How to Find a Dog Trainer You Can Trust With Your Pup

How to Find a dog trainer you can trust

Whether you just brought home a new dog, or your current canine companion is exhibiting a concerning behavior, you need to find a dog trainer you can trust.

The search for a well-trained, reliable dog trainer is harder than you might think. With so many dog trainers advertising their services on open sites like Yelp, you might find yourself entrusting your precious pup to the wrong person.

How to Find a Dog Trainer

If you’re wondering how to find a dog trainer and who to trust, we can help.

Here at IC HQs, we understand just how difficult it is to find a qualified dog training professional. One person’s website offers one opinion, while another’s recommends something completely different. Friends and family offer their advice only adding to your confusion. How do you filter through all the friendly advice, suggestions, and online searches?

Not to worry, we’re here to help you find a dog trainer by addressing common questions, and providing the information and resources you need, to find the right trainer for you and your four-legged friend’s needs.

Let’s begin with some common questions and concerns.

Are all dog trainers created equal?

No, they’re not. First, it’s important to note that the dog training industry is unregulated. There are no official government bodies that oversee the practice of training dogs. Additionally, there are no official universal rules, policies, procedures or gold standards. This basically means that anyone can call themselves a trainer, and do whatever he or she wants – whenever and however they see fit. Some dog trainers don’t even have a business license!

Thankfully, there are independent organizations that have addressed these concerns, including the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, the Pet Professional Guild, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

These groups, and others like them, have developed higher standards of practice on a global level. They screen their applicants, require testing for certification and recertification or membership, and provide educational resources — among other things. Although dog trainers aren’t required to become certified or apply for membership in order to train dogs – certification proves that he or she has become proficient in their craft, following the latest in training research and best practices.

What’s their real training philosophy and approach?

The dog trainer’s approach should be straightforward, transparent, and self-explanatory. If they are claiming their techniques are “the best” and/or “most humane,” then they should have evidence to back up those claims.

Utilizing subjective jargon can be misleading, which can cloud decision making for the pet owner. Is this person describing training methods that enhance the experience for both dog and owner? Does it sound like the experience will be enjoyable for both the dog and the handler? Or, is this person promoting a “unique” approach, while implementing outdated techniques, including those that can cause fear or discomfort to the dog? Keep in mind that while addressing overall goals of the client, training should still be fun throughout the process — for everyone.

What’s with the title?

You are likely familiar with such designations as positive reinforcement trainers, cookie trainers, clicker trainers, e-collar trainers, and balanced trainers – to name a few. As mentioned above, there are no gold standards when it comes to training dogs. However, the person’s title, or what they refer to themselves as, will likely tell you a lot about their methods. For instance, trainers who are certified through the CCPDT will refer to themselves as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. This title indicates he or she practices positive reinforcement methods as outlined in the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics.

Titles such as “balanced trainer” often means they practice dual approaches. They may combine positive reinforcement with fear-based techniques, including physical corrections (i.e. alpha rolling, kicking, kneeing, collar corrections, choking with a prong or choke collar). E-collar trainers also implement punishment based techniques, with the addition of electronic (shock) collars.

Fear-based techniques are outdated, and the trainers who use them may not have an education on animal learning theory or science-based techniques, are unaware of progress within the industry, and don’t have a grasp on the fallout of coercion and aversives.

Trustworthy dog trainers will use transparent, clear, and consistent content throughout their website and social media pages. Those who use a force-free approach will talk about using whatever motivates the dog to want to participate in the training plan, focusing in on rewarding wanted behaviors, and teaching the dog what the best behavior choice is — without instilling fear.

Those dog trainers who express their use of treats, as well as “dominance” or “corrections”, give a cloudy picture as to what their methodology is. Are they putting a spin on their training approach and using these terms to help market themselves? Do they really have their clients’ best interests at heart? Techniques that risk injury should raise a red flag.

But, which method is best?

Pet owners can choose between force-free, positive reinforcement; mixed training combining both positive reinforcement and punishment; or punishment-based training. The former uses anything that motivates the dog to want to participate throughout their training. This approach teaches your dog the skills to make the right choices while focusing on wanted behaviors.

The latter uses fear-based techniques for the purpose of decreasing undesirable behaviors. This approach focuses on unwanted behaviors and doesn’t teach the dog how to make the proper choices.

For too long force-based techniques have been used, because they were part of our culture. Thankfully, progress has been made over the years, proving that while these training techniques can work, they are outdated and unnecessary for training dogs — or any animal.

Performing a Google search on the fallout of using punishment to train dogs yields several results. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior composed a lovely Position Statement on the Use of Punishment explaining the pitfalls and risks when using these techniques. This resource will provide unbiased information along with additional links to reputable studies.

Now that I know what to look for, where should I start?

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of different dog training approaches, you’re ready to begin your search. Searching for a dog trainer is similar to searching for any service-based businesses. Asking for referrals is a great way to find a trustworthy trainer. Veterinarians and other pet owners are a great source for finding qualified professionals.

Yelp is another popular source for finding pet trainers. Just be sure to do your due diligence, read reviews and learn about their approach and methods before committing to their services.

We recommend the following resources (in no particular order) for help in finding a qualified dog trainer:

How do I know I’m making the right choice?

Cyrano the PapillonKeep in mind that humans are animals too. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Conduct an interview, and ask questions. Use your research skills to review their website, reviews and social media to vet them thoroughly before entrusting them with your canine companion.

Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned dog owner, with each new experience brings new needs and goals. Finding a professional dog trainer who will listen to your needs, develop a plan that works for you and your dog, provides proper education, and supports you along the way can lead to a more pawsitive experience all around.

With the right dog trainer, you’ll have more time to be with your inquisitive canine. Use our tips to find a dog trainer you can trust.

Ever since the Inquisitive Canine was founded in 2005, Joan Hunter Mayer’s life has gone to the dogs — and she couldn’t be happier! A certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, Joan not only loves seeing her canine students succeed, but also enjoys empowering dog parents with a valuable education to enhance their relationships with their dogs for life.

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

How to Be the Pawfect Guest — Getting Your Dog Invited Back

imgresWhether your inquisitive canine and you have been invited for a happy hour event at your neighbor’s condo, a weekend at your friend’s home, or a month-long stay at your cousin’s lake house, you want to ensure you get invited back. In the past, we’ve discussed how to help your inquisitive canine be the pawfect host so we thought we’d hit the other end of the spectrum and address ways to set your precious pooch up to be a poster dog for being the pawfect dog guest.

With holiday weekends around the bend and summertime on the horizon, we here at IC HQ’s wanted to share some of what we think are helpful tips to ensure that your canine is a gracious dog guest.

Tips For Getting Yourself — and Your Dog — Invited Back

Make sure everyone is on board with hosting a bow-wow! While the person you’re visiting may give you the thumbs up to bring your furry baby, consider others who may be in the mix during your visit. While Uncle Bob might be totally comfortable around dogs, little Sally may be afraid of them. Additionally, consider leaving your inquisitive canine at home if she or he doesn’t play nicely with other animals (or vice versa, with the pets that belong to the people whom you’re visiting).

Keep it clean and tidy. No matter how gracious your hosts are, creating extra work for them shouldn’t be part of your visit. Cleaning up after yourself is key, and similarly, tidying up after Fido is essential, too. Remember to follow the fur trail, and wipe down, sweep, use a lint roller, or vacuum as you go. This goes for dirt and other outdoor debris, and food and treat remnants as well. You’ll also want to make sure toys are picked up and beds/crates/dog mats are kept in a discrete location and are not tripping hazards. Lastly, ask your hosts how they would like you to leave the place before you leave. Check and double check to make sure you’ve picked and packed up everything, and restored order to any chaos you and/or your canine may have created.

Be like a stealthy Ninja! Are you up at the crack of dawn to take your dog out for a walk or to play in the backyard? How about moonlit walks before bed? Your host might have a different schedule, so keep this in mind when you and your inquisitive canine are roaming about.

BYOS (Bring Your Own Supplies). Pack what you need, without relying on your host to provide anything for your dog — including towels! Dogs are, for the most part, simple creatures, but through domestication, it seems their “essentials” list has grown. Depending on the type of visit, you’ll want to remember to pack what you need, including a leash, harness, collar, bowls, food puzzles, toys, food and treats, medications, grooming aids, waste bags, a bed or crate, and towels.

Reinforce your host’s behavior. Ya gotta love folks who welcome guest dogs into their homes. Show your gratitude from the get-go by giving them, and perhaps even their pet, a little gift. You can also express your appreciation by taking them out for a meal or to some place they enjoy. Lastly, follow up with a handwritten note. (These never go out of style, no matter how hi-tech our society gets). You might even include a photo of your dog at their place as a remembrance, letting them know your inquisitive canine appreciates them, too.

Skills fit for cotillion! Now’s the time for your dog to be at the top of his or her manners game. Being well-versed at sitting, lying down, going to his or her bed on cue, being quiet around distractions, leaving things alone when asked, and politely greeting people (and other animals) should be rock solid. This is no time for teaching new behaviors; this is, however, the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how wonderful your dog is. I would add in leash walking and coming when called too, as these behaviors are always needed, no matter where you go.

Know the boundaries. Make sure your dog and you understand where his or her “bathroom” is, as well as sleeping quarters and lounging locations. Will your dog be allowed on furniture? Even if he or she is, designating a special blanket or towel for your inquisitive canine to use will protect the environment while also subtly conveying to your hosts that you respect their home. When it comes to house training, take your dog to the requested outdoor spot to do his or her business, and then positively reinforce the appropriate behavior — so that he or she knows where to go. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your dog to help prevent unfortunate incidents.

Help your pup be the perfect dog guest. Visits should be fun and festive for everyone — including the host. A well-mannered inquisitive canine and self-aware guest set themselves up to be invited back every time!

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Say NO To Weapons of Mutt Destruction – Choose The Best Dog Walking Gear

Here’s How to Avoid Dangerous Dog Walking Gear and Spot the Best Pet Gear for Your Pet

There is significant controversy over the use of aversive dog walking gear such as choke, prong,
electric, and Citronella collars. Although research confirms that there are many negative side effects created by using this kind of punishment-based gear, the use of inhumane training equipment is unfortunately pretty common. Even large pet stores that claim to be animal advocates continue to sell aversive walking and training equipment.

As an inquisitive dog mom, animal advocate, and certified dog trainer, I often wonder how and why dog walking gear that causes, as the ASPCA puts it, “physical discomfort and undue anxiety,” is considered acceptable. Haven’t we figured out that animals (which include us humans!) learn better in an environment that is friendly, trusting, and filled with love — not one that is ruled by anger, frustration, and pain?

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal? Haven’t those kinds of collars worked for decades now? Does it really matter how you get your dog to walk easily by your side, without pulling?”

Side Effects of the Wrong Dog Walking Gear

Well, similar to outdated, ineffective medical treatments, there are high-risk side effects of using aversive dog walking gear, which are absolutely not worth it. According to well-respected industry groups including The Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior, and popular high-profile dog trainers like author and on-air personality Victoria Stilwell and Karen Pryor, world renowned animal trainer and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog, the use of aversives for training purposes must be avoided at all costs.

The implications of using such dog walking gear are enormous: from physical damage and unwanted behavioral problems including aggression to shutting down, learned helplessness and destruction of the human-animal bond, the negative consequences are both likely and also very serious. There is no reason to continue to use aversive gear for dog walking and training, especially now that we know better — because we have better information and better tools to use.

Now, I’m not saying that getting to the desired goal of getting your dog to behave nicely and appropriately while on leash is easy for everyone. It’s clear to see where challenges arise.

First off, dogs weren’t born knowing how to walk while leashed up. Secondly, humans weren’t born knowing how to operate a leash. Thirdly, add up point one and point two, and you often end up with a scene from a Three Stooges episode — but not as funny. With all the frustration coming from both ends of the leash, even I can understand why some of these aversive tools came about and why people continue to turn to them for help.

But wait! Just because I say I get it on some levels, doesn’t mean I think using punishment-based gear is a remotely good idea.

Refining walking on leash is a relatively simple and easily trainable activity that doesn’t require an iron fist. When you get a cold, do you treat it with rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine that takes a little time and patience to work – or do you turn to bloodletting to cut to the chase and get it over as quickly (and brutally) as possible?

We first need to remember that any walking equipment should be considered management tools, not training tools. Empower yourself and your dog to walk together nicely using the bond you share, communication, and a clear message — as opposed to the equipment.

InquisitiveCanine_NellieTeaching your dog to walk on leash is a simple, straightforward process. Our Leash Walking 101 post outlines some helpful tips to get you started.

As for useful dog and human-friendly equipment, I’m a proponent of the harness-leash system. For dogs that tend to pull unnecessarily on a regular walk (so I’m not talking about more complex activities like sports, Search and Rescue or Nose Work), harnesses where the leash attaches to the front is my first choice, as they tend to help reduce pulling. For dogs that don’t pull, or for specific sports and activities, a harness where the leash attaches to the back is ideal. Our TransPaw Gear™ dog harness, which will be introduced in the coming months, has both – and I have designed it such that regardless of your canine’s situation, you will always have your harness bases covered.

In terms of leashes, I prefer regular four to six-foot leads — cotton, leather, nylon or whatever you prefer. Your dog and you should be walking together, so longer leashes should be necessary. Where leashes that are more than six feet long come in handy are for specific training exercises. Even retractable leashes can do the trick, but I’d only recommend them for very specific purposes and places, such as an open field with nothing the leash would get tangled on — including people, other animals, trees, bushes, etc.

As for collars, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: collars are like wallets — they’re meant to carry I.D. and complement your outfit. That’s about it.

I’m not here to chastise and point fingers. I will admit firsthand that when I adopted Poncho, I was taught to use a variety of training approaches, including collar-corrections. I never felt comfortable doing this — ever. And this was a primary reason I ended up becoming a trainer. To learn better and ultimately, do better. Instead of ignoring this dilemma, I trusted my gut instinct, questioned it, investigated, and turned to using better options that were actually easier to implement AND more effective. Talk about a win-win — for everyone, especially our beloved BFF Poncho. (That’s Best Fur Friend), but also for all of the inquisitive canines that I’ve had the pleasure of working with since then.

A recent L.A. Times article reported that the cancer rate has dropped by 25% compared to that of a quarter of a century ago, due to better diagnostics and treatment. This is a prime example of humans recognizing the treatment was as bad as the problem itself (maybe worse!), doing the research, checking old assumptions, and ultimately rejecting the status quo in order to make better choices and pursue more humane and effective treatments.

So my question to you, inquisitive animal lover, why do we continue to use and promote equipment we know can cause harm — these weapons of mutt destruction — when there are much better options out there for achieving the same goal?

A good friend mentioned there’s an update with one of the Golden Rules. It goes beyond treating others as you would want to be treated yourself. Instead, it now says we should treat others the way they want to be treated. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that dogs would prefer to be treated with a kind, loving hand over any other kind of handling.

In other words, you don’t have to be “ruff” to get the best out of your dog – humane and kind trumps ruthless and aversive any doggone day. Choose the best dog walking gear for your dog, and you’ll get the best results.

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Dog Trainer for Your Pet

Finding the Best Dog Trainer for Your Four-Legged Friend

Not all trainers are created equal. Finding the best dog trainer for your dog may take a little more research, but your canine is worth the effort.

Recently I was on a run with a friend, and we were talking about how many dogs we saw along the way, as well as the people who were leading them. It was easy to spot the professionals, as they often had several dogs on leash.Inquisitivecanine_PrivateClient

Still, by observing how the animals were being handled, it was apparent even to my non-dog-trainer friend that not all “professionals” are created equal. Knowing that I’m a certified trainer, she innocently asked, “Is it me, or does everyone think they can be a dog trainer?”

In my experience, my friend’s observation was spot on. Many folks out there think that just because they’ve had dogs, grew up with dogs, love dogs, know dogs and/or watch TV shows about dog training, they know all there is to know about training canines.

That would be the same thing as me saying, “I love to bake, and I live for watching the shows on the Food Network. Once I even won a blue ribbon in a brownie baking competition. So I’m clearly a professional baker.” While you might encourage me to donate treats to your bake sale, there’s no way you’d hire me to make your wedding cake.

InquisitiveCanine_LouisVinnyWhen you work in a specialized field, in order to elevate your status from amateur to professional, training and education is a must.

To help you make an informed decision about who should train and otherwise care for your inquisitive canine, here are a few tips about how to find the best dog trainer for your canine:

  • Ask about training techniques and approach.

Humane, force-free methods for training are the best and only techniques a trainer should use. These go beyond “positive reinforcement,” as there are some trainers out there who use both positive reinforcement (i.e. treats, petting, praise) and “positive punishment” (i.e. collar corrections, alpha-rolls, aversive training collars). This is a contradiction in terms AND in approach, and also sure signs that your pet will at the very least get mixed messages, and possibly be subject to inhumane treatment. Ask specific questions as to which training methods the prospective trainer uses, and under which circumstances.

  • Inquire about education and certifications.

Whether you’re looking for private training for behavior specifics, puppy or basic manners classes, sports-related courses such as agility, Nose Work, and Canine Freestyle, or specialty Therapy Dog courses, professional training is a must. What schools or programs has the prospective trainer attended? Do they belong to groups or organizations that are respected across the industry? Keep in mind that not all dog training organizations are created equal – there are some that anyone can join, whether they are a trainer or not. Others, such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, literally certifies people in areas of both training and behavior. They require exams and letters of recommendation, along with continuing education credits for maintaining certifications.

If someone says they became a trainer because they love dogs and are good with them and/or got their DIY training from YouTube videos, you really should think twice before hiring that person for professional services. Also, be aware of the self-titled “dog behaviorist.” A true animal behaviorist holds a graduate degree in that field. This is an important distinction to make – and if your pet requires sincere behavioral modification, be sure that the person you are hiring to work with him or her has the education and experience necessary to truly help your pet.

  • Check that your trainer has both transparency and integrity.

Trust and honesty are important in any relationship, amiright? Trainers worth their salt will admit if a specific case is outside their scope of practice, or they are unfamiliar with the situation presented. For instance, when clients ask me about issues that might have an underlying medical origin, I always refer them to their vet. I often get questions about foods a particular dog should eat. Again, this is a question for that animal’s vet. While I can offer up tips for enrichment activities and how a dog should have his or her meal delivered (i.e. food toys, scavenger hunts, training), I refrain from advising what a dog should eat, since dietary concerns, age of the pet, and so on really influences what is best to feed a particular canine.

  • Similar to choosing any professional that you’ll work closely with, personality, graciousness, and communication are key.

While you want to choose someone your dog likes and trust, you have to share the same sentiments as your pet. It’s not the dogs that call for training needs (although sometimes we wish they would speak up!), it is the people. Just like you wouldn’t choose a nanny to watch your child without seeing how well she or he meshes with your family, you should definitely be conscious of how you get along with the prospective dog trainer, as well as how clearly he or she communicates with you, not just your dog. The goal is to have someone in place that you enjoy and can rely upon but who also makes sure you have all the information necessary to reinforce the work she or he has done with your dog.

My tips for finding the best dog trainer for your dog are just a starting point; here are a few additional resources for you to consider when hiring a dog trainer:


What do you, or would you, look for when looking for the best dog trainer for your dog?

Just head to the comment section below to join the conversation. And remember, we invite you to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine on our Facebook page. Or, follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Water Safety Tips to Help Make a Splash in Your Dog’s Life

Poncho Practicing his Breast StrokeFun in the sun and beating the heat often means playing in water – for both humans and their dogs. Whether it be you own pool, the ocean, or lake you’ll want to remind yourself of steps you can take to ensure it’s a fun – safe – and rewarding experience for all.

As an inquisitive canine who understands playing it safe around bodies of water, I thought it’d be a good time to send out a few reminders for other pooches and their parents about water safety:

Resolve to Help Keep Dogs in Homes and out of Shelters

Dear Inquisitive Dog Parents,

The new year is officially here. For many, this means creating lists of resolutions with intentions of modifying one’s behavior. In honor of this tradition, my sidekick, Poncho, and I have decided to join in, talking about resolutions to help dogs stay in their homes and out of animal shelters. We encourage you to team up with us and add the dogs of your community — whether your own or someone else’s — to your list of personal achievements.

Solutions Start with Preparation

According to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy on Reasons for Relinquishment of Companion Animals in U.S. Animal Shelters, the top reasons dogs are sent to shelters have to do with living situations, cost, time, owners having personal problems and behavioral concerns of the dogs themselves.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest to this, as I commonly hear similar complaints. As for Poncho, he used to live in a shelter, so he knows firsthand the reasons he and his buddies landed there. Together, he and I have compiled the following tips to help dog lovers everywhere do what they can to reduce the shelter dog population: Continue Reading “Resolve to Help Keep Dogs in Homes and out of Shelters”

Old Dog, New Year, New Resolutions

Attention Dog Parents!

5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – Wow! Welcome to 2012! As an inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human behavior, I’ve learned that many of you bi-pedals start the new year with a list of self-improvement goals for the next twelve months. I thought it would be the perfect time to jump on this little bandwagon, explore a few of the more common commitments found on these resolution lists, and apply them to life with a dog.

Here are my special tenet’s to honor the new year:

  • Get Fit: Looking for ways to stay in shape or lose a little holiday weight? What about your dog’s weight? Is he or she more on the curvy side? How about their endurance? If either or both are an issue, or if you just want to maintain your current condition, the new year is an ideal time to start fresh, don some new athletic shoes and begin an exercise program. You will find no better or more enthusiastic training partner than your dog. Walking, jogging, running, hiking, playing hide ‘n’ seek, attending a dog training class or joining a canine sport group, such as agility or Flyball, are all known to boost physical and mental health – for humans and canines alike!
  • Learn Something New: Think your dog is only able to absorb information when they’re a puppy? Newsflash, folks! You can teach an old dog new tricks! Yep – whether we’re old, young, big, small, male, or female, we are all eager to learn–and, we enjoy it! We’ll never argue about going to school, either! Dogs enjoy sharpening their skills, as well as learning new ones. Nowadays there are more options than ever for dog training classes and workshops. Once you’re done reading through your daily Edhat, head over to your Google search field and check to see what’s in your neighborhood or online in the virtual classroom. Continue Reading “Old Dog, New Year, New Resolutions”

Tips for Bringing New Dog Home to Meet Resident Dog

How to Play Mutt-Matchmaker

Dear Poncho,

Several years ago, I brought a new puppy into the family “to keep my older dog company.” That backfired because they fought constantly. The older one passed away a few years ago, but now I’d love to add another dog to my family.

What is the best way to introduce a new dog into a family with another dog while avoiding what happened the last time?


Dear KG,

Geez, I hate when setting up a mutt-match backfires. As you’ve learned, arranging relationships between two or more dogs living in the same home takes more than just pointing to the cutest nearby pooch or making the decision based on who you think your dog would like.

Speaking as an inquisitive canine who currently resides in a single-dog household, allow me to point out a few tips I’d want my folks to use if I ever decide I want a sibling. (Yep, that’s right, I said “I.”)

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal(s)!

In this case, know the likes and dislikes of both your own dog and any potential dog you wish to bring into your home. Some dogs are total social butterflies, loving each and every dog they meet. Then there are those who prefer to hang out with pooches of a specific breed or appearance, gender, age, and/or personality (a.k.a. temperament). And finally, there are those like myself, who enjoy being the one and only fur child in the house. Although, I am drawn to beagles, so if the opportunity ever presented itself …

Anyway, if your dog is more the type who wants to meet and play with all other dogs, then you’ll find it a bit easier to play matchmaker — as long as the potential sibling feels the same way. If your dog is more the loner type, then unless you want to take the training steps to create the pawfect relationship, you might want your current situation to stay as is, knowing you can continue to keep the door open, auditioning potential pals until you happen upon a best bud for your other best bud. Continue Reading “Tips for Bringing New Dog Home to Meet Resident Dog”

Before You Adopt a Dog, Preparing for Your New Pooch

Dear Inquisitive (& Expectant) Dog Guardians,

If you or someone you know intends on spending the pawliday season giving or receiving the gift of a puppy or adult dog, then yippee and woohoo! As a dog mom, I know how meaningful the human-animal bond is. I’m truly thankful each and day for the relationship my sidekick (Poncho) and I have.

Speaking as a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest that being proactive and planning ahead before bringing a new puppy or adult dog (or any pet, for that matter) into your home, can help ease the transition and reduce stress — for everyone, including the dog. So for those who are in pet-parent-to-be mode, we’re here to assist you in making the transition a little easier by providing a few simple tips to help start you out on the right paw.

Planning to Succeed Leads to Success

Health and Wellness:  Similar to human health practices, prevention is key! So we encourage you to schedule a wellness exam for your dog, to be sure he or she has been evaluated, and is receiving all they need to maintain good health. This goes double if you have zero health history about your dog. If you feel your dog doesn’t need a full exam, ask if you can bring your dog in just to say hi, meet the staff and get a treat. This will leave a nice impression the next time your dog has an appointment (FYI, this goes for any dog, not just newbies).

The Right Resources: If you’re in the market for a groomer, dog training services, dog walker, petsitter or daycare facility, you’ll want to start investigating for names and places sooner than later.

For day-to-day needs, look to local pet supply stores, garage sales, thrift stores, friends cleaning out their garages (checking expiration dates on products) and, of course, the Internet. When hiring someone who provides such services, an Internet search, along with word of mouth from friends and neighbors, is a great way to begin your hunt. As for those you’d hire, we feel interviewing two or three is a sensible approach. If possible, have your dog meet each provider as well, since your dog is the one who’ll be spending the most time with the person.

Start with the Basics. There are thousands of pet products on the market nowadays. For sure you’ll need a collar with ID, as well as food, water bowl and leash. Depending where you live, a license might be required as well. Check with your county animal services department. Microchips are optional, but quite handy; ask your vet for information regarding the insertion of a chip. If your dog came with a chip, the facility or person you got your dog from should be able to provide you with what you’ll need in order to update the contact information.

When it comes to toys, beds, treats, and games you can play with your dog, we suggest you test out a few you think your dog might like, at least until you get to know his or her preferences. Then you can go nuts and start spoiling them silly. (Guilty!)

Social Director Extraordinaire: Depending upon the age, breed, temperament, and likes and dislikes of your dog, you’ll want to plan activities that enrich your dog’s life — both physically and mentally. The following is a list of things you can do with your dog (most all are budget-friendly):

  • Neighborhood walks for fun and to show your dog his or her new neighborhood. Until your dog learns to stay with you and has a good recall, staying on leash is highly recommended. (Plus, it might be the law). Bring along treats to reward behaviors you like, and when introducing your dog to new people and other dogs.
  • Field trips to places you frequent. Many dogs love car rides and running errands. Make sure your dog is kept safe while going for rides. Seat belts and car seats are easy to find, inexpensive and help protect your dog from injury.
  • Meet-and-greets with friends and neighbors. Allow your dog to set the pace as to how quickly he or she wants to socialize. It might be overwhelming with all the new changes, so be patient.
  • Dog training classes. No matter your dog’s age or skill level, classes with emphasis on manners or sports are enjoyable activities for having fun, learning new skills and enhancing your bond.
  • Yard play. Playing games in your own home and yard — fetch, tug, hide ‘n’ seek, scavenger hunts or just chillin’ with each other and giving belly rubs — is quality time and enjoyable for everyone, and often the best part of the day.

Huddle Up: No matter how many people will be caring for your dog, delegate responsibilities and how they’ll fit into your current schedule.  Feeding, walking and exercise, potty outings, clean-up, vet appointments, grooming and training are just a few general responsibilities that make up your dog’s daily agenda. Make sure everyone knows the routine, his or her list of duties and that maintaining consistency is essential to your dog adapting and learning what you want.

Environmental Management: No matter the age of your new dog, he or she will need to learn about, and settle in to, your environment. Puppies will require additional guidance on house-training, which includes rewarding desired behavior, tighter management and observation. Older dogs still need to be taught where the bathroom is, and get rewarded for using it. For a step-by-step plan on how you can house-train your dog, check out our free eBook.

Puppy- and dog -proofing your home will also set your dog up for making better choices. Take the time to section off off-limits areas,  safely putting away those things you don’t want your dog to get to (lead your dog not into temptation, and not into danger). As you learn more about each other, you can slowly increase your dog’s boundaries, allowing more freedom.

Sleeping arrangements: You’ll need to decide where your dog is and isn’t allowed to sleep. Will your dog slumber in his or her own bed? Crate? Your bed? Floor? Couch? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make sure you’ve approved it, it’s safe and you’re able to monitor your pooch — at least initially, until you know his or her sleeping patterns.

Pet siblings: If this is a second dog or second pet, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to introduce your new dog to the seasoned residents. Allow each of them to set the pace on how fast they want to establish a relationship. Keep the vibe positive and easygoing, while at the same time safe. Read more tips on introducing a new dog to a resident dog.

Tracking down resources, gathering supplies, delegating responsibilities and establishing a dog-friendly environment are key components in setting you and your new canine companion up for success. We encourage new pooch parents to begin developing a plan of action to help your dog feel welcomed!. By doing this, you’ll make the adjustment easy on everyone, which leaves more time for fun and games (and belly rubs).

Happy Pawlidays
On behalf of Poncho, myself and The Inquisitive Canine, we wish you and your family a joyous and pawsitively reinforcing holiday season. Your readership is the ultimate gift, and we thank you for being part of our family. (Want to see the official Mayer Family holiday photo? Check out our Inquisitive Canine Facebook page where we’ll be unveiling it mid-December).


Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple, common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine, and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, which highlights her love-of-dog training approach and the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog has questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.

How to Play Matchmaker, Introducing New Dog to Resident Dog

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

Several years ago, I brought a new puppy into the family “to keep my older dog company.” The older dog was a male Yorkie, and the puppy was a female Cockapoo. I intentionally bought a female because I knew that the male was territorial and thought he wouldn’t be threatened by a female. Wrong!

I fed them separately. I gave lots of attention to the older dog, just as I always did. But I had to keep them apart because they fought constantly. It wasn’t “play fighting,” it was vicious biting, snarling, and turned out to be a disaster. It was a terrible two years.

The Yorkie passed away a few years ago from cancer. I’d love another dog in my family, along with the Cockapoo who is now four years old, but the last experience was so terrible, I’m afraid.

What should I do? What is the best way to introduce a new puppy into a family with another dog?


Dear KG,

What a devastating experience for you and your dogs. It’s a shame the situation didn’t work out as you had intended. I’m also sorry to hear about the passing of your Yorkie. Although it’s been awhile, I’m sure there’s still an emptiness in both your heart and home.

As a certified pet dog trainer , I’ve helped many clients assimilate new pets into their existing families. And when it comes to bringing a new dog into a home with a resident dog, first impressions are key!

You’ll want to concentrate on creating a situation where both dogs are enjoying themselves, each other’s company, and the overall situation, which in turn leaves them wanting more…of each other! As opposed to a disaster where they end up never wanting to see each other ever again.

I often say, it’s best to have your own dog choose their new “sibling,” as opposed to just “setting them up.” Therefore, when determining which dog would be a good choice as the second dog, it’s best to “ask” your resident dog – or at least, take into consideration your dog’s likes and dislikes.

Ask yourself, does my household dog:

  • Like other dogs? If not, then do you really want to push this relationship? Maybe he or she likes to hang out with cats instead.
  • Have lots of doggy playmates? Just a couple? None at all? If it’s the former, this gives you more choices. If it’s the latter, again do you want to spend the time training your dog to like other dogs? Our domestic dogs adapt much more easily than us human-folk do. You might just need to be pickier when finding that perfect match.
  • Like a particular type of other dog? Breed? Size? Gender? Age? Consider the potential pros and cons of bringing a puppy into a home with a senior dog versus bringing home a dog who is closer in age, temperament, and play style to the resident dog. If I were setting up a friend on a date, I would choose someone they would find interesting and want to hang out with – not someone that was completely opposite in every way.

After narrowing down the best possible choice for you, your dog, and the rest of the household, you’ll want to take proper steps to help ensure a successful encounter:

  • Be a cheerleader! It’s all about creating pleasant associations for both dogs. Use your happiest voice, praising both dogs, cheering them on about how exciting the situation is that they’re both around each other. You can also use yummy treats, rewarding any behavior you like. Not only are behaviors reinforced, but both dogs will start to associate great things with one another. “Hmm, whenever that other dog is around, great things happen for me. I can’t wait to have that other dog around again!” 
  • Location-location-location: Provide a safe, non-threatening, neutral location where both dogs are most comfortable. An area where your own dog has a history of fun times meeting and playing with other dogs would be a good choice. At the very least, have it be any area where both dogs have room to move around, and where there would be less risk of any type of “territorial guarding.”
  • Keep it “loose”: If dogs are on leash, do all you can to keep the leashes loose. Tension on the leashes can increase tense behaviors. Avoid other methods of restraint such as holding one dog while the other dog investigates. Dogs communicate through body language. If you keep one from communicating, messages can get misconstrued. Watch your own behavior. Keep a happy tone and posture. This helps relay to both dogs that all is right with the world. “Hmm, whenever she has that look on her face, good things happen for me.”
  • Allow dogs to be dogs: Have the dogs set the pace regarding wanting to meet, sniff, and play. Learn to recognize what dog play is and what is appropriate. Encourage and reward desired behaviors, but don’t force the issue. Better to take it slow, with multiple pleasant meetings, allowing for a relationship to form naturally, versus forcing them to like each other. Think of it in human terms: arranged marriage as opposed to meeting someone at a social gathering, hitting it off and wanting to see each other again.
  • Allow both dogs to display customary canine greeting skills: including sniffing both ends, and performing the ‘circle-dance.’ Avoid any type of punishment if part of “greeting” appears more like conflict – low growls, a snark or two. This is part of normal canine greeting, where dogs assess one another, determining where each one fits within their canine social scene. Just like us humans forming a “chain of command” in group environments, dogs will do the same. Allow for dogs to communicate to each other what the best “pecking order” is for them. It could be either one, and it could change depending upon the situation.
  • Prevent disasters: You’ll want to watch carefully for any type of threatening postures that could escalate into a fight – stiff body, tense face and mouth, raised hair on their back, growls, snarling, hard stares, T-ing over (one dog places chin/neck over other dogs neck/shoulders, which other dog does not tolerate). If this does happen, intervene by calling their names, creating a ‘startling’ noise to interrupt their behavior (clapping loudly, banging two pots together), and luring them away from each other. Ask them to do something more engaging with the humans instead of provoking one another.
  • Maintain a happy home: Once you bring the second dog into your home to stay, make sure you (and other humans) continue to supervise interactions for at least a few weeks before leaving the dogs on their own. You’ll want to:
  • Continue to encourage and reward desired behaviors of both dogs.
  • Maintain your resident dog’s regular routine, as much as possible.
  • Provide individual attention for both.
  • Continue to allow dogs to set the pace of their own relationship, establishing their own canine boundaries.

Just like us humans not wanting to be friends with every other human we meet, dogs don’t necessarily get along with, or enjoy the company of every dog they meet either. It’s unfair for us to assume that just because they’re dogs, they should like every dog they meet.

Sometimes it’s best to decide what is best based upon the dog’s wishes and desires, not the human’s, especially when it’s the resident dog who is the one spending the majority of the time with the new pup.

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.