K9 Nose Work (R) – A Fun and Competitive Sport for Everybody!

When I first started K9 Nose Work (R) with my old Shar Pei mix, I did it because I wanted to give my dog an outlet, a job, where we could spend time together aside from the all working dog environment I’m in most of the time. I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised at how this sport was already well defined and professional, while still keeping it fun.

Exterior Search


Simba, my old male dog, does not like close contact with other male dogs and Nose Work was ideal for him. Although he still likes to goof around, he takes his sniffing seriously and soon got the hang of the game. He has surprised me many times, working and finding the target odor and showing it to me, when I thought, he was just playing around. And yes, he even managed to give me condescending look, waiting for his reward, while I was still scrambling to open the pouch with his hot dogs inside.

K9 Nose Work (R) is a nation wide competitive sport for all kind of dogs. No breed is excluded and I’ve seen everything from Havanese  and Bernese Mountain Dogs to Great Danes. And of course the Shepherds and Labradors. There’s always the Shepherds and the Labradors. Goal of the sport is for the dog to ultimately find three odors: Birch, Anise and Clove. The odors are hidden anywhere, really, some of the founders are known to be very tricky with their hides. In a trial, several situations have to be passed, among them an inside room search, an exterior search and a vehicle search. You’ll feel like in a thriller, handling your dog like a pro bomb detection dog handler, even if your dog is a 12 pound Chihuahua! While the training does not compare to real life K9 detection, it focuses on the dog’s natural instinct of hunting behaviors. This is the sport, where we the dog teaches us, instead of the other way around. Maybe that is why it is so perfect for dogs with fear issues. I have seen dogs, too afraid to enter a room, to enthusiastically search that same room 2 weeks later!

This fun and educational sport started about 6 years ago, in 2006 and exploded in popularity almost immediately. There are now classes and competitions all over the Nation as pet dog owners finally have a competitive sport, that does not require a specific breed or an athlete handler. I not only recommend it to all my clients who want to do ‘something’ with their dogs, but also to those, who’s dogs are reactive when seeing other dogs, as there are never two dogs in the same room. I have seen amazing turnarounds in dogs – and in owners! But most of all, it is an exciting team work and something, you can work on at home or even incorporate in your daily walks.

For more information about K9 Nose Work visit www.funnosework.com or Rock Solid K9’s website.

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How to Train Your Dog – a Practical Short Guide

No, this is not going to turn your dog into an elite university graduate over night, but hopefully, it will help you and give you some tools to get started as your own dog’s trainer. Let’s break it down in 5 easy to follow parts:

Rewards can come in different shapes or form. This dog likes toys much better than food.

  • Motivation
  • Training Time
  • Training Plan
  • Corrections
  • Expectations

Motivation
This is both for you and your dog! You don’t like to work for free, do you? Well, neither does your dog. Find out, what makes your dog tick the most. Yes, we all think, our dogs will do anything for a pat on the shoulders, but I haven’t seen a dog turn down a tasty treat yet. For training, we want small, soft treats, like hot dog or string cheese pieces, that can be chewed fast, so the dog is ready to continue. Size matters! A German Shepherd will probably need a different size treat than a Chihuahua. Training with food reward is a good way to keep training motivational. It does not mean, that you need to keep treats in your pocket for the next 15 years. Yes, your dog should obey your commands, but he needs to learn them first! I love REI’s treat pouches– it makes carrying and dispensing treats so much easier. If your dog turns his nose on what you offer him, you’ll have to try different treats until you find that one that makes him salivate at the pure thought of it. I’ve seen people train with Cheetos or french fries!  You, on the other hand, need to be motivated as well. Don’t get frustrated, if things don’t work out right away. Be patient and have fun with it!

Training Time
Don’t drag the training out – stop while both of you still have fun! Even if it is just 5 minutes, it is valuable. The best thing is to have a couple of short and sweet trainings throughout the day. Don’t start when you just come home from work and you’re still stressed. You should train when your mindset is relaxed and stress free.

Training Plan
Always have a plan before you start your training. Know exactly what you want your dog to do, so you can teach him precisely that. If you have a big trick in mind, start slow and break it into pieces – for example, if you want to teach your dog to go hide in a box, don’t start with the whole thing. Start with rewarding him when he goes close to the box, then put his feet in the box, reward him sitting down and eventually work on him laying in the box. Do every step multiple times until he does it reliably, before you move to the next. Read up on different training methods and styles before you start. And always, always be consistent and patient.

Heeling

Corrections
Once your dog knows what you ask of him, we can talk about corrections. Know your dog. Some dogs are more sensitive than others. If you do apply corrections, they need to be fair and the timing has to be great. Use enough to get your dog’s attention but as little as necessary. Inform yourself about different correction methods and be cautious about those which promise instant results. In the end, it is better to use one good correction than 50 weak ones. A correction can be a verbal (e.g. ‘No!’) or a physical (e.g. quick tug on the leash). It can also be withholding the reward. When you train your dog for a behavior that he does not know yet, don’t correct wrong behavior. Instead make the right behavior more interesting. Give your dog a chance to offer the correct behavior. If you do use corrections, make sure that it is balanced with reward – and always, always end on a good note.

Expectations
Have realistic expectations. If you haven’t worked with your dog in two years, don’t presume that he will start heeling after a short training session. Good things take time and it is important to build a solid foundation. Start at a place where your dog is comfortable, like your home. Don’t take your dog to your friend’s house to show of tricks you’ve never done outside of your home. Once your dog applies your commands correctly, you can start adding distractions by training in your backyard, then in your neighborhood and eventually in a public park. It is not fair to expect your dog to do a roll over in a dog park, if you have not extensively trained it with many distractions around before. Set up training goals and don’t do too much at a time.

Keeping the fun working with your dog is the most important thing!

Are You Ready When Disaster Strikes?

There is an emergency scenario in almost all parts of our world: Fires, earthquakes, hurricanes… Some are more common than others, but we all live with the thought of one of those potential dangerous situations. So much so, that there are now even TV Shows about people, who prepare almost full time for emergencies, like Nat Geo’s latest hit ‘Doomsday Preppers‘. While they might take things to the extreme, we all know, that we need to be prepared in case of a situation, where food and water are not easy to come by, or evacuation is mandatory. One of the worst things about emergency situations is, that they are unpredictable. They can hit from one second to the next. Even if there is some warning, like in the case of a wild fire closing in or a weather related disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, there may be little time to prepare. That is why it is so important to have a plan. For us dog people, we have to plan for our canine family members as well. Catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina showed us, how essential it is, to even have crates for the dogs. Most shelters will not allow dogs, unless they are crated. And that is yet another example, of why it is so important to crate train your dog.

An additional leash can be used as a muzzle

Let’s start with the obvious: food and water. Most organizations recommend a 3 day supply. Personally, I like to have enough for two weeks. Dogs need about 1.5 ounces of water per pound body weight, when they are relaxed. Be generous though. When dogs are stressed (which is likely in an emergency scenario) or active, they start panting and their need for water increases. When you store dry food, make sure, it is in a safe air tight container, to avoid any water getting in and spoil it. Change it every once in a while, so it doesn’t expire. Use the same brand you normally feed. You don’t want to change your dog’s food in an emergency situation and risk diarrhea, when you might be short on medication, veterinary access or water. If you feed raw food, you might want to think about a high quality kibble to store for emergency situations, since freezers may not be an option. If your dog food is in cans, don’t forget the can opener!

Paperwork may be more important than you think. Keep a copy of your dog’s current license, vaccination records, medical data (allergies, medication) and other information, such as name, date of birth, regular dog food, temperament (e.g. fearful of strangers) – and don’t forget a list with emergency addresses, emergency clinic and your regular veterinary. If you have to evacuate to a shelter, they will want to see your dog’s records – and if you have to leave your dog behind, you can tack a copy of all these information on your door for the rescue personnel. I recommend to have these records laminated. In case you do have to leave your dog behind, keep them safely contained inside with enough water for a couple of days and some food.

A K9 First Aid Kit can save your dog’s life

Next: Medical supplies. Prepare a K9 first aid kit – it is essential to have, not only in emergency situations. I even keep one in my car. A lot that goes into K9 first aid kit can also be used for humans – two flies with one strike. Additionally, I always store a couple of cans of pumpkin, no sugar or any other ingredients, the regular store-bought kind. It helps with diarrhea and constipation and most dogs like it enough to eat it with their regular food. Make sure, you have an adequate amount of your dog’s medication, if needed. Talk to your veterinary clinic about getting a bigger refill, so you can store some in an airtight container. They might also be able to recommend supplies for the first aid kit.

You will also need every day items, such as your dog bed, water and food bowls and pick up bags. I include some favorite toys to play and some chew toys like a Kong. Store everything in a carton box, so you can just grab it and go. An additional set of leashes is also useful.

Once you have everything organized, you need to make a list of nearby shelters, including motels, who are pet friendly. Write down the number of your local shelter – they may have more information in case of emergency. Make sure your dog’s tags are up to date and include your phone number and address.

All these steps don’t take much time. Dedicate a Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning to create an emergency preparedness kit and a plan! Enlist the help of your kids to put it together, so they are more aware, too. FEMA has some interesting and useful articles on their website, here is one specifically for pet owners:  FEMA – Information for Pet Owners.

Growling Dogs – Now What?

Does your pooch turn into a growling mountain of fur when you try to sneak on your favorite place on the couch, where he already awaits? Is your sweet little chihuahua defending your bed – from you or your family?

Clearly, the black dog has had enough! The other dog understands and moves away.

Growling is a vocal form of communication, just like barking or whining. There are different types of growling – those who ever wrestled with a Rottweiler can tell you, that sometimes, a growl is just fun. Some dogs enjoy growling when they are playing, they may also growl, when you try to take away the piece of steak you just put on the plate for your dinner and that they are now happily chewing on. And they may growl, if they encounter a stranger, someone, they have not met before or plainly just don’t like. Even though, for many of us, these growls may sound exactly alike, they are not. In an experiment, two years ago, scientists recorded the three different growls (food growl, play growl and stranger growl) from 20 dogs and replayed these growls to dogs just about to chow down on a bone. If they were replaying the food growl, an astonishing 11 of 12 dogs withdrew from the bone within 15 seconds. Compared to the stranger growl, only 2 of the 12 dogs left the bone and 4 of the 12 dogs left it when they heard the play growl. They also counted, how many dogs would go back to the bone within 90 seconds. 7 of the dogs from the food growl group did not approach the bone, while only one from the stranger growl resp. play growl did not go back. (‘The bone is mine’: affective and referential aspects of dog growls. Farago et al., 2010)

Understanding the correct meaning of your dog growling is essential as your reaction may either escalate into a dangerous situation or simply means, having more fun, romping around with your dog. While you may feel betrayed by your dog growling at you, there are many signs that lead up to that second to final response – your dog may stare at you, ears back, hunkering down, tail wagging stiffly. Oh, yes – the tail may still be wagging, but do not be fooled. In this form, you are about to trigger an explosion. By punishing the growling, you take away an important step from ‘telling you loudly, it’s about to happen’ to ‘happening’. If you have successfully ignored all the signs the dog has given you with his body language, the growl is the one last thing that will stop you from doing what you are about to do.

Guarding the Furniture

While some ‘experts’ will tell you not to accept your dog growling at you and that you need to win this fight by all means, I’d tell them to try and use their methods on a 120 lbs English Mastiff. Even a chihuahua can execute a fast attack on your fingers and be quite painful. What’s more important though, if you have ever been bitten by your dog, your relationship and trust have just been ruined. From that day on, you will look at your dog differently. And your dog will feel this, too. So instead of instigating a situation which will hugely complicated to resolve, not to speak risking bodily injuries, let’s concentrate on defusing it. By the time your dog shows you all the signs including the growl, it is too late to start applying any sort of dominance training methods or much else. I’m neither saying you have to accept this behavior nor to tolerate it. But for that particular instance, there is not much you can do but get yourself and your dog out of this situation. If your dog is defending his place on the bed, get him down by either going into the kitchen and open the fridge (which for my dogs is always a secret sign to stand at the kitchen entrance), call your dog’s name and have treats ready (good ones, like hot dogs…) or, worst case, use a leash, form a loop, throw it over your dogs head and lead him down – the last method is only applicable, if you know that your dog works well on the leash.Do not get too close to your dog, nor bend over him. Do not be emotional, stay neutral, even positive. Once he is off your bed or couch, work some obedience with him and reward for good behavior. Do not let him go back on the furniture!

Luckily, this dog is not aggressive – I simply took a photo of her barking.

If your dog is protecting that piece of steak, let him have it, calm down and work on food aggression from now on, every day! Take away the opportunity for your dog to steal steaks (or anything else for that matter) and start training towards your dog being comfortable with you being close to his possession and even give it up for you.

Now that the situation has been defused, concentrate on what happened before your dog started to growl. If you dog growled because you approached him when he was laying comfortably on your bed, it does NOT mean, that from now on, you should not go near him, when he’s on your bed. Rather you need to work on him not getting on there in the first place – and work on your general relationship.

In all growling cases, except when playing, I strongly urge to consult with a trainer, who has experience with aggressive dogs. While a growl does not make your dog aggressive, experience with such dogs often help to understand the underlying issue and how to deal with it. Be wary of trainers who tell you to wrestle your dog to the ground and ‘show dominance’ or ‘you need to be the [alpha] [pack leader] [first rank] (pick one), try to sell you a training collar without having worked with your dog first – or have you bring the dog to them to keep for several days to weeks to train him at their training facility. While this may be a good idea for seriously aggressive dogs, a dog who growls at you to protect his food, toy or place needs to work with you under the guidance of a trainer.

If your dog is growling at you, your family and friends or strangers repeatedly, it is a serious issue and needs to be dealt with, even if you think, your 10 lbs dog is sweet, trying to protect you from your friend. Often times, it is quite easy to work with a growling dog, but if you wait until the first bite happens, things become a lot more difficult.

Selecting a Dog or Breeder vs. Rescue

Puppies from responsible breeders are more likely to be healthy and active

Saving a dog and providing a home for a rescue dog is wonderful and applaudable. But there are also good reasons to buy a dog from a responsible breeder. If you are interested in a dog sport or if you have specific ideas on how your dog should be, a responsible breeder might be a better way to go. Finding the right breeder is not easy and a lot of homework needs to be done before committing. Here are some red flags that should make you be very cautious:

The place breeds more than one particular breeds
Sometimes two breeds compliment each other but usually it is advisable to pick a breeder who specializes in one single breed.

The breeder has more than 20 dogs or more than 6 litters per year
Some professional breeders have more dogs, including retired breeding dogs or they have a team looking after the dogs. Many times though, a breeder who has over 20 dogs and breeding all of them, simply does not have enough time to thoroughly look after them and giving them the interaction and exercise they need.

The dogs are not registered or are registered at a registry who is connected to puppy mill
The most popular registry in the United States is the American Kennel Club (AKC). There are breed specific registries who are perfectly fine and professional, but some registries like the Continental Kennel Club (CKC – not to be confused with the Canadian Kennel Club) or the UKC, who are not members of International Canine Organization are preferred by puppy mills. Registering a litter of puppies results in additional cost for the breeder, but the cost is not very high considering the cost of responsible breeding. By registering a litter of puppies, people can trace the heritage of their dog, which is part of finding the perfect breeding pair. If a breeder tells you that you can have a puppy with or without papers and asks for more money if your puppy should come with registered papers, run. This is a very clear sign of irresponsible breeding.

The breeder should ask lots of questions, for example what your plans for the new dog are

The breeder cannot or will not show you both parents
Not every responsible breeder has both parents on premises. In fact, many excellent breeders only have the female or the male and search for the respective counterpart a very long time. They select the pair very carefully and the female or male could even be in a different country. But you should be able to see at least the mother of the puppies.

Buying a Dog over the Internet
While buying over the Internet is not necessarily bad, it is easy for a puppy mill to pose as a legitimate professional and responsible breeder. They will show you pictures with happy and healthy puppies playing outside in the grass, a healthy mother lovingly nursing the litter and the whole human family petting and working with the dogs. Don’t be fooled. Often times, these dogs are not even theirs. Of course they will not show you the crates and cages or the sickly looking females who are forced to pump out litter after litter. There are States who are known to have more puppy mills than others. These States include Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri. This does not mean, of course, that there are no responsible breeders in these States! But by doing your homework, you will be able to weed out the bad breeders.

Fail to Provide Breed Specific Health Tests and Certification
Some breeds are prone to specific health issues. Hip Dysplasia is only one example. There are breeds who are more likely to develop eye or skin problems among many other issues. Breed organizations very often require health tests for the canine parents which show issues early on. Responsible breeders abide by these requirements and will show you the test results if you ask for them. Similarly, some sport dog breeds are required to go through certifications before breeding. Inform yourself about the breeding requirements of your favorite breed and don’t be scared to ask the breeder for proof.

Check the dog for any skin, eye or ear conditions

Breeder does not ask you any questions
Responsible breeders care about their dogs and try to find the best home possible for their puppies. Don’t be put off if they ask you tons of questions about you, your personal life, the way your house or apartment looks like, what you intend to do with your dog, if you have experience or what your work hours look like. Instead be suspicious, if the breeder does not care at all or does not seem to listen to your answers. A bad breeder just wants to sell the puppies and will not care where they end up. Responsible breeders may want to be part of the puppy’s life or at least stay in contact. Often they may include a stipulation in their contract and return a deposit money when you test your dog for breed specific health issues at a certain age – because they care. Irresponsible breeders will repeat breedings even though they do not know if the puppies produced by the last breeding, suffer from health issues completely avoidable by selecting different parents. This is also why no responsible breeder will ever sell their puppies in a pet store. No matter what you may hear when you enter a pet store, all these puppies are from puppy mills, out for the quick buck.

Rescue organizations require homework as well. Not every rescue organization is legitimate. Some will only take puppies from questionable backgrounds and pretend to have rescued them, only to sell them to you for a high ‘adoption fee’. Adoption fees are necessary to support rescue groups who’s volunteers donate their time and own money. These fees include boarding, health care and often times neutering and micro chipping dogs. Most breeds have their own rescue group who concentrate on these specific breeds, but there are also many legitimate rescue organizations who care for all type of dogs, young and old, pure bred and mixes. When considering a dog from a rescue group, look at all the dogs this group cares for. Do they only have puppies? Can they tell you where these dogs are from? Do they have volunteers fostering these dogs, do they have a boarding facility or is one person hoarding 50 dogs in the backyard? Are they a legitimate non-profit organization? Do they require a home check or do they ask you to meet them at a parking lot somewhere to transfer the dog to you? Are they able to give you enough information about the dog’s temperament and traits? You can also go directly to the shelter and see if they may have a dog who fits you perfectly. Shelters, especially in Southern California, are always full and sometimes have literally hundreds of dogs looking for a home.

With your homework done and a portion of luck, you will find your perfect canine companion, whether from a breeder or the rescue.

Is Your Dog Barking at the Door or Jumping on People?

Barking at the door and jumping on visitors are two issues, a lot of my clients complain about their dogs. Although the two issues are very different, they may just have the same solution. Before getting into how to resolve this behavior, let’s get some background information first. Some dogs bark because they want to protect their familiar surroundings, some bark, because they are scared or excited and some just plain bark at everything. Many dogs get inadvertently reassured when they are barking at the door, defending their home against a potential intruder. As they bark, whoever is in front of the door, the mailman for example, eventually goes away. ‘Wow!’, the dog thinks, ‘This guy was scared of me barking at him. It works!’. And the next time they bark even louder, because it worked the last time.

Barking Dog

For many dogs, barking at the door is not a conscious behavior and punishing it does not necessarily work. Compare it to screaming out loud when being scared or wincing when in pain – you’d still do it the next time, even if someone yells at you to be quiet. Often times, jumping on visitors, is also not a conscious behavior. Some dogs just get too excited to keep still. You may have heard the old-fashioned dominance tale, which says that dogs, who jump on you when you come home, want to control you. I have even heard some say, that the dog wants to punish you for going away in the first place. Forget about that! That wiggly butt has no world domination thoughts, it just feels excitement and craves attention.

Although both behaviors, the barking and the jumping, come in most cases from a very natural subconscious place, it does not mean, that we have to tolerate them. Here are some hints on how to resolve this issues in a fair and effective way:

  • Create an alternative action and give your dog a familiar command like ‘sit’ or ‘place’. A dog who sits, simply cannot jump and a dog who has to stay at his place, which can be his dog bed, cannot bark at the door. And it gives you the opportunity to reward your dog for a good execution of the command instead of ineffectively punish for bad behavior. Build and train the commands away from distractions until your dog reliably does what you ask, then gradually include distractions and increase the time, during which the dog has to stay in the position. Don’t move ahead too fast and don’t set your dog up to fail – give your dog the opportunity to earn that reward (by the way, cut up hot dogs work magic!). Don’t train for hours, just use minutes a couple of times a day, as long as it is still fun for you and your dog.
  • Socialize your dog! It does not matter how old your dog is – unless you have a special needs dog, expose your dog to the world. Take him to public parks, introduce him to your neighbors and walk next to busy streets. Some stores allow you to take your dog with you, just remember to always clean up after your dog. A well socialized dog is less likely to act fearful or territorial.
  • Keep your dog exercised, physically and mentally. A tired dog doesn’t care about the mailman or visitors that much and is happy to lay on your feet rather than pestering your visiting friends.

Keeping your dog exercised helps keeping the dog balanced

Picking The Right Breed For Your Perfect Companion

Whether you are looking to add a four legged companion to your family, you want an active dog that helps you shed those extra pounds or a K9 with a job, the first step is always planning ahead to avoid as many surprises as possible. Here are a couple of steps that will help you to start out as a responsible dog owner.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) divides its 173 different recognized dogs into seven breed groups:

  • Sporting Group
  • Hound Group
  • Working Group
  • Terrier Group
  • Toy Group
  • Non-Sporting Group
  • Herding Group

Ask yourself a couple of question before you consider a specific breed:

Long Haired vs. Short Hair

– Do I prefer short or long hair?
Long haired fur does not necessarily mean more shedding. Some short haired dogs, like the Shar Pei, have hair which will stick to everything. Shedding sometimes is a sign of bad nutrition, but there are definitely breeds who tend to shed more than others. Dogs like poodles do not shed at all – and there are dogs who do not have fur at all, like the hairless Chinese Crested or the Xoloitzcuintli, the Mexican Hairless. A non-shedding dog does not necessarily mean, that a person who is allergic to dogs, will not react. Most people are allergic to a dog’s saliva, not the fur.
– How big of a dog do I want and am I prepared for the size?
Having a small apartment does not necessarily mean that you can only consider a chihuahua sized dog. Giant dogs like Great Danes may take up a lot of space, but they are generally also less active. If you provide enough exercise for them outside of the apartment, some bigger sized dogs are fantastic in a smaller indoor space. However, typically, bigger sized dogs tend to live a shorter life than smaller dogs. For example Great Danes or Bernese Mountain Dogs only have an average life span of about eight years. Additionally, medical attention may be more expensive as they require a bigger amount of medication. Last but not least: they most definitely take up more space on your bed!

Belgian Malinois are very active and not recommended as pet dogs

– Am I looking for a dog who is active and will require exercise and training?
Having an active dog can be both extremely fun and a curse at the same time. There are breeds who are not for the everyday pet owner. Working dogs like the Malinois or the Australian Shepherd need a lot of attention, training and exercise, physically and mentally. If you are looking for a dog who runs with you or accompanies you while  you are riding your bike, there are many active breeds who are also great pets like Dalmatians or Labradors. Maybe you are already set on a specific dog sport and are looking for a competing K9 partner. Depending on how serious you are about this sport, you might want to consider breeds who are already active in this particular sport. Some breeds are allrounders and fit many different sports or life styles like the German Shepherd or the Labrador.

– Is the dog mostly going to stay outside or in the house?
If a dog gets enough exercise and human interaction, there is nothing wrong with having a dog in the backyard, provided the climate allows it. Always make sure, your dog has shade, water (not frozen) and protection from harsh environment, like an isolated dog house. Some dogs prefer the outside to the inside. This is a good point to decide beforehand as it is more difficult to train a dog who was allowed to stay in the house, to stay outside. If you leave your dog outside, whether over night or just for short times during the day, make sure that your fences are high enough. Many dogs can jump way over 6 feet and if they are not exercised properly, they will. Some dogs are more likely to jump fences than others. Unfortunately, in today’s times, another thing to consider is how easy it is for neighbors or strangers to reach your dogs. Usually a kennel or a double fenced backyard is much safer.

– How much time can I comfortably spend with the dog every day?
Dogs should not be left alone for more than 8 hours at a time regularly. They are pack animals, bred to be human companions for thousands of years and need the human interaction. If you think, you will be out of the house longer, find out if your work place allows you to bring your new four legged friend or get a dog walker once a day.

– What kinds of traits am I looking for in a dog?
We have bred hundreds of different types of breeds for a reason: for their size, fur and looks but most importantly for their temperament and traits which make them suitable for their jobs. This is why we now have breeds with all these different quirks. Some dogs are more apt to jump, some bark more than others (fun tidbit: The Basenji, a hunting dog from central Africa, does not bark at all) and some will retrieve a tennis ball until they drop. When thinking about a dog’s temperament, it is also recommendable to think about your family’s future. Are you traveling a lot? Do you have children or are you expecting children in the near future? Are you thinking about moving soon?

Different climates for different breeds

– Is the climate I live in suitable for the dog I look at?
Having a dog who is native to colder regions may not be a good choice for the Southern California heat. On the other hand, a Mexican Hairless is probably not doing too well in Alaska. Learning about your favorite breed’s history can give you hints of whether or not this dog might be a good fit for where you live.

There are many ways to learn about different breeds. Numerous books have been written on specific or containing references to several breeds, there are TV documentaries and websites. Nothing, however, beats talking to an owner of a dog of your favorite breed, a breeder, or visiting a dog event like a dog show or a sport event where your favorite breed competes. Owners and breeders can give you first hand account on what they like about these dogs and their needs. And they can help you finding your new friend.

If you are thinking about a mix, mutt or heinz76, it is still important to do your homework and find the right breed for you. While there is no guarantee, that the mix containing your favorite breed will also show the traits you like about that breed, it may give you an idea of what’s ahead of you.

My next blog post will talk about getting a dog from a shelter or from a breeder and questions you should ask every rescue organization or breeder before you get your new friend.