Puppies of the Corn?

I just returned from a quick trip to Washington DC, where I was on the Diane Rehm show and taped a segment for Animal House, the WAMU replacement for Calling All Pets. (You can listen to the Diane Rehm interview on her website, and you should check out her show if you haven’t yet — she’s such a great radio host and dog lover; I’ll let you know when the Animal House segment runs.) I also snuck in a quick dinner with my pal Meg Boscov of MuttMatch who came up from Philly and the next night’s dinner with folks from Dream Dog Productions and All About Dogs. During the last dinner, those of us who have been teaching puppy classes for years got to talking about our perception that the pups are getting more difficult, even on the first day of class.

Trainers at Dog’s Best Friend here in Madison first mentioned this to me a few years ago, and I have to admit at first I was a bit skeptical. “Oh, perhaps you just don’t remember that every puppy class wasn’t a Kodak commercial,” but as time went on I became convinced that something seems to have changed. I’m not raising the issue of whether puppy classes are constructive or not (I think good ones are); I’m talking about the FIRST day of class when pups enter into the training room and you get a good sense of their temperament before class even begins. The general impression of some of us is that there are more problems with barking, with frustration intolerance, with dogs who can’t be allowed to play with other pups, with pups who are aggressive to people, even at 9 weeks… I’ve also talked to some people who do rescues and they’ve mentioned to me that the litters they see, of any breed, also tend to be less docile and more potentially problematic. But without any real data, how can we now this for sure?

Well, we can’t, but I’m still curious. I’d love to hear from those of you who have been teaching for several years (at least 10, but 15 or 20 better!): Have you observed an overall change in the demeanor of pups as they enter puppy classes? I don’t want this to be a rant about “ain’t it awful,” so please keep your comments objective and specific as to whether you believe you have seen changes in the general temperament of pups entering class, and if so, exactly what those changes are. Of course, if there is something going on, then one can’t help but speculate about what is causing it, but let’s do first things first: IF you’ve had enough experience to compare over the years, what is your general impression? Perhaps it’s just true in a few areas in the US? What about trainers in other countries? I look forward to your comments.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: It’s a gorgeous day, Willie and I were downright ridiculous when I got home-rub/kiss/hug/moan/pet/snuggle….Time to unpack and work on my talk for tomorrow night at the Dane County Humane Society about cats. (Yeah! I love talking about Feline Ethology.) Then later tonight it’s time to feed the sheep their grain, and do Willie’s PT. Then I’m in bed as soon as I can get there!

Here’s some photos I snapped in DC, close to my hotel: First, a regularly colored “Eastern Grey Squirrel” and a “melanistic” one. This black phase is quite common in some areas of the country, apparently especially in areas where the risk of predation is low. I’ve seen a few is Wisconsin, but not many, and none around the farm.

And here’s a lovely sitting area that I want to pack up and put into my yard! What a gorgeous tree and a peaceful setting:



  1. Beth says

    I will be interested in seeing the comments of trainers, because the funny thing is that I’ve been thinking in the opposite direction as far as adult dogs: when I was a kid, I would never have dreamed of seeing what I see every day now, which is a large and fluid group of dogs that get together with their owners on a regular basis, hang out and play or roll or sniff without fighting, watch strangers coming and going without barking and lunging, sharing snacks passed out willy-nilly without growling, drinking from the same bowl and chasing the same frisbees. I see so many dogs that are just fine with strange kids toddling up to them. It seems to me that more dogs are better-behaved and more tolerant than I ever remember seeing.

    IF in fact people are reporting that puppies are tougher to deal with, I can think of two things off the top of my head that would be big factors.

    The first is food: by and large, the quality of dog food is markedly higher, with more and more foods having fairly high levels of protein from animal sources. That equals more energy and puppies who are feeling their oats, so to speak. It’s long been the wisdom among horse people that you don’t feed a performance diet to a horse who is expected to plod around the ring with a child on his back. Strangely, the wisdom among many dog people seems to be going in the opposite direction and we feed them til they are fit to pop their buttons (I don’t mean weight-wise, I mean energy-wise) then expect them to be happy with a few short play sessions a day.

    The second is activity. Let me compare the life of the Springer Spaniel pup my parents brought home when I was 7 to the Corgi pup my husband and I brought home when I was 37.

    The Springer came home in the late spring or early summer to a house with a full-time mom and three out-of-school kids. The day went something like this: Pup got up early and parents took her out to potty and fed her and played with her a bit, and she went in for a nap. Kids tumbled downstairs whilst pup was asleep, yelling “Is the puppy awake? Where is she? Can we play with her????” Kids told to pipe down and let pup sleep. Kids wait around restlessly til puppy yawns and stretches and toddles out. Kids and pup romp and play til puppy is staggering and crawls under a bush to get away and take a nap. Kids are trying to drag puppy back out til Dad insists we let puppy sleep. Puppy naps, kids do other things, puppy finally yawns and stretches and comes out for lunch and the whole thing repeats. By the time it’s getting dark, puppy and kids are all exhausted, having spent almost all day outside playing in between naps and food breaks.

    Corgi puppy, 4 years ago: New owners manage to get two days off work and pick pup up on a weekend. After a few days, back to work and puppy workday routine begins. Husband up at 5:30, takes puppy out to potty. Me up at 6, gives puppy breakfast and plays in yard while husband showers. Husband comes down at 7, puppy put away while I shower and he gets together lunches, our breakfast, etc. Come down, eat, take puppy out for last potty, then pup put in x-pen at 7:45 where he stays til I sneak home at about 12:15 on my lunch hour. Take puppy out to potty, come in, change newspapers in pen while pup eats lunch. Try to eat lunch myself while waggling toys for puppy to play to keep him off my shoes. Back in the pen til 5:15 when we come home from work and repeat lunchtime routine. Puppy potties, plays, eats supper, then back in the pen while we grab dinner. Out again for more play, some fun training, then in the crate for bedtime at 10pm.

    I think this is not atypical for working families. The pup we had when I was a kid was loose all day, potty-trained herself because she was accustomed to pottying outside by virtue of spending most of her day there, and was only put in her crate, exhausted and bleary-eyed, when she was ready to pass out. The pup we had now spent about an hour in the morning, half an hour at lunch, and about 4 hours in the evening loose. The rest of the time he was crated or penned. Frankly one of the reasons we didn’t do puppy-k was because he was a wild child with the zoomies most of the time and we worked in short training sessions (five minutes at a time) around his puppy crazies. It’s not that they have frustration intolerance, it’s that they spend so many hours a day being frustrated that when they are finally given the chance to play, they don’t want to let anything stop them.

    Throw in the fact that it used to be that mostly only serious dog people even took their dogs to training classes and now lots more casual owners do and I would not be surprised if trainers are seeing pups that seem a bit mad.

  2. Alexandra says

    I haven’t been involved with training dogs long enough to comment about changes in puppies over the past decade, but I wanted to request a blog post or two about cat behavior, please! Many of us dog owners also have cats, and dog-cat interaction is always entertaining, sometimes aggravating. I’d also be glad to know of books where I could learn more about cat behavior; so much has been written about dogs in recent years but not as much about cats that I’m aware of.

  3. says

    “Throw in the fact that it used to be that mostly only serious dog people even took their dogs to training classes and now lots more casual owners do and I would not be surprised if trainers are seeing pups that seem a bit mad.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this point.

  4. says

    Hmm…interesting. I know that my colleagues and I on various lists have noted regional differences in breed specific behavior (or we think we have anyway 😉 ), but in Southern California, where I have taught class since the early 80s, I am not noting any trend towards more worrisome puppy behavior. I see the same variety of fabulous to problematic that I have always seen. I do note that in the 80s my Dog Classes always filled, but not my Puppy ones — now the reverse is true. I will be interested to see what other have to say.

  5. Rachel says

    Being a new dog owner, and never having had a puppy (I adopted a 4 year old), I don’t know anything about whether training classes have changed. But if they have, I like Beth’s sampling point – maybe a different group of dogs are now going to puppy classes, so the average temperament has shifted. I’m not a big fan of the better-food hypothesis, though; just because a dog is not going to be exercising all day long doesn’t mean that s/he should be fed corn-y kibble or food that makes him lethargic. If I’m misunderstanding your point, please forgive.

    My point in commenting, however, is that I love those melanistic squirrels. I volunteered at the National Zoo one summer (I went to high school around Washington DC), and I remember seeing a huge proportion of melanistic wild squirrels there. I suppose squirrel predation was much reduced there compared to near my house (lots of wild and feral critters that probably snack on squirrels).

  6. Lisa W says

    I am not a dog trainer, but I did experience my first dog training class last year. After years of training dogs on the learn-as-we-go method, we got Olive, a terrier mix rescue, who was unsocialized, anxious, and fearful. Ours was her first home, and we guessed her to be about 1 year old. I thought a beginning obedience/puppy class would be great for us. I talked to the teacher at length before we enrolled, took her to a dog-friendly store to see how she would do in a new and busy environment (she was a little anxious, but took treats and was very curious) and decided to give it a try. There were 7 dogs total in the first class (2 dogs switched classes, and one dog never came back after the first class). So, we were now a class of 4 dogs. Two very young puppies, an adolescent boxer mix rescue and Olive, who was the oldest and smallest dog in the group. The teacher was very patient and did a great job of modifying his approach, voice, and style depending on which dog he was working with. Before the start of class, there was a 15-minute play time where all the dogs got to run around and play with each other, unfettered but watched carefully.

    What happened was truly amazing. After the first few weeks of playtime, the dogs grouped together, and with Olive leading, ran in a wide circle around the room in perfect formation. Olive would stop every few minutes, the pack would stop just behind her, and then they would start again. It was like a watching a live wave. They were all in unison, they didn

  7. says

    I will check the Diane Riehm show; she is a favorite of mine when I am listening to public radio from St. Louis.
    Don’t do many puppies but keep a significant number of hounds. We are blessed with a fenced in acreage, so there is plenty of room to run, play and interact within the pack. It is getting the dogs out of the pack into other social arenas which can be problematic due to time and manpower. I stick with hounds: I know them best, most of their brains are in their noses (scent-hounds so far, though a Greyhound is in my heart) so I don’t have to think as hard as if I had a dog like Willie (LOL); hounds are, in general, a pack oriented breed group so newbies are able to adjust to the pack. The puppies I do get are all rescues, one or two at a time but pretty well adjusted (except for feral Monk who will be here in sanctuary his entire life – he is not objecting). I do find the comment about serious dog people vs currently general population attending classes interesting. Growing up long ago, we never had dog classes; my mom house trained our dogs and little more. Does this mean more people are taking dog ownership seriously enough to attend classes? I wonder what a follow-up study would show of general public dog owners and long term “continued education” for their dogs, even keeping up with training in the home over the years. Thanks for a most interesting post. LOVE the tree and the sitting area – want to be there right now!

  8. Beth says

    Hi Rachel, no apologies necessary and I did not really expand too much on what I said because I don’t want to turn the forum into a diet controversy. :) I’m not advocating feeding kibbles n’ bits or anything. With horses, the three basic food sources are grass, hay, and grains. Generally speaking, with the exception of some “hard keepers” like Thoroughbreds, most people advocate feeding as little grain as needed to keep the horse in weight if the horse is not in hard work (this is a bit of an over-simplification, but that’s the gist of it). Grain = energy and a high-energy diet is not a good idea if the horse will be ridden for an hour a few times a week and turned out or stabled the rest of the time. No point in feeding a horse til he’s on his toes then trying to train him into submission. So a horse who is lightly schooled and maybe goes off to a show a half-dozen times a year gets hardly any grain and as much hay as he can eat. A racehorse in hard condition might get 15 or more pounds of grains and other concentrates per day.

    Go on a dog food forum, though, and you can be greeted with hostility at times if you suggest that the ratio of protein to carbs should be different for pets than for dogs in hard work.

    It all seems very strange to me. Regardless, you can feed a relatively good-quality food that isn’t as high-protein as some of the fashionable foods out there right now. I would personally only feed high-protein to a pregnant or lactating bitch or a dog in hard work, and very few of us have dogs in hard work (hard work would be running many miles every day; doing search-and-rescue, tracking, hunting, or herding for hours every day; pulling a sled for hours every day, etc. Running around an agility course for a half-hour twice a week is NOT hard work).

  9. says

    While I haven’t been training puppy classes nearly long enough to comment on a general trend, I will say that I’m surprised at the number of puppies with worrisome behavior in my classes. Every problem you mentioned- frustration intolerance, barking, aggression toward people and other dogs- brings a face to mind in my last class alone. It is true these are primarily puppies owned by busy families with jobs and full schedules that are tough for a puppy to adjust to.

    Dogs have an incredible ability to adjust to their environment, but perhaps we are seeing a side effect of sorts to this abrupt shift in lifestyle? My parent’s dogs were outside all day, roaming and doing who knows what, coming home for dinner. They were great family pets, but independent during the day. Now our dogs spend their days in a crate, with a puzzle toy or bone if they’re lucky. For a 2-4 month old puppy, there is a lot to be frustrated about. Perhaps this age group is showing problem behaviors because the average dog owner leads a life that is difficult to adjust to. But with the addition of dog parks, day care, and sports, adolescent and young adult dog’s lives are easily supplemented, while a puppy’s routine is not. Bit of a ramble, but this had been on my mind after the series of bizarre puppy classes I’ve taught. Can’t wait to hear a few more experienced voices!

  10. Lisa says

    Although I have no experience to add, this admittedly anecdotal evidence supports a hypothesis of mine. I work in rescue and quite sensibly, we alter our pets before adoption. A large number of shelters have been doing this for a while now, and I have wondered if it might lead to fewer tempermentally sound dogs. If the bulk of the pet animals are going to come from casual or unintentional breeding, with little or no selection for temperment (or soundness, for that matter), it seems at least possible that fearfulness and its attendent aggression might become more common.

    I much prefer the food and more people/less stimulation hypotheses, though, and really hope I am wrong.

  11. Carolyn Kinsler says

    I don’t want this to turn into a diet discussion either and Dr. Doddman at Tufts agrees that many aggression or out-of-control-dog issues are caused, in part, by to much protein in a dog’s diet. However, dogs are carnivores while horses are herbivores, so while a horse is meant to graze on high fiber/high carb grasses, dogs are designed to eat primarily meat and bones. If we were to feed our dogs what they actually NEED, I think it would just be a lot less than what they are typically fed.

  12. Rose says

    I’m interested to see the comments from trainers – and I agree, I’d love to see some blog posts about dog/cat intereactions. Lots of people have multi-species households and as a shelter and rescue volunteer, I’d move more resources to guide them too -a pamphlet or short book would be great!!!

  13. Houndhill says

    Kudos on the Diane Rhiem show! It is always such a challenge to handle that medium and format well, and you did it so beautifully, as always!

    This is not about puppy classes specifically, but perhaps may bear upon the topic. I have a pack of large sighthounds that are supposed to be able to live and work together. These days, there are fewer and fewer people who maintain them as a oak, that lives together and walks out together. After having kept them this way for forty years, I just had to neuter a male, who was extremely volatile with the other intact males, and had instigated serious fights with two of them. This was a dog I had bought as a puppy, and his breeders told me he “came by it honestly” and that his sire did not want to even share the same air as the other males.

    This dog also is disturbed when other dogs show too much energy, he thinks he has to do something about that. He is a complete sweetheart with people, just as lovable and docile as he could be, a complete Teddy Bear. But he can turn into a grizzly bear with other intact males, only those he lives with, mind you! He never put a hair wrong at a dog show with other intact males, even if they growled or postured, he never growled or put a hair wrong.

    This temperament might have been acceptable in some other breeds, but for me, in my breed, it was not, so I had him neutered. But, to get back to the topic, I know many people would have bred this temperament on, and I think there is less selection for temperament happening now than there used to be.

  14. Alicia Graybill says

    I am going to say something very controversial. I believe that puppies, like children, suffer from parents/owners who aren’t willing to be leaders/adults. Frustration intolerance in children is also on the rise, as is aggression, speaking out of turn (for lack of a better way to phrase it), and other misbehavior. Diet, I am sure, plays into it as dog food (particular the grocery store varieties) are high in sugar and carbs (like a Happy Meal for canines). It’s a testament to the breeders’ efforts at improving temperament that we do have dogs that can outgrow bratty behavior and become good citizens despite lax or non-existent early training. I don’t know how many students come into my puppy classes saying they’ve never trained a dog before and don’t want to be “cruel” by making the puppy obey rules.

  15. Beth says

    Carolyn, I appreciate what you are saying and I think there has not been nearly enough research done, and so I am open to new ideas as they come up. I would point out, though, that a wild canid is also meant to travel tens of miles a day; spend most of its adult life either pregnant, nursing, or helping to care for growing pups; carry a very high parasite load; and sleep outside in extremes of weather.

    A dog living in such an environment would need very high-energy food simply to consume enough calories to stay alive. I’ve heard sled dogs need about 10,000 calories a day. My own dogs need about 400. For a sled dog, that would be about 25 cups of decent-quality kibble and I doubt their stomachs could physically hold that much, so obviously they need a much more calorie- (and therefore energy-) dense food. The reason horses in hard work are fed grain is because they can’t consume enough calories worth of grass and hay a day to keep in weight with the extra workload. So you don’t just change the quantity, you change the make-up of the food. Similarly, omnivorous humans who are fairly sedentary do very well on a lower-protein, higher-vegetable diet. But people who are serious athletes need more protein to help meet their energy needs. Muscles need protein to rebuild.

    High-protein diets were originally developed for working dogs and have only recently become fashionable for pets. I would just like to see some more research on the impact of this.

    The other point of my food comment, though (that I also didn’t explain) was that before I think many dogs were fed a very poor-quality diet. One would think this would tend to make them a bit more docile. That doesn’t mean that having a poorly-nourished puppy is anything to strive for, but it could conceivably make a difference in energy level between then and now.

  16. says

    At what age do you start seeing your puppies in puppy class? I have been practicing (veterinary medicine) for 20 years, and I cannot say that I see any change in the puppies at initial presentation (5-9 wks old, most of the time). However, I have seen a BIG change in behavior in older puppies and adult dogs. I think the percentage of unruly, out of control dogs has increased overall (maybe I’m just getting old and intolerant!). I think people have lost a sense of balance in handling their dogs and are so over-indulgent, that as soon as the puppy objects to anything they stop doing it, so the dog learns to continue it’s “temper tantrums” as they are rewarded. They (the dogs) have no tolerance for restraint and no impulse control. I notice people have less and less tolerance for seeing their dog in “distress”. My clients used to think their dog was in “distress” if it was injured and in pain. Now, many of them are totally incapable of handling it if their dogs express even the mildest signs of being unhappy with anything- so they can’t trim nails, clean ears, or do even the most basic of maintainence behaviors. On the bright side, I see far fewer puppies who are hand shy from the old “grab their nose and rub it in it” method of housebreaking. I don’t think it’s coincidental that I have noticed the same trends in the human children who accompany them on their visits. My average client is terrified of being the bad guy, even for a moment, in the eyes of their puppy or their child and denying them anything they want at the moment, whether it be to be let go instead of having their ears cleaned or the newest Ipod.

    I do think Lisa (I think it was) also has a good point about early spaying and neutering and its impact on the population as a whole. In years past, good breeders never thought of selling their puppies into pet homes on a spay neuter contract. A certain percentage of “backyard bred” pets came from stock that essentially was well bred, but just didn’t make the cut for show quality. Then those breeders started selling on spay neuter contracts, which seemed to be the right thing to do. Then we started spaying and neutering everything before it left the shelters, which also seemed the right thing to do. However, this coupled with changes in society and pressure from animal rights groups who would like to see EVERYTHING spayed and neutered, has resulted in fewer and fewer of the puppies we see coming from well thought out, well bred, well socialized litters. More and more are random bred with questionable or no early socialization, and more and more of the purebred litters are many generations removed from any thoughtful breeding program (or at least, any thought other than cash). I have no doubt this has had an impact as well and that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I used to spend hours helping my clients find well bred puppies. I don’t bother anymore, because they are hard to find and involve waiting lists and patience. Very, very few of my clients will wait anymore, and the problem of limited supply and the need for instant gratification compounds things more and more too. Many of my breeders of quality dogs aren’t breeding any longer, and of the ones who are, many are telling me that these are their last few litters- it’s too hard to deal with all the legal restrictions and limitations, expenses associated with doing it right are through the roof without any corresponding increase in puppy prices, puppy buyers are harder and harder to deal with, and lifestyle changes keep moving further and further away from what is compatible with raising multiple dogs. The new breeders who ARE coming up, don’t seem to be aquiring the depth of knowledge of structure, type , temperament and pedigrees that the older generation had, and there are many fewer younger ones beginning than older ones “retiring”. Very few kennels maintain the numbers to truly establish a recognizable line, and those that do are often vilified for the numbers they produce, regardless of whether or not they do a good job of socializing and screening for health along with selecting for physical characteristics. (and not all of them do, but in years past, they did provide a balance- they probably did more to maintain the physical characteristics of the breed while the smaller breeders did a better job in many cases of health screening and socializing.)

    Do I see things getting better? Nope. I DO spend a lot of time trying to convince my clients that the best way to “rescue” a dog is to pick the one that fits your lifestyle in the first place, whether it comes from a shelter or a breeder, and then to spend the time early on to teach that dog the basics, which in my mind (but sadly very few training programs) includes teaching restraint tolerance as one of the most important/useful skills.

  17. Fjm says

    Can I third (or is it fourth?) the request for guidance on dog/cat interactions? With one cat who is just a big wuss, and the unfortunate archetype of the victim for bullying, and one who is the self-acknowledged queen of the universe, and two dogs who have decided ideas about the fairness of rules that are applied to dogs but not cats, life can often get interesting round here!

    I’m not a trainer, but I am old enough to have seen the shift in the way we treat our dogs, and in what we expect of them. It would be very interesting to do a comparison between the US and UK/Europe, where crates are far less ubiquitous. I have a suspicion that the misuse of crates to confine pups for long hours could be generating all sorts of problems.

  18. AnneJ says

    When I took my first dog training class there was no puppy class. You didn’t train until your dog was 6 months old. I do remember those early classes being filled with dogs with serious behavior problems, including aggression. The owners were mainly average people whose dogs were getting out of hand and they needed help, not professional dog trainers.

  19. says

    I wonder…could the ever increasing stress levels of American owners, worrying about their finances, their kids, politics, etc, could this simply be reflecting in the puppies? If I’ve learned anything at all about dogs, its that they pick up on the emotional currents of their environments at a very tender age. Just a thought.

  20. Amy says

    I have taught puppy classes for many years at an Obedience club, I have noticed some differences, I am not at all sure the puppies are being well matched to the homes they go to. When I see crazy puppies I ask for a typical days schedule. I am hearing about puppies who spend 20 hours a day crated, and that’s typical. But the ones who go to day cares, many seem to be adrenaline junkies, always playing at the highest arousal level. I am not sure which puppies are worse.
    Lack of good excerise, too much of the wrong excerise? These don’t seem to be the happiest pups, but I have seen the pups who have “dog walkers” come to excerise each day along with dedicated owners who excerise and train and they have good dog manners, learn easier and play better.
    I actually worry that over the years we have become so good at showing people how to crate train that people are over using them. What puppy wouldn’t be crazy when crated more than 20 hours a day? But when you do that to a heridng dog, a hunting dog? Dogs meant to have high excerise requirements? Then they go to doggy daycares where they play non stop in big groups?

  21. Susan in Charleston says

    I think Rebecca hit the nail on the head here. Common sense in both child and dog rearing seems to be harder and harder to find. The same type of people who let their child run wild will certainly not be the type to be an effective leader with a dog, either. I was recently at a friends house and noticed that her elderly dog had very long nails. I commented on it, since the dog was having trouble navigating stairs, and the owner replied that she would have to take the dog to the vet to have the nails done, as the dog had never “allowed” her to cut her nails. This dog ,who is really a very nice dog otherwise, would bite her owner if she tried to cut her nails. My friend was shocked that I cut my own dogs nails (4 labradors) and couldn’t understand how I was able to accomplish such a thing. Oy.

    I also think that Beth may be onto something with her food theory. (I’m an old horsewoman, too.) It just makes sense that feeding a sedentary dog a very high protein diet could be problematic. I’m a big proponent of good food (I homecook, myself) but the diet needs to be appropriate to the lifestyle of the dog.

    I love this discussion, there are some really great points of view here.

  22. Mary says

    I think there might be some sampling bias here. I have been active in obedience clubs as an assistant and instructor since the nineties. I have to remind myself that the puppies and adult dogs that we see from the typical pet dog home are the dogs that “need” obedience training. In the eyes of most pet owners, a mild, biddable, low reactivity puppy or dog is much less likely to “need” obedience training at all. In other words, the ones we see are there for a reason in many cases.

  23. says

    There’a a dissertation here. I clearly remember the first time I saw a dog crate in a home, & then it was a while before I saw another. Now they’re ubiquitous. Two incomes are the standard these days. I’d also look at subdivisions. The subdivision nearest my home doesn’t allow fences of any kind anywhere. Lots are large enough that people don’t necessarily know their neighbors, & because there are no sidewalks you might not want to send the kids out with the dog. The nearest dog parks are a half hour drive. I’ve seen dogs in puppy class who hadn’t interacted with another dog since they left the litter.

  24. em says

    This is a fascinating discussion and I’m very interested in all the great observations that people have made. I don’t have much to add to the many great points that have already been made about dog temperament but I did want to say that I love seeing visitors’ surprised reaction to the unusual-colored squirrels we have locally. Melanistics are quite common, but we also have a handful of really pretty eastern gray squirrel color variants who have a dark mahogany brown bodies and bright foxy red tails. Isn’t it funny how something like a differntly colored squirrel can be such a delight.

  25. says

    Very interesting postings. Rebecca: I have also noted a big lack of impulse control in the dogs who stay with me. A definite big change from 30 years ago. Don’t know about pups I care for adult canines only.

  26. Julie says

    I have been reading your blog for a little bit & love it! I’m just a layperson with 2 dogs of my own, so I don’t know that my opinion is worth much, but . . . I have been shocked (& saddened) by how little people seem to consider a dog’s energy level, space needs, even grooming requirements when they decide to get a puppy. It seems like more & more people “fall in love” with an adorable puppy (aren’t they all?) and bring it home . . . only to be aggravated by how rambunctious it is or how much attention it needs. I just had to talk a young co-worker of mine out of getting a working breed puppy & go with an adult small breed dog – she lives alone in an apartment & has no experience as an adult with dogs. She was grateful for the advice but how many people like her are getting dogs they are ill-equipped to handle? Could this be causing more “bad puppies”?

  27. Beth says

    Julie, your comment about working breed dogs is something else I was thinking of. For ages hardly any one in this country had true herding breed dogs; rough collies and German Shepherds, yes, but they were so many generations removed…. Now the herders are quite popular. I have Corgis which I consider “herding dogs light” and one of mine is so drivey, and both have relatively low frustration thresholds compared to the gun dogs I grew up with. Being bossy is a breed trait, and while you can work on building frustration tolerance, it’s not an innate trait and you can only get so far.

    One of mine is happy enough being “just a pet” and the other one is 4 and still looks bored out of his mind half the time, even though we do agility AND he takes different walks every day in a 100+ acre park.

    I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think that many of the personal gun dog breeds (your spaniels and setters) were bred to work, true, but they were bred to hunt a few weekends (or days a week) IN SEASON and hang out the rest of the year being a pet. Herding dogs don’t really have a “season” and want to work all the time, all year long.

  28. says

    It seems common sense that dogs/puppies feeling poorly due to improper nutrition would be less patient less attentive more lethargic/or hipper–overall uneasy.

    I have cared for hundreds of dogs and cats in the last 30 years and it baffles me that dogs fed a freshly cooked or uncooked meal, doesn’t seem to seriously make a difference as to how long they live or their temper. I wish it did because every ounce of my being says it should.

    Where foods make such a difference is in injured or sick pets.
    I started exploring diets when my Airedale had terrible allergies. And yes there is no doubt that it is such a healing tool to feed a fresh cooked or raw meal, and treats that contain one or two ingredients versus …..who knows what, that all those processed grains are neither good for humans nor dogs, and certainly not cats who are 100% carnivores.

    We forget that processed pet food is very very recent! Post WWII. We forget because TV ads have bombarded us with “human foods is not pet food.” That is SUCH a lie. Human processed sprayed sweet cooked in cheap fat isn’t good for any living organism. Domesticated dogs have lived on humans left overs for hundred of years pre-processed foods.
    prepackaged foods is a convenience, and these days really good kibble is as expensive as a good raw or cooked diet.

    Following in this line of thought I believe that convenience is at fault for many of the problems we encounter in our dogs these days. People buy dogs (exactly what Julie said) because the way they look, and not because they are the right match.

    What our dogs are encountering is what humans are also having to deal with: not enough quality of life.

  29. JJ says

    re: “dogs are carnivores”
    Actually, dogs are omnivores. FYI: My dog is on a vegan kibble and he’s thriving.

    I can not personally attest to changes in puppy behavior over time or not. However, I find it to be a very believable idea. I would think that multiple factors would account for such a change. The idea of diet being one of the causes was the first thing that popped into my mind. However, my take is different.

    I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on human nutrition. I’ve learned a lot about the quality (or lack there-of) of human-destined animal proteins. If humans are getting tons of carcinogens in our own meat, imagine what the industry is giving to our pets? My guess is that such things would affect our dogs right from the beginning, including behavior, not just diseases. If I remember correctly (I can’t say for sure), artificial food coloring can affect human behavior. How much of our pet treats have artificial coloring? Preservatives? Pesticides? Etc. My thought is that increasing troublesome behavior in puppies dogs might be partially attributable to the types of proteins along with other substances in most dog kibbles.

    The idea of there being too much protein in some kibbles, as proposed above, also makes sense. American society, anyway, is *obsessed* with protein to the detriment of over-all health.

    My second thought on the causes of changes in puppy behavior was to think back to a previous posting by Trisha about the great loss of genetic variability in our dogs. I would think that such a thing could easily lead to dogs with behavior problems as we settle for a set of genes that do not produce mentally stable dogs. I have nothing to back this idea up. I’m just theorizing.

  30. JJ says

    Chloe: Yes you did! Please note that I was quoting a posting above yours. (Search higher if you are interested.) I didn’t want to use the name of the person I was quoting, because my goal was not to discredit any individual, but to make sure the correct information was presented.

  31. Sarah says

    I think it can be too simplistic to say that dogs who aren’t in hard work don’t need higher protein diets. Dogs vary so much. My dogs are primarily pets, do agility and some other sports, but I certainly wouldn’t consider them to be in “hard work”. I feed a grain-free kibble which is higher protein than I would originally have looked at, 32%. I have one Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch who needs a solid 3 cups of that daily to maintain her 32 pounds. That is a LOT of food for a not very big dog. She’s eating close to 1200 calories a day.

    I switched to this food when she was pregnant, from a lower protein food that did contain grain (rice), and her condition was so much better on this food that I decided to keep her on it. And she does eat a bit less of this than the previous food. I tried to cut her food back after she was spayed (6 months ago), but she lost weight and started scavenging. Some dogs are just harder keepers than others.

    I’m not a professional trainer, so I can’t give much of an opinion on the puppy behavior topic, though I would think the crating theory makes sense. I liked the melanistic squirrel, though. A friend recently got a photo of a black fox while camping, and that was pretty neat to see, I didn’t know it was possible!

  32. Helen says

    A trainer working in the UK, I don’t run classes, but offer training in client homes from 8-weeks onwards. My anecdotal theories:

    1. An increase in dog ownership among young childless couples who can’t yet afford to have children. They haven’t been through the trials and tribulations of raising babies and toddlers. Setting rules and boundaries, putting in the time for house training, obedience, handling exercises, controlled socialisation etc., are a shock to the system – most have full time jobs and they aren’t prepared for the time and the level of consistency needed to produce a decent adult dog.

    2. Too much emphasis on the wrong socialisation objectives. Flooding is common, for instance, the puppy arrives heavily traumatised on day one and the new owner takes it to the vet then marches it off to the local school to meet their children’s classmates. Uncontrolled and uninterrupted free play with other dogs is regarded as the ultimate goal.

    3. Breed popularity bandwagons. In the last decade, KC (our version of your AKC) registrations have increased 200% for Hungarian Vizslas. Between 2007-2010 not one decent specimen went through my hands – they were generally fearful, aggressive when handled, and all lacked trainability. This year, nothing but great specimens!

    4. Internet buying. Pre-internet, it was the norm to visit dog shows/trials, meet breeders, and go onto a waiting list with a reputable breeder. Now it’s just search Google for currently available puppies. It gives the consumer instant access to the puppy farms (mills), puppy wholesalers, individuals breeding their pets for profit, without having the knowledge to avoid the pitfalls of poor breeding practices.

    5. Internet pre-purchase learning. Pre-internet, consumers would pick up the phone and talk to dog trainers, vets, and dog breeders. Now after spending a few hours searching for internet information, they consider themselves well enough informed to make a decision on the breed, the breeder, training etc. It’s a recipe for disaster.

    6. Internet post-purchase learning. Consumers spot a problem with the dog/puppy and turn to the internet for advice. The consumer self-diagnoses the problem, often getting it wrong, or if they get it right, they often implement fix-it advice which makes the problem worse.

    In the UK there isn’t enough consumer education on reducing the risks of acquiring a behaviourally unhealthy puppy.

  33. Marcy says

    I’ve been teaching classes for our local obedience club for about 13 years now. Though I haven’t been teaching for decades, I can say in the decade I’ve been teaching I now see more young puppies (3-5 months) and definitely more older puppies (6-8 months) come in with serious lack of self control. More mouthing, barking and overall bad behavior.
    I can’t say that more ‘average’ people bring their dogs to classes, that may be the case from20+ years ago. We used to and still get mostly people who want a dog that doesn’t jump on the kids or annoy the neighbors. We get the few who are interested in competition, but 90% of people taking classes, just want a well behaved dog.

  34. em says

    JJ- Did you say that your dog is eating vegan, (not vegetarian) kibble? What is that made out of? I’m not being at all critical, I’ve just never heard of vegan dog food and I’m honestly curious. As the owner of yet another ‘hard keeper’ (Otis has had lots of food intolerance issues, mostly surrounding whole grain and too much dietary fiber-he’s done great on a high protein/low carb raw diet), I’m fascinated by the vast array of diets that dogs can and do thrive on.

  35. Annie R says

    I too am just a pet owner, and have had never owned a dog from a breeder, just shelter mutts and a pup or two from backyard farm litters where the sire lived next door. In terms of the many dogs who come from shelters and “rescue” organizations, has anyone thought about the practice of super-young spaying and neutering?

    Back when I adopted a pup in the mid-80’s, standard advice was to spay between 8 months and a year of age. Now I’m hearing that the shelters are spaying by 3 months, and it seems to me that that has to affect development behaviorally as well as physically. I have heard there are concerns about whether these dogs will have proper bone development, etc. due to losing their hormonal activity at such a young age — and it makes me wonder if the pups are unbalanced in their behavior and emotions as well. Any thoughts from those of you doing professional breeding and training?

  36. Trish says

    This post is off-topic but I thought you might be interested. I have a two-year old border collie who is very alert to variations in the way I give commands–especially our release command (I use “That’ll do!” to release her from stays). Here’s the interesting thing: I got a cold this week and became very hoarse, and once my voice changed, my border collie no longer understood ANY of my commands–come, sit, stay, etc. (She does still respond to hand signals though.) As an experiment, I tried whispering and hoarse-voice, but she simply looks at me in utter confusion. In fact, at dinner time yesterday, she came and sat in a long “stay” in front of her bowl when I put it down (which is our routine), but I couldn’t get her to release from her stay no matter what I said! Since I don’t have a hand-signal to release her from a stay, I finally had to hand-feed her for several minutes to get her going. Are all dogs so sensitive to the tone and volume at which we give commands?

  37. Carolyn says

    Dogs ARE facultative carnivores, they can and do eat almost anything, but their systems were developed mainly to eat meat. Cats are obligate carnivores, they have to get their nutrition from meat.

    Historically dogs lived on human scraps and whatever food they could find or hunt, which in general was FAR less than the amount of food they get today. The same way humans historically were far more active and ate less than they do today. Does that mean that the historical diet of dogs (say for the last 500 years) was a healthy diet for the dog? Was the diet of a Polish peasant three hundred years ago a healthy diet? In both cases, they survived long enough to reproduce. Now in both cases we are more interested in the quality and length of life.

    My dogs eat a mostly protein diet, neither one of them have any issues with over the top behavior, with my little red dog it is quite the opposite, he is rather lazy. The answer is not to change the dog to an unnatural diet, but to give the dog more exercise. Dogs WERE designed to be working or sleeping and eating enough to support those two functions. If they get as much exercise as they need they can eat the type of diet their body was designed for.

    I am not a horse person, but I know that they are grazing animals, designed to graze most of the time to get enough nutrients from low nutrient grasses. Giving them higher nutrient grains is a way to provide them more nutrients and calories in a more condensed package so they can be worked. The higher nutrient and calorie grain is actually the less natural diet.

    As to the Puppies of the Corn issue, I have been involved in dogs professionally for the last 13 years and in that time I don’t know if I have seen a big change in puppy behavior or even how people treat their dogs.

    I am hearing more and more reports of resource guarding puppies and what is especially troubling to me, more and more reports of resourcing Golden puppies (I am a Golden person). My feeling is that it is a breeding problem and I know that in some circles, resource guarding in Golden puppies has been normalized. I have heard people say that resourcing guarding in all puppies is normal and since Goldens are dogs (and puppies), resourcing guarding is normal. I have gotten into many arguments over this. A Golden with a proper temperament should never resource guard from a human, it is directly counter to their specific function (to go get a bird and deliver it to hand). Any Golden who ever displays resource guarding should be immediately eliminated from any breeding program. Unfortunately this does not always happen and the fault lies with both mills, BYBs, HVBs, and some show breeders who breed to a popular stud regardless of his temperament.

    I took care of a baby Golden this past winter for a week. She was from a performance breeding and the darling girl kept trying to put her chewies in my mouth to share with me so it breaks my heart to hear of Golden pups the same age who bite their humans over objects.

  38. Thea Anderson says

    Hey Em, if JJ’s dog gets the same vegan food as mine it’s Natural Balance. The main ingredients are brown rice, oatmeal, barley. But my dog doesn’t much like any of the vegetarian dogfoods I’ve tried so far. She generally LOVES food, she’d work for kibble even distracting environments, but now I have 4 bags of expensive kibble that I have to mix with other things in order for her to eat. So you might want to see if you can sample it first for Otis since he’s such a picky eater.

    Sorry, but I have never owned a puppy so I have nothing relevant to say. However I’m troubled that the movement to spay & neuter pets could have unforseen negative consequences for dogs’ general fitness and I hope that these anecdotal observations of more bad puppies aren’t due to some overall decline in dogs’ temperament. My dog was spayed at the shelter, but she has a sort of anxious temperament anyway. I don’t think that spaying & neutering puppies would interfere with their bone development though, because growth hormones are made in the pituitary gland inside their brains, not in their sex organs, right?

    But on the topic of neutering, I do think it’s interesting the way many neutered pets develop such a passion for their food. Particularly cats, but I was dog-sitting a neutered dog whose penis would come out of its sheath whenever he thought he was about to get some food. It was pretty gross, and I made a point of not giving him food until it went back in the sheath. My hypothesis is that their brain circuitry that would normally govern sexual desire gets co-opted by their food appetite since the sex circuits aren’t getting their usual feedback. Kind of like blind people developing supersonic hearing.

  39. Carmen says

    This is a really interesting question, one that my husband and I were just discussing recently. I’ve been teaching classes for 16 years and have noticed distinguishable differences. The number one issue that we see more frequently in puppy classes with owners, is the lack of breed research before obtaining a specific breed. My guess is because information/pictures/shopping is so easily available on the internet, people are buying on sight alone, without researching behavioral tendencies for the breed they’re interested in (this includes designer breeds). The media (i.e. dog show and agility trial television coverage) has also contributed over the years to breed popularity. This results in people getting in over their heads, and eventually behavioral problems surface in the dog.

    In our basic classes is where we’ve really noticed a distinguishable difference in dog behavior. Sometimes the dogs seem to be out of their minds with over-stimulation the first night of class, more so than the usual excitement or nervousness that naturally comes with the first night. After visiting with owners, it seems in general dogs are expected to fit into our busier lifestyles, with less physical and mental exercise. It seems that these dogs, especially the first few class visits, often have trouble focusing and have very short attention spans. The excitement of being in a stimulating environment seems too much for them, and many of them start out reactive. We see this the most with adolescent males of any breed. With owners who take their training seriously and begin to provide a more enriched environment for the dog at home, the dogs begin to make enormous progress in class: more focus, easier to keep motivated, less reactivity, etc. With owners who do not provide these basic necessities, it remains a constant struggle.

    I look forward to hearing comments from others.

  40. Carmen says

    One more comment I forgot to add… we do a lot of fostering for the local rescue group, which includes fostering entire litters of puppies at times. Over the past year we’ve fostered 7 litters, a variety of herding, sporting, toy, terrier, hound and working breed mixes. While we’ve had our share of independent and vocal puppies (the litter of pug/jack russells that is here now is a good example.. :-)), we haven’t had a pup yet that has shown dominance or fear related aggression, and none that we’ve had to separate from the littermates. That being said, it has been only recently (last few years) that we’ve had to stop doing play breaks in some puppy classes b/c one or two puppies were too aggressive to play with the others.

  41. says

    I find the last comment about puppies playing too aggressively interesting. I have noticed this when I accompany friends to their puppy class. So much so, that if indeed the play is part of a class I tell my friends with smaller dogs to not be hesitant and withdraw their puppies from those few minutes of class, because it is not safe or helpful to have puppies being bullied. What would be the best recommendations for the owner of a pup when there are no other dogs in the household.

  42. Joh says

    Carolyn Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    ” The answer is not to change the dog to an unnatural diet, but to give the dog more exercise. Dogs WERE designed to be working or sleeping and eating enough to support those two functions. If they get as much exercise as they need they can eat the type of diet their body was designed for.”

    I think, that’s part of the answer! More and more people, who clearly not have enough time for their dogs adopt dogs anyway.

    Puppies stay home alone for hours and when the owner has time, he/she takes the pups to over-crowded dog parks or to other crowded spaces – the pups get overwhelmed and over-stimulated.

    More and more people decided for a breed or a type of dog that is not appropriate for their life style. I own a Rhodesian Ridgeback – these dogs are very independent hunting dogs who needs lots of exercise and work. Your average family with your average life-style can not give such a dog an appropriate home!

    As pups there often quite a handful and they are very backward and need lots of time to grow into adults in their heads – and they are big dogs! So you have a 20kg pup on leash.

    Don’t get me wrong Rhodesians are great dogs and they can be great family dogs, but in general you have to exercise them a lot (and for most of them that means lots of running AND lots of “brain work”)

    I am not a dog trainer, but I am involved in the “dog world” and in dog training for about 20 years know. I am not in the US – most of my life I spent in Germany.

    I see more and more poorly socialized pups and dogs. Some of them because they come from “puppy mills” or very bad breeders, some of them because their human families don’t have the time or don’t see the point in getting them well-socialized. Some people seem to think that bringing your dog to a puppy-class once a week is enough socialization and enough training so they don’t work with their dogs in between classes.

  43. em says


    Thanks! I was just curious for curiosity’s sake, Otis can’t digest bran or any complex carb (like beans and lentils) that have an outer membrane, so there’s almost no chance I’d try vegan kibble, even if I were inclined to go back to kibble. It’s just interesting to me that some dogs do perfectly well on diets that others can’t tolerate at all. The questions and comments about diet are especially intriguing to me because I’ve had kibble-eating easy keepers most of my life, but had to go through a trial by fire with Otis which involved a lot of reading on the subject, much of it contradictory, sometimes vehemently so. It seems to me that there is a distinct lack of reputable, clear, accessible information for people who are trying to make rational decisions about feeding their dogs, and a great deal of finger wagging and fear mongering.*

    I have no credentials whatsoever to offer any contribution to the great diet debate, but I can say that from my very limited anecdotal experience, both (adult) dogs that I’ve fed a high-protein, low (but not no) carb raw diet to have done extremely well both physically and behaviorally, without any observable problems with aggression, hyperactivity, nervousness or irritability.

    My feelings on the diet-influencing-behavior issue are somewhat split. If the argument is that certain foods or nutrients create a biochemical imbalance, affecting behavior in undesirable ways, the way that excessive sugar affects humans, I’d be very interested to hear about it and very open to the notion of altering a dog’s diet to avoid this problem. But if the argument is simply that dogs need less nutritional quality for less energy, my knee-jerk reaction is negative. I freely admit that my reaction is largely based on projection-I like the high-energy feeling that I get when I eat well and hate that draggy exhausted sensation that I get when I eat too many nutritionally poor foods and I (perhaps wrongly) imagine that my dogs feel the same. So I generally prefer (again almost as much for me as them) to cope with the greater exercise requirement that a better-nourished dog might require on the grounds that a well-nourished, well-exercised dog is apt to be healthier than an less well nourished, less well exercised one. I do understand, however, that many dogs will be underexercised regardless, and it probably isn’t a bad idea to re-evaluate their nutritional requirements, it just goes against the grain for me personally.

    *In general, not on this forum. And from every corner of the debate, not any one in particular.

  44. Beth says

    Regarding protein: It stands to reason that different lines of dogs, with very different histories, would have different dietary requirements. A diet that is barely sufficient to keep a Thoroughbred in weight would kill a Shetland Pony, if the ration were reduced just by weight proportion alone. (Island ponies can colic or founder on high-energy foods; they were developed in an area with low-quality forage and simply can’t tolerate a lot of grain. Thoroughbreds were developed by royalty and food was readily available. The same differences show up in dog histories).

    I know, online, of several Corgi owners who feed very calorie-dense foods and are forced to feed such a small quantity that their dogs get a quarter cup to a half cup of kibble a day. Some add green beans to make the portion seem larger. I dunno, dogs love to eat and Corgis REALLY love to eat and giving them a few tablespoons of food a day is not something I would personally feel was best for my dogs, but everyone has a different view I suppose.

    As far as exercise requirements, I would need to quit my job to give one of mine the exercise he would like to have. Tonight, for the first evening in weeks, he is not bugging me all night to play and that is because he had a 45 minute walk yesterday followed by another 45 minutes of running for agility practice, followed by some inside fetch. Then this morning he had a half-hour walk, and a few hours after that an hour-and-a-half off-leash hike that included some swimming time. My other Corgi, who is very closely related on the female side, is happy with a half-hour walk a day and a game of fetch a couple times a week. None of us know til we have the dog what exercise they will require. I picked a breed that fits our lifestyle well, one that is happy to do some agility or hiking but does not require hours of running every week. And even in doing that, and using a fabulous breeder who hand-picked a pup for us, we ended up with one dog who is perfect for our home and a second for whom we barely hit the bare minimum of activity that he needs.

    I agree that a lot of folks don’t do enough research, but we should all sympathize with the fact that even the most careful research can end up with us having a dog that is higher energy than we anticipated. People can only do what they can do, and I simply can’t spend three hours every day exercising my dogs when I have about 5 hours of free time (including preparing supper, cleaning the house, taking care of the yard, etc) on any given weekday.

    That is why well-funded diet research is so important. If some minor changes could maintain dogs in good health without giving them more energy than they need, then that would be a good thing. There is abundant research in horses, not much at all in dogs. And no, I’m not at all talking about malnourishing dogs into docility. You can feed many horses one diet that will leave them “hot” and on their toes, and another diet that leaves them a bit more placid. BOTH diets are healthy and both provide adequate nutrition, but they also give different energy levels. If indeed the same is true of dogs, it would be nice if we could know it but alas, the studies tend to be small and overly-focused on narrow results.

    Still, Dr. Dodman’s study did seem to show that a lower-protein diet can decrease territorial aggression in some dogs. It would be nice to see some larger studies.

  45. Annie R says

    @Thea, the growth hormone is one factor and, yes, is made in the brain; but the sex hormones add to the building-up phase of bone as well. That is why humans lose bone mass rapidly in the first couple of years of menopause. Not a problem if there was adequate bone buildup in adolescence, especially, but a problem develops if not, or if the bone was not maintained after adolescence by adequate physical and hormonal activity. There are some studies that show that prolonged use of progesterone-only birth control can compromise bone tissue in the long run because the effect of estrogen is suppressed. Since bone is a living tissue and there is buildup and breakdown throughout life, the balance of influences on the building and resorption function in various stages of life is important. Not having enough buildup in youth, when the laying down of calcified tissue is most active, is a problem. later in life when the balance swings naturally to favor resorption.

    And, the scary part is, none of this is influenced by diet if the ovaries and testes are removed early in life. If the hormones aren’t there to act on the nutrients coming in to the body, all the effort and expense of great dietary management is wasted. We’ll see what happens when the current generation of early-neutered and spayed dogs reaches their teens; sometimes the body manages to balance out these influences after all, so only time will tell.

    Speaking of dogs in their teen years, has everyone seen this? Beautiful tribute to Search and Rescue retrievers.


  46. Jeanine says

    I would argue that the internet has also had an impact in making people aware of breed options that they never would have been exposed to 15 years ago. When I fell in love with Belgian Tervuren, I was in Belgium for work reasons almost 20 years ago and went to big multibreed, multi activity show. There I saw a Terv run an agility course with a huge amount of drive, then go up in the bleachers and promptly roll on his back to collect his tummy rub reward in the midst of a crowd of noisy people. I had no idea of what I was looking at but thought that type of temperament was exactly what I wanted in my next dog. Almost 2 years later, I got my first terv from the same breeder as the dog who had impressed me so much with his drive, attitude and composure. The only dog I had had up to then was a rescue sheltie who had aggression issues from a puppy mill breeder later closed down. So my experience is that my first dog had far more temperment issues (I was the fourth home for my guy) than any of the dogs I’ve had since. These days there is a much greater variety of breeds out there, with people buying all sorts of dogs. Internet and book search options provide a “what breed is right for me” selection option that we didn’t have 20 years ago.

    Now I have tervs and border collies but I pay a huge amount of attention to temperament because my first sheltie was a great dog but it was a real pain dealing with his aggression issues.

  47. JJ says

    Em: I used to feed my dog Innova. About a year ago, when I heard that Innova sold out, I did a ton of research into different kibble options, including vegan. I finally settled on a brand called V-dog. (I tried Natural Balance and ended up rejecting it. Taste-wise and nutrition-wise, V-dog is better.) Duke thinks V-dog tastes great. He took to it right away. I tried several games with his old kibble and his new one to establish preference, and I found that Duke liked them the same.

    I’ve been feeding Duke V-dog for about a year now. After about two months, I noticed three significant changes in my dog that convinced me that I was on the right track:
    1) his coat got shinnier
    2) his nails go shinnier
    3) his energy level/playfulness level went up – dramatically

    Duke truly is thriving. The real proof of the pudding would be several years from now–seeing how Duke is doing then. However, since Duke is a Great Dane, already 7 or 8 years old, and probably had a really cr*py diet the first three or four years of his life (pre-me), we may not have several years for testing.

    Note that Duke gets a supplement of 2-3 ground tablespoons of flax seed a day. (Soaked in water, which he licks up with relish.) He also gets 2 bites of canned meat dog food a day. Each bite contains a glucosamine pill. Duke gets lots of fresh, organic (as much as possible) fruit and veggie treats for training and games. He also gets 1-2 tablespoons of cheese a week as part of our grooming routine. I would get rid of the cheese if I could find another way to do the nail sanding without it. At least I give him cheese that doesn’t have the rbst. But I know he would do better without any cheese.

  48. says

    I have been training and grooming professionally in a country area in Australia for 10 years. There has been a change locally however it has been to do with the change in demographic of the area. Australia has a large group of baby boomers who are leaving our city areas and moving to the country. Most of the clients who come to me for training are those who are in this group. Born after 1945 now retired reasonably early in life, cashed up from selling houses in capital cities and getting dogs that are now their family. They will spend money on quality care (grooming, training, feeding etc). However the local farmers can not understand why you would take a dog to dog training. In their opinion if a dog does not fit into their way of thinking they they either abuse it, tie it up or get rid of it (sometimes with a bullet), then go out and get a replacement. These dogs live outside mostly on chains in sheds or on verandahs and have the run of the properties and local roads. There are many factors that play into how dogs fit into society.

  49. Larry says

    I just discovered this blog, so this comment is a bit late. I think Beth’s comments were right on. People are becoming more and more sedentary, while pups still need exercise. I prefer bird dogs, which are just slightly lower energy than border collies. One common question from pointing dog owners is, “Where’s the off switch on this dog?” I tell them it’s on the other end of a 5 mile run. For mental and physical health a young pointer needs to run (not walk on a leash) about 5 miles a day.

    Keeping the little tyke occupied is important too. I normally keep 4 adult dogs, and don’t introduce another pup to the pack until one of the older dogs dies. One or two of the older dogs will keep the pup occupied for hours, either bouncing around in the yard or mouth wrestling on the floor. The pup also gets to run with the older dogs, and watch, though not interfere with, training sessions.

    Puppy experience is essential in raising a balanced bird dog. The natural ability may be there, but a pup needs to learn to use them. Until a dog learns what those scents mean, it won’t be able to track. Training a dog is a process of shaping its natural behaviors to work with a human, but puppyhood is when those natural behaviors develop in the first place. A pup with sparks flying out of its ears as the synapses make connections is not misbehavior, it’s something to be expected.

    As for food, I agree with Beth there too, though I don’t think any commercial food is high enough energy for a true working dog. I once had a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and was the only guy in my group who had a trained retriever. My Chessie often did 25 open water retrieves a day, sometimes breaking ice. I was shocked at how fast he lost weight, even feeding as much commercial food as he could eat. I quickly learned to supplement his diet with up to 5 lbs. of high fat meat a day, ramping up his diet for 5 days before the hunting trip to avoid digestive upset.

    When a dog is not working, it needs bulk in its diet. Dogs are not really carnivores, they are opportunistic omnivores just like people. They make good use of fruits and cooked vegetables. My dogs like to eat apples, and love blackberries, which they will pick themselves right off the bush. Cooked high fiber cereals (oatmeal) is good too. Commercial kibble seems to be pretty good for dogs that aren’t working, but if I run out of dog food I don’t make a special run to the store, I just cook something.

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