This can be a very touchy subject! There are people that feel that rescue is the only way to go. Three of my four dogs are rescues. My personal opinion is that there are so many dogs in the shelters and rescues that need forever homes. I do not, however, discount breeders. If you are using a legitimate breeder that is. You need to do your research and visit the facility where the dogs are kept. Do not just listen the the breeder describe the living conditions, you need to see them for yourself. There are many puppy mills and backyard “breeders” who are disguising themselves as legitimate breeders. Ask to see the breeders license. You want to look for AKC (American Kennel Club) breeders. You want to see proof of vaccinations and deworming and other necessary vet care for the pup of your choosing. Also, ask to see the parents (at minimum the mother). Look at their coat closely, look at the underside of their paws, look over them thoroughly. If they are not being properly housed, for example, the “breeder” will not be able to hide all the injuries. Also, if your breeder is taking the dogs away from their mother before 8 weeks DO NOT use that “breeder”. It is crucial that the pups stay with their mom for a minimum of 8 weeks. Not only does the pup get antibodies from the mothers milk, but the mother teaches her pups what is appropriate and what is inappropriate during some critical stages. Pups do not need to be taken from their mothers to be weened and you can socialize pups with people without taking them from their mom. So if you are given excuses as to why the pups are being taken early, then it is best to walk away and find another breeder. If there is anything that you are not comfortable with when it comes to your breeder, please listen to your gut and find another one. That puppy is going to be your baby, so you want to make sure they had the best care and start to life before joining your household.
I got my first dog…if you only learn one thing about me it will be that I can never do anything the easy way. I was about 4-5 month pregnant, had a 4 year old daughter, lived on the 2nd floor of my apartment, and hubby was in training (Airborne and Language school). We were about to move to NC where my husband was being stationed. We got an English Bulldog/Boston Terrier, which my daughter named Sandy after the dog in the movie Annie. Okay, so I’m pregnant and my hormones have complete control of me. I not only chose a bad time to get my first dog ever, but I babied Sandy badly! First, her potty training was a nightmare. I had potty pads covering my floor and she still managed to pee on any piece of carpet exposed. I think I somehow taught her to NOT pee on the pads. She attacked everyones feet, especially my 4 year old daughter feet. It was so bad that I had to carry her from her bedroom to the couch and back. Sandy also tormented my cat and any object on the floor was chewed up before you could blink an eye. This was only the first 2 months. So then we moved to a temporary apartment just outside Ft. Bragg, NC. Thankfully this time we lived on the 1st floor and had a sliding door for easy potty access, but still has all the same issues listed above. My husband I and always liked the idea of having 2 dogs…to keep each other company (and Sandy needed a good role model). Shortly after moving while I was about 7 months pregnant we went to the local shelter and got a young adult “terrier mix”, named Pogo. She was a pitt mix and she was super sweet and had a beautiful brindle coat. She was great with my daughter and her and Sandy got along great. The day after we adopted her my husband noticed her growl at Sandy over a bone. We decided that they would get bones separately and we fed them in different parts of the room. The 2nd full day of having Pogo, my husband was in school at the time, I was feeding both dogs in different rooms. I turned my back for a second (HUGE MISTAKE) and Sandy went near Pogo’s bowl. Pogo went after Sandy and didn’t stop even when Sandy ran away. Everything happened so fast and next thing I know Pogo is attacking Sandy near out front door. I was screaming and trying to separate the dogs. My sister was with us at the time and she grabbed Pogo while I ran off to my bedroom with Sandy. There was blood everywhere and we left a trail from the front door to my master bathroom. I was sobbing and tending to my poor puppy who had puncture wounds in several places on her face. When my husband came home we talked about what we were going to do. We decided to feed the dogs in separate rooms with a door blocking them from having access to each other during feeding time. My husband wanted Sandy to sleep in bed with us that night so we could keep a close eye on her. She slept peacefully right in between us. Pogo slept on the floor next to my side of the bed. In the middle of the night out of no where Pogo jumped on the bed and stood over me growling at Sandy. I started screaming and was so scared for my puppy and myself. I was concerned that we had a child on the way and what would happen if the baby crawled over to Pogo’s bowl while she ate or even if my 4 year old did it. I had no trust in Pogo, but my husband had already bonded to her. After getting Pogo off of me my husband slept with her in the family room. When we woke up we decided that Pogo was not a good fit for us and it broke my husbands heart. After a couple weeks we adopted another dog, who we named Willow (after the movie). Willow is a German Shepard. She was great with Sandy and my daughter and did not have any food reactivity, but she was reactive when on a leash and passing other dogs. Now this wasn’t something I was thrilled about, but it felt like something I could manage. Things were great with Willow and Sandy really took to her. Their relationship was so beautiful and Willow and I made a tight bond almost immediately. We only had Willow for a couple month before I had my baby. I was in the hospital for 2 days (from a c-section) and Willow was home with my mom and sister. She had diarrhea and wined constantly while I was gone. Once I was home she was amazing with the baby. She would alert me when she cried, she would lay next to her when she did her tummy time…she was a great mommy assistant. Sandy on the other hand would chew up all the toys on the floor still. By this time Sandy was potty trained and wasn’t attacking peoples feet anymore, but the chewing was out of control. She also wouldn’t listen….especially when we would call her, but she is soft and squishy and cute…so she got away with it.
After having Sandy and Willow for at least a year, my husband and I (and kids) were driving around town and were passing the county shelter. My hubby wanted to stop and I remember telling him that if we stop we will walk out with another dog…guess what happened! Yup, we got ANOTHER dog. This time we adopted a 6 month old australian shepard or border collie mix. We named her Eva…after all the other dogs were named from movie characters. Before leaving I grabbed some biz cards of local trainers because I wanted to raise this dog right. And this is where the dog training bug hit me.
We had a dog trainer come into our home and work on our issues with Sandy and Willow. Every time the trainer came I was asking tons of questions and felt like I couldn’t suck enough information out of her. I finally felt that flame ignite inside me…I knew what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. I always had a strong pull towards animals even as a young child. I knew that this was what I was meant to do…what a rewarding feeling!
I researched how to become a dog trainer and a few schools came up. I decided to go to Animal Behavior College for a few reasons. (1) MYCAA (military spouse program) paid for my tuition, (2) the were nation wide so I could learn where I lived, and (3) they had both book work, but more importantly to me was the hands on part of the program.
We now live in Northern VA and I own my own dog training business, Dog Tranquility LLC. I love my job and have met many amazing people through my job. I am grateful everyday that I got to follow my passion. I have to give credit to my husband for making sacrifices that allowed me to do this! He has been so supportive and I can’t thank him enough!
Juggling my professional career and my personal life is a struggle at times. In my blogs I will tell stories about my dog training experiences and even some stories from my personal dogs. I am just like every other dog owner, I make mistakes and my dogs are far from “perfect”. They are perfect to me with their individual personalities and their silly antics. Every dog I work with is special to me. I learn so much from each and every case and want to share my learning experiences with you. There will be everything from funny stories to serious stories, I hope you enjoy my blog.