type of treat is some variation on a doggie biscuit.  This is usually a hard, crunchy treat that offers some scraping of the teeth (which is as close to brushing their teeth as they will get unless you are willing to go through that battle).  These should be flavorful and fun to eat.But these have a new competitor out there.

There are lots of variations on the theme of tendons and cartilage.  They might be called pig’s ears or chewy twists or some other name.  They are a way of using the parts of an animal that we would normally discard.  They are dried and shaped so that they are attractive packaging, but they are still slightly processed body parts.  This doesn’t mean they are bad.  Most dogs are great fans of these treats.  The only real problem with them is that they don’t last long enough.

Rawhide is the most famous if these and these can last long enough, depending on the situation.  Buying oversized rawhide for your dog will slow down the consumption of the treat, by far.  If your dog can’t really get his mouth around the piece of rawhide, then he can’t tear it up as quickly.  One note about rawhide is that it is the skin of cattle that has been dried out and shaped.  Skin is not digestible.  If your dog consumes a lot of rawhide at once, there will be digestive issues to contend with.  Limiting the amount they get per sitting will prevent these issues from occurring.

I think that their favorite treat for training, though, falls into a different category.  Freeze Dried Liver treats are made by quite a few companies.  These are exactly what they sound like.  They are small bits of liver that will crumble easily in your hands.  The treat actually melts on the dog’s tongue, providing a very intense flavor.  Because they crumble easily, you can make small pieces that allow your purchase to go further.  Like all treats, too many can cause stomach distress, but keeping the amounts within reason will give your dog something to look forward to.

And then we come to human treats.  From the little bits of food that fall from the kitchen table to the crust we offer off a sandwich to the bit of turkey we sneak to the dog during the holidays, there are a lot of ways that we can get into the habit of giving our dogs human food.  Let me be the first to admit that I have done it with my dogs, too.  That being said, their stomachs aren’t prepared for a lot of the foods that we eat.  High oil content, high fat content, and other ingredients that they aren’t prepared for can cause some of that stomach distress that owners loath, but that isn’t the real issue.  Even the greater potential for a dog to gain excess weight isn’t the real problem with human food.  Sometimes we eat things that a dog should not or cannot.  Most people know that chocolate is a big no-no for dogs.  The list doesn’t end there, though.  There is a long list of off limit foods for dogs.  And that doesn’t account for food allergies that can occur.  It is best to keep your dog out of the human food arena.  If you are going to give him some of your food, just make it as bland as possible so as to protect the both of you.

How Do I Train My Puppy?

What Commands Does My Dog Need To Know?

That all depends on you, really.  Your dog needs to know enough to be safe, as well as to assure that you are boss of the household, not him.  Beyond that, it is all about tricks, rather than need.  I will always suggest the basics of ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Come’, and ‘Stay’.  Those are expected from most dogs and have very clear definitions for us humans, so I won’t explain what ‘Sit’ means.

One of the other commands is an ‘Off’ command.  This is different from down, although people sometimes use ‘Down’, instead.  ‘Off’ means to get off of something, be it the couch or your chest.  I find that a lot of people say ‘Down’ in these moments by mistake.  This tells the dog to lie down on the ground, which might be said couch or chest.  Saying ‘Off’ is a separate word that should be used to tell the dog to remove themselves from whatever they are on.

A ‘Release’ command is one of the things that I have found most useful of all.  This is a command that says the dog is free to do as he pleases.  It is a great indicator that you are done with the command that you have previously given or that it is free time for the dog.  I often use it when we arrive in the dog run and the leash comes off.  It is also wonderful for when a dog has been in a ‘Stay’ and you want to release him.

A ’Play’ command is similar to a release command but tells the dog to get active in a play session.  For some dogs that are a little confused about socialization or even a little worried about what is going to happen next, it helps to let them know that it is now play time and they should go and interact with the ball or dog or whatever you want him focusing on.

A ‘Bathroom’ command is one that isn’t overly common but I do see a fair amount.  It is a way to hurry your dog into doing that necessary business that walks are required for.  For those cold winter nights or rain storms or if you are just rushed for work, it can help to encourage your dog to get that business out of the way.

As far as pure tricks go, there are as many as you can imagine.  ‘Speak’ is a fun one but not nearly as needed as ‘Hush’.  ‘Paw or ‘Shake’ are common ones.  ‘Roll Over’ can be transitioned into ‘Play Dead’.  I have seen fun ones such as ‘Close’ for close the door that is open.  Perhaps one of the most impressive ones was ‘Count’, in which the dog gives the illusion that he can do simple math problems.  There are plenty more, but this should give you a fair sampling of some of the ideas that are out there.

What Words Do I Say To My Dog To Get Him To Perform That Command?

That is entirely up to you.  You can use the word ‘Salt’ to mean sit and ‘Pepper’ to mean down, if you so wanted.  The word that you choose isn’t as important as making sure that the dog knows that word is the one that means that command.  You can use German commands or English.  You can pick non-sense words if you choose.  Your dog will figure out what you want if you use that word consistently.

The best example of this is with treats.  Some people call treats ‘cookies’ and that word will be exciting to a dog.  Others use ‘biscuit’ or ‘bone’ or even ‘treat’.  Whatever you call a treat, the dog will figure it out very quickly and Pavlov will be proven truthful, once again.

If you do choose to use words that are unusual, it will mean that others will have a more difficult time controlling your dog.  If you have a neighbor or walker that is going to come in, you will just have to instruct them on what terms have meaning to your dog.

Training A Dog Yourself

This can be a rather large undertaking for a first time dog owner but easy as pie for someone who has owned several dogs.  Consistency will be your greatest ally throughout any training process.  But the process can be an even more daunting choice than the actual training, itself.

There are dozens of books out there that all proclaim to have a sure fire method to train your dog.  There are TV shows that will instruct you on THE way to train your dog.  You will have people approach you on the street (yes, you really will) that will tell you that you are doing things all wrong and THIS is the way to train your dog.  Be careful.  A lot of these methods are at odds with one another.  If you try to mix and match, you may end up with a confused dog that is acting out.  Pick one training method and stick with it, unless you can see that it is not working.  It is a process and will take some time, so allow for non-instantaneous results.

Training A Dog With A Trainer

There are two basic types of trainers out there.  There is the class room trainer and the individual trainer.  Both offer benefits and drawbacks.  Which one is right for you isn’t the question.  Which one is right for your dog and you and your pocketbook is a more appropriate question.  But be aware, it is not a trainer’s job to train the dog.  A trainer is there to train you to train the dog.  If a trainer trains the dog, then the dog will only listen to the trainer.  Part of the training process is to position you, the owner, as the person in the alpha position.  If someone else trains the dog, then they will be the person that the dog listens to instead.

Class room trainers, typically, will work on basic commands in a once a week meeting, over several weeks.  They tend to operate out of another venue; such as a vet office or a day care facility.  These are trainers that will come in and take on a class of several dogs and their owners.  They will get in front of the class and show you exactly how they believe you show train your dog on the basic commands.  As you practice, they will come around and check on your specific attempts, to make sure that all is going well.