Choosing the Right Dog

"I think I am interested in a German Shepherd. Or, maybe a pug. I also like the look of a Schnauzer, or perhaps a Boxer mix. What do you think?"

Choosing the right breed of dog for you and your family will affect every aspect of your life; so to say it is 'important' is really an understatement. When looking into getting a new dog for your household, whether it be from a rescue or from a breeder, knowing your goals and the breed characteristics of the dog you are interested in can be the difference between enjoying your dog, tolerating your dog, or down right dreading coming home to your dog!

We recommend considering the following before jumping into deciding on a breed:

  • What do you envision when you think about dog ownership? What does a 'good dog' look like to you in your mind? Are you curled up by the fire? Does the dog lay in the yard among the children? Do you want to take the dog to work with you acting as the official office greeter? Do you want to take it on backcountry snowboarding trips, or are walks around the neighborhood more your speed? Are you a social butterfly and therefore need your dog to appreciate people encounters as much as you do? Each breed of dog has Breed Characteristics. These are genetic traits that cannot be trained away. Mastiffs are were bred to GUARD STUFF. Mastiffs are not a good breed choice for the office greeter position; they are more likely to prevent your patrons from entering your flower shop. Herding breeds are meant to move livestock, and while there are many Australian Shepherds who have never seen ewe, they still have the genetic desire to herd, and the energy level to keep going, and going, and going..... Be sure to research the breed traits of all of the breeds that attract you. Look for the good and the bad. Of course there are going to be outliers; Mastiffs that are incredibly social, and that neighbor that has a lazy Border Collie. Look for the rule, and not the exception. 
  • How much time do you want to spend on training your dog?   Are you interested in a competitive dog sport prospect? Working dogs like Border Collies, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds and the like won't make a wonderful pet for your small child without some serious management and training. On the flip side, if your fantasy is to play Mondioring, an IPO prospect, Competitive Obedience, or standing on the podium at the next FCI World Team Agility Invitational, you will want that sort of pushy drive and "go" attitude.
  • Do you like grooming, and/or will you take your dog for frequent grooming appointments? Goldendoodles are incredibly popular right now, but people really underestimate their coat needs! Allowing a dog to get matted to the skin because you want to save your money on grooming costs is not healthy, or fair to the dog.
  • How active are you? BE HONEST about your own activity level. If you don't  already wake up before the sun rises to ascend 14rs now, you probably won't be doing it in the near future. If you are more of a weekend warrior, don't choose a breed that was meant to run the Iditarod. If you are a backpacking enthusiast, we don't recommend an English Bulldog as a hiking buddy. Are you looking for a couch potato and snuggle bug, or a high-octane, Frisbee-catching, ball-chasing, running partner?
  • What health and behavioral concerns are found in your preferred breed? French Bulldogs are notorious for having major health problems. Yorkshire Terriers can be incredibly difficult to potty train. Blue heelers (wait for it....) can be prone to biting at peoples heels and ankles. 
  • Is an adult dog or a puppy a better choice for your situation? If you work long hours and cannot take your puppy out for frequent potty breaks, maybe an older puppy or young adult is better for you. Have small children? Puppies are bitey, need direct supervision, and love to steal kids toys! Can you realistically monitor your puppy during their critical imprinting and potty training time? If not, consider a board & train... or an older dog. For competitive dog sports, getting a puppy is common so you can start foundation training right off the bat... but often you can find young adults that have already started training as well!
  • Do you want a breed because of its temperament, or because of the way it looks? Huskies are adorable, but their high energy and desire to roam leave many pet owners in over their heads. Choosing a dog based on the way it looks is a great way to ensure years of difficulty moving forward. 
  • When choosing a breeder, be prepared to WAIT A LONG TIME FOR YOUR PUPPY. Good breeders don't have puppies readily available year-round. Good breeders breed dogs selectively, with goals in mind, and often have a litter sold before it's born. A good breeder will ask you questions about all of the above concerns, and pick a puppy for you with the personality that fits you best. Good breeders don't let families pick their own puppy. Good breeders health-test the parents, and will be honest with you about the parents temperaments and attributes.
  • Are you adopting a puppy from a shelter or rescue? Awesome! When looking at mixed breed dogs, try to remember that the dog with the right temperament and personality is the right size and color. Watch the dogs interact with people and the other dogs. Are they timid, and hiding, or are they bouncing off of people like parkour objects? Will they ignore all of the other people and dogs if there is a toy present? Are they gonzo for food? Are they vocal? If you are looking for a nice family pet, pick the 'middle of the road' puppy, not the puppy who won't drop the ball, is barking incesently, or the one who is bouncing off of people.

    We recommend doing your research, hanging out with many dogs of that breed, and visiting dog clubs before committing to a dog. Remember, you are looking to spend over a decade with this new family member! If you need help finding the right dog, just ask us! We will help you.


Posted on December 20, 2017 .

The Holidays are Here! Shaina's Top Gift Picks....

When working with a client who has a destructive large breed dog, the first thing I ask is what toys, if any, they are offered during their "free time". Often, I am told that they are not able to have interactive toys because they destroy or even eat them if given the opportunity. I understand the dilemma of buying a $30 "tough" toy, only to have it torn apart within 5 minutes of bringing it home. Thus, I bring to you a list of my top 5 favorite toys that both entertain and last for large breed dogs!

1. Kong Wobbler: The Wobbler is no doubt one of my favorite treat dispensing toys. In addition to being interactive, it is quite durable and has handled being chucked against the fence frequently by my three dogs. While we have seen some very persistent chewers mangle the plastic in order to get the food faster, dogs that enjoy pushing around toys with their noses will get plenty of entertainment from this toy.

"The KONG-shaped Wobbler is an action-packed treat and food dispensing toy. It sits upright until pushed by a dog’s paw or nose and then periodically dispenses tasty rewards as it wobbles, spins and rolls. The unpredictable movement keeps the toy challenging, even for seasoned Wobbler users. The Wobbler can also be used as an alternative to a dog bowl to help slow and extend mealtime while providing exercise for your dog. Unscrews for easy filling and cleaning."

2.Chuckit! Max Glow Rubber Ball:While it looks like any other rubber ball, the Glow Ball is a huge hit in the house and is considered a favorite. In fact, we had to buy one for every dog so that each dog could proudly carry one around without stealing them from each other! The Glow Ball activates by sunlight and has a long lasting, intense glow. It has a nice amount of give which is great for dogs that enjoy chewing.

"Ready Set Fetch! Give your dog something to jump for. Durable rubber ball glows in the dark to allow the game to keep going when the sun goes down. Your dog will love this grippable rubber ball made just the right size to use with your Chuckit!® Ball Launcher, sold separately."

3.Jolly Pets Teaser Ball: The downside of this ball is that a vigorous chewer can mangle the plastic in each hole, which over time can create sharp edges. That being said, the fun dogs have with this toy is out of this world. A ball INSIDE a ball, the Teaser Ball is a blast to throw, chase, and tackle.

"HOURS. You may ask what we mean. Well, you’re dog is going to spend countless hours trying to get the ball out of the ball. No need to worry though, the inside ball isn’t going anywhere. And to make it more interesting, you can put some peanut butter on the inside ball to drive them even crazier!"

4. Jolly Pets Bounce-N-Play: I honestly can't say enough about this company. Jolly Pets has a large product line of durable toys for canine and equine families. The Bounce-N-Play is a large ball with a fair amount of give that allows a dog to chomp on the ball without puncturing it... and it floats! For heavier chewers, the Push- N-Play may be more appropriate as it is a hard plastic that the dog cannot grip with its mouth, and therefore cannot destroy. The Bounce-N-Play made it on this list because it appeals to a larger crowd (the dogs that enjoy biting the ball instead of hiking it around), but the Push-N-Play is my German Shepherd's favorite toy to herd.

"And with one giant kick the ball went flying…and the best part is you didn’t break your foot and the dog can’t deflate this ball. Shazam! Made from a super pliable material, even if your dog gets a hole in it, it will still keep its shape. Great for any backyard or lake adventure."

5.Kong Extreme: A classic, the black Kong Extreme is great for entertaining a bored dog. It can be used for fetch, for chewing, or for stuffing with your dogs favorite treats. I tend to put a couple treats in the hole, fill it with peanut butter, and freeze it over night for full entertainment value. Kong has a color scheme regarding durability, and for the strong chewers black is the way to go.

"KONG Extreme represents the most durable version of our original KONG toy. The ultra-strong, ultra-durable, black rubber compound is recommended for the most powerful chewers."

 Versailles has always LOVED Jolly Pets brand toys!

*Remember, it is recommended that dogs be supervised when given toys - particularly if they are known for picking them apart!!

That is it, my Top 5 Durable Toys for a Large Breed Dog! Have a favorite toy that I missed? Share your favorites in the comment section below!

Posted on December 18, 2017 .

Proofing a Trained Behavior

After we teach a dog to do something (anything: sit, stay, come when called, jump, retrieve, etc), the next part of the training process is to 'proof' that behavior.

Proofing a behavior is the process of creating a generalized response from the dog; That's trainer jargon for making sure the dog will perform a command in a variety of circumstances, with a variety of distraction. A dog who has generalized a behavior will reliably perform that behavior no matter what.

During the proofing process, we want to ensure that the dog not only understands their job, but is also motivated to do the work. Teaching each behavior in a systematic way can do both, or neither. It's the approach that matters. Many trainers believe that systematically training a new behavior involves increasing the levels of distance, distraction, and/or duration each time they ask the dog to perform. By example, when teaching the 'sit,' the handler continuously asks more of the dog each repetition, each time creatively thinking of new and more challenging scenarios for the dog. In this chart, on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the most difficult scenario one can imagine for the dog, the common approach is example A:


Don't make the mistake of progressively adding difficulty to EVERY repetition. Dogs will begin to recognize the pattern in Example A. Over time they understand that each successful repetition of the behavior will result in a new and even more challenging scenario. In a reward-based training system, even if your dog is one of those coveted food or toy obsessed types, the result can be a dog who decides the reward isn't worth it. After all, the more he gives the more you ask of him. This is especially true of a dog who's motivation is on the medium or low end of the spectrum.

To maintain motivation to perform, a better strategy for proofing a behavior is to change the pattern of difficulty by repeating a lower level after a successful repetition of a more challenging scenario (Example B). We are still systematically increasing difficulty, but we break up the hard repetitions with something easier, so the dog doesn't become deterred by ever mounting pressure to perform.

Let's use the command 'sit' as an example. Assuming I have done the ground work and my dog will sit on a verbal cue at a level 1 of each of the 3-D's, Where do I go from here? The first step is to develop a training plan.

Work on Duration first. Mitigate the other two D's by staying close to the dog, and limiting distractions. Systematically add duration to each repetition, in a way that maintains motivation (as in the Example B chart). Next, mitigate duration and distance, and systematically work on levels of distraction; again, using concept in Example B. Lastly, mitigate distractions and duration, and strictly work on distance using the same approach. Now you are ready to create scenarios where all three D's are a factor, and you can repeat the process once more.

The chart is just a reference point. It may take more than 15 repetitions for your dog to really 'get it.' The main point is to maintain motivation, by challenging the dog in a way that also allows for maximum success.


Posted on December 18, 2017 .