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Be The Owner Your Dog Deserves

This Christmas, so many people will be getting that new puppy for their family. While some people will do their research into breed, breeder, rescue, temperament, trainers, socialization, vetting and even care facilities, most will not. They will fall in love with the idea of a puppy and not give a thought to the appropriateness of the breed for their lifestyle, their ability to dedicate the time and effort to training and education, the type of people they will allow their puppy to fall into the hands of, the rescue or breeder the puppy starts out in and what has been done with this pup before you get them, and that there are different methods of training. One based in scientific research, time tested efficacy with proven results and another based in heavy handed, suppression based training that actually has proven to cause more harm than good. Many will not research the trainers themselves and their dedication to ongoing education and experience. There are so many discrepancies in the level of both even among trainers in each of these camps.

These are not just status symbols or something we get because the kids want one. Every single person in that family needs to be on board with training, socialization, care, time and effort. If you want a well behaved dog, it starts with research and ends with follow through. Giving this life you have agreed to take on the responsibility for their best chance at being the dog you want them to be is incumbent on YOU to do all you can to make that happen. If your chosen dog is going to require more training, socialization, effort and time, you NEED to be willing to put that in. If you want your kids to walk this dog, make sure A. the kids and dog are armed with knowledge and skills to do so. B. The dog is not able to overpower the kids.

Write down the lifestyle you want your new family member to fit into. Do you camp? Ride horses? Do you want them to come shopping with you? Sit on the patio at restaurants? Skijoring? Go to the dog park/daycare? I want you to think about this so you can prioritize the elements you expose your puppy to in their socialization period.

Pay special attention to breed appropriate outlets, socialization needs (some need more than others, some less), enrichment opportunities, create a training schedule where everyone in the family participates.

Contact a trainer and even do a pre-adoption session to make sure you are ready and your going to work well with that trainer (virtual sessions are perfect for this and very economical). There should be an expectation of transparency on their website or social media as to what their training philosophy is. Make sure it aligns with your own. (Red flags you need to look out for include: dominance, mentions of packs, balanced, use of aversive equipment like prong, shock and choke collars, mentions of being the alpha, videos of them turning extreme dogs in to submissive, well behaved companions in a few minutes, days, even weeks). *not an exhaustive list

Interview care facilities and businesses, take a tour, get reviews, meet the staff, ask for insurance documents. Is there a training program for staff, what trainers do they refer to and get advice from? Are the staff CPR Trained? Can you observe the dogs and staff?

Interview vets. Realize when you are getting advice that may be out of the scope of people's education. For instance, do not take behaviour advice from vets (unless they are board certified in behaviour of course, but in Alberta and Saskatchewan that number equals exactly 1), do not take medical advice from your trainer. Ask yourself whether you want an integrative vet, mobile vet or a regular vet practice (may be options in your area). I personally will not allow vets to take my pets into the back or out of my sight unless it is an emergency situation or surgery. Routine care should never require them to remove the dog from your sight.

Do not ask for advice from pet store employees as they have no in-depth knowledge and will tell you what the reps tell them to say. Get a nutritional consult from a qualified professional (I have a recommendation if you need). Personally I prefer to get advice on nutrition from people that have spent years educating themselves on the finer points of nutrition, studies (not studies done by those with a conflict of interest),

Do not take the advice of other owners on anything without your own research or verifying information with a professional.

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