Kennel Blog

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Bad Ingredients in Dog Foods

Many dog foods on the market today have ingredients that are not only unhealthy, some of them can cause your dog minor to serious health problems.

To keep this short and simple, when you get ready to buy dog food take a look at the ingredients and compare to this list. 

These are the ingredients you DON’T want to see in your dog food.

If they contain the ingredients shown below, pass on that food and look for one of better quality.

By Products, such as animal by products, meat by products, or any other kind.

– by products are the internal remains of any kind of animal and can include diseased tissue, organs and tumors

Rendered Animal Fat, Animal Meal, Meat and Bone Meal

– contain toxins and you have no idea what animals the fats are from, can be rodents, dead animals, etc.

Food Dyes, Artificial Colors/Flavors

– allergic reactions, behavior problems, cancer

BHT/BHA

– preservatives than can cause kidney damage and cancer

Ethoxiquin

– preservative, this is a herbicide, can cause kidney and liver damage, cancer, immune deficiency, blindness and leukemia

Corn

– high in carbohydrates, allergenic, difficult for dogs to digest, can be moldy and result in illness or worse  

Corn Syrup

– high sugar content causes weight gain, diabetes, hyperactivity, mental problems

Grains / Gluten

– can cause digestive problems, poor hair coat, itching, skin allergies

Soybeans and Beet Pulp

– can irritate the intestinal tract

Propylene Glycol

  • this is a cousin of ethylene glycol found in anti-freeze, can cause cancerous lesions and intestinal blockage, in larger quantity is fatal to dogs

Also Not Good:

Semi Moist Pouch Food – contains Propylene Glycol, see above

Avoid Grocery Store Brand Dry or Canned Food. Look at the ingredients and you will see why.

Some Good Things to Look For:

Meat – specifically named, like, beef, chicken, turkey, fish as the first ingredient listed

Meal – specifically named, like, beef, chicken, turkey, fish

Natural  preservatives like vitamin C or E or No Preservatives

Grain Free

Human Grade Ingredients – this is hard to find and expensive, but top quality

Made in USA – do not buy any pet foods, snacks or chew treats made in China

Note:

– The ingredients are listed by weight so ingredients shown at the top of the list contain more of that ingredient, far down on the list don’t contain very much of that item.

  • Dogs should not eat the same food all their life. Alternate different varieties of the same brand and also switch brands periodically. This will ensure you get a balance of different ingredients and your dog will appreciate the different smell and taste.
  • Feeding the exact same food for years may also cause food allergies to develop or contribute to other diseases.  
  • When you switch to a new food, do it gradually over a period of 5-7 days.

Here is a partial list of some good, quality dry foods in alphabetical order:

  • Acana
  • Carna4 Synthetic Free
  • Natures Logic (Duck and Salmon or rabbit) 
  • Origen
  • Pinnacle
  • Weruva Caloric Harmony
  • Wysong Starch Free

A high quality canned food is better than most dry kibble. Best quality, though expensive, is a raw diet.


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Confessions of a Fat Dog

I used to be a fat dog. 

There, I said it, I was fat.

My owners didn’t seem to care or notice and since I love to eat, who was I to try and tell them?

I would look at them with my big eyes whenever food was around. I would beg like I hadn’t eaten for days and they always fell for that trick.

Table leftovers, yep, all mine.

Treats, yep, whenever I asked.

I would act like I was always hungry so they gave me plenty of food too. Humans are so easy to trick!

Yes, it kept getting harder to stand up and I was glad they didn’t walk me very much or try to make me run.

But then, one day I just wasn’t feeling right. And then it became painful just to walk around.

But I’m a dog who loves to eat so how am I supposed to make the connection?

So my owners finally took me to see a dog doctor, ugh.

Mr. Dog Doctor checked me all over and even took some blood. Hey, when is he going to give me my blood back?

He said I was too heavy for my size, a nice way of calling me fat.

He told my people being overweight can cause a lot of health and skin problems, heart disease and arthritis.

He said something about a possible thyroid issue and something about too much weight weakening my hips.

Then he said some stuff about getting diabetes because I was overweight.

He said if I became diabetic I would need to get a shot of something called insulin every day, twice a day.

Eeeew, not that. I hate shots.

Then he said that by being overweight it would even shorten my lifespan and this got their attention. Mine too!

My owners asked Mr Dog Doctor, what should we do?

He said only feed the amount required for the ideal weight of your dog. 

If you like to give him treats then you need to reduce the amount of food you give him.

If you are going to feed table scraps just make sure they are healthy. No fats, no cooked bones. Remember to reduce the amount of dog food if you are going to give table scraps.

He said be sure to feed a good quality food, that even though the food might be more expensive, you will more than save that in vet bills later on. Look for food that doesn’t have too many fillers or artificial flavors and colors and is low in sugar and salt. Try the weight management formula also. He said you wouldn’t feed your kids candy bars for all their meals, right? So get a good, quality food.

He said some of his patients just keep some of the regular kibble in a cup or something like that and just use that for treats. 

He also said cut back on the amount of kibble and add something like canned green beans, those one’s with no salt, and they would help me feel full without adding calories.

Then he talked about exercise. He said I must get exercise, every day.

Good grief, eat less and exercise more. I don’t think I like this dog doctor.

So my owners took me home and I heard them talking when they thought I wasn’t listening.

They were doing something called making a plan. I have a plan, sleep and eat, how’s that?

Next time they fed me did they think I wouldn’t notice it was less food? Well, the green beans actually weren’t so bad.

After eating they put a leash on me and made me walk. Later, they threw a ball and made me chase it.

They kept this up for days, or maybe weeks, its hard to keep track of time if you’re a dog.

Then, I really started to feel better. It became easier to stand up, felt good when I ran around, and I didn’t hear any more talk about that diabetes stuff.

My owners seemed to be happy when they put me on a scale and noticed I was actually losing weight.

I feel so much better. I’m kind of glad they care enough about me to watch my weight.

Now when I’m out and I see a fat dog I feel bad for him. I feel bad that his owners don’t love him enough to make sure he stays a healthy weight. I guess they think they show their love by giving their dog all they want to eat.

That’s what I used to think too, but I see now that humans are actually pretty smart, smarter than us dogs. And since they are the one’s taking care of us it’s their responsibility to make sure we stay healthy. 

A few months later they took me back to visit the dog doctor. He was really impressed with all of us and said my weight was just what it should be.

He even gave me a cookie!

I like this dog doctor.

I wish I could thank them for taking me to the vet and listening to his advice and helping me lose that weight.

I will thank them the only way I know how. I will just love them and be their loyal dog.

Thanks guys, for helping me be healthy.


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Three Critical Problems With The Kennel Cough Vaccine (and what you need to do about them)

I’m willing to bet that …

When your dog’s daycare, training facility or kennel asks for a kennel cough vaccine, you vaccinate your dog … am I right?

And why wouldn’t you? You want to protect your dog (and other dogs) from illness and you trust your vet or daycare provider to have your dog’s best interests at heart, like any caring dog lover would.

But I’m here to tell you some things that will make you question whether the kennel cough vaccines your dog has been getting are actually in his best interests… or all just a lie.

What You Should Know About The Kennel Cough Vaccine

Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is a vaccine that’s been required by groomers, boarding kennels, training facilities and veterinary hospitals for years. It’s become a routine requirement for any dog that spends time with other dogs (which is nearly all dogs).

The fact that a vaccine exists is surprising in itself. Kennel cough is almost always a self limiting disease that’s about as dangerous to your dog as the common cold is to you. So it’s not really much of a problem for your dog … but it can be a problem for any facility that has a case of kennel cough go through it.

Or at least they think it is. I’ll get to that part in a bit.

When kennel cough hits a daycare or boarding kennel and a lot of dogs are affected, they have to shut down for a few days so other dogs coming to the facility don’t catch it. When our children get colds, we keep them at home and give them some chicken soup – that’s just common sense. But if our dogs catch a cold, we’ve been led to think that they’re carrying a dangerous and highly contagious disease.

So we vaccinate our dogs so they don’t catch kennel cough. But there are three pretty significant problems with this thinking:

Problem 1: the vaccine doesn’t work all that well

Just like we’ll probably never find a cure for the common cold, we haven’t found a cure for the dog’s common cold.  Here’s the reason why the common intranasal kennel cough vaccine isn’t a terribly good idea:

There are at least forty agents that cause bordetella …

But only a couple of these agents are contained in the vaccine.

This makes the bordetella vaccine a complete shot in the dark. In fact, the odds of the vaccine working are so long, that noted veterinary immunologist Dr Ronald Schultz concludes …

“Kennel Cough is not a vaccinatable disease.”

Hardly a ringing endorsement from the most qualified veterinary immunologist in the world. But despite this, vets still vaccinate a staggering number of dogs for this simple problem every day.

Maybe they do this because they figure that there’s a small chance the vaccine will indeed work – and the vaccine is just an intranasal spray, so it’s pretty safe, right?

Well, that leads us to the next problem …

Problem 2: the vaccine is not safe

Most vaccines these days are something called modified live vaccines. It’s been shown that the “modified” viruses in human vaccines embed themselves in the genes of the host and can shuffle around and reactivate thirty or more years after vaccination.

Here’s an example …

Chicken pox is another common and self limiting disease that we now regularly vaccinate children for. Because of mass vaccination, children and adults no longer receive the natural boost to their immune system they would normally receive from benign childhood diseases like chicken pox. So the result of mass vaccination for chicken pox is a much higher incidence of its evil cousin, shingles, which carries more serious complications than chicken pox.

So when your dog gets the injectable form of the kennel cough vaccine, this happens (and they also get some other stuff injected with the vaccine like MSG, aluminum, formaldehyde and foreign animal proteins). Although the intranasal vaccine has fewer of those dangerous ingredients than the injectable one, there are still dangers with it. According to Patricia Jordan DVM, bacterial vaccines like bordetella are also capable of  lurking in the genetic makeup, waiting to replicate and awaken as a disease that could be a hundred times as dangerous as kennel cough.

Vaccination of any sort also elevates histamine, which we all know can promote cancer and chronic inflammation.

But aside from the dangers of the vaccine, here’s another interesting fact …

Problem 3: somebody did some bad math

Here’s a little known fact: vaccinated dogs shed the disease they were vaccinated against into the environment.

Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough will shed that disease for up to 7 weeks and parainfluenza for a week (I should probably mention that a lot of the bordetella vaccines also include influenza).

Think about that for a minute …

If the point of bordetella vaccination is to reduce the risk of dogs getting kennel cough, then isn’t it backwards thinking to have your dog walking around, spreading bordetella to all the other dogs he comes in contact with?

Let’s look at two different scenarios.

Scenario 1: Let’s say a daycare has 50 dogs attending daily. They don’t require the kennel cough vaccine but one day a dog walks in with kennel cough. So they’ve got one dog walking around, spreading kennel cough to other dogs. But that one dog is pretty easy to identify – he’s sneezing, he’s hacking and the smart daycare provider will kindly isolate him for the day and ask his owners to keep him home for a few more days.

How many other dogs in the daycare would catch his kennel cough? Probably a few.

So it makes sense to vaccinate so this doesn’t happen, right?

Well, not exactly. Here’s how that scenario would play out.

Scenario 2: The same daycare has 50 dogs attending daily but the difference is they require their dogs to have the kennel cough vaccine. If this vaccine is given yearly (and it’s often given twice a year), that means that 50 times a year – virtually every week – there will be a vaccinated dog in daycare shedding kennel cough … for 7 weeks at a stretch.

So instead of the occasional dog coming in and spreading kennel cough, you’ve now got dogs walking around every single day, shedding kennel cough AND influenza.

And here’s the worst part … now the daycare providers can’t identify the dog who might be spreading kennel cough. The vaccinated dogs spreading kennel cough (and don’t forget influenza) won’t show any symptoms of kennel cough so they’re free to interact with all the dogs in daycare and spread bordetella all over the joint.

And now we’ve got a real hot mess on our hands because the vaccine has a really crappy track record when it comes to actually protecting dogs.

Does kennel cough vaccination still sound like a good idea to you?

If so, then maybe a recap is in order …

We’re led to believe kennel cough is a dangerous disease, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s just a common cold.

We know the vaccines aren’t really effective and the world’s leading vaccine researcher says that kennel cough isn’t even a vaccinatable disease.

We ignore this and vaccinate for it anyway for some reason … and what we do know with 100% certainty is that vaccines contain dangerous ingredients and can also cause a serious anaphylactoid reaction. Look up anaphylactoid … I guarantee you won’t like it.

And here’s some irony for you that I didn’t mention …

The kennel cough vaccine can cause, well, kennel cough!

According to WSAVA, “Transient (3–10 days) coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge may occur in a small percentage of vaccinates.”

True, that only happens in a small number of vaccinated dogs. But we already know that only a small number of dogs respond to the vaccine anyway, so what’s the point?

And finally, here’s the really crazy part. Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough shed the virus, meaning they will infect other dogs for weeks after vaccination.

Isn’t that why everybody tells us our dogs need the vaccine inn the first place? So they don’t spread kennel cough around?

So the next time your vet, daycare, boarding or training facility demands that your dog is vaccinated for kennel cough before taking your dog there, are you going to do it?

I didn’t think so … you’re too smart and kind to animals to take part in that kind of insanity.

So here are your options.

Intelligent alternatives

First, tell the facility that instead of vaccination, you’ll sign a waiver stating that you’re 100% responsible if your dog happens to catch kennel cough while at their facility.

If they don’t allow this, then you could say something smart like “well, if the vaccine actually works and all the other dogs are vaccinated, then why would my unvaccinated dog be a problem for you?”

But you’re probably too nice to say that.

So your next option is my personal favorite …

Support the fine people who don’t make you do something that could harm your dog. There are lots of great facilities who don’t require the kennel cough vaccine. Do your legwork and find them – and most of all reward them for taking extra special care with your dog by giving them your business!

If you can’t find anybody in your area who understands that kennel cough vaccination is a bad idea, then look for a dog trainer, groomer, sitter or walking to come to your home instead.

And be sure to share this information with your doggie friends …

When more dog owners demand better from the people we’re hiring to care for our dogs, then we’ll force them to change their dangerous and ultimately stupid policies on kennel cough.

Don’t make excuses for this one, make the decision to put your dog’s health first right now and not after your dog suffers an adverse reaction from the kennel cough vaccine. And now for my cheesy ending:

Kennel cough vaccination is nothing to sneeze at.

About Dana Scott

Dana Scott is Editor In Chief for Dogs Naturally Magazine. She also breeds Labrador Retrievers under the Fallriver prefix and has been a raw feeding, natural rearing breeder since the 90’s. She is an advocate for natural health care for dogs and people and works tirelessly to educate pet owners so they can influence veterinary medicine and change current vaccine, food and preventive health practices.


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Training and Behavior Tips

Keep in mind these are short descriptions of techniques. For more detail do further research, consult a trainer, or ask us any questions you might have. Below are some of the most common issues we see. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to correcting some behavior issues. It can be important to know the dogs behavioral issues and its history before creating a rehabilitation plan, but these tips can be helpful.

Putting on the collar/leash –

Many dogs get all excited, jump around and generally make it difficult to put on their collar and leash.

They do this because they have been conditioned to do this. People act excited, they talk in a high-pitched, excited voice, and transfer the excitement to the dog.

To change the dogs behavior, when you get the leash/collar, be quiet, be calm and wait for the dog to be calm before you try to put it on. If they show excitement, stop and wait until they are calm. At first you will need to be very patient, quiet and calm. After a number of attempts over a few days the dog will learn that to go for a walk or get the collar/leash put on, they need to remain calm.

Going outside –

Never allow your dog to go out or in a door before you. An open door does not mean it’s ok to go through. Train your dog to “sit” and “wait” at a door whether it’s closed or open until you say “ok” to allow him to go in or out. Your dog should always follow you through a door, not lead you.

Walking on a leash –

Walking your dog on a leash is one of the best things you can do to establish that you are his leader. Some dogs pull and are difficult to manage while walking on a leash. They do this because they have been allowed to.

When you walk your dog, be calm, yet be assertive about what is acceptable. When they pull, stop, be still and wait for them to calm down, then start walking again.

Another tactic that can work is when they start to pull, turn around and go the other way, repeatedly turning around when they pull. This helps teach them to follow, not lead. Or try walking in a square, so they don’t know which direction you are going to go.

And yet another technique is to carry some of your dogs favorite treats with you and let them know you have them. As you start to walk give the dog a treat. Many dogs will stay right next to you, even looking at you as you walk, waiting for a treat.

Remember, only treat the behavior you want.

Also, keep the leash short until they learn. Only give them about 1-2 feet of leash so they can’t pull ahead of you. When they try to pull, pull up on the leash, not back, otherwise keep the leash slack, but short.

A hands-free leash can be a big help for training a dog to walk correctly on a leash. This type of leash comes with a belt that a leash clips on to. This will eliminate the jerking of your arm or shoulder when a dog pulls. You can attach the leash to your dog and let him/her follow you around all day, even in the house, for a week. This will train your dog to stay by your side when on a leash.

 

Do not pull backwards on the leash. Pulling straight up on the leash will cause the dog to stop. A short jerk of the leash sideways will redirect your dogs attention away from distractions like other dogs, barking or pulling.Do not choke the dog, just a slight pull to get his attention and provide direction.

Remember the leash should not be tight from your hand down to the dogs neck. The leash should be slack and there should not be any tension on the leash when walking.

Finally, whoever is out in front on the walk is the leader! You should always keep your dog at your side.

Over-excitement when they see you after being away –

If you experience a lot of barking, yelping, jumping and even urinating when you first arrive after being absent from your dog here’s some techniques to help.

When you first arrive, do not look at, talk to or touch your dog. (No look, no touch, no talk). Wait for them to calm down before you give them any attention. Remember, whatever you give attention to is a reward for that behavior.

The best time to give attention and affection is when your dog is calm and relaxed. This rewards them for being in a relaxed state instead of rewarding them for being in an excited state.

How you feel is how your dog feels –

It is important to remember that however you feel, your dog senses that. If you are excited, the dog will be excited. If you are nervous, anxious or sad, your dog will pick up on that and act the same. When going to a vet or boarding kennel, you should be calm and happy. This will help your dog to view this as a pleasant experience and remove negative emotions.

Nearly all behavior issues are the result of the humans behavior, not the dog. It’s sometimes hard for humans to accept, but if your dog behaves in ways you don’t like, it’s because you allowed it and even encourage it. If you have a shy dog or aggressive dog, remember not to reward that behavior. If your dog gets scared, or shows aggression, never hold him close, pet him, and say things like “it’s ok, good dog, etc” because that is rewarding that behavior.

Aggressive dogs –

If you have a dog that is aggressive to other dogs or to people it’s because of how you raised him or experiences he had before you got him. Dogs must be socialized to other dogs and humans. Never introduce your dog to another dog or person unless both dogs are on a leash. You must allow another dog to sniff the rear of your dog. If your dog is aggressive to other dogs then you need to hold him still to allow another dog to sniff his rear. This is what dogs do.

If your dog is aggressive to people it’s often because he feels like he must protect you or something has caused him to fear people. This happens when a dog doesn’t perceive you as the leader so they take over the leadership role. He should never be rewarded for this type of behavior.

Tip – A dogs ears should be back when they are in a calm or submissive state. If you see your dogs ears point forward and or lick his lips this is the first sign he may be about to become aggressive. Watch him closely, if you see him point the ears forward immediately correct him and leave the situation before he becomes aggressive.

If your dog growls, do not correct him and make him stop. Dogs growl as a warning to say: “if you keep doing what you’re doing I’m going to bite you”. If you try to stop your dog from growling, they may stop doing it and instead just lash out with a bite without warning. If your dog is growling you need to calmly remove them from the situation causing them to growl.

Many cases of dog aggression can be fixed but extreme cases may require the help of a professional.

If your dog knows you are the leader of his pack, he will be much better behaved –

Having a well-behaved dog can make the relationship even more special and enjoyable than it already is. There are numerous issues pets and their owners sometimes have and this isn’t an attempt to address them all or provide a lot of detail. Just keep in mind if you want calmness, you need to be calm and ignore your dog until he becomes calm. Silence is a very effective technique for working with your dog. They really do not understand most of the things you say but they will respond to the way you say something. One word commands are just about all you need for communicating verbally with your dog.

All dogs should have rules, boundaries and limitations, just as children do. You must be consistent and always be the leader. Never try to train or discipline your dog if you are angry or frustrated. A calm, patient approach will be more effective.

If you have any issues with your dog and would like some advice on correcting them, let us know as we would be happy to discuss in more detail some approaches that may help. There is never any charge for giving suggestions or advice, we are happy to be of service.


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Old Mother Hubbard Was Right – Give Your Dog a Bone

Dogs are carnivores. They have teeth and a digestive system designed to eat meat and bones, whether they are Chihuahuas or Great Danes. Your dog will greatly appreciate being given REAL, RAW bones. Just remember to never give your dog cooked bones. Raw bones and marrow are digestible, full of nutrition and help clean teeth. Cooked bones splinter and can cause injury to their mouth or digestive system. Cooked marrow and cooked fat cause diarrhea and can even cause pancreatitis.

Raw bones basically come in two forms, “consumable” and “recreational”. Consumable bones are the small, easily crushed and digested types of bones like those found in raw chicken backs or wings.

Recreational bones are those meant for hours or even days of happy chewing and gnawing which not only give the dog satisfaction but help clean their teeth.

All dogs, especially puppies, have a strong desire to chew bones. If bones aren’t provided, they will take out their chewing frustration on any available object, including your shoes, furniture, etc. Many people give rawhide, but the reality is that rawhide is completely incapable of being digested. If swallowed in large chunks, it can cause an intestinal blockage, resulting in emergency surgery or even death. Furthermore, many rawhide products not produced in the United States are processed with arsenic!!  We don’t believe rawhide, in any form, should ever be given to a dog.

The best consumable bones are found in chicken, but remember these should not be weight-bearing bones, like legs. Chicken backs or wings are great but backs are best as they are cheap and come with tiny bits of offal, like heart, liver and kidney, all of which are great sources of nutrition and vitamins.

Healthy dogs are not susceptible to salmonella poisoning the way that humans are. Their gut is much shorter than ours and they have a much stronger stomach acid. Again, this is for the sole purpose of digesting raw meat and bone. Chicken backs and wings are typically consumed in a matter of minutes but they will still clean teeth. Hand washing, as you would do with preparing your own food is all that is required to keep the humans safe from salmonella. You can also feed the raw chicken in their crate if you don’t want them eating it on your rugs, floors or furniture.

The best recreational bones are soup marrow bones. They can be beef, pork, lamb or whatever you can find in your local grocery store’s meat section. If you don’t see them, ask the meat manager, as they will usually cut them for you. These are not fully consumable but give a great deal of chewing satisfaction as they work to get out all that wonderful, nutritious marrow. Once the bone becomes brittle and they start to break off chunks of bone, it should be taken away and discarded. It is still cheaper, safer and more nutritious than rawhide. We buy these bones in quantity and in order to make them last even longer, we freeze them. When it comes time for a bone for our furry friends, we take them from the freezer and pass them out, no thawing required.

If you watch nature channels on TV you will see lions and tigers and bears, etc eating raw meat and bone. If you visit the zoo, you will see the same as they are careful to feed in a species appropriate manner. We should follow suit for our beloved pets.

Even old Mother Hubbard knew this, so take her advice and give your dog a bone.


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Which Breed of Dog Should I Get?

This is a very good question that people with little or no experience with dogs should but often do not ask.
If you have decided to get a dog there are some important questions you should ask yourself and issues to think about to make sure you get a breed that’s right for you.

First take look at your living environment.
Do you have a big house, small house or apartment?
Do you live in the city, a suburban area or rural area?
Do you live by a lake or the ocean or near a forest or mountainous area?
Is it a hot climate, cold, or one that has all four seasons?

Do you have a small yard, big yard, acres of land or no yard at all?
Is your yard fenced? If you don’t have a fenced yard you need to be prepared to walk your dog multiple times every day.

Different breeds are a better fit for different environments. For example, you don’t want to get an active medium or large breed dog that loves to run and needs lot’s of exercise if you live in an apartment. Breeds that were meant for cold climates don’t do well in the heat, unless you want to spend the money to have them clippered down. Dogs with strong prey drives, like terriers and hunting dogs, will run off after squirrels, rabbits and other prey. If not fenced in, they are at risk of getting lost or hit by a car.

Next, consider your living situation.
Do you have a small baby or will you be planning to start a family?
Do you have small children or teenagers?
Are you a single person or a couple living alone?
Do you travel often? What will you do with your dog?
Do you have guests over frequently? Do you want a giant breed greeting and interacting with them?
Many breeds are wonderful with either a single person or a family with children, however, some, like Golden Retrievers are much more tolerant of young children than some breeds. Toy breeds can be fragile and some breeders prefer they not go to a home with any children under the age of 8.

What type of personality do you have?
Really, you ask? What’s my personality got to do with the breed of dog I get?
Well, just as people have different personalities, so do dogs.
People and dogs can be outgoing, quiet, assertive, shy, aggressive, talkative, thoughtful, inquisitive, energetic, calm, etc. Some dogs are more of a barker than others, some howl.
If a person is more of a shy or calm type of person they may not appreciate or want to deal with the high energy of a terrier and vice versa. An active person who likes to hike or roller blade would fit well with a high energy dog that can keep up if they want their dog to enjoy these types of activities also. A couch potato type person would fit best with a couch potato type of dog, or a dog with a calm energy like a golden retriever or a small dog in the toy breed group.

Another thing to consider is the care required for the breed of dog you get.
Do you want a dog that needs regular professional grooming, a long-haired breed that will require frequent combing and may leave a lot of hair around, a short-haired breed or one that doesn’t shed much at all.

Are you looking for a big dog to provide protection? Be careful with this idea. Any dog will alert you to strangers but if you want a bigger breed as a protector you should be an experienced dog owner. These breeds are not for beginner dog owners or those with a “soft” personality. A barking dog will scare away most intruders no matter what breed it is, however, there are breeds, like Airedale Terriers, that are great family pets and excellent protectors.
If an intruder is not afraid of a barking dog they likely will have planned for a way to work around that. They may bring meat with them to occupy the dog or even may kill the dog. If you want protection get an alarm system for your house or buy and learn how to use a gun. Getting a dog for protection only isn’t a good idea.

Now lets look at the breeds as a group to help narrow down the field.

Toy breeds – These dogs are very small and more fragile than bigger breeds though they can be full of energy. Just because they are small does not mean they are wimpy, they will stand their ground and it’s not unusual to see a toy breed back down a larger breed. They shed little and are good apartment dogs.

Sporting group – These dogs enjoy the woods and the water and usually have well-rounded personalities but they do need exercise and enjoy a good hearty workout.

Non-Sporting – This is a diverse group of dogs and are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.

Herding dogs – These dogs are herders and they are remarkable at how the can control the movement of other animals. These are intelligent dogs, easy to train and make good companions. They have a very strong need to herd, however, so unless they have a “job”, they can become frustrated and take out this frustration on you, your children or your household belongings. It is not uncommon for people to complain that their herding dog is “biting” their children, when, in fact, they are nipping and “herding” them. If you choose a herding breed, be prepared to give them plenty of exercise and something to keep that herding instinct busy in a productive manner.

Hound group – Most of the dogs in the group have been or are used for hunting. Some are these dogs have amazing scent abilities while others have a large amount of stamina. Some of these dogs bay, or howl. If you haven’t heard this sound make sure you get familiar with it before you get one of these dogs.

Working dogs – These are large breed dogs, strong and powerful. These aren’t a good breed for a new dog owner. They are smart dogs but need an owner who has experience training and handling this type of dog.

Terrier group – You could also call this the Terror group (just kidding, sort of). These are feisty, energetic dogs and often have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. They can be quite assertive and do best with an equally assertive owner who can establish clear rules, boundaries and limitations.

Misc dogs – This is a group of relatively rare or new to AKC breeds. Research them further if you have an interest in one of these.

No article can tell you exactly which breed of dog is right for you but can assist you with making sure you ask the right questions and give you some resources to check out. There are hundreds of different dog breeds so you will need to do some additional research to determine the best breed for your situation. Your research of the different breeds will help you to get a better understanding of what might be a good fit for your environment. The purpose of this article is to help you formulate your questions and provide a little direction for finding the best breed for you.

The dog you get will live with you for the next 10-15 years so some careful thought should be given and research done to determine the best breed for you. Both you and your dog will appreciate that you put in some work now to identify the type of dog that will fit in well in your life.

This web site (http://www.akc.org/breeds/#) will allow you to view each dog by group and by breed. You can see on the left column links to view the dogs by breed and by group. There is a picture of each dog and by clicking on it you can get a good description of the different characteristics of that breed.

Where should I get my dog?

If you decide you want to get a pure breed dog then find the best breeder you can, one who does health certifications, belongs to their National Breed Club and sells their dogs with a written contract and health guarantee. Ironically, a well-bred purebred dog is often less expensive than those sold in stores. Never, ever buy a dog from a pet store! All those puppies come from puppy mills. If you aren’t familiar with “puppy mills” just Google the term and read about the horrible conditions in which these dogs live. No matter what they tell you, no ethical breeder would ever sell pups to a store. In fact, it is cause for dismissal from the National Breed clubs. Likewise with the internet. Buyer beware! There are hundreds of websites with pictures of cute puppies next to flowers or with ribbons in their hair when the reality is that they were born in a horrible puppy mill type situation. Research your breeder and go to visit if at all possible. To find a quality breeder start by looking for the breeder club of the state you live in and you can use the link provided above for the AKC.
You may pay a little more but its worth it to get a dog that is properly bred, is healthy and has the correct temperament of that breed.

If you can’t afford or don’t care about having a quality purebred pup you will be just as well off adopting a dog from a local shelter.
There are many dogs available at rescue facilities that can be a good companion for you. National Breed Clubs also sponsor the rescue of their own breeds so they can point you in the direction of a purebred rescue. There are frequently purebred dogs at shelters, through no fault of their own, but the result of someone NOT doing their homework and buying the wrong breed for their lifestyle and then discover that breed just isn’t a good fit for them. Some of these dogs will be mixed breeds, so by reviewing the various breeds you will get a better understanding of what the dog may be mixed with to determine if it might be a good fit.

This will be a new member of your family and you should take the time to find just the right one. You will be rewarded with many years of loyalty and unconditional love.

A few words about training.

Be sure to start training your dog on day one and consistently reinforce the behavior you want and ignore or discourage the behavior you don’t want. Nearly all behavior problems are the result of poor or inconsistent training and not properly socializing your dog with other dogs and humans. Establishing clear rules, boundaries and limitations so your dog understands your expectations will create a happier and well-behaved pet.

It can be helpful to remember that even though we all love our dogs very much, they are not human. They don’t think like or rationalize like a human does. They are very eager to please and whatever behavior you praise, laugh at or give comfort to is a behavior that your dog will continue to do.
There are two very common mistakes people make with their dogs.
The first one is to comfort their dog when it is anxious, nervous or scared and this just reinforces that behavior.
The second thing is showing excitement when your dog is overly excited, such as when you first come home or see the dog after an absence. The excited human makes the dog even more excited and it is nearly impossible to control an excited dog. Remember, excited does not necessarily mean happy, an aggressive dog will also show a high level of excitement and it may not be at all happy at the time.
A doggie obedience class with your new friend can make a big difference and create a happier, well-adjusted dog.


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Your Dog Doesn’t Like Bathing/Grooming?

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Some dogs do not like to be bathed, brushed, combed, have their nails trimmed or grooming.
This almost always has to do with the way they were raised and how they were introduced to a bath, brush, comb, nail trimming or grooming.
An exception to this might be a dog with physical problems, where grooming causes some kind of physical discomfort.

The bad news is this can be a big problem.
A dog that can’t be brushed or groomed because they are so unruly, with barking, biting and overall struggling, is going to develop problems. You won’t be able to trim their nails easily so you will more often than not let it go. The nails will get too long and can even curl around and start growing back into the leg. They can cause the toes to splay, resulting in flat feet and back problems. Walking can become painful because the nails are so long and of course they will easily scratch you. This also increases the risk of a nail getting caught on something and ripping off which may need vet care.

If you can’t comb or brush your dog they will get mats in their hair. These mats also become irritating to the dog which would feel like continuously having your hair pulled. You also cannot bathe the dog because when they get wet it will tighten the mats and become painful for the dog which also makes it much more difficult for the mats to be removed. When this happens you will need to go to a groomer and get the dog de-matted and this can be time-consuming for a groomer and costly for the customer. In many cases the only thing a groomer can do is shave the dog entirely.

The good news is, you can train your dog to accept being groomed, combed or brushed and have its nails trimmed without struggling.
At the earliest age possible introduce your little friend to these items:
– Comb and brush
– Nail clippers or a dremmel
– A bottle of shampoo
– Electric clippers. If you don’t have professional clippers and don’t plan to use them to groom, you can use an electric shaver. Of course you won’t ever actually want to try and use an electric shaver on your dog. The purpose here is to just get your dog used to the feel and sound of the shaver so when they go to a groomer they will be used to it and the groomers clippers won’t bother them.

The purpose at this stage is to just get your dog used to them, not actually groom them.
Again, at the earliest age possible, take each foot and gently massage it. You want your dog to allow you to touch and hold his feet without a reaction.
Look in his ears and mouth also so he can get used to someone doing that.
If you have an older dog who is difficult follow the same procedures as if it were a puppy.

At first, just let them smell and get used to what these tools are, but do not ever let them bite these tools.
A dog’s strongest sense is smell. Hold the tools out for your dog to sniff them then place them against the dog so he can feel them.
Turn on the clippers or razor and just let them feel the vibration of it and get used to the sound.
Continue doing this exercise until your dog accepts the tools and products as nothing special and is not bothered by the sound of the clippers or the feel of the vibration.
Also continue touching/holding each foot to keep him used to having them touched and held.

Next, you will start to use the tools on your puppy but before you do take him for a nice long walk. A tired dog will be more relaxed and easier to work on.

Now, just start with the basics. Get a brush or comb while he is sitting or lying down and just sit with him, gently pet him. This isn’t playtime, its time to be relaxed, so do not show any excitement. When he is calm, slowly brush or comb him. If he starts to bite at the brush or struggle, stop, wait a few moments and try again. If it is a difficult dog don’t try to comb him from head to tail. Instead just pick a smooth part of the body and brush there. As long as your dog is ok with what you are doing keep going. You should try to do it everyday in the beginning and you may need to do this for a few days or a week depending on how often you do it. Reward him when he is good.

You can also just let your grooming tools/products stay near him if he is just laying quietly somewhere so he learns that seeing them doesn’t mean anything is going to happen but never allow him to play with or chew on them.

Gradually increase the amount of time you spend combing him but always do it gently and slowly. Try trimming a toenail and if that goes well do another.
A note about nail trimming. We prefer to use a dremmel, the kind you can get at Home Depot. This allows you to get the nails shorter and you can round them off so they are nice and smooth.

Do not yell at him if he doesn’t get it right away. You need to be calm. When you do an exercise always end on a positive note and be sure you don’t stop this exercise when he is acting up or struggling or you will reinforce in him that acting up gets you to stop.

If you do these things often and calmly you CAN get him to enjoy being groomed and the professional groomers will really appreciate this and have a much easier time. If he is running away put a leash on him before you get any grooming tools to practice these exercises.

How is he when you bathe him?
If that’s a problem follow the same kind of steps and remember don’t yell at him.
Some dogs like to bite at water from a hose which makes it very difficult to give them a bath.
To stop this behavior first introduce your dog to a hose with the water off.
Note: it will probably be mush easier to do this training with your dog on a leash.
Move the hose around, hold it against him and just let him get used to it. Don’t let him get excited or bite at it.
Next, turn the water on and let it run out of the hose with the hose on the ground. Don’t let him play with it or go after the water. When he is to a point where he ignores this, pick up the hose and spray water. If he shows excitement and bites at it stop and correct him. You don’t need to strike or hit your dog, just a firm “no” (that means firm, not loud).
Continue this exercise until your dog is no longer interested in biting the water or water coming out of the hose.
When you get to the point where your dog will ignore water from a hose, while he is on a leash go (for better control) go ahead and spray him with it. He should stand calmly while you do this. Correct him if he bites at the water. If he doesn’t you are moving too fast so go back to the previous exercises until he is more relaxed with water coming out of the hose.

If your dog is afraid of the water from a hose or Fawcett, introduce it to him slowly and gently for short periods of time. Gradually increase the time as he gets used to it and remains calm.

When your dog is good or when you finish an exercise, reward him with a treat.

Don’t forget to exercise him before you start, he will be more relaxed. A walk is better than running around as a high energy session will get his adrenaline going.

This will work but you need to do it often and be calm and consistent.

A long-haired dog will likely need combing once a day. Mats and tangled hair can form very quickly on long-haired breeds so be thorough and comb everywhere including the chest and underarms, the tail and around the butt.

With a long-haired breed you should use a comb, not a brush. The soft bristles of a brush won’t get down to the skin to separate the hair and will just smooth the top. The teeth of a comb will reach down to the skin and when you comb it will pull out the loose hair in the undercoat as well as separate the hair to prevent tangles and mats. Combing often will also alert you to any bugs like fleas or ticks, will help you to quickly identify any skin conditions before they get bad, and keep your dog cleaner.

A well-groomed dog will feel better, look better and keep your house cleaner.
Most all dogs will come to enjoy this time you spend together and it can be a relaxing experience that your dog will enjoy and further strengthen the bond between you. It will also be one more thing that will help to reinforce that you are the leader.


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Canine Nutrition

Our parents and grandparents and their parents and grandparents before them fed their dogs what was left from the table or from cooking around the fire. There were no commercial dog foods. Think back. There was also not the rampant chronic disease that is all too common today in our beloved companions, in the form of allergies, diabetes, hypothyroidism and a host of other disorders. The spike in long-term chronic disease in our cats and dogs can be traced back to the advent of commercial, processed food and the push for a myriad of annual vaccines. This article looks at these issues from the nutrition standpoint.

Dogs are carnivores. They can become what is called an “obligate omnivore”, meaning if they can’t get the meat they are supposed to have, they will eat whatever is available to survive. That doesn’t mean it is what they SHOULD eat, simply that they will if they have no other choice. It bears repeating. Dogs are carnivores. Whether it be a chihuahua or a Great Dane, the dentition and digestive system of domestic dogs is still identical to that of the wolf. Their teeth are designed for chewing raw meat and crushing raw bone. Their stomach acid is much, much stronger than ours and their intestines much, much shorter, all designed for the processing of raw meat and bone.

For optimum health, you need optimum nutrition. Your dog can survive on highly processed food, much the same as we could survive on Pop Tarts and candy but common sense tells us that is not a healthy way to eat. Our pets are at the mercy of what we feed them. Like us, fresh, real food is far more healthy than processed food, artificial flavorings, preservatives, salt, sugar, etc. Like the old dog food commercials used to say “Meat costs more than cereal”, though ironically, the makers of that food were filling it full of grains and meat by-products not fit for consumption.

Years ago, I started asking myself why we were seeing so many long-term chronic health problems in dogs, both purebred and mutt. I was breeding the best purebred dogs I could, doing health clearances on any used in my breeding program and studying canine genetics. Still, when I pulled that food out of a bag, my gut told me something was wrong with this picture. I knew several show breeders that had gone to raw feeding. Raw chicken with bones flies in the face of what we have been taught. Remember though, that vets are often taught everything they know about nutrition by a representative from Purina or Hill’s, the makers of Science Diet. Of course those companies do not want us to consider anything that doesn’t come in one of their bags! So I began to research raw feeding. The more I studied, the more convinced I became as to the value of real, fresh, raw food. Do NOT let anyone (including your vet) tell you that raw chicken with bones will kill your dog. While they may have horror stories of dogs getting pancreatitis or perforated intestines from chicken bones, invariably, those were cooked. COOKED bones splinter, raw bones do not. Cooked skin and fat can cause pancreatitis, raw skin and fat is full of those wonderful omega fatty acids that give healthy skin and coat. If raw meat and bones would kill a dog, why aren’t all the wolves dead? When you go to the zoo, you do not see them whipping out a bag of Lion Chow. They are fed species appropriate food, which in the case of almost all predators, is raw meat and bone.

Another scare tactic is salmonella. Humans are susceptible to salmonella “poisoning” because we have a lower pH stomach acid and a much, much longer intestinal tract, designed for processing fruits and vegetables. Most of the salmonella is either killed by their stomach acid or eliminated by their short gut before it can multiply and cause sickness. Dogs are not susceptible to salmonella unless they are already ill or in a weakened immune state, which in most cases, ironically, is brought on by poor nutrition in the first place.

Armed with my new information, I decided to take the plunge and start feeding raw chicken with bones to my show dogs. First, you should not feed weight-bearing bones as these can sometimes splinter, so I do not recommend legs. Best is chicken backs, which are smaller, easily crushed bones, and also include bits of offal, heart, kidney, liver, etc and they are generally inexpensive. I pay .69/lb for them which is typically less than the price of cheap, processed commercial food. When I began feeding raw chicken, several things became rapidly apparent. Dogs who’s teeth were caked with plaque and due for a teeth cleaning, within weeks of eating raw chicken, had shiny, white teeth. Dogs who, in the past, didn’t care who shared their food with them, ran off with their precious prize, shaking with excitement and fully consuming it immediately, lest someone else steal it from them. The other thing that shocked me was the bitches with puppies. I watch a lot of nature shows and have seen the footage of wolves, coyotes, lions and others eating raw meat and then regurgitating the chunks for their weaning pups. None of my bitches had EVER regurgitated processed food for her pups, however as soon as I started feeding raw chicken, this is exactly what they did. It was glaringly apparent that until then, nothing I had fed them was “worthy” of feeding to their precious young.

The other myth perpetuated by all too many makers of dog food and even many veterinarians is to keep the dog on the same food for life. If you want to CAUSE an allergy, expose the body to the same thing, day after day, year after year. I worked in a hospital lab for almost thirty years so became allergic to latex. Many people become allergic to antibiotics that they have been given repeatedly. The same is true with all living things. The idea behind proper canine nutrition is to mimic what they would get in the wild. They eat what they can catch or find, generally something different every day. It is important that we vary the protein source with our dogs. It is also a myth that they need 100% of their daily requirements in every meal. We humans don’t even eat that way! Ian Billinghurst, a vet from Australia, has written several books on raw feeding, including “Give Your Dog A Bone” and “Grow Your Pups With Bones”. I highly recommend his books. His mantra is “balance over time through variety”. Good advice for us and our pets.

Fortunately for convenience, pet food companies started realizing the market for quality food from whole, healthy ingredients. The first ingredient listed on a bag of pet food should ALWAYS be the main protein source, which should be meat, poultry or fish. The specific ingredient listed first should be the actual type, as in beef or chicken or salmon. If it just lists meat-by-products stay away from it. Also, it is a good idea to always rotate your protein source. If this bag was fish, make the next lamb, then chicken, etc. While these top shelf foods are far better than the old, cheap garbage filled kind, I still believe in adding whole fresh food, like raw chicken backs, raw eggs, yogurt, canned mackerel and table scraps. Just remember that table scraps are what is left on your plate. Never feed cooked bones or skin. You can find all these high-end foods at your local Petsmart and will also notice that they have their aisles in order of price. Stay on the high-end and don’t forget to alternate your protein source.

There is also a product made by Nature’s Variety (Instinct Raw) that my vet carries, as does our local feed store. You can find a local outlet for it online at their website. It is a wonderful variety of raw meat in the form of frozen patties, making feeding raw very easy. It is also a great way to add new protein sources that are not easy to find, like rabbit, venison and duck. This is not only healthy for them but a great way to do an elimination diet if you suspect your dog is suffering from food allergies. You need a unique protein source, something they have never had before. Keep them strictly on that and nothing else for at least two months. That means nothing else, no treats either. Then if you see improvement, you know there is a food allergy and can gradually add back in other things, one at a time, very, very slowly until you figure out what they are allergic to. The most common food allergies for dogs in here in the US is beef and wheat. In New Zealand, it is lamb. Again, it’s the result of what they were exposed to over and over again.

One final thing worth mentioning is treats. The dog food companies that produce high quality food, also produce treats to go with them, even treats intended for dogs with allergies. It’s as important that the treats be as healthy as their main source of food. Baby carrots make great treats. While dogs can easily digest meat and bone, they cannot digest rawhide and I don’t recommend its use. In fact, some rawhide produced outside of the US, is actually processed with arsenic! For recreational chewing, I recommend raw marrow bones, found in the meat department of your grocery store. They will get many hours of happy chewing and the marrow is very nutritious. Just make sure it’s raw and do NOT cook them first. In fact, we give our 6 dogs marrow bones after we freeze them. Frozen makes them last even longer, however, once they have removed all the marrow and the bone becomes dry, brittle and starts to chip, it should be discarded. Getting all the marrow out of the bone may take just a few hours for a large breed dog but may take days for a small breed. Our golden retriever can get all the marrow out and start to chip the bone in just an hour or two so we are careful to take it away from her then. On the other hand, our terriers enjoy the bones for almost a week. If you have multiple dogs you should separate them when you give them their bones to prevent any stealing and fighting. If its small dogs give them the bones in their crate and keep the bones in the crate and they will enjoy them whenever it’s time to get in the crate.

Also, avoid any edible products produced in China. The words Made in China are sometimes in very, very small print on the package but there have been multiple toxic pet products from there over the past several years.

Our mothers used to say “you are what you eat” and there is great truth in that. Just like the old “garbage in, garbage out” adage. Feeding high quality food costs more than feeding garbage but you will be rewarded with a healthy, happy dog and fewer visits to the vet.


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Want To Enter Your Dog in a Dog Show?

While it is fun, can be a great family venture, can teach children good sportsmanship and the proper care of dogs, it is not for everyone.

Some people think that because their dog has AKC papers, they must be good! My mantra is “AKC is to dogs, as the DMV is to cars.” They simply keep records. You can literally register a puppy born with serious birth defects. In defense of AKC, it is not their job to “police” the quality of dogs. That is up to the individual owners and breeders.

If you bought from an online commercial breeder, a pet store or a breeder that does not show, the odds are pretty slim that the dog is truly show quality. If you want to show, you must take the time to research your breed, go to dog shows and talk to multiple breeders who show their dogs. When you are ready to purchase a puppy that you want to enter in dog shows be prepared to be put on a waiting list for a puppy with show quality potential. Notice I said “potential”. Puppies go through many changes and that pup that looked great at 8 weeks, could well “fall apart” by 6 months. Some breeders will guarantee that if a pup doesn’t turn out, they will give you another one but the conditions of any sale are dependent on whatever the individuals involved decide.

The original purpose of dog shows was to bring together breeding stock. Long before the internet, this was how people came to look for stud dogs, compare their own breeding stock to what others had and find something to improve upon their own breeding program. That is still the main purpose for showing but it is also a fun, competitive hobby. Also, that Championship certificate is verifiable proof of the quality of your dog. You can SAY your dog is gorgeous, but we all know that opinion is clouded by your love for your dog.

In order to earn a championship, a dog must earn 15 points, including two majors under two different judges. Points are determined by the number of dogs in competition and this number is determined by AKC, depending on the density of the breed in your location. A dog can win between 1 and 5 points in any given show. A “major” is a 3, 4 or 5 point win and is highly coveted as it is difficult to have enough dogs in competition to constitute a major and then there are that many more dogs that your dog needs to be better than.

If you already own an AKC registered purebred dog that you think you might like to show, the first step is finding a show breeder that can evaluate it. Find the AKC standard for your breed and memorize it! Have that experienced show breeder explain to you how to compare that standard to your dog and point out to you what are minor faults and what are major faults? Some dogs will have DQ’s or disqualifications. These are things that would prevent them from being shown at all. For example, boxers in any color other than fawn or brindle or with white markings exceeding 1/3 of total coat color, Cardigan Welsh Corgis with blue or partially blue eyes or drop ears, Weimaraners that are more than one inch over or under the standard height are just few of the traits which would have a dog or bitch disqualified from competition. Also, any dog of any breed that does not have two normal sized, normally located testicles would also be DQ’d. Keep in mind, anyone can enter any unspayed or unneutered dog in any AKC show if they are registered. There are no refunds so if you enter a dog with a DQ, when the judge finds the disqualifying fault, you will simply be excused from the competition ring.

If you really want to do this, put in the time to educate yourself, have your dog evaluated and then find a local handling class to teach you how to properly exhibit your dog at a dog show. Excellent examples of a breed can leave the ring without a ribbon due to inferior handling or the improper grooming and/or conditioning of your dog. Conversely, a dog with a few minor faults can win because it may be shown to its best advantage in superior condition.

Another thing to ask local show people about is what is called a Fun Match. These are set up just like an AKC dog show but in a more relaxed, friendly environment. It is basically a training show and no points are awarded but it is a great way to let both you and your dog experience showing without fear of ridicule. It is for new handlers, new judges and new dogs. Even those of us that have been showing for decades still use fun matches as a way to introduce puppies to the ring and get them used to the process.

If you put in the time, learn to handle and condition your dog and find that your dog is indeed show quality, then all is takes is ONE time in the ring, having that judge look at all those dogs and then point at YOU, and you will be hooked.

By Terry and Debbie Vaught
Part of the Family Kennels


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Should You Own a Dog?

Is a dog right for you?
Maybe, maybe not. Just because you would like to own a dog doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
There are many people who would love to own a dog but don’t for a variety of reasons. They may work long hours or they may travel a lot. They may not be in a financial situation that allows for the expenses of a dog or they may live in an environment that isn’t conducive to having a dog around. They may be afraid of dogs or just may prefer a different type of pet.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t consider these types of things before they get a dog.

Let’s explore what you should be asking yourself before you make the commitment to get a dog. And a big commitment it is.
Once you get a dog it’s going to play a large role in your life for the next 10-15 years, or even longer for some breeds.
If you are thinking of getting a dog, think about 5 years from now, 10 years from now and longer. Are you prepared to accept the responsibility for this dog’s health and well-being for that long of a time period? Remember, this new friend will be totally dependent on you for food, exercise, vet care and a safe environment, as well as love and companionship.

Some people get a dog just because they think it would be good for their kids.
If you are an adult thinking about getting a dog for the kids, what about 5 years down the road? Or 10 years? Children’s priorities change as they age. They go away to college, they get involved in different activities and they find themselves getting boyfriends and girlfriends which changes the amount of time they have to take care of a dog. As a parent, if you get a dog for your kids, are you prepared to take over increasing amounts of responsibility as the dog and your children age? Are you prepared for the financial responsibility that goes with dog ownership?

Should kids have a dog?
Under the right circumstances, absolutely! A dog can become a real best friend and teach your children responsibility and unconditional love.
But this is a decision that the parents need to consider carefully.
Is your child mature enough to properly take care of the dog?
Will you be available to closely supervise and train the dog as well as train your child how to properly interact and care for his new friend?
Are you willing to take on full responsibility for the dog if needed?

Do you have any other pets, like a cat?
Many dogs and cats learn to live together and become friends, or at least tolerate each other. Keep in mind, some dogs and cats never get along. Generally, however, if the dog you bring in is a puppy, it will become friends with the cat. It is a consideration, however, if you bring in an adult dog.

Are you an experienced dog owner or will this be your first one?
If this is the first time you will ever own a dog, there will be some surprises.
Yes, they will likely have some accidents in the house until they are house trained to go outside. It will take time and effort on your part to train your dog to do this.
They may jump all over guests that come to your house.
They may chew on rugs and furniture.
They may bark or even howl, especially certain breeds like bassetts, beagles and huskies.
They may not be friendly to your guests or to other dogs.
They will get sick and need vet care, especially as they get older.
They can suffer from broken bones, pulled muscles and tendons, get skin ailments, infections and all the same injuries that happen to people from time to time.
Do you travel a lot? Who will care for your dog?
Who will exercise your dog? This is often one of the bigger problems of dog ownership. Too many people just don’t have the time or willingness to exercise their dog. Many people think that because they have a big house or yard that they won’t need to give their dog exercise. This is just wrong.
Dogs get bored easily. After some time they will have explored all the areas of your yard and lose interest in it. They love to explore new places and find new smells. If you will not be able to provide a lot of exercise do not get a big dog. A small breed still needs exercise but will adapt better to a smaller environment.

If you are going to get a dog consider your family situation and environment.
Do you have a fenced yard? Many quality breeders will not sell a dog to someone without a fenced yard. It increases the chances of them getting away, getting lost or hit by a car and getting the proper exercise.
Dogs can be good pets for those without fences, but it will need to be walked every day, multiple times per day if you have a bigger or more energetic breed.

Dogs are wonderful pets but there are 6-8 million dogs in shelters as of 2011. Many of those end up in shelters because people get a dog without realizing everything involved in dog ownership. After they do realize what’s involved too many of these dogs end up on the street, in a rescue facility or just given away to the first person who will take it and who may or may not provide good care.

This article is intended to make sure you understand the commitment and responsibility required to own a dog, not discourage you from getting one. We own several and can’t imagine life without them. Most of the pitfalls can be avoided by proper training and making sure to get the kind of dog that fits your family and your situation. All dogs should be crate trained. It helps with house breaking, gives the dog a safe “den” to take some time away from young children or when you have company. A dog that is in his crate, when you can’t be watching him, can’t chew things up! Eventually, he will get past the destructive age with your help. A well-trained dog is a joy and can be taught not to jump on guests and to obey your commands. There is an old saying amongst “dog people”. If you want to know the value of a well-trained dog, try buying one from someone who has put in the time to thoroughly train their dog. The general answer is “no amount of money”.

Choosing wisely in the first place is critical. If you or a family member has allergies or you just wouldn’t have the time to comb the dog every day, get a non shedding breed, like an airedale, poodle or the Portuguese Water Dog. There are several non shedding breeds. If you aren’t going to have time to take long walks, get a small dog. Toy breeds tend to be fragile and are not typically a good choice for homes with very small children. Put the time and effort into researching breeds and deciding what would best suit your household.

After you have considered all the factors involved in dog ownership and still decide to get one, consider rescuing a dog from a shelter. These can make wonderful pets and you will doing a good service. That being said, there are good reasons to get a purebred
dog instead.
If you put in the time to choose the dog that is right for your family and commit to training and proper care, you will be rewarded with loyalty, companionship, lots of fun moments and unconditional love for many years.

By Terry and Debbie Vaught

Terry and Debbie are the owners of Part of the Family Kennels. This is a pet boarding kennel and grooming business serving the Tampa, FL area. We have extensive experience in pet care, breeding and showing dogs. If you are going to be in the Tampa area and need a kennel or grooming service please contact us.