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Finding a Reputable Breeder

I have written in the past about where you should get your next furry family member from (see post about Puppies here) but I know that some folks still desire the “purebred” puppy route. While there are tons, and tons of puppies (and dogs!) available at your local shelter, you might need to be patient and search a larger area to find one that meets your lifestyle and desires for a companion. I will always say SAVE A LIFE and adopt your next family member.

There are so many terrible dog breeders out there that it’s difficult to determine even where to begin if you do decide to purchase a dog or puppy. Some reasons for doing so might be if you desire to show a dog or compete in certain dog competitions that require a “purebred” dog. I use “purebred” in quotes only because a lot of the so call purebred dog that are acquired from these unreputable breeders are anything but.

This facebook post had a great summary of thirteen things you should evaluate breeders of dogs on. I’ve highlighted the ones I especially like below (the ones I skipped don’t apply to the US).


  • Unethical breeders tend to sell via the internet. Facebook, Preloved, Gumtree and others are all places that they advertise. Google the person’s phone number, username or email address. See if you can find other ads posted by them.


Unethical breeders breed for profit. They mass produce dogs, sometimes on an infeasible scale and ship their puppies all over the country/world to make the quick buck. They don’t care about where their dogs end up, or if they live out a life in pampered comfort. They want the cash for their “crop”.


  • They don’t ask anything about you. Ethical breeders want to know everything about you, your family, your experience with dogs etc etc. They will insist that you visit the pups several times. If you are not questioned lots then you need to worry.


Again, that buck is calling. They don’t worry about who you are or what you want to do with the dog. They won’t tell you about the breed your buying or ask if you’ve had these dogs in the past. A lot of folks have run into issues with that getting a breed they are totally unprepared for because a) they didn’t do their own homework first and b) the breeder sold a puppy to an unprepared family purely for profit. The so called “wolfdogs” are a great example of a breed that quickly gets people in over their heads. Turns out owning a wolf is 10,000% different than owning a dog.


  • Sheds… Don’t buy a puppy that has been reared in a shed at the end of the garden. That pup would have missed out on essential socialization and habitation.


Money. Money. Money. It costs to afford a fancy facility or to convert your own home into an area that can support, care and raise/socialize new puppies. Those who mass produce dogs or even who just do a few litters a year in their back yard or shed away from all the “normal” experiences a dog will encounter (children, adults, vacuums, laundry machines, tv, etc) stunt their puppies socialization period significantly. This stunted level of experience leaves you at a disadvantage and at risk of developing a reactive or fearful adult dog.


  • Meeting places. Unethical breeders and dog traders will sometimes offer to meet you somewhere to ‘save you the trip’. Always insist that you go to their home. Never buy a pup in a car park (parking lot).


ALWAYS ask to see where the puppy was raise. Check out the other liters (if present). See how the mothers and fathers are treated. So many breeders will offer to meet you elsewhere to avoid having you see the squalor your puppy was raised in and the hell the puppy’s parents are trapped in.


  • Ethical breeders will never ever sell a pup before it is 8 weeks. Check the puppy that you are buying to make sure that he or she is over 8 weeks.


Seriously. 8 weeks minimum. 12 weeks preferred. Good breeders know all about how important socialization is for their pups, and keeping them a bit longer with their parents gives the puppy a headstart on knowing how to be a dog. Plus good breeders have socialization programs in place to provide you with a puppy who has had a great, diverse positive experience in his or her life so far and is ready and prepared with the skills necessary to tackle the real world.


  • Worming and flea treatment should have been done. Ask for dates and products used.


Lack of shots or vaccine records is an indication of a breeder that is cutting costs to maximize profit. They don’t care about their wards and are only in it to make a quick buck. Ask for the parent records too. A few of the terrible breeders I know of in our area only vaccine the puppies and the parents are left to suffer from untreated flea/tick and worm infestations.


  • Ask to see photos of your pup from birth until now… puppy farmers and dealers won’t have those photos.


For those of you who currently have a beloved furry family member, I challenge you to open up your phone. How many dog/cat/pet pictures do you have? If you’re like me, I bet it’s a totally reasonable amount 😉 Puppies especially have tons of photos because they are so damn cute! Breeders who raise their puppies in sheds have their “for sale” photo and maybe a photo of their parents. And that’s it. The breeders weren’t present in their puppies’ lives and the lack of photos shows that.


  • Question at length…. and walk away if you are concerned about the answers, or lack of answers.


Seriously. Walk away. I know it’s hard. I know you want to “save” the sad little puppy in the window of a car or in the walmart parking lot. But do not. Your money goes right back into ensuring these breeders stay in business. That they create more puppies with more parents who suffer their entire lives trapped in a cage. Do not let the cycle continue.


  • Always see Mum- the actual Mum. The real Mum will have milk and will be interacting with her pups. Fake Mum wont. Ask to see photos of Mum over the years.


Mom and puppies should be together. Mom should be in good health and happy. She shouldn’t be bred ever cycle or trapped in a cage. Check out her behavior. Is she nervous or fearful, overexcited or panicked? These are all signs that she’s not been socialized and is definitely not a member of the family and lives her life trapped making puppies for her owner’s profit.


  • Genetic testing- ask what has been done and ask to see the results.


I cannot state this enough. The breeders I know that are terrible do NOT do genetic testing, as a result their puppies grow up to have terrible genetic diseases and disorders that end up costing you money or even your puppies life. The one breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds has a breeding line in which ALL of the adults have severe (and very painful) glaucoma. She was still breeding them despite the clear issue with the breeding line because “no one had ever complained.”


  • Reduced prices for the last pup in the litter.. it’s just a way to pull you in and make you feel sorry for the remaining pup. Ethical breeders do not reduce their prices and often have homes lined up for their pups before they are born!


This is sure sign that the breeder is trying to dump their stock to make room for more. They want this puppy out of their care so they stop losing money trying to keep it alive. They’re willing to take a slight loss in the sales price to make an empty space for the next puppy which they can sell at full. The “last pup” sales tactic works well too and tugs at the heartstrings of new pet owners who can’t bear to think of a lone sad puppy all by him or herself.


In summary, the best way you can make sure you aren’t going to be supporting a terrible breeder and furthering the suffering of those puppy’s parents is to adopt. You’ll save a life and get an adorable fluffy as a bonus. Additionally, I challenge you to try and find a breeder who adheres to all of the above rules. It’s surprisingly difficult.

A person tale, to show that even with a strict vetting system you can still get into trouble buying from a breeder. My first ever family dog was a purebred sheltie name Kayla. I researched dozens of breeders in the area (and some that were 500+ miles away) with a very strict list of requirements. She was the only one who passed my inspector and we agreed to met her.

The one thing I had forgotten to ask her, as a child of only 15, was about the genetic testing of her line. Turns out her breeding line had a genetic marker for having severe drug sensitivities. These drug sensitivities result from a mutation in the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1 gene). As a result the heartgard medicine used monthly to prevent heartworm as recommended by our vet, killed her.

It still hurts to know that her death could have been prevent simply if the breeder had taken the time to test her own breeding stock. My mom had called her to tell her of Kayla’s death and she casually mentioned that a few of the other dogs in Kayla’s liter had also passed away from “unknown” causes. I would bet money that it was because of this genetic predisposition to drug sensitivities.

Kayla was only three years old at the time. One simple test could have saved her life, but to minimize expense this was skipped and we lost a beloved family member as a result. Adopt don’t shop people. Save yourself from the heartache.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Getting a Dog – Part 2

Two weeks ago we did a blog post on selecting what breed of dog would best fit your lifestyle. We talked about places you can pick out your new best friend and some things to look for. If you missed that, please check it out here: “A Beginner’s Guide to Getting a Dog – Part 1

In part two, we’re going to look at some of the things you should ask when you go to pick up your new friend and some of the things you should have on hand before your new family member comes home.

If you’ve gone to a shelter to look at a variety of animals, you can ask your questions while you’re there checking out your new potential adopters. A pro-tip is that you can always ask to come back and pick up your new friend in a few days. I did this with both of my cats and it worked wonders. I went to the shelter, looked at a variety of different awesome cats, and picked out the ones I wanted to adopt. Then asked if I could come back the next day and pick them up. This allowed me enough time to get all the supplies I would need to make sure their introduction to their new home went smoothly.

The first thing you should think of are questions you want to ask the dog’s current caregiver. I always like to ask these ahead of time before you go to pick up for new pet that way you can have everything you need to get started. Here’s a list of some to get you started.

  1. What type of food do they current use? For good brands check out Dog Food Advisor.
  2. What do they like to sleep on? Some dogs prefer beds, others just a pile of blankets, some like the cool floor.
  3. Are they on any current medicines? You can prep your vet ahead of time and take care of some beginner paperwork.
  4. Do they have any favorite types of toys? Some dogs love rope toys, others go bananas for squeakers.
  5. What supplies will come with them? If you’re lucky the shelter will send you home with some supplies to help get you started. Typically I see a lot of of shelters hand out a small supply of their current food, a used blanket, and maybe a toy. Sometimes you’ll also get a harness or collar and leash as well.

Armed with the answers to these questions, it’s time to go shopping. Both Petco and Petsmart offer adoption packets with coupons for any pet that is adopted (including some for birds, reptiles and small mammals as well!) just bring in the adoption paperwork and you’ll be good to go. They don’t provide a huge savings, but will definitely help you get started and act as a good reminder for things you might forget. Here’s some of the top things I’d recommend having on hand prior to bringing your pet home.

  1. A new bag of dog food or their old brand if you like that kind. Again check out Dog Food Advisor for more info.
  2. Some stain remover. I love Nature’s Miracles. It can get out pretty much anything.
  3. A bed or blanket for them to sleep or rest on during the day.
  4. A pet identification tag – Petco and Petsmart have these you can make for $7 to $15. It should include the pets name and a phone number in case your pets get lost. Some people put their address on their, others choose not to, that depends on your comfort level and the size of the tag. Another tip is if you HATE the sound of jingly tags around the house you can make a tag silencer or buy one to save you some sanity.
  5. A collar, leash and harness. Keep a collar with tags on at all times especially for the first few months as they aren’t yet familiar with the area and can easily get lost. Use the leash and harness for walks. Flat collars, harness and leashes work best. I know the extendable/retractable leashes are temping, but forgo those until you both know each other better and have some training under your belt.
  6. A toy or two if they’re big toy players.
  7. A tasty bag or two of treats. Food is the key to every dogs heart so having some extra yummy treats to give out for good behaviors and really solidify your bond right from the get go.

The perfect time to pick up a new pet is on a Friday or just before a long weekend. This gives you some time for everyone to get adjusted before you all start back into the routine. When you get home, try to get the dog to go potty right away. It’s common for dogs to have a bit of lapse in potty training when first starting out as they figure out the new rules for their new home. So an ounce of prevention goes a long ways!

Try to keep things nice and calm and low key. I know it’s temping to want to show off your new buddy to family and friends, but it can be really overwhelming the first few days the dog is new a new place. Let the dog explore things on his own terms. Some dogs might take a while to feel comfortable walking from room to room to check things out. Other dogs will run through and explore everything all at once. While he or she is exploring, keep an eye on them. Preventing accidents is way easier than trying to stop a developed habit so keeping him or her confined to the same room you are in or letting them drag their leash around works wonders.

Take things slow, learn about each other and have fun. Building a strong lasting, loving relationship will help you for years to come! <3


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A Beginner’s Guide To Getting a Dog

A few weeks ago, a client of mine was getting their home inspected for their first ever dog. Neither of them had ever owned a dog before and while I was listening to them describe “a long rope that you screw into the ground when you go on long trips” (aka a stake out), it occurred to me how inundated newbie dog owners must be when trying to navigate this amazing, yet crazy dog world. I thought I’d do a very basic blog here on some things newbie dog owners should think about and things that will definitely make taking your new best friend home go a bit smoother!

I’m going to do a two part series, this blog will be about finding and selecting your new best friend. And next week’s will look at ways you can prepare your family, home and your new dog for a successful lifelong friendship!

First things first as a rescuer I’m obligated to remind everyone that dogs are a life long commitment. While those cute little fluff ball puppies are beyond adorable, adopting one of those cuties is between a ten and eighteen year commitment. You and your family members will need to think about how you will accommodate many of the life events that might happen during that time. You could move, kids could go to school or graduate or move away to college, jobs might change, schedules could swap, etc. Though all these life changes and life transitions your ever faithful pal will be right there along side of you and you will need to make sure he or she has a place in those possible futures too.

Once you’ve seriously thought through the choice to get a dog you’ll need to determine where to get your new dog or puppy. Obviously I’m 10,000% pro-shelter adoption, but I can recognize that some folks might want a dog bred specifically for a certain task or skill. Shelters provide the best “deal” on new furry friends, and dogs adopted will come spayed/neutered, up to date on all shots, health checked, parasite free, and in some cases even microchipped. These services alone cost hundreds of dollars and are included in the adoption fee. Plus you’ll get to save a life and provide a loving warm home to a dog who has lost theirs for one reason or another.

I know that despite my shouting from the mountaintops about how great adoption is, some folks will still decide to adopt from a breeder. But I urge, urge, urge, you to do your research first to try and ensure you are supporting a responsible breeder who cares for and about the breed instead of the thousands of backyard breeders or puppy mills who are just out there to make a quick buck. I’ve yet to meet someone I know who purchased a dog who didn’t accidentally end up supporting and condemning mother dogs in puppy mills. There are so many “bad” ones out there it’s very easy to get misled and support someone you shouldn’t.

Throughout this quest to find a good place to (adopt!) get your next dog, breed will no doubt come into place. Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, temperaments, colors, energy and maintenance levels. You can 100% find a dog breed that best matches your family’s lifestyle and situation. So many times when I’m called in to help with a training issue it’s because the family’s lifestyle doesn’t match that of the dog they’ve selected. I’ll see a single person who works 9 to 5 living in an apartment with a Australian Cattle Dog who’s purpose in life is to herd cattle 24/7. There’s only so much you can do in a situation like that to make things work. The dog and family just aren’t that compatible.

To help you out there are some good websites out there that will list dog breeds and their typical traits. I like the dogtime website because it easily breaks down each dog breed into the various personality traits and clearly details out what you might expect. For those who are completely lost, there are online quizzes that can help you narrow down the hundreds of options to your top few choices.

For dogs that are multiple or mixed breeds, you can expect a nice mix of traits from both of the suspected parents. This can be nice to “mellow out” a higher energy dog or eliminate some of the strong drives that motivate purebred dogs. For evaluating mixed breeds dogs, take a look at each breed to get an overall feel for what the dog might be like before you meet them. Now, much like people, all dogs are different, and no single dog meets every single bullet point, but generally dogs tend to align to the breeds they are made of. You’ll also need to consider these natural instincts when selecting a dog to be a good fit for your family.

For my dogs, Esther is a jack russel terrier and shih tzu mix. She will chase any living thing if it moves fast enough – rabbits and squirrels are rarities in my yard. Is this a trait I could train out of her by teaching her a “leave it” command? Sure, but I’m going against a core instinct of her very nature which will make my job a lot harder. If I lived in an area where squirrels and rabbits were extremely common, having a dog who lost her mind over every one might be much more of a challenge. Other incompatible examples might be a protective German shepherd with a family who routinely hosts bbq events for the neighborhood, or a yappy sheltie in a small apartment retirement home. These are all things you’ll need to keep in mind when selecting your new friend.

Lastly seek out the advise of professions in the dog world. Ask a dog trainer or some other dog expert to help you select a good match. Some professionals even can accompany you to a shelter or rescue to help you in your choice. Their expert eye can oftentimes pick up on signals a newbie owner can miss. Things like: “he seems to guard his toys and bowls” might be a red flag for a family with children. These things are easily missed by the dog cuteness but can be easily seen by a trained (and neutral) third party.

Let’s recap:

  • Select a breed that fits your lifestyle and BE HONEST about that lifestyle. If you don’t want to spend 40 minutes brushing your dog every day, don’t get a dog who’s coat type requires this to be healthy!
  • Research places that (adopt!) have the dog breed or breeds you are considering. Keep an open mind too and be patient. The right dog fit is out there for you even if you have to search around a while.
  • Bring a friendly dog professional with you to pick our your friend to help make sure you’re picking a compatible new critter to add to your family.

Stay tuned next week for some tips for bringing home your newbie friend!

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Wolfdogs: The Next Troubled Fad

Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy drama on HBO. It features many different noble families all vying for a claim to a great throne which rules over all the various smaller kingdoms. There’s a huge following of 10 to 12 million viewers per episode. With this much popularity it should be no wonder that merchandise and other items featured on the show have also become popular. Wondering how all this relates to dog training? Well turns out each of the smaller kingdoms has an animal who represents their country. For one of the popular, key families, the Starks, these animals are known as dire wolves. While dire wolves, in the real world, are now extinct the popularity of the show has had folks seeking out “wolf dogs” or even “dire wolves” to raise as their own.

                                                         Bran and Rob Stark with their “dire wolves”

This isn’t the first time that this has happened. When the movie/s 101 Dalmatians came out, the demand for “those cute little dogs with spots” increased as well. But the difference here is that dalmatians are domesticated creatures. They’ve been bred over the course of centuries to come up with the spotted goof ball we know today. But what a lot of folks don’t realize is that dalmatians, “the firehouse dog” was originally bred to be guard dogs to guard and protect the firehouse equipment from thieves. Other examples were of Finding Nemo resulting in a increase in clown fish sales (to people who have no idea how difficult salt water fish are to raise!) Besides traditional media social media has also affected pet trends. Esther the Wonder Pig a popular social media star sparked a large number of folks seeking out pigs (and even the terrible “micro” pig) to keep as their own!

The key point of all of these stories is that people like to emulate what they see in their media. They see the amazing bond between the Starks in Game of Thrones and their dire wolves and they want to have that same bond with their own dogs. Which on the surface I have no issue with, but beneath that there is a trend for folks to adopt or buy dogs that are well beyond their ability to handle.

Dog breeds all have a specific purpose they were originally bred for. Even though you might not be needing a sled dog, if you buy a purebred Alaskan Malamute or Husky, you will end up getting one. These dogs, especially those who are closer to the true standard of what defines a Malamute or Husky, the more of those original breed tendencies you’ll end up with. For the malamute this means

  • Howling/barking which they use to communicate over long distances,
  • Huge, epic levels of shedding 1-2 times a year and daily brushing to keep their thick warm coat in check
  • Highly intelligent, escape artist who is an expert digger and climber
  • Energy level requiring intense physical and mental exercise every single day for the rest of their lives.

Luckily before walking into a “their so dang cute” trap as a puppy, you can (AND SHOULD!) research the breeds that make up your pup or new adoptive pet. There is a great website called Dogtime which allows you to search by breed to identify common traits that breed likely will exhibit – Of course there are always outliers. Not every Husky will dig, not all Malamutes will howl at night, but for a majority of them they will.

For mixed breeds, like my own two dogs, you can look up both breeds and get an idea of what types of behaviors you might see in your new pet. Esther is a mix of a Jack Russell Terrier and a Shih Tzu – both breeds who rank extremely highly on prey drive and judging from how quickly Esther can chase a rabbit out of the yard, I can attest is a very accurate statement. It’s not a 100% guarantee but it can help you guy your choice for a new pet by what will fix best with your family.

Totally lost as to what pet to get, you can check out dogtime’s pet quiz to attempt to find breeds that fit best with your lifestyle. Answer the questions as best and truthfully as you can and it’ll list a few of the top dog breeds that best fit your lifestyle and needs. Try it out here:

Let me know in the comments what your top dog breed was!