Why I Do What I Do
Updated: Jan 28
Hello, fellow dog lovers!
This first post will be more of an introduction to me, what I do, and why I do it. I'll be sure to sprinkle some dog advice in here as well, don't worry!
At age 10, I got my first dog. Actually, we got two dogs. They were Border Collie mixes that we got from a family friend whose dog had a litter of puppies. Being a 10-year old, I didn't know much about backyard breeders (definitely what this person was) or puppy mills, nor did I make the decision about where we got the dogs from. Despite where we got them from, those dogs changed my life. We wanted one dog, but when we saw how cute and bonded this specific pair of dogs was, my parents said yes to getting a second dog (a commonly made impulse decision that I would not recommend giving into). None of us had any idea what we were doing, but we did it anyway. I was SO excited to have my own dog. To have a buddy to cuddle with when I was sad. To have someone to sleep at the foot of my bed each night. To have a fluffy friend to pet while I was watching TV. To have someone to share my meals with. To my surprise, the dogs were not going to be 'indoor dogs'. My parents are from the midwest where 'outdoor dogs' seem to be much more prominent than they are on the West Coast. I was crushed when I found out, but I made sure to give them the best life that I could, as a preteen.
S'mores and Smoky seemed to be growing up just fine, until they were around 6 months old. S'mores attacked Smoky for seemingly no reason, and this behavior got worse as they got older. S'mores would hunch down, stalk Smoky, and attack him if he had a toy. Sometimes, S'mores would stalk and attack him even when he didn't have a toy. They would fight through the fence if we separated them. Smoky began to run away frequently, and even earned a trip to the pound after being picked up by animal control one day. We had two growing dogs who we had committed 10+ years to, and they didn't turn out at all what we had imagined. Little did we know; the behavior issues could have been easily prevented and/or managed. The dogs stayed outside by themselves the majority of their days, completely unsupervised, and I felt terrible for them every single day. We bought agility jumps to work Smoky with, and he loved it. We always had treats around, and I taught them to sit, shake, stay and come. We played fetch with Smoky, but when we tried to grab the ball he would try to bite our hands. We didn't mind, we kept playing with him. I would take them on long walks and runs (separately), and tried to be with them as much as possible. When I moved away for college, I finally convinced my parents to let them sleep in the garage during the harsh winters and summers, which was a win in my books. I didn't see them every day as I used to, but I sure thought about them every day.
I moved from Missouri to California to attend Bergin University of Canine Studies, where I learned more about dogs on my first day of class than I had ever learned in my life. Throughout my two years in school, I would constantly tell my parents about the newest puzzle feeder I had learned about, why our dogs need mental enrichment, different ways to manage the dogs' fighting, how to crate train them, taught them that when Smoky tried to bite our hands it was called 'resource guarding', and so much more. Long story short, I quickly learned that WE had created most of our dog's behavior issues, and we allowed them to continue by never contacting a professional. When the dogs turned 14, I convinced my parents to let them live IN the house. That was a huge win for me! Sadly, that day was Smoky's last day on Earth. S'mores lived out another full year in that house, living his best life.
Not only do I love working with dogs and am well versed in reading dog body language and how dogs think, I want to help people. I want to help the people who were like my family: unsure of what to do, whether it is to prevent behavior issues or to try and fix existing issues. I want to help people that would otherwise have to re-home their dog or give them to a shelter. I want to help people who have been using aversive methods with their dogs because that's what they grew up doing. I want to help people understand their dogs, how to communicate with them, and why it is important to be kind and understanding when it comes to dogs having behavior challenges. So, why do I do what I do? I do it to advocate for the dogs like S'mores and Smoky, who were adopted into a family who had no idea what kind of commitment they were getting themselves into. I do it because I love it, and I love educating people on dog behavior.
When I tell people that I train dogs, 99% of the time, their face lights up and they tell me that they're jealous. I smile when they say that, because this is truly a dream job that I think that 10-year old Lindsay would be jealous of, too.
If you are thinking about getting a dog, there are a few things you need to keep in mind BEFORE you go look at the cute puppies.
Research different breeds. If you have a specific breed in mind, look them up on the AKC website to look at their general traits and energy level. If you are going to a shelter and don't have a breed in mind, familiarize yourself with herding dogs vs. hound dogs vs. non-working dogs, etc. If you're not a very active person who doesn't want to work with their dog every day, a Belgian Malinois is not the choice for you, no matter how cute they are as puppies.
Research professional, positive reinforcement-based trainers in your area. Whether it is a group class or a private trainer, it is best to start training off immediately, with the help of a professional so that you're on the right track. Keep the trainer's information incase behavior issues pop up in the future.
Be mindful of where you get your pup from. Not everybody believes in the 'Adopt Don't Shop' mentality - I understand that. If you're buying a dog from a breeder, make sure that they are CREDIBLE. You should be able to visit the puppy's biological parents and they should be living in healthy, humane conditions. The breeder should be able to provide the pedigree when you ask for it. The breeder should socializing the puppies at a young age. Don't go to pet stores, backyard breeders, or Craigslist for a puppy. These places typically get the parent dogs from a puppy mill, and buying from them financially supports them so they can continue their inhumane operation. You will also most likely end up with a sick puppy.
Dogs are a big commitment and should never be bought as an impulse decision. If you have questions about preparing for a new dog, send me a message!