Tag Archives: Choosing a Dog

New Puppy – Great Beginings

IMG_6813Three months ago I got a new puppy. I named him Signal, Siggy … Freud … Sig and he’s great! Fast learner. Active. Agile. Motion attraction. Amazing bounce … and likes pretty much everything.

Would he be a good choice for everybody? For sure not, probably too fast a learner, too active, too agile, too likely to chase things and too much bounce.

What kind of criteria do you have for choosing a new pup? How well have you followed it in practice? Do you have certain things you plan on doing with your dog? How have your last dogs been? What didn’t work for you? These are all questions worth answering before getting a new pup.a

Just like in training or planning anything I had my ‘have to haves’ and my ‘likes, but not necessary.’ My needs included a medium large dog (aiming for 50-65#), people and dog social (before I have had more aloof dogs and they suit me, but maybe not my dog training class atmosphere). Excellent conformation, score well on puppy temperament test and I had a handful of breeds that would be likely good choices. The parents should be excellent examples of their breed and consistent with what I was wanting. I preferred a non-black dog … but only because I do photos and videos and black is hard to see details, expressions or even body parts sometimes.

IMG_6834abSo he’s all black. Rich, very black, black. He’s a doodle, which hits the people and dog social, and size range. I’ve known his mom, an AKC registered, 45#, standard poodle named Ruby, since she was a couple of months old.

Five months, the age where most people think … “whew, potty trained, better start doing some other training.” If you’re in that group I do have a dog basic obedience class coming up in January. Sig will be going … he’ll be my demo pup. Reportedly the other pups in his litter are kinda wild. I’m not surprised since active, quick and agile pups tend to get that way if they aren’t handled skillfully. We were visiting the vet clinic yesterday afternoon to put up flyers and practice puppy skills and Sig is the calmest one they’ve seen.

Which is nice to hear about ‘the dog trainer’s pup.’

But, you know, that’s not really true. What’s true is he’s had practice and knows what is expected and so he can be calm. Clarity produces confidence. He’s still very much a puppy. His mask of self-assurance and self-control can crumble if over-faced.

He has been in puppy kindergarten, he goes weekly to agility as a ring-side spectator, we do errand runs to town and practice what he knows in all sorts of parking lots and I do training sessions with him a minimum of three times daily (three meals … three opportunities to train). Yesterday I started the process of going inside dog friendly establishments because the more practice he gets, the better he’ll be. The other reason I was waiting to enter public buildings is he has nervous or submissive urination and I wanted to be sure we had that under control before stressing him.

I’ve come to the conclusion that nervous pee-ers are a lot like scared pups. Oh, body language is very different, but they need less eye contact, less verbal interaction, and no, or minimal, touch from unknown people.

Sig is cute and waggy. He looks very inviting and people want to come up and grab both sides of his face and cuddle. That’s way too much! Even if I tell them just one hand, just brief … they don’t seem able to listen.

So I just say no and block them. I don’t need random strangers creating bad rehearsals for my pup. I want good rehearsals. This temporary problem isn’t going to become a lifelong habit.

Both places we went into yesterday … were great.  Dry floors.  Of course, I did potty breaks before entering (an empty bladder is less likely to leak under stress). And anyone longingly staring, we just moved on and ignored.

Even the best choices of puppy are going to come with issues … I didn’t mention that we’re working on stopping the mouthing, and the jumping and the picking up everything reachable and…IMG_6881



Thinking about getting a puppy?

The following are some things I think everyone should probably know before getting a pup.  First know who you’re dealing with, especially if you’re paying significant money for this pup. Even if you aren’t, remember this pup will be a family member so prepare to choose well. I expect you to keep the pup you chose for their whole life. Most of the dogs in shelters were free or low-cost dogs – unfortunately price makes a difference in how we think.

This is advice I’d give a friend. But actually the best advice is to take someone along who really knows dogs, and have all the pieces ready (crate, kennel, gates, training plan and clear idea of what you want). Do not make this choice an impetuous decision.

Who am I to talk? I was a breeder of Airedale terriers, registered, championship pedigree, active in competitions in conformation and obedience, titled, healthy dogs back in the 80s and early 90s when it was still great and quite acceptable to breed purebred dogs.

Hickory was Best of Winners, I'm handling this home-bred, owner handled airedale. He was a great dog!
Hickory was Best of Winners, I’m handling this home-bred, owner handled Airedale. He was a great dog!

Why did I breed puppies? I was aiming for the next champion, next titled versatile Airedale and it helped pay for the cost of showing, being active in dog competitions, and doing stuff with the dogs. It was a hobby, a sport and a passion for dogs. I did the daily handling, early training, environmental enrichment for the puppies, but still my main focus was not the production of family, stay-at-home pets. I wanted smart, healthy, temperamentally sound dogs and they were, but maybe too much dog for the average family.

Sage looking a bit worried about kendra's show stacking abilities.
Sage looking a bit worried about Kendra’s show stacking abilities.

And depending on the breed, being too intense and purpose driven is probably true of lots of dogs from competitive purebred breeders (at least most of sporting, working, herding, hound and terrier categories). Why? Because these dogs were bred with a purpose in mind and most families don’t buy them with the idea of using them for that purpose, because, dog people do or they have a reasonable replacement activity for the dogs.

Dan successfully competing in obedience,  circa 1980, with Whiskey. He also did a lot of bird hunting with this Airedale.   Photo by Jeanine Renzoni
Dan successfully competing in obedience, circa 1980, with Whiskey. He also did a lot of bird hunting with this Airedale. Photo by Jeanine Renzoni

Why did I stop breeding? Several reasons: the most abrupt was my next star puppy female got hit and killed by a car and I didn’t have the heart to try for another, I was working more away from home and raising dogs takes being there, and finally several of the pups I had placed had bad ends.

As a breeder, people know they can call and cry, it’s sad – sad for them, sad for me. The more years, the more dogs placed, the more deaths – several hit by cars, one died of an aggressive cancer, one had liver failure (probably poison), one the owner put through all sorts of stuff because they were sure it had allergies (despite my telling them it was very unlikely) before they found a vet who took it off the meds – voila no more skin problems, and one ended up with a psychotic woman who bought high-end pups and turned them over to shelters to be euthanized (made me wonder about my ability to read people).

The negatives weighed heavily despite the many happy photo Christmas cards with Airedales in Santa hats or bows I received annually. The tide was turning against breeding dogs too and so many of the very good small breeders got out.

Those things decided my path. I still had adults, my last homegrown dog died at the age of 14 in 2006.

Simba, our last Airedale in his later years, canoeing. He was a good boat dog.
Simba, our last Airedale in his later years, canoeing. He was a good boat dog. Photo by Dan Renzoni

And that was the end of my Airedale  breeding saga. In 1996 I got a Bouvier de Flanders pup – lovely dog and one of the easiest dogs to live with I’ve ever had – it was like she was pre-trained. I temperament tested the litter and she fit my expectations probably too well, I like more challenge.

Bouvier de Flanders pup, Raven, at 9 weeks. She was amazing, social, wonderful with other dogs. She did demonstrations at nursing homes. But she was a big girl - 94 pounds as an adult and was willing to eat anything yucky..
Bouvier de Flanders pup, Raven, at 9 weeks. She was amazing, social, wonderful with other dogs. She did demonstrations at nursing homes. But she was a big girl – 94 pounds as an adult and was willing to eat anything yucky (occasionally a big flaw)..

Adopting (aka buying) from a shelter Then in 2006 I began  a search to acquire a dog from a shelter,  mostly because many of the people and dogs I trained were dealing with different shelter-dog problems. I wanted to see what the differences were and how the experience was.

I wasn’t happy in the process. I filled out the forms (after the first one it’s easy), I did the visits, I was treated as if I was a potential dog abuser and the staff apparently knew very little about the dogs they housed. Oh well, I still got a great dog (after visiting multiple times) – but of course he had problems. Problems I would have avoided had I had him as a youngster.

Max jumping on a ?
Max jumping on a ?

I tend to believe in only choosing adults at shelters because of the lack of being able to forecast traits and physical capabilities when looking at pups – my dogs do major physical activity. This isn’t much of an issue because pups at shelters are fairly rare and young adults are quite common. I also don’t like early neutering because of the changes in body conformation it seems to cause, so that also makes choosing a young adult my best option. Puppies at shelters are in high demand, I guess people are gambling on mixtures providing a mild temperament and healthy body – I’m not that much of a gambler.

For someone else the above requisites may not be important, early neutering may be seen as a benefit, many dogs never get to run free, nor do they do much physical activity. Choose based on your real activity traits, real living situation and real likelihood of providing training.

What else do I think people looking for a pup should generally know?

Two pups we purchased in Washington state back in 1981. The one on the left (Brillo) had a successful show career, the one on the right  (Aztec) died from a reaction to anesthesia at 1 year old.  Photo by Dan Renzoni
Two pups we purchased in Washington state back in 1981.  Note I’d never get two at the same time again, but Dan and I split the training between us. The one on the left (Brillo) had a successful show career, the one on the right (Aztec) died from a reaction to anesthesia at 1-year-old.                             Photo by Dan Renzoni

Know yourself and your family. It is up to you, the buyer, to know what is best for you – how much exercise and activity you will actually do with a dog, how much grooming, how much training, how much time, and how much money. The dog breeder loves the breed they have, but they don’t know you and they don’t really know why you want the breed or whether you can handle it. Only you know that. The breeder can tell you how active, how driven and how much training his dogs need. The breeder provides those activities for their dogs as a matter of course. They can’t know if you will actually give it. (There are several sites that offer dog breed selector quizzes – search dog breed selector quiz –  and these are worth taking with your family, such as: http://www.pedigree.com/all-things-dog/select-a-dog , or dogtime.com/quiz/dog-breed-selector , which I like because of the clarity of the questions.  Try more than one version and then do your homework on the breeds it suggests – http://www.animalplanet.com/ has pretty good resources, but includes some errors which you’ll notice from their written accounts disagreeing with some of the things said on their videos, AKC is more accurate but doesn’t have the negatives about breeds included, DK dog encyclopedias have it all and are usually available at your library).

Despite the rhetoric people who breed dogs for competition, hunting, companionship and some money are just like everybody else – some great, some good, some mediocre and some bad. It’s wrong-headed to think people who like/love dogs are more special or conversely more evil than any other group. You need to have done your homework so you can ask good questions. The answers you get, the stuff you see, the dogs themselves will tell you in what group to classify the breeding operation you’re visiting.

Deal only with people you feel you can trust and then trust them. This is one reason why bringing an expert or at least longtime dog owner along is a good idea.
*Wisconsin law states that pups cannot be sold/separated from their dam (mom) before 7 weeks. Why? The mother dog and litter-mates offer key socialization experiences creating a pup that better understands doggy social structure/language. Litter owners who don’t know this also don’t know other important things about early puppy socialization.

Craig’s list seems to be the most active dog selling site on the web. It is a mix of honest people, dog flippers and scams, so beware and when going to see a dog/pup take care (and a friend). Dog breeders are not supposed to use this list as a selling outlet, but some do, and then they are flagged off – often fairly quickly. So if this is your choice you’ll have to check it often and write down the information (as it may not be there the next time you look).

eBay classified has dogs and pups for sale by region/city. Usually these are higher priced than those listed on Craig’s list. Generally this is a slower paced system which is better for thoughtful purchasing.

Breeders websites (do a web search based on breed and state) these sites give the most information, but remember the information may be fantasy … get referrals from breed clubs, AKC site or someone you know. Usually you will need to fill out a form similar to the shelter sites in order to be put on a list to get a puppy.

Back to more like Craig’s list: There are other listing sites: pupsnow, nextdaypets, etc. but they are inconsistent, seem not well used, and seem to mostly show pictures of very young pups, which tell you nothing. AKC has a breeder listing. Oodles has brief, uninformative listings that may or may not be current.

Newspapers, which used to be a common way to sell pups, now hardly have any, but occasionally do. In our area these are limited in breed selections – labs,  goldens, border collies, heelers, shepherds and some crosses and mixes.

Dog Magazine Dog Fancy Magazine, now Dogster, still has breeder listings in the back pages of the magazine.

The first cost of a pup is one of the least expensive things about owning a dog. Yes, I do consider cost, but health, is more important and knowing the pup’s background gives me a better chance of forecasting life expectancy and physical wellness.

*People selling mixed breeds or cross-bred pups (this includes shelters) have no breed standards, no breed clubs, no competitions, no health testing for genetic problems … this doesn’t mean their pups are healthier, genetically free of problems or  lesser dogs.  Frequently there is no history, no research, no pedigree .. . so then what would I be paying for? This is why, traditionally, low value was assessed for these dogs.

People selling pure bred dogs, but who don’t do any breed specific activity/sport means, for many of them, achieving more net profit for less effort. What are their values? Why would these dogs be a good choice? Do they have testimonials of satisfied customers? Prior litter examples of success? They may have healthy dogs with wonderful temperament, which is just what you want or not.

Expect good business standards. Dog selling is a business (both for profit – breeders, and non-profit, shelters).

Crosses are a mix of two breeds, if both breeds are likely to have a genetic disease, the pups are likely to also. For example: both Golden Retrievers and Standard Poodles are at risk for hip dysplasia, so crosses – Goldendoodles – are at risk and so the parents should be OFA  ranked. (Note the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals http://www.ofa.org/ has information on common problems with certain breeds so it is a resource).

Mixes (3 or more breeds) tend to have greater genetic variety, so the gamble is this will lessen the chance of an inherited problem. Mixes may be less intense dogs, because they were not bred with a purpose in mind (like hunting or herding or killing vermin or guarding). This lower level of intensity is a good thing for indoor, less active families or for newbie dog owners.

*Note there have been registries popping up to offer papers with the pups, kind of like a mail-order degree. Registries that have breed standards and competitions to prove the dogs can do what they were intended to do are American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) are the most common ones in this area.  But just being AKC or KC or …. registered is not a guarantee of quality, it just indicates the parents were also registered.  Even if it’s not a championship pedigree, the pedigree can give you clues to the type of breeding in the pup’s history – how much in-breeding, how many out-crosses. So you want to see a multi-generational pedigree (not just 3 generations) because the more in-breeding the higher the chance of recessive genetic problems.

*If a person is a knowledgeable dog breeder they will not be advertising ISO stud dog for my female in heat. They will have done the research, gone to the competitions, looked at pedigrees and done the health testing for their breed’s most likely genetic problems. So a question about why they chose the stud dog they chose is a valid one and why their female was a good choice is even more important.

*Even if the health testing and research has been done it is better to get a pup from an older, healthy bitch and stud dog. Why? because soundness produces soundness. By 5 or 6 years old, if a dog was going to have an early onset health problem it would be there. The breeder/seller should offer some sort of guarantee.

*Look at,  pet/interact with,  the pup’s parents first before the puppies. If you wouldn’t want the pup’s mother as your dog, don’t buy one of her babies. (Remember, she just had pups so saggy belly/teats, somewhat skinny, coat looking a bit scruffy is not unexpected). The father (stud) should look great – andshould be the kind of dog you wantto be yours (note the stud often is from an outside breeder, so you may only be able to see photos or video).

Airedale pups in outside enclosure – grass, cement and gravel. Toys and obstacles to play around. Circa 1988.

*Puppies, when awake, should be clear-eyed, round, bouncy, inquisitive and appear healthy. Only buy a healthy appearing pup from a healthy litter. Always be willing to leave without a pup, if you’re not willing, then you’re not making rational choices.

*Puppy area should have varied play items, varied surfaces/obstacles and be reasonably clean. It is great if potty training has already started and pups can go out to go and keep inside potty-free. (or have an inside potty area).

*Clean water, clean equipment, clean bedding. The pups will have started solid foods back in their 4th week and by week 7, some kind of puppy chow is their mainstay.

*The mother dog should have access to the puppy area, but also have a way to escape the pups as she wishes. By 7 weeks most mother dogs have weaned their pups, but some will still let them suckle briefly. But the mom dog’s interventions are important information for the pups.

*Knowledgeable breeders (a breeder is anyone who has a litter of pups – planned, unplanned, pure bred or mixed) will have a puppy handling and socialization schedule to show you what’s been done already to help create the well-rounded, appropriately social dog you would want. Raised with kids, doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good experience for the pups. Pups born in or transferred to a shelter situation have/are in a very stressful environment – excessive stress is not a good thing.

*And of course they have, a worming schedule, initial vaccination(s), and a vet check (required if they are licensed), or they require you to go to a vet within a brief period after your purchase. Do they need to be licensed? Only if they sell 25 or more dogs/pups from more than 3 litters per year in WI.

*Crate training started and some basic obedience. Even though pups should be in contact with their litter it’s also reasonable to start some separation so it’s not as much of a shock on that first night with you.

What you do has a huge impact on your puppy. The first critical fear period is from 8-10 weeks old. This is also an enormously important socialization time-frame. Bad experiences, challenges that are too much and end unsuccessfully can have permanent repercussions. Painful experiences, elective surgeries, overly loud, overly anything should be avoided. However challenges that are met can be amazing boosts to the pup’s confidence and overall view of his world.

These first weeks are a time to do some good people socialization – not overwhelming the pup, not encouraging wild behavior. Many of the antisocial behaviors blamed on poor breeding are actually poor environmental choices by the new owner … genetics vs environment?

As a trainer, if I see one pup from a litter showing excessive fear or unreasonable aggression I have no way of knowing what the real cause(s) was/were – several pups … then I’m leaning toward genetic predisposition. Can this be fixed? It can be improved, many times it can be much improved. It does take effort though.

As a trainer if I get a whole bunch of pups in a kindergarten class from one litter, usually the pups have been separated from their litter mates and mom dog too early (at 4 – 6 weeks) and are excessively bite-y … so the people with them are worried, and they should be because what else didn’t the breeder know. Pups who don’t have good dog body language skills need mentoring and practice getting it right. Having them with their mom and litter mates longer is not a guarantee of good dog body language skills, but it makes them much more likely.

As a trainer when I see one of the (often GSD type) pups that has been kept isolated at home until 6 or 7 or more months and now everybody noticed how reactive it is to people and to dogs, I know the people didn’t do their initial needed socialization and they may never have the family dog they were wishing for, because the process to fix it is much harder now. The more wary, worried or territorial dogs need much more good socialization early and continuously or they won’t have the confidence to make good decisions.

As a trainer when I see a pup who is frantically wild offering displacement behaviors and an owner who is constantly scolding I know they need positive training, because the constant barrage of criticism drives the pup’s worried behavior that drives the criticism … and the cycle continues.

Raising a puppy well is a lot of work … and fun.

Do you need help choosing a dog or pup? I consult and/or actively help in the process.

What’s it all about

April13fence,dogs,road2013 010a It’s funny how some of us come into the world more likely to avoid the pitfalls and others seem to step into every sinkhole.  Maybe there is some initial awareness or some character preference or first choice that sets us on an easier or harder path in the culture we land in.

I was working with a troubled young dog, much more troubled than he should have been, and thought if only he had matched up with different circumstances all this would be as nothing.

Doesn’t it seem like the people least able to handle the most difficulties have the most difficulties? The same with dogs … but then which part is causal? Or is something else at work here.

Here’s some of the things I’ve noticed apparently go together:

  • frightened people get large, guard-type dogs … creating one more thing to fear
  • needy people are attracted to needy dogs, increasing their load
  • those who fear loss and abandonment, hang on and don’t trust, so that when their dog is finally free it goes exploring instead of sticking close or coming back, abandonment verified
  • overweight people have overweight dogs
  • careless people have (if the pup survives) self-capable dogs
  • careful people have worried, anxious,  fearful dogs
  • trainers have trained dogs

The dogs in our lives mirror our weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes showing us a path to improvement,  an epiphany of choices.

They do this.

Our burden or bliss is to do the same for them.

Manage your puppy to make training easy

Feeling guilty about how much time your pup is alone, confined and not out running around playing? April10Obe2013 001a

It’s true your puppy needs you, needs your time and your focus.  She needs to play and exercise and see things and do things. But it’s also true that if she is free to find her own fun, free to play with other dogs, free to chase and explore she will learn things you don’t want her to and she will bond with dogs more rapidly than she will with you. This is especially true if you have one of the smart breeds, the active breeds as opposed to a couch potato breed (but remember there is lots of variation within dog breeds). FYI if you’re not an invested dog person I suggest you avoid the smart/active breeds of dogs, they will not be a good fit for you. Smart does not mean easy, usually just the opposite.

Freedom without you means you will not be that important compared to everything else in the environment that pleases her, which then means a required leash in later life – more freedom now means less freedom in the long run. Instead of best friends you will be upset and a nag and an anchor if you’re not careful. The time to be very careful with supervision is now in these first 9 – 15 months (or much, much longer if you don’t believe in confining puppies). Rule of thumb – wait until 2 years old and reliable while you are there before leaving a young dog alone for long periods unconfined in your house.

In these first months it is more important to build your relationship and do things together, do the socialization together with your pup and not let an older dog or young kids give the fun and socialization without you. Slightly less exercise is an OK trade.

Management and prevention: Set up a potty schedule – one that makes it unlikely accidents will happen (this means frequent potty breaks outside with you to treat successes and no unmonitored household freedom). It means getting someone to give your pup potty breaks if you can’t. Use the crate and an ex-pen or gated puppy-proof room/area – if you are not interacting with the pup then they need to be confined, they do not get whole house liberty or even half-house liberty. Set up household rules – if it’s no dogs on the furniture/bed that means now and if pup is on a lap the lap needs to be sitting on the floor. Food stealing – Toddlers tend to shed food, so keep the pup confined if the toddler is eating to avoid food stealing. Garbage, keep it covered and taken out. Chewing – You don’t want non-chew toys chewed, pick things up and only have chew toys on the floor. Chasing – kids, cats or being too rough with smaller or older dogs needs to be prevented (this is not going to get better with age). Biting – redirect this to chew toys, or stop whatever movement you’re doing/child is doing, game over. Bolting out doorways/gates – doorways don’t open, or they don’t stay open if the pup moves from a sit. Very young pups can easily learn this if you’re patient and wait. Jumping up – obnoxious attention-getting behaviors are ignored, just turn away and only give attention to polite pup (sitting still), the same for attention seeking barking, whining or pawing. If attention seeking behaviors like the aforementioned are rewarded with attention (either good attention or bad attention – yelling, pushing …) they will continue and likely be more and more persistent. Pulling on leash – acclimate them to a Gentle Leader (humane but effective tool) or Easy Walker and do not go forward unless there is no tension on the lead, because no matter what the tool is they can learn to pull despite it.

Managing a puppy is work, fun work, but a lot of work. Although if you don’t manage them it can become a dog’s lifetime of trouble. If you do manage them then the cool things you want to train can be trained, otherwise you end up bogged down and upset in trying to fix the things they like to do that you don’t like them to do.

What about newly adopted adult dogs? I treat them as if they were puppies because it is unlikely they came from a well structured environment, plus I want them to know that all good things come from me. If they have too much freedom to find their own fun they will know they can find it away from and without me, which is not a lesson they need to learn, especially if liberty, advanced learning and a great dog is the goal.

What about your own unruly, poorly managed young adult dogs? Go back and manage and train. Unfortunately it will likely take at least twice as long this time around because they know how the household used to work and you likely will have trouble remembering your own new rules. Positive is not permissive, it takes much planning and thought.

Jazzie – the surprise

JazziandMaxNov2009 001Jazzie, the ACD is amazing, funny, smart, quick and very competitive. A dog I didn’t intend to obtain.

Jazzie started as Chas, shivering in the back corner of her kennel at the shelter. A 1.5-year-old blue heeler type female, full of timid reserve, surrendered by her family because they wanted to keep her sister, but not her. I was volunteering and there on a weekly basis giving recommendations for handling and key things that would benefit the dogs that came in. I was also trying to make sure people used positive reinforcement instead of the standard ol’ training.

I met her, we connected immediately, but I was resistant. I had made a pact with myself about these dogs being for other people. The next time (almost a week later) I met her again she was less happy than she had been the first time, I needed to get her out of there, so I did. I knew that the chance that she would find somebody who could build her confidence and get rid of the baggage was pretty small, she was so smart, I couldn’t let her remain, I couldn’t resist.

I knew her regaining of confidence would be a long process. She was beyond the best socialization period (8-16 weeks)  people shy, hand shy, afraid of riding in the car and lacking basic training, but she was very quick and she connected with me.

Now she’s almost 6 years old. She weighs 35 pounds, She is flexible and strong and fast, has medium brown eyes, freckles on her nose and eyelids and a speckled coat. She knows more things than any other dog I’ve ever had and shows no slowing of learning. She can go anywhere, but likes a job to do so she needn’t worry about encroaching unknown people.

She remains suspicious of strangers (which is typical of Australian Cattle Dogs). People like the way she looks, but she doesn’t like them staring at her and will bark at them if she notices prolonged looks. If you wanted to meet her the best thing would be to invite a game of fetch, no snuggles from unknowns for her. She likes riding in cars when she thinks she knows the destination will be fun, loves fast games and complains occassionally when she thinks ‘reward time’ and wasn’t, but is ever so pleased when she figures it out. She has changed my rule about no dogs on furniture and asks to be on my lap for TV movie watching. She’s a great cuddler – very comfortable.

She likes toys and games better than food, but she likes food especially chicken and beef. She works for kibble. Frisbee is her favorite game, but tugging is way up there. The snow is so deep this winter that disc fetching has been difficult (see photos of snow swimming). She also likes hikes in the woods and  water swimming. She’s very competitive so whatever some other dog is doing she would like to do better.

She’s very good around horses, doesn’t trust the cat (with reason) and is good around other dogs – but won’t take any guff. She holds grudges if another dog injures her in play. She’s not the dog I could take to Aggressive Dog class and expect no reaction, she doesn’t believe in turning the other cheek, but she’s unlikely to start anything.

Jazzie has the young soul, acquisitive, impulsive, problem solving, liking attention and admiration. Very much about movement and speed. She’s disappointed if she’s not the fastest or doesn’t figure out something the quickest.

What you see is all there is – fallacy of decision making in picking a puppy

“Puppy, puppy, puppy, I want that puppy!”

When information is limited, which is very common, we tend to jump to conclusions.

Consider the following: “Will this puppy be a good companion? She is friendly and pretty… “An answer quickly came to your mind, and it was yes. You picked the best answer based on very little information given, but you, jumped the gun. What if the next two descriptions were giant breed and short-lived (6-8 yrs) or not insurable and banned in your city.

Take note of what you did not do as you briefly thought of choosing this puppy as a companion. You did not start by asking, “What would I need to know before I formed an opinion about the quality of a pup’s companionship?” Quick thinking (non deep thinking) got to work on its own from the first adjective: friendly is good, pretty is good. And the bias remains favoring the first impression.

We construct stories in our own minds from whatever information we have, many times it’s not much at all. And that first bias remains even after more in-depth information is available.

Several years ago a nursing home administrator contacted me about training a puppy as a nursing home companion. It would be her own dog and come to the nursing home each day. She hadn’t successfully raised a dog before and the earlier attempt had resulted in the dog being returned to the shelter as “too needy.” I talked about the sheer volume of time and effort this undertaking would be…’no problem’. The age the pup would need to meet before it could be considered reliable…about two years. The temperament that would be the most conducive to a good fit. She initially said she was thinking of a yellow lab (I told her I thought this was a good choice), and then she said she wanted a Great Dane and wouldn’t be swayed.

I’m not saying that a Great Dane couldn’t be a good therapy dog, but think about size and the space in the rooms and the equipment and the fears of the little old women when a huge dog gallumped in. And then there’s the incredibly short average lifespan and long bone cancer. The difficulty the dog might have on the tile floors (need for cushioning when lying down, sliding, crashing). I’m saying there’s a lot of other dogs that would fit the needs incredibly much better, but she had met a Great Dane that just laid there and was so nice.

My lack of support ended our relationship, it had only been phone and a brief flurry of emails anyway, so I don’t know if she actually got a Great Dane puppy, kept it and if so by now it would be an ‘old’, as far as Great Danes are concerned, dog.

Some of my own strategies for making informed choices in pups or dogs (note I have had dogs, trained and competed with dogs, for over 40 years so I’ve got some experience): knowing what my intent is for this dog (what are we going to be doing together),  researching the breed and breed characteristics (I do this every time because years have gone by) – knowing a lot about dogs, greeting and visiting the pup’s dam and sire first (at shelter’s I have only been comfortable choosing adult dogs), visiting the pup/dog multiple times so I can really see how it acts (I have found that sometimes I am charmed by something and so miss some details that I believe important to my choice at later visits), whatever the sex of my current youngest dog is the new one is the opposite to lessen the likelihood of personality clashes and finally reminding myself there are a huge amount really wonderful dogs, so if I don’t choose this one and someone else gets him, its OK.

You may have noticed that price wasn’t in the last paragraph. Unless I am doing conformation showing (which I haven’t for 20 years) or have a very specific breeder/line in mind (like proven service dog or search/rescue breeder or any proven workability),other than that price doesn’t reflect the quality of the dog/pup. It is just what a buyer will pay, mostly ill informed people. So over the years I have paid very little to quite a lot for dogs, depending on what I wanted and what I discovered in my evaluations. The less I knew the less I got for the price I paid.

When picking horses a fair number of people employ an expert (probably less than should, but still). In dogs (except if I was right there already) I have only very occasionally had someone ask me to go with them for helping matching them with a pup, which seems odd considering that dogs live inside people’s houses for at least 10 years. Of course, maybe its because I might not support their decision since I’m willing to leave without a puppy.

Wikipedia Great Dane Sultan
Wikipedia Great Dane Sultan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Doggy Nostalgia – Airedales the way it used to be

My daughter (4-years-old) at a mall fun show stacking Sage for the photographer.

The skunky smell of puppy breath, the warm firmly packed bodies voicing low squeaking that will so soon turn into barks and growls and so determined to get to mommy dog‘s belly. Me sleeping next to the whelping box making sure the process was going right. I do miss it sometimes. All the planning and preparing, the right sire, the time frames, the travel and marketing to make sure there were the buyers for the babies. And the fun of developing puppies, the handling, playing and evaluating.

I raised and showed Airedale Terriers. Had at most one litter per year, but usually that was a doozie, 12 pups at a time. The average litter size for airedales is supposed to be 7 -9, we only hit that once. That was back in the 80s, when the AKC was the only breed registry that counted and there weren’t ‘designer’ aka mixed breeds being sold. That was when adopting a dog from a shelter was, well, not done by anyone who wanted a ‘good’ dog. Getting a dog was a combination of researching pedigrees, checking titles of parents and evaluating pups at seven weeks for conformation and temperament. Then getting the pup from eight to 12-weeks-old and starting the process of training – for general manners and for showing. I showed in obedience and conformation both, and hunted my dogs on birds. Airedales are very versatile dogs, hardy, athletic and we always found them to be quite willing, but persistent (some people call that stubborn).

Our last home-bred Airedale puppy, died at the age of 14 in 2006. He was my husband’s dog. He had been part of a pair of pups I was keeping, the female I planned to show. Just before they were a year old on a snowy winter day my husband let them out to play and then got distracted. They were running about the yard with plastic milk bottle toys, I was inside and saw them out the window and I almost called out the door to say I’d take them out for a walk later. But I didn’t, and only 15 minutes later my husband was running back down our long driveway with my female puppy draped over his arms. I did CPR, but it was no use. She’d been hit a glancing blow by a car (which never stopped), there were no apparent injuries. She was following the male pup who was the more adventuresome one, I couldn’t ever quite forgive him so he became my husband’s dog. My husband spent a rough next 2 weeks too, I wasn’t feeling the love – he let them out and then forgot about them.

During the 20 or so years that we had airedales life was pretty spunky. They were characters; funny, serious, good problem solvers, indomitable and sometimes just shake-your-head terriers. One time two of our males got into a pretty serious tussle over a large zucchini they both, obviously wanted, which was on the other side of the fence in the garden.

We got airedales because my husband, who had never had a dog, liked the way they looked. I had always had dogs and wanted to raise them, I liked shepherds and dobermans, but was willing to compromise. I studied the breed and the standard and went to see a litter. Spent hours watching the pups, went away, came back the next day and watched some more and picked a male that I liked the best. This was to be my husband’s dog, I still had a female German Shepherd from my college days. Dan had lots to learn, but so did I.

Just think of this crew coming to greet you!

Six Airedales and one child (Kendra) decorating them for the photo with sweet Williams (flowers).

Do you have a fond memory of a dog from bygone days?

Our last Airedale, Simba, riding in the front of Dan’s canoe.