Tips for Your New Puppy or Dog

Whether you've just brought a new puppy or dog home there are a few things you can do to make your transition together easier.  Here are 10 tips for an easy transition for your new addition:

10) Don't compare your new addition to a previous dog/puppy.  Even if they are the same breed.  Temperament, experience, genetics, and everything in between makes an individual.  So don't expect your new dog to act just like your previous one.

9) Let your new addition be themselves!  Watch, observe, see what your baseline-ground zero looks like.  What are they like in new environments, with new people, new surfaces, new objects, and similar things?  The better you understand your new addition the more successful you can make your outings and training sessions in the future!

8) Management, management, management!  Do not give your new addition full run of the house.  Start with a small area, with no carpet that can be destroyed, and make sure that your new addition is making good choices.  Then overtime, give them more space in the house.     

7) Crate train your new addition.  Crates are a great asset for any household.  And no, I don't think extended crating for over 4 hours at a time is OK.  However, I do think that crating is a great tool for management (because no one enjoys replacing carpet/couches/etc.)  If you plan to do dog sports and attend titling events, you will most likely need to have a dog that is good in a crate.

McCoy and his new brother Poe!

McCoy and his new brother Poe!

6) Take introductions to the other pets in your home slowly.  Do not throw your new dog into the pack with your others.  Take your time.  Plan to have several weeks where dogs are separate when you cannot supervise.  Take long walks with your dogs, giving them space as needed to be successful.  Supervise their interactions and be patient.  Making new friends takes time!

5) Do not make assumptions about your new addition's skill set.  Even if their breeder or rescue says they are good with other dogs, kids, people, and cats, make sure.  Take your time.  Do not assume this to be true.  There are always exceptions, even the biggest extroverts don't get along with everyone. 

4) Be prepared to teach your new addition new skills.  Even if they were house trained, good with recall, or a perfect loose leash walker, these skills may not translate to your home.  So be patient and have fun.  Dogs/puppies all learn at a different pace.  They need time to learn what your expectations are and how you work.

3) Have all the supplies you need before your new addition arrives.  Do you have:

  • Kongs
  • Bully Sticks
  • High value toys and toys that your dog can have anytime
  • Crate
  • Baby Gates
  • Exercise pens
  • Collar, tag, leash, harness, and long line
  • Food
  • and a lot of patience as you both transition into life together!

2) Play together, learn what your dogs loves, what they hate, and what they enjoy doing.  Every dog has a different drive, a different talent, and different favorite toy.  This stuff is where every handler/dog relationship starts.  

1) Enjoy your time together!  If you just brought a puppy home, you'll never get this time back again.  Our dogs age just as quickly. 

Process Goals vs Performance Goals

This post is from my 12 Things I Learned from My Dogs

Process Goals vs Performance Goals: sometimes the best goals are not achieving xyz title by this date or taking 1st place at nationals.  The best goals are often small, very achievable, and a great way to find success. How long does this take to learn?  A LONG LONG time.  Especially if your heart beats for competition, and you just want to BE THE BEST.

That's where conflict starts, conflict with the dog we have, conflict with our training time, conflict with reality.  The reality is that we can't all be the best ALL THE TIME.  Even if you are the very best (way to be humble about it folks.)  So the push begins to accomplish performance goals: taking 1st at nationals, getting this title by that date, etc.  The problem with performance goals is they shouldn't be your only goals.  If performance goals are your only goals you'll set yourself and your dog up for failure.  

Photo Credit Great Dane Photos

Photo Credit Great Dane Photos

Process Goals are one some of the coolest goals you can set for yourself and your dog.  They aren't about a destination.  They are about HOW YOU GET THERE. 

So for example, I want to achieve this performance goal: have a dog that can walk by any distraction.  Some process goals might be: practice turn 5 times today, go to a low stress/distraction environment, take the highest value treat for my dog, leave with a happy dog who isn't stressed, and smile at my dog while we are there. Small - achievable goals that can be met.  This way you and your dog aren't constantly failing to meet your big performance goal.

Process goals get you to where you want to go.  And research shows that you actually accomplish more and stay more satisfied with lots of smaller goals than the big dreams.  So make some process based goals, you may very well accomplish some performance goals along the way with a lot less pressure. <3

Magic Comes with a Price

The magic switch, the wand wave, the erase button: these all come up in classes or privates and it's common for folks to look for a quick fix. It makes me think about an author named Brandon Sanderson (New York Times best seller) and his Second Law of Magic: limitations are greater than the power.  Which means there is always a weakness or cost associated with magic.  For example, Gandalf (in Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien) defeated the Belrog but at a great price to himself (death.)  Meaning the magic he performed had a great cost.  

What the heck does this have to do with dog training?

Well a lot actually.  There are companies that take advantage of this magic seeking and sell products like ecollars and other aversive training methods.  An aversive may impact dog behavior but the overall cost isn't worth paying.  When you send an electric current through the artery of a dog there is a great cost.  There is damage to the relationship, the dog's trust of you, and an even bigger price of causing a possible negative association to whatever you shocked them for.  Meaning that if a dog is harmed every time they bark at another dog, they most likely will start associating dogs with pain.  Meaning that your dog may not have been aggressive, but you are now creating an aggressive dog.  Magic comes with a price, always.

Positive Reinforcement also comes with a price. However, it's one I'm willing to pay.  When I found agility many years ago, I watched fast flashy dogs run over, around, and through everything they were asked to.  I fell in love with the sport and wanted to start right away.  What I didn't realize was the cost.  Not the monetary cost, but rather the sweat equity cost that came with training my young brilliant and very distracted/over aroused/wild/beautiful hound.  So I became frustrated when a few months training really wasn't even making a dimple in the surface.  We didn't have a good foundation and our training time together hadn't been equal to the magic I wanted.  The magic did come with a very great time equity cost.  AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY MOMENT.

So when you start looking for magic, remind yourself that there is a cost.  Take a giant step back and really think about the price you are willing to pay in training.  The best moments, come with hours of time, sweat, and understanding with your dog.  Magic comes with a price, just make sure it's a price you are willing to pay.

If you'd like to read Brandon Sanderson's full article and law of magic you can do so here:


My dog doesn't have to love your dog. Why would I expect them to?

This post is part of the 12 Things I Learned From My Dogs Series.

Freya and Roy Snoozing 7+ Years Ago

Freya and Roy Snoozing 7+ Years Ago

Last night I was talking with my father-in-law Roy and he said something that I enjoyed greatly, "Well, when we had all three kids at Disneyland we didn't run around asking other families if their kids were friendly. We didn't send our kids off to meet new kids.  We left them alone.  They left us alone.  We all did our own thing."  This made me laugh for quite some time, just picturing adults in public places demanding to know if other people's kids were friendly.  I just picture a mom letting her kids out of a car while hollering "THEY'RE FRIENDLY" as the kids descend upon the playground.

So why, if this is so absurd to think of, would it be OK for our dogs? 

My expectation of my dogs in public is to not infringe on the rights of others.  If I'm on the trail, we move off the trail to allow people to pass.  If I'm in a store, we'll take another isle.  I will give you lots of space, even if you have the nicest friendliest person and dog on the planet.  I don't make assumptions, because it isn't fair to my dog or your dog. 

My dogs are always honest about how they feel about different social situations:

Freya - "Everyone loves me, because I'm me! And I love you, and you, and especially you!" ERGO, I don't usually allow her off leash.  Her recall and self control are SO much better then they used to be, BUT I don't want to set her up for failure (or set her up for a dog fight when she meets the wrong dog.)  Plus letting her run up to people and other dogs is just rude.

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Sissy - "Being near me is a privilege afforded to humans only.  Canines need not apply. Pet me human!"  ERGO, when we are out, I take extra space.  Avoid dogs whenever possible to keep her comfortable, and in general we don't access trails or spaces at peak times during the day.  Having dogs press into her space would set her up for failure, and I don't want other dogs harmed.  Plus she is downright demanding for attention with people, and not everyone is a dog person.

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McCoy - "Dog's should not stare, look, or approach me period.  They mess up my orderly world."  ERGO, we usually go in the boonies to walk, or I drive to empty subdivisions.  We squeak into smaller agility trials and meticulously plan our walk to the ring.  If he doesn't feel comfortable in an environment, we don't participate and scratch our runs.  It isn't fair to risk his emotional well being or the well being of other dogs.

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And you know what, I wouldn't expect any of them to be any different.  I don't enjoy big parties, I have a huge space bubble, I'm a resource guarder (just try taking food away), and a fairly awkward social being.  So when I'm out and about, even with Freya Dog, I dread the call "he's FRIENDLY!" as a dog comes bolting my direction.  Or worse yet, when someone approaches after I have clearly avoided them and says "Is your dog friendly?" To which I always say NO, and leave immediately. 

Let's rethink the social expectations for our dogs.  They are living being just like us.  With their own preferences and space needs.  Give everyone space in public and get it in return.  I live for the day that people start respecting other dogs and people while out and about.

12 Things I Learned From My Dogs

My dogs have taught me many things, but here are the top 12.  I know there are probably hundreds more than that, but it's a good starting point. As I write articles about these the links will be active.

12. Management can be a better solution than training at times.

11. Raw Food is a PITA, but worth every minute, and penny.

10. Vaccination is controversial, but you should know what to vaccinate for, when to vaccinate, and what questions to ask your vet.

9. Know your essential dog stuff: things I always have around to help me, my dogs, and my family enjoy life together.

8. My dog doesn't have to love your dog.  Why would I expect them to?

7.  Having a positive relationship with my dog is more important than a perfect sit.

6. There is always something new to learn.  A new book, a new dvd, a new class, a new workshop, a new sport. 

5. Our dogs aren't always made for the sports we choose.

4. If you don't put the training time in, you won't get the desired behaviors out.  Having a training plan and setting time aside for training is essential.

3. Process Goals vs Performance Goals: sometimes the best goals are not achieving xyz title by this date or taking 1st place at nationals.  The best goals are often small, very achievable, and a great way to find success.

2. Nature vs Nurture Matters.  If you don't have a good building block with genetics, you get what you get.  Know your dogs lines, know your breeder, know your chosen breed.

1. You don't always get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.  There aren't perfect dogs in this world, but with the right attitude, you get the perfect dog for you!

So here's to more understanding, thought, and learning for all of us!