There can be a lot of discussion about what makes a responsible breeder, but one thing pretty much everyone can agree on is health testing. It’s important.
But it can also be SO confusing if you’re new to it!
Health testing is the process of evaluating dogs for heritable diseases and conditions. Every breed of dog has some health concerns that should be tracked, and breeders should be making educated decisions about which dogs to breed and which pairings to make to minimize the risk of passing on those genes. Health testing breeding stock is the #1 prerequisite for being a responsible breeder.
How do you know what tests your breeder should be doing?
Check the “parent club” website. The parent club is the governing body for your breed in your country. There is a Canadian club for every Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) registered breed. Each club recommends certain tests for their breed. Some recommend more than others; it can vary greatly breed to breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals also lists recommended tests by breed. Most breeds are looking at cardiac, hips, elbows and eyes. Many will do more, some will do less.
If a breeder is not doing the minimum testing as laid out by their breed club for every breeding dog, do not walk, run.
How do you know if a breeder has done the testing?
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website lists dogs that have been tested through them. You can search for dogs from the kennel in question and see what tests have been done, and the results. There is a minimum age for some tests, and dogs who are not old enough to be properly tested should not be bred.
It can be confusing to look at all the abbreviations (CEA, PRA, DM, LEMP, the list goes on!) but take the time to full read up on your chosen breed’s club website is well worth the effort.
And talk to the breeder you are considering! Good breeders are going to be enthusiastic about educating you about the health of their breed, and want to be transparent about their testing procedures.
A note about things that can’t be tested for:
Not all health tests are guarantees, and not all health problems have a test.
While a dog can be definitively clear of Progressive Retinal Atrophy for example, there are other diseases where there are multiple genetic markers involved, and possible environmental factors as well.
Epilepsy is a good example of this, we have yet to develop a way of truly tracking and preventing it.
Behavioural problems like separation anxiety, sound sensitivity or obsessive compulsive disorder cannot be tested for, but breeders should still be taking steps to avoid producing dogs with mental health problems.
At the end of the day, no one can predict everything and sometimes shit happens. Breeding dogs can be a complex juggling act, and issues can arise through no fault of anyone’s. It is how breeders prevent the preventable and respond to unforeseen issues when they do arrive that makes them responsible.
You can be a responsible puppy buyer and set yourself up for the best chance at a happy, health puppy by researching your breed’s health before choosing a breeder, and doing your due diligence in vetting that breeder’s health testing!
Why do some dog trainers show really dramatic before and afters, and some don’t?
Have you noticed that most of those who do post dramatic before and afters are using aversive tools or heavy handed corrections.
So why aren’t positive trainers posting before and afters? Wouldn’t it be helpful for potential clients to see what their successes are?
There are some really good reason that most positive trainers don’t post dramatic before and afters.
Have you been told to deprive your dog of things?
I know I have.
A shorter leash, less off leash time, more crate time, less attention.
These are all ways that we used to train dogs (and you may have had someone recently advise this, as dog training is not a regulated industry).
Let's think about hunger for a moment. If a person is starving, and you put that person right in the middle of a huge buffet, are they going to act like anyone else in the room? How likely are they to make themselves sick, or experience refeeding syndrome?
When we minimize a dog’s ability to get their needs met (physical, mental, emotional or social), we create a state of deprivation. And so when that dog gets to go off leash, or greet people, it is so much harder for them to stay calm and in a thinking and learning state of mind.
We’ve all seen that dog running and running and refusing to come back, completely frantic. It’s no fun for anyone.
Do we sometimes have to take some things away from dogs? Yes! We use a lot of management in modern dog training, and some things are unsafe or unhealthy for dogs to do. But we always, always, always, ensure the dog’s needs are being met in a safe way.
And sometimes the solution is more freedom, not less. A longer leash, more time off leash, more access to foraging for food. Always planned in a safe way, but we can take an approach of metaphorically refeeding the dog, so they aren’t experiencing a feeling of deprivation any longer.
If we take something away, we need to have a good reason to do so and must ensure that all the dog’s needs are still being met.
If you’re unsure if your dog’s physical, emotional, mental and social needs are being met, or if your dog is exhibiting frantic or hyperactive type behaviour, contact us for a consultation!
We’ve all had our heartstrings tugged by puppies. They are, by design, adorable.
But what about getting two? Maybe there is only two puppies left in the litter and you can’t bear to split them up, maybe you think they’ll be best friends growing up together, or maybe you’ve been told two puppies is easier than one.
Lets take a look at why buying two puppies at once is usually a very bad idea.
Is it easier to have two puppies than one? Absolutely not. Two puppies are at least twice the work of one. Twice the training, twice the 2am bathroom breaks should they get an upset tummy, twice the price of food and veterinary care.
Ask anyone with twins, they will assure you two is not easier than one.
But they’ll be best friends! Will they? Dog/dog aggression is common in many breeds and lines of dogs, and is rarely apparent in young puppies. Littermates are often more rough with one another and more competitive than other puppies, and dogs raised together without adequate time apart can become hyper bonded and can experience anxiety when separated. This might seem sweet, but what happens if you can’t walk them together as adults, or one gets ill or passes away before the other? Some of these problems can helped with good training, but that can be a time consuming and difficult undertaking.
He needs someone to play with! This is what you are for! And puppy socialization classes/playgroups. Puppies cannot be left alone very long, but neither can two puppies. Instead of getting two puppies, consider hiring a friend, family member or qualified pet professional to visit your puppy while you are at work. It’s important that puppies have many new experiences, and frequently two puppies tire each other out and can act as a buffer for one another, which can inhibit socialization.
What if you worry about the other puppy’s future? If you’re concerned that the other puppies in the litter will be poorly treated, lonely or neglected, you should absolutely not be buying from that source. Good rescues and breeders don’t usually have puppies to spare, and every puppy is going to be given the best possible home, even if there isn’t a waitlist. The hallmark of a good breeder is always taking responsibility for every puppy produced for their entire life. If where the puppies are kept looks dirty or unsafe, that is not someone you should be supporting. There are risks associated with buying puppies from shady sources that we should all be aware of.
If you must pick up multiple puppies from a less than reputable source, reach out to the local rescue community to find a foster home for those you cannot keep.
So what do you do if you have littermates or two young dogs?
Train them apart AND together. Your puppies will need to spend time learning new things separately, and then learn how to do those things together.
Crate train them separately. Your puppies should have time apart and learn to feel comfortable in a crate without their sibling. They should not have full access to each other all the time.
Go to two different puppy classes/playgroups. If you attend group classes with your puppy, see if your instructor teaches two different sessions that you can attend. If doing private training, ask your trainer how best to train each puppy separately.
Play with and feed them separately. To avoid competition and to build value for interacting with you, avoid feeding and playing with the puppies together. Give them each their own play time and feed in different rooms or in their crates/pens.
Reach out for help. If you have two puppies, or adult dogs who are experiencing conflict or over bonding, help is available. The best time to address behaviour problems is right away.
When is it a good idea to get dog number 2?
Because so many major behavioural problems can be linked to puberty and social maturity, I recommend waiting 2-4 years before adding another puppy to the mix. You’ll be more confident that your adult dog doesn’t have issues with resource guarding or same sex aggression, and you’ll be able to devote more time to socializing and training your new puppy!
If you're considering bringing a new dog or puppy into your home, and you want to know how to do that successfully, or if you are struggling with the dogs you already have, contact us today! We provide professional, certified dog training in person in the South Surrey/White Rock community and virtually across Canada!
This blog was originally posted to the now defunct Dog Dish Blog for Dog Utopia in April 2019
I dismissed my own dog from daycare today.
The puppy I am raising is a seven month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. He is smart, funny, vibrant and sweet. He is also intense, sensitive and very high drive.
His name is Biscuit and he has been living with me since he was nine weeks old. His first day of daycare was less than 24 hours after I brought him home. I have spent large amounts of time and energy teaching him to settle around other dogs, structuring mental stimulation and nap times and ensuring he gets a wide variety of activities. I limited his daycare days to maximum three days a week and took him for walks before he came to work with me. And for many months he did very well.
But he has still started to struggle. At seven months, he is hormonal and high strung. Puppies may act brash and bold, but their egos are still fragile.
One thing clients hear from us frequently is the term “arousal level”. What this refers to the physiological and psychological reactivity to stimuli. High arousal levels are where a dog is unable to contain themselves in response to stimuli. This can be seen in the puppy frantically jumping up on visitors, or the dog shrieking on the end of the leash at the sight of a squirrel.
As the daycare manager and as his full time guardian, I saw signs that Biscuit’s arousal levels were too high. He had a hard time taking a break from play. Even when he was alone, he paced, or tried to push through barriers to access me or the other dogs. He did not sleep.
We frequently have to speak to owners about their dog’s arousal levels, or their stress levels. Sometimes this means that their dog is not suited for daycare, either temporarily or permanently. Sometimes what we need is a better management and training program. Maybe the dog requires mental health care from a veterinarian.
Sometimes the dog simply does not thrive at daycare and the likelihood of this changing is slim.
Our goal is always for the dog to thrive at daycare. Not just cope. Not be kinda okay with it.
Right now, Biscuit is not thriving at daycare.
We do not want our dogs to practice hyper arousal. We get good at what we practice. The more the physiological and psychological state is experienced, the stronger those neural pathways become. It is important to avoid having our dogs practice emotional states that we do not want them to have.
Right now, I am not able to manage Biscuit’s arousal level in daycare in a way that sets him up for future success.
So I’m in the same boat as many of our clients over the years. The dog I’m caring for isn’t suitable for daycare right now.
So what does that mean?
Well for me, it means I can’t take him to work with me. Which is kind of crummy, but hopefully in acting now I’ve prevented this being a permanent situation.
It means I’ll now get up an hour earlier so he can have more mental and physical stimulation before I go to work.
It means I have to commit to continuing to build his skills so he can become better settling around other dogs and disengaging from exciting things.
What it does not mean is that he is a bad dog, or that I am a bad guardian.
It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
Now it is inconvenient to not bring him to work with me, just like it can be inconvenient from our clients.
But as his guardian, it is my job to do what is best for him. Right now that just means no daycare.
I don’t do well in clubs, at loud parties or in busy malls at Christmas time. If I was a dog, I would not be a daycare dog. So I empathize with the dogs who age out of daycare or who find their assessment too overwhelming or scary. I empathize with Biscuit, who is just not able to pull himself away from his friends, even though he is overwhelmed and tired.
Daycare can be an amazing tool for busy people and their dogs. It can help build independence for dogs with specific mental health needs, help dogs exercise their social skills in a safe environment and provide vital mental enrichment and social connection.
It can also create and exacerbate behavioural problems.
I chose to dismiss Biscuit from daycare because I love him.
We choose to not accept a dog to daycare, or to recommend they stop coming, because we love them too. Some daycares operate as warehouses for dogs, we choose not to.
If your dog isn’t a daycare dog, for right now or for always, please don’t feel bad.
Look into a force free dog walker, work your dog’s needs into your own exercise regime or start taking more classes or doing more activities with your dog. Take this opportunity to spend more time together and learn new skills with them.
Maybe Biscuit will be able to return to daycare in the future. Maybe he won’t. Either answer is okay.
We all want a happy, confident dog. Whether your dog is a patio buddy, a 6am soccer practice companion or your avid adventure copilot, you need them to feel safe and self assured.These five points are the key to build your dog's confidence.
Contact us today!