Planning for a New Dog

Why Should I Take Classes on Dog Care?
Why Should I Take Classes on Dog Care?
Why Should I Take Classes on Dog Care? Dogs and humans have been living together for as long as 14,000 years. Whether dogs originally befriended us or vice versa is a topic that is heavily researched and discussed among scientists, but one thing is certain: dogs have come to rely on us more and more for every single one of their needs. Today, in our modern society and culture, our dogs depend on us for 100% of their care. Even in the last few years, providing a healthy, happy life for our dogs has become more and more complex. From developments in food and nutrition, to new training methods and mindsets, to how we transport them in cars or prepare for emergencies, we have evolved for the better from the old days of “toss some food in a bowl and let them outside sometimes” as a dog care philosophy. In fact, for new dog owners or for veteran dog owners who want to insure that they are providing the best care possible for their dogs and staying on top of the most recent knowledge, the amount of information online can be overwhelming and even downright terrifying! Trust me, I know. I have been there. I remember looking at young Jackson when he came home to us as an eight week old puppy, and thinking that I was responsible for his entire life, for every single one of his needs, from that day forward until he was a senior dog and would take his last breath with me by my side. Having lost two beloved dogs to cancer prior to getting him, I vowed at that moment to work nonstop to create the healthiest lifestyle that I could in order to keep him healthy and happy for as many years as possible. And so, a veteran dog owner with a brand new little life under my care, I created the Love, Laugh, Woof happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. Now you can learn how to create a happy and healthy lifestyle for your dogs through my Love, Laugh, Woof, Learn educational sessions. Choose from one-on-one dog owner coaching, online educational webinars or group workshops to learn how to be the best possible owner, caretaker and companion to your dogs. I combine my history as a corporate mentor and trainer with my lifelong expertise as a dog owner to guide you through the noise and the information overload that plagues so many people who are trying to learn about caring for their canine best friends. Watch my video with 7 Reasons to Take Dog Care Classes with Love, Laugh, Woof: Click on the photos below to learn more about each class:   [post_grid id="4026"]
creating a pet care binder
Workshop: Creating a Pet Care Binder
creating a pet care binderThis mini-course teaches you how to create a pet care binder in case someone else needs to take care of your dog, how to find a reliable dog care provider, and a list of people to keep in your life in case you need to travel or are unable to care for your dog for awhile.
Dog Care Basics
Workshop: Dog Care Basics
Dog Care BasicsLearn about teaching kids how to act around dogs, what to feed your dog, grooming, the importance of training, games to play with your dog, pet insurance and a variety of basic dog care topics. Perfect for the new dog owner or anyone who simply wants a refresher course on creating a happy, healthy lifestyle for their dog. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
Surviving Puppyhood
Workshop: Surviving Puppyhood
Surviving PuppyhoodPuppies are adorable, sweet, and a blessing to their owners. They are also mischievous, full of energy, and often downright crazy! This class offers tips and suggestions on puppy rearing without losing your mind or your patience, with a focus on being compassionate to what your puppy is experiencing. Topics include house training, puppy’s first night home, teaching bite inhibition, how to use crates, chewing, socialization, the importance of training, and puppy safety. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn    
Planning for a new puppy or dog
Workshop: Planning for a New Puppy or Dog
Planning for a new puppy or dogLearn what to expect when adopting a new puppy or dog and what you will need before their gotcha date, including training your human children to be around a dog, the importance of training, and the dog professionals you need in your life. This class is an in-depth look at what life with a dog is really, truly like, and whether it is right for you. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips
Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips As I stood outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell today in the 2 degree weather, waiting for them to do their bathroom business, I thought about the puppies who found new homes over the holidays and the owners who are hopefully going through the extremely important house training process right now as I type this post. It's hard enough to make sure everyone is warm and safe in this weather with adult dogs who are neither puppies nor senior dogs, who have the ability to hold their bowels and bladders for fairly long periods of time. I do not envy those new puppy owners who will be inside and outside, inside and outside, inside and outside, over and over as they teach their puppy that they need to "hurry up, go potty" outside. Jackson is great about finding a spot quickly when it gets this cold outside. He runs out, picks a spot, does his thing, and then runs back to the house. There is no sniffing around for rabbit droppings, no lazy rambling around to look for a few blades of grass to eat. Out and back before the bitter cold starts to hurt his feet and he tries to walk without touching the ground. Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell fashion, still tries to dilly-dally and take her time, roaming the yard, sniffing every square inch of the snow. This usually results in me hurrying her along as soon she starts to pick up her feet with a pained expression on her face. Unlike her big brother, she has not figured out that she has a limited amount of time before her feet start to hurt and that she'd better hurry up. Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips When house training a new puppy, the first few days I like to limit their outdoor time anyway, to teach them first and foremost that outside is for potty time. After they start to catch on to the fact that outdoors is the appropriate place to alleviate their bowels and bladders, you can start to play more with them outside, but for at least the first few days, the outside is strictly for learning where to go to the bathroom. Temperatures in single digits or below zero at least means that you are not missing out on a beautiful day for walking or playing with your dog outside. In addition to the steps that I provide for house training in my post, "Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips", here are some winter weather considerations for puppy owners who are working on house training in a cold environment, whether it is a frozen tundra or a winter wonderland. 
  1. Shovel or brush off an area of the grass so that your puppy can still smell and see it and associate the grass with going potty. Make it sizeable enough that your puppy can choose which spot she prefers.
  2. Keep a pair of shoes or boots by the door at all times. Choose a style that slips on easily and quickly without a lot of work.
  3. Use a leash, even if you have a fenced yard, to ensure that your puppy does not wander off and get distracted.
  4. Keep a coat with gloves in the pockets by the back door.
  5. As soon as your puppy pees or poops, praise him with substantial praise and then promptly take him inside.
  6. Pay close attention to your puppy's body language; walking gingerly or trying to pick some or all of his or her paws up off the ground is a sign that the cold is hurting their feet.
  7. Avoid using ice melting products where your puppy is walking; traditional products can damage paw pads in grown dogs, so you definitely do not want corrosive agents near a puppy's gentle little feet. If your puppy does walk through ice melting products, rinse them in warm water once you are inside.
Dogs are most susceptible to frostbite on their paws, ears, and tails. If you have a puppy with short hair or a sparse coat, you can purchase a coat and booties for planned walks, although you may not have a chance to put all of these things on your puppy if you catch her in the act of peeing or pooping in your house. The secret to successful house training is to be extremely observant of your puppy and catch her sniffing for a spot to go potty and moving her outside before she actually does the act. Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips If you are concerned that it might be too cold for your specific breed of puppy to go outside during extremely cold weather, check with your breeder, rescue organization or veterinarian. Of course a Newfoundland puppy will do better in winter weather than a Chihuahua puppy, but extreme winter temperatures can be dangerous for all puppies and dogs. If it is too cold for your puppy to safely go outside, you can use puppy potty pads for house training. With Labrador Retrievers who were all born in the spring, I have never used these, so I do not have personal experience with how to utilize them. You can find instructions on the American Kennel Club website at this link: I prefer to teach the dogs to go outside from the very start to give them just one thing to master, rather than learning one thing and then learning a second part of it, but not at the sake of subjecting them to subzero temperatures.

Read more about raising puppies in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Human, available at in print or Kindle.

This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend. I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration.
The Problem with
The Problem with “Rescuing” Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy? Sometimes it seems unbelievable that I am still writing anti-puppy mill content in my mid-forties, since I first learned about the horrific practice of commercially breeding dogs in puppy "mills" all the way back in high school in the 1980s. With the speed at which information is relayed today through the internet and social media, and the number of people we can reach through a single post, it seems like certainly we dog advocates would have successfully gotten the word out about the hell that is commercial dog breeding. Yet at this very moment, as I am typing this, someone who is doing some Christmas shopping at your local mall has stopped in the pet store and is falling in love with a puppy in a baby crib, making a purchase, and creating an economic demand for a new puppy to be born at a commercial puppy mill. Before I was a dog blogger, I was employed at the home office of a large retailer. As a result, I understand very well how retail inventory works. And so, when a fellow dog lover with a big heart tells me that they just purchased a puppy from a pet store because their heart was breaking at the thought of that puppy not finding a home, I know that what that purchase did was to open up what is known as "open to buy" in the world of retail. So why am I talking about retail practices in a dog blog? Here's the deal: retail stores have sales goals. In order to meet those sales goals, they need to have sufficient inventory to sell to their customers. There is a lot of analysis that is done to figure out how much inventory they need, and how much money they need to budget to purchase that inventory. That budget is called their Open to Buy. The easiest way to define Open to Buy is this: "Open-To-Buy (OTB) is merchandise budgeted for purchase by a retail store during a certain time period that has not yet been ordered."  When a store sells something that's in their inventory, they need to replace that inventory with more products that they can sell to keep meeting their sales goals. For example, if you buy 8 cans of soup from the grocery store, they need to bring in 8 more cans of soup so that they can keep selling soup to the next customer that comes into the store. Understand where I am going with this? Pet store puppies are viewed as inventory for resale, and puppy mills are the manufacturer creating that inventory. To you and me, to refer to puppies as being manufactured  sounds awful, and it is awful Buying a puppy from a pet store is not like buying a can of soup from the grocery store. The grocery store simply orders more cans of soup from their supplier and puts into motion a whole series of events that creates jobs for a variety of people, from the people growing the vegetables to the person driving the delivery truck. Buying a puppy from a pet store is a purchase that kicks off a series of events that perpetuates the miserable life of puppy mill breeding dogs, and that is why we are still pleading and begging with people to stop buying puppies from retail stores.  You and I  know that a puppy is a living, breathing, sentient, intelligent animal that deserves to be born into a loving environment, not mass-produced by unfeeling humans from dog parents who are tortured, miserable, riddled with genetic defects that they pass on en masse to their offspring, and who never lead a regular life as a healthy or even remotely happy dog. For the puppy mill operator point of view, they are simply creating a supply of puppies to be sold on a purchase order to a pet store or puppy broker. As long as there is a demand for their puppies, they will keep producing puppies. Having the conversation with someone who has purchased a puppy from a pet store or other source supplied by puppy mills is not an easy task. They feel attacked, as if they did something wrong or that they are being told that their puppy is not as worthy of love or is as valuable as a rescue puppy or one from a very responsible professional/hobby breeder. I know, because I have offended more than one friend in this way. While many puppy mill puppies have substantial medical issues, whether infectious diseases or genetic defects, they are still worthy of love, they still could grow into great dogs with patience and training, and they will still be beloved family members. The reason I beg these owners not to get any additional puppies from a pet store is not that their dog is "bad" in any way, shape or form, and not that the dog owner is a bad person, but simply because their purchase will perpetuate the cycle of misery by creating an economic demand for more puppies from the puppy mill operator.  To dog owners who have their dogs for the right reasons, to rescue and adoption advocates, and to responsible breeders, dogs are a miracle with paws and a wet nose. They are our lifeline, our therapists, our exercise buddies, our best friends, our constant companions, our heart dogs. To puppy mill operators and the more unscrupulous backyard breeders, they are simply a product to be sold for income, and the easiest way for the average citizen to help stop them and their cycle of misery for the breeding dogs is to minimize or eliminate the demand for their puppies by not shopping at pet stores and from puppy brokers who sell mass-produced puppy mill puppies.    
This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend. I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration.
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The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas
The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at ChristmasIn our last blog, The Christmas Puppy Problem, we talked about the problem with Christmas puppies that are purchased on a whim by humans who have not considered the lifetime commitment and the work involved. We discussed how the adorable puppy in a baby crib in that mall pet store can end up being euthanized at a shelter or living a dismal and lonely life because a family or individual has realized too late that they were not prepared for that puppy to grow into an adult dog that depends them for its very survival and happiness. And finally, we talked about the Christmas puppy in our society and how the concept is promoted through photos, films, and even catalogs from merchants. As I continue to focus on this important topic all throughout the month of December, today we are going to present the flip side to that scenario and explore how to bring home a puppy or adult dog the right way during the holidays. Taking Advantage of School and Office Closures As much as people seem to be super busy at Christmas time, some people find themselves with extra time off of work, which puts them at an advantage in terms of puppy rearing. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write, “I strongly recommend taking vacation time from work the first week of your dog or puppy’s arrival home, like a canine maternity leave.” When Jackson was a puppy I was able to take some time off the first few days he was home and then either work from home or take additional days off whenever my husband had to also work, to ensure that someone was always home with him the first two weeks. By the time we had to have a dog sitter start coming to let him out, he was essentially house trained and able to hold his bladder a bit longer than when he first arrived. Once Tinkerbell joined the family, I was already working from home, so I was able to be with her all the time. She was house trained even faster than Jackson, and her puppyhood was much easier as a result. For the simple purpose of house training alone, being with your dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week the first week or so should shorten your puppy’s learning curve dramatically. In addition to helping speed up the house training process, you will appreciate being able to nap during the day when the puppy sleeps. After all, they are infants and they usually wake up several times a night to go outside which of course means that you are also awake and heading outside. Finally, the first few days of a puppy’s life in their new home should be as calm and positive as possible with essentially just the immediate family. They are figuring things out, getting comfortable with you and with their surroundings, and there is a considerable amount of bonding happening. It is good for you to be with them instead of having them left alone in the house just days after leaving their mother, their litter mates and everything they ever knew in their young life. If you have been planning on getting a puppy or a rescued dog, you know what you are getting into and the lifelong commitment, you are not traveling or hosting any huge gatherings for the holidays, and you work for an office or school that closes for all or most of the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, then over the Christmas holiday might be a great time to get a dog, particularly from a rescue organization or shelter. Most responsible breeders will not plan a litter of puppies around the holidays so are set on a certain breed you may not be able to find an available dog from a top breeder at Christmas time, but the sad fact is that rescues and shelters take in pregnant females on a regular basis and those puppies are desperately in need of homes. A purebred puppy is not necessarily the right choice for everyone, so unless you are set on a particular breed, you can find amazing mixed breed puppies at shelters and rescues who are ready to grow up and be your best friend.  Rescuing an Adult Dog Puppy rearing is not for everyone, and adult dogs will bond with you just as much as puppies. My late Babe became my dog when she was two, and she was my best friend and constant companion. She and I had the same exact type of love and emotional bond as I do with Jax and Tink, who both came home to me at eight weeks old. Our late Basset Hound, Maggie, had been abused before my husband rescued her, and she was the most affectionate and snuggly of any of our dogs. In fact, I have a theory based on my own personal observation and experience that some rescued dogs are often more affectionate and attached to their owners because they know what it is like to not have a safe and loving home, to be scared and alone, and they are so happy to finally feel love that they want to be near you all the time. Some people will say that dogs do not think about the past, and although it is true that for training purposes they live in the moment, I believe that they still remember their old lives. It was not just Maggie who showed this behavior, but also my fosters Kodiak and Destiny. Kodiak had been found as a stray and while I was fostering him he would not leave my side. At night we would watch TV as a family and I essentially had a giant Labrador/Great Dane mix as a living, breathing blanket as he napped completely on top of me, his back paws down by my feet, his front paws and head on my chest. Destiny had been tied to a tree in the woods and left to die before a good Samaritan found her and saved her. Even while she was learning to trust me, she was virtually attached to me, and within weeks was snuggling with me as if she’d known me her entire life. With Christmas as a time of love and giving, what better gift to give than to give a dog a safe haven and forever home to live out the rest of its years. There are so many amazing adult dogs that are waiting at shelters to be your best friend, particularly if you do not care about finding a specific breed. If you simply want a best friend, you can spare yourself the part-time job of puppy rearing (because it is indeed a part-time if not full-time job) and find an amazing best friend in an adult dog. And if you do want a specific breed, there are breed specific rescues in every part of the country with dogs who need homes. Giving one of them a home will open up a spot in that foster’s house for a shelter dog to make it further through the adoption process. And just like with puppies, to have extra time off of work while your new dog is adapting to his or her new home will only help the bonding process and help your dog become more secure in his or her surroundings. Involving the Kids No matter the age, it is never too young to start teaching children about the fact that dogs are living breathing creatures that rely on us for their survival. Instead of surprising the child with a puppy under the Christmas tree and reinforcing the belief that the puppy is a toy like a doll or basketball or some other inanimate object, consider wrapping the supplies that you will need for the puppy or dog and unwrapping them as a family. After the gifts are unwrapped, you can explain that you have thought about it for a long time and that it’s the right time to bring a dog into the family and that you bought the puppy’s gifts in advance so that he or she has everything they need when it comes home. You can tell them that after Christmas is over, you are going to all pick out the puppy or go get a puppy that you have pre-selected, and that everyone in the family is going to need to work together to make sure that the puppy grows into a nice, well-behaved adult dog. By fulfilling your child’s wish for a dog this way, you avoid the mindset that the puppy is a toy. If you have experienced Christmas with kids, you know that often they receive so many new toys and gifts that they are overwhelmed by the bounty, and some things get pushed to the side and never played with. The last thing you want to do is to include a puppy in that category. By introducing the puppy as a family member after the excitement of the holidays is over, you start your child’s view of animals off to a healthier start that will carry through their adult lives and in turn help them be responsible pet owners when they are grown. It is extremely important to add that if your child wants a dog, but the adults do not really want a dog, you should not get a dog. Period. I also cover this in my book, and it may sound harsh, but it needs to be harsh because a dog’s life is at stake, and at the end of the day it is going to be the parents who are responsible for the dog for its entire life. Kids can learn to be responsible dog owners by watching their parents and by helping their parents under close supervision. I have spent probably as much time teaching our kids how to act around the dogs as I have spent teaching the dogs how to act around the kids. As a result, now that they are teens, I can trust them to check the gates when they take the dogs outside and to stay out there with them and ensure that they are not getting into mischief. I do not believe in putting kids in charge of a dog no matter how responsible they are. Between school, activities, friends, and all of the things on their minds, it is too easy to forget a feeding or to give medicine or how long it has been since the dog went outside. They will learn to be responsible pet owners by watching you and by you explaining what you are doing and why you are doing something, but it is too early in their lives to be in charge of an animal's life. Watch for the next blog, in which we address winter weather considerations when caring for puppies. Travel With Your Dog!
The Christmas Puppy Problem
The Christmas Puppy Problem

The Christmas Puppy Problem

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Christmas Puppy ProblemI was browsing through Facebook several days ago when I came across a video from our local Fox affiliate, Fox 32. The first sentence of the story was, "If a dog or puppy is on your holiday shopping list - be careful." "Are you kidding me?" I said out loud in horror. "Let's just go ahead and promote the notion of puppies as Christmas gifts to all of the Chicagoland area!!!!" I fumed some more.  I promptly sent a message to their Facebook page that read, "As a dog blogger who is on a mission to help prevent owner surrenders of dogs, the lead into your article about the puppy FB scam is disheartening. Puppies are never gifts, those of us who promote responsible pet ownership work hard to get this message through to the people who buy puppies as gifts with as much thought as they give a sweater or handbag. Please don't undo our work as you report the news!" To date I have not received a response or have any evidence that they've read my message. The rest of their story was warning potential puppy buyers not to fall for scams involving puppies for sale, which is definitely important. Of course, they did not go into detail on how to successfully find a reputable breeder or look at rescue or shelter pups or grown dogs, but the advice to not purchase puppies from random strangers in a Facebook group is certainly something that many people need to know. Let me explain why I was, and still am, so upset by that one short sentence that was broadcast to their entire viewing area: puppies are living breathing creatures that require a lot of time, patience, training and work. They do not belong on a "shopping list" like a cashmere sweater, a toolbox and an X-box game. Unfortunately every year these living breathing, feeling creatures do indeed make it onto a Christmas list.  Puppies are then purchased through pet stores or backyard/amateur breeders as gifts either on a whim or to fulfill heartfelt requests to Santa from children who want a puppy. In other scenarios they are an impulse buy as holiday shoppers wander through the mall pet stores and are wooed by the siren like pull of the adorable, fluffy puppies in baby cribs that downplay the fact that puppies are a different species with different needs than a human and that there is a learning curve for novice dog owners who are tackling puppyhood for the first time. The shoppers fall in love at first sight with these puppies with designer "breed" names like Cavachon and Huskimo, and take them home without thinking about the fact that they have just committed to anywhere from ten to fifteen years of caring for an animal that will need them for every aspect of their survival. Many of these puppies are then abandoned at shelters just days, weeks, or months later after the adults realize that a puppy was not on their list of responsibilities that they were ready to handle. Other puppies end up living the majority of life in crates or in the back yards of owners who feel too much guilt for what they've done to abandon or re-home the dog but have no idea how to handle a dog that quickly went from adorable fluff ball to a wild, untrained, and seemingly unmanageable dog. That life is almost as tragic as landing in a shelter; it is in fact no life at all for a dog to suffer like that, alone and unloved. As a culture, we love Christmas and we love puppies, and so it is understandable that when you put them both together, the idea of a Christmas puppy seems genius. I mean, seriously, what is cuter than a puppy with a bow around its neck under the Christmas tree? And when you are the person presenting this gift, either to your children, to your significant other, or to a parent, in that moment you are the hero of gift giving. You are like a rock star only better! You are not handing over a new gaming system or some piece of jewelry that every other person has bought, you are literally bestowing new life and the promise of unconditional love on the recipient...whether they want the accompanying responsibility of that new life or not. Movies, TV shows, catalogs, all show endless photos of happy Christmas puppies. These images are all over our culture. Google "Christmas puppies" and you will receive pages upon pages of results. Do the same search with "movies about Christmas puppies" and you will receive another robust list of results. It is no wonder children ask Santa for a puppy or parents finally concede to their child's pleas to get them a dog over the Christmas holiday. Our culture is full of the idea of puppies at Christmas time, under trees, in boxes, in Christmas stockings, complete with bright red bows to make the gift complete. Just today I received a catalog from my beloved retailer L.L. Bean with a fluffy Golden Retriever puppy on the front, snoozing away under the Christmas tree with the other holiday presents with a red bow around its neck. The puppy looks perfectly angelic in the photo, but as a lifelong Labrador owner, I can tell you that it takes one hell of a lot of work to achieve a sleepy puppy for a photo shoot, and the moment that puppy wakes up, a human will be telling him "NO" and removing his little razor-sharp puppy teeth from the lights on the tree, the bow wrapped around the box, and even the box itself. I can forgive L.L.Bean for this, because their products at least promote the outdoor, active lifestyle that is suited for a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, so their customers are slightly more likely to own the boots, hats, gloves, and parkas that will be needed to house train the puppy in the middle of December and into January. But that is one photo among thousands of other images and sources that glamorize the puppy as a holiday gift. Personally, I obviously love dogs and I definitely love Christmas, and I love them together, in real life and in photos. I adore puppies, and I loved raising my own puppies into big sturdy dogs, even the moments that had me close to tears because Jax was a hard sell on the "no bite" concept or when his energy level was at a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10 and my own was a 3 from lack of sleep. I love looking at them now and thinking about how tiny they were, how I could pick them up and they would fall asleep on my chest, and how I taught them day in and day out all of the things that they would need to know as dogs in our household. I equally love to look at them and think about all of the things that they have taught me in return, about dog ownership and about life. I love how I raised them from puppies to adults and how close we are as two separate species who went from being total strangers to sharing a special bond. So when I talk about the work that lies ahead for puppy owners, it is with the firm belief that the work is worth it, but I would be doing a disservice to other puppy owners to minimize the work that it takes to go from puppyhood to adulthood, because trust me. There is a lot of work ahead. Before I had my own dogs, I helped my parents with their dogs. My freshman year of college, my parents acquired our Labrador Retriever Jake the weekend of Thanksgiving, so we have tons of adorable puppy pictures of him around the Christmas tree. Jake's puppyhood is also how I know that the adorable puppy under the tree will also be the same puppy who is trying to eat the lights, steal the ornaments, and chew on all of the gifts immediately after peeing on the carpet and trying to drink the tree water. I don't make these things up when I am blogging, I've lived life with many puppies and know that that's what puppies do. One minute they are adorable balls of fluff with liverwurst-meets-Starbucks scented puppy breath; the next they are like a tiny little ball of destruction wreaking havoc in your home.  Are all Christmas puppies abandoned at shelters or destined to living life in a crate or a back yard in an unprepared owner's home? No, of course not. I have personal friends who have brought home puppies at Christmas and who would never dream of abandoning them; those dogs are as beloved and well cared for as my own dogs. As someone once told me when they were attending a training class where I used to work, "We don't know what we don't know." That applies 100% to new puppy owners who have big hearts and great expectations but simply have no idea what they are getting into with an eight week old puppy and the work that lies ahead for at least the next few months to go from adorable Christmas puppy to well-behaved, socialized dog. As a result, during the month of December, the Love, Laugh, Woof blog will focus on the idea of puppies and Christmas, to help reach people who are contemplating getting a puppy as a holiday addition to their families. From winter specific considerations, to how to do a holiday puppy or grown dog the right way, conversations to have with the kids, and other important topics, we will focus entirely on spreading the word that dogs are a lifelong commitment, not something to be bought on a whim.   Subscribe
How Many Dogs Should You Have?
How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith How Many Dogs Should You Have? One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, "How many dogs do you have?" "I have two," I always reply. "Oh," is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin. "I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two," I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone. Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignleft" width="300"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Babe on a beach adventure[/caption] A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell. The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a "human plus one" relationship with their dog. My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs' fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke "I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!" Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister. So why are we 100% set on sticking with "just" two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested? Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one "extra" dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs' actual lives. A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly. So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object? Probably not. [caption id="attachment_3231" align="alignright" width="300"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch[/caption] If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O'Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. "A girl has but two sides to her at a table," she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom's three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention. I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another's paws pushing into my spine, a third dog's head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me. At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies. When you have gone through a dog's entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs. For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more. [caption id="attachment_2886" align="alignright" width="225"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Jackson & Tinkerbell[/caption] Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me. This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband's lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time. When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again. This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see. At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. "You love dogs, you need another one!" the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups. I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs. At least for now.    
Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs
Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Teaching Children How to Act Around DogsLast week another cringe-worthy video came across my social media news feed because someone thought it was cute. I suppose if you did not know a single thing about dogs, it might be cute. After all, what could be so awful about a curly-haired, resourceful toddler wearing just a diaper, climbing on top of his Basset Hound's head and spine in order to reach into the refrigerator to get something?  The dog patiently stood while the child climbed on his back and the video was being shared as an "awe, look at this boy and his dog" moment. Teamwork, right? Wrong!  First of all, stepping on a dog's head and standing on its back is a perfect way for that child to get bit when the dog tires of the game.  Second, the long back and short legs of the Basset Hound make it prone to back problems and damage to their vertebrae without a child standing on its spine. Standing on any part of any dog is wrong, let alone a Basset Hound!  Our own late Basset Hound Maggie was only saved from a death at a young age by a clinical trial at the Purdue University Veterinary school after she became completely paralyzed from the upper back down to her back legs and tail. She became paralyzed because the overall design of the Basset Hound is flawed and like other dogs with long backs and short legs, she became paralyzed simply from everyday running around and playing. I cannot imagine letting our kids stand on her spine! After surgery she went through six months of physical therapy and kennel rest while we taught her how to walk again. Six months of kennel rest to a dog whose life lasted twelve years is like over three years of recovery for a human whose life is eighty years. Some Basset Hounds and other breeds with a long back never recover once they are paralyzed like that, so to have a child stand on their spine using it as a step-stool could be deadly to the dog. This is not the only video that's gone viral by people who think that it is "cute" when those of us in the dog world view it as downright animal abuse. I have seen videos of babies and toddlers walking on dogs, stepping on their bellies and rib cages, riding them like horses, chasing after them and hitting them while the parents film the activity and laugh along at their poorly behaved child and their beleaguered, stressed out dog. I even saw one with a dog backed into a corner and snarling while the child hugs him, with the caption that the dog is smiling. The dog is not smiling, it is giving a warning that he does not like what is going on, and his next move is to bite to protect himself. [caption id="attachment_3489" align="alignright" width="300"]Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs Do you see the dog leaning away from the hug?[/caption] I personally have been chased down the street by children who did not have their parents with them, running at me screaming "Can we pet your dog??" This has happened with every one of my dogs in every town in which I've lived. The most recent time I was chased and followed by two young boys on bikes who wanted to pet my dogs and after I replied, "Sorry, not unless your Mom or Dad is with you," and they rode off and yelled, "I'm going to kill your dogs!" I have a firm rule when I walk my dogs, whether it is one dog at a time or both of them together, that kids may not approach or pet my dogs without their parents present. The reason for this is that I have seen far too many children whose parents have never taught them how to act around a dog. And while I have never had a dog who I ever felt would bite a human, my dogs approach the world with a happy, dopey look on their faces with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. Yes, I tend to err on the side of neurotic caution, but I never want any sort of misunderstanding. [caption id="attachment_3488" align="alignleft" width="300"]Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs This dog looks more stressed out than happy.[/caption] Fortunately I have also heard parents stop their children from charging up to me, yelling at them to stop and correcting their child by saying, "You do not run up to strange dogs! You have to ask their owner first if you can pet them and walk up slowly!" In that situation, I am happy to put my dog in a sitting position and give them the "say hello" command while the parent tells their child how to greet my dog.   Like I point out in nearly every blog: dogs are amazing creatures who live in harmony with we humans, but at the end of the day, they are a different species. They cannot speak in English or in words, so they must rely on body language when they are trapped into situations that they do not like or that scare them. And yes, they get scared! They are living, breathing, feeling creatures.  Instead of saying, "hey, back up, you are too close and I am kinda freaked out right now" in words like we can, they can only lean away, walk away, turn their head, and if they must, growl or bite. Here are some basic things that all parents can teach their children to do and not to do when around their own dog or dogs who belong to strangers:
  1. DO NOT climb on top of dogs, whether standing up on them, riding them like a horse, or stepping on their bodies.
  2. DO NOT hit or smack dogs.
  3. DO NOT hug dogs.
  4. DO NOT grab the heads of dogs for kisses.
  5. DO NOT get up close to the face of dogs.
  6. DO NOT wrestle with dogs.
  7. DO NOT grab something out of the dog's mouth.
  8. DO NOT pull ears, tails, floppy skin, jowls or any body parts.
  9. DO NOT run up behind the dog.
  10. DO NOT run up to strange dogs.
  11. DO NOT corner dogs where they have not exit.
  12. DO NOT reach over or lean over dogs.
  13. DO NOT teach your dog games in which they chase you.
  14. DO NOT pet dogs on the top of their heads.
  15. DO NOT go into fenced areas in someone else's property without being invited.
  16. DO NOT approach strange dogs who are tethered or tied up.
  17. DO pet dogs under the chin, on the chest.
  18. DO stroke dogs gently along the shoulder.
  19. DO NOT make eye contact with strange dogs.
  20. DO stand at a forty-five degree angle to let the new dog approach.
  21. DO hold your hand out just slightly with the back of your hand facing the dog or with your hand in a loose fist.
  22. DO always ask the owner if you can pet their dog.
  23. DO teach the dog to drop their toys in front of you if they want to play fetch.
  24. DO honor the dog's decision to walk away and decide when the encounter is done.
  25. DO be calm and confident; dogs can smell the biological changes that occur with stress and fear and may also feel that stress or fear as a result.
  26. DO back away slowly if the dog shows signs of fear or aggression.
There are some things on the list that your own dog might let you get away with even though it is rude in their world simply because they know and trust you. My dogs let me kiss them and are frequently close to my face. I have raised them from puppies and I would never do this with a stranger's dog or even other dogs that belong to family or friends. As your dog's owner your dog may let you do things that your own children cannot. Our Maggie was fine if my husband or I held her close to us, but if the children tried to hug her she would give a warning growl, as if she recognized that we moved slowly and were not a threat and they were louder and more rough and tumble and not allowed to hold onto her as tightly. I recommend always watching babies, toddlers and even younger children with your own dogs until you are sure that they understand the rules of living side by side with their canine family members.  
The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition
The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite InhibitionIf you've raised a puppy, the words "razor-sharp puppy teeth" probably make you shudder and think back to those days of puppy rearing when you felt like you had adopted a baby dinosaur instead of a puppy. In fact there's a meme that circles social media periodically that compares a puppy to a T-Rex that makes everyone who has ever raised a puppy nod along knowingly as they remember the scrapes and scratches all over their hands and arms from those sharp little teeth. Puppies and adult dogs, lacking thumbs, play with each other with their mouths in games of "bitey face" and wrestling. If you have had multiple dogs in your home, chances are they have played their own version of what we call "bitey face", which is when dogs play with open mouths or bite and pull on each other's jowls, ears, necks. Sometimes they lay down and have a lazy game of just sparring with their mouths, other times there is wrestling and rough-housing involved, and sometimes they add in "zoomies" in which they race around the house or yard at top speed in a game of chase. These games are normal parts of playing together and you should be able to tell when your dogs are playing versus fighting. If you have questions about your specific dogs, as always I would encourage you to talk to a professional dog trainer. There is also some interesting and important information at this link from the American Kennel Club that I recommend: Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition When you adopt a puppy, chances are they have spent the last six weeks wrestling with and play-biting their siblings and even their mother. One of the most important parts of raising a puppy is to teach him or her that they cannot play with humans in the same way that they play with other dogs.  Teaching your dog "bite inhibition" means teaching them that they should not bite humans and that if they do, that they should use a soft bite that does not harm the human. In my opinion, this falls under the top 3 things that you must teach your dog, along with house training and the "sit" and "wait" commands. Other humans in your home can often make teaching bite inhibition difficult because there is some sort of human instinct that overtakes people and causes them to wiggle their fingers in front of a puppy's face. I cannot tell you the number of times we had to correct our children during puppy raising; it might have been more times than we had to correct the actual puppies. I have also encountered total strangers who did the same thing to my puppies, to the point where I had to tell them, "We are teaching them not to bite, please do not wave your fingers in my puppy's face!" Jax was particularly difficult when it came to bite inhibition. He was persistent in trying to play with us by chomping down with his razor-sharp teeth with the full force of his mouth. In addition to Jax's persistence at trying to play with us with his teeth, our human son (who was twelve at the time) was the worst of all of the kids at wiggling his fingers in front of Jax's face. When it came to Jackson's puppy days and his bite inhibition education, the words "Get your fingers out of the dog's face!" came out of my mouth more times than I could possibly count. I am surprised Jackson did not learn what it meant I said it so many times. Finally one day I lost my patience with our human son when he shrugged my comments off with an overly cocky tween comment, "big deal, he's a puppy!" "Yes, if a fifteen pound puppy bites your hand, it's cute. If an eighty pound male Labrador bites the hands of one of your friends because he thinks it's how he plays with kids, then he could even end up being put to death as an aggressive dog, SO GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE PUPPY'S FACE!!!!" I scolded him. Thankfully Jax learned not to bite in play or at all, he learned to take his treats gently, and we've never seen him in (or put him in) a position where he needed to bite to protect himself.  His snuggle time is on his terms and while he will drape himself across our laps, he does not usually like to be hugged for too long or held very tightly, and he will either get up and walk away or turn his head and lean the opposite direction. We respect his body language that the situation is not pleasing, and we stop before he needs to even remotely resort to a soft bite. Our teenagers have also learned how to play with puppies and dogs. By experiencing first Jackson's and then Tinkerbell's puppy training, they know that you do not wriggle your hands in front of a puppy, you play with them using toys and playing fetch or tug-0-war, and that the dogs are to put the toys on the floor or the ground instead of reaching into their mouths to get them.  They know that if a puppy is trying to nip at you, you give them a toy instead of a body part to chew. They also know that most dogs don't really like to be hugged or petted from above, and that as far as a dog is concerned, those actions are rude or aggressive. It is important to teach your children why you are teaching the puppy not to bite hard or at all and the implications that not teaching your puppy this important information could have as your puppy grows into a full grown dog. I highly recommend that you supervise their play even if they are tweens or teenagers so that you can correct both the puppy and the children when they exhibit undesirable behavior and reward them when they play in a way that both the puppy and the children will grow up knowing how to play in a way that does not encourage biting.

Make sure you ask your puppy class trainer or beginner obedience instructor on tips and methods for working with your own dog. Here are some other good resources on the "how-to" side of teaching bite inhibition:

Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class
Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class

Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class When my veterinarian suggested to me that I enroll Jackson in the puppy kindergarten class that they had recently started to offer,  I was skeptical. He had come to us pre-trained to sit and wait for his food, so at eight weeks old he already knew sit, stay and we were working on a recall game that our friend/breeder had given us in her packet of information that she gives to all puppy buyers. I had already selected a beginner obedience class that he would begin once he was fully vaccinated and figured I knew enough about dog rearing to make it through the weeks between his homecoming and training class. Plus "kindergarten" sounded a little silly. Was he going to learn his colors and shapes, too? Puppy Kindergarten turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made! Jax was one of around five or six other puppies. He was among the youngest and surprisingly, the smallest, since all of the puppies in the class were large breeds just out of sheer coincidence. Two of the most memorable classmates were German Shepherd pups who were at least a month older than him; they had started to get into the gangly awkward stage where their legs seemed too long for the rest of their bodies while Jackson was still stout and compact. The first half of each class was spent on an educational topic. We learned how to teach the puppies sit, stay, come, and also worked on introducing them to new experiences like a wheelchair, baby stroller, bicycle, the examination rooms of the vet's office, and other very basic things that a dog might encounter during their day-to-day life. During the second half of the class the puppies were allowed to play together as a group. If you are picturing the Puppy Bowl that has become a tradition on Super Bowl Sunday, you are exactly right, only without the announcer and the football themed play area. I was surprised as I watched Jax playing with the other puppies. Based on his behavior at home and his zest for playing rough with his Basset Hound sister Maggie, I thought he would be one of the most rough and tumble puppies in the group. He engaged the bigger Shepherds in play and then ran back to hide behind my feet when they got too rough, looking up at me for reassurance before running back out to play with them some more. Playing with other puppies is excellent for your dog's development because puppies learn about manners from other puppies. Of course the universal dog games are what we call "bitey face" which is the type of play in which they bite and nip each other's jowls and wrestle, and "zoomies" which is a game in which they chase each other around a room or yard. If a puppy bites too hard or gets too rough, the other puppy will yelp in protest to tell his playmate, "hey, watch it, that bite was too hard and it hurt!" If the rough puppy continues to play too aggressively, the other puppy will walk away from the game entirely, giving the rough-housing puppy the message of "you're too rough, I'm out!" Learning these lessons as puppies is extremely important for your dog so that he learns how to interact with other dogs at a young age and knows what is appropriate and what is not. When your puppy is with their litter, they have this experience with their litter mates, but after they go to their forever homes they are usually the only puppy and often the only dog, leaving you the human as their playmate. Unfortunately, their go-to games that they've played with other dogs are not compatible with human playmates, so you have to teach them that you are not going to play bitey-face, or bitey-hand or bitey-achilles tendon no matter how much they try. Not only is it fun and educational for your puppy to play with other dogs his own age, but watching him play with other puppies is educational for you, too. You can learn a lot from watching your puppy play with other puppies you can use the same skills that other puppies use when you are working on bite inhibition, which refers to the important job of teaching your puppy not to bite humans in play or at any time, which we will cover in a separate blog tomorrow. At the end of the four-week class, we received a list of suggested experiences that puppies should have, ideally before they reached sixteen weeks of age. This list came with the comment that they did not expect owners to go down the list item by item and make sure their dog experienced them all. Of course my husband and I took the list and did just that, and were able to recreate many of them. We had neighbors help us by walking by with strollers, had our own kids and their friends ride past on skateboards, bicycles, roller blades, electric scooters, plasma cars and whatever else we could think of. We made sure Jackson heard sounds like our Harley Davidson starting, the lawn mower, the weed whacker, pots banging, doors slamming, even a cap gun, although that was part of his hunting dog training that stopped almost before it started. With every new experience we made sure that Jackson was happy and comfortable and we were elated at how chilled out he was to each and every experience. To this day he is very relaxed around essentially everything except a neighbor's Halloween scarecrow decoration, to the point where the loudest thunder doesn't even make him raise his head. Tinkerbell went through a similar puppy class elsewhere as our veterinarian stopped offering their class, and we worked just as hard at socializing her. She is just as chilled out when encountering new things as her big brother is, and both are able to meet other adult dogs and play with them without incident, hear loud noises without a second glance, and encounter strange things on walks without fear. Puppy class also became my favorite day of the week because I took an energetic wild puppy into the class and came home with an exhausted, physically and intellectually spent calm puppy who crashed out like I do after an open to close day at Disney! No matter how unconditionally you love your dog, no matter how committed you are to the next fifteen or so years, or however long you are blessed with your dog's presence in your life, no matter how calm and positive you are, puppyhood can challenge even the most patient of dog owners. Your dog's puppyhood is magical but it is also exhausting. There were days when I wanted to cry as I wondered how much longer it would take me to convince Jackson that the leg of our office chair was not a chew toy or that he could not in fact gnaw the spines off of all of the books on the bookshelf, and I knew that on puppy class days he would sleep like, well, like a puppy, and that I could read a magazine or watch a TV show. Another benefit of attending a puppy class or puppy kindergarten is that you have a professional dog trainer at your disposal who you can ask about house-training tips and other things that you encounter with your puppy at home during the 167 hours of the week when your puppy is not at class. That is a lot of time for your puppy to get into mischief and by asking the trainer for advice you can correct your dog in the best way instead of instilling bad habits that could last your dog's entire life.

Watch for tomorrow's blog on bite inhibition and why it is so important to teach your young puppy that biting humans is not acceptable even in a playful puppy way. 

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class
Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassThe last few weeks have been a seemingly endless stream of stories about dogs that are both frustrating and heartbreaking, including dog bites, re-homing requests, and frustrated owners with 8 month old puppies who are still not house-trained. Sadly they all have a similar theme because all of these could have been prevented or could be fixed by one thing: training.  I have talked to a lot of people who have never taken a class with their dog or who look somewhat confused when I suggest that they take one. There is also the response "Oh, I've had dogs my whole life, I don't need to take an obedience class." I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about what an "obedience" class is all about and what an owner can gain from attending a class with their dog, especially for people who have had dogs before or feel like they have a lot of knowledge about dogs. Actually, until Jackson was born I had never taken one either, having grown up with dogs who came to me rescued and pre-trained like my late Babe, or who were trained by my father. Dogs have been companions to humans for so long that it seems like it should be second nature for us to live together. The reality, though, is that no matter how harmoniously we are able to live together, at the end of the day they are still another species and we can both use all the help we can get at learning how to understand each other and communicate across our separate and very different species. Dogs are very different from humans. Their bodies are different, their minds are different, their communication methods are different, their learning requirements are different, even the structure of their brain is different as they are blessed with a whole extra area to analyze scents. Things that are acceptable in our world are rude or aggressive in theirs, similar to someone from another country in another part of the world. Just like trying to speak to a fellow human who speaks another language or has different social norms than we do, we need to learn how to speak in a language our dogs understand, learn how to understand what they are saying to us without words, and understand their cultural norms. However, despite my analogy comparing your dog to someone from another culture in a different part of the world, a dog is also an entirely other species than we are. They are a very special, precious species that deserves to be treated well, loved for all the days of their life, and considered to be a family member, but they are not a small furry person. Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassDog obedience school or dog training classes are first and foremost about teaching humans to teach their dogs the rules of life in a human household. In most beginner obedience classes you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, come when called, look at you when you say their name, stay, lay down, settle and start to walk nicely on a leash. Usually around six to eight weeks in duration, the beginner obedience class is just the very tip of the proverbial training iceberg! When you find a really good dog trainer, you learn so much more than how to teach your dog how to perform those commands. Don't get me wrong, those are the must-know commands that can literally save your dog's life, particularly the stay or come command. But the best dog trainers teach owners about how a dog's mind works, the importance of repetition and patience, the benefits of positive reward based training, and how to understand your dog despite being two very different species and get your dog to understand you. The first night of my Basic Obedience class with Jackson the trainer spoke to us with made-up, random words that might not have even been actual words. Her words made literally no sense at all.  There were no dogs in the room, the first session was a human-only orientation. She said it again, only louder. Then even louder. Then with a raised voice and anger, and asked why we could not understand her, she was speaking English! What was wrong with us that we could not understand what she was telling us? As you might expect, this exercise was to show us what it is like to be a dog with humans randomly saying words to them and growing impatient when they do not instantly understand. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most impactful moments of all of the classes in which I participated and is something that has stuck with me during every moment working with and living with our dogs. Different trainers have different nuggets of information and different methods that will stick with different people. Add in the fact that every dog is slightly different in terms of what motivates them, how easy or difficult they are to train, with different backgrounds and life experiences, and you arrive at the same suggestion for all dogs: that every human needs to take every one of their dogs to at least one training class and ideally several additional classes after they graduate from beginner. Dog training classes are really about training owners to teach their dogs. Most of the class time is spent learning from the trainers, and most of your actual training time with your dog is outside of the classroom. In fact, when you do practice the commands in the classroom it is the owner who the trainer is really watching and correcting rather than the dog because the class is to train the owner how to train the dog. When you find a good trainer you will understand how to take your training beyond basic obedience because you will know the concepts behind teaching your dog. Once you can teach her sit and stay, it's not a far stretch to teach her other commands, to teach her tricks, to teach her games. Learning about how your dog learns will help you with socializing her, with teaching her not to bite (bite inhibition), with a variety of situations that you might encounter during your dog's life. Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassNot only will you forever have the skills to teach your dog and future dogs, but you will have a go-to resource should something pop up in the future. I often wonder how many dogs would not be re-homed if their owners had a relationship with a trainer so they could easily reach out when a life change happened like a new baby or the introduction of another dog into the house. Training your dog can be a lot of fun for you and the dog as long as you are patient and realize that the fun part is for you and your dog to be learning together and to build an incredible bond together. In fact I often look for additional classes to take just for fun and I am strongly considering joining a local dog training club so that one of the dogs and I can go once a week and practice their skills, be around other dogs and dog owners with similar goals, and to continually learn from some of the amazing dog trainers that we have in our area.

If you are looking for a professional dog trainer, check with your veterinarian for recommendations.

Also check out these websites:

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT):

Karen Pryor Academy:

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons
Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons
Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons The other day I was at a business networking event and I ran into a woman who volunteers in dog rescue in addition to owning her own business. She told me that she had read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner and also bought a copy for the rescue organization with which she volunteers. I was delighted to hear this and we chatted for a bit. As we discussed my book and dogs in general she mentioned that Chapter 4: Are You Ready for a Dog? REALLY Ready? was very intense and might actually scare away some potential first time dog owners. She was not being critical, just sharing her thoughts on the book. For the last several days I have thought about her input and wondered if I should have toned down that chapter a bit. I mean, I am from a long line of outspoken women from New Jersey, but I also do not want to risk any dog not having a home because I scared the owner away from life with a dog with my book! Was the chapter too intense? Was it too much to talk about the hair, the mud, the slobber, the gross things in which they scent themselves, the dead animals that some bring to you like children bringing home a trophy? Was it too much to talk about house training, obedience training, to share that my dog care bill for a 10 day vacation is $500 and that's on the inexpensive side in our area? Was it too much to share the reality of having a senior citizen dog, that when we had three senior dogs at once my entire paycheck seemed to go straight to the vet every payday and we had a drawer full of medicines like a canine nursing home? Is it fair to tell them all of the harsh realities that can happen with dog ownership to try to desperately avoid the owner surrenders that happen as a result of unprepared humans getting dogs on a whim? I mean, of course I follow-up those negative things, the sharing all of those downsides, with the beautiful relationship that we create with our dogs, the miracle of having a best friend and constant companion who is more loyal than any human could ever be. I share that I would die of a broken heart without a wet nose waking me at 6 a.m. every single day of my life, without Labrador hair to vacuum every few days, without a 70 pound Tinkerbell stretched across my lap daily. I was not offended by her critique; getting feedback is part of being a writer and putting your ideas and words out for the world to consume. When you put strong opinions out into the world, you must have a thick skin to go along with those opinions. But I really, honestly worried that perhaps I had been too honest. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"] Photo credit:[/caption] Then I came across a post about a German Shepherd puppy on Facebook from another blogger who shared that the reason of the owner surrender was that "they just didn't want her anymore." Now, we all know that everything you read online or on Facebook is subject to being completely wrong or made up, but the reality is that I have no reason to doubt that blogger because this is a reason dogs are surrendered all the time For some dogs their crime against humanity (insert frustrated sarcastic tone) is that they shed too much, that they got too big, they had too much energy, that they ate too much. One poor dog pooped too much for his owner and ended up being abandoned at a shelter, wondering when his family was ever coming back. I don't know what these owners expected; if they wanted a big stuffed animal, they have realistic versions at Amazon that won't eat, shed or poop and are perfectly huggable. And that is not a joke, I would recommend a snuggly fake dog to them. Any living breathing creature is going to do these things. We humans do, too! My husband snaking the drain of our shower every few months is testament to how much we shed! It is absurd to adopt a dog and think that she will not shed, poop, grow, or want to play and release their energy. For the dogs who get adopted into happy homes, their owner surrender was probably the best thing that could have happened to them when it is all said and done. For the ones who are euthanized, though, the people who gave up on them for absurd and preventable reasons killed them as if they had murdered them in cold blood. Unfortunately when someone surrenders a dog to a shelter, there is no way to guarantee which fate the dog is going to meet, the happy ending or the tragic loss of life.  I shared the post about the German Shepherd puppy on my personal Facebook page and a friend of mine who I met while volunteering at a rescue group commented immediately. She works at an animal clinic and she replied, "Your chapter is 100% spot on and I couldn't agree more. Believe me, I've actually wanted to throw your book at people and tell them to read it. Around March/April I start getting calls at the clinic asking if I know a rescue that will take their puppy because they had no idea." When you follow as many dog related organizations, businesses and dog lover friends as I do, you end up seeing horrific stories about animal abuse. Sometimes I cannot bear to read another and I have to take a break. In fact that was one of the most beautiful things about watching April the Giraffe for all of those weeks; the wait for "Baby G" was a nice respite from political news and tragic stories that make up social media and the regular TV news. It is extremely important to point out that there are sometimes valid reasons to re-home a dog. My late Babe came to me because her owners, who were not extremely old when they got her, both suddenly declined in health at the same time with extremely serious and debilitating issues. In the blink of an eye they went from recently retired and looking forward to ten or twelve more years with their beloved young Lab to being completely unable to care for her. I am in no way shape or form talking about situations like that, or extremely dire financial circumstances or life threatening allergies in a child. I am not commenting on situations in under-served communities with extreme poverty. My disgust is directed at people who simply didn't bother to prepare themselves or look for a solution.  There is a solution to a dog who has "too much energy" in the form of training, walks, exercise, dog games, interaction with the humans. There is a solution to shedding, in the form of frequent brushing, good quality food, regular grooming appointments. There is a solution to "being too big" at least in terms of what I can imagine would be the issue with size, like leash pulling or accidentally knocking things and people over, again in the form of obedience training, walks, exercise, dog games, structured playtime. When trained correctly a huge dog should be as easy to walk as a small dog. A big tired dog will curl up to nap just like a small tired dog after a mentally and physically engaging activity with his owner. There is even a solution to pooping too much, in the form of finding a better quality food. If you feed a dog a 600 Kcal/cup food you feed half the amount as if you feed your dog a 300 Kcal/cup, which equals less poop with which to contend. At the end of the day, I stand by Chapter 4 of my book. Someone who wants a dog badly enough is going to say "Ok, dog hair, no problem, vet bills, I'm signing up for pet insurance, puking at 3 am, geez I hope not, but I've got my cleaning supplies!" I can only hope that someone who is iffy and perhaps at risk of making a decision about a dog on a whim will read those things and think, "Whoa, I had no idea it was like that!" and either prepare themselves or decide not to get a dog at that time. [caption id="attachment_3271" align="alignright" width="300"] It takes hours upon hours of work and patience to go from puppyhood to this![/caption] If I can help even one dog be saved from going through an owner surrender, then it will make a difference for that dog and for the one who will be saved by the opening at the shelter that the first one did not fill. As I write in my book, "I had to lay out the negatives, every last one of them. It would be unfair to dogs to do any less. Those cute puppy dog eyes are a blessing and a curse for many dogs, like the dogs who are bought on a whim because the owner is caught up in the cuteness and novelty of a dog, but not ready for the reality of one and then casts the dog aside without any regard for the fact that it is a living, breathing feeling creature whose heart will break once he or she is abandoned in a shelter to fend for him or herself. If you are ok with the negatives, if you go into dog ownership prepared for all of them, the cost, the mess, the inconvenience, the responsibility of another life, then you are ready for the positives, because when you are ready to be a dog owner the positives make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks." Sign up for the Love, Laugh, Woof Mailing list [shopify embed_type="product" shop="" product_handle="love-laugh-woof-necklace" show="all"]
Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips
Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips

Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Puppy House Training: Best Practices & TipsI am not afraid to admit that back in 2011 as Jackson's Gotcha Date was looming, the thing that terrified me the most about starting off life with a new puppy was house training. Since Babe was a two-year old rescue dog when I adopted her, the last puppy I had helped house train was Dutch, and that had been thirteen years prior and only for a week. Dutch had started off as my parents' dog and only became mine after Mom passed away, so my only time house training him was when I watched their dogs for a week when Dutch was 9 weeks old. Fortunately our breeder gave us extensive information to prepare us for all aspects of puppyhood, and I studied the PDFs that she sent like I was studying for a state board exam. I was determined to house train him quickly with as few accidents as possible. When it was all said and done, Jackson peed in the house fewer than five times and pooped only once. Tink also had very few accidents and never pooped in the house during her puppyhood; she only has pooped once inside in the last three and a half years and that was when experiencing extreme intestinal distress in the middle of the night and she was unable to wake me to go outside.

Puppy Bladders

A good rule of thumb when considering how long your puppy can be left home alone is that puppies can hold their bladders for the same number of hours as they are months old. For example, an 8 week old puppy is approximately 2 months old, which equals two hours during calm waking hours or light sleep. When extremely tired puppies are sleeping, this time can be longer. When puppies are playing or rough-housing, this timeframe is substantially shorter, with puppies sometimes feeling the urge to urinate as often as every fifteen minutes when extremely active.


Crates can be the subject of heated debate, but when used correctly, crates become a haven for a dog. Our dogs seek out their crates even when we are home and they have the full run of the entire house. Not only do crates keep inquisitive puppies from accidentally harming themselves by chewing on unsafe items or exploring things that they should not when humans are not home, but puppies do not want to eliminate their waste where they sleep.

A wire dog kennel is extremely helpful when house training. Make sure you purchase one that is sized for your grown dog but has a wire divider that you can use to reduce the area that they can access. If you give a puppy full access to their adult size crate they can easily urinate or defecate at one end and sleep comfortably on the other, and you do not want that to happen. Once they are fully house trained and have not had any accidents in the house for several months you can give them the full kennel room; just be sure to keep making their area larger as they grow.

Do not provide bedding in their crate until they are consistently going to the bathroom outside. Bedding and blankets will soak up urine, and you want to create an environment that is unpleasant if they go to the bathroom in the kennel. Please note that this is not out of cruelty; teaching your dog the rules and expectations of living in a human house is loving and will make their lives better. A few weeks without bedding in their kennel is a small investment to make in their future as a happy, healthy confident dog.

How to House train

Puppies and House TrainingThe keys to any type of dog training are patience, consistency, repetition, clearly communicating the command, and celebrating their success. Here are the guidelines that I used to quickly house train both Jackson and Tinkerbell in a very short amount of time with very few “accidents” in the house and never in their crates.

  1. Take your puppy outside immediately after they wake up from a nap or in the morning. As soon as they pee or poop praise them happily with a pleasant and exited tone of voice “Yes, good dog! good dog!” 
  2. When your puppy is active and exploring the house, you should always be watching them and be near them. If they start to squat or sniff for a spot to go to the bathroom, pick them up and take them outside or call them outside. As soon as they go, once again use your happy excited tone of voice, “Yes, good dog! Good dog! Yes!” Give them a small training treat at the same time that you are praising them verbally. 
  3. If your puppy is engaging in very active playtime, running around or rough-housing with other dogs in the house, take them outside every fifteen minutes and praise them heartily as described above anytime they go to the bathroom outdoors. 
  4. Take your puppy outside and allow them to relieve themselves before placing them in their crate at bedtime, before you leave the house, or if you are about to do something like taking a shower that leaves you unable to watch them.
  5. Understand that your puppy will likely need to go outside once, twice or even three times in the middle of the night when they are first with you if they come home at eight weeks old.
  6. Try to take time off the first week that your puppy is home, like a puppy maternity or paternity leave, or have a friend or a dog walker come in a few times during the work day to let your puppy outside. If your puppy is eight weeks old and you are gone from the house from 7 am until 6 pm, you should ideally have someone at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm if not more often.
  7. If you catch your puppy in the act of peeing or pooping inside, give a calm, firm, “NO!” and immediately take them outside even if they are finished with the actual act of peeing or pooping. If they do additional bodily functions outside, reward them with the praise as described above, “Yes! Good dog, good dog!”
  8. Clean up after accidents with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. First soak the urine up with an old towel or stack of paper towels. Make sure you soak up as much as possible; many puppy owners use the technique of standing on the paper towels or fabric towel if the accident was on carpet. You may need to do this a few times with a fresh towel or paper towel. Spray liberally with the vinegar/water mixture after you have soaked up as much of the urine as possible. White vinegar helps neutralize the smell of the urine in a way that many other cleaners do not and make it less likely that the puppy or dog will return to that spot to urinate again. 
  9. The fewer accidents, the faster your puppy will become house trained! The more times your puppy goes potty outside and receives that happy, positive reinforcement of your loving, joyful praise along with food treats, the sooner they will figure out that it is the correct spot to go to the bathroom. Dogs want to please you, they want to receive that happy sound plus food. It is important to reiterate once again that to punish a puppy for going to the bathroom inside by hitting, yelling or rubbing their face in the urine or excrement is never ok. A stern, calm "No" is sufficient for correcting behavior. 

Two Appliances Every Puppy Owner Should Purchase

Fortunately small puppies do not put out much volume when they do have an accident inside. However one of the best purchases I have ever made as a dog owner is the Bissell Spot Bot. I ordered it one night at 3 am after Tinkerbell was sick in multiple spots in our bedroom.

It is a small, portable carpet cleaner that has a nozzle and hose or the option of simply putting it down on a spot, pushing a button, and sitting back while it cleans a circular area of carpet. This is great for small accidents as well as when your dog eats a mystery object and vomits it back up in the middle of the night…not that we’ve had that exact scenario happen. Ok, yes, we have. 

Also consider a regular carpet steamer for days when you want to do an entire room, maybe not for puppyhood but as your dog grows up. Even fully house trained dogs have moments in their life when they have horrific diarrhea or are vomiting and get sick in multiple spots of a single room. Trust me, as a lifelong dog owner, I have cleaned up pretty much everything a dog can do. You will want a carpet cleaner if you have dogs and a carpet!

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

by Lynn Stacy-Smith How to Be a Compassionate Puppy OwnerI. Love. Puppies! If you read that with the same tone of voice as Oprah saying that she loves bread on her Wight Watchers commercial, then you read it correctly! I. Love. Puppies! When I see a puppy I am the same way that most women are around babies. I cannot wait to hold that puppy in my arms and get puppy kisses and snuggles. Large breeds in particular are my favorite to hold and snuggle because they stay that small for such a short time. I often look at my own dogs and reminisce about when I could hold them in my arms while they slept when they weighed just fifteen pounds, and how they are now big sturdy adult dogs who I love more with each passing day. How to Be a Compassionate Puppy OwnerIn my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner, I write extensively about puppies, how to prepare for them, how to choose where to get your puppy, how to house train them, the first few days with you, and a variety of other important topics. I am able to guide other puppy owners through these essential areas because of the experience I have from raising dogs my entire life and my recent puppy rearing of first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. I have definitely walked the walk of the puppy owner! Perhaps the most important thing to master as a new puppy owner is to be a compassionate puppy owner. And although I am loath to rely on the dictionary definition of a word to make a point, this is a word that we hear frequently but may not understand entirely. If you're like me I think about compassion in terms of being understanding and putting myself in the other person or animal's position. But the definition of compassion, according to Merriam Webster's online dictionary, has another element to it. The definition reads that compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." So compassion is not just being understanding, there is an important element of helping to actively alleviate the distress that the other is feeling. [caption id="attachment_3179" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way![/caption] So how do we translate this into raising a puppy? It means that we as humans are conscious of the difficulties of being a puppy and trying to figure out the rules of the human world and that we have a desire to help them understand the rules and alleviate any stress that they are going through as they go along the puppy learning curve. No matter where your puppy comes from, to leave their mother and litter mates is traumatic. No matter how much you love them and plan to care for them, all they know is that everything they have grown used to has changed without warning. Some puppies, like those born into puppy mills, backyard breeders or even worse situations in which the humans do not care about the mothers of the puppies or the puppies themselves, may have never known the love of a human, the comforts of a responsible breeder or foster home.  It is even more terrifying for them to go into the unknown. Before your puppy comes home, or when you can take a few minutes to yourself if your puppy is already living in your home, take a few minutes to sit quietly and close your eyes. Try to picture a movie screen and the experiences of your puppy playing out on the movie screen. Imagine their life before you adopted them, imagine you are watching from outside the situation as they spend time with their mother and their litter mates, and then imagine your puppy leaving them and making their journey to your home. Picture how everything looks to them from their point of view. Imagine them trying to figure out their sleeping arrangements, where to go to the bathroom, how to explore new things when they do not have hands or thumbs or the ability to talk to us. Imagine what it must be like to have to explore their environment through trial and error, choosing to chew on something and then being corrected over and over. Imagine what it is like to be lonely in another room without the understanding of when or if you will ever return. Imagine what it is like for all of their basic needs to be fulfilled by you. [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner Jax took every chance to learn and explore![/caption] When you step back from the situation, watch their journey and experiences as if you were watching a movie, and put yourself in the puppy's position it is easier to have compassion. It is easier to be sympathetic to their situation and have the desire to alleviate their stress and help them learn in a patient and repetitive manner. When you put yourself in your puppy's position it is easier to understand that not only do you have an infant of an entirely other species, but that there is a language barrier and different natural instincts. In my book I talk frequently about the fact that dogs and puppies are not furry humans. They are a completely different species from us. It doesn't mean we should treat them poorly because of it, it doesn't mean that we can justify being unkind or unfair. It just means that it is critical to be compassionate, to figure out how they learn, to learn how you can teach them the rules of the house, to understand how you can communicate with each other. It is important to remember that puppies and dogs are sentient beings, full of emotions, thoughts, and feelings like us, but with many differences, too. You love them like they are furry humans but you must treat them like they are dogs and honor the fact that they are dogs. [caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?[/caption] Of course being a compassionate owner does not mean that you never correct your dog or train them. Just like when you parent human children, your job is to teach your puppy the rules of living in their environment to keep them safe and to keep them from destroying your home. A great puppy owner does that with a never-ending amount of patience, fairness, love, and firmness, by teaching and correcting wrong behaviors with repetition, guidance and compassion.

The Love, Laugh, Woof blog is being taken over by puppies!

Watch for more puppy blogs tomorrow and all of next week!  


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Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not
Spay and Neuter Awareness Month: Mythbusting Reasons to Not “Fix” Your Dog

Spay/Neuter Awareness Month:  Mythbusting Reasons to Not "Fix" Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not "Fix" Your DogI did not neuter Jackson until he was a little over two and a half years old. I spent a good two years running into issues when I wanted to take him to training classes, dog parks and other areas. "He's still intact because he's competing in conformation shows," I would explain, "Not because of ignorance or any other reason." On Jackson's first birthday I sent several photos of him to our breeder as well as a Happy Birthday message to his litter mate who she had kept. She messaged me back and said, "Jackson is turning out to be spectacular, if you want you can hold of neutering him and try him out in a few UKC (United Kennel Club) shows and then depending how he does maybe we will change his AKC registration from Limited to full and think about using him as a stud dog." I cancelled the appointment I had already made to have him neutered, registered him with the UKC, and started training with him on the skills he would need in a dog show. We practiced gaiting and stacking, and I envisioned him going all the way to Madison Square Garden and being on TV representing his breed in Best In Group and being the Labrador to finally win Best in Show. I found hot pink dress pants to pop against his black fur, put on functional shoes and we were ready! In reality we did three dog shows. We earned a few Best of Breeds and a third in the Gun Dog Group, which is the UKC version of the Sporting Group. Each time I laughed at myself as we drove to shows that took place in warehouse type spaces in industrial parks in suburban Illinois, a far cry from Madison Square Garden. At the third show we won Best of Breed and headed to the group competition. There were a ton of dogs there that day, far more than the first few shows. Jax was more interested in playing that day and tried to befriend the Golden the middle of the competition. When the judge came to inspect him, Jackson rolled over on his back with all four paws in the air. Then we ran out of bait and I lost his focus entirely. As he tried to jump on top of the Golden again, I politely took my dog and left the ring. I wasn't angry, I wasn't upset, I doubt it was proper etiquette, but I just did not want to be that person whose dog was distracting the other well-behaved dogs. "Well, big man, I think that is the end of your show career, what do you think?" He nuzzled my face and snorted, which is one of my favorite Jax signature moves. "Come on, let's go home to Daddy and Tinkerbell. I'll get you a puppacino on the way home, my handsome boy." A few weeks later I made the appointment to neuter him and spay Tinkerbell, who was coming up on seven months old, the same day. Had I hired a professional handler, I'm sure Jax could have had a stellar show career; the reality was that he already had a full-time dog job: to be my best friend and companion. I would never be the person to send him off with a handler, on airplanes and in strange places without me, just for him to be a champion. After the procedures, Jax was my same quirky and special boy and Tinkerbell my same crazy girl. Literally nothing about their activity level or temperament changed, at least once they healed. Of course you have to keep them calm and on kennel rest while they heal, but after that they were the exact same dogs. Jax was still a typical boy, peeing on every single tree, light post and mailbox (if I'd let him) on our walks, somehow able to ration his urine to make it through a long walk and still be able to claim every single vertical object as his own. Tink was still insane with endless energy, running zoomies as fast as her legs could carry her and then snuggling sweetly with us every night. Too often I hear some interesting reasons for not spaying or neutering a dog, usually online in various groups and forums and occasionally at pet expos. It goes back to the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. Woof means celebrating the differences between our species and understanding that your dog is a dog and not trying to push human feelings onto them. Let's take a look at some of the wrong reasons for not spaying/neutering a dog: Females need to experience giving birth to a litter: Emotional regret over not having offspring is entirely a human thing. Although I love to celebrate a mother dog's love for her puppies, your dog is not staring out the window wondering why she never had puppies. That doesn't mean a dog doesn't have a strong maternal instinct, but it kicks in after she is pregnant. Dogs live in the moment, your dog is perfectly happy experiencing other things besides giving birth to puppies. Take her on adventures instead, she will love you even more for sharing such amazing bonding experiences and it will never cross her mind that she did not "get" to have pups. [caption id="attachment_614" align="alignright" width="221"] Still a big boy, happily neutered![/caption] Neutering makes males less male: Well, if you're talking about moving mountains to get to females in heat, embarrassing dog erections for no reason, or marking your furniture, yes, neutering will change that. But in terms of the good parts of a boy dog, there is no difference. Your male dog does not care that he lost his testicles. That's a human hangup. Although the procedures are definitely different, your male dog is still just as male as a man who has a vasectomy. All that's changed is their ability to have an heir. Unless your dog is the King of England, he doesn't need an heir. Period. "Fixing" a dog makes them fat: Just like we humans, too many calories and too little activity makes dogs fat. If you see them gaining weight, adjust their calories. I promised a "no fat Labs" promise and have kept to it. Jax and Tink weigh exactly the same as before they were spayed and neutered.  You are in control of how much you feed your dog, how much exercise he or she gets, and ultimately how much they weigh, intact or sterilized. Children should experience the miracle of life: I call BS on this. I am a parent, there are books for that, they take classes on that in health class. There is no logical reason for a child to learn about the miracle of life by bringing innocent puppies into the world. Parents who really want their children to see the process can view a variety of births on YouTube. It is miraculous, I once sat and watched a professional breeder's dog give birth via webcam for an entire afternoon; I was not going to submit Tinkerbell to that just for the experience. If you hear friends talking about breeding their dogs, please have the important conversation with them, asking them to reconsider and ask them not to become a backyard breeder. If none of the arguments above are sufficient, there are 1.2 million other reasons not to breed, in the form of dogs who are euthanized each year because a home was not available to them.    
National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering
National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

by Lynn Stacy-Smith National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and NeuteringEarlier this month I blogged about Responsible Pet Owner Month and how virtually all of the special dog days in this month all tie back into the idea of being a responsible pet owner. It makes sense that February is also National Prevent a Litter Month, a time for us to talk about the importance of spaying and neutering. Unless you are a professional/show/hobby breeder, it is my belief that to allow your female to become pregnant or your male dog to father puppies is among the most irresponsible things that a pet owner can do.  According to data from the ASPCA Shelter Intake and Surrender page, 90% of the dogs who enter a shelter, as strays and owner surrenders, are intact and able to create a litter of puppies. Also according to their data, "the average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies is four to six." If 3,900,000 dogs enter shelters each year, that means that 3,510,000 are not spayed or neutered. If we were to imagine that half are females, that means 1,755,000 dogs able to produce approximately 7,020,000 puppies a year. That is the equivalent of one puppy for every single resident of the state of Washington.  In my blog, Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders, I wrote about responsible breeders and that they require that their puppies be spayed/neutered and that the owner submit proof that the procedure has been performed by a certain date. Some responsible breeders include in their contract that they can take the dog back if the puppy buyer fails to have their dog neutered or spayed. Additionally, responsible breeders sell their puppies with Limited Registration instead of full AKC registration in order to keep puppy buyers from breeding AKC registered dogs on their own. Shelters and dog rescue organizations also require that their adopted dogs be spayed or neutered and usually the procedure is done before the dog is available for adoption. So if responsible breeders are requiring that puppies be altered and so do rescue groups and shelters, how are so many dogs living their life intact and able to create more dogs? According to additional data on the ASPCA site, 28% of owners acquire dogs from breeders, 29% from rescue groups and shelters, and 43% from family and other acquaintances. Unfortunately the site does not specify what type of breeder they include in the 28%, but unlike responsible breeders, backyard breeders and puppy mill operators are unlikely to require that the puppies be fixed or that the puppy buyers are educated about puppies and ready to assume responsibility for the dog for life.  In the family and other acquaintance category you will find those owners who either intentionally or accidentally created a litter of puppies and now have the difficult task of finding homes for the puppies. It's a common scenario: someone's intact male found his way to someone else's fertile female and created a litter of puppies. They are free to a good home or inexpensive to cover the cost of their puppy shots, and the owner of the female is desperate to find homes for them all. They do not know how to screen a puppy buyer and they don't have a way to demand that the puppy be spayed. Both scenarios present the same two problems: too many puppies and not enough of a screening process to ensure that those puppies do not end up in shelters or as strays.  When you look at the reasons for owner surrender of dogs to shelters, 29% of owners cannot have pets in their home or apartment. Behavioral issues, divorce/death, and not enough time are all equal at 10%, and other issues make up the final 41% of owner surrenders. All of those named issues, even death, are part of comprehensive screening of potential owners by both responsible breeders and shelter/rescues. That means at least 59% of those owners would have been asked:
  1. What is your training philosophy? Where will you take the dog for training issues? How will you handle behavioral issues? What books have you read about training dogs?
  2. When will you spend time with the dog? What activities will you do with the dog? Who will take care of the dog if you are called out-of-town or have to work late?
  3. What will happen to the dog in the event of divorce or death?
  4. What is your current living situation? What will you do if you have to move? How will you ensure that you will live somewhere pet friendly?
Spaying and neutering not only prevents overpopulation of dogs and cats, it also means that unprepared owners are not in a position to deal with litters of puppies. At the end of the day, just because you find a home for a dog does not mean the dog is safe from being abandoned as a stray or at a shelter. Responsible breeders and rescue groups typically work extremely hard to filter out the bad homes, the people who are getting a dog on a whim, all to make sure their dogs go to loving, capable forever owners. Spaying and neutering is the most effective way of preventing the pet overpopulation problem and the tragic and unnecessary death of 1.2 million dogs each year.            
Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

By Lynn Stacy-Smith Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let's take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners: [caption id="attachment_693" align="alignleft" width="236"] Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be...we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy![/caption] 1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let's face it, there's a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as "dogs", right? Take that desire off your male dog's mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits. 2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me "thank you" for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. "Why are you thanking me?" I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn't I do everything possible for him? "Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy," was their answer. What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them. Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet's orders for home care. [caption id="attachment_53" align="alignright" width="315"] Dogs on the sofa? Totally![/caption] 3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is. Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away. 4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you. 5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader. 6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don't have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words "animal" or "by-product" and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food. 7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together. [caption id="attachment_1975" align="alignleft" width="279"] Tink going on an adventure[/caption] 8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I've ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe. 9. Responsible owners are their dog's rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet's office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don't care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignright" width="302"] Babe[/caption] 10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else "free to a good home," tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to "get rid" of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home. Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year. [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Don't miss a single blog or message, click here to sign up for my mailing list and Your Weekly Woof![/caption]  
How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation
How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

By Lynn Stacy-Smith How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet OverpopulationAs I wrap up our three part series during Westminster Dog Show week, here are some ways that hobby/show/professional breeders help prevent their dogs from ending up homeless, abandoned or in shelters: 1. The application process: Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection and exercise. Our application for Jax was multiple pages long including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions. 2. Lifetime Return Policy: This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances. Some breeders (including ours) ask to be the backup contact on the dog's microchip for life and will take the dog back if the owner passes away. 3. Limited Registration: Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog, which would take away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies and reduces the likelihood that they will breed the dog. 4. Having a Demand Before Creating the Supply: Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Jax was already in utero when we found him and we honestly got lucky. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer because his mother was pregnant with one "extra" puppy. Otherwise we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. He was born in March. Of course if we had not come along he would have simply stayed with the breeder just like his brother. If you look at the page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 as of today it says, "We are sorry but at this time we have no litters available." The Planned Litters page indicates that two litters are planned for the spring and that potential buyers can join the waitlist. This is the same with the Labrador Retriever who won Best of Breed last year and is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not creating dogs without a list of puppy buyers waiting to take them into loving homes. 5. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clauses Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs. 6. Co-owning Unaltered Dogs Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is only bred when the original breeder chooses. 7. Promoting Rescue and Shelter Adoptions Of course purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere. Responsible breeders are often extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. This type of breeder is an overall dog lover and is just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heart breaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers. Rather than pointing the finger at responsible hobby/show/professional breeders who love their dogs and care about what happens to each and every puppy that they produce, we should continue to work on the extremely important work of stopping puppy mills, encouraging the adoption of both purebred and mixed breed dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, educating about why it is so important to spay and neuter all dogs who are not going to be bred by responsible breeders, and to teach current and future generations that dogs are a lifetime commitment, not something to be picked up at the mall or from a classified ad with the same amount of consideration as a sweater or a new handbag.
Different Types of Dog Breeders
Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

By Lynn Stacy-Smith Today is the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club show, a prestigious event that celebrates breeding stock of purebred dogs and my favorite sporting event of the year. With a pet overpopulation problem that results in 2.4 million innocent and healthy dogs and cats being euthanized each year, there are sometimes critics who say that we don't need anyone breeding dogs and bringing additional animals into the world. I disagree, though, and feel that our purebred dog breeds are all an important part of the dog world that should be preserved for future generaDifferent Types of Dog Breederstions. To make that assumption that all breeders are responsible for homeless pets is unfair, and I think it is important to educate people that not all breeders are the same. In fact there are vast differences between responsible breeders and puppy mill operators. This is a topic that I cover in detail in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner in Chapter 5: Breeder or Rescue, Where to Get Your Next Dog. Rather than re-write the wheel, here is an excerpt from my book:
"The words 'dog breeder' can elicit some very negative responses from individuals in the dog community. The truth is that there are a variety of different types of dog breeders ranging across a wide spectrums of levels of care, and it is neither fair nor accurate to lump them all in together. Some breeders love their dogs as if they gave birth to them, and they put care and love into each litter. Others are unscrupulous and inhumane to their dogs and help contribute to the pet overpopulation problem in two ways: producing more dogs than they have a need for and not sufficiently screening puppy buyers to ensure that they are committed to caring for the dog humanely for its entire life. Unfortunately, too often good breeders are lumped in with bad breeders, but the fact of the matter is that there are many wonderful breeders who operate in such a way that if everyone who bred dogs followed their lead we would not have the heart wrenching pet overpopulation problem that we do in this country and across the world. While I agree with the 'don't shop, adopt' concept, it is important to note that good breeders of purebred dogs are important to the world of dogs and to maintaining the breed standard of the breeds that we love so much."
Here's the difference: Large Commercial Breeders: Large commercial breeders breed and house puppies in a manner similar to raising livestock: in large quantities in cages. These operations are known as "puppy mills" because they breed in large quantities. There are many horror stories of puppy mills in which dogs are undernourished, dehydrated and kept in cages too small where they bred over and over and over again. It is not uncommon for puppy mill dogs to never touch grass, run around or live a normal life. These puppies are usually sold through pet stores. Because of the lack of attention to care, genetic issues, temperament or socialization from the puppy mill operators, many puppy mill puppies have substantial health issues. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that most pet stores do not full screen buyers sufficiently, if at all, to ensure that they are making a lifetime commitment instead of an impulse buy. Backyard Breeders: The term "backyard breeder" typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization. Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="377"] Photo source:[/caption] Hobby/Show/Professional Dog Breeders: Professional dog breeders, sometimes called hobby or show breeders, breed for love of the breed and usually possess extensive knowledge of genetics, their bloodline, and common health problems of the breed. They are dedicated to maintaining the breed standard in all areas: health, appearance and temperament. Professional breeders will ensure that all of their stud dogs and dams pass the standard tests for their breeds with the OFFA, also called the OFA, which is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. For example, with the Labrador Retriever, you should look for breeders who test for hips, elbows and eyes. Their females lead regular happy lives and only produce a few litters in their lifetime before they are spayed and retired. Some hobby/show/professional breed multiple litters a year and rely on that income and others breed just once or twice a year or when they would like to add another dog to their own dog family. This type of breeder is the type involved in conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club show. They also participate in common sports and activities for the breed. For example, our friend/breeder from whom we purchased Jackson and Tinkerbell is actively involved in Hunt Tests, Conformation, Obedience, works professionally as a dog trainer and runs a boarding kennel in her community. One of her labs is in agility and another has worked as a reading dog, going into classrooms where children read to the dog to help their confidence and reading skills. Her dogs all live in the house with her and are beloved pets.  What type of breeder can make it to Westminster?  Often the Westminster coverage includes information on the day to day lives of some of the dogs in the competition. To debunk the myth that show dogs are only "good" for shows, many of the dogs who compete also participate in the sports and activities for which they were bred. For example many of the sporting breeds also hunt birds and have other jobs outside of the show ring as well as being beloved pets and companions. The Westminster Kennel Club Show website has a great page called Find the Right Dog for You and includes this paragraph,
"As we have for many years during our televised broadcast, The Westminster Kennel Club will continue to make the following announcement: “If you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here (yesterday or today) came from a pet shop, or was the ‘product’, if you will, of a puppy mill. If you want a dog, go to the people who care – the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see here – a lifetime effort. Talk dogs with dog people who care and understand.”

Watch tomorrow for a related blog about tactics professional/show/hobby breeders use to help prevent pet overpopulation. 

Watching the Westminster Kennel Club Show: Dog Show Basics
For some it's the Super Bowl that is the Holy Grail of sports, for other's the Stanley Cup Finals. Other people live for the NBA Playoffs, and some (especially here in the Chicagoland area last Fall) are all about the World Series. For me, though, the sporting event of the year is hands down the Westminster Kennel Club Show.  I've been watching Westminster for over twenty years and every February I circle the dates on the calendar, pointing out that this is as serious to me as the Walking Dead finale is to my husband and that we shall not talk over the announcer or have other such interruptions. Westminster is serious business, particularly Night Two when the Sporting Group gaits and stacks for the judges.  For those of you not familiar with the world of dog shows, they are known as Conformation because dogs are judged to determine how they conform to the breed standard as set forth by each "parent club" of the breed. The Westminster Kennel Club, the host of the show, is part of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Labradors who enter the show are judged against the breed standard of The Labrador Retriever Club, which is the AKC parent club of the breed. The breed standard dictates everything about how a Labrador Retriever should appear, from their height and weight to the shape of their eyes, the color of their coat, their temperament and many, many other criteria. There are other kennel clubs with different parent clubs and breed standards, like the United Kennel Club, or UKC. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="432"] Labrador Breed standard from Erlastyn Kennels website[/caption] Sometimes criticized as being nothing but beauty contests, dog shows actually are intended to evaluate breeding stock in order to continue to produce puppies who meet the breed standard. The breed standard exists for functional and health reasons even though many of the traits are things that we love so much about our dogs because of their appearance. For example, the shape of a dog's head can help or hinder him when hunting because it will impact their eyesight. The right or wrong build for shoulders and legs can impact how they move in the water or on land. If you are a Labrador Retriever owner like me, that big thick otter tail that knocks glasses and knick-knacks off of your coffee table is actually so big and thick to act as a rudder when the dog is swimming. The double coat that sheds so much is designed to insulate the dog in cold weather or cold water to maximize the use of calories so that their energy is spent on the task at hand rather than staying warm. The webbed feet that pick up mud and track them into the house each spring are designed to help make them more efficient swimmers for their original purpose of helping fisherman with nets and hunters retrieve birds. Westminster is my favorite show that is televised because they provide so much information on the dogs. Although I will always miss the signature voice of the late Roger Karas, the announcers usually do a good job of pointing out things to viewers like the fact that dogs who are meant to run a lot have large deep chests, and dogs with big floppy jowls and ears like Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds use those to pick a scent that they are tracking. On Monday and Tuesday during the day, individual breeds will be judged together with the winner of each breed being dubbed Best of Breed. You can watch the live streaming online on the Westminster Kennel Club website. The coverage on TV each evening is of the Best of Group category. [caption id="attachment_2827" align="alignright" width="387"] Jackson[/caption] Because each dog is judged against the breed standard and not each other, it is quite impressive that the judges are able to retain such vast knowledge of each breed standard in their group. Judges are incredibly experienced within the dog show world in order to be able to judge this category. Of course most viewers, myself included, root for their favorite breeds. I would love for the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and German Shorthaired Pointer to take spots one, two and three in that order, but so far that has not happened. That's ok, though, because I have the best male and female example of the Labrador Retriever in my own home, at least as far as I'm concerned. Tomorrow I will share information about the different types of dog breeders and how responsible loving breeders are too frequently lumped in with puppy mill operators. That topic is also an important part of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner. Also check out this page from the Westminster Kennel Club called Find the Right Dog for You. Finally, if you haven't yet, I invite you to read my blog from last year's show, called Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching that Show Dog on TV.  For more detailed information on how dog shows are judged, click here:
Dogs as Gifts? Dos and Don’ts of Getting a Dog During the Holidays

In my last blog I wrote about the right and wrong way to bring a dog home for the holidays. In this second part I share the dos and don'ts of getting a new dog or puppy over Christmas and New Year's:

[caption id="attachment_2587" align="alignleft" width="288"] Image from[/caption] DO NOT purchase a puppy on a whim from a backyard breeder or pet store. Maybe you have wanted to get a dog forever, but wanting is not the same as researching and analyzing. Those puppies who look adorable in their baby cribs at mall pet stores may look like adorable little balls of fluff, and don't get me wrong, they are. But they also need house training, obedience training, bite inhibition training, veterinary care, food, water, physical exercise, mental exercise and a lot more for ten, fifteen, even as long as twenty years. If you want an honest account of what being a dog owner is like, read Chapter 4 of my book. DO NOT purchase a puppy or dog for someone else. Choosing a dog for someone else is not ok, unless it is a very specific situation like a service dog who is matched with a person with specific needs. For the everyday pet, though, never buy a dog as a gift. Once again, a dog is a living, breathing, feeling creature who will depend on their human for as long as twenty years. Becoming a dog owner is a decision only the owner can make. I recently saw a post on Facebook in a dog owner group about a woman whose dog had recently passed away and her grown son decided to get her another puppy to cheer her up. The woman was distraught because as a responsible dog owner, she had very specific thoughts on when another dog would be right for her, what type of dog she wanted to get next, and she was not ready to just move on yet, but was suddenly responsible for a new dog based on someone else's idea of what they thought she would want. DO take advantage of a long break from work to bring a new dog or puppy home only after careful consideration and analysis of your lifestyle and budget. There are some situations in which bringing a new dog home at the holidays could be ok. For some, the time over Christmas and New Year's is insane with holiday gatherings and places to go, people to visit. If this is your situation, this is not the right time to get a new dog. However, if you have done the research about the right dog, given an honest assessment of your lifestyle and if a dog fits into your life, reviewed your budget and living situation to make sure that you will not find yourself unable to pay vet bills or unable to find a suitable place for you and the dog to live, then taking advantage of a long break from work over the holidays might be a good time for a new dog to come home if you are planning a long and home based break. I am a big fan of taking at least a week off of work when a new dog or puppy comes home, and some adults like teachers or people who work in corporate offices that close over Christmas might find that this time is perfect for bonding with a new dog, working on house training and getting your new family member acclimated to your home and life as long as you do not need to travel or be out of the house attending to other commitments. It is important for the first two or three days of life with your new puppy or dog to be quiet, calm, stress-free and positive for your dog, so if you are the type to spend Christmas week in your PJs at home, you and your new dog could develop the start of a beautiful new friendship over your break. DO INCLUDE YOUR CHILDREN in the entire process. Surprising kids with a puppy under the tree with a ribbon around her neck is not a good learning experience. How often do kids get bored with their new toys within a month or less after Christmas? Ours certainly did when they were little. Instead of surprising kids, have this conversation instead, "Instead of us getting you a bunch of presents this year, we have been thinking about this for a very long time, and the time is finally right to go to the shelter or rescue and pick out a dog and give him or her a new forever home with us. We are also going to give a donation to the shelter to help the other dogs who are still looking for their homes." Of course you should adjust this based on the age of your children, but even little kids can understand the basics of giving a homeless dog a warm and loving home. Part of my book focuses on the importance of training human children and how they need to be taught how to act around dogs as much as your dog needs to learn how to act around them. By explaining to them the thought process that you went through before adding a dog to your family, by teaching them how to act around the dog, and how important it is that you train the dog to understand the rules of their home, you are setting them up to be amazing dog owners when they are adults. DO NOT cave to your kids' pleas to get a dog if you are not ready. Please do not do this, I beg of you. This has disaster all over it, just the same as getting a dog to teach kids about responsibility is not fair to a dog. You can teach your kids how to care for a dog by having them watch what you do or guiding them step by step through the process, but turning over all of the responsibility to a child or teenager is not fair to the dog. If your kids are very young, they are too little to care for a dog on their own. If they are older, chances are they will go off to college while the dog is still alive. Either way, if you do not want a dog, don't get a dog, because you are going to be the person caring for it and it is not fair to have a dog and view it as a burden or an afterthought. A dog should only be brought home as a cherished and beloved family member in order to receive the best treatment and care that it deserves.

For additional information on bringing a new dog into your home, check out my one-on-one owner coaching and workshops Preparing for a New Puppy or Dog and Surviving Puppyhood.

Dogs as Gifts? The Right & Wrong Way to Bring a Dog Home During the Holidays
  Christmas is just 11 days away. In our house, we are enjoying nightly Christmas movies on TV, Labradors sleeping in front of the Christmas tree, and counting the number of Star Shower Motion Laser lights in our neighborhood. Of course all of the commercials during the Christmas movies are also holiday themed, and I had an educational conversation with my 13 year old daughter recently when we were watching a commercial in which a puppy was given as a Christmas present. "Just for the record, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present," I scornfully trash talked at the TV. "Why not?" she asked, a little annoyed with me. "Well, because it's a living breathing creature that should only be brought into your home after a lot of thought and consideration to the fact that it is likely to be with you for the next 10-15 years and will need tons of time, training , money and attention. Plus people should pick out their own dogs, AND because most of the holiday puppies that are purchased are from pet stores who are selling puppy mill puppies. And if you're not familiar with what a puppy mill puppy is, it's a puppy born onto what's basically a dog farm where their mothers and fathers are kept in cages their entire lives, the mothers give birth to litter after litter without a break, they never get to run and play and they are treated quite cruelly. So no, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present," I answered. "Oh." I continued to explain the circumstances in which getting a dog around the holidays would be ok. "Now, if a family or a couple has thought through all of the things that a dog needs, decided that their schedule is suitable for a dog, their lifestyle is suitable for a dog, their budget is ok for a dog, and that they understand that they are making a lifetime commitment, what they could do is tell the kids that instead of buying them as many presents as other years, that they are all going to go to a shelter and choose a dog together to give the dog a new home for Christmas, then that's a whole other story. Then they can involve the kids in the process and share with them the very special and important decision that they are making." After that, she was on board with what I was saying. In fact, because she attends most of my dog events with me as my helper, she is very knowledgable about the plight of dogs and the incredible responsibility involved in owning a dog, probably more than other thirteen year olds. I know that her initial annoyance with me was because she was thinking that any dog would be lucky to get a new home at Christmas, probably picturing happy families and furry puppies in a utopian scenario of love and commitment, without realizing that many of those Christmas puppies are purchased on a whim and end up in shelters after the new year because the owners did not think through what they were doing. Because she lives in a family that values the life of animals, she doesn't realize how many people do not value their lives. The older she gets, the more we fill her in on the things that happen to far too many dogs because of cruelty, neglect, and sometimes people simply losing interest in a dog they brought home on a whim. Until recently I don't think she knew how many shelter dogs never make it back out of the shelter. We go to so many rescue and adoption events that I think she thought all dogs went to new homes, and she was horrified to find out that millions of them do not and that they are put to death for no fault of their own because of the vast pet overpopulation problem. I am going to cost lots of money in food, training, vet visits, toys, treats and other supplies for as long as 15 years. Are you ready for me- (4)In my book I talk about how being an adorable little puppy is both a blessing and a curse to far too many dogs, because those fluffy little bodies and kissable puppy faces cause some humans to lose all logic and purchase them without a thought to what the puppy will need for the next ten to twenty years of their life. They might have gone to the mall for a sweater and a sale on bath products; instead they brought home a living breathing creature that they are not prepared to raise. Puppy mills are manufacturers and do not deserve the name breeders; they create the supply of puppies to stock the cribs and cages of the pet stores who sell them. In the same way that if you purchase a pair of jeans from a clothing store, the clothing store will replenish the supply of jeans that were sold, the puppy mill will continue to keep dogs in misery producing more puppies to fill the demand that the purchase of that puppy created. This happens regardless of whether or not the puppy that was purchased stays in its home forever or is surrendered to a shelter a month later because it was "too hard" to care for. Truly responsible breeders have a demand before the female is even pregnant, because they do not ever want a puppy that they bred to be in danger or be put to sleep unnecessarily. Breeders like this are dedicated to making sure that each and every puppy that they create is loved, nurtured and cared for his or her entire life. They are actually unlikely to even have a litter of "Christmas puppies" available because their dogs are forever dogs, not something selected on a whim, not something given as a gift or selected as if it were the season's hottest toy.

Watch for Dos and Don'ts to Bringing Home a New Dog at Christmas

in the next Love, Laugh, Woof blog.

Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching That Beautiful Show Dog On TV
Last night was my favorite night in televised sports. It has been on the calendar for months, a night when my family knows that they should not plan on anything other than my favorite event being on the television. Last night was night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show. Night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show always starts off with the Sporting Group. If you  are not familiar with the different groups of a dog show, this group includes breeds who have been bred to assist bird hunters in various ways like finding birds, flushing them from tall grasses, or retrieving them from fields and ponds for the hunter. I grew up with Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers because my father hunted waterfowl and upland game, so our dogs were beloved pets all week and hunted with Dad on weekends. While they loved snuggling in bed with us, playing games of fetch and swimming with us, they were never happier than when they were out in a marsh or a field with Dad as the sun rose on a Saturday morning, waiting for their chance to fetch some ducks or quail. They would come home later in the day and crash in front of the fireplace, sound asleep, paws twitching as they ran in their sleep and most likely dreaming of their next hunting trip. [caption id="attachment_458" align="alignright" width="300"]puppydutchstacking Dutch as a puppy[/caption] Dad always gave me his issues of Gun Dog magazine when he was finished reading them because he knew how much I loved to look at the puppy photos that readers had sent to the magazine. Although I had no interest in actually going hunting, I loved reading the articles about the different types of dogs, how they worked, the connection between dog and hunter, and how using a trained dog helped preserve wildlife because they insured that each bird that was killed was brought to the hunter instead of lying un-utilized in the field. Each bird that Dad and our dogs brought home ended up on our dinner table. As a result of a lifetime of browsing through Gun Dog magazine, I have vast knowledge of the breeds of the sporting group and they are my "favorite" types of dogs. Watching the Sporting Group at Westminster is like sports fans watching their teams advance through the playoffs; first and foremost I am team Labrador, with the German Shorthaired Pointer as a very close second. One time one time when my mom and I were out for a hike and met a woman who was walking a medium-sized reddish dog with white markings. I had just read about the "toller" who has a very unique job of luring ducks closer to the shoreline. "Oh my gosh, is that a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?" I asked, bursting with excitement. "Uh, no, it's a mixed breed of some sort," she responded as both she and my mother looked at me as if I had gone crazy. "What?" I asked Mom as we walked away and she was laughing at me, "I read Dad's hunting magazines all the time." As a three-year old German Shorthaired Pointer named CJ won Best In Show last night I stood in my living room cheering the same way we cheered the years Chicago BlackHawks won the Stanley Cup. I missed my own late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch as I watched CJ gait around the ring and then stack up for judging, such a perfect example of the breed with his speckled coat, the regal lines of the dog's perfectly muscled body,  and the piercing intelligent eyes. And then I had an "oh no" moment. And that "oh no" moment was followed by "what if?" [caption id="attachment_457" align="alignleft" width="242"]dutchnye The "Regal Jester"[/caption] The "regal jester" as the GSP is nicknamed is a magnificent looking dog that houses a whole lot of energy and, to quote the great Margaret Mitchell in Gone With the Wind, "a passion for living." Or as I like to call them: crazy dogs. What if people went out and bought German Shorthaired puppies based on seeing this beautiful and unique looking dog win Best In Show and did not do their research to find out what the breed is really like? How many of those puppies will end up surrendered, or locked up in kennels and crates as punishment because their owners don't know what to do with their energy? How many puppy mill and backyard breeders would increase their supply of GSPs to keep up with a demand that "good" breeders would be smart enough not to respond to? In the late 1990s animal shelters around the country reported an alarming increase in Dalmatian surrenders following the release of the live action 101 Dalmatians movie. This was a result of parents purchasing Dalmatian puppies because of the way the dogs were portrayed in the movie without doing their research about whether or not the breed would be a good fit for their family. Conversely, a 2004 study of Best In Show winners from 1946 to 2002 showed that winning Westminster did not cause an increase in the popularity of the winning breed, but that study is now 12 years old and was done before social media became a factor, so I would personally be interested in the authors of the study doing an update. As a result of my "oh no" and "what if" moments, I came up with some suggestions on watching the Westminster Kennel Club show or browsing the descriptions of different breeds and how to translate some of the descriptive phrases about each breed into regular everyday language. "And with enough exercise, he's well suited to family life, too.This was on the Westminster Kennel Club website to describe the German Shorthaired Pointer and I had to laugh, wondering if they wanted to write, "This breed is insane and full of energy." Every German Shorthaired Pointer I have ever known has had endless energy and was full of silly antics. Dutch took games of zoomies to an entirely new level and showed no signs of slowing down even in his senior years. When Jackson was a puppy and full of youthful Labrador energy we met a neighbor with a GSP puppy the exact same age, so of course we visited a few times for puppy play dates. Little Banelli would run circles around my Jackson and tire him out so much that I had to carry him the few blocks home because he was too tired to walk. Before their play dates I would not have believed it was possible to wear out my sweet and energetic puppy, except that I had previously had my own GSP and knew how much energy was contained in that regal looking body. Active family: This means ACTIVE, in all caps, bolded and in italics. Active like interested in hiking or taking long, long, LONG walks and spending plenty of time outside playing fetch and other games with the dog. Couch potatoes need not apply. A dog who needs an active family will drive you crazy if you are not truly active and 100% committed to taking time to exercise with your dog. A quick walk around the block is going to be insufficient and unfair to such a dog. Without an active family the dog will be bouncing off the walls, getting into "trouble" though no fault of his or her own, all because a potential owner did not understand how active the dog needs to be. Keen intellect: Dogs with a keen intellect will be eager to learn. However, if you do not train your super smart dog, he or she will find something to do with that sharp mind, and it probably will not be something you like or want your dog to do. If you cannot make a commitment to putting a lot of time and energy into training a dog who has a keen intellect, as well as doing lifetime continuing education with the dog, you and your dog will be equally miserable. Dogs with a keen intellect will excel in a job like a therapy dog or a fun dog sport with you by their side. Once again, this is a warning to owners who want a dog who is happy chilling on the sofa and simply spending time with their humans. Not a Breed for the First Time Dog Owner: I heard this used to describe a large breed from the working group. What does this mean? This means that you will need to be a firm (but humane and fair) leader to your dog to ensure that your dog knows the rules of the house and that you are always in charge. Training will be critical to your dog's future as well as your own; training is not something that can be skipped or taken lightly. With Strong Character and Extreme Stubbornness: These go along with the above listed, "not a breed for the first time dog owner" and should be taken seriously. Unless you are an experienced dog owner with the ability to put in the time and train your dog correctly, including proper socialization and temperament training, some breeds are just not for everyone. No matter what sort of gorgeous coat or unique look that they have, if your dog is in control of you (instead of vice versa) and unwilling to obey the rules of living in a human house, you will do both of you a disservice by adding him or her to your home. Fortunately there are many dogs who are described as "easy to train", "easy-going" or "gentle nature" who are great for new or less experienced dog owners whether you are going with a purebred dog or a mixture of breeds. There are also plenty of dog trainers available to guide you every step of the way since no matter the breed description, raising a healthy and happy dog will always require patience and continual training whether they are extremely stubborn, keenly intellectual or easy-going. Some great resources for researching a particular breed of dog include: Westminster Kennel Club: American Kennel Club: Pet finder: Most importantly, if you find yourself set on getting a purebred dog, definitely check with breed specific rescue groups. Sadly millions of purebred dogs are abandoned by owners who did not do the research needed before acquiring a dog and you can give one of those dogs a new life and the loving and committed home that every dog deserves.        
Our Vow To Our Dogs
I take you to be my dog from this day forward, to have and to hold you, to honor and respect you, to love and treasure you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I promise this from my heart for all the days of your life. # 
The Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy
I am very flattered that several times in the last year I have heard a similar message from some of my friends who are not dog lovers. "You have shown me why people love their dogs so much" they have said. This is the ultimate compliment to me, even more powerful than when other dog owners ask for my input or advice on something dog related. To hear this sentiment from non-dog people means that I have opened their minds and hearts to the joys that dogs can bring to the human world. If I can influence a handful of friends, maybe I can influence more by continuing to share stories and advice on my favorite topic. It was not until recently that I realized that I have my own philosophy on dog ownership, a mindset that I call Love, Laugh, Woof. Over the last six years I have tended to my three senior dogs, all with their own serious medical conditions, and ultimately said goodbye to them one at a time when those medical conditions ravaged their bodies and took away their quality of life. I have also raised two puppies into grown dogs over that time, giving me ample experience in those moments when you need your patience and understanding the most. Love [caption id="attachment_56" align="alignright" width="225"]Tinkerbell sleeping jan 2015 My heart swells with love watching them sleep so innocently.[/caption] Sure, loving your dog sounds easy. After all, dogs are cute and wiggly and sweet. Dogs want to please us and make us happy. Who wouldn't love a dog? Unfortunately, too many people. By love I mean real, true lifelong love. I mean the real love that never wavers when things get hard, the love that keeps you going through sickness and in health, like the words spoken in a marriage vow. By love I mean never giving up on your dogs, opening your heart fully to them, having compassion for the reasons behind their behavior. Real love means never abandoning them in a shelter or leaving them with just veterinary personnel when their time here on earth is about to come to an end. Real love means forgiving them when they do something "wrong" and never forgetting that we chose to bring them into our lives, not the other way around. Real love means real commitment from the moment they step that first paw into your life until the last breath that they take with you by their side. Laugh [caption id="attachment_55" align="alignleft" width="225"]Tinkerbell under curtain jan 2015 Tinkerbell makes us laugh every day.[/caption] If there is a way to get through life without a sense of humor then I am not aware of it! Laughter just makes most situations better, even the hard ones. Having a sense of humor and having fun with your dogs makes you an overall better dog owner and a happier person, whether you are laughing with them or at something they've done. With two young Labrador Retrievers, I laugh a lot. Let's flash back to Tinkerbell's puppyhood when she was just a four-month old pup. We had worked with her for two months on understanding which of the items in our house were her toys and which were off-limits. For a young pup she was doing fantastic. Let's face it, from a dog's perspective it is not easy to understand why one furry stuffed object is ok to chew and the other is a decorative pillow that is off-limits. Both stuffed, both equally chewable. One night I sat on the sofa watching a TV show with her entertaining herself on the floor a few feet away. I glanced at her every few minutes while she happily chewed her giant moose antler with those razor-sharp little puppy teeth. Later that night when it was time for bed I noticed that the carpet right where she had been laying looked matted down. I went to inspect and to try to fluff it up and make sure it was not wet. We had only had one accident inside since coming home two months earlier so I would have been surprised if she had peed there. She was an A+ student in the lessons being taught. To my surprise the carpet was neither wet nor matted down; it was gone. Yes, gone. The mesh was still intact, but the carpet fibers were gone. I remember thinking, "Oh, so that's how carpet is made." While I thought she was chewing her bone she was actually pulling individual carpet fibers out with her little puppy teeth and had made a golf ball sized bare patch in our carpet, right smack in the middle of the floor! The next morning I showed my husband what she had done, and I laughed as I relayed the story and took all of the blame. I couldn't be mad, it was my own fault for missing that point where she switched from antler to carpet fiber. All I could do now was watch for her to do it again and correct her in that moment, but for this piece of carpet the moment was gone. Plus in the grand scheme of life, a small patch of missing carpet fibers was not a big deal. And so I relayed the story to my husband with greatly exaggerated detail of how she was chewing the bone one minute and the next I had missed her using her little pointy sharp puppy teeth to carefully pull the fibers out of the carpet but still leave the mesh. His reply was classic and one of the reasons I love him so much as a husband, a father, and my partner in dog-parenting, "Eh, we want to put down hard wood at some point anyway, right?" But how many puppies end up in shelters because the owners can not laugh at the situation, cannot laugh at themselves for not watching the puppy closely enough? Laughing with your dog is equally important. Have you ever noticed your dog's tail go into overdrive when you are laughing and having fun, maybe playing fetch or tug or giggling when they lick your face? They respond to that, they live for that happy sound to come trickling out of our mouths, it is an emotional reward for them, like giving applause to someone doing a live performance. Dogs like to have fun just as much as we do and they recognize that human laughter is a happy sound. In fact according to an article in The Scientific American that I found on The Huffington Post, researchers in Europe studied MRIs of the brain activity of dogs and found that they have more neural activity when they heard positive sounds like laughter versus negative sounds like crying. You can see that in your own dog without a MRI machine just by looking at their happy and relaxed wagging tail when their humans are laughing. Woof [caption id="attachment_54" align="alignleft" width="231"]jax 2 years old Jackson is a dog who likes a routine and watches our body language constantly![/caption] The Woof part of my philosophy on how to be a great dog owner means putting yourself in your dog's proverbial paws from time to time. Woof means being empathetic to the fact that your dog is a dog. Your dog is not a small furry human. Although we may refer to ourselves as pet parents or in our house momma/daddy, I know without a shadow of a doubt that my dogs are dogs. It would be disrespectful to them to treat them as anything else. So I treat my dogs like dogs. But that does not mean I treat my dogs poorly, it means I treat them with respect, love and kindness, but I always honor the fact that they are dogs. Because they live in our human world I am a parent to them in the sense that I set the rules, I keep them safe from harm, I choose their dog food, their organic treats, I tend to their medical care. I teach and enforce the rules and do all of those things that a human parent would do for their kids. By honoring the fact that they are dogs, though, I respect their culture, their body language, their rules for communicating and the way they view the world. It is similar to respecting another country and it's culture in the sense that different does not mean lesser. Understanding that dogs are dogs lets you give them what they need to be happy in our human world. As a result,  as much as I would like them to be with me 24/7 I don't drag them out to blazing hot summer festivals, I don't take them places where there is something happening that would cause them stress. I let them stop and sniff interesting stuff on our walks, knowing that just because I don't see it doesn't mean it's not important. I don't smother them with nonstop hugs that they do not appreciate, although I do sneak some kisses and a few hugs here and there. I've learned where it is polite to be petted and I no longer pet the tops of their heads. I provide them routine like they need and both physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and I watch and pay attention to their verbal cues and how they interact with each other. And finally, I marvel every single day that we have a friendship and a love for each other than spans different species, where we do not speak the same language but we can still communicate, and that I give as much to them as they give to me.
The Honest Truth

The Reality

Dogs are messy, hairy, time consuming, needy creatures. They are often stinky, they love to eat and roll around in the grossest things. They bring you disgusting things, sometimes alive, sometimes not. Most of them shed. A lot. Count on vacuuming multiple times a week. Your vacuum will smell like dog. You yourself will shed. You will have lint rollers in every room, in your desk, in every handbag. People who drop in unannounced will likely see dog-hair tumbleweeds drifting across your hard surfaces if you haven't vacuumed in a day or so. During puppyhood you will go in and out of the house at least every twenty minutes while they are awake, at least for the first few weeks. The first few days home you will likely be outside with them at midnight, 2 am, 4am, 6am. You will be so tired you want to cry. You will follow them around keeping them out of trouble and teaching them the word "no". You will say "no" more than you ever thought possible. [caption id="attachment_14" align="alignleft" width="300" class=" "]We need a lot of care but we're totally worth it! We need a lot of care but we're totally worth it![/caption] You will spend the first six to twelve months training them, for hour upon hour. I've heard it said that it takes 100 hours of training to form a well behaved pet dog. Those fun and carefree walks you dreamt of? You will spend months walking just a few feet at a time teaching loose leash walking and heel before you get to that point. When they are senior citizens you will carry them up stairs, lift them into your vehicle, pick them up when they fall down. They will require medicines, many trips to the vet, expensive tests. They may develop incontinence problems that make them feel such shame that you cannot scold them. They may revert back to naughty puppy behaviors, their bodies failing them but their minds still going strong and no way to keep themselves entertained. You will not be able to leave the house for more than 10 to 12 hours at a time without arranging for a pet sitter. Add the expense of a kennel or pet sitter whenever you want to travel for work, for vacation. Say goodbye to after work drinks with friends unless someone is home to let them out. You will have just enough time to run into the convenience store for a gallon of milk on your way home, because you are playing beat the clock with their bladder. You will need a midday potty break for them when they are puppies, when they are seniors or if you work long days or have a long commute. Dogs will eat grass, lots of it, and then puke it up on your floors. There will be middle of the night trips outside for upset bowels. You will have a special section under your sink just for pet cleanup supplies. You will have puddles of water and slobber in your kitchen, where you will step in it and get a wet sock. You will have random slobber marks on your clothing from where they laid their heads on you. You will get up far earlier than you would like, every day of the week, every week of the year that your dog is in your life. Dogs don't know it's the weekend. They just know that their stomachs are empty and their bladders are full, and both need to be remedied immediately. If you are lucky you will master the art of falling back asleep after you have cared for your dog's needs. You can also add at least a half hour to your morning routine as you will no longer be the only one who needs attention each day before work. When you take a dog into your home you take on an expensive, time consuming and life long burden in which you are 100% responsible for the safety and well being of another creature for life, anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on the breed. It is a huge responsibiilty, nearly as much as having a human child You are the center of your dog's universe. And you chose that role. They had no choice. I know this because this is my life. I am a dog owner. My dogs are forever dogs. And I wouldn't want it any other way. The mess, the expense, the "inconvenience", the lack of sleep, the slobber on my pants, the hair nearly woven into my favorite sweater, the doggie nose art on my windows...I cannot imagine my life without my dogs. They are part of my soul. They are a part of who I am. Not everyone goes into dog ownership knowing the honest truth of what is involved. And that is the reason why so many dogs end up in shelters, or maltreated and tossed aside like a piece of trash. Not everyone understands the work, the monetary cost, the dedication that it takes to be a dog owner. Not everyone understands it is forever.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line: if you do not think you can handle the reality of dog ownership, do not do it. Period. Visit other people's dogs, volunteer at shelters, or find a way to have periodic contact with dogs, but do not get one unless you are fully prepared to be there for life. It is simply not fair to the dog. Dog ownership carries the same dedication as marriage vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live. The difference? If you want to separate from your dog, they cannot be self sufficient. They must find a new home, and those homes are not always easy to come by. If you want to separate from your dog, it is often a death sentence. A death sentence that you can avoid by really thinking through if your life is right for the tremendous and amazing responsbility of sharing your life with a dog.

The Reward

If you are ok with all of the negatives that I have listed, then you will love the positives. The sweet loving eyes, wagging tails, and warm greetings when you get home. The silly antics, playful spirit, the games of fetch and their uncomplicated friendship and companionship. The snuggles, the love in your heart when you catch them dreaming with paws twitching and tails wagging. The look that says to you, 365 days a year, that they love you, that you are their world, their human, and that they too cannot imagine their life without you in the same way that you cannot fathom a world without them. The long walks, the expeditions, the car rides, the you-and-me-against-the-world mind-meld. If you are ok with the negatives, then you are ready for the positives, because they sure do make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks.
Five Important Puppy Raising Tips
This post was originally published at jax 2 years oldRight now we are approaching the best years with Jackson. The two year mark is when Labradors start to really get control of their brains but are still young and the fun type of crazy…the nicely trained version of crazy. A few of my friends across the country have tiny new puppies in their home. Every time I see their photos I look at my big strong boy and for a few seconds I miss the days when he was just 15 pounds and I could pick him up. And then I wrap my arms around his strong 75 pound body for a hug and I am happy he’s a big boy now. Although we still have some training issues and things where Jackson is not quite perfectly trained I feel so blessed that we had so much help in knowing what, how and why to train him on several key areas. Between our breeder, our veterinarian’s in –house puppy socialization class and our amazing dog training school we have raised a fine young dog. So here are my tips to new puppy owners:
  1. Bite inhibition, bite inhibition, bite inhabitation.  When we bring puppies into our homes at the usual eight weeks old they explore everything with their mouths…including you. Although it can seem cute for a tiny little puppy to nibble on your hand you want to stop this behavior immediately. Puppies tell each other that a sibling has bit them too hard by yelping in pain and removing themselves from their puppy play session. This tells the biting puppy that they went too far. As their human you need to draw the line that any biting is too far. When your cute little sweetheart nips you in play or tries to knaw on your hand make a yelping sound as if you are in pain. Once those razor sharp puppy teeth get some jaw muscles behind them is quite easy to make a sincere yelp of pain! Quickly get up and remove yourself from their play session immediately after yelping.  Eventually they learn that biting humans is not acceptable.
  2. Teach your children how to play with the dog. This was a huge lesson for us and something I did not expect. Every time we looked it seemed as if one of the kids was playing with Jackson with their hands or playing chase with him. Neither is ok! We had to quickly teach the human children that they were encouraging him to bite and that we did not want him to grow up running after people, biting them and jumping on them. We explained time and time again when we corrected their behavior that he was growing to be a large dog, and a jet black one at that. We explained the Black Dog Syndrome in which people tend to fear black dogs. We explained that if he playfully bit a friend of theirs or knocked them down we could have an issue with the parents that could possibly put our beloved Jackson in jeopardy. We taught them that they could pet him, play fetch with him and play tug with his toys, but no waving their hands in front of his face, no wrestling or roughhousing and no games of chase. We let them practice his commands like sit and down, and we involved them with the recall game in which he learned to come to us on command.
  3. Socialize like a starlet. Our veterinarian gave us a list of fifty things that a puppy should experience before a certain age and that we should avoid consoling him when faced with something new and potentially scary. A soothing “oh, puppy, it’s ok” and a hug from Momma would only confirm in his brain that the scary thing was indeed scary and that his reaction was appropriate. Instead we were taught to act like it was the most fun and exciting thing in the world, clapping in joy and exclaiming “good boy, good boy” in our happiest puppy party voices whenever we saw something on the list or something new in his world. I can tell you that I looked like an absolute idiot for a good six months, but today at almost two years old our dog is beautifully socialized, not at all fearful and doesn’t flinch when things like the lawnmower or the motorcycle start or he hears a loud noise. We took the list and found or recreated many of the new experiences.  I stood with the puppy on the leash while my husband started the Harley near  him. I clapped and happily exclaimed  “good boy, yaye, Jax, yaye good boy”. We had our kids and all of their friends ride their skateboards and bikes in front of the puppy. We found an old baby stroller and rolled that around in front of him. We waited for the garbage truck, the UPS man, the garage door. All while jumping up and down exclaiming that he was a good boy and that this was fun and exciting.
  4. Don’t home school. Enroll in at least a basic obedience class. We have done several different levels of training and are about to resume classes to really fine tune his obedience skills. A basic obedience class is not just to make your dog a more pleasant member of human society, but  most of the commands can save a dog’s life in some situations. Sit/stay is essential at the front door. You cannot spend your entire life body blocking your dog to keep them from running out the door. A lost dog can happen in the blink of an eye. You can open the door to deal with the pizza delivery and your dog can bolt from the house and get lost or hit by a car. The off/leave it command is important if you drop something that is toxic to them like a medication or a candy bar or if you drop a glass on the floor. Down will make your life easier at the veterinarian’s office every time you need to weigh them. The best item we learned at obedience school was reliable recall, a word that means that he is to run directly to us as fast as he can and that he will be showered with the most amazing array of treats and toys that a dog has ever seen. I train it periodically now and used it for real when he was nose deep in a yard exploration project and the tornado sirens went off.
  5. Be patient as they explore our world. Our dogs did not ask to live in a human world. They were born, plucked from their mothers at just eight weeks old and brought into a strange house where they know nobody. Be patient. They are not furry humans. I know a lot of people think that I view my dogs the same as humans. The fact of the matter is that I LOVE them like humans but I know that they are dogs. So while they deserve the same excellent treatment that any of my family receives I have to respect that they are dogs for their own benefit. They do not have hands to explore; they must use their mouths. They cannot magically know that a stuffed dog toy and a child’s teddy bear are not the same. They do not know that peeing inside is ok. They do not know that the balls on the Christmas tree are different from their tennis balls. We must teach them, be kind to them, be patient with them, love them, protect them, teach them and communicate with them in a way that they understand.