Dog Behavior – Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3

< Versions of these articles were published in the July, August, and September issues of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 14SEP17 >

< You can listen to a podcast on this topic that was broadcast on The Woof Meow on 16SEP17 by clicking here >

I recently saw a meme posted on Facebook with the words “Getting a dog without understanding the breed is like buying a house without an inspection.” A discussion followed as to whether or not this was a good way to emphasize that breed matters when you are selecting a dog that will best fit into your family, lifestyle, and the environment in which you and your dog will live. I agree with the sentiment of the text in this meme; however, I believe that the question of how important breed is when selecting a dog is far too important to leave to a discussion on Facebook. If you want the greatest probability of getting a great canine companion, you need to consider breed before purchasing or adopting a dog, and your research needs to extend beyond social media and avid fans of the breed. Every breed or mix of breeds has its downside, not often apparent to their biggest fans.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently recognizes 202 different breeds of dogs organized into seven groups: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy, and Working. Different breeds of dogs exist because each breed was developed to address a particular need or role in serving humans.

In some cases, the AKC group description is helpful in understanding what a dog was bred to do, while some of the groups contain breeds with a wide variety of individual physical and behavioral traits and I question how they were lumped into the same group. However, looking at the Group is a good place to start. Below you will find my thoughts on each AKC group and factors that I recommend you consider before deciding which breed is the best for you. Please recognize that you want to choose a breed that is also the best choice for your family, your lifestyle, and the environment in which you live. The average lifespan of a dog, which can also be breed dependent, can range from six to eighteen plus years. As you consider your current lifestyle and environment, think about the future and what your life will be like when your dog is older. Adding children to your life or moving from a rural to an urban environment should be considered when you choose your breed.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

The Herding and Hound Groups

Herding Group

All breeds share the fabulous ability to control the movement of other animals. …pure instinct prompts many of these dogs to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family.1

The most popular of the breeds in the Herding group is the German Shepherd Dog, which has been second on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds for the past four years2. Other dogs in this group include Australian Shepherds (#16), Corgis (#18, #69), Shetland Sheepdogs (#24), Collies (#37), Border Collies (#38), and more.

I describe many dogs in the herding group as “Those with a passion for bringing order out of chaos.” Often the dogs in this group need to herd and will attempt to round-up everything from your livestock, to ducks at the park, your cats, other dogs, the neighbor’s children, and yes, even stationary tennis balls. Some breeds herd with their eyes while others use quick, but effective and often uncomfortable nips with their teeth. If you live in a chaotic household and have children nearby, you should carefully consider if a dog from the herding group is a good choice for your situation. On a positive note, the dogs in the herding group have been bred to work in close collaboration with a person so they can be easier to train.

Hound Group

Most hounds share the common ancestral trait of being used for hunting. Some use acute scenting powers to follow a trail. Others demonstrate a phenomenal gift of stamina as they relentlessly run down quarry.1

The favorite breed in the Hound group is the Beagle, which has been the fifth most popular dog in the USA since 20152. Other dogs in the Hound group include Dachshunds (#13), Bassett Hounds (#39), Bloodhounds (#52), Greyhounds (#151), and more.

The key thing to remember about the AKC’s comments on the Hound group is that hounds were bred to hunt by selectively breeding them to emphasize their predatory instincts. Some hounds use their sight, and some use their impressive sense of smell, but they are both experts at detecting and chasing down prey. Since hounds often work independently of their handler, unlike the breeds in the Herding and Sporting group, a hound may be more challenging to train. While it is not impossible to train a hound to be off-leash in unfenced areas, it will typically take more time and higher value rewards. Some hounds will never reach off-leash reliability no matter how skilled you are at training. Because many of the hound breeds have been bred to work as a group, they can have excellent social skills and will often do well with other dogs.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

Many dogs in shelters are labeled as being part hound, and we see a wide variety of them for both boarding and daycare. If you put the time and effort into training your hound and have reasonable expectations, they can make excellent, laid back companions. Yes, I said laid back. I cannot think of any hound I have met that I would classify as hyper.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

The Sporting, Non-Sporting, Terrier, and Toy Groups

Last month I started a three-part series on the importance of understanding your dog’s breed and what they were bred to do before selecting a dog. That understanding is critical to making sure you get the perfect dog that we all seek. Last month I discussed the AKC Herding and Hound groups. This month I will look at the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups.

Non-Sporting Group

– “The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.1

Some of the more popular breeds in the Non-Sporting group include Bulldogs (#4), French Bulldogs (#6), Poodles (#15), the Bichon Frise (#45), Dalmatian (#62), Keeshond (#92), and more2.

The breeds in the Non-Sporting group are so diverse that discussing them as a group is not very valuable. For that reason, I recommend that anyone considering a dog from this group not only talk to breeders but also veterinarians, trainers, and kennel and daycare owners about your particular breed of interest. Always make sure you seek advice from those with no financial gain in the breed that you choose.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

Sporting Group

Naturally active and alert, Sporting dogs make likeable, well-rounded companions. … Potential owners of Sporting dogs need to realize that most require regular, invigorating exercise.1

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the US for many years, and the Golden Retriever often holds the number three spot on the AKC most popular breeds list2. Other popular breeds in the Sporting group include; German Short-Haired Pointers (#11), Brittany’s (#25), English Springer Spaniels (#26), Cocker Spaniels (#29), and more.

We see lots of Sporting breeds in Maine due to their overall popularity but also probably because many Mainers love outdoor adventures and so do the dogs in the Sporting group. These dogs are bred to work closely with their handler, so they often are some of the easiest dogs to train. However, they do tend to be some of the larger breeds as well as being well known for their enthusiastic exuberance. If you have a dog from the Sporting group, starting training at an early age is essential. Because of their retrieving instincts, some of the Sporting breeds can be overly mouthy, so training them appropriate bite inhibition before they are 13 weeks of age is critical.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

For hundreds of years, retrievers have been bred to have the stamina and instincts to hunt during hunting season while being able to relax and be an ideal companion dog the rest of the year. Within the past few years, some of these dogs have been bred to be, in my opinion, overly driven so as to be more competitive in field trials. These dogs are not always a good choice as a companion as they often exhibit poor bite inhibition and a hyperactive personality.

Terrier Group

These are feisty, energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. …In general, they make engaging pets, but require owners with the determination to match their dogs’ lively characters.1

The most popular breed in the Terrier group is the Miniature Schnauzer at #17. Other dogs in the Terrier group include the West Highland White Terrier (#41), Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (#50), Airedale Terrier (#55), and others2. You may have noted that Terriers fall lower on the popularity list and that is because a terrier is not for everyone.

The AKC group description indicates that dogs in the Terrier group often have issues with other animals, including dogs. I describe Terriers as being the Seal Team of the dog world; they seek out and kill and do it very efficiently. That sometimes makes them less than ideal for those new to dogs, those with children, and those that are fans of backyard wildlife. If you have other animals in your home, talk to a certified dog trainer or canine behavior consultant about adding a Terrier to your family before committing to do so.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

Toy Group

The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight.1

The most popular breeds in the Toy group include; Yorkshire Terrier (#9), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (#19), Shih Tzu (#20) and Pug (#32)2. The most distinguishing feature of these breeds is their size; they are small. The shape of their faces, the length of their coat, and personality can vary widely.

Many breeds in the Toy group were bred specifically to serve as lap companions. We see several toy breeds for boarding and grooming at Green Acres, and they have very endearing qualities. For someone that primarily wants a canine buddy, they can be ideal. I often recommend both the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pug for first-time dog parents. They are small, durable, have great personalities and are pretty low maintenance, although both breeds may suffer from serious health issues.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

Next month I will close out this three- part series by discussing the AKC Working group and Mixed Breed dogs.

The Working Group and Mixed Breeds

This is part three of a three-part series on the importance of understanding your dog’s breed and what they were bred to do before selecting a dog. That understanding is critical to making sure you get the perfect dog that we all seek. In July I discussed AKC Herding and Hound groups and in August I looked at the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups. This month I will address the AKC Working Group and Mixed Breed dogs.

Working Group

Dogs of the Working Group were bred to perform such jobs as guarding property, pulling sleds and performing water rescues. They have been invaluable assets to man throughout the ages. …Their considerable dimensions and strength alone, however, make many working dogs unsuitable as pets for average families. And again, by virtue of their size alone, these dogs must be properly trained.1

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

If you look at the top 10 list for dogs in the US you will find these breeds from the Working group; Rottweiler (#8) and Boxer (#10). Other popular breeds in this group include the Siberian Husky (#12), Great Dane (#14), Doberman Pinscher (#15), Bernese Mountain Dog (#27),Newfoundland (#35), and others2.

Like the Non-Sporting group, the breeds in the Working group are so diverse that discussing them as a group is not helpful. For that reason, I recommend that anyone considering a dog from this group talk to breeders as well as veterinarians, trainers, kennel and daycare owners about the particular breeds that interest you. Always make sure you seek advice from those with no financial gain in the breed that you choose.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

The dogs in the Working group were bred for a wide variety of purposes. The livestock guarding dogs were historically bred in the fields with the animals that they are supposed to protect. They are independent and naturally suspicious of all but the flock they guard and a few people. The Northern breeds in this group; Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Samoyed love the cold and snow and find the heat uncomfortable.

Other factors to consider with the breeds in the Working group are their size and strength. Can you safely handle a dog this big? Are you physically able to or do you have a plan to lift them and carry them should the need arise? Are you committed to training the dog?  A dog from the working group can be an excellent choice if your lifestyle is compatible with what they need to thrive. If you have other dogs in your life, you need to consider the difference in size between the dogs. The play between a large dog in from the Working group and a toy breed will need to be carefully supervised.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

We care for many dogs in the Working Group, primarily Boxers, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Mastiffs. They all do well, and we enjoy seeing them; however, they each have very individual personalities, so it is important that we take the time to get to know them well.

The most important consideration when getting a dog is their temperament and personality. While both vary in any breed, when choosing a pure-bred puppy or dog you can look to the breed for a highly probable predictor of what you will get. The same cannot be said of mixed breeds.

Mixed Breeds or Mutts

Fifty-percent of the dogs in the US are mixed breeds. I know from personal experience, with my own mixed breeds as well as the many that we care for at Green Acres, that mixed breeds can be marvelous companions. However, when getting a mixed breed, it can be problematic because you do not always know what you are getting. Knowing what breeds make up your mixed breed is difficult at best unless you make use of a reliable DNA test.

Unless your mixed breed is a “designer breed” like one of the many varieties of Doodles, there was probably no witness to the breeding. That means that your mixed breed was labeled as being a “something/something” by a person, based solely on their appearance or physical traits. Unfortunately, that is not a very accurate way to determine a mix of breeds.

In 2012, a study3, 4 was initiated to “…determine the accuracy of visual breed identification compared to DNA breed profiles.” The study looked at 100 shelter dogs. Photos of the dogs were reviewed by “Self-identified “dog experts,” including breeders, exhibitors, trainers, groomers, behaviorists, rescuers, shelter staff, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians…” Their identification of the breed mix of each dog in the photo was compared to a DNA test of that dog. The results indicated “Respondents correctly identified a prominent breed an average of 27% of the time. Each of the dogs had an average of 53 different predominant breeds selected. No one correctly identified a breed for 6% of the dogs, and 22% of the dogs had the correct breed chosen less than 1% of the time. Only 15% of the dogs were correctly identified more than 70% of the time. These results indicate that, regardless of profession, visual identification of the breeds of dogs with unknown heritage is poor.” [Emphasis added] In other words, mixed breed dogs in shelters or rescues are misidentified more often than not.

FMIhttps://vetmed-maddie.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2012/05/2012-Croy-Maddies-Shelter-Medicine-Confernce-Abstract.pdf

My dog Muppy was labeled as a Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix when we adopted her. She certainly looks like a Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix, and we love her just as she is, but we decided to do a DNA test just to learn more. The Mars Wisdom Panel reports that Muppy’s DNA indicates that she is 37%, Cocker Spaniel. The test was not able to identify other specific breeds in her lineage but does suggest that the next largest component comes from the Terrier group. Muppy has DNA from what the Mars Wisdom Panel defines as the Middle East and African group which contains breeds such as the Afghan Hound, Basenji, Saluki, and Rhodesian Ridgeback. Lastly, according to the test, she contains some DNA from the Herding group.

We decided to do a second test, this one by Embark, which many consider to be more definitive. The Embark test reports that Muppy is: 44.7% Cocker Spaniel, 30.0% Rat Terrier, 12.2% Boston Terrier, and 13.1% SuperMutt. The latter is a category where Embark lumps together other DNA evidence that suggests Muppy may have small amounts of DNA from other distant ancestors, in her case: the American Eskimo Dog, Bearded Collie, and Collie.

FMIMuppy’s Embark resultsembk.me/muppy

No identifiable DNA was found in Muppy that would suggest that she is part Golden Retriever, Both tests indicate she is predominantly Cocker Spaniel and terrier. I suspect the Golden Retriever came into play when she was in rescue. When Muppy was rescued, she was pregnant. I have seen photos of her puppies and photos of two of those puppies as adults, and her offspring most definitely look like Golden Retrievers. It is quite possible that the father of Muppy’s pups was a Golden or a golden mix. However, the point is, judging by appearance only is highly inaccurate and Muppy is a prime example of how looks can be deceiving. No one labeled her as part terrier based on her appearance, yet both tests suggest a significant amount of terrier DNA.

From a behavioral perspective, Muppy shows several traits from her Cocker Spaniel lineage; she is very into birds; she points, and she retrieves. She also knows how to use her nose, and does so more than any other dog I have owned. I do not know if that trait is because of her DNA or is a behavior that was learned in order to survive as a stray. Muppy has been very easy to train, which could be due to her Sporting Group genes or her possible Herding DNA, or both. I do not see any Terrier behavioral characteristics.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

References

1 AKC websitehttp://www.akc.org/public-education/resources/dog-breeds-sorted-groups/

2 Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking Listhttp://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/most-popular-dog-breeds-full-ranking-list/

3 Dog Breed Identification: What kind of dog is that?http://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/library/research-studies/current-studies/dog-breeds/

4 What kind or dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholdershttps://vetmed-maddie.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2012/05/2012-Croy-Maddies-Shelter-Medicine-Confernce-Abstract.pdf

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©3SEP17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 3 – The Working Group and Mixed Breeds

< A version of this article was published in the September 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 14SEP17 >

< You can listen to a podcast on this topic that was broadcast on The Woof Meow on 16SEP17 by clicking here >

< UPDATED – 3SEP17 – All three parts of this series have been compiled into a single article at http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter >

This is part three of a three-part series on the importance of understanding your dog’s breed and what they were bred to do before selecting a dog. That understanding is critical to making sure you get the perfect dog that we all seek. In July I discussed AKC Herding and Hound groups and in August I looked at the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups. This month I will address the AKC Working Group and Mixed Breed dogs.

Working Group – “Dogs of the Working Group were bred to perform such jobs as guarding property, pulling sleds and performing water rescues. They have been invaluable assets to man throughout the ages. …Their considerable dimensions and strength alone, however, make many working dogs unsuitable as pets for average families. And again, by virtue of their size alone, these dogs must be properly trained.1

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

If you look at the top 10 list for dogs in the US you will find these breeds from the Working group; Rottweiler (#8) and Boxer (#10). Other popular breeds in this group include the Siberian Husky (#12), Great Dane (#14), Doberman Pinscher (#15), Bernese Mountain Dog (#27),Newfoundland (#35), and others2.

Like the Non-Sporting group, the breeds in the Working group are so diverse that discussing them as a group is not helpful. For that reason, I recommend that anyone considering a dog from this group talk to breeders as well as veterinarians, trainers, kennel and daycare owners about the particular breeds that interest you. Always make sure you seek advice from those with no financial gain in the breed that you choose.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

The dogs in the Working group were bred for a wide variety of purposes. The livestock guarding dogs were historically bred in the fields with the animals that they are supposed to protect. They are independent and naturally suspicious of all but the flock they guard and a few people. The Northern breeds in this group; Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Samoyed love the cold and snow and find the heat uncomfortable.

Other factors to consider with the breeds in the Working group are their size and strength. Can you safely handle a dog this big? Are you physically able or do you have a plan to lift them and carry them should the need arise? Are you committed to training the dog?  A dog from the working group can be an excellent choice if your lifestyle is compatible with what they need to thrive. If you have other dogs in your life, you need to consider the difference in size between the dogs. The play between a large dog in from the Working group and a toy breed will need to be carefully supervised.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

We care for many dogs in the Working Group, primarily Boxers, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Mastiffs. They all do well, and we enjoy seeing them; however, they each have very individual personalities, so it is important that we take the time to get to know them well.

The most important consideration when getting a dog is their temperament and personality. While both vary in any breed, when choosing a pure-bred puppy or dog you can look to the breed for a highly probable predictor of what you will get. The same cannot be said of mixed breeds.

Mixed Breeds or Mutts

Fifty-percent of the dogs in the US are mixed breeds. I know from personal experience, with my own mixed breeds as well as the many that we care for at Green Acres, that mixed breeds can be marvelous companions. However, when getting a mixed breed, it can be problematic because you do not always know what you are getting. Knowing what breeds make up your mixed breed is difficult at best unless you make use of a reliable DNA test.

Unless your mixed breed is a “designer breed” like one of the many varieties of Doodles, there was probably no witness to the breeding. That means that your mixed breed was labeled as being a “something/something” by a person, based solely on their appearance or physical traits. Unfortunately, that is not a very accurate way to determine a mix of breeds.

In 2012, a study3, 4 was initiated to “…determine the accuracy of visual breed identification compared to DNA breed profiles.” The study looked at 100 shelter dogs. Photos of the dogs were reviewed by “Self-identified “dog experts,” including breeders, exhibitors, trainers, groomers, behaviorists, rescuers, shelter staff, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians…” Their identification of the breed mix of each dog in the photo was compared to a DNA test of that dog. The results indicated “Respondents correctly identified a prominent breed an average of 27% of the time. Each of the dogs had an average of 53 different predominant breeds selected. No one correctly identified a breed for 6% of the dogs, and 22% of the dogs had the correct breed chosen less than 1% of the time. Only 15% of the dogs were correctly identified more than 70% of the time. These results indicate that, regardless of profession, visual identification of the breeds of dogs with unknown heritage is poor.” [Emphasis added] In other words, mixed breed dogs in shelters or rescues are misidentified more often than not.

FMIhttps://vetmed-maddie.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2012/05/2012-Croy-Maddies-Shelter-Medicine-Confernce-Abstract.pdf

My dog Muppy was labeled as a Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix when we adopted her. She certainly looks like a Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix, and we love her just as she is, but we decided to do a DNA test just to learn more. The Mars Wisdom Panel reports that Muppy’s DNA indicates that she is 37%, Cocker Spaniel. The test was not able to identify other specific breeds in her lineage but does suggest that the next largest component comes from the Terrier group. Muppy has DNA from what the Mars Wisdom Panel defines as the Middle East and African group which contains breeds such as the Afghan Hound, Basenji, Saluki, and Rhodesian Ridgeback. Lastly, according to the test, she contains some DNA from the Herding group.

We decided to do a second test, this one by Embark, which many consider to be more definitive. The Embark test reports that Muppy is: 44.7% Cocker Spaniel, 30.0% Rat Terrier, 12.2% Boston Terrier, and 13.1% SuperMutt. The latter is a category where Embark lumps together other DNA evidence that suggests Muppy may have small amounts of DNA from other distant ancestors, in her case: the American Eskimo Dog, Bearded Collie, and Collie.

FMI – Muppy’s Embark results – embk.me/muppy

No identifiable DNA was found in Muppy that would suggest that she is part Golden Retriever, Both tests indicate she is predominantly Cocker Spaniel and terrier. I suspect the Golden Retriever came into play when she was in rescue. When Muppy was rescued, she was pregnant. I have seen photos of her puppies and photos of two of those puppies as adults, and her offspring most definitely look like Golden Retrievers. It is quite possible that the father of Muppy’s pups was a Golden or a golden mix. However, the point is, judging by appearance only is highly inaccurate and Muppy is a prime example of how looks can be deceiving. No one labeled her as part terrier based on her appearance, yet both tests suggest a significant amount of terrier DNA.

From a behavioral perspective, Muppy shows several traits from her Cocker Spaniel lineage; she is very into birds; she points, and she retrieves. She also knows how to use her nose, and does so more than any other dog I have owned. I do not know if that trait is because of her DNA or is a behavior that was learned in order to survive as a stray. Muppy has been very easy to train, which could be due to her Sporting Group genes or her Herding DNA, or both. I do not see any Terrier behavioral characteristics.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

References

1 AKC website – http://www.akc.org/public-education/resources/dog-breeds-sorted-groups/

2 Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List – http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/most-popular-dog-breeds-full-ranking-list/

3 Dog Breed Identification: What kind of dog is that? – http://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/library/research-studies/current-studies/dog-breeds/

4 What kind or dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholders – https://vetmed-maddie.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2012/05/2012-Croy-Maddies-Shelter-Medicine-Confernce-Abstract.pdf

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/07/29/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-1-the-herding-and-hound-groups/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 2 –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/08/02/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-2-the-sporting-non-sporting-terrier-and-toy-groups/

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©1SEP17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 2 – The Sporting, Non-Sporting, Terrier, and Toy Groups

< A version of this article was published in the August 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 14SEP17 >

< You can listen to a podcast on this topic that was broadcast on The Woof Meow on 16SEP17 by clicking here >

< UPDATED – 3SEP17 – All three parts of this series have been compiled into a single article at http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter >

Last month I started a three-part series on the importance of understanding your dog’s breed and what they were bred to do before selecting a dog. That understanding is critical to making sure you get the perfect dog that we all seek. Last month I discussed the AKC Herding and Hound groups. This month I will look at the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups.

Non-Sporting Group

– “The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.1

Some of the more popular breeds in the Non-Sporting group include Bulldogs (#4), French Bulldogs (#6), Poodles (#15), the Bichon Frise (#45), Dalmatian (#62), Keeshond (#92), and more2.

The breeds in the Non-Sporting group are so diverse that discussing them as a group is not very valuable. For that reason, I recommend that anyone considering a dog from this group not only talk to breeders but also veterinarians, trainers, and kennel and daycare owners about your particular breed of interest. Always make sure you seek advice from those with no financial gain in the breed that you choose.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

Sporting Group – Naturally active and alert, Sporting dogs make likeable, well-rounded companions. … Potential owners of Sporting dogs need to realize that most require regular, invigorating exercise.1

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the US for many years, and the Golden Retriever often holds the number three spot on the AKC most popular breeds list2. Other popular breeds in the Sporting group include; German Short-Haired Pointers (#11), Brittany’s (#25), English Springer Spaniels (#26), Cocker Spaniels (#29), and more.

We see lots of Sporting breeds in Maine due to their overall popularity but also probably because many Mainers love outdoor adventures and so do the dogs in the Sporting group. These dogs are bred to work closely with their handler, so they often are some of the easiest dogs to train. However, they do tend to be some of the larger breeds as well as being well known for their enthusiastic exuberance. If you have a dog from the Sporting group, starting training at an early age is essential. Because of their retrieving instincts, some of the Sporting breeds can be overly mouthy, so training them appropriate bite inhibition before they are 13 weeks of age is critical.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

For hundreds of years, retrievers have been bred to have the stamina and instincts to hunt during hunting season while being able to relax and be an ideal companion dog the rest of the year. Within the past few years, some of these dogs have been bred to be, in my opinion, overly driven so as to be more competitive in field trials. These dogs are not always a good choice as a companion as they often exhibit poor bite inhibition and a hyperactive personality.

Terrier Group – “These are feisty, energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. …In general, they make engaging pets, but require owners with the determination to match their dogs’ lively characters.1

The most popular breed in the Terrier group is the Miniature Schnauzer at #17. Other dogs in the Terrier group include the West Highland White Terrier (#41), Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (#50), Airedale Terrier (#55), and others2. You may have noted that Terriers fall lower on the popularity list and that is because a terrier is not for everyone.

The AKC group description indicates that dogs in the Terrier group often have issues with other animals, including dogs. I describe Terriers as being the Seal Team of the dog world; they seek out and kill and do it very efficiently. That sometimes makes them less than ideal for those new to dogs, those with children, and those that are fans of backyard wildlife. If you have other animals in your home, talk to a certified dog trainer or canine behavior consultant about adding a Terrier to your family before committing to do so.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

Toy Group – “The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight.1

The most popular breeds in the Toy group include; Yorkshire Terrier (#9), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (#19), Shih Tzu (#20) and Pug (#32)2. The most distinguishing feature of these breeds is their size; they are small. The shape of their faces, the length of their coat, and personality can vary widely.

Many breeds in the Toy group were bred specifically to serve as lap companions. We see several toy breeds for boarding and grooming at Green Acres, and they have very endearing qualities. For someone that primarily wants a canine buddy, they can be ideal. I often recommend both the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pug for first-time dog parents. They are small, durable, have great personalities and are pretty low maintenance, although both breeds may suffer from serious health issues.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

Next month I will close out this three- part series by discussing the AKC Working group and Mixed Breed dogs.

References

1 AKC website – http://www.akc.org/public-education/resources/dog-breeds-sorted-groups/

2 Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List – http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/most-popular-dog-breeds-full-ranking-list/

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/07/29/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-1-the-herding-and-hound-groups/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/01/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-3-the-working-group-and-mixed-breeds/

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2AUG17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 1 – The Herding and Hound Groups

< A version of this article was published in the July 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 14SEP17 >

< You can listen to a podcast on this topic that was broadcast on The Woof Meow on 16SEP17 by clicking here >

< UPDATED – 3SEP17 – All three parts of this series have been compiled into a single article at http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter >

I recently saw a meme posted on Facebook with the words “Getting a dog without understanding the breed is like buying a house without an inspection.” A discussion followed as to whether or not this was a good way to emphasize that breed matters when you are selecting a dog that will best fit into your family, lifestyle, and the environment in which you and your dog will live. I agree with the sentiment of the text in this meme; however, I believe that the question of how important breed is when selecting a dog is far too important to leave to a discussion on Facebook. If you want the greatest probability of getting a great canine companion, you need to consider breed before purchasing or adopting a dog, and your research needs to extend beyond social media and avid fans of the breed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently recognizes 202 different breeds of dogs organized into seven groups: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy, and Working. Different breeds of dogs exist because each breed was developed to address a particular need or role in serving humans.

In some cases, the AKC group description is helpful in understanding what a dog was bred to do, while some of the groups contain breeds with a wide variety of individual physical and behavioral traits and I question how they were lumped into the same group. However, looking at the Group is a good place to start. Below you will find my thoughts on each AKC group and factors that I recommend you consider before deciding which breed is the best for you. Please recognize that you want to choose a breed that is also the best choice for your family, your lifestyle, and the environment in which you live. The lifespan of a dog, which can also be breed dependent, can range from six to eighteen years. As you consider your current lifestyle and environment, think about the future and what your life will be like when your dog is older. Adding children to your life or moving from a rural to an urban environment should be considered when you choose your breed.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

 

Herding Group – “All breeds share the fabulous ability to control the movement of other animals. …pure instinct prompts many of these dogs to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family.1

The most popular of the breeds in the Herding group is the German Shepherd Dog, which has been second on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds for the past four years2. Other dogs in this group include Australian Shepherds (#16), Corgis (#18, #69), Shetland Sheepdogs (#24), Collies (#37), Border Collies (#38), and more.

I describe many dogs in the herding group as “Those with a passion for bringing order out of chaos.” Often the dogs in this group need to herd and will attempt to round-up everything from your livestock, to ducks at the park, your cats, other dogs, the neighbor’s children, and yes, even stationary tennis balls. Some breeds herd with their eyes while others use quick, but effective and often uncomfortable nips with their teeth. If you live in a chaotic household and have children nearby, you should carefully consider if a dog from the herding group is a good choice for your situation. On a positive note, the dogs in the herding group have been bred to work in close collaboration with a person so they can be easier to train.

Hound Group – “Most hounds share the common ancestral trait of being used for hunting. Some use acute scenting powers to follow a trail. Others demonstrate a phenomenal gift of stamina as they relentlessly run down quarry.1

The favorite breed in the Hound group is the Beagle, which has been the fifth most popular dog in the USA since 20152. Other dogs in the Hound group include Dachshunds (#13), Bassett Hounds (#39), Bloodhounds (#52), Greyhounds (#151), and more.

The key thing to remember about the AKC’s comments on the Hound group is that hounds were bred to hunt by selectively breeding them to emphasize their predatory instincts. Some hounds use their sight, and some use their impressive sense of smell, but they are both experts at detecting and chasing down prey. Since hounds often work independently of their handler, unlike the breeds in the Herding and Sporting group, a hound may be more challenging to train. While it is not impossible to train a hound to be off-leash in unfenced areas, it will typically take more time and higher value rewards. Some hounds will never reach off-leash reliability no matter how skilled you are at training. Because many of the hound breeds have been bred to work as a group, they can have excellent social skills and will often do well with other dogs.

FMIhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

Many dogs in shelters are labeled as being part hound, and we see a wide variety of them for both boarding and daycare. If you put the time and effort into training your hound and have reasonable expectations, they can make excellent, laid back companions. Yes, I said laid back. I cannot think of any hound I have met that I would classify as hyper.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

Next month I will discuss the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups.

References

1 AKC website – http://www.akc.org/public-education/resources/dog-breeds-sorted-groups/

2 Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List – http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/most-popular-dog-breeds-full-ranking-list/

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 2 –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/08/02/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-2-the-sporting-non-sporting-terrier-and-toy-groups/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/01/does-my-dogs-breed-matter-part-3-the-working-group-and-mixed-breeds/

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – http://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://bit.ly/ChoosingADogTrainer

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©29JUL17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Adopting A Pet – We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)!

< A version of this article was published in the
March 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

<  UPDATED – 3SEP17 >

We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)!

Prior Planning Makes for Success

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA

In January Kate and I did a two-part series on The Woof Meow Show (woofmeowshow.com) about finding the right dog for you and your family. You can read a companion article and get a link to the podcast here (Finding the right dog for you and your family). This column discusses what to do after you have found your dog but before you bring them home.

Adjust your schedule and priorities – Your new puppy is going to need significant time from you, especially during the first few months. A puppy has a key developmental period between eight to sixteen weeks of age, during which certain things need to happen if you want a well-adjusted puppy. This is not something you can postpone until you have time. Block off time in your daily schedule for your pup now, and stick to your commitment. Get other family members to pledge to do their part as well. It takes a family to raise a puppy.

Learn to accept, laugh and relax and ALWAYS be kind –   Your attitude and emotions will be a big factor in your pups happiness and readiness to bond with you. Trust me, dogs read us better than many of our closest human friends, and if you become angry with your dog, it will damage your relationship. Understand that a new dog, whether a puppy, a senior or anything in between, will need you to be patient and understanding. Accept the fact that both you and your dog will find one another frustrating at times. Rather than get mad, laugh and relax. Dogs like kind people with a good sense of humor.

Determine how you will handle your puppy’s housetraining – Your puppy will not housetrain themselves and will need someone present to take them out several times during the day. This need will continue for the first few months of their life. A rule of thumb for how many hours a puppy can “hold it” is their age in months plus one. For example, a four-month-old puppy will be able to “hold it” for five hours, at most. If you work all day long, you need a plan now, if you want your pup to become housetrained. Leaving a puppy in a room or an X-Pen while you are gone is just rewarding them for going to the bathroom inside, which will make training them to go outside take that much longer. If you cannot be there for your puppy, consider hiring a friend or family member to help you.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian for your puppy for the second day they are with you – No matter where you get your puppy, even if it is from your most trusted friend, take them to your veterinarian for their first wellness exam within twenty-four hours of your bringing them home. Make this appointment well in advance, so you are not delayed because your veterinarian’s schedule is booked.

Consider pet insurance – If you want to protect yourself against future major expenses, the time to consider pet insurance is when your dog is young, as it does not cover preexisting conditions. I recently had a client who adopted a new puppy that was diagnosed with a heart condition at their first appointment. While this is rare, it can happen. There are many pet insurance options available, so do your research.

Select a qualified trainer and enroll you and your puppy in a Puppy Headstart class – Do this now, before you have the puppy, so that you can make sure there is room in the class when your puppy arrives. Every dog will benefit from training, as will you, and the relationship between you and your dog. Developmentally, a puppy will benefit starting in class when they are eight to nine weeks of age, definitely before 16 weeks of age, when socialization windows close. A well-designed puppy class will focus on important issues like; socialization and habituation, housetraining, play biting, jumping up on people, and chewing. These are vastly more important at this stage than working on things like sit and shake. Working with a professional, certified, reward-based dog trainer can greatly simplify your life.

  • If you enroll in class, you are more likely to train your dog,
  • a trainer can answer your questions as they come up, and
  • a trainer can teach you how to avoid unintentionally training behaviors you do not want.

Do not just choose a trainer solely based on location, convenience or price. Training is an unregulated profession, and not all trainers are created equal. (How to choose a dog trainer)

Purchase Basic Supplies – You will need some basic supplies for your puppy. Minimally, these include a crate, a leash, a collar, an ID tag, food and water bowls, and toys.

Purchase Food and Treats – What you feed your pet and use for treats is a big decision, which can have significant effects on your puppy’s health. I believe that quality nutrition is the key to health and a long life. Be skeptical of television ads for pet food. The pet foods that you most often see advertised on TV are currently facing a lawsuit for misleading advertising. Avoid anyone suggesting that one and only one food is the best food for all pets. Recognize that breeders, veterinarians, pet stores, shelters; and others trying to sell you food, have a bias. Either commit to learning about pet nutrition, or find someone you can trust to help you.

Find a groomer – Not all dogs will need a professional groomer for their coat, but unless you plan on trimming your dog’s nails on your own, you will need the services of a professional groomer every four to six weeks. If you have a long-haired dog; Poodle, Doodle, Sheltie, etc., you will want your dog to start to become familiar with the grooming process between 8 and 16 weeks of age. I suggest a minimum of two to three visits to the groomer during this period, not for a full grooming, but just to have some “happy time” with the groomer and for your dog to become habituated to the process.

Have fun and enjoy your new companion – If you think I have made raising a puppy sound like lots of work that is because it is. However, the more you know and plan ahead of time the easier it is. The investment you make in your puppy will be paid back in fun and companionship.

 

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Finding the right dog for you and your familyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/16/adopting-a-pet-finding-the-right-dog-for-you-and-your-family/

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 1http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-14Finding_the_Right_Dog_for_You_and_Your_FamilyPart-1.mp3

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 2http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-21Finding_the_Right_Dog_for_You_and_Your_FamilyPart-2.mp3

How to choose a dog trainer – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-07How_to_Choose_A_Dog_Trainer.mp3

The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/12/12/podcast-the-benefits-of-training-your-dog-and-2017-training-classes-at-green-acres/

 

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©4MAR17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
<Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family

<Updated 8FEB17>

You can listen to two podcasts on this topic by clicking on the links below.

<Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 1>

<Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 2>


I love dogs. That is one of the reasons why my wife and I decided to get into the pet care business over 21 years ago. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a family get a new dog and watching them bond and grow old together. However, that does not happen automatically. Dogs can make wonderful companions, but not every dog is the right dog for every person or family. Finding the right fit takes time and work, something that does not happen when you get a dog or puppy on impulse. The odds are your dog will be with you longer than you have your car. It is worth taking the time to do it right.

In my business, I see thousands of dogs every year, and I know that some of them, as happy as their family is with them, would not be the right dog for me. Sadly I also see some dogs and families that are terrible mismatches; neither dog nor people are enjoying the relationship. That is why I like to sit down with people and help them learn how to find the right dog and the right source for a dog so that the dog and their family have a wonderful life-long relationship.

This article is something we provide to people when they come in for one of our FREE consultations. You are welcome to use it without the consultation, but I would encourage you to give us a call (945-6841) and set up an appointment. We think you will be glad you did.

Getting A Dog Is A Commitment

Getting a dog can easily be a 10 to 15-year commitment, so it is imperative that you pick the best breed or mixed breed for your family, and the best individual dog. Selecting the right dog is an important decision and one you should research thoroughly before making a decision. Once you think you have decided on a breed/mixed breed, do lots of reading, talk to pet professionals such as veterinarians, trainers, kennel and daycare owners, and groomers as well as others about your choice. Make sure you ask for both the good and the bad points of a specific breed. No breed is the perfect dog for everybody. Consider the bias people may have when recommending a breed or individual dog. If they are trying to sell you a dog; which is what a breeder, pet store, or shelter/rescue is trying to do, then they may not be giving you sound, objective advice.

Factors You Need To Consider BEFORE You Start Looking For A Dog

  1. Is anyone in your immediate family afraid of dogs? If so, you need to seriously ask yourself if getting a dog is a good idea. Living with a dog is not necessarily going to help the person afraid of dogs and may end up in your having to rehome the dog. That is not fair to the dog.
  2. Is anyone in your family allergic to dogs? If so, spend a significant time around dogs to determine if this will be a problem before you get the dog. Beware of claims by people trying to sell you that they claim is “hypoallergenic.” While some pets shed less and cause less of an allergic reaction than others; I do not believe any breed of pet is truly hypoallergenic. My wife and I are both allergic to dogs and cats, and we cannot imagine a life without pets; however, not everyone is willing or able to put up with allergies.
  3. If you live alone or are the dogs only caregiver, have you considered who will care for your dog if something happens to you? Hopefully, nothing will happen to you, but we do suggest that you have planned ahead of time just in case.
  4. Do all adult family members support the idea of getting a dog? Dogs are not for everyone. They are also very good at reading humans and knowing if someone wants them. We have seen more than one situation where the dog was not welcomed by the entire family, and that does not always change over time. I recommend that everyone be on board with the decision to get a dog.
  5. Will your dog be around children? I am not just asking about your children, but also the children belonging to your neighbors and other family members. Not all dogs will enjoy the company of children. You need to choose both the breed and the individual dog wisely to have the best probability of dogs and children living in harmony.
  6. Will you take your dog to work with you or will they be around your business? Not all dogs enjoy other people and may, in fact, be a liability in your business. Selecting a dog with the right temperament will be very important.
  7. What time of year do you want to bring this new puppy or dog into your family? Depending on where you live and what you do for a living, there are times of the year that are better for getting a dog. The first few months with your new dog will most likely require a significant amount of your time, and you and the rest of the family may need to adjust some priorities, in particular with a Below are some factors to consider.

The end of year holidays – For most people, November and December are the two most hectic months of the year. Most of us celebrate three major holidays, we are invited to more gatherings than average, and children have a wide variety of holiday-related school events. Are you ready to miss some of those events due to a new dog or puppy in the family? A new puppy or a rescue dog, and the latter will most likely also have some behavioral baggage, will need lots of your time, as well as stability, and in many cases quiet. Can you and your family commit to that during the holidays? If not, waiting until January or spring may be a better option for you and your new canine companion.

Housetraining and the weather – if you live in the snow belt, you will need to take the puppy out several times per day for housetraining no matter how cold it is or how hard it is snowing (see http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/02/16/housetraining/). Even though an older dog may be advertised as being housetrained, that is not always the case.  Living in a state that can have harsh winters, I would not get a new dog between November or mid-March.

The summer holidays –  Many people choose to get a new dog, especially a puppy, once the kids are out of school, especially if one of the parents also has the summer off. This can be a very good time to get a new dog, but can also be a recipe for creating a dog with separation issues when everyone disappears during the day come the end of August. If you get a dog during this time of year, make sure that you immediately start teaching them how to cope with being alone (see http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/14/dog-training-preventing-separation-anxiety-teaching-your-dog-to-cope-with-being-alone/)

Family Vacation – This can be a nice time to get a dog if you are planning on staying home. However, if you are going away and traveling, I would postpone getting the dog until you return. The first few months with a dog are important for developing the bond between you and your new friend. If the dog is with you for two to four weeks and then you are gone for two weeks, you may need to spend some extra time rebuilding that bond. I cannot imagine taking a puppy or a rescue dog on vacation immediately after they join my family. As mentioned above, they need stability and consistency the first few months with us. That typically does not occur when you are traveling.

  1. Do you have other dogs in your family? Not all dogs will get along with other dogs. A puppy may be more than an eight-year-old dog wants to handle. They may grow to tolerate or even like each other but will require close supervision until they do.
  2. Do you have other pets in your family? Dogs and cats do not always get along (ask me about Batman and Tikken) and small rodents or chickens often may be very tempting to a dog. Remember your dog is a predator. Some breeds will do better than others around other animals but remember supervision and training will also be important.
  3. Why do you want to get a dog? What will be the dog’s role in your family? Do you want a companion to share your days? Do you want a dog that will be your teammate in dog sports? Do you want a dog that can be a Therapy Dog and bring joy to people in nursing homes? Do you want the dog to go hunting with you, or do you want one or more of these things or something else? Not all dogs will be well suited to all of these tasks and even if their breed suggests that they have a probability of doing well at something, say retrieving, that does not mean that will be the case. Are you ready to accept your dog for whomever they turn out to be?
  4. Who will be the dog’s primary caregiver in your family? If you want your children to take part in caring for the dog, that is fine, but please understand that based on 21 plus years of experience, I am confident that it will be an adult family member who will be providing most of the care for a dog. Children often drive a family’s decision to get a dog, and when I meet with a family for a consultation, I always ask about the children’s extracurricular activities. Today it is not uncommon for a child to be involved in several afterschool activities every week. If your children want a dog, I encourage you to ask them what activities they are willing to give up so that they have time for the dog. If they say they want a dog but are not willing to give up any other activity, it may not be the right time to add a dog to your family.
  5. Do you want a puppy, an adolescent or an older dog? Dogs of any age can become great family members, but there are pros and cons at every age level. The first twelve months of a puppy’s life can keep you quite busy; however, by knowing the breeder and the dog’s parents and having control over their early learning and development, I believe that you have a greater probability of getting what you want when you choose to get a puppy. However, that does depend on you putting in the time and energy to manage and train the dog.

Adolescents, typically the dogs between six months and three years of age often end up being rehomed because of behavior problems. These problems are often the result of inadequate or no socialization and little or no training or inappropriate training. These dogs can become wonderful companions, but you need to be patient and be willing to invest time and love in training and rehabilitating these dogs. Theses dog can be a great deal of work so carefully assess if you have the resources to give them what they need. Loving a dog is seldom enough.

Older dogs, those five and up, often end up in a shelter or rescue due to financial reasons or other family life changes. If the dog has only had one prior family and lived in the house as a companion, they could be a perfect dog for you. Often these dogs have had a basic level of manners training, are housetrained, and are just looking for a home where they can live out their years, getting affection and giving it back. Shed, was adopted when she was five and fit in our family very easily.

  1. Do you want a pure breed, a mutt or a designer breed? Selecting the type or breed of dog to get may be one of the most complicated decisions you will make and also the one with a significant amount of emotional content.
    1. Pure Breed – You are NOT a bad person if you choose to get a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder. I would rather have you get the dog you want than get a dog from a rescue because you have been told that is the “right” thing to do. Paula and I have had both purebreds from breeders and mixed breeds and purebred dogs from rescues. They can all be good However, I have also helped many clients who had a bad experience with a rescue; both with pure breds and mixed breeds, who have since had great experiences by getting the dog they want, not the one friends or family told they must get. Get the dog that you believe will be the best fit for you and your family and do not be swayed by emotion.

If you do choose a pure bred, make sure you thoroughly understand the genetic health issues that they may face as well as some of the human-made features that can affect a dog’s health. Dog breeding is probably one of the longest running examples of genetic engineering, and it has not always ended up benefitting the dog. Due to breeding for certain facial structures, some dogs will be breathing impaired their entire life. Other breeds cannot even breed or deliver puppies naturally.

  1. Mutt/Mixed Breed – The loveable mutt, and yes they can often be quite lovable, is typically the result of an accidental breeding. How did that happen? Well, two
    EPSON DSC picture

    people with dogs were not responsible enough to get their dogs spayed/neutered or to prevent them from breeding. Shed, that five-year-old I mentioned above, was a mixed breed and was delightful; however, it was quite evident from her behavior that she was well cared for and trained from an early age.

The problem with a mixed breed dog is that you never know what you are getting from both a physical and behavioral perspective. For example, let’s say you get a Bassett Hound/German Shepherd mix. These are two breeds with fundamentally different temperaments, and you may not know which will be the predominant personality until you have lived with the dog for a while. It may or may not be the dog you had hoped to have.

Mixed breed puppies can be great if they are properly raised between birth and eight weeks of age but if the owner was not responsible enough to prevent the breeding the likelihood of doing everything else that is necessary for two months with a litter of puppies seems unlikely. Leaving the puppies in the barn with mom until they are eight weeks of age is a disaster waiting to happen.

For years it was presumed that mixed breeds would be healthier due to hybrid vigor. The latest research suggests that is not the case and in fact, mixed breeds are just as likely to have the same health issues as pure breed dogs.

Also, recognize that when a shelter labels a dog as being a certain mix of breeds they are often inaccurate. A recent study indicated that the determination of a dog’s mix of breeds by shelter workers or pet care professionals (veterinarians, trainers, and boarding kennel operators) were wrong 87.5% of the time when compared to DNA testing. The fact is, unless someone saw the actual act of conception, the odds of picking correctly are only 12.5%

  1. Designer Breed – The designer breeds (the Doodles, the various Poo’s, and others) are typically the deliberate breeding of two purebred dogs to create a “designer-breed” that is then often sold for much more than the typical purebred. As the designer breeds have become increasingly popular, breeding them strictly for monetary reasons has become more common; this has never been good for dogs. Some of these designer breeds can be great dogs, but they usually do not have all of the “benefits’ that they are advertised as having. For example; the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle are often promoted as being “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic.” The Poodle does have a very different coat type from the Labrador or the Golden, but the coats of doodle puppies can vary wildly within the individuals in the same litter. To claim that they are all “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic” is pure nonsense. As a potential purchaser of one of these dogs, it is also important to understand that very few reputable breeders of purebreds are going to knowingly sell one of their dogs to be used in a designer-breed breeding program. That means that it is possible that these designer-breeds are the offspring of lower quality breeding stock which can have a detrimental effect on both health and temperament. I am not saying never to get a designer-breed, but it is important to understand that when one breeds for physical characteristics, it also can affect temperament, and often in a negative way. This is a case where you will want to physically see both mom and dad and as many generations of this lineage as possible, before committing to a purchasing a puppy.

 

  1. What size dog do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of sizes; everything from a 4lbs Teacup Yorkie to a 200lbs+ English Mastiff. If you plan on a life of outdoor activity for you and your dog, especially if you will be hiking off the beaten path, I strongly encourage you to get a dog that you can physically carry from wherever you are to a vehicle. If your dog injures itself out in the middle of nowhere, you may have no other choice. If your physical abilities are limited or if you are just getting older, you need to ask yourself “can I carry my dog up and down the stairs or out to the car?” When our Golden Tikken passed at 16 years of age, my wife and I decided that we needed to “downsize” for our next dog. Tikken only weighed 50lbs, but the last year of her life we had to carry her up and down the stairs, which with bad backs was not always easy nor was it healthy. Our new dog, Muppy, weighs a lean twenty-five pounds.

Size also play a role in other ways. Big dogs eat more which will affect your wallet, and they will also leave larger deposits for you to clean up in the yard. Caring for a large dog can also end up costing you more at the veterinarian and the groomer.

Within the specific breeds, there are those breeding for incredibly tiny or gigantic dogs. Often these dogs also have extremes in temperament and health issues. If the words “Teacup” or “Giant” are affixed to a breed you are considering, talk to several professionals, knowledgeable about dogs and not trying to sell you a dog, about the pros and cons of getting a dog of unusual size.

Lastly, large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs. One of the hardest things about owning a dog is knowing that they will probably pass before you, and no matter how many times you experience a dog’s death, it never becomes easier.

  1. What type of coat do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of coat Everything from the short-haired easy to maintain Beagle to the long coated dogs like the Samoyed, Rough-coat Collie and of course the elaborately groomed Poodle. No matter what breed you choose, you will need to spend time brushing them at least once a week. The longer haired breeds will require much more time and effort and more frequent brushing. In some cases, dogs will require professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks in addition to the brushing you do at home. That needs to be considered when you look at the expense of owning a dog.
  2. Do you have the resources necessary to care for a dog properly? – Living with a dog and caring for it takes time and money. A dog needs to be trained when you first get them, and training does not stop until they have passed away. They will minimally require an annual trip to the veterinarian as well as annual licensing. On a daily basis, they will need to be fed, exercised, taken out to go to the bathroom several times, and provided with adequate mental stimulation and companionship. Depending on their coat type a dog will also need to be brushed, bathed and have their nails trimmed on a regular basis. They may require annual teeth cleaning at your veterinarians, and you really should consider brushing their teeth daily. If you go away, and cannot take your dog with you, you may also need to consider the cost of boarding your dog or hiring a pet sitter. If you are already limited on time or if you need to watch your budget closely, it may not be the right time for a dog.
  3. Are you prepared to travel to see the dog you want? – No matter if you choose a purebred or mixed breed, breeder or rescue, you may need to travel to get the dog you want. We have clients that have driven 12 hours north into Canada and flown to Texas to get the dog they desired. Others have had dogs flown over from Europe and elsewhere. If you follow only one of the recommendations I suggest, please let it be this one: NEVER purchase a dog or a puppy without seeing it in person first. Over the years we have had far too many clients that have been sent dogs with severe health or behavioral issues, or in some cases, they were sent a totally different dog than the one they saw online. This has happened with both breeders and rescues. In some of these cases, these breeders/rescues then made it very costly or next to impossible for the client to return the dog.

Where Will I Get the Dog I Want?

When looking for a source for a puppy, you will typically go to a breeder if you want a pure bred dog or a shelter/rescue if you are looking for either a purebred or mixed breed dog. I have listed the traits you will want to look for in these two sources.

Reputable Breeders

A reputable breeder will typically only breed one or two litters a year. The best breeders will have committed homes for their puppies before the mother is ever bred and therefore will probably have waiting lists. They will not need to advertise in the newspaper or put up signs along the side of the road nor will they give their puppies away to be auctioned off at a fundraising benefit.

They will typically only breed one or at most two breeds of dogs.

They will not breed adult dogs until they are at least 2 to 3 years old. Many health and temperament issues will not be apparent in a dog until it is at least two years of age.

A bitch will not be bred more than once per year.

They will discuss in detail, with anyone interested in their puppies, the health issues affecting their breed. They should be able to provide documents from a veterinarian certifying that the parents and at least two previous generations are free of any of these health issues. Common health issues with many purebred dogs include hip dysplasia, central progressive retinal atrophy, subvalvular aortic stenosis, and others. For more information on breed specific health concerns you can check the Canine Inherited Disorders Database maintained by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm.

Educate yourself about these genetic health issues before visiting any breeders, and rather than bring them up with the breeder, see if they tell you about them first. If they fail to do so, you may want to consider a different breeder.

Also, understand that you can choose the best breeder, who is doing everything right, and these genetic disorders can occur in a puppy. That is just the nature of genetics. While this may be unlikely to happen, I would encourage you to have a discussion with the breeder in advance, so you understand their policies if this should occur.

Ask the breeder what type of temperament they see in their dogs and how that affects their breeding program. Since most dogs in the US are pets and companions, the best breeders will focus on breeding dogs with a sound, friendly temperament. If the breeder focuses on working dogs (protection, field trials, tracking, livestock guarding, and herding), their dogs may not have the best temperament to be a family companion. Working dog breeders may have puppies that the breeder believes are not suitable for the job they were bred for, which they will then sell as “pets.” That does not mean that they will have an ideal temperament to be a family dog.

The best breeders will raise the puppies in their home along with the adult dogs and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.

The best breeders will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to go to their new homes and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the breeder needs to find another mother dog to take her place.

The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.

The best breeders will allow you to see both parents so that you can evaluate their health, behavior, and temperament. If the mother has been artificially inseminated, they will put you in contact with the breeder that owns the stud and the best breeders will have a video of the stud so you can observe his behavior. Being informed about both parents temperament is crucial, as studies have indicated that if either parent is shy, anxious, or timid, then the puppies will also have this temperament Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better.

The best breeders actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with you. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The best breeders will have this documented in a daily journal.

The best breeders will not suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one.

The best breeders will offer a written contract with health guarantees that also offers to take the puppy back, at any time, for any reason. State laws may require a breeder to provide you with certain legal documents at the time of the sale. Make sure you know what these documents are so that you can make sure that the seller provides them.

The best breeders will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be wary of breeders that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the breeder has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best breeders will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.

Ask how the breeder feeds the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread with these puppies.

The best breeders will ask you lots of questions about why you want a puppy, why you want this particular breed, and how you will care for the puppy. They will want to verify that you have time for the puppy, that you will enroll it in a reward based training class, and have a yard and home suitable for the puppies exercise needs. They will ask you for references. They will often require a fenced yard.

The best breeders will discuss the advantages of spaying/neutering your puppy and if it is not suitable for breeding will require that you have the puppy spayed/neutered.

The best breeders will be licensed as a breeding kennel if the state where they live is wise enough to require breeders to be licensed. When you find a breeder, call the agency responsible for licensing breeders and verify that the breeder is licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed against the breeder. In Maine, breeding kennels are licensed by the state Animal Welfare Program, and they can be reached at 1-877-269-9200.

Ask the breeder how they train their dogs and what types of tools and methods they use and what they recommend for their puppies. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:

“This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem-solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.

Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.“ [Emphasis added]

I recommend that you avoid any breeder that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines.

 

Humane Societies/Shelters/Rescues

Dogs that end up in a shelter or rescue are typically strays or have been surrendered by someone locally because they can no longer care for the dog or no longer want the dog. Dogs are surrendered for a variety of reasons, including finances, where someone lives, or health issues. Surrendering a dog is hard for most people and as such the reasons they give may not always be entirely accurate, nor are their descriptions of the dog’s behavior. They might paint a picture of a wild, crazy dog to make themselves look better or that of a mild, easy-going dog to increase the dog’s chances of adoption. Bottom line, the information on the dog may not always be accurate.

Often shelters have little or no information about strays. Dulcie, one of our Cairn Terriers, was a stray, so we had little information about her when she became part of our family.

Some shelters and rescues are also bringing in dogs from out of state, typically from the south. These dogs may be surrenders or strays, but often the quality of information about them is not very high. I have mixed feelings about bringing in dogs from out of state. In full disclosure, our newest dog Muppy came here from Mississippi. Muppy has been a great dog for us, but we did meet her in person before we adopted her and I also asked the Maine rescue some very pointed questions before we did adopt. Specifically, I wanted to know what the rescue was doing to stop the overpopulation problem in the south. This Rescue, Canine Commitment of Maine (now Helping Paws Maine), is helping to fund mobile spay/neuter services in Mississippi. Not all rescues are doing things like that, and some of the groups down south have discovered it is very lucrative to sell dogs and puppies to us folks up north. They are essentially puppy mills without the breeding program, so buyer beware.

The best shelters and rescues will give all dogs that they adopt a thorough veterinary exam, will spay and neuter them and will make sure they are current on all necessary vaccinations before they ever leave the facility. Before adopting a dog from the south, verify its heartworm status. Heartworm is endemic in many parts of the south, and it is unlikely that a rescue dog was on a heartworm preventative.

Many shelters and rescues will also give dogs a temperament test to determine what type of home would be best for a dog or to assess whether the dog is even safe to adopt. Sadly some dogs end up at shelters due to aggression issues; facts that those surrendering the dog failed to disclose. What you need to understand about temperament tests is that they are not a guarantee. Not all people performing the tests have the same level of skill and experience. A temperament test is also only a snapshot of what a dog’s temperament was like at a specific movement in time. When you consider the fact that a dog in a shelter/rescue situation is under a great deal of stress, it is not unusual at all for a dog to act very differently after they have been in your home for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it may take a couple of months before you see a rescued dog’s true Because of this, the value of temperament testing by shelters is being questioned.

Puppies may end up at a shelter because someone left them in a box in front of the door; in which case you will know very little about those puppies. A shelter may also have puppies available because a pregnant mom was surrendered. In those cases, the best shelter will find a foster home for the mom, where she will live until she has the puppies and they have been weaned and are available for adoption. The same requirements for raising those puppies during that time frame are the same as those that apply to a breeder.

The foster parents will raise the puppies in their home along with the mom and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.

They will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to be returned to the shelter at eight weeks of age and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the foster parent needs to find another dog mother to take her place.

The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.

Studies have indicated that if either parent is shy/anxious timid the puppies will also have this temperament trait. Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better. Unfortunately, when you adopt a puppy from a shelter, it is seldom that you will even know who the father was and possibly may know nothing about the mother. In other words, they have less information on which to assess what the pup’s behavior might be like as an adult.

The shelter/rescue/foster parent should actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with people. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The puppy raisers should have this documented in a daily journal.

They will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be aware of shelters that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the shelter has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best shelters will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.

Ask how they feed the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread.

No reputable shelter/rescue will suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one and may not allow you to get more than one.

A reputable shelter/rescue will offer to take a dog back, at any time, for any reason. They should never make you feel guilty about returning a dog or make it difficult to do so. A client of ours adopted an adult dog from a rescue which they quickly discovered was aggressive towards children. The dog’s aggressive behavior not been disclosed by the rescue. The rescue begrudgingly agreed to take the dog back but told the client it would be as long as six weeks before they had a foster home available. Before you adopt from a rescue or shelter, make sure you have their return policies in writing.

A shelter/rescue may ask you lots of questions about why you want a dog, why you want this particular dog, and how you will care for the dog. They will want to verify that you have time for the dog, and may require you to enroll it in a reward based training class. Many shelters/rescue will ask for references and may even do a home visit. They will often require a fenced yard. If you have other dogs, they will require that your dogs meet the new dog before adopting.

Some shelters work with trainers and behavior consultants to help prepare dogs for adoption. Make sure that they are only working with trainers committed to Force-Free, reward based training. Preferably these trainers will be members of The Pet Professionals Guild and certified as a Professional Canine Trainer (PCT-A) by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (http://www.credentialingboard.com/), or certified as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (http://www.ccpdt.org/) or credentialed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (https://iaabc.org/) as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC).

Ask the Shelter/Rescue how they train their dogs and what types and tools they use and what they recommend for training. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:

This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.

Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.“ [Emphasis added]

I recommend that you avoid any Shelter or Rescue that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines. I would also avoid them if they refer to trainers that use those techniques.

A reputable shelter/rescue will be licensed as a shelter/rescue in the state of Maine. When you find a shelter/rescue, call the Maine Animal Welfare Program and verify that they are licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed about their practices. The phone number for the AWP is 1-877-269-9200.

Lastly, understand that most shelters and rescues are non-profits and may ask for donations. That is fine as long as they are legitimate non-profits; however, not all have filed the necessary paperwork required for their non-profit status to be legal. Why is that important? It is important to make sure that the money you are donating is being put to good use. In 2013, an individual representing a rescue group in our area was arrested and convicted of embezzling over $100,000 from the group. That is a great deal of money that never went to helping rescued dogs. A place you can check on any non-profit organization is http://www.charitynavigator.org/ and http://www.guidestar.org/.

If you need assistance or advice in finding the perfect dog for your family, do not hesitate to contact us. We want to help you find the best dog for you and your lifestyle.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

 

Accepting the Pet You Havehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/11/26/accepting-the-pet-you-have/

A Rescue Dogs Perspective – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

Adopting/Getting A Pet – Before You Adopt A Dog…http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/adoptinggetting-a-pet-before-you-adopt-a-dog/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law and Your Rights As A Consumer – While getting a new pet usually goes very well, occasionally people have a bad experience when purchasing a new pet. This can happen when getting a pet from a pet store, a breeder, and even when getting a pet from a shelter or rescue. In this show, we address consumer’s legal alternatives when things do not go as you wanted.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – How to choose a dog trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible.

The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017.

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this week’s show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work by causing fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

Web Sites

Canine Inherited Disorders Databasehttp://www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm

Maine Animal Welfare Programhttp://www.maine.gov/dacf/ahw/animal_welfare/

The Pet Professional Accreditation Boardhttp://www.credentialingboard.com/

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultantshttps://iaabc.org/

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainershttp://www.ccpdt.org/

Charity Navigatorhttp://www.charitynavigator.org/

Guidestarhttp://www.guidestar.org/

Professional Pet Care Associations

The Pet Professional Guildhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/

The Association of Professional Dog Trainershttps://apdt.com/

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©15-Jan-17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Body Language of Fear in Dogs – Dr. Sophia Yin

This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how a dog may use it’s body to signal they are afraid. You can download your own copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs

Body Language of Fear in Dogs

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Like us, our dogs can and do experience stress. Just as stress can make us feel afraid or hyper or edgy or irritable, it can do the same to our dogs. It is a well-established fact that the “wrong kind” of stress or chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our behavior, health, and overall well-being. Whether “good stress” or “bad stress”, physiologically, the manifestation of stress in dogs is similar as to that in humans, with the same negative and positive effects. Stress has the potential to make one ill, suppress the immune system, cause behaviors that damage relationships with others, and increase arousal. This increase in arousal greatly increases the probability of aggressive behavior.

As a pet behavior consultant, I have observed that most behavior problems with pets, especially the more serious such as aggression and separation anxiety, are the result of stress. Therefore, as responsible guardians for our dogs, we have an obligation to understand stress and its impact so we can do what is necessary to minimize stress in the lives of our canine friends.

Definition of Stress

Stress is the response of an organism to a demand placed upon it to change or adapt.*”

*Canine Neuropsychology, third edition, by James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005, page 3

“Good” Stress versus “Bad” Stress

Certain levels of stress are normal and even necessary for survival and the increase of gray matter in the brain. Good stress is called eustress. This “positive” stress allows an organism to utilize energy in a positive manner and assists in the development of new capabilities. This type of stress, in appropriate quantities, is essential to normal growth.

When stress is negative or becomes excessive, it is called distress. Stress of this manner can damage an organism, resulting in illness and behavioral problems such as anxiety and aggression. This may become a vicious cycle, with stress contributing to even more stress until an organism collapses in exhaustion or self-destructs.

The susceptibility to distress varies with each individual organism. How an individual responds to distress is often affected by a combination of inherited genes and events within the organism’s environment.

It is important to understand that eustress and distress occur over a continuum. Eustress can range from contentment to extreme excitement and distress can range from worry to extreme fear or minor irritability to severe aggression.

Eustress and Distress

What Does Stress Feel Like?

Stress affects us both physiologically and emotionally, and the two are always interconnected. Whether experiencing eustress or distress, the physiology and the effects on the body are essentially the same. Therefore, the biggest difference between the two types of stress is a matter of our perception of how we feel.

Good Stress (eustress) Always Acute Bad Stress (distress) Acute or Chronic
Heightened Sense of Awareness Increased Reactivity/Jumpy
Alert Hyper-Vigilant
Euphoria Irritability
Learning a new task (confident) Inability to learn (doubtful)

We have all experienced both eustress and distress at some point in our lives, but fortunately not all of us have experienced extreme distress. Some medications can cause the same physiological effect as distress so if you have ever been on prednisone, or known someone who has, you may have a better idea of how severe distress feels.

Prednisone is a man-made corticosteroid that is used to suppress the immune system. It is often used to treat autoimmune disease, asthma, lupus, colitis, Bell’s palsy, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Prednisone mimics cortisol, a major stress hormone, so the side-effects of prednisone can be similar to those of an organism in extreme distress. These side effects include; insomnia, euphoria, depression, mania, mood swings, irritability and even psychotic behavior. (As an asthmatic I have been on prednisone numerous times and know how it makes me feel. While it eventually makes me physically healthier, the side effects are not pleasant for me, or those around me. I have also observed animals on prednisone, and sometimes they can react negatively and experience significant behavioral changes, which do not always resolve long after the drug is no longer being used.)

Physiological Effects of Stress

When something stressful happens; we are frightened or startled or experience physical or emotional pain, our body falls under the control of the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System (SANS). The SANS is part of the body responsible for controlling the flight or fight response. Our body goes on auto-pilot to protect us from the perceived threat.

The SANS is closely associated with the limbic system, which is the section of the brain that deals with the expression and experience of emotions, storage of memories and expression of aggression. It is the most primitive part of the brain and is very involved with instinctual survival mechanisms. It is separate from the cerebral cortex, which is thought to be the “thinking” part of the brain and the site of conscious thought and intelligence. Note that the brain is hard-wired to ALWAYS remember negative emotional responses to help ensure our future safety.

When the limbic system (emotional auto-pilot) is activated, the cerebral cortex is suppressed. This is why one does not typically behave rationally when in a highly charged emotional state. This can also help us to understand why expecting our dogs to respond to a well-trained cue when they are in distress is usually a futile effort. Likewise, the parts of the brain responsible for learning something new are shut-down at this time. Conversely, when the cerebral cortex is highly active, the limbic system is suppressed.

The release of various neurotransmitters and stress hormones triggers a plethora of reactions within our body that shuts down all of our bodily systems not necessary for defense. Levels of adrenaline, a neurotransmitter, become elevated which in turn increase pulse rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and the dilation of bronchial tubes and pupils, preparing the body for the surge of energy necessary for a flight or fight response. Cortisol production increases which turns off the immune system and other non-essential systems. The above is a gross oversimplification. For a more in-depth understanding, please refer to the books listed in the resources section of this article.

After the stressful situation has passed, the body’s stress response is supposed to turn-off and levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones should return to normal levels. However, these changes do not “turn-off” instantly but can, in fact, take 24 to 72 hours to return to their normal (non-stress) levels. As a result, if an organism is exposed to frequent stress events (daily or multiple times per day) those levels may never return to normal, leaving the individual in a constant/chronic state of stress. Think of the dog that aggressively reacts to the mail carrier Monday through Saturday of every week. That dogs stress levels may never get a chance to return to normal. The same can happen with the dog that demands to play fetch each and every day. Sometimes when an individual is subjected to chronic stress, the mechanisms that are supposed to turn off stress no longer work and levels continue to build and can reach four times normal levels. Normal now becomes a much higher level.

 

Causes of Stress in Dogs

Brambell’s Five Freedoms

A significant cause of stress for an animal occurs when its most basic needs are not being met. One of the first and most comprehensive efforts to define an animal’s most basic welfare needs started in Great Britain in 1965 with the establishment of the Brambell Commission. This commission, created by Parliament, was charged with reviewing the treatment of farm animals and developing a minimum standard for meeting their needs. They created what is known as “The Five Freedoms,” which is an excellent starting point for evaluating the welfare of any animal, including companion dogs. The five freedoms are:

  1. Ensure your pet is free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple — provide your dog with food and water and the need is met. However, I encourage you to give this more thought. Is the food you feed your dog wholesome and a type that would be in their natural diet? Are they allowed to consume this food in a manner that is natural for their species? We also must consider that too much food is equally bad, as evidenced by the significant number of obese dogs we see today.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from discomfort.

Again this freedom seems relatively straight forward — make sure your pet always has adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

Your dog also needs a quiet, comfortable resting place where they can be undisturbed and where they will feel safe. You need to make sure that their environment is free from things that may cause them harm.

Your dog’s breed also affects what they need to be comfortable. If they have long hair, they may be unable to properly groom themselves. If that is the case, you must groom them on a regular basis, so that their hair does not become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort.

Obesity puts a strain on the joints and may cause pain and discomfort, so it is important not to allow our dogs to become obese.

Lastly, dogs, like humans, are social animals and may depend on interactions with others, particularly of their own species, to be comfortable. However, if they do not feel safe around another dog, being compelled to live with another dog may cause discomfort. Knowing and responding properly to your dog’s social needs is critical

  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury and disease.

One of the easiest ways to meet this freedom is to make sure your dog gets an initial series of vaccinations to ensure that they are protected against diseases, followed up by annual and as-needed visits to your veterinarian. At home, a weekly body check can alert you to any changes in your pet’s physical condition.

Being free from pain is very similar to being free from discomfort so the dog’s grooming needs must also be considered. Remember, dogs are designed by nature not to show pain and thus weakness, so often they will attempt to hide their pain. Obesity and matted coats may cause pain.

  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

If you are going to allow your pet to express normal behaviors you first need to know and understand what constitutes both “normal” canine behavior and “abnormal” canine behavior. This is not easy because there is so much incorrect information about canine behavior circulating as myth and being perpetuated in out-dated books and inaccurate websites.

What we know about canine behavior today has changed greatly since the 1970’s. Many of the old “truths” are in fact not true. Statements such as; “…you need to be dominant or “alpha” over your dog, dogs are like wolves and should be treated as such, dogs are pack animals, and dogs should be trained with choke collars, shock collars, and alpha-wolf rollovers and other types of intimidation” are NOT true and in fact cause far more problems than they resolve. In fact, all of those methods and techniques are a perfect recipe for causing fear, stress, and aggression. That is one reason the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) specifically recommends that the dominance construct or any tools and methods which cause discomfort, pain or intimidation should NEVER be used.*

*2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines

The freedom to express normal behaviors is the one that is most often overlooked, as many dog guardians are either unaware of the huge repertoire of normal dog behaviors or because they do not approve of some of these normal behaviors such as “butt sniffing.” It is imperative you take the time to learn what constitutes normal behavior. The best way to do this is to enroll you and your dog in a dog training class taught by an individual who has been certified by either the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT. They should also comply with the PPG philosophy of training that is Pain Free, Force Free and Fear Free.

Minimally, to express normal behaviors your dog needs adequate space in which to run and an enriched environment to stimulate their minds and bodies. The ability to sniff and explore the world is key to a dog’s life.

Toys enrich your pet’s environment by giving them something to play with; however your dog also needs appropriate interaction with living things as well. That can come from us as well as other dogs.

Playing with your dog is good for establishing and maintaining a lifelong bond. It is also a great outlet for mental and physical activity and can be just plain fun! However, it is essential to understand that play, especially very active play, is stressful in itself and increases your dog’s arousal level. Play should be frequently interrupted and as soon as the dog has calmly settled that behavior can be rewarded with more play. If the dog does not or cannot settle, then play stops. Overly rough play between a person and a dog, especially play where the dog exhibits mouthing and nipping behavior, is inappropriate and for the safety of others, as well as yourself, should ALWAYS be discouraged. The best way to discourage such play is to immediately stop playing when it occurs. You should also learn to recognize the signs that tell you that your dog’s level is arousal is increasing so that you can stop play before the mouthing occurs.

While our dogs hopefully enjoy our companionship most also need adequate opportunities to interrelate with others of their own kind in a positive situation. That does not mean you need to have more than one dog, but it does mean your dog may need to have some suitable doggie friends in the neighborhood or at doggie daycare. However, these friends must be of a similar temperament, age, size and play-style and the interactions must be enjoyable for all. Lastly, not all dogs enjoy the company of other dogs, just as many people do not enjoy others. In this case, it is important to understand that you cannot make a dog like another dog or a person.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their dog fear or distress. However, lack of knowledge, or incorrect perceptions and beliefs about canine behavior, certainly causes a great deal of fear and distress in our canine companions. As a behavior consultant, I see a great number of dogs for “aggression” that is almost always based in stress related fear.

Far too many people are still not aware of how critical a well thought out socialization plan is for a puppy when they are between 8 and 16 weeks of age. During this time, most puppies are very accepting of new environments, people, and situations — as long as they are setup to ensure it is a positive experience. Socialization does not end after the critical socialization period; rather it should continue throughout a pet’s life. A dog can be socialized after 16 weeks of age, but I recommend that you work with a certified dog behavior consultant to help you develop a remedial socialization program that will be beneficial and not cause more harm.

A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can also cause a dog to become anxious and fearful. A dog needs a moderate amount of both physical and mental exercise on a daily basis. A pet that does not get adequate exercise may become bored and frustrated, and start exhibiting behaviors that you will find undesirable. On the other hand, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Daily visits to the dog park or a doggie daycare are often counter-productive and unhealthy. Activities need to be well balanced with ample opportunities for rest. A dog normally sleeps 17 hours per day.

When we add a dog to our family we are bringing them into a very foreign environment and culture with very different rules. On top of that we are expecting them to understand a foreign language while we often make no effort to learn their language. We need to educate our dog to live in our world and educate ourselves about the dog world if we are to keep them free from fear and distress.

We also need to actively protect our dog by avoiding stressful situations until they have had adequate socialization and training. You are their guardian and as such must take responsibility for managing their interactions with the environment and other living things.

 

What Does An Animal Do When They Are Afraid?

Animals, humans included, have four typical responses when they are afraid; Flee, Fight, Freeze, and Fidget About.


What Do Animals Do When AfraidFlee
is self-explanatory and is all about the normal fight or flight response. It is important to understand that when a dog is on a leash they know that they cannot run away from what is scaring them. That is one reason a dog may be more reactive when they are on a leash; they are desperately trying to scare what they are afraid of away. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep a reactive dog out of situations where they react like this because every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again.

To Fight or become aggressive is also part of the normal fight or flight response.  To allow your dog to react in this manner is a liability risk for you and a safety risk for yourself and others. Dogs can do in an incredible amount of very serious damage in a very short amount of time. As your dog’s guardian, it is your responsibility to prevent this type of behavior. As explained with fleeing, a dog on leash comprehends that the leash will restrain them from fighting effectively. It also can make the situation worse if two dogs are fighting and they are both on leashes that become entangled. Separating dogs in this scenario becomes even more difficult and risky. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep an aggressive dog out of situations and environments where they could attack another person or animal because there is ALWAYS a risk of serious injury or death. Every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again. Dogs that have attacked other dogs should NEVER be taken to a dog park.

To Fidget About is essential the dog exhibiting a normal behavior in an abnormal context. It may be as simple as looking away, sniffing, or playing with a toy. It is the dog’s way of ignoring what they perceive as being threatening with the hope that the threat will ignore them and go away.

Freezing is becoming totally rigid and immobile. It is essentially the absence of any behavior that the dog feels could be provocative. This often occurs when the dog’s emotional state has moved from being afraid to being terrified. Freezing is often misunderstood by dog guardians who because they see that their dog is non-reactive they assume the dog is “fine.” While the dog is not barking, lunging or running away in this situation, it is not doing so because it is terrified. This is a tremendous emotional response that will not be forgotten easily.

The key thing you need to remember with any of the four F’s (Flee, Fight, Fidget About, or Freeze) is that you want to minimize putting your dogs in these situations once you know this behavior is a likely possibility. The brain is designed to remember scary things after the very first event. Subsequent exposures will just make reduce the probability of ever being able to move beyond this fear.

Common Causes of Stress in Dogs

  • Any change in environment (schedule, people, animals, increased noise)
  • Arguments among family members
  • Combination training (rewards and punishment)
  • Excessive play that becomes borderline “obsessive/”
  • Excessive stimulation (too much play, doggie daycare, dog sports, )
  • Frustration
  • Grief due to the loss of a companion (human or animal)
  • Humans ignorant of needs and ways of communicating
  • Inappropriate play partners, human or animal
  • Insufficient stimulation
  • Not being taught how to be alone
  • Punitive training (shock, choke and prong collars)
  • Scary events
  • Too many dogs per available space
  • Unreasonable expectations (expected to like all people and all other animals in all situations, expected to be 100% on all the time)
  • Insufficient social time/family time
  • Uncertainty

 

Identifying Stress in Canines

Dogs express themselves and communicate with body language, vocalizations, and behavior. By getting familiar with our dogs’ bodies, we can tell when they start to feel stressed. It is imperative to look at the entire body and not just isolated parts to get the best understanding of what your dog is feeling.

Ember-headturn-nose lickCalming signals, as described by Norwegian ethologist and dog behaviorist Turid Rugaas, are very subtle changes in the body of a dog that suggest building stress and are used to diffuse conflict before it happens. A calming signal is a polite request to another dog to change their behavior and, therefore, prevent any dispute from occurring. Dogs use calming signals to communicate with us as well.

Two of the calming signals people see most frequently are “licking of the nose” and “yawning.” The dog in the picture is demonstrating both “averting of the eyes” and a “nose lick,” probably because the camera is staring at her. Other signs that can be calming signals are; turn away, softening of the eyes (squinting), freezing, play bow, sitting down, lying down, sniffing, scratching and splitting up.

For more information on calming signals read the article Introduction to Canine Communication http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/.

Some key indications of stress, by body part, are noted below.

Eyes

  • Avoiding Eye Contact
  • Blinking or squinting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Furrowed Brows
  • Hardened Eyes (direct stare with pupils dilated)
  • Staring
  • Tightness around eyes
  • Whale eye/ Half-moon eye

Mouth

  • Barking
  • Biting
  • Cheek puffing
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Growling
  • Lip Curling
  • Lip/Nose licking
  • Mouth closed tightly or lips pulled back
  • Mouthing
  • Nipping
  • Panting
  • Showing teeth
  • Smiling
  • Snapping
  • Teeth chattering
  • Wrinkled muzzle
  • Whimpering
  • Yawning

Ears

  • Flattened or lowered
  • Pinned back
  • Upright and alert

Body

  • Cowering
  • Defecation
  • Dribbling or submissive urination
  • Excessive shedding
  • Freezing – little or no movement
  • High body posture, rigid forward stance
  • Groveling posture
  • Low body posture, weight shifted back
  • Penis crowning
  • Piloerection (Hackles)
  • Shake off
  • Stretching
  • Sweaty paws
  • Tail up and flagging
  • Tail Tucked
  • Tense all over
  • Tight brow
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Urogenital “check-out.”

Vocalizations

Dogs may also indicate they are stressed through vocalizations. Some of the more common stress related vocalizations are:

  • Barking – low pitch = threatening, high pitch = fear/stress
  • Growling
  • Howling
  • Screaming
  • Whining
  • Whimpering

 

Behavior

When stressed a dogs behavior will often change. Common behaviors that are often stress induced are:

  • Clinging to or hiding behind guardian
  • Cowering
  • Destructive behaviors, chewing, ripping, shredding, clawing
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Excessive sleeping, often due to exhaustion
  • Freezing or walking slowly
  • Hiding
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Inability to focus
  • Inappropriate urination and defecation
  • Increased urination and defecation
  • Irritable
  • Jumping up on guardian
  • Jumpy/Easy to startle
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive/Compulsive behaviors – (e.g. shadow chasing)
  • Pacing
  • Poor sleeping habits, less than 17 hours sleep per day
  • Refusing food or treats
  • Restless, inability to relax
  • Running off
  • Sniffing, out of context
  • Unable to settle
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

 

The Stress Escalation Ladder

Stress and the dog’s arousal happen on a continuum. Some of the signs of stress start appearing at very low levels of arousal. As the arousal level continues to rise it may result in growling, showing of teeth, lunging and biting at the most extreme levels. It is important to remember that arousal levels increase with positive stress (eustress) just as they increase with negative stress (distress). A dog that is ramped up and highly aroused in play is also more likely to bite and lose their bite inhibition. The chart below, created by Rugaas, illustrates the signs seen at various levels of arousal. It should always be our goal to keep the dog out of the yellow and red zones.

Stress Escalation Ladder-Rugaas

Reducing Stress in Dogs

In order to reduce our dogs’ stress we first need to understand it. Once we have identified the cause, there are many approaches to eliminating the stress.

The easiest way to deal with a dog under stress is usually management — removing the dog from the situation/context where the stress occurs. While this does not solve the problem, it is a temporary fix that will make the dog feel better. If this is a context/situation the dog will need to be exposed to in the future, it is advisable to work with a qualified behavior consultant to help get the dog over this fear. Few dog guardians are successful resolving this type of issue by reading books or watching programs on TV. In our experience, they usually make the problem worse.

A qualified, professional behavior consultant will ALWAYS first recommend that you discuss your dog’s behavioral issues with your veterinarian. Pain and other medical conditions can cause behavioral problems, and they need to be addressed first.

A behavior consultant will consider a number of methods to help your dog deal with their stress. They will almost always recommend a behavior modification protocol, which is a specialized program for your dog’s situation. A dog training class is seldom recommended for a dog with stress-based issues such as anxiety and aggression, as it often puts a dog in an environment where they will be stressed. Any organism must be free from fear if they are going to be able to learn.

Teaching your dog to sit, down, stay, etc. will not change the way your dog feels. In fact, asking your dog to sit in the presence of something that causes them to react may make them more fearful. For example, let’s say that you are afraid of bees and wasps. Now imagine sitting in a room full of bees and wasps and imagine trying to learn. You will not be learning but will be focusing on keeping yourself safe from getting stung.

A behavior modification program is all about changing your dog’s emotions and the way they feel about what is making them fearful or angry. Additionally, a behavior consultant may also recommend changes in diets, and treatment with complementary therapies; Bach Flower Remedies, Herbs, Homeopathy, T-Touch, if they are so qualified. They may also suggest that you ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinary behaviorist so that the veterinary behaviorist can determine if drug therapy is necessary. A behavior consultant should always be working with your veterinarian.

Stress can make us feel miserable, and it does the same for our dogs. If you have a dog living in stress — take steps to help them as soon as possible!

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

Understanding Behavior; Why It Mattershttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/problem-behavior/aggression/

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being: The New AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/01/pet-health-and-wellness-your-pets-behavioral-health-is-as-important-as-their-physical-well-being/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Mythhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Puppy Socialization and Habituation – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/27/dog-behavior-puppy-socialization-and-habituation/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet? –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/09/03/can-you-trust-what-you-read-on-the-internet/

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/02/yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-green-acres-kennel-shops-pet-friendly-philosophy-part-1/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/05/02/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-the-ppg-part-2/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/30/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-a-veterinary-perspective-part-3/

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professionalhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/04/19/professional-development-trends-in-training-the-evolution-of-a-pet-care-professional/

An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedieshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-remedies/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hankshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

 

Books

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

Canine Neuropsychology, 3rd edition, James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005

The dog’s brain — a simple guide, Val Strong, Alpha Publishing, 1999

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?

A dog that growls is not a bad dog.

<This article was also published in the July 14, 2015 edition of The Maine Edge>

While a dog’s growl can be frightening and disheartening, it also serves the very useful purpose of alerting us or another being that the dog is feeling threatened, uncomfortable or angry. It is the dog’s way of saying “If something in this situation does not change, I may have no other choice except to bite.” Growling is a communication tool that is designed to increase the distance between the dog and that which the dog perceives as a threat.

Dog growling over a stick
Dog growling over a stick

While a growl is usually associated with “aggression”, it is important to understand that there are many causes of aggression. Pain or other medical issues can cause an aggressive response, as can fear. Fear arises for many reasons; a reminder of a previous negative experience, a perceived loss of a resource or space, expectations of punishment and associated pain, and maternal protective instincts can all cause a dog to react “aggressively”. Sexual competition, barrier frustration, low tolerance for frustration, differences in personalities between dogs, and genetics may also cause or contribute to aggressive behavior.

As a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC) I deal with a greater number of aggressive dogs than the average person. I appreciate it when a client’s dog growls thus giving me a warning and an opportunity to change my behavior so I do not get bitten. For this reason, I advise all my clients and students that it is NEVER wise to punish a dog for growling; even saying “No” or looking at the dog crossly can constitute punishment. Dogs that are repeatedly punished for growling eventually may not give warning and immediately escalate to biting.  A dog that has learned not to growl due to punishment is far more dangerous than a dog that will give a warning growl before escalating to biting. These dogs will also be much more difficult to rehabilitate.

If your dog is in a situation where they growl; as calmly as possible step back and assess the circumstances surrounding the growling. If possible, ask whatever is causing your dog to remain still and to increase the distance away from your dog. Keeping safety foremost in your mind, and with as little fanfare and emotion as possible, call your dog back to you or if they are on leash get them to follow you as you back away from the situation to a place where they will feel safe and secure. Your dog will pick-up on your emotions and if they sense you are upset, angry or afraid your dog is likely to become more reactive. Do not keep your dog in a stressful situation and try to reassure them or yell at them for growling, neither is likely to be helpful. Once you have ensured the safety of all parties, you need to try to determine what caused your dog to feel threatened and defensive in the first place. To keep you and your dog safe, you should make sure that they are on a short leash, nothing longer than 6 feet, in any similar situations in the future.

If your dog is growling frequently, or growling is very out of character for your dog, you should schedule a veterinary exam to rule out any physical causes such as pain or illness. If the growling and aggression are not due to medical reasons it is time to seek a consultation with a credentialed and experienced dog behavior consultant to work with you in resolving your dog’s behavior. The sooner you seek guidance the better. Aggression rarely improves without intervention and the more times it occurs, the more likely it is to reoccur and the longer it will take to resolve.

It is important to understand that obedience training alone is extremely unlikely to resolve an aggression issue. Training certain behaviors like “Look” and “Leave It” may be useful in managing your dog when they are reactive, but will not change the way your dog is feeling. Aggression is an emotional response, sometimes due to a feeling of having no control over a situation. Sitting and staying for you on cue does not afford the dog a sense of control and may actually increase their fear and the accompanying response. Imagine how you would feel if you were afraid of bees and someone forced you to sit in a room full of bees until you “got over it.” I think you’d agree that would only make you more reactive and afraid.

In order to resolve aggression, we need to change the dog’s emotions. This is most commonly accomplished through a program of behavior modification and may include the use of medications prescribed by your veterinarian as well as complementary remedies, such as Bach Flower remedies, selected by a qualified practitioner. Aggression will seldom go away on its own and the longer you wait, the harder it is to resolve. Dogs grow into aggression, not out of it. If you are having concerns, the time to seek help is now.

Links

To find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant – <click here>

To find a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner <click here>

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine – Behavior – Is it OK if our dog sleeps in our bed?

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on 25FEB15>

Tikken under the duvet
Tikken under the duvet

I do not know how many times a year we are asked “is it okay if our dog sleeps in our bed?” or someone with a very apologetic look on their face states, “I know I’m not supposed to, but I let the dog sleep in my bed.” The reality is there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog sleeping in your bed and contrary to popular belief, sleeping in your bed does not make a dog dominant (see Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth). If you do allow your dog to sleep in your bed, you’re in the majority. In an informal survey I conducted via FaceBook, 75 respondents (77.32%) indicated that their dog is allowed to sleep in bed with them, whereas only 22 respondents (22.68%) indicated that their dog was not allowed to sleep with them.

However, sharing a bed with a dog is not for everyone and not all dogs are fans of sharing sleeping space either. Therefore, before inviting Sparky into bed, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your partner comfortable with your dog sharing the bed? If not or if you are unsure, a discussion with your partner is in order.
  • Is your dog housetrained? Until a dog is has gone at least 6 weeks without an accident inside, I wouldn’t think of allowing the dog to sleep anywhere other than a crate.
  • Is the dog going to enjoy sleeping in bed with you or are they perhaps happier sleeping in their own crate or bed? Sleep habits vary widely between people and pets. If anyone of you is a restless sleeper, the others may be miserable. Many dogs are just as content to sleep beside your bed in their own bed or crate.
  • Is your pet going to be safe? A small dog could easily get hurt if someone accidently rolls over on them and they may even bite in that situation.
  • Is there room enough for everyone? A six month old Golden Retriever puppy is still growing for another 7 to 8 months. As space shrinks, allowing the dog in bed may no longer be as popular.
  • How will you feel about sharing the bed if you, your partner or the dog are sick? Some people desire closeness when ill while others cannot stand being touched.
  • Do you have other pets and how many in bed is too many? Always keep in mind that the bed may become a valued space that one dog may choose to resource guard.

My wife and I have had ten dogs in our life together and only two have had bed privileges. Gus, our Cairn Terrier, had privileges for a short time, but lost them because he would grumble every time we moved. He was simply of the temperament that he did not want to be disturbed when he was sleeping (I am sure we all know people like that). Gus really was more comfortable and well rested when he slept in his kennel in our bedroom rather than on the bed. Tikken, our Golden, was allowed in our bed once she was completely housetrained. During the winter months a better foot warmer could not be found however, in the heat of the summer, she would often choose to sleep on the floor. If one of us was restless, she would simply hop off and sleep elsewhere.  While there were times when I described Tikken as the “great immovable object” because she would not move when I tried to stretch out, allowing her to share our bed worked well for all of us.

So ultimately, the decision is up to you. There is simply no right or wrong answer about whether or not you choose to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. If it works for you, never apologize for letting your dog in your bed. If you would rather not share your sleeping space, that is okay too. Just remember, once you start letting your dog sleep with you, they will expect it. If you change the rules months or years down the road because you now have a child, a new partner, or some other life change, it will take time and work to help your dog adjust to new sleeping arrangements.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>