Alpha and NILIF

Big dog-300

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

~John C. Maxwell


 What does it take to be the big dog, the leader? Not in size but in temperament. After all, size has nothing to do with being the “big dog” in the dog world. There are dogs the size of Rottweilers that are the “big dog,” but there are also dogs the size of Chihuahuas that are the “big dog.”

We want to take this time to talk about two terms that humans often misuse and misunderstand. One is the term “alpha,” the other is the term “NILIF,” or nothing in life is free. As dog trainers, we hear many people use both of these terms but when questioned on what they mean, they do not fully understand or sometimes have no clue what they really mean.


 In our dog training, we seldom use the term “alpha.” We also never tell people they need to be the “alpha.” When we first meet people to help with their dogs we always discuss leadership and the importance of being a good leader to your dog. In our experience, when people hear the term “alpha,”

they assume it means being aggressive or dominant over your dog.  That  you should “force” your dog to submit to you. This thinking is the furthest from the truth.

In social animals, the alpha is the individual in the community with the highest rank. Male or female individuals or both can be alphas, depending on their species. Where one male and one female fulfill this role, they are referred to as the alpha pair. Other animals in the same social group may exhibit deference or other symbolic signs of respect particular to their species toward the alpha or alphas. In hierarchal social animals, alphas usually gain preferential access to food and other desirable items or activities, though the extent of this social effect varies widely by species. Male and female alphas may gain preferential access to sex or mates, and in some species, only alphas or an alpha pair is permitted to reproduce.

Alphas may achieve their status by means of superior physical prowess or through social efforts and building alliances within the group.

The position  of alpha  also changes in some  species, usually through a physical fight between a dominant and subordinate animal. Such fights may or may not be to the death, with relevant behavior varying between circumstance and species.

Many people use the term “alpha” to tell us that their dog’s aggressive or out-of-control behavior is because he is the “alpha.” This also is untrue. In fact, if your dog is acting outwardly aggressive or out of control, chances are it is because he senses no leadership and has not been provided with rules by you, the human. Dogs are self-serving opportunists, if you allow them to be bossy and it works for them, they will continue to do so. A bossy dog is a bossy dog, not an alpha dog.

In the dog world, there are only two positions, the leader or the follower. If you are not one, you are the other. Most dogs are not born “alpha” dogs. If they sense no leadership in the pack, they will automatically try to fill the role. If they are not a born “alpha dog,” they will be terrible at it and you will see aggressive or fearful behaviors. A true “alpha” dog is rarely aggressive. If you are ever in the presence of a true “alpha” dog, you will see that he commands respect by calm assertiveness, not aggression and certainly not severe aggression unless the situation merits, such as a threat to his life.

A true alpha dog does not need to act aggressively, because everyone in the pack knows he is the alpha or leader and will respect his authority based on his energy within the pack. The relationship is based on trust and respect. Others will rarely challenge his authority. He can give a simple glance and they know not to mess with him. Not necessarily because he was aggressive toward them, but because they understand the intention with a simple look, that if they pushed him he would correct them and they would lose….period. When an alpha dog enters into a pack of dogs, he will let them know his position simply by the way he walks into the group. He generally will enter without sniffing anyone and will be aloof to other dogs around him. Other dogs will often follow the “alpha” dog; the alpha rarely follows the rest.

The picture above is of the alpha male and alpha female dogs of our pack before they passed away. George and Sonora. George was never overly aggressive toward any of our pack of four or the hundreds of dogs we see in our business. He walked with self-assurance and head held high. When we brought in a dog for evaluation, we would use George and Sonora for the evaluation. We used the two of them for their ability to always be aloof and ignore other dogs.

George never had to become aggressive with our other pack members. When we brought home our bulldog puppy Rudy, he would often approach George if George was chewing a bone. As Rudy would approach the bone, George would give him a look. If he continued, George would curl his lip and occasionally growl. If Rudy continued to push it, George would quickly and accurately bite Rudy on his face, hard enough to make him yelp and walk away. The next time Rudy approached, all George had to do was give the look. Rudy would take heed. However, there were times when George was chewing a bone or toy and would let Rudy take it because he was not that interested in it any longer. Being alpha does not mean being a tyrant. It means being a leader, being fair, and setting rules and boundaries. The other dogs always knew when they could or could not take something the alpha pair had.

Sonora was clearly the alpha female of the dog pack. She would stand her ground by growling and showing teeth if she disapproved. She was the more vocal of the two and used it to her advantage. The other dogs would take heed and not push her. She also would share resources and would play with the others.

It became startlingly clear to us that George and Sonora were the pack leaders of the dog pack when they both died in the same week. Our pack used to hang out in our backyard, which they had access to through a doggie door. We would always find them lying on our deck or under a bush or tree. Once George and Sonora died, the two remaining dogs, Bentley and Rudy seemed lost. They stuck closer to us and went outside only to go to the bathroom. To this day, they do not use the backyard as they did when George and Sonora were alive. Neither Rudy nor Bentley is a pack leader.

Now, the reason we say that George and Sonora were the leaders of the DOG pack is because even though they were the leaders of the dogs, they respected us as leaders of them. They would rarely challenge our commands and would allow us to take anything from them. Not because we intimidated them by using forceful techniques, but because we established a leadership program with them—a fair, consistent leadership program based on trust and respect.

By using the Puppy Montessori program and establishing clear rules and boundaries, you are teaching your puppy what is acceptable in the pack and what is not, which builds respect. By rewarding good behavior and controlling the situations your puppy is in, you are building trust. This puts you in the leadership role. For example, If you do not want your dog on the furniture, you let him know by either never letting him on the furniture or by directing him off of the furniture and rewarding him for lying on his own bed. These daily rules are what will establish you as the pack leader.

NILIF (nothing in life is free)

 We cannot talk about leadership without talking about the NILIF program. NILIF simply means, “Nothing in life is free,” and it means just that.

NILIF is a consistent methodology that is based on action/reaction. Basically it means that your puppy has to do something before he gets something he wants. Where people fail at this concept is by allowing the dog to make all the decisions on his own. By making all the decisions on his own, he then assumes he is the leader. If he is not a born leader, this is where you will see issues such as insecurity or dominance. For instance, your dog wants to jump on the furniture, and he does so anytime the mood strikes. If he wants to play ball, he brings you the ball, and you throw it. He wants to be petted, he nudges your hand, and you pet him. He wants to eat, he barks at you at

dinnertime, and you feed him. All these things are the dog telling you to do something, and you do it. Bingo, in his mind, he must be the leader. This will also lead to a bossy dog.

The NILIF program was designed to put rules and boundaries in place to let your dog know that you are the leader of him, not the other way around. The first thing is to end all attention on demand. When your dog comes to you and nudges you to pet him or brings you a toy to play with, you ignore him. The only time you pet or play with your dog is when YOU initiate it. If he is sitting or lying away from you, call him to you and pet or play with him. Before you feed your dog or play with your dog he is to perform a task such as “sit” or “down.” If he wants to get on the furniture or bed (and you allow him on the furniture), he should have to ask by coming to you and sitting before you give the command to get on the furniture. If he wants to go outside, he should sit and wait before doing so.

So you see, for everything the dog wants from you, he first must perform an action to get the reward he wants. Remember the program is called NOTHING in life is free. It is not called SOME things in life are free and that is where most people fall short on this program. Some people will say they are implementing the NILIF program by making their dog sit before feeding, but they still pet the dog or give attention on demand. This is not NILIF.

Many people tend to be overly affectionate to their dogs. In fact, many of the problems we see in dogs stem from people who give their dogs too much free-flowing affection. We are not saying you should never be affectionate to your dog; we are saying you should not be overly affectionate. Too much affection can create a dog that senses no leadership and oftentimes creates an anxious or nervous dog or a dog that is aggressive or dominant. Your dog should always perform some task before getting affection and should never be allowed to demand affection.

Understand this is just a primer for the NILIF concept, not the complete program or description. Again, as with any training program, you must be consistent. If you allow your dog to jump up on the furniture or demand attention on one day, and not on another, you will be confusing the dog. In a dog pack, the rules do not change on a daily basis. If your rules change daily, your dog will be unsure about what those rules are, which will lead to confusion and distrust. Be consistent!

In conclusion, Raising a puppy is never an easy endeavor but if done right can be less frustrating than doing it wrong. The Puppy Montessori program is designed to help take the frustration out of puppy ownership, creating a better bond between human and dog that can last a lifetime, if not yours, definitely your dog’s.

Following are the twelve key components to the Puppy Montessori program:

Choosing the right puppy—It is “critical” to understand which puppy is right for you. Do your homework; raising a puppy should not begin with an impulse decision. (Chapter 1)

 Understanding developmental levels—Puppies are like children. Understand that they are going to go through different phases of development. It is important for you to understand how to correctly respond to these phases in your puppy’s development. (Chapter 2)

 Communicating—Do not talk too much! It is important not to use words until you understand and establish proper communication with your puppy. (Chapter 3)

 Setting up a nursery—Environmental controls are critical to your puppy’s development and the relationship you will establish with your puppy. The goal is to help set up you and your puppy for success. (Chapter 4)

 Potty training—Proper potty training will make or break your relationship with your puppy. Potty training issues are the number one reason puppies are rehomed. (Chapter 5)

 Socializing—Socialize early and socialize often using proper techniques.

(Chapter 6)

 Leash walking—Leash = Love. The leash is the artery to your puppy’s experience in the outside world. Dogs have four legs and are meant to walk. (Chapter 7)

 Obedience—Train early, Train often! Obedience is the heart of a healthy human/dog relationship. (Chapter 8)

Curbing destructive behaviorsIt is easier to train good behaviors than undo bad ones! Do not give too much freedom too soon. (Chapter 9)

 Health and wellness—A healthy dog starts as a healthy puppy. Proper nutrition, grooming, and vaccinations are the foundations to a happy, healthy dog. (Chapters 10, 11, 12)

 Proper play—Owning a puppy is not a game. Your puppy is constantly learning, even through play. Understand how to properly play with your puppy. (Chapters 13 and 14)

 Leadership is the key—Become the big dog: understanding alpha and NILIF. (Chapter 15)

Kenneth and Cindy Quigley are the Owners of Super Mutts Canine Retreat in Arizona. They are dog trainers and have fixed many broken dogs. They are the authors of ” Puppy Montessori, How to raise a puppy”  Cindy Quigley is also a dog groomer and has 19 years experience working with dogs professionally in veterinary offices, grooming shops and boarding kennels.

You can visit them through their website at

You can purchase Puppy Montessori through their website or on Amazon. Now available on Kindle!


How to get your dog to listen


While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”

This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack of communication on the part of the human. People assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching or reinforcing that language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.

1) “Trixie come over here”

Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.

Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.

Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.

2) “Come on, come on Trixie”

Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog

Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.

3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”

Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.

Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.

4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.

Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.

Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.

There are three stages when training a dog.

1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage

You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.

The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.

So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”

By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.

The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this, “Trixie come” (dog comes) , “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!) 4 simple words, no frustration.

To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach. She is the owner of and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior.

Puppy Montessori


Following is an excerpt from our new book, now available on Amazon.  Puppy Montessori is a must read for any new puppy owner.  The Puppy Montessori program takes the guesswork out of the puppy raising process.

Happiness is a warm puppy. ~ Charles Schultz

Have you ever wondered how professional dog trainers have such well-behaved puppies or dogs? Many people say, “Of course, professional dog trainers know what to do.” That is true to an extent. The real reason is that professional dog trainers DO what they know. Having knowledge and following through with that knowledge are two different things. With the Puppy Montessori program, we are giving you a summary of the best tools that we, as professional dog trainers, use to train puppies. The rest is up to you. You now have in your hands the knowledge, but do you have the willingness to do it? The bottom line is, you can waste your time doing the wrong things, or you can do what works. The Puppy Montessori program is a proven puppy training system that works.

The reason for writing this book is threefold. First, as pet care professionals we see how many dogs end up in shelters across the country. Since many of these dogs have behavioral problems, we know that if they had been raised properly in their initial home, they would not be there. People often surrender dogs between six and nine months of age. Therefore, our number one goal in writing this book is to help keep dogs in their homes and out of shelters. Second, as dog trainers, we have seen dogs with behavioral problems that the owner causes unknowingly. The fact that people are human—and try to raise dogs as such—just does not work. Third, many of our clients could have avoided frustration and mistakes if only they had had a source for answers in the beginning.

Our commitment to this book is for the dog. “The dog,” an animal that we have brought into our world, has learned our language, can manipulate us in many ways, loves us unconditionally, and who by many people, is misunderstood. We also know that in helping the dog, we have to help the owner first. Humans cause most, if not all, behavioral problems in dogs; by helping one, you automatically help the other. People become more educated and dogs become more understood, creating a better dog/human bond, a lasting bond. In writing this book, we want people to realize that adopting a puppy is a very important step they need to take very seriously. Dogs are not disposable or inanimate. They are living, breathing creatures that depend on us to take care of them. They did not ask us to take them into our world. As a society, we owe it to dogs to do everything possible to understand them as what they are so we can provide them with everything necessary to grow and flourish as “dogs.” We need to remember that we are the ones with higher intelligence; with that comes great responsibility. It is our duty as caretakers. There are no excuses.

Congratulations on taking the first and most important step in your new puppy’s life, educating yourself on puppy. For most people, getting a puppy is a very exciting time and can be an extremely frustrating time. The excitement comes from having this little furry playful ball of cuteness in our presence. The frustration comes from not understanding what this ball of cuteness needs, really needs.

We have heard many complaints and frustrations from puppy owners regarding things such as potty training and destructive behaviors. In fact, all of these behaviors are not “bad” behaviors to the puppy but rather just a puppy “being” a puppy. The puppy Montessori program will give you all the tools to mitigate these so-called undesired behaviors and therefore establish “desired” behaviors with your puppy. This alone will help ease the majority of your frustration when it comes to raising a puppy.

We want to begin by saying that there is no EASY way to raise a puppy, and those who tell you they have an easy way to raise a puppy are lying. Raising a puppy takes time—lots of YOUR time and commitment. The puppy Montessori program will help make the puppy-raising process easier and less frustrating than if you do not use the program, but it will still take time and commitment on your part.

Just as you need to prepare your home and family for a new baby, you also need to prepare your home and family for a new “baby” dog. The Puppy Montessori program teaches you how to do just that. The Puppy Montessori program will give you the tools and knowledge needed to make the puppy experience an enjoyable one for both you and your new puppy. This program will enable you to set a foundation to grow your puppy into a well-adjusted, well-mannered, stable adult dog.

The Puppy Montessori program is a resource that you can go to when you have questions about leadership, feeding, potty training, socialization, vaccinations, toys, treats, obedience, destructive behaviors, leash walking, and much more. By purchasing this book, you have taken the first and most important step in building a relationship with your new best friend. By reading and utilizing the techniques described in this book, you will be able to enjoy your puppy and realize that it does not have to be such a tiresome, frustrating experience.

Purchase your copy today!

How to save on your dogs dental cleanings

aggressive dog

If you have a dog there will come a time when your Veterinarian tells you that he/she needs a dentistry.  Then they will hand you the bill.

 Owning a pet care business that offers grooming, we see many pet parents neglecting their dogs dental hygiene.  We are often told that the main reason for this is due to the price of dentistry.  We have clients that have been told that their dogs dentistry bill will run anywhere from $300 to $2000.  Dog dentistry is recommended by many veterinarians once a year.

Sadly, when a pets teeth are neglected it will lead not only to bad breath but also to gum disease.  This will cause painful teeth and the loss of teeth.  If left untreated for years, tartar buildup can also lead to heart and kidney problems which can shorten your pets life.

 Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help prevent tartar buildup on your pets teeth, therefore minimizing or totally eliminating the need for a dentistry.

Daily brushing of your pets teeth will help minimize tartar buildup and is recommended by most veterinarians.  we have found that brushing alone is not as effective as providing your pet with an all natural beef shank, knuckle or for small dogs, knee cap bone.  Canines in the wild naturally chew bones, it aids in teeth cleaning.    In our experience, the chewing of bones get areas of your pets teeth clean that brushing  alone cannot.  Dogs put a large amount of pressure on their rear teeth when chewing a bone which helps chip away at the tartar.   Providing your pet with chew toys and dental chews will also help.  However, we have seen remarkable results using a product called Petzlife oral care gel.

Years ago we lived with a pack of 4 large dogs.   We started using Petzlife oral care gel twice daily applying a liberal amount with our finger on each side of the dogs mouth.  After two weeks, we saw improvement in the amount of tartar on the older dogs and a marked improvement in the bad breath.   At the three week mark, we gave our dogs large beef knuckle bones to chew on.  The next day we checked our pets teeth and to our surprise, the dogs with tartar buildup had a large decrease in tartar.  On one dog the tartar was completely gone! (Yes, completely).  This sold us on the product and we started recommending it to all of our clients.  Some of our clients stated that that they did not see a difference. When questioned about the procedure, it was clear they did not follow with the twice daily treatments or their dog was not one to chew on bones.

Here are our recommendations;

  • If your dog is young or does not have tartar buildup, brush teeth daily with an approved toothpaste for dogs  such as Petrodex enzymatic toothpaste.  You should also start using Petzlife oral care gel once daily or every few days to help prevent tartar from forming.
  • Provide your dog with a natural beef bone daily.  We are not suggesting you give your pet bones from the table.   These can be brittle and splinter and can lodge in your pets intestines.  Never give a pet cooked bones of any kind.   We recommend purchasing them from your local pet or feed store.  As stated above, they come in Shank, Knuckle, Femur or Knee cap.  We will  provide links below to each type of bone that we recommend.
  • If your dog has tartar buildup, purchase petzlife oral care gel and apply liberally, twice daily for three weeks.  After three weeks give your pet a bone to chew on.  Check the teeth daily and continue applying petzlife until the tartar is gone.

Some owners state that their pet does not chew on bones or chew toys.  We have yet to find a pet that will not chew on the beef bones listed above.  However, if your dog will not chew bones, the Petzlife representative recommends brushing your pets teeth after the 3 week period and to manually try to remove the tartar with your finger.

If you do not like to give your pet real bones, you may try one of the Nylabone durachews on the market  If you start giving your pet bones from puppyhood, when they are teething and automatically chew, they will generally continue throughout their life.

There are some that say you should not give your dogs bones.  We believe this is based on the thought that people use to give bones from the kitchen table or cooked bones.  These bones are generally small and can splinter, get caught in your pets throat, or cause intestinal blockage.   Dogs have large teeth made for chewing.  Wild dogs chew on bones after eating.  It is natural for dogs to chew.  Chewing bones strengthens gums, cleans and sharpens teeth and dogs enjoy doing it.  The bones we are recommending are thick bones that do not splinter and cannot be chewed up in a short period of time.  These bones last for months in our house (and we have powerful chewers).  For 15 years we have been giving our dogs and our clients dogs these bones with only one incident of a broken tooth.    Since implementing this system, we had a  female Ridgeback mix who lived to be 13 years old and a Boxer that lived to be 9.  They never needed a dentistry.  Our current dogs, a Boxer and English bulldog are 8 and 6 years old, have no tartar and also have never needed a dentistry.  The Veterinarian always says their teeth look great!

Once the tartar is removed from your pets teeth, you can then provide bones to chew on periodically for maintenance.  If you notice tartar beginning to form, you can start using  Petzlife oral gel again.  This is a system that has worked for us and has maintained our pets dental health without a lot of costly dental bills.

All of these products can be found on our website at and are shipped through Amazon.


Beef shank bone  –

Beef Knuckle bone –

Beef Femur bone

For small dogs: Beef kneecap

Nylabone Durachew

Petzlife oral gel


Dog blog


Got Dog?  Then welcome to Super Mutts Dog Blog!  Super Mutts Dog Blog is about creating happier dogs through owner education.  We will be posting things on dog health, behavior, grooming etc. along with anything we find may be of interest in the dog world! If there is anything you would like us to post about dogs, feel free to contact us.  Thank you for stopping by, we hope to see you again soon.


Dog selection

ImageAs dog trainers we see that many problems people have with their dogs  simply come from the fact that they did not choose the right dog for their lifestyle.  When choosing a dog for your family there are several things in the selection process that many people fail to consider.  Breed, size, drive, energy level and grooming requirements  are all things you should take into consideration when planning on adding a dog to your family. Visit any animal shelter and they can tell you that the number one thing people fail to do when selecting a dog is to not take the commitment seriously.  Any time you add a dog to your family it is imperative that you are willing to make a life long commitment to that dog.  Dogs are not disposable. 

Bringing a dog into your home should be as serious a decision as adding another child to your home. Bringing a dog into your life is a 12-15 year commitment.  By making the proper selection those years will be much easier than if you do no planning at all.  Dogs are Dogs and all dogs will do certain things that come natural to dogs such as barking, digging, chewing, jumping up etc.  Through training you can minimize these behaviors and teach your pet more constructive behaviors.  Even though all dogs have certain natural behaviors, some of these behaviors will be more prevalent in certain dogs.

Different breeds have different drives.  The term “drive” simply means one breed will have a higher propensity to do certain things over another breed.  For instance, cattle dogs are bred to chase cattle so will have a “herding drive” which may make them chase small children or other animals.  Beagles or other hunting breeds have been bred with a higher drive to bark and will do so rather they are on the hunt or in your apartment.  Terriers such as the Jack russel or Rat terrier were bred with a drive to dig and kill varmints which means they will dig in your garden and may not be good with other small animals.  Many people choose certain breeds because they like the way they look,  however before adopting any dog, you should research the characteristics of that breed  to realize what you are getting into.

Another thing to take into consideration is energy level.  Many breeds are known for their high energy levels such as the border collie, Australian shepherd or Queensland heeler.  Each breed of dog has it’s specific energy levels but there are also different energy levels between each individual dog as well. Dogs energy levels range from low, medium and high.  If you have an active family who likes to hike, run, camp etc. then a low energy level dog would not be a good fit.  If you are a couch potato and adopt a high energy level dog, the dog will quickly become bored and will start acting out with destructive behaviors.  Very high energy level dogs are the most difficult and require the most time and attention.  So it is important that no matter what breed of dog you consider, to spend some time with the individual dog to determine its energy level.

Many people adopt puppies because they are so cute.  However puppies are not for everyone.  Puppies require a lot of time and attention and need to be house trained.  If you work full time and are gone for 8-10 hours a day, then a puppy is not for you.  Just as you would not leave a new baby at home alone all day, you should not leave a puppy.  With a puppy it is also difficult to determine what energy level the puppy is until it becomes a little older.  If the energy level of the puppy ends up not fitting your lifestyle then you are in for years of frustration.  Adopting an older dog is often times a better decision.  There are many good dogs at shelters waiting for homes and you will have a variety to choose from.  If you are a senior citizen, a senior dog is a perfect fit.  Many senior dogs have a hard time finding homes and have the perfect energy level for an older person to deal with.  Most adult dogs  are house trained and you can determine what energy level they are before bringing them home.

Grooming requirements are another important thing to take into consideration when adopting a new dog.  Some dogs need more grooming than others such as the Poodle, Shih-Tzu, Cocker spaniel, Maltese, Bichon etc.  Most of these breeds have daily requirements such as brushing and combing but also need to be groomed professionally which can become costly.  If you like the look of the “fluffy” breeds but do not have the financial resources for professional grooming every 4-6 weeks then adopting a short coated dog would be a better fit for you.
Some breeds shed considerably such as the Labrador retriever, Pug, Dalmation and the husky breeds.  If you are a clean freak and don’t like dust bunnies then these breeds are not for you.

When selecting a dog it is important to realize that a dog is just that “a dog”.  Dogs do not automatically know the rules of our household. Dogs need training  and time to understand what is acceptable in our human environment and what is not.  Dogs are not “plug and play”.  No matter what breed or age of dog you select, you will have to put time in to teach him the rules of the household. So, before rushing into a decision about bringing a dog home, do your research and determine what breed, drive, energy level and age is right for you.  Making the proper dog selection will ensure you will have a new best friend for years to come.

The truth about dog parks


As dog trainers, we often get asked about dog parks.  We always tell people that in general they are a not a good idea.  Yes, dogs should be socialized with other dogs but only in a structured environment.

Many dogs are taken to the dog park to burn off pent up energy. The dogs at dog parks are generally out of control and in a “frenzy” type of play style.  If your pet gets accustom to this kind of play, he will think it is normal and will greet all dogs he meets with this play style which could cause a fight.

If a problem does ensue, most owners are not paying attention to their dogs at dog parks as they are socializing with the other humans and rarely assess what their dogs are doing.  Many people also do not know the subtle signs dogs give that signal a fight is about to ensue.

Puppies should never be socialized at dog parks.  If you have a young puppy and it gets attacked or mauled by an out of control dog (or dogs)  at the dog park, your puppy most likely will become dog aggressive and will never be able to trust other dogs again. All socialization for puppies should be kept positive.

Many people take their dogs to the dog park to socialize with other dogs regardless of if they are good with other dogs or not.  The problem again is that at a dog park, not all socialization is good.  Dogs play rough at dog parks, which often time leads to a fight.  If this happens to your dog, you may be creating a dog that becomes fearful of other dogs or becomes dog aggressive.    Socializing a timid or fearful dog at a dog park is never recommended.  If you try to socialize a fearful or timid dog at a dog park, the chances are that the dog will become overwhelmed and become more fearful and timid.

Not all dogs at the dog park are vaccinated.  Some dogs may be carrying diseases such as Parvo, Canine cough or Canine flu.  When you socialize your dog at the dog park you are potentially putting him at risk for these diseases.

After viewing our posts on Facebook of our doggie daycare, many people ask us how all of the dogs  seem so well-mannered regardless of size.  The answer is twofold.  First, we evaluate all dogs that come to our daycare to see if they are a fit for our establishment.  We do not allow non socialized, aggressive  or bossy dogs participate.  Second, we establish ourselves as leaders of the pack from the beginning with rules, boundaries and limitations.  This creates harmony within our daycare pack even though the participants change every day.

When dogs are put in a “pack” situation be it a dog park or a daycare setting, they will immediately set out to create a pack order.  If dogs sense no leadership, that is when trouble ensues.   In trying to establish pack order, dogs will try to mount each other, bully each other and play rough with each other, all of which will usually lead to aggression.

There are several more appropriate ways to socialize your dog than going to a dog park.  Taking your dog to a daycare that has experience with dog training is one. Generally doggie daycare requires that all dogs be vaccinated which reduces the risk of possible disease transmission.  When looking for a daycare you should question about the size of the groups, how they evaluate the dogs and should find out if they allow bossy or aggressive dogs in their groups. Some daycare allow and sometimes encourage rowdy play and others have more structured play groups and encourage manners.  Choose one that best fits your dog.

If you have friends or family with well-mannered dogs, you can socialize your dog with them. The key is to keep it positive and not let one dog bully the other.

Obedience classes are also a great way to socialize your dog in a structured environment. Not only will you and your dog benefit from the training but the dog will also learn self-control and how to be mannerly when around other dogs. Puppy classes are a wonderful way to socialize puppies. Look for a class that allows short periods of structured play time rather than out of control play.

One instance that it would be appropriate to go to an off leash dog park is to proof your dogs training in a high distraction environment. Dog parks are not the place to train a new behavior however. All dog training starts in a non distraction environment. As the dog is trained, you increase distractions slowly until you finally work the dog in a high distraction area. This is only done after the dog has maintained his training in areas with fewer distractions. If you are training your dog to a high level of obedience or service work, then a dog park could serve as a high distraction environment.

There are some dog parks that are “leash only” dog parks in which all dogs must be kept leashed. With all dogs being leashed, the dogs do not get far from the owners and are under some form of control.  The owners can decide to let their dog play with others or not.   If you are set on taking your dog to a dog park, we recommend finding a “leash only” dog park or find a dog park that is not to populated. Fewer dogs equal fewer chances for problems.   We also recommend giving your dog a good long walk before you go to the park to drain any pent up energy.  A tired dog is less likely to get into trouble.  If you take your dog to a dog park it is imperative that you control how your dog responds to other dogs and how other dogs respond to yours.  By providing your dog with leadership he will always look to you for guidance and protection.