I am often asked, “How do I get the perfect dog.” I always start by asking for clarification of how the person that asked the question defines “perfect.” Typical responses are; I want a dog that will: have good manners, NEVER bite, NEVER growl, like ALL people, like ALL dogs, like ALL of our current pets, will NEVER chase cars, will ALWAYS stay in an unfenced yard, will NEVER jump on people, will ALWAYS alert me when someone “sketchy” is in the yard but will NEVER bark at people I like, will NEVER kill a squirrel, will ALWAYS be safe around ALL kids, will ALWAYS come when called and will stay close to me but will not hang around me when I don’t want them to, and so on. At its most extreme, that sounds like “I want a dog that will do anything I want, whenever I want, and will do nothing and be content if I don’t want them to do anything.” That is not a realistic expectation and is failing to meet some of our dog’s most basic welfare requirements. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/Brambells-1-5 ]
I often wonder where people get their expectations of what constitutes a “perfect” dog. Unfortunately, not all but some of the people selling dogs, breeders, shelters/rescues, pet shops, set us up to think the dogs they want us to go home with is “perfect” because they know if we think otherwise, they may lose a sale. Selling a dog is not unlike most other things for sale. We typically want the best we can get. In some cases, those selling the dog even go so far as to use puppy temperament tests and shelter behavior assessments to convince us this is the right dog for us. Unfortunately, these tests may be misrepresented and presented to us as a predictor of future behavior. If we interpret that as a guarantee, they may or may not try to dissuade us from that impression. Temperament and shelter assessment tests are nothing more than a snapshot of a dog’s behavior in a specific scenario at a single moment in time. They are not predictive of nor are they a guarantee of future “perfect” behavior.
In some cases, our expectations of a “perfect” are the result of memories of dogs popularized through the mass media like Lassie or Air Bud. As endearing as those stories are, they are fictional accounts of dogs. Assumptions about certain breeds, usually based on an opinion that may not be supported by data, such as “Schnockelfensters are ALWAYS great with children!” can also bias our opinion inappropriately. I cannot tell you how many different individual dogs and breeds I have met over the past 25 years, but I do know I have seen extremes in behavior in all breeds.
If we look at the list of the characteristics many want in a “perfect” dog, most of those characteristics focus on a dog’s behavior, what it will or will not do. I also want to point out that people often also use lots of absolutes with words like; ‘NEVER,’ ‘ALWAYS,’ and ‘ALL.’ The problem with using absolutes when discussing the behavior of a dog, or any animal, even human behavior, is that behavior can change and often does change and, like most of life, is seldom absolute. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/AnimalWelfare-Behavior ]
Many things can affect behavior. Genetics play a major role in future behavior. If either parent had certain genetic traits such as shyness, the puppies will probably also be shy.
We have many different breeds of dogs because they were selectively bred for certain traits. Dogs come preprogrammed with certain species-specific behavior motor patterns based on what they were bred to do. The dog is a predator, and as such has a motor pattern sequence to ORIENT > EYE > STALK > CHASE > GRAB-BITE > KILL-BITE > DISSECT > CONSUME prey. That does not mean every dog will be an efficient predator, but they may still have a strong instinct to go through all or part of this sequence. This pattern of behaviors is what makes retrievers retrieve and what allows herding breeds to move livestock successfully. Unfortunately, a working herding dog with strong instincts to stalk, chase, and grab-bite is probably not a desirable trait for a dog that will be living with children. Something we need to consider when searching for the “perfect” dog for our family today and what it will look like throughout the dog’s expected life. A herding breed may be a perfect companion for a young couple that likes to hike, but may not be the best choice if two years later they have twin infants. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter ]
What happens during a puppy’s critical developmental period from birth to 16 weeks of age also has a great influence on behavior. If a puppy is a singleton, that puppy not have an opportunity to experience social interactions with littermates unless it is placed in another litter where it can gain the social skills it will need to interact with other dogs successfully. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy ]
Next month I will discuss other factors that can influence our dog’s behavior.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. 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). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
If you have a new dog that is 12 weeks of age and older, this is the article you want. If you have a puppy between 8 and 16 weeks of age, check out this article – http://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents
A new dog can be a great addition to your family, but they will also require some work on your part. Older dogs may come to your home already trained and ready to be that perfect companion, but more often than not, a dog ends up in a rescue or shelter because they have some behavioral issues. They were probably not well socialized and had little or no training. It is also entirely possible that their previous family inadvertently created some problem behaviors by unintentionally rewarding those behaviors. This article offers some recommendations to help you and your new friend get off to the best start possible.
My first word of advice; “patience.” It is very easy to want the ideal dog immediately, but just as “Rome was not built in a day,” Your will not dog be the perfect companion in a week, nor in all likelihood in a month. Training is a process, and as such it takes time. Yes, there will times you may become frustrated, but when you look back in a year you will realize it was a precious time for you and your dog, one filled with learning and fun!
I encourage you to read the following shared blog post, all about patience, by dog trainer Nancy Tanner. Read it, print it, and then post it on your refrigerator, or somewhere in your home where it is close at hand anytime you are feeling frustrated with your dog. –
Enrolling yourself and your dog in a reward-based dog training class designed by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the best thing you can do for you and your dog. Not all trainers and dog training classes are equal. Because dog training is currently a non-regulated and non-licensed profession, the quality of instruction and practices used can vary widely, sometimes into the inhumane. The following article will provide you with information on what to look for in a dog trainer and dog training facility.
Do not try to teach your dog everything at once. We will teach you certain behaviors, in a specific order, for a reason; to make training easier.
During the critical socialization period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age, it is far more important to work on planning and appropriately socializing and habituating your dog than it is to teach them to shake or any other behavior. This is a limited period, and you want to make the most of it. Inadequate or inappropriate socialization is a common reason dogs develop behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety.
If your dog is older than 16 weeks of age, it is still important for you to read the following article. If you see any signs of shyness, timidity or fearful behavior, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session so that we can offer you some guidance on a remedial socialization program for your puppy. Socialization is not as simple and straightforward as meeting the neighbors and their dog or taking your dog to the dog park. In fact, a visit to the dog park may be the worst thing that you can do.
If you are having problems with your dog guarding food and other items, stealing things, or growling, make an appointment with us for a Help Now! session as soon as possible. Punishment in any form will likely make these behaviors worse and could result in someone being bitten.
Dogs and children both need training and supervision to learn how to appropriately and safely interact with one another. Dogs and children will not automatically get along. If you do not have children, your dog will still need to be socialized with children and learn how to interact with them. If you have children and a dog, you will need to spend time working with both. I highly recommend the book A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge. You will discover some things that you probably did not know about dogs while learning how to teach your children about interacting with your dog and any other dog they may meet.
Think carefully about what you teach your dog; intentionally or unintentionally. Un-training a behavior takes a whole lot more time and energy than training a behavior. A trick like “shake” is cute, but think long and hard if you want a dog that will always be trying to get every person they see to shake, even when they have muddy paws.
If there are multiple people that will be interacting with your dog, discuss what cues, visual and verbal, that you will use for specific behaviors so that you are all being consistent. Do not be in a hurry to add a visual (hand signal) or a verbal cue to a behavior. We do not start using a cue until we are confident that the dog understands the behavior in multiple contexts and environments. If you start using the cue too soon, you may need to change it. We will talk about that more in class.
If you have questions that just will not wait until class starts, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session.
The blog posts listed below will all be beneficial for anyone thinking about getting a new dog or for those of you that just added a dog to your family.
The shows listed below are from The Woof Meow Show (www.woofmeowshow.com) and cover a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone with a new puppy. Click on the title to listen to the show.
Common Dog Training Issues
We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 1 – Once you have found your new furry companion, whether they are a puppy or an older dog, there is much you need to be thinking about before you bring your new friend home. In this show, Don and Kate discuss the things you will need, might need, and don’t need. They finish the show with a discussion of the importance of a well thought out socialization and habituation plan for a puppy. If you have a puppy or dog selected, or are thinking about getting a canine companion, this show will help you prepare for your new dog.
We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 2 – In this show Kate and Don address the most typical behavior concerns with a new puppy or dog; housetraining, jumping up on people, play biting, and chewing. While this show is no substitute for a well-designed puppy or basic manners class, it will get you pointed in the right direction.
Podcast – 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. FIRST AIR DATE: 7JAN17
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.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 – Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional dog trainers. He asks Kate and Don about how training has changed in the past 26 years since Mark began his practice, why training a dog is important, the importance of training for mental enrichment, how breed effects training and compatibility with a family, how human intervention has adversely effected health and behavior, researching dogs before one decides what dog and breed to get, making temperament a key decision when picking a dog, what we typically teach a client and their dog, Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training), inadvertent reinforcement of undesirable behaviors, the continuing necessity to refute antiquated and inaccurate myths about canine behavior, the optimal age for starting training, the structure of Green Acres training classes, Green Acres program to help parents find the best pet for them, how family lifestyles have changed and how that affects time for a dog, knowing when to wait before starting a group training class, and how they deal with special needs rescue dogs.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training) and how we work with families to understand their dog and the importance of having a good foundation of education so people can better understand their dogs, how some students may attend class without their dog either because their dog is sick, in heat or simply because the dog learns better at home, private training options at Green Acres, the critical period of puppy socialization and habituation, why socialization needs to be actively planned and implemented by owners – it doesn’t just happen, what do you do you when want your puppy to be a therapy dog, the difference between therapy dogs, service/assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs, the fake service dog epidemic, can you teach an old dog new tricks, how do you deal with constant barking, and how do you deal with clients that need the dogs behavior changed tomorrow.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: dominance, pack hierarchy and alphas and the current science which indicates wolves are a cooperative social species, the benefits of kind leadership as opposed to coercive based leadership, the myth of dogs doing things just to please us, temperament and personality in dogs, the importance of knowing parents because of the genetic role in temperament, “stubborn” dogs versus under-motivated dogs, epigenetics and the possibility of mental health disorders in dogs like autism and PTSD, and temperament as a continuum and nature versus nurture.
Dogs and Babies with Jennifer Shryock from Family Paws Parent Education – Kate and Don interview Jennifer Shryock the founder of Family Paws Pet Education about their innovative programs; Dogs & Storks™ and the Dog and Baby Connection. We’ll discuss why prior planning is so important for the successful integration of a new baby in a home with a dog and what you can do when you have questions.
First Air Date: 17AUG13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 1 – In part one of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this first show, we discuss the dog bite problem (50% of all children will be taken to the ER for a dog bite by the time they are 12), why these bites usually occur, and what Doggone Safe and their partners like Green Acres Kennel Shop are doing to help prevent them. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 6APR13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 2 – In part two of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this second show, we discuss Doggone Safe’s innovative Be A Tree program for children and their Be Doggone Safe at Work program for adults that encounter dogs during work. We’ll discuss how these programs work and their availability through Green Acres Kennel Shop. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 13APR13
Pet Food Myths – part 1 – In part one of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget.
First Air Date: 6JUN11
Pet Food Myths – part 2 – In part two of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget.
First Air Date: 13JUN11
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.