Tag Archives: dogs

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!


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.

kennai and kasey 3

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?”


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!

Do dogs seek vengeance?

dog_urine_in_houseI do it all the time…I assign my dogs complex thoughts.  I used to believe they know right or wrong. I would say things like “he knows better than to steal that wooden leg!”

I see the videos where the dog has a submissive grin when the guy asks who stole the cat treats or who got into the garbage (and the trashcan lid is around the “guilty” dog’s neck). It sure feels like they are vindictive when I’ve just taken them home from the boarding place and they look at me and pee on the carpet in the bedroom!  In Jean Donaldson’s book, The Culture Clash, she states that dogs are completely and innocently selfish.

“Although some of their behaviors are socially facilitated, there is no good evidence that they have the all-purpose Swiss Arm Knife imitation tool that humans have. Here is the important point: this does not make them stupid or any less valuable than they would be if they could think more like us.”

Assigning these very human behaviors to dogs or any other species besides humans is called anthropomorphizing.  It’s pretty easy to do when you don’t really understand how small the dog’s brain is and how they really can’t think up these complex thoughts.  In Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book, The Other End of the Leash, she tells the story of a dog owner, John, who came to her with a male Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chester who didn’t like to be corrected.  When John said “No!”, Chester would run into the bedroom, jump on the bed, wait for his owner to come and then, staring directly at him, lift his leg and pee on the pillow.

That has to be a vengeance pee, right? Well, in a nutshell no. John had been warned that Chessies are often stubborn and willful dogs.  The breeder had advised him to yell, “NO!” at    Chester and grab him by the scruff and shake him.  John was a good student and did what was advised. Chester was freaked out frightened and flattened his ears, rolled over and peed some more.  John realized he’d gone over the top with his correction.

For the next few days, the same scenario ensued.  John would yell, “No!” and run toward Chester.  Chester would cower and urinate.  John would stop realizing it would just make the dog more anxious.  Chester learned that if he peed, John would stop his offensive movement.  Later Chester learned to combine his peeing with a game he’d been teaching John called “Tag, I’m It!” As with a lot of adolescents, it was pleasurable to be chased and to watch Dad go gaga (Chester had found the right button to push!) but the trigger to this behavior was John yelling “NO!”bedpee

The behavior was turned around with John changing his correction word from “no” to “wrong”.  Chester learned that if he stopped what he was doing when he heard “wrong,” something good happened. John and Chester lived happily ever after.

So the next time you think that puddle in your bed is a vengeance pee, think about all the things that might have led up to it.  Dogs just don’t think in terms of justice and vengeance.

How Do You Choose Your Next Family Member?

Did you know that we are genetically wired to think babies are cute? We go ga-ga for the giant eyes of a baby of any species — human, dog or cat! But the best matches when choosing your next family member occur when you’ve done your homework to see what are the best breeds, temperaments, activity levels and grooming commitments are to match your family’s lifestyle. Of course, breeds are just another guide we have and not all members of a breed will perfectly match the description.Image

When you think about bringing a new furbaby into your family, this is a long-term commitment! If you have a brand new puppy like Gizmo, you are looking at the next 10 – 15 years! So you want to look at the breed’s general attributes to see if they are a match for your family. For example, Gizmo is a rescue from a local shelter and we really don’t have any information on his make up but by looking at his features, we are pretty confident he is a boxer mix. I know he’s going to be a pretty active guy and will want to engage in some brain stimulating activities so I’m going to look for some interactive toys for him. I’m also going to engage him right away in some basic obedience training.

Some general things to keep in mind when choosing a dog are the following:

  • What size dog do you want, and is this size compatible with your living quarters?
  • How much time can you spend exercising/training/playing with a dog?
  • What types of activities will you enjoy with your dog? Is your lifestyle active or sedentary?
  • How much can you afford to budget for a good brand of dog food?
  • Do you have a yard or access to a nearby park where your dog can play?
  • How much time and effort can you devote to grooming your dog?

There are many applications available to help you decide what breeds you may be interested in a pet. My favorite resource for information on breeds is Animal Planet. They have an application for choosing the right cat breed or dog breed. Not only do they have some great information on line but also some great shows to give you info on breeds (Dogs 101, Cats 101) and Training (It’s Me or the Dog, My Cat from Hell).

One of the most important ones is your lifestyle. If you have a really high energy dog and a low energy lifestyle, that is not going to be a match made in heaven! I have a friend with a great boxer, Dax. That boy has energy galore! Not only is he in doggy daycare on a daily basis but she also gives him very long walks. On the weekend, I’m always seeing pictures of these five plus mile hikes they go on together. But if Kristen didn’t do everything in her power to exercise her boy, they would not have such a wonderful relationship!

Based on Gizmo’s looks, I bet he’s going to be a really high energy fellow! That should work out well in my home as I have a couple of high energy dogs, and a couple of low energy dogs. We will do what we can to make sure he’s tuckered out before he can cause puppy mischief! I will work with him on general manners and make him ready for his furever home. Lots of walks and exercise in his future!

If you are getting ready to add a new member to your family, I urge you to take all the factors into consideration. Our shelters are filled with adolescent puppies and young adult dogs that are a result of poor planning and owners not understanding what they were signing up for. Don’t just go for the cute factor. Getting a puppy or kitten means that in a few months you have a young dog or cat! Do your research and look for the best fit for your family!