In light of this, I would like to say a few things to dog trainers and prospective dog trainers everywhere:
I think one of the biggest problems in the dog training world today is dog trainers developing the attitude that they are the best trainer there is. That they have the best method(s), that they know everything there is to know about dog training and no one is better than them. Not only is this attitude toxic, but it seems to be unfortunately common. A saying I have often heard in the dog training world is “There is only one thing two dog trainers can agree on and that is that the third trainer is wrong”. It’s one thing to disagree, but in the dog training world it often seems that if one trainer disagrees with another’s methods the first trainer will do everything possible to rip the second trainer down in order to build themselves up. This is just sad!!! I try to hold true to the saying that while we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. I understand that the dog training world can be a competitive one; however, dog trainers should be able to learn and grow from each other, not rip each other down!
In light of this, I would like to say a few things to dog trainers and prospective dog trainers everywhere:
It’s sad the number of trainers I have run into who were unable to work with certain people, train certain dogs, or work in certain fields simply because they weren’t willing to change their training method(s). I had a friend who was once told by a trainer that her dog wasn’t "actually" trained because she had done all of his training up to that point without the use of a clicker. I knew another trainer who was great with training pets, but was unable to be very successful with service dog training because this person wasn’t willing to really change the training method they thought was "best." It is critical for all trainers to understand that all people and all dogs work and learn differently. Not only that, but different types of dogs require different types of training. A service dog is highly unlikely to be trained using the same methods as a police dog. It is also unlikely that you will use the same techniques on an extremely nervous, timid Vizsla that you would use on a strong willed, pushy Dachshund. The same goes with owners. It is unlikely that you are going to be able to do clicker training with a client who has Cerebral Palsy, or that an older person with a soft, raspy voice is going to be able to use a loud commanding voice. A truly great trainer will have knowledge on as many different training methods and techniques as possible. This way, when a client (be it the owner, or the dog) is struggling with grasping training, the trainer can mold and shape their techniques to fit the client’s individual needs.
If a training method didn't work, it would stop being used. Some methods are founded on modern science and have been proven to be more successful and glean better results. Some methods may be questionable as to whether or not they are “humane.” Some methods are truly downright abusive; however, all of these different methods exist because at some point, somewhere, with some dog, they have worked. Now, I obviously believe that the best training methods derive from those that help encourage bonding and a positive relationship. I would much rather my dogs do what I ask because they love and respect me and because they want to do what I ask, not because they are forced to or afraid of what might happen if they don’t. I focus on using positive training methods that are up to date with the most recent, proven science and behavioral studies. I understand that there are some dogs out there with stronger temperaments that may do well with stronger, more heavy handed techniques though. I just feel like stronger methods should be a last resort, not what you start with. I will not deny that results can be gained through more adverse methods either (I would also do what was asked if someone threatened to shock or choke me). I understand that the only reason these sorts of old fashioned methods and beliefs are still used is because it is possible to gain results from them (I’m not going to touch the argument about “at what cost to the dogs mental state?”). Police and Military dogs in the U.S. are evidence of this. I know that Police and Military dogs in other parts of the world such as Germany and the U.K. are starting to be trained using positive only methods just as successfully, however, I'm not arguing which method is "best" I'm simply stating that both methods work. Even if I personally generally disagree with more adverse methods, and believe there is a better way, I still believe that there are things that can be learned from them. Which brings me to my next point. . . . .
Whether that trainer has more experience than you or less, whether you agree or disagree with that trainer, there is ALWAYS something that you can learn or take away from them. I have been able to learn something from every trainer that I have ever met, regardless of how I felt about them. The world of dog training is an ever growing and expanding field. New knowledge about dogs, how they think, and how they learn is coming out every day, so it is absolutely critical for every trainer to make sure that they never stop learning. Don’t just “poo-poo” something because you disagree with it or don’t believe it. Do your own research. Find out what the information is founded on. Learn about all the different methods, techniques, and tools there are, why and when they are used, and how to properly using them. Find out all the information you can before you shoot any idea or training method down. It is far better to give an educated opinion than to give a half hazard guess or suggestion (and even worse to make a clear statement that ends up proven to be incorrect). If you are unable, or unwilling to learn or be taught you will find that your value as a trainer will be minimal and may even become obsolete.
Dog training can be an amazing career and everyone who joins this field does it for one reason: because we love these animals and recognize their potential and the amazing changes they can make in their owner’s lives. This is why we should spend every day trying to better ourselves and better those around us rather than tear each other down. We are all here trying to do something good, and that deserves to be respected.
Let’s face it, kibble in and of itself is NOT enough in a dog's diet. Eating one thing for every meal everyday weakens the digestive tract and weakens the immune system over all. Think about people who decide to go off meat for a while. When they decide to start eating meat again they have to introduce it into their diets slowly, otherwise they get sick. Dogs work the same way. If your dogs aren't used to getting different things in their diets, anything new is going to make them sick!
I hear people say all the time “never feed your dog table scraps. It will make him sick!” This is only true if your dog never gets anything but kibble in his diet. If you give table scraps to your dog on a regular basis it can actually be very healthy. The fact of the matter is that kibble didn’t even exist until the early 1900’s. Until then, domesticated dogs literally lived off our table scraps - for thousands of years! So obviously it can’t be as bad as the commercial pet food industry would have you believe.
Be Careful . . .
There are some foods you’ll want to avoid, since they are poisonous to dogs. These include; chocolate, grapes, mushrooms, xylitol, caffeine, and macadamia nuts, just to name a few. Just keep in mind that, should you choose to give your dog table scraps, be sure to put them in your dog’s food bowl and don’t feed them directly from the table. Otherwise you’re going to wind up with a begging problem.
A lot of people think that dairy is bad for dogs but that’s not actually true. Dairy is just as beneficial to dogs as it is to people. The problem comes when your dog isn’t used to getting it (which again, comes from the myth that you should only feed your dog kibble and nothing else). If a dog never gets any dairy his body will stop producing lactose, which is necessary to digest dairy. So if your dog eats dairy, chances are it’s just going to cause diarrhea. If you introduce dairy slowly, however, his body will start producing lactose again and he will be able to handle it just fine.
How I Supplement
My dogs get a variety of supplements added to their food every meal. Here is a list of examples of what my dogs get added into their kibble on a daily basis (keep in mind that I subtract from the amount of kibble my dogs get in order to make it all even out. I don’t want any fat doggies on my hands)
I usually rotate between plain yogurt and cottage cheese each morning. I add ¼ cup of Apple Cider Vinegar to a 32oz container of yogurt and then give both my dogs a few spoonfuls every other morning. Apple Cider Vinegar is a great immune booster and can act as a natural flea and tick repellent as well. Some mornings I just soak their kibble in milk and let them have “kibble cereal”.
This is where things get fun. Really I just rotate between any protein sources I have on hand (usually given raw). This can be ham, hot dogs, bacon, eggs, chicken, roast beef, etc. Raw egg shells are great to feed your dogs, as they are a good source of calcium and the egg shell membrane can help strengthen hips and joints. Keep in mind that you will see bits of egg shell come out in your dog’s poo afterward. This is normal and is simply the left over parts of the shell your dog’s body didn’t need. For those of you that live in Utah Valley, I love Ford’s Locker down in Provo. They sell a raw frozen dog food made of ground venison meat, organs, and bones for just $1.49 a pound! I love adding this into my rotation as well!
If you think the dog food industry is poorly regulated, the dog treat industry is even worse! When it comes to treats, my dogs get cheerios, bits of cheese, and bits of hotdogs. Again, Ford’s Locker down in Provo has some awesome dog treat options that I love. They make beef dog jerky and sell it for about $10 for a gallon sized bag - it’s awesome! You can give a whole piece as a tasty snack, or easily cut it into smaller training treats - and dogs love it!
Now this one can be a controversial subject, so let’s just get the facts straight: Once bones have been cooked they become soft and have the chance of splintering. Because of this, ALL cooked bones should ALWAYS be avoided. When it comes to raw bones, dogs are actually designed to eat and digest these. If you look at a dog’s teeth, the front ones are designed for scissoring through raw meat and the back are designed for crunching through raw bone.
Raw bones are a great and natural way to help keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean without ever having to break the bank on dental cleanings at the vet! You do, however, generally want to make sure to avoid weight-bearing bones of large animals, such as cows. These bones are more dense than your dog’s teeth - and if your dog is an ambitious chewer he can easily end up breaking his teeth on them. It’s better to stick to rib and knuckle bones, bones from lambs, goats, pigs, etc. If you're looking for a great article on the benefits of bones and what bones to give your dog, check out: What Bones are Good for Dogs?
A Final Word
So, that’s my two cents when it comes to what to feed your dog. As I said before, I’m no expert, but I have spent an extensive amount of time studying the subject. I hope this information will help you in providing your dog the best diet you can give!
If you missed my first nutrition post, "Choosing the Right Kibble for your Dog," make sure to check it out!
My most trusted advocate when it comes to determining the quality of any dog food is Dog Food Advisor. This is a fantastic site that breaks down dog foods by ingredient, discusses the quality of each ingredient, and gives an overall rating of 1-5 stars. Nearly every U.S. brand and flavor of dog food is listed on this site! I keep a personal rule to never give my dogs any food under 3.5 stars. Ideally, I stick with 4 stars or higher.
I get asked a lot about what I feed my dogs. This seems to be one of the biggest concerns any responsible pet owner has, as we want our dogs to have long, healthy lives. The first step to accomplishing this is to make sure our dogs are on as good a diet as possible.
Over the years I have studied canine nutrition quite a bit. I’m not saying I’m an expert by any means, but I have learned quite a lot. One of the first things I discovered was, as sad as it is, you CAN’T always trust your vet when it comes to canine nutrition! If you’re curious why this is, check out my blog post, “Why Vets Don’t Know Everything About Nutrition.” When it comes to canine nutrition, you are likely going to have to find out the facts and do all of the research yourself, because the pet food companies are NOT going to tell you - or your vet - the truth!
A Trusted Guide
Some General Rules
There are a lot of awesome homemade diets and raw diets that are super healthy and amazing to feed your dog. However, for the sake of time and since the majority of dog owners do in fact feed their dogs kibble, that is what I’m going to focus on. When it comes to finding a good kibble to feed your dog, there are several basic rules you want to stick by:
Make sure the first ingredient is some form of protein! If it isn’t then you can safely guess the majority of your dog’s food is just filler. But don't just look at the first ingredient - look at the next 5 as well. If the first ingredient is protein, but the next 5 are grains and/or vegetables, then this food is mostly filler. Ideally, you should see protein listed at least 2-3 times within the first 5-7 ingredients.
Corn is nothing but filler and has no nutritional value to your dog whatsoever. Not only that, but it is one of the most common allergens found in dogs (my own dog, Suki, is allergic to corn). I could go on forever about all the reasons to avoid corn, but for the sake of saving time, here are some good resources:
Avoid Unknown Meat
Unnamed meat products can include “meat meal”, “bone meal”, “animal fat”, “animal digest”, “blood meal”, etc. If it doesn’t specifically state what animal these sources are coming from, don’t trust it. Chances are they are coming from road kill, euthanized live stock, or even possibly euthanized pets.
Avoid "Fruit Loops"
A Word From Dr. Karen Becker
Avoid foods with multiple shapes or colors in it. There is no reason for this. Dogs don’t care! That is solely for the owner’s benefit and often results in a lot of unhealthy and unnecessary food dyes in your dog’s food. I have also found that the only foods that really do this tend to be the lower quality ones. Basically if your dog’s food looks like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms, that’s pretty much what it is!
While there is a lot more information on what to avoid and what not to avoid, these tend to be the biggest and easiest to remember. Here are some good clips from Dr. Karen Becker, a holistic veterinarian with a lot of good nutritional knowledge, on what goes into pet food, and what you should look out for:
Finding the Right Food
There are a ton of different brands of dog food out there and while one is great for one dog, it may not agree with another. I feed my dogs the Kirkland brand from Costco, a 4 star food on Dog Food Advisor. It’s also one of the highest quality foods for the most affordable price that I’ve been able to find. It’s about $30 for a 40lb bag. My dogs do really well on it; however I know a few dogs that didn’t do well with it. Blue Buffalo is also one of the top quality foods out there, but I’ve met a lot of dogs that it is simply too rich for.
Sometimes finding the right dog food that works best for your dog can be a process in and of itself. There are several brands that I do really like: Wellness, Kirkland, Fromm, Blue Buffalo, Pure Balance, California Natural, and Innova, just to name a few. There are also several brands I always warn against: Iams, Pedigree, Purina, Science Diet, Beneful, Ol’ Roy, Kibbles & Bits, etc. Unfortunately there is really no one food I can recommend for every dog. As I’ve mentioned before, I highly recommend using Dog Food Advisor as a trusted resource to help you find the best food for your dog.
A Final Word
Most of the time, feeding a higher quality food also means spending more money up front. However, I have found you can usually feed less of a higher quality food than of a lower one. I had a dog in my home that was on a low-quality brand and was eating 4½ cups of food a day. I asked the owner if I could switch her to Kirkland and the dog went down to eating only 3½ cups of food a day. This can even out price-wise or can even save you money in the long run.
Overall, I feel like it ultimately comes down to health and quality of life. A person can live off Ramen Noodles, Mac & Cheese, and T.V. Dinners and be “just fine”, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy or going to live the longest life. The same goes for dogs. A dog can live off a cheaper, lower quality food and be “just fine”, but that doesn’t mean the dog is healthy or going to live very long. A less healthy dog often means more health problems to deal with and more money going to your vet, so you’re really not saving much money, if any, in the long run.
Watch for my next blog post, "Canine Nutrition Part 2 - Supplements"
Over the years I have studied canine nutrition quite a bit. I’m not saying I’m an expert by any means, but I have learned quite a lot. One of the first things I discovered was, as sad as it is, you CAN’T always trust your vet when it comes to canine nutrition!
I know this comes as a shock to a lot of people. Your vet is supposed to be the person you can turn to for any and all things relating to your dog’s health. However, something that all pet owners are going to have to come to terms with is this: VETS DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING!
First, it’s important to recognize that becoming a vet is one of the most difficult career choices to make. Often times their schooling is more difficult and rigorous than even that of regular doctors. Look at all the different ways you can specialize in the medical world; Primary Care Physician, Pediatrician, Gastroenterologist, Endocrinologist, Psychologist, Pharmacist, Allergist, Anesthesiologist, Surgeon, Urologist, Nutritionist - and that doesn’t even scratch the surface! A vet has to be all of these and more. And not just to one species, but to several! Unless a vet decides to take the time to specialize in one specific thing it’s simply unrealistic to expect them to know everything on every subject for every animal!
Becoming a Vet is HARD!
Vet Schools Skimp on Nutrition Education
Second, when it comes to canine nutrition, most vets only receive one required class on the subject in school - a very few U.S. schools require 2 classes, and I understand that one school requires 3. So unless your vet elected to take more (they usually don’t), his or her schooling was limited. And guess who creates the curriculum, hires the teachers, and passes out LOTS of free samples for these courses? Pet food companies! Usually Hills (think: Science Diet). It's a huge conflict of interest that creates the same problem in veterinary education that the pharmaceutical companies create within medical education.
This is why almost all vets seem to be so particular to Science Diet. It’s the only one they’ve ever really been taught about! And sadly, it is only a subpar food at best. Dog Food Advisor, my most trusted advocate when it comes to determining the quality of any dog food, only gives Science Diet foods a rating of 2-3 stars out of 5. I keep a personal rule to never give my dogs any food under 3.5 stars, but ideally 4 or higher. You can check out their breakdown of Science Diet and why they gave it that rating here. What’s more, in my own personal experience, I have never met a single dog that was able to stay on the basic Science Diet formula. Every single one, without fail, ended up having to be moved on to one of Hill's expensive specialty or medicated formulas at one point in time or another. Seriously, Science Diet! What the heck are you putting in your food that is forcing dogs to have to be put on specialty diets?!
Most Vets Don't Seek Out Additional Nutrition Education
Keep in mind that veterinarians can specialize in nutrition, both during school and through continued education after, even receiving nutrition certifications if they choose to do so. But as I mentioned above, most vets don't elect to take additional nutrition classes - there's simply too many other things they need to focus on. And it is my understanding that very few pursue after-school nutrition education options. If you're wondering about your vet's nutrition knowledge, you'll want to ask very specific questions about how many nutrition courses he or she has taken, what types of courses they were, what companies sponsored the courses, and whether or not he or she has received any certifications. This way, you'll know exactly what you're vet knows - and whether or not that knowledge is biased toward a particular pet food company.
The Difficult Truth
When it comes to canine nutrition, you are likely going to have to find out the facts and do all of the research yourself, because the pet food companies are NOT going to tell you - or your vet - the truth! They just want as many people as possible to purchase their brand - and only their brand.
Watch for my next blog post, “Canine Nutrition, Part 1 - Choosing the Right Kibble for Your Dog”
Ever wondered what's the difference between a Service Dog, a Therapy Dog and an Emotional Support Animal? Does it even matter? Absolutely! Each is a different type of working dog and each is governed by different laws. If you're thinking you want to train your dog in one of these areas, or if you want to know your rights as a business owner, this is the article for you!
According to Federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law, a Service Dog is a dog trained to perform work or tasks for a DISABLED individual that he or she CAN NOT do for his or herself. The disabled individual has the right to have a Service Dog with him or her in all public access locations.
There are two major qualifiers of a Service Dog.
First; the handler must have a disability. If you do not have a disability you do not have the legal right to be accompanied by a Service Dog.
Second; the dog must be work or task trained to do something that aids with that aids and directly relates to that disability. If the dog does something on it's own, even if it is super helpful, without the actual training it does not qualify as a task. So if, for example, your dog starts alerting to your seizures, that does not suddenly make your dog a Service Dog. You must take those alerts mold them into something you want, such as teaching the dog to paw your leg or something whenever it starts alerting.
Businesses may ask if the dog is a Service Animal required because of a disability. They may then ask what the dog has been trained to do to assist you. They may not ask about your disability, they may not ask for a demonstration of tasks, and they may not ask for training certificates, ID, or proof of disability. If your dog is out of control, however, and you fail to take action to get him or her under control, the business has every right to ask you to remove the dog from the premises (they must still allow you without the dog). This includes but is not limited to barking (unless the dog is barking to alert to a medical condition), defecating or urinating, growling or behaving aggressively, harassing others, and damaging property. They may not ask you to leave if someone nearby is allergic or afraid of dogs. The other individual must be accommodated in another way. Each incident is handled on a case-by-case basis, so you are welcome to return another day and try again.
While there are a lot of different "certifications" out there that offer to certify your dog as a Service Dog, none of them are required in order for your dog to be a Service Dog, none of them will make your dog a Service Dog if you do not meet the two above qualifying factors, and none of them are officially recognized under ADA law.
The laws can get sticky with landlords, employers, schools, etc. so make sure you do your research before obtaining a Service Dog.
A Therapy Dog is a working dog trained to comfort the sick and infirm in hospitals, nursing homes, treatment centers, schools, etc. They are also used in programs that help children with speech and/or learning disabilities. Therapy Dogs are invited by businesses to work in their facilities on a case-by-case basis. Handlers do not have any legal right to have a Therapy Dog with them in public places, or in housing or employment situations - they must always be invited.
While certification is not required in order for your dog to be a Therapy Dog, most businesses will require your dog to have some sort of certification in order to allow your dog to work there. They have the right to require this if they wish and can even require a specific certification should they choose.
Other working dogs, such as Police Dogs, Rescue Dogs, and Military Dogs, follow similar restrictions. Police, Fire, and Military handlers may have these dogs with them in public places if the dogs are actively working. When off-duty, however, handlers do not have any legal right to bring these dogs into public places.
Emotional Support Animal
An Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is an animal that soothes anxiety and depression or other mental health disability simply by his or her presence. You must be diagnosed by a mental health professional with a mental health disability that is recognized in the most current version of the DSM in order to qualify for an ESA.
An ESA is NOT a Service Animal.The individual does NOT have the right to have an ESA with him or her in public places.
Under the Fair Housing Act, an individual with an ESA has the right to keep this animal in the home regardless of a landlord's pet rules (landlords who own 4 rental properties/units or less are exempt form this), so long as the individual can provide proper documentation (a doctor's or mental health professionals note) confirming the disability and recommending the individual the use of an ESA. The landlord may not charge pet fees, but he or she may hold the individual responsible for any damages done by the ESA. .
Under the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) ESA's may also fly with their handlers. The ACAA does require a note from a mental health professional in order for the ESA to fly. Some airlines have additional documentation that must be given at least 48 hours in advance. Be sure to check with the airline you are planning to fly with to find out what information you will need to provide.
While no specialty training is required in order for your dog to be an ESA, if the dog is a nuisance (barks uncontrollably, harasses other tenants, etc), is aggressive or a danger in any way, or is overly destructive (causes damage that you cannot afford to replace yourself) the landlord can require removal of the ESA from the premises and airlines can deny access from boarding an airplane.
Just as with Service Dogs there is no actual certification required in order for your dog to be and ESA and without a mental health disability there is no certification that can turn your dog into an ESA.
If you want to learn more, are interested in training your dog in one of these areas, and/or are interested in obtaining a Service Dog, I will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the resources you need.
Call the ADA helpline for information about public access, employment, and landlords with regard to Service Dogs.
Contact the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for information about working dogs in housing situations.
Contact the Utah District Attorney's Office for specific information regarding Utah law and working dogs or to learn how to file a complaint against a business, landlord, or employer.
How to make this unpleasant question an excellent learning opportunity - by Kira Harris
It has happened; your kid is asking for a puppy – and he is NOT letting up. You’ve explained that you don’t want a dog in your house; dogs shed, drool, bark, jump up on people and have accidents in the house. Your child (who is far more intelligent than you gave him credit for) explains that there are non-shedding, non-drooling dogs. There are even dogs that don’t bark! And for the ones that do, you can train them not to bark – or only to bark on command. And you can train them to do whatever you want (or don’t want) them to do! You inform Jr. that you don’t want the responsibility of caring for a dog and, of course, Jr. insists that he will take care of the dog and you won’t have to do ANYTHING!
This is where most parents start to struggle. You know that within a week you’ll be 100% responsible for anything and everything the new puppy does; but Jr. doesn’t believe you! Jr. insists that you’re wrong! And Jr. feels hurt and betrayed that you don’t trust him with this task. So what do you do? You give Jr. the opportunity to PROVE it! You tell Jr. that if he wants a puppy, it’s going to take some time – as in several years time – and if he can show you that he’s responsible enough, then yes, you will let him have a puppy. Most kids will never get there – and if they do, you really will be able to live with a non-shedding, non-drooling, non-barking, accident-free dog in your house with minimal effort on your part!
Sounds too good to be true, but it really does work. If you’re truly not willing to let Jr. have a dog – EVER – this same process can be used to make Jr. feel better about not getting a dog while teaching him valuable life lessons (I personally believe EVERY child should go through this process, whether they end up with a dog or not). Each of these pets (until you reach “dog”) can be kept in Jr.’s room, where they won’t bother you or other members of the household that may be allergic.
The trick is to start with a small and simple pet (like a beta) and work your way up. The child really does have to do EVERYTHING. First, take him to the library and help him learn how to research in books and online. Next, he must tell you what he has learned (or, if he’s a little older, provide a written report) and make a list of all the supplies he’ll need. Then you help him shop for supplies online until he knows how much money he needs (lessons in shopping and money management). Help him decide the best source for his new pet - is a pet store okay or is a breeder a more responsible option? - and help him develop and carry out a plan to save the money. Depending on his age, this plan may include mom and dad “matching” his earnings or helping out in some other way once he’s done the agreed upon chores, work, etc. Finally, you let him make his purchase. Betas are rather boring pets and if your child can successfully care for a beta for one year, he’s already proven he’s more responsible than you thought he was. If he fails and the beta dies, you don’t have to feel as bad as if he caused the death of a more sentient animal, such as a cat or dog. You may be lenient if the beta dies for reasons outside his control – in this case, you simply replace the beta and don’t make him start his year over.
Once he can keep a fish for a year, you let him move on to a slightly more complicated pet for 1-2 years and start the process over (research, discussion, shopping, saving money, purchasing and keeping the pet). This pet can be a hamster, gerbil, mouse, rabbit or guinea pig. Keep in mind that rabbits and guinea pigs live up to 10 years or more, so you may want to stick with a smaller pet with a 1-4 year lifespan - unless you’re willing to keep this pet its entire life when you can’t find a loving home later. Stay away from birds, ferrets, chinchillas, reptiles, amphibians and other exotic pets; these are far too complicated for a young child to manage properly. And don’t forget about the beta! Betas have varying life spans and some can live for several years. Jr. will now be caring for both the beta and the small pet until the beta dies (next great learning opportunity: dealing with death and loss*).
*If you’re not willing to teach your child to deal with death and loss, you should NEVER bring an animal into the home. I hated seeing parents run to the pet store with Jr.’s dead fish, hamster, bird, etc. and frantically inform me that they had to replace it with an identical animal before Jr. got home from school. I hate to break it to you, but Jr. isn’t stupid. Jr. will notice. And now Jr. has to learn to deal with death AND with losing his trust in his parents – and he has to do it on his own because you’re pretending nothing happened. Don’t do it. Either teach your child to deal with loss or don’t get your child a pet.
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not Jr. will be able to care for a puppy or adult rescue dog. You may want to add a third pet or move straight to a dog, but in either case, Jr. should be at least 12 years old before moving onto anything more complicated. Rats make a perfect third step, since they are incredibly docile, don’t smell (unless Jr. fails to replace the bedding), keep themselves clean, and are very dog-like. They can be trained to go in a litter box, learn their names and the names of their cage-mates, come when called, and do a variety of tricks (such as standing on their hind legs, turning in circles, running a maze, etc.). Requiring Jr. to get a pair of rats (rats are extremely social and cannot be kept solitary) and to successfully train them to do a variety of tasks can be the perfect “final test” before getting a dog. If Jr. was already older when you began this process, pet rats can be used as the second pet and the third step can be skipped over. Keep in mind that none of these “steps” are set-in-stone; it is up to you as the parent to know your individual children and tailor this process to meet each of their needs.
Finally, Jr. can begin preparing to bring home a dog (unless you’re one of the NO DOGS EVER parents). The research phase of this process should take a very long time. Jr. should read a variety of books on training, socializing, communicating with, feeding and generally caring for a dog. He should look up local trainers and have enough money saved to pay for a socialization class as well as a set of in-home training sessions (most personal trainers offer a “pack-of-four” sessions or something similar). He should take the time to teach the family what he has learned and decide in advance, with the family, what rules the dog will have to follow and how the dog will be trained (any family member who participates in training must follow the exact same training style to avoid confusing the dog). Jr. must then research breeds, breeders, rescue dogs and rescue groups to determine what dog will be the best fit for your family (not just for him!) and where to get a dog from (NEVER get a dog from a pet store). Keep in mind that rescue dogs come with their own set of problems. If you and your family are not familiar with dogs, a rescue may not be a good choice for a first dog. Have Jr. obtain experience with dogs by offering dog walking to neighbors and friends with dogs. Find someone willing to let Jr. practice training simple behaviors with their dog. You can even have Jr. “dog-sit” for a neighbor or friend to get a feel for what it’s like to have a dog in the house. When you actually bring the new dog home, do so at the beginning of summer vacation so Jr. has the entire summer to spend training and housebreaking the dog. If you let Jr. bring the dog home during the school year, you will have to step in and help housebreak the dog when Jr. is at school; so avoid this unless you’re truly willing to help.
The golden rule of bringing home a dog is that you keep the dog! Dogs are incredibly social and view their humans as their “family pack.” Dogs are incredibly intelligent and they understand when they've been abandoned in the same way a child understands when his father disappears and never returns. It is unfair to bring a dog home and let it settle in only to get rid of it because you failed to train it to behave properly. This is the entire reason you've required Jr. to go through this long process. Make sure you've discussed what Jr. will do with the dog when he goes to college because “getting rid of the dog” is NOT an option. Will the dog stay with mom and dad? Will the dog stay with a friend or family member (in this case, the dog should be bonded to this person BEFORE being left with them)? Does Jr. have to find a way to take the dog with him? These questions should be addressed BEFORE the dog comes home. If you’ve followed all these steps, Jr. will bring home the right dog for your family. He will care for him properly and do almost all the work. The rest of the family will still have to participate some in helping the dog understand the rules. For example, if the dog is not allowed to beg at the table, but someone in the family continues feeding the dog from the table, the dog is never going to learn. Still, your participation will be minimal – and you’ll be able to enjoy having a well-behaved dog in the house and you’ll hardly have to do ANYTHING! The best part, however, is that you’ll have a well-adjusted Jr. who knows how to handle money, be responsible, work hard, and learn new things.
Open play daycare can be a great option during vacations and work - they can also be a great way to socialize your dog. It can be difficult to find a safe, responsible doggie daycare, so choose carefully and do your research first! Below is a list of things to watch out for.
1. Reviews: reviews are important, but can be misleading, as customers are far more likely to post negative reviews than positive ones. That said, if a facility has hundreds of poor reviews and only a handful of good, avoid them. Don't be afraid to ask the owner about negative reviews.
2. Tours: make a visit without your dog, unannounced, and ask for an on-the-spot tour (continue to do this periodically after selecting your daycare). If they are hesitant to let you see their facility and/or ask to reschedule, don’t give them your business. A reputable facility will have nothing to hide; if they don’t have enough staff present to give you a tour immediately, then they don’t have enough staff to keep your dog safe. Going without your dog will allow you to focus on the facility rather than your dog.
3. Excessive Barking: this is usually due to anxiety or boredom, which is a good indicator that there aren't enough staff to take proper care of the dogs. It could also mean the staff are ignoring the dogs. A random surge of barking whenever a new dog or person enters the building is normal but should not last more than a minute or two.
4. Staff to Dog Ratio: there should be one staff member for every 10-15 dogs. If there are multiple “yards,” there should be at least one staff member in each of them (even if there is only one dog) in addition to a front desk attendant. Do not be afraid to ask how many dogs are present, how many yards are being used, and how many staff are present. Having the appropriate number of staff is the #1 means to resolving destructive dog behavior and maintaining a clean, safe facility. Keep an eye on these numbers during your tour.
5. Wounds: dogs play with mouths and nails and some love to play rough! You should expect your dog to come home with minor punctures, cuts, and scratches, just as you'd expect some minor scrapes and cuts on a child playing rough at the playground. These heal quickly and are generally not even noticeable (to you or the dog) until they begin to scab. In addition, your dog may develop a minor limp a few days later, just as you might feel sore after exercising. If your dog is obviously hurt, bleeding or seriously limping, however, and you weren't informed when you picked him or her up, it is time to look for a new facility. Staff should check each dog as they come and go (keep in mind that it may be difficult to find injuries, especially on fluffy-haired and/or black dogs) and should be aware if the dog was involved in a scuffle or was just playing rough.
6. Doggy Friends: ask how your dog did and who he or she played with that day. Staff members should be able to tell you and may even have a funny story for you. If you receive a generic “they did great/fine today,” your dog may not be getting the attention you would like them to have (after all, you’re paying for it). This answer is only acceptable if your dog is a regular and they always do great.
7. Communication: are all of the employees/owner(s) are on the same page? Ask how they keep each other informed during shifts changes. Do they keep notes, do they pass information verbally to incoming staff, or do they do both? Ideally, incoming staff will spend 15-30 min in the yard with outgoing staff preparing both the staff and the dogs for the change. Do they have a profile on each dog of likes, dislikes and behavior quirks? Communication is key to keeping dogs happy and safe.
8. Customer Service: staff should be friendly, helpful, and upbeat. Beware if they are grumpy, rude, unwilling or unable to help you and/or are not willing to find someone who can. Do not trust these individuals with your dog.
9. Food: do not leave your dog with a daycare/boarding facility that doesn't require you to bring your own dog food. Facilities that provide food generally use cheap, unhealthy kibble that can cause a wide range of health issues in a short time. Adding upset tummies from a sudden dietary change to the stress of staying in a strange place is a recipe for disaster. Don’t be surprised if your dog doesn't eat much during the stay - this is a normal behavior for dogs in new or unusual environments.
10. Medications and Other Instructions: a facility should be willing to administer medications and follow individual instructions for each dog, so long as the medications are not given through injections (by Utah law, professionals must have a vet tech or doctor’s license to give injections).
11. Sleeping Arrangements: dogs should be kenneled securely and separately during the night for their safety and comfort. Multiple dogs from the same family should be able to sleep together unless you request otherwise. You should be given options to provide your own bedding, to have the facility provide bedding, or to have no bedding. If your dog is not used to being kenneled, don’t be surprised if he rips or shreds his bedding during his stay, even if he has never done this at home before. It is normal for dogs to display unusual behaviors in new or unusual environments.
12. Cleanliness: a “doggy smell” is OK. On rainy or snowy days (or in a facility that provides a pool) a “wet doggy smell” is OK. If it smells heavily of feces or urine, however, or if you see multiple messes on the floor, this is a hazard to your dog’s health. Find another facility. Trash or clutter anywhere in the facility is also a health hazard. If your dog comes home and throws up or defecates something that didn't come from your home or backyard, the facility may not be cleaned properly or the dogs may not be monitored properly.
13. Happiness: dogs will need a few sessions of daycare or boarding to learn they’re not being abandoned. But if after 5-7 visits your dog still does not want to be left behind, this may not be the right environment. Regardless of what the staff say, pay attention to what your dog tells you, as some facilities will lie to you to keep your business. If your dog hates to go to daycare or leaves a daycare shaking with his or her tail tucked, you need to find another facility.
14. Mental Stimulation: do you see any toys, agility equipment, or play things? If not, THIS IS A PROBLEM! Dogs need mental stimulation - for most, interaction with other dogs is is not enough. If they do not have these items "because the dogs destroy them” or "for safety reasons" this indicates poor supervision, poorly trained staff, and/or insufficient staff. Well trained staff can handle basic levels of toy guarding or high stimulation, especially if there are enough staff. If a dog is toy aggressive or easily stimulated to the point of being beyond control unless all toys are removed, this dog should not be allowed at the daycare! He or she may show this behavior in other situations and is a danger to other dogs and staff. Be grateful if the staff tell you your dog has one of these problems, as this allows you to correct the behavior before it escalates to something worse.
15. Down Time: A good daycare/boarding facility does not leave the dogs to roam the play yard all day. This creates an environment of too much stimulation and stress and greatly increases the likelihood of fights breaking out. A good facility will provide your dog with downtime. Ideally a dog will have about 2 hours of down time for every 2-3 hours of play. Be sure to ask the staff what their ratio of playtime vs downtime is.
16. Temperament Testing: a good open play daycare/boarding facility will require your dog to pass a temperament testing process before being allowed to stay there. If they don’t, do not give them your business. Ask what they do for their interview process. They may ask you to wait up front while they interview your dog. This is fine because most dogs act differently when their owners are around and the staff needs to see how the dog will react while you are not present. Expect this process to take 30 min to an hour. The daycare/boarding environment is different from any environment most dogs are used to. This means dogs have the potential to show behavior they have never shown before (anxiety, aggression, etc.). A good facility will be up front and honest about your dog's behavior and will not accept your dog if he is not a good fit for this environment.
17. Play Groups: Play groups can be divided up in multiple different ways. Simply dividing dogs up by big dogs and little dogs is rarely enough though. Some big dogs love to play rough while others may be much more laid back, mellow, and timid. Some large, older dogs may actually be much happier and fit better in a group of smaller dogs. Many small dogs can be very active and boisterous and some can be a bit temperamental and not a good fit to be in the same yard with young puppies. Personality and temperament should be taken into account just as much, if not more so, than size and age when it comes to dividing up play groups.
18. Credit Cards: NEVER give your credit card information to a daycare or boarding facility. Some facilities will ask to keep this information on file as a protection for their business and for use in case of illness or injury while you are out of town. This is a terrible idea for you AND for the business and is legally questionable. First, this gives the business the ability to use your credit card at their discretion. Second, reputable veterinarians will not charge bills to your card if you are not present – even if you've given written permission. Finally, it only takes one employee or ex-employee with knowledge of the business’s security (or lack thereof) for your credit card information to be stolen. A responsible daycare or boarding facility will maintain a fund to pay for emergency medical expenses and abandoned animals. This fund will be used only in accordance with the contract you signed; they will then bill you the appropriate amounts and use a collections agency if you refuse to pay.
19. Cameras: While these are not an absolute requirement, they are a really good thing to look for in a facility. A great facility will have cameras throughout the entire facility. Ideally these cameras will all be live streaming footage that you can hop on and watch at any time. If a facility only has live stream cameras in some areas, but not others, again, they may be trying to hide something.
Make your dog work for everything he wants. Eating, playing, going outside, interaction with you, sitting on the couch, etc. Have him do a known command (like a sit, down, or wait) before receiving what he wants. It’s the same as asking a child to say “please”. This will help your dog learn that jumping, barking, mouthing, or other unwanted behaviors do not get him what he wants. Being polite is what gets him what he wants. This can also help repair the relationship if you have a domineering dog or a dog that has little to no respect for you or others. Be sure to set realistic boundaries and expectations for your dog, just as you would with a child.
1. Patience: Training takes time, it is not a race. Do not try to force your dog to learn faster than he is able. This will just cause frustration for you and your dog.
2. Consistency: Once you have set the rules you must always stick to them. A dog will be just as consistent as you are. A dog that only gets fed from the table once every month or so will still keep begging because he knows that eventually, it will work, after all, it has in the past.
3. Control/Management: If the dog is too hyper or anxious to focus, don’t train him. If you are anxious, frustrated, angry, or emotional, don’t train your dog. If your dog can’t handle a bike going by while you are out walking, walk him in areas where he can get far enough away from the bike to be comfortable (don’t go walking on a bike trail). If the dog can overpower you, find someone to help you come up with a training regime so that you can handle your dog. If you can’t control or manage yourself, the dog, or the environment, training will not happen!
I love dogs and I love teaching people about dogs! Here on my blog I can do just that!