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Frequently Asked Questions

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I see some trainers use gadgets like electronic collars and head halters. Do you use these?
Yes and No. Yes, I am trained and experienced with these tools, but I only resort to them when all other 'non-gear' means have been exhausted, or if we are doing something extremely specialized. But I definitely do not use them as standard tools of the trade.
I was thinking about getting two puppies so they can have a buddy to play with. Is this a good idea?
STOP!!!! DON'T DO IT! Getting littermates (or two young puppies at once) is a recipe for disaster. Yes, they will have a buddy to play with, but they will also form a bond with each other that may be stronger than the bond you have with them. When it comes time to get their attention, they could just blow you off to play with the other. Not to mention, it's twice the training, twice the expense, twice the chaos, and twice the potential destruction. I've also seen numerous cases with littermates where the bolder one protects the shyer one, perpetuating a life of fear for the shy one. Splitting them up later can become extremely stressful, even though it's for the better. The psychological consequences can get extremely complicated as they get older. Yes, you can raise littermates without any incident, but unfortunately you don't know what results you're going to yield until you are already in the middle of it. It's not worth gambling with your pup's well-being.
Should I get a puppy or an adult dog?
This comes down to your personal preference. Puppies are great because you can shape them like clay before they develop bad habits, manners, or phobias, BUT puppies are A LOT of work, and can test your patience throughout the first year of their life. Older dogs aren't as needy as a young puppy, and can often fit right into your lifestyle without a ton of work, HOWEVER, you may not always know their history, if they have triggers that may set them off, or if they have lots of baggage you won't discover until down the road. So either way can be good, and either way can be a challenge. You have to be honest with yourself if you can train a young puppy or if you want to chance a dog with an unknown background (a little research can answer that question though).
I want to get a new puppy. How old should it be?
Generally speaking, a pup shouldn't leave its litter until it's 8 -10 weeks old. A lot of people sell pups at 5 weeks old because they are anxious to make some money, and they will use the excuse "the mom's not feeding them anymore" as their reasoning. Well, that's a a bunch of nonsense! In the time from 5 weeks to 8 weeks of age, puppies are learning to socialize within their little pack. They're learning how to play, developing bite control, building confidence, learning how to read body language, and how to work as a team. When you deprive a puppy of these crucial fundamentals, you run the risk of raising a dog who is terrified of the world around it, or even of its own shadow. I've seen these problems way too many times with Boarding School dogs and in Private Training. If you buy a pup from a breeder, make sure they are encouraging good social skills by not breaking up the litter until at least 8 weeks old.
The Myth – It is important for the family to eat before the dog to be its Pack Leader.
The Truth - Hogwash! In the world of the wolf pack, dining order is one of the many ways a Pack Leader will establish and maintain its rank over the pack, often eating the choicest organs and meats before the lower ranking members get their turn. However, in the world of the domesticated pet, which often eats from its own bowl on the floor, and not from the same meal as it's owners, it really is a stretch to say dominance of rank through meal time is even a relative activity. In fact, it is nearly impossible to correlate human meal time versus the dog's meal time as any kind of rank establishment mechanism. So unless you plan on getting on your hands and knees, growling with lips raised and hide standing on end, to dine over a deer carcass with your Dachshund, then you can rest assured that the timing of your Ramen Noodle dinner to that of Fifi's bowl of kibble, has no effect on pack rank and is surely a waste of time AND energy. It simply makes little difference.
What age should I begin training my dog?
This is very simple. You should begin deliberate training of your dog the very day you bring it into your home, regardless of age. What many people often do is bring the dog home, and then let it enjoy unregulated freedom, with the belief that the dog needs to feel at ease and bond with the family. After all, no one wants to be the "meanie" that makes the dog start obeying rules and enforcing strictness. Well, that is where you start down the wrong path. Lack of formal training is still "training", but instead of laying down clear boundaries and rules the dog can follow, you inadvertently teach the dog that there are NO rules, boundaries, enforcement, consequences, and worst of all, NO leadership. Then later when the dog is out of control, you'll have a sizable hole to dig your way out of.
What do you think of the methods of TV Trainers?
Television trainers are there for entertainment purposes only, and should NOT be used as a means to try and train your dog. The reasoning is quite simple. What you watch in mere minutes of a short TV segment has been edited down from hours of film, with the best parts saved for entertainment value. This is certainly not to say that the TV Trainers are wrong or bad trainers, it's just that you aren't getting the entire training process. Also, should you follow a piece of training advice you see on TV, how can you be sure that all of the circumstances are similar enough to your situation to justify the approach you are trying to follow? You simply can't. You may find yourself solving one problem, only to create an entirely new one. Lastly, the TV Trainer is not there to help you through the various curve balls you may encounter when trying to resolve problems. In short, they may be good; they may be bad... but it's all for entertainment purposes.
The Myth – Playing Tug-O-War with my dog will make it aggressive?
The Truth - Playing Tug-O-War with your dog WILL NOT make it aggressive! In most cases, playing Tug with your dog is a fun game, full of action, stress release, and bonding. The game of Tug invokes one of a dog's more primal drives - The Fight drive. Often two or more dogs in a pack will tug over an object as a posturing game of play, or as a means to dispatch the small quarry captured during a hunt. In either situation, there is no aggression between the dogs, and the game is more about teamwork. Now, in the event your dog is dominant over YOU, and has no respect for YOU, and has already showed signs of aggression, then you may see aggressive displays during Tug. In these instances, the game of Tug itself isn't making your dog aggressive, but rather just bringing to light the severe differences in rank between you and your dog (in its eyes). If your dog is dominant over you, and doesn't trust or respect you, the game of Tug then becomes a fight over a resource. Odds are that the aggressive behaviors will be showing themselves in other facets of your relationship, and not just during Tug. Again, the game doesn't cause the aggression, it merely makes it more visible. In the world of Search and Rescue, Detection, Agility, Fly Ball, and other dog sports/ jobs, the game of Tug is often used as a reward for the dog successfully performing it's duties. If this Myth were the least bit true, you wouldn't see so many hard-working dogs busting their butts for just a few seconds of Tug with their owner. More to come!!!
I was told giving my dogs treats when training makes them lose respect for me, like I’m a servant to them. Is this true?
 I've heard this too, and have seen a few Celebrity Trainers and a few books mention this. Being that most of the best performing dogs in the world have been trained with rewards-based training (treats included), you can easily conclude that this is total nonsense. It is an "old-school" way of thinking... you know, the kind of training where choke chains and intimidation reign supreme. You don't gain or lose respect by giving your dogs treats as a reward. Respect is won or lost in your every-day interactions. Would you really want to work with a trainer who says you can't pay your dog with something that motivates it?
Can I teach my puppy to use a doggie-door instead of crate-training it?
No! Sure, puppies of a very young age can learn to use the doggy-door as a means to relieve itself outside, but with that freedom comes responsibility. Can your puppy be trusted alone in the house; trusted not to develop chewing habits, garbage tipping habits, couch habits, and so on? Most likely not. Puppies, like kids, need lots of guidance in their formidable years to make sure they make the right choices, and also that there are consequences when they make the wrong choices. If no one is there to teach the puppy chewing on the coffee table is wrong, how will it ever learn? Do yourself a favor, and use the kennel as a tool to keep your puppy safe when you can't supervise it. This is one of the simplest methods of destruction prevention.
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