Author Archives: kaseyskritterkeepers

About kaseyskritterkeepers

Kasey is a certified professional dog trainer, animal educator and advocator specializing in companion animals. She owns Kritter Keepers Pet Services in Acworth, Georgia offering private and group training, pet sitting, dog walking, and photography services to the NW Atlanta area. Kasey is also an active volunteer with Mostly Mutts Rescue of Acworth where she is an adoption counselor, foster mom, social media helper and photographer. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Simple Needs GA, a small non-profit supporting the homeless in Cobb County.

Rescue, Breeder or Both?

puppy loveThis is a very tough question because I’m personally involved in rescue but my love of dogs and the individual breeds makes me also a prime candidate for a pure bred.  The truth is I have both.  My two pure breeds (a lab and a vizsla) are rescues of a sort as the families that owned them couldn’t deal with or handle them.  So Lesson One is that there are sometimes pure breed dogs available at your rescue.  At Mostly Mutts, we’ve had Shelties, Boxers, Pomeranians, Great Danes, English Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Miniature Pinschers and the list goes on.

But most of those dogs were not puppies so what do you do when you want to get your pure breed puppy?  Lesson Two is that if you want a pure breed, do your homework and find a reputable breeder.  So today, I’d like to talk about what to look for in a reputable breeder.  In my profession, I see a lot of puppies that are in homes because someone walked by a pet store window and knowing nothing about the breed but spying this little package of puppy goodness, they had to have it.  Getting a puppy is not an impulse buy! Here are the Kritter Keeper’s rules for getting the right puppy for your family.

  1.  Research the breeds and what the right fit is for you and your lifestyle.  If you like to lie on the couch all day then you should not an Australian Shepherd as Aussies like to work all day running around and herding everything!  Maybe look at one of the less active companion breeds like a Chihuahua or Brussels Griffon.  If you are looking for a larger dog, believe it or not Greyhounds are big couch potatoes or something giant like a Great Dane or Mastiff.
  2. Research the breeder.  I would prefer to work with a breeder that is acknowledged by the AKC and fits their standards.  There is a laundry list of things I want from the breeder.
    • Certificate of Health — I want to know that some of the genetic things that a breed is prone to are not in the genes of her line.  For instance, hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd or blindness in a Dalmation.  To know what health risks a breed is known for see #1 on this list.
    • Home visit with at least Mom if not Mom and Dad on site.  I want to make sure I am not supporting puppy mills so I’m going to want to see what environment my puppy is growing up in and I want to check the temperament of Mom and Dad.  I  want to see the puppies before I choose and how they interact with the rest of the litter and the parents.  I also want to make sure that the breeder is providing an interactive experience for the puppies to help them with their cognitive functions.
  3. Understand the genetic lines of the dog — maybe the breeder has more of a show dog line versus a pet dog line.  If you aren’t going to show then perhaps you would be better suited to a pet dog line.

Whether you get your new puppy from a rescue or from a reputable breeder, enjoy all the puppy kisses!

 

What does CPDT-KA Mean?

In my field of pet services there are not any hard and fast rules as to who can put out their shingle advertising their services as a dog trainer.  Sometimes you luck into finding a wonderful trainer who has read everything under the sun, has mIMG_2623any years of experience and has a wonderful rapport with the animals.  And sometimes you find a “trainer” who taught her own dog to sit so therefore she’s a dog trainer. So I became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Since there is no legal standard, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) was established in 2001.  The CCPDT is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. The CCPDT is the leader in the development of rigorous exams to demonstrate mastery of humane, science-based dog training practices. Thousands of dog training professionals worldwide maintain the CCPDT’s certifications as a mark of high professional distinction.

Before I could even sit for the test, I had to prove I had the following qualifications:

  • A minimum of 300 hours’ experience in dog training within the last 3 years.
  • Provide a signed attestation statement from a CCPDT certificant or a veterinarian

The last requirement was to sign the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics.  This, to me, was one of the most important pieces of becoming a CPDT-KA.

A certificant of the CCPDT pledges to abide by the following:

  1. To operate as a certificant without discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, physical limitation, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, religion, or political beliefs.
  2. To assist clients in establishing humane, realistic, training and behavior goals in accordance with the CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.
  3. To understand and fully comply with the CCPDT Training and Behavior Practices Policy.
  4. To use training and behavior modification methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.
  5. To always provide for the safety of clients and animals in training programs and behavior consultations.
  6. To act with honesty and integrity toward clients, respecting their legitimate training and behavior goals and the autonomy of their choices, provided they conform to societal and legal standards of humane treatment for their pet.
  7. To refrain from public defamation of colleagues, respecting their right to establish and follow their own principles of conduct, provided those principles are ethical and humane according to the CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.
  8. To provide truthful advertising and representations concerning certificant qualifications, experience, performance of services, pricing of services and expected results; to provide full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to clients and other professionals.
  9. To refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training.
  10. To use properly authorized logos and credentials provided by the CCPDT when marketing in print or electronic media.
  11. To obtain written informed consent from any client prior to photographing, video or audio recording a dog training session.
  12. To work within the professional boundaries of the CCPDT certifications and individual expertise and refrain from providing diagnosis, advice, or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless certified to do so. This does not preclude referring the client to a veterinary or behavior consulting professional.
  13. To maintain and respect the confidentiality of all information obtained from clients in the course of business; to refrain from disclosure of information about clients or their pets to others without the client’s explicit consent, except as required by law.
  14. To be aware of and comply with applicable laws, regulations, and ethical standards governing professional practices, treatment of animals (including cases of neglect or abuse), and reporting of dog bites in the state/province/country when interacting with the public and when providing dog training or behavior consulting services.
  15. To keep accurate and complete records of clients, their animals and the training and behavior services provided; to ensure secure storage and, when appropriate, confidential disposal of such records.
  16. To continue professional development as required for maintaining the CCPDT credentials in accordance with the policies of the CCPDT.
  17. To refrain from making material misrepresentations as part of the application for certification or recertification.
  18. To maintain and respect the confidentiality and security of the contents of any and all certification examinations of the CCPDT including, but not limited to, refraining from: stealing portions of, or the entire, examination(s); removing written examination materials from a test or meeting site without authorization; reproducing and/or disseminating examination materials without authorization; using paid test takers for the purpose of reconstructing an examination; using improperly obtained test questions to prepare person(s) for the examination; cheating during an examination; impersonating an examinee or having an impersonator take an examination.

If you are looking for a dog trainer in your area and you can’t come to see me please go to the CCPDT website to find a certified dog trainer in your area!

 

The Pros and Cons of Board and Trains

As much as I like to portray a gruff personality, the truth is I can’t say no, especially when it cscoobyomes to animals.  Opening Kritter Keepers Club is a dream come true for me because it will allow me to say, “Yes!” more.

I’m saying yes to board and trains where I can exclusively work with a dog 5-7 times during the day at their lessons. Board and trains are great for learning basic obedience, housetraining, puppy basics but I don’t feel like they are good for extensive behavior modifications for aggressive or fearful dogs.

Lately, those are the clients that want a board and train. Depending on the dog’s triggers, being in a strange environment can send him over the edge. When a dog shuts down there is not a whole lot of learning going on and what can happen is the opposite of what trainer and owner really want — now the dog’s fears are associated with a facility or the trainer or the method of training. Then there’s what happens when the dog gets home…

We are always learning more and more about how our animals learn and retain information which is a great boon for the dog training world.  Misconceptions about fear-based or aversive training can be argued against using data from studies rather than emotions.  So what we do know is that consistency is key so when a dog returns home from a board and train it is essential that the humans are trained as well as the dog is!

Everyone should be using the same verbal cues, same visual cues.  A dog’s humans should practice these newly gained behaviors all over the house.  And don’t forget the rewards!  If you want to get a dog to continue to do these behaviors rewards are a must!

dog

At Kritter Keepers Club, we will offer board and trains in our dog-sports oriented facility. To help facilitate the transition to the family environment, we will have different Kritter Keepers working with your dog and we will proof each behavior.

Board and trains are not inexpensive so before you sign up, make sure you understand what you are getting.  You should not only understand how much one-on-one training your dog is getting but how much time he’ll be alone, how much time will be dedicated to teaching the humans and and how long you have to follow up with the trainer if issues occur.  Your board and train trainer should be able to provide you with a schedule of what your dog is learning and that should coordinate with the skills you are trying to build with your pup.

shepherdMake sure you get all the info you need and make the best decision you can!

A Full House at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love!

 

Mike and Carol Brady have nothing on me.  I am up to the same number of kids the Brady’s had plus a few others longer and shorter term guests.  In other words, there’s no room at the inn!

We’ve now divided my home into the LPPL and the MelPPL — my roommate and adopted adopted daughter Mel’s space.  I also have to report that although technically I own six dogs on paper, one of them, my soon-to-be 13 year old lab, Phoebe, has defected from the LPPL and hangs out in the MelPPL.  So here’s the LPPL line up:

 

On the MelPPL level we have her guy Beauregard Lee, adopted from Mostly Mutts and came to us via a hoarding case in NW Alabama.  We also have Lucy, a beautiful shepherd mix who has been staying with us while her family gets adjusted to live in South Carolina.  And then there is the defector Phoebe.

 

There are some adjustments that need to be made.  We use a lot more crates now!  Because of temperament we do keep some separation when the humans aren’t home to supervise.  I do not recommend this living environment for the faint of heart!  You’ve got to be very dedicated to keep everyone and everything clean, happy and loved!  But, what they give back to us is worth the hard work.

Where Have I Been? Eating Ice Cream!

Is the Litt Palace of Puppy Love closed?  Not at all…but things certainly have changed for us.  I’ve taken time out of the blog world to lick my wounds and get back to a manageable mental status after the death of my husband.  I was (and still am) the move forward and ask for forgiveness later person.  He was the guy that researched everything before making a move.  We were a good combo together.  But now I feel like I did when I first moved out of my parents home.

Remember the first time you had that dirty little pleasure of eating ice cream before dinner…or better yet eating ice cream as dinner?  And guess what? There was no one to tell you that is not right.  You were your own boss and you could do whatever you wanted.

I had my share of ice cream for dinner this past year…several puppy fosters of really difficult puppies and finally found their forever homes.  I also adopted a puppy who has become my heart and soul, Bubba.  Bubba is the ice cream, the hot fudge and the cherry on top!img_2601

From a business perspective, you may recall I compromised with my husband and was going to take a job out in Kanab, UT with Best Friends as a trainer in Dogtown.  I was very excited about the opportunity to work for this great organization but I really wanted to open my own training center.  Andy knew me as a great technical consultant (I was an IT consultant for 15 years of our 22-year marriage), but he just couldn’t see me giving up that career to run my own business so our compromise was to work for a few years at a non-profit as a trainer and then open my business with that experience under my belt.

Well, needless to say, I couldn’t leave my framily in GA after his death — I needed all the support I could get living on my own.  So I focused on expanding Kritter Keepers. We now have two great Kritter Keepers in addition to myself – Jessica and Mel.  Angela has joined the team and will be working on marketing and other business-y stuff.  The biggest thing for Kritter Keepers is that we’ve purchased a property and are working to make our dream come true of having a dog sports – oriented training center, doggie daycare and boarding facility.  We are converting a human daycare. Designs have been finalized and we are hoping to start the remodel very soon.  That has to be a banana split for dinner!  It is both the scariest and the most exciting move I’ve made in my career.  I believe in myself and I know that Kritter Keepers Club will be a success!

I also bought a brand-spanking-new, six-miles on the odometer, Chevy Colorado.  This is a two scoops of the fudgiest, most indulgent ice-cream ever.  Andy didn’t think a pick up was practical especially for a girl!  And he hated General Motors because they cancelled our GM reward card when we built our first house — not because we didn’t use and pay promptly but because we had too many credit inquiries (first home buys suck up credit report scores due to the number of inquiries!).  He never forgave and forbid anyone in our family from purchasing GM products.  So this is a first for me and I LOVE my truck.  It is the perfect vehicle to express my personality!

The year has not just been about eating ice cream for dinner.  It’s been emotional and really could have been so easy to fall down that rabbit hole of depression.  I think being a little naughty and rebellious helped me.  When Andy and I used to argue, my favorite thing to fight back with was the “You’re not my father!” battle cry of the rebel-without-a-clue that I am!  So each little step forward, each scoop of ice cream, is not without an internal conversation with Andy. In his own way, I think he would be proud of what I’ve done this year even if he didn’t agree with some of events.

Adding to Your Family Dynamic

As an adoption counselor and a dog trainer I sometimes see the opposite ends of the family choosing a new companion animal for their family.  Back in the olden days (when I had to walk five miles in a snow storm, up hill to get to school) pets were sold exclusively at pet stores or Woolworth’s (small pets) or just found them wandering around with no collar.  There were some rescues out there but a lot of euthanasia of strays and unwanted puppies and kittens. If there was an animal shelter, it was often just a euphemism for being put to sleep.

Or you went to a breeder to get a specific dog.  It didn’t matter if that was the breed best suited to your family and your lifestyle – you paid your money and got your dog.  If you liked the look, bought into the Lassie phenomenon that dogs behaved because they wanted to please their people or because Biffy down the street had a poodle, you got a dog.  If they chewed on your furniture, didn’t automagically become house broken or just didn’t match your lifestyle in the first place, dogs (and cats) were disposable and no one would blink an eye if you took them to the animal control.

Growing up, I had a plethora of dogs – some acquired from breeders and some rescued.  My first memory is of our Collie, Blaze.  He was my protector, nanny and nap bed.  We also had a sheepdog named Penny whom we acquired for free from a breeder because she was diabetic and they couldn’t sell her. Our black Belgium Groenendaal named Rico Petrocelli came to our home via an aunt who impulse-purchased him from the window at the pet store. And then there was Princess, a schnauzer who just appeared one day. Some of them stayed their entire lives with us and some were disappeared into the night to live

pickright pet

NOTE: this works for other species!

a fabulous life on the farm because it wasn’t really fair to them to have to take a walk on a leash (and I’m pretty sure that farm wasn’t on this dimensional plain!).

 

In today’s world, that way of thinking should become a relic of the past.  Before you get that Australian Sheepdog, figure out first, is that the right dog for your family. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your REAL activity level…not the one you aspire to but in reality, what activities would you be able to incorporate your dog into that you are already doing every day.  Do you run, hike or even stroll the neighborhood?
  2. Do you need a dog to assist you? Does your dog have a job – does he need to heard sheep or wake up a hearing impaired child?
  3. What size do you want the dog to be?  Should it fit through a cat door or take up a king sized bed?
  4. What type of coat should the dog have?  Are you a clean freak that wears a lot of black?  I don’t recommend a Great Pyrenees for you!
  5. What kind of personality are you looking for?  If a trip to the dog park on a daily basis is on your agenda then you want to find a dog that is confident and social with another dogs and enjoys that kind of interaction.

    Pick right pet

    What? You’re leaving me again?

  6. What is your lifestyle?  Is everyone out of the house for 8-10 hours a day and then scheduled with something every hour until it is time to go to bed?  Maybe fish would be a good alternative for you!  My gentle and loving Phoebe came from a situation where a family wanted a new puppy, decided on a lab and because of how busy this family was, she was chained in the yard all day and then crated all night long with little interaction with the owners.  She was about nine-months old when she came to live at the LPPL and is one of the best dogs I’ve had.  But I knew what I was getting into with the breed, her needs both physical and mental.

Notice, not one of the questions above had anything to do with the cuteness factor.  Dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, all give us the same chemical reaction as a baby does.  It’s incredibly hard to not go with the cuteness factor but at the end of the day, if you do this exercise before getting a new companion animal, your chances of successful guardianship increases dramatically!

So what if you are less worried about the breed and really want to focus on rescues?  Good news on that front! Paws Like Me is the match.com for companion animals!  Once you fill out the profile, Paws Like Me then applies a pet matching logarithm based on the following personality quadrants:

Energy

Energy measures physical as well as mental energy. A dog with high energy tends to be very motivated and active. A dog with low energy prefers the lazy life and won’t go out of his way to keep himself entertained.

Confidence

Confidence measures the dog’s level of security. A dog with high confidence will confront new situations and people with no hesitation. A dog with low confidence will need more guidance and reassurance in their daily life.

Focus

Focus measures a dog’s ability to concentrate on a given task. A high focus dog is not easily distracted and is well suited for advanced training. A low focus dog is spontaneous in play and easily distracted.

Independence

Independence measures a dog’s level of affection. A very independent dog is happy with minimal physical contact; a glance or kind word makes him happy. A dog with low independence thrives on petting, giving kisses, and being in contact with someone as frequently as possible.

Paws Like Us then pulls results from local rescue and online resources and matches you with a potential companion.

A few weeks ago, we had a great couple come to us ready to adopt their first dog together. You could tell they were going to be great doggy parents!  One half of the couple gravitates toward one of our gentle giants, Ranger, while the other half fell in love with a mini, Lenny.  This was a huge decision for them and you could see the gravity of them wanting to make the right choice.

I sent them home with no one and asked them to fill out the Paws Like Me application.  As much as we loved them and wanted them to adopt from Mostly Mutts, perhaps there was another companion out there better suited for them.  Yesterday, they came back and adopted Lenny.  He was their #1 match!  I can’t wait to see the updates.

 

A Puppy Just Saved My Life

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My husband and I didn’t always agree eye to eye on fostering – especially puppies!  So, when he suddenly passed away earlier this year, one of my first thoughts was that I was going to foster again when things get a little less hectic.

The problem with things getting a little less hectic is that the quiet moments become greater.  It’s during those quiet moments that your pain and grief of losing your loved one hits you like a ton of bricks.  Fostering for me, brought a normalcy I needed. I think.  It’s not even been 30 days.

I don’t trust that Andy is dead.  He’s been away from me for long period of times since April of 2014 when his mom first went into the hospital.  Because of work situations and care needs for his mom, he ended up spending most of 2014 through April 2015 taking care of her up in New York.  I spent time up in NY and he’d make a trip down to Acworth for important things like our anniversary. Unfortunately, him mom passed in May 2015.  He then spent the better part of 2015 taking care of her different properties in New York and Florida.  Flash forward to October and Andy finally came home.

Most of the time he was gone, I was in Acworth.  I was so lonely for him.  Again, it was the quiet times – no one to sit on the couch with and hold hands. No one to cook for. My mood was spiraling downward.  During this time, my saving grace was a boisterous dog named Oscar.  Willful, crazy but lovely and smart. He was one of the first residents of our new shelter and I took him home loving a challenge.

While Andy was gone, Oscar wormed his way into my heart.  After more than a year and a half of fostering Oscar, Andy gave him to me for our 21st anniversary.  Betcha didn’t know that dog was the gift for that year.

So, it makes sense for me, as I try to make sense of losing my best friend, my love and soulmate that I take a puppy to foster.  For me, this was comfort (along with wearing Andy’s shirts).  The Litt Palace of Puppy Love is open for business.