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Do you ever give your dog choices? Which way you go in the woods, or which chew they would like? What about bigger choices? More important ones? We like to give our dogs as much autonomy as possible. For example, they don't have to say hi if they don't want to, we wait for consent to stroke them, and we teach them polite and obvious ways to communicate their wants and needs.
It all starts somewhere - why not see which toys your dog would like to play with when you switch out their toy box?
Interestingly, Cherry chose specifically 1 hoof out of 3 that were offered - and never chooses the same combination of toys. Variety is the spice of life!
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Too cute not to share - action shot of our training session last night. ... See MoreSee Less

Too cute not to share - action shot of our training session last night.

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Can I have a treat now or I drop it on your foot 🀣🀣

That photographer should get some commission.....πŸ‘€

Puppy CultureA while back, a member posted about how a training instructor suddenly slammed this woman's puppy to the floor and forced it to lie down - now the puppy trembles when it lies down and is so nervous it will not take food. I wrote this post about advocating for your dog which I think is timely right now.
This really sad situation raises the question of what it means to advocate for your puppy or dog. We tried really hard in the Puppy Culture film ( to empower puppy owners and give them a “talk track” when confronted with a professional or a person of authority who is advocating using force or aversive tactics with their puppy. I’m going to speak plainly but I don’t want this to be hurtful to anyone who has had a bad experience with their puppy. I do want to change the conversation from us being the victims with our puppies to being our puppies’ advocates. This acknowledges that, as of right now, it’s just not common knowledge to do this so I’m trying to raise awareness, not taking anyone to task.

1. Even the MOST experienced dog owners feel pressure when confronted by a person in a position of authority, such as a veterinarian, dog trainer, or professional handler. You need to have a talk track ready. I tell my puppy owners to blame it on me and tell them “I signed a contract with my breeder stating I would not do that so we’re not going to do it” I also give my puppy owners my card so they can hand it to the vet/trainer/tech/handler and say they can contact me if they have any questions. But the important thing is to prime yourself (or your puppy owners) to be ready to walk away.

2. When you are with your puppy or dog, do not EVER be worried about what people think of you socially. That includes not looking at and or/ignoring people who are trying to talk to you as well as literally walking away from bad advice or someone trying to touch your dog. It feels awkward, at first, but you will get used to it and it will start to feel REALLY GOOD when you do the right thing by your puppy.

3. Perhaps most importantly (and least recognized,) is our duty to foresee situations that could put our puppy in harms way. Justifiably, when one of these incidents happen we all rally round and support the puppy owner and talk about what jerks those other people are, but so what. You may be “right” but you’re the one holding the leash of a puppy who’s now messed up. Here are just a couple of examples of very common and eminently avoidable incidents that dog trainers hear about on a weekly basis:

• "Another dog jumped/attacked him in training/agility/obedience class.” It happens EVERY DAY. By the time I write this post there will be another dog who’s been screwed up and now needs a year of remedial work. The owner will post all the details and everyone will agree and shake their fist but they are all missing the point - this is predictable and could have been avoided. My answer to this is do not go to a training class where dogs are off leash together. Period. I don’t do it unless the other dogs are personally known to me. And socialization classes should be for young puppies only, and they should follow all of Dr. Terri Bright’s guidelines in Puppy Culture. Maybe after my dogs are over three years old, I might go to a group class where I trust the instructor, but it’s always assumption of the risk and I am on high alert at all times. Side note: I run my agility classes one dog at a time (exceptions are made for dogs that know each other) and in my dog training seminars my mantra is “The Dog On The Floor Has The Floor” and all other dogs MUST be crated. Not everyone likes it but I’m opting for safety.

•"Another dog jumped/attacked him when out for a walk.” Again, fists will be shaken at “those idiots” who let their dogs off leash and do not have control, and yes, verily, they are idiots and hateful and it’s all their fault, but it’s totally predictable to the point where you almost have to take some responsibility for putting your puppy in that position. I do not take my young dogs for walks anywhere where there is the possibility of people having dogs off leash. So, for the first year or two of their lives, they are walked on show grounds, at agility trials, rally/obedience trials - anywhere where “professional” dog people are. Then, when I feel they’re ready to start longer walks and hikes (usually around 15-18 months) my rule is we only walk on trails where there are actual mountainous parts where you have to scramble with your hands to get up the hill. This keeps the palookas away. Flat and easy trails and parks bring out the "Sunday driver" pet owners who think fluffy needs to be free from a leash to be happy, no matter what the actual leash laws are. Trails that include a nice scramble on your hands and knees up a steep hill tend to attract a more motivated, safety conscious crowd. I have certainly met off-leash dogs on strenuous hikes, but the owners were aware of their dogs and had them on leash long before we were anywhere near each other.
Flat trails and walks on the sidewalk past the inevitable dog that rushes (or breaks through) the invisible fence are a "never" for some of my dogs, not until they are over three years old for the really rock solid ones. Your dog does not need a walk at the expense of becoming aggressive to other dogs because he had a bad experience.

•"The vet/tech/trainer scruffed/alpha rolled my puppy” A couple of things, here. Number one, watch again Dr. Terri Bright’s checklist for a puppy class (in the film, Puppy Culture). Stick to it. If you can’t find a suitable class, just get together with friends and train on your own. It’s not rocket science and there are great on-line resources. Number two, never hand the leash to anyone, ever. One of my friends was bringing three older puppies in to the vet for various things and she had the techs bring one puppy in for her. The puppy jumped on the tech and the tech alpha rolled the puppy, my friend lost her mind on the tech, and one of the other clients in the lobby yelled at my friend for “spoiling” her puppy and said the tech was right, and a verbal brawl ensued. Yes tech+client=a couple of jerks but it’s predictable to the point of, once again, being a "shame on me" if you let someone else have the leash. The real lesson is that you never hand your puppy over to anyone. Bring in one puppy at a time or roll them in on a dolly in crates.

I could go on and on all day and maybe someday I will, but the first step in advocating for our puppies is to let go of some of the notions of what is necessary and good for our puppies. You 100% do need to train your puppy, but you don’t have to do it in a class. You 100% do have to socialize your puppy to other animals, but you can set up your own sessions. You 100% do need to take your puppy to the vet, but you can and should walk out of any vet’s office that is not willing to create a +CER to vet visits by giving your puppy cookies and treating them well. You 100% do have to bring all of your puppies to the vet, but if the vet is not willing to wait for you to bring them in one at a time and you can’t bring them in on a dolly in a crate, find another vet.

And yes, all this having been said, it absolutely can happen no matter what you do. And that’s where we hope that our early foundation work with emotional resilience will kick in and serve the puppy. But, make no mistake, it’s very, very, hard to undo these bad experiences in young dogs/puppies. As we say again and again in Puppy Culture, the emotional sensitivity that allows for the socialization process cuts both ways and will allow the puppy to imprint a bad experience as readily, even more readily, than a good one. So always err on the side of caution!
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Baby Fuji and Heidi SoraBullys Clayton photo for attention
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Sounds like my life right now!

Kas SandersπŸ˜‚

One of my favourite pictures of Cherry 🀣 ... See MoreSee Less

One of my favourite pictures of Cherry 🀣

Merlin ... See MoreSee Less


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He's turned out so nice πŸ™‚

We loved meeting up with Nic and Mark today with the gorgeous Spritz! The dogs had so much fun - and made so much mess! πŸ˜€ ... See MoreSee Less

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He's a real good lookin dude

Like 2 peas in a pod! Merlot ... See MoreSee Less

Like 2 peas in a pod! Merlot

Merlin and his uncle Maverick looking so handsome after their groom! ... See MoreSee Less

Merlin and his uncle Maverick looking so handsome after their groom!

Spritz got more than he was expecting 🀣 ... See MoreSee Less

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