Category Archives: puppies

Match Game – Adopting the Right Dog Part 2 — Adjustments and Accommodations

Sometimes, there is that moment when your eyes lock onto an adoptable dog’s eyes and there is an instant bond just like in the movies but that is a rare occurrence.  For a majority of the animals in a shelter you are going to see a sometimes shut down, scared or anxious dog.  It’s loud, often smelly and, did I mention, loud in shelters.Woman Rubbing Noses with Puppy

Then there is the cuteness syndrome…there are reasons we ooh and ahh when we see a cute animal or human baby.  When we see those cute little faces, our brains are washed in a wave of dopamine which is the same chemical reaction we have when we fall in love, have sex or use drugs.  So, the cuter the dog, the more our brain tells us we need that animal. Big eyes, round, bulbous foreheads, wrinkles of skin…all these trigger this thing in our brains that makes us feel good and want to protect these “babies.” Some of the cutest dogs I’ve known have been extremely fear aggressive and are not a good match for anyone but the most experienced dog handlers and guardians.

So, as hard as it might be, we need to fight off the dopamine and cuteness factor when choosing the right right dog for the family.  When you find the right dog for you, I guarantee he will be the cutest looking after a while.  All human babies, to me, look like Winston Churchill with their big bald heads and rolls of fat but human instinct of the moms always say their baby is the cutest.

One of my friends, Laurie, went out to shelters one weekend looking for a Yorkie or Silkie Terrier or something that was scruffy and fluffy.  She came home with a large, red, short-haired dog that looked like a Vizsla or Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. and has since adopted three more largish, red dogs!  The point is that looks are really only a small part of that bond you will establish with the dog in your family.

This is the advice I give people who are visiting a shelter to choose their next family members:

  1. Look at less subjective things about your new family member rather then how cute he is.
    1. Energy level – I always use the example of a border collie who is adopted by a family of couch potatoes.  Neither dog nor humans will be happy in the situation.  The dog wants to work and herd whatever it can.  The people want to lie on the couch and watch sports or movies…not participate in them!
    2. Sociability – if you are looking for a furry companion that loves all people and dogs and can join your family on outings and vacations then you probably don’t want the dog cowering at the back of the kennel who is terrified of all around. But, please, keep in mind, that shelters often are scary and a dog is not himself there.
    3. History with Children – if you have kids or grandkids then you want a dog who can be around them and interact with children.  Some dogs are so frightened by children that they shut down so you want to make sure your new dog is comfortable and unphased by the lively antics of a kid!
  2. Ask if the rescue or shelter has a “Foster to Adopt” program.  This allows you to see how the dog lives in your environment and allows the dog to show you their true selves.  But there is generally about a two-week “honeymoon” period when bringing home a new dog.  This first two weeks is where everyone is on their best behavior and not quite accustomed to their new situation.  Humans aren’t habituated to their new family member and the dog is getting adjusted to this new life.  As an adoption counselor I want to make sure my adoptions stick so if there are any variables in the situation like other pets, disabled individuals in the home, etc. then I suggest we try a Foster to Adopt first.  One couple came to adoptions and fell in love with a lovely pitbull mix we had available for adoption.  They let me know that the husband had done several stints in Iraq with the Army and is now suffering from PTSD.  We knew that the bond was already starting to form with him and this young girl pup but we all wanted to make sure that the daily stress of keeping a dog wasn’t going to make the husband’s PTSD worse.  I’m happy to say it was a match made in heaven and they are all living happily ever after.
  3. If you can take a few days off when you get your new dog everyone will be happier! There are a few days needed for adjustment period for both you and your new dog. You can ease that adjustment by taking a few days off to acclimate your new best friend to your house and your rules.  We see a lot of new puppies in the spring/summer time and that’s a great time for adoptions during vacations!

Bringing a new family member into your home is not something that should be a spur of the moment event.  You want the best family member you can get and your dog wants the best family he can get!  Do your homework and you’ll soon have a great new member of your family.

Need advice on training, dog selection, behavior or dog sports?  Hit me up and maybe your question will be my next blog!  –the Kritter Keeper

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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!

 

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.

Timing, timing, timing!

Everything is about timing in the dog training world and how we can help our dogs learn to live compatibly with their humans. 

Forgive the awful video quality and the cooing voice in the background (it’s me!).  The first thing I did when we let the puppies loose is lay down on my back like Gulliver and let the Puppyputians jump all over me!  My friend Suzy Houpt and fellow dog fosterer for Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue in Acworth, GA actually came up with the Gulliver’s Travels reference!

Did you know that from about age six weeks to about 12 weeks is what animal behavior scientists call the Optimal Socialization Period for a dog?  This means that you need to get those puppies exposed to as many dogs, humans, other species, etc. as possible.  I’m not saying take your baby puppy to a dog park or PetSmart to walk on the floor — you have no control over anyone bringing a sick dog to those places and you definitely don’t want your pup exposed to that until fully vaccinated — but take your puppy to meet all types of people and dogs you know are healthy and social.

What about those dreaded “accidents” in the house as you train your puppy that going potty outside is way better?  Well, if you come across a puddle and you didn’t see it happen, if you reprimand the pup he will just think you are a crazy person because they won’t put the two together.  Too much time has passed.

Now if you catch the puppy in midstream, that’s perfect timing!  Don’t wait for him to finish — yell “Hey” or clap loud and pick him up and take him outside to finish (or on the wee wee pad if you are training that way).  When the pup potties outside, I have a “Potty Party” and give lots of excited praise.  Some people give actual treats but the act of relieving oneself and some good praise should be sufficient.  You know that feeling when you really have to go…you can almost hear the “Ahhhhhh!”

The timing of giving the dog a treat when teaching basic obedience behaviors is also very relative.  You really want to time the giving of the treat with the behavior you are rewarding.  Sometimes we humans are just not fast enough so teaching these commands using a marker like a clicker or even the word, “Yes!” gives you time to get the treat ready to give.  A treat pouch is helpful but you want to make sure the dog is paying attention to the hand signal, your verbal cue and you — not the treats!  If you are doing a down/stay, you want to reward the dog for the down and the stay but if he breaks it, well then no reward!IMG_0492

When I was first learning how to teach clicker training, our instructor had us get a pile of dried beans and a paper cup.  We would click and pick a bean out of our treat bag and place it in the paper cup.  Mark and then treat.  Mark and then treat. Mark and then treat.  I think I dream about marking and treating!

To practice my timing for marking a behavior, I used my table mirror.  First I would crinkle my nose and mark it with a “Yes!” just to get the rhythm and timing down.  I can imagine anyone who walked into my room at the time would be calling for the crazy wagon! But I needed (and still need to!) practice the timing.  But it’s all about timing, timing, timing!