Tag Archives: dogs

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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Match Game – Adopting the Right Dog Part 1 – Knowing Your Family’s Needs

Recently a good friend of mine wanted to pull the plug and adopt a dog for the family. The twin boys have been asking for a dog as long as I could remember and Dad, my friend, was pretty enamored with the idea too!  Since he’s a writer, he tends to research everything so I was thrilled when they came to me to ask the best way to match up a dog to his family.

As an adoption counselor for Mostly Mutts Pet Adoption and Rescue in Kennesaw GA, I see a lot of families fall in love with a dog that just doesn’t suit their family based on how the dog looks or acts at an adoption event.  I gave Joel some questions to think about before he went to Mostly Mutts to look at available dogs.

  1. Puppy or Adult?
    1. A puppy is a mixed bag.  It is a lot of work and not always for the new dog owner but a family that has done a lot of research on bringing up a new dog and has the time and energy to devote to bringing up a new canine citizen of the world could have an awesome experience raising a puppy.
    2. An adult dog may already be house trained, may already be obedience trained and may already have moved out of his destructive phase!
  2. Adopt or Shop?
    1.  Your local shelter will have a plethora of choices.  My rescue pulls animals from local, county-run, kill shelters.  We have a huge number of foster families as well as space at the shelter for the dogs but when you have a dog that has been fostered, we can provide more detailed information on what training needs, health needs, or husbandry needs the dog has.
    2. If you are adamant about a specific breed, find a good breeder.  Visit the AKC site for that specific breed and find a breeder recognized by them.  Or, if you really would like to rescue, contact a breed-specific rescue organization.  There are lots of circumstances surrounding why a dog is homeless and they don’t mean the dog is broken!
  3. What is the energy level of your family?  To answer this question, think about your calendar and there is a Saturday that is totally open — no commitments, no plans, no family visiting. What do you and your family do with a whole day?
    1. Movie Day!!!! Rent a bunch of movies, make popcorn, and marathon the media.
    2. Waterfall Hike — find the nearest hiking trail that has a waterfall and get the family ready for an outing.
    3. Everyone on their own – you are in your reading nook catching up on that novel, the kids are playing in the back yard, and your spouse is gardening.
  4.  What is the activity level of your family?
    1. Kids are involved in every activity under the sun
    2. One or more adults work long hours
    3. Never home
    4. Good mix of family time at home and activities out
  5. What size dog can you see in your home?
    1. Extra large like a Great Dane
    2. Large like a German Shepherd Dog
    3. Medium like a Beagle or hound dog

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      Private is a boxer-mix available for adoption through www.mostlymutts.org

    4. small like a Chihuahua or aYorkie
  6. What degree of grooming?
    1. Weekly Baths, brushing every day
    2. Bath, what bath?
    3. Monthly visit to the groomer to keep that puppy cut fresh
  7. What activities do you plan to do with your new dog?
    1. Daily walks around the neighborhood — I need an exercise buddy!
    2. Take him everywhere with us, ball park, vacations, etc.
    3. Snuggling on the couch
    4. I’ve got a map of all the great hiking areas in the state I want to go to with him

Knowing the answers of these questions before you even start the physical search for your dog can help you narrow down your choices.

 

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!

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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 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.

What I love about D-O-G-S!

The only time in my life that I can remember being without a dog is when I lived in Washington, DC right after college.  For a few years, I was petless until a mama cat walked into our townhouse and gave birth to four babies.  My roommate and I kept one of the kittens each and rehomed the others and mama cat.  When I moved a few years later, the brother/sister team were a bonded pair so I said goodbye to Sidley Ann (she was originally Sid Viscious until I discovered that he was a she!) and she stayed with her brother ‘Coon and my roommate, Rhonda.

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Kennai and Kritter Keeper!

Most of my life I’ve had dogs and cats and multiples of both but I’ve always been drawn to a dog.  Big dogs, mostly! I’ve had labs and lab mixes since I was old enough to choose for myself (got a lab I named Boo Boo who went to FSU with me!).  But I love them all…big dogs, little dogs, hairless dogs, shaggy dogs.

First, I love that they are clever. Look at all that floor space but Kennai knows the best spot and softest spot is to sit in my lap.  That’s where he’s going to get the full-on doggie massage and butt scritchin’!  The first day we took this dog out of the kennels, we had to put up curtained panels around him so he couldn’t see the other dogs.  Now he’s a bubba smoosh and can tolerate being close by other dogs…he still tracks them but we can manage that.

Secondly, dogs don’t hold on to stuff.  They aren’t score keepers.  There is no secret chalk board that they are making marks on when you mess up a training sequence and don’t treat them when you should.  Kennai isn’t saying to me, “Ahhh, I’m not going to sit for you today because remember last Thursday when I sat for you and you didn’t tell me I was a good boy or give me a piece of cheese?”

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submissive grin

Third, you always know where you stand with a dog.  They are not capable of playing mind-games with you although some people really think that their dog tore up their favorite pair of shoes to get back at them for taking them to the vet instead of the dog park.  I’m pretty sure the dog tore up their favorite pair of shoes because a) they were accessible and b) they smelled like mom or dad.  A dog that doesn’t want you near is going to warn you away with a growl or with body language.  A dog that is more submissive may give you appeasement signals like showing his belly or a submissive grin.

Fourth, a dog helps me center myself.  I can drift off into a deep meditative state just by stroking the dog’s back.  I don’t have to worry about carrying a conversation.  We can just sit together and be. I know studies have shown that petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure but it’s something deeper for me.  I once took a class on how to meditate at the Atlanta Yoga Center.  During the class you learned to focus on the air coming in and out of your nostrils while chanting your mantra to get into a deeper meditation.  Petting a dog is like chanting my mantra.

Last, and most important, dogs bond with you unconditionally.  You are their person to steal a phrase from Grey’s Anatomy! You rock a dog’s world and you are the person who feeds him, nurtures him, pets him, exercises him both physically and mentally.  Have you ever noticed that when you are sick, your dog is right by your side?  Because I have a multiple dogs at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love, I’m lucky to get the “tuck in” effect when I’m not feeling good.  I usually have one of the girls on the left side of me, one on the right side and one by the feet.  Sometimes I’m lucky (ha!) enough to have one resting on the same pillows as my head!

Dogs are my happy place and I’m a very lucky individual to have them in my life!