Claire’s Corner: Finding the right breed

Fun fact – there are currently 190 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and even more breeds owned and loved by people around the world that are not yet registered by the AKC. With so many unique breeds to choose from, how can you be sure to pick the right breed for your family and your lifestyle?

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The first thing you need to look at is your current lifestyle and activity level. Are you someone who goes for daily runs and weekend hikes? A high energy working breed, such as an Australian shepherd, may be right for you. Conversely, if you prefer to spend your free time lounging on the couch (I relate heavily to this), then maybe a low-energy non-working breed, such as a shih tzu, is your perfect match. Far too many people get a certain breed because of how they look, or because they’ve wanted that specific breed for “as long as they can remember,” but not enough people step back and look at their own lives before making this incredibly important decision. Remember that selecting the wrong breed may have a negative impact on not only your life, but the life of your puppy as well. If you are a low energy person with a relaxed lifestyle and you bring home a high energy border collie, you will likely be left frustrated at a dog that chews your furniture, while the dog is left anxious and unfulfilled. So please be honest with yourself and choose the breed that is best for you and your family now, and not necessarily the breed that you think you want.

Once you have narrowed down your breed selection based on your lifestyle, the next thing that you need to look at is the history of the breed you’re considering. This is a very important step because the original purpose that the dog was bred for can give insight into possible behavioural characteristics your puppy may display. For instance, schnauzers were bred to hunt and kill rodents, a task which often required them to dig and burrow into the ground after their prey. As such, schnauzers have been known to dig a hole or two in their owner’s backyard, especially when they haven’t been given enough exercise. In Sprout’s case, bulldogs were bred to attack and bring down bulls, a trait which sometimes comes out in her play if she gets over-excited. As such, I never let her ‘attack’ any of her toys by shaking them or destroying them and instead use walks as an outlet for this excess energy in order to keep this natural instinct under control. In short, know the history of your chosen breed so you can prepare yourself for possible unwanted behaviours they may display as well as to give you some ideas on ways you can fulfil their breed-specific needs.

The third factor that I believe you should consider when choosing a breed is so simple that it is often overlooked – size! Large breeds like Great Danes and mastiffs don’t make good apartment pets for obvious reasons, but even if you have the living space to accommodate these gentle giants there are still other things to consider. Do you have a large enough car to transport them when they are full grown? Will your family and friends be comfortable with you bringing such a large dog to their homes when you go to visit? Can you afford to feed this size of dog, which will require significantly more food than a medium or small breed? On the other hand, small breeds are great for apartment living and are incredibly easy to travel with, however you need to consider the time of year you are looking at bringing your small breed puppy home. It is incredibly important that you begin walking your puppy from the first day you bring them home (more on this in a later post), however if you were to bring a 2lb Chihuahua puppy home in the middle of January it would be unsafe for a puppy this small to be walked outdoors. As such, if you are thinking of bringing home a small breed puppy, I highly recommend you wait until the spring or summer months to do so in order to be able to safely walk your new fur baby.

The final piece of the puzzle to finding the perfect breed for you involves looking at the potential health risks associated with your chosen breed as well as any grooming requirements they may have. Large breed dogs are often prone to hip dysplasia, while small breed dogs are at a higher risk for heart conditions. On top of this, every breed has their own breed specific health conditions that you should be aware of before purchasing a puppy of your own. Be sure to research not only the possible health conditions associated with your breed of choice, but also the possible cost of treatment for said conditions. Along with breed health comes breed lifespan – a very important factor that is often forgotten about. A puppy is not just a short term commitment; the minute you bring that puppy home you are signing yourself on to be a committed pack leader for the remainder of that dog’s life. It is a large commitment not to be taken lightly, and you should seriously think about how different your life may look a few years down the road. If your small breed dog has a lifespan of 15 years, will you still be in a position to care for that dog that far into the future? If not, that’s what adoption is for! There are a ton of older dogs looking for loving homes just like yours. Along with breed health comes grooming requirements. Grooming can be expensive if you choose to have a professional do it for you, and time consuming if you choose to do it yourself. Be sure to research the grooming requirements of the breed you are thinking of getting, and make sure you have both the time and money to accommodate these needs. I myself knew I wouldn’t have the time to brush my dog’s fur every day, and so the French bulldog’s short and low maintenance coat was perfect for me.

So now you know what to look for when researching your breed of interest, but where is the best place to find this information? The internet is a wonderful place to find information on breeds of all shapes and sizes, however you need to be careful that the facts are legitimate. I recommended visiting several different sites and even reading a few books to ensure the information you are finding is consistent, as well as to look at specific breed club websites (ie. The French Bulldog Club of Canada) as these are often very informative and legitimate. That being said, the best way to really get a feel for what a specific breed is like is not to read about it online, but to see it in person. Once you have done your preliminary research and believe you have found the breed for you, I encourage you to meet as many of them as possible before making your final decision. Just like one very calm and well socialized husky doesn’t mean every husky is low energy, one over-excited French bulldog does not mean they are all bouncing off the walls and impossible to control.

One final note on selecting the right breed for you – not all dogs will fit their breed description perfectly. This means that getting a ‘low-energy’ breed does not mean you don’t have to walk your dog or put any work into training them. Sprout is the perfect example of this. French bulldogs are often described as lazy couch potatoes, but she is a very active girl who requires a fair amount of exercise before her inner couch potato comes out. We have bulldogs at daycare that are more active than some huskies, so be sure to take any breed descriptions you read with a grain of salt and remember that each puppy will have its own unique energy requirements no matter the breed. Do your research, examine your lifestyle carefully and honestly, and choose the breed that will fulfill your life and allow you to fulfill theirs. After all, that’s what having a dog is all about!

Until next week,

Claire

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Introducing Claire’s Corner

Hey all!
Claire here! I’ve worked at The Dog Haus for a little over a year now, but if you don’t know me yet you will soon! This is my first entry in a series of blogs about raising a puppy right, all from my own first-hand experience raising my newest angel, Sprout. I’ll discuss our successes, our failures, and give you some tips and tricks to make raising your new furry bundle of joy the happy and exciting experience it is meant to be! But first, a little background on myself and my journey here.

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Last month I finished my four year animal biology program at The University of Guelph and will be graduating with distinction in just a few weeks. My original intention had been to go to vet school here in Guelph, however my plans changed rather quickly after starting at The Dog Haus. Working with The Dog Haus pack brought forth the realization that I was not meant to fulfill my lifelong passion for helping dogs by healing them physically through veterinary medicine, but rather by using Dog Psychology to
bring them back to their roots and simply let them be dogs again. And so two weeks after finishing my final exams and bringing Sprout home, she and I headed for California to learn from Cesar Milan himself in his Fundamentals I training program. This course was the experience of a lifetime – I learned so much not just from Cesar but from the other wonderful trainers at his facility as well and I am so excited so share some of that knowledge with all of you!

But enough about me, the real star of the show (and the main reason behind these blog posts) is Sprout! She is a four month old French bulldog who is as stubborn as they come but that I love more than life itself. She’s a sweet and spicy, happy go lucky potato who is always up for meeting new friends and doesn’t go anywhere without her stuffed pizza toy. She came to me from a breeder in Hamilton but I had been planning her arrival for months before she was even born, and while it felt like an eternity waiting to bring her home I couldn’t imagine life without her now! I will talk more about how I selected
this breed and Sprout specifically from her litter in coming posts, but for now please enjoy these photos of my wrinkly girl!

I can’t wait to share our journey through puppyhood with you all, and to hopefully give you some advice along the way that will help you raise a balanced, happy puppy!

Spring has sprung

3 Tips to keep your dog safe this Spring

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Ah Spring! The air seems a little fresher and the grass a little greener. There’s hope that Winter is finally gone. Even our dogs are aware of the warmer climate.

But did you know, Spring is a very dangerous time for dogs? With squirrels, rabbits and birds coming out of hibernation, there are lots of distractions around that peak our pups interest. Now that the snow is gone and we can see the ground, our dogs are eager to take in all it’s scents. There’s so much for them to discover. And that is why this time of year many dogs run into trouble, literally.

Dogs who have been cooped up all winter are high on life when they get to go outside and explore finally. There is a tendency for even well trained dogs to go after a scent or chase a squirrel off leash during the next few months. Some dogs may be so desperate to go for a romp or a chase they may even escape their fenced in yards. Dogs hot on a trail will not think twice about crossing a busy street and can easily get hit by on coming traffic.

Here’s how to avoid something so tragic from happening to your pet:

  1. Keep Fido on leash! I make sure to advise all my clients to strictly keep their dogs on leash when this change in weather occurs. Even simple trips from the house to the car off leash is enough time for your dog to dart away from you and potentially get hurt.
  2. Always make sure of your surroundings and that you are putting your pets safety first. Don’t do off leash around residential or urban areas. Stay clear of busy streets.
  3. Train your dog to come when called! It is also best to teach your dog proper recall with lots of training so that they understand and respect the command to come when called.

Focus on progress. Not perfection.

A year and a half ago I adopted a dog from Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand. He was flown overseas and arrived on December 6th 2016, a sweet but frightened boy of only 1 year old. We expected to do a lot of work in socializing him and helping him adapt to being a pet, as we were certain that he had never lived in a home before. We had been well warned by the rescue organization that these street dogs have a lot to overcome and can be easily overwhelmed. We welcomed the challenge.

Everything was brand new for Ty. We went exceptionally slow with him, taking our time exposing him to new places and faces. Over several months, we overcame potty training, destructive behaviour, food aggression, stranger danger, and car anxiety with lots of time and patience. It was amazing to see him start to trust us and relax into being a happy, loving companion dog.

After almost a full year of committed work, I began to see Ty’s socialization plateau and then even worse, regress. I was hopeful after so much work things like his reactivity towards new dogs would disappear and that we would be allowed to have people in the house again without issue. I became frustrated and felt defeated after he nipped a family member. I felt after all this time and effort invested things should be different. Why wasn’t he just like my other dog? Why were we going nowhere? What’s wrong with him? I became ashamed of my “middle child” and shied away from taking him places and having friends and family over. This was not the dog I had hoped for. All I could focus on were our setbacks, failures and disappointment after disappointment.

Then came the wake up call I so desperately needed. A break. A chance to reframe my mentality and regain focus. I took a trip to California to attend a workshop with many of the colleges I’d met through Training Cesar’s Way. The opportunity to be a student again and learn from others more experienced than myself. There I was surrounded by trainers who also opened up about their “problem” dogs. The guilt, shame, discouragement was all the same. We all felt compelled to have “perfect” dogs, when in reality no such thing exits. It was then I realized that I held myself and my dog up to too high a standard, which was in effect destroying our relationship. This acknowledgement did not come easy. It’s a heavy weight to bear realizing you’ve sabotaged your dog’s success by being too hard on him. But the beautiful thing is, we can always start again.

What’s crazy is the immediate change I noticed in my dog once I returned. Now that I was aware of the limitations I was placing on him, I was able to reconnect with him in a forgiving way that allowed us both to simply be. Even more stunning, the people around me noticed the change in him right away. Staff, friends and family all asked what changed. The answer is simple yet complicated…..ME. Ironically enough, I preach Dog Psychology and practicing patience to clients all the time, yet I still need to take my own advice….

“What you focus on grows.”

I was so caught up in what we hadn’t achieved and all the negatives that I was actually creating more of it in my life. I was perpetuating failure after failure because I was summoning it. Sometime you need to relax and go with the flow and have faith that it will all work out.

Needless to say I have learned a lot through this experience. Ty is my most sensitive dog and a true gift to me for that exact reason. He will always be able to keep me in check and remind me to attract what I want and not the opposite. I will know when I am  feeling stressed or frustrated, setting unrealistic expectations, holding onto the past, projecting negative thoughts, or am overall not in alignment, because it will mirror in him. He has taught me to relax and trust the process. Training doesn’t happen overnight, stay with it, but also be fair to yourself and your dog. Acknowledge the massive challenges you have overcome along the way, even if you still have far to go. Sometimes you need to realize you’re doing your best and to pat yourself on the back now and again.

In summary, pack leadership isn’t easy. You will be challenged along the way. Don’t give up! These challenges are there to help you grow in areas you may not have known you needed to. But you have to focus on what you want and how much you have achieved along the way. Anytime you get discouraged I hope you revisit this post and gain perspective.

Be present.   Practice patience.   Be kind.   Stay calm.   Be humble.   Give it time. 

And even when you have set backs you need to learn to…

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Choosing the right breed

“Why did you choose this particular breed?” – This is a question I ask all my training clients to gauge what their expectations are for the family dog they’ve selected.

“I thought it was cute.”

“I’ve always wanted a Shepherd.”

“My 5 year old daughter chose her.”

“We did lots of research and thought it would be the best fit for our family.” 

My most successful clients are the ones who answer saying they took time to make the important decision of which dog made sense in their home. They did not base the choice on appearance, emotional attachment or what their kid wanted. When I was a child I wanted a Beagle or a German Shepherd. Looking back, neither of these breeds would have thrived in my home environment as we were inexperienced dog owners at the time with no idea of just how much work those breeds would be.

Having a dog is a major life adjustment that some people don’t realize requires time, energy and training. All dogs, no matter what the breed, need training in order to be happy, balanced companions. Here’s what I think all dog owners need to know before seriously considering which breed is right for them.

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Working dogs

These are your Shepherds, Collies, Cattle dogs, Huskies, Hounds, and Retrievers – just to name a few. These are dogs that are bred to do something specific. Whether it’s herding, hunting, pulling, or protecting, these dogs need something to DO! I consider working dogs like A-type personalities, whereby if they are not busy and earning their keep they will find a way to entertain themselves either by “redecorating” your home chewing through walls or becoming the neighbourhood bully.

This category of dog is typically selected as a pet for their extremely good looks or because they were seen in a popular film and portrayed as the ideal pet. In the latter case, what most people fail to realize, is that dog on screen is a trained actor on film who is in fact working. A dog (or in some cases more than one, like in the Air Bud franchise) that has been trained to do everything asked in that movie. That is a dog in work mode.

What’s also important to note is that sporting and hunting breeds will have prey drive and herding dogs will want to chase other dogs (or sometimes cars) to get their fix, so it’s absolutely necessary to learn how to curb and deter these behaviours. Socialization classes will be far more beneficial than dog park visits for these dogs. If you do have one of these breeds, it is crucial to socialize, train and fulfill your dogs needs. Research their skill sets and use that as a way to help drain their pent up energy and then you can relax and enjoy your working breed dog.

Homes that are ideal for working breeds are experienced handlers and active families that have time to invest in lots of training and also enjoy being outdoors exploring and are up for a challenge. These are not dogs for the faint of heart and if you don’t believe me just look at which breeds are at your local dog rescue. More often than not working breeds dominate the shelter scene, not due to their own fault but that of an inexperienced owner who had no idea what they were in for.

Hybrids

These are your mixed breed dogs that have been crossed to either enhance certain aspects (e.g. making certain dogs hypo-allergenic like golden doodles) or deter certain aspects (e.g. fix health issues such elongating a nose to assist breathing like in Puggles). What you need to be aware of here is that a hybrid can come out having both breeds’ characteristics. Take for instance the Labradoodle which can be both friendly and energetic like a Lab, but also highly intelligent needing lots of mental stimulation like a Poodle. In my experience, Labradoodles tend to be one of the most misunderstood hybrid dogs. Many people have no idea about the amount of work these dogs are. They require lots of exercise, socialization and training, not to mention grooming! See also the Puggle. This is a mix of a stubborn breed mixed with one of the most difficult to train, and so it’s no wonder this was a temporary fad that didn’t last long. Don’t get me wrong, these dogs can be fantastic pets but do need owners who understand both breeds used to create their mix and put in the necessary work to raise a chill companion.

Toys & Companion Breeds

Often overlooked, this group of dogs are non-sporting and happy to be a family pet with next to no drive for working. My only caution here is having a small breed with young children. Toys like Chihuahuas have a bad reputation as a biting breed, but with good reason. Due to their size they are often threatened by children’s unpredictable movements. If you do opt for a toy breed make sure children in the home are respectful of the dog and calm when interacting with it. Never is it ok for children to run at them, pick them up or force interactions like hugs or kisses. A better option for a home with young kids is a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Maltese. With regular walks, these dogs are smart, resilient and playful. Shih Tzu’s are known for having an even temperament and being friendly with strangers. I would recommend companion breeds to inexperienced owners, families or elderly couples that are not very active, or humans with low energy. Don’t get it twisted though, these dogs do also need training and other doggie friends. We have many toy and companion breeds at our daycare who love to mingle with dogs big and small.

 

No matter what breed you opt for, always be sure to do your research, hire an experienced trainer to assist you from the start, work with a trusted breeder or rescue, and prepare for the lifelong commitment that having a dog is. If you have any doubts perhaps starting off with a goldfish or hamster is a better option as they are lower maintenance pets. If you are curious to know what having a dog is like try borrowing a friends for a week.

The Truth About Socialization

When it comes to socializing your dog it’s important to set you and your pooch up for success. There are many misconceptions when it comes to what socialization truly means, so I though it necessary to address this in a blog. Most dog owners assume it’s making sure their dog can play and be around other dogs without conflict. Although this is important, it is not the only aspect of socialization. Beyond tolerating other dogs, it also means knowing how to behave around humans and in new environments.

Here are my tips on how to socialize your dog and keep them happy and balanced throughout their life.

  1. Be proactive. Don’t wait for issues to arise to start socializing your dog. Start early and enrol your puppy in training classes at an early age. That way you’ll be working with a professional who can ensure your dog’s safety and you’ll learn the tools and skills needed to continue socializing as the dog matures. There you’ll also connect with other likeminded dog owners who can become your dog’s regular friends if you choose to stay in touch. Use it as a networking opportunity.
  2. Once is not enough. Training is important but one class is not going to create a perfect dog. Training and socialization go hand in hand and are ongoing throughout your dogs life. I like to think of it as a lifestyle not a diet. Think about ways that you can continue to grow your dog’s social skills regularly.
  3. Socialization is not just for puppies. All dogs at every age need friends. Dogs, like humans, are social pack animals and need to be around other dogs ongoing so that they are fulfilled, happy and balanced family pets. As your dog grows up, make sure you are still providing opportunities for them to meet people, go new places, and interact with other dogs, those they are familiar with as well as new friends.
  4. Socialize daily. Just like human’s interact with other humans numerous times a day, our dogs need daily interactions with new people, places and other dogs. Regular practice ensures your dog’s manners stay fresh. Try taking your dog with you when you go out whether it’s to the pet store, a friend’s house, out for a drink on a patio, or pet friendly stores in your neighbourhood. You can also sign your dog up for regular visits with friends at a daycare you know and trust or with a highly trained dog walker who works with a pack.
  5. You need to put in effort. Don’t just leave all the work to the pros. It’s not as simple as having your dog walker or local daycare do all the heavy lifting. Although these are fantastic opportunities for your dog to be a social butterfly, it is also very important that your dog knows how to socialize around YOU, not just in your absence. Invite friends to bring their dogs to your own get togethers, start a weekly neighbourhood walk, or see about local events that allow canines. This is what the joy of having a dog is all about, including them in your life events. If you don’t have a network of friendly dogs to socialize with, why not create your own. Facebook and other social media outlets are great for posting and finding local events. Or check with your local pet store to see if they know of any pet friendly events.

Just to give you a few ideas, here’s how I ensure my dogs practice regular socialization with people, places and other dogs. My dogs come with me to family bbq’s and when I teach my training classes. My girlfriend brings her pooch when we have our Bachelor nights (my guilty pleasure). I take my dogs with me for coffee with friends or when I go to dog friendly stores (Chapters is our favourite). I host events like Movie Nights and Paint Nights where dog owners can participate with their furry friends. We also do regular walks with our Dog Haus clients and sometimes I just take my dogs in the car with me for a drive and see where we end up, often times we find a great new walking trail.

I hope you find this article helpful and that it inspires you to get out and have fun with your dog! It’s the best way to show your canine companion how much you love her!

5 things to consider before getting a second dog

When is the right time to get a second dog? As a dog trainer for several years, this is a question I get asked a lot! Being as I recently adopted another dog, I thought it fitting to approach the topic and what I thought long and hard about before adding to my pack. If you are contemplating adding another four-legged member to your pack there are several things to consider.

First let me be clear, dogs are not collectors items! They are living beings with needs that require fulfilling every day, not just when you feel like it. The needs of a dog are simple but when you have more than one dog it does mean you must have more time. A dog needs EXERCISE, DISCIPLINE and AFFECTION.

Dogs also require work, and in some cases lots of it, to properly train. Yes, training is a must, even if you already have another dog. Your first dog is not going to do all the hard work for you. More often than not, bad behaviours rub off on well behaved dogs not the other way around.

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Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before committing to a new pack member:

1. What is the reason you are getting a second dog?

There is a myth that getting a second dog will provide your current dog with entertainment, especially if you don’t have time for it. This could not be more false. It is 100% a bad idea to get a second dog solely as a companion for the first. Trust when I say this will backfire and you will end up with two dogs that are attention starved, thus developing behavioural issues. If you don’t have time for one dog you won’t have time for two…which brings me to my next point….

2. Do you have time to train your new dog? 

It’s important that you allot time and money to work with a professional to help your new dog learn manners and commands. Consider training your dog as a second job. Do you have the time to commit to a second job right now in your life? If not, perhaps it is not the right time to grow your pack.

3. Do you enough money to cover the cost of 2 dogs who will need vet care, boarding, or even emergency surgery?

Dogs aren’t cheap. Much like getting a second car there are many additional fees you should factor into the cost. Similar to how cars need gas, insurance, registration, car washes, and whatnot,  dogs require food, pet insurance, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, training, grooming, pet sitting, and so much more, which all come at a price. Make sure you have money saved up to pay for all the necessities to keep your dog happy and healthy.

4. Is your current dog “balanced”?

If your existing 4-legged companion has behavioural issues, it’s absolutely necessary that you fix those problems first and foremost before introducing a new pack member. Otherwise, you will just double the problem. That’s because your new dog will develop the same issues that your existing dog already has, thus giving you twice the headache.

5. How old is your current dog?

It’s important to recognize that if you have a senior dog, sometimes adding a rambunctious pup into the mix can cause stress to an older canine. If your current dog has mobility or health issues, it may be best to put off the new addition so that you can give your older dog the time and space it needs as he/she ages. The ideal age to add a second dog in my professional opinion is between 2-8 years old. Any younger than this and the dog is still maturing and learning social behaviours. Any older, and depending on the breed, the dog could start showing signs of aging. If you do opt for a second dog in the senior years of your canine’s life, I’d suggest adopting a dog who is older instead of an active puppy. It’s important that the two dogs energies match so as to not disrupt harmony in the pack.

Thinking about getting a second dog? Contact me for training advice and how to integrate the new addition seamlessly.