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Articles and Resources

Puppy Selection and Training

Red Flags for Puppy Buyers 

by Jean Cary, Service Dog Tutor

It is really easy to be deceived when you make a purchase on the Internet for a dog. Once you see a cute photograph, your emotions take over; and you’re very interested in getting a puppy as soon as the timing works with your family situation. Recently, I consulted with a family who had to return a puppy after four days because it was a bad match for their family and showed signs of aggression that should’ve been picked up by the breeder who refused to do a temperament test. Now is the time to share information with other people who are searching for a puppy (or dog) to help them avoid the same mistakes.


Here are some red flags you should be looking for when you interview breeders:

  • You have no recommendation from someone who has purchased a dog from this breeder. If you don’t know somebody that has a dog from this particular breeder, ask the breeder for referrals to people to whom they have sold their puppies.

  • You can’t see the parents of the puppy. (Reputable breeders will also let you see health certificates for both parents.)

  • You’re not able to see the site where the puppies are raised. If the breeder insist that you meet off-site and uses that as an excuse to not be able to see the parents of the puppies, then how do you know the dog hasn’t been raised in a kennel situation for all the first eight weeks of his life with no socialization and no exposure to the outdoors?

  • The mother of the puppy has been bred for more than four litters. You are most likely dealing with a puppy mill.

  • The breeders insist on cash-only to pay for the transaction.

  • There is no written option for refund or return of the dog within two weeks if the dog doesn’t work out with your family. It should be possible to return the dog within two weeks if the dog doesn’t work out with your family.

  • A written contract for the transaction is not provided.

  • If you’re buying a dog because you’re worried about allergies, has the breeder tested the dog saliva, hair, and dander for allergens at a lab? Do they have paperwork to show you? Crossbred dogs such as Labradoodles can have either fur, hair or a combination of both in pups in the same litter depending on the genetic makeup of the individual pup. Do not assume that you will not have allergies to a specific breed if this is an important consideration.

  • There are no written vet records of puppy shots and examinations. Initial examination by a vet may reveal medical problems such as heart murmurs, eye problems and joint or dental abnormalities.

  • There is no guarantee of health at the time of the delivery of the puppy. If your vet discovers any physical problems with the dog what recourse do you have?

  • The breeder doesn’t ask questions about your situation but merely tells you that you need to get your name on a waiting list right away because are a lot of people looking for these puppies. A reputable breeder should ask you lots of questions about your family, the age of the caregivers, the number of children and presence of other pets on the premises. Do you have a fenced yard? What are your expectations of what the dog will do with you: running and hiking, therapy work, service dog training or just become a sedate companion? How are you fitting the dog into your busy life? Have you planned for training, exercise, vet care and boarding expenses when you travel?

Questions you should ask:

  • How much socialization have the pups had? Are they outdoors occasionally or just in a kennel? Have they been exposed to children, men and women?

  • Have they done temperament testing on the pups which would reveal any aggressive tendencies or a high energy level that would not make the dog a suitable for your situation?

Reputable breeders want to make sure that the health and temperament of their breeds are maintained. They want to make sure their dog goes to a loving home where there’s a good match for the activity level of the family. That way the dog doesn’t end up being dumped into a shelter when the dog goes through the high energy phases of adolescence. If you have a particular breed in mind, talk with people at a dog show who are showing this breed in competition for obedience and agility as well as for conformation. They will give you great advice about the pitfalls of their particular breed and recommend good breeders. You can also talk with the people that run the rescues for that particular breed.

You are selecting a new family member who will be with you 10 to 18 years. Make a wise decision, not just an emotional decision.

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Greeting other dogs on the Trail 

By Jean Cary, Service Dog Tutor

When your dog barks at other dogs you pass on the trail, he may be giving the other dog an invitation to play. Dogs are social creatures; and since so many of them live in one-dog households, the chance to interact with other dogs is very exciting. Some dogs bark to say, “Hey, I want to meet or play with you. NOW! NOW! NOW!” Puppy barking frequently falls into this category. These barks are generally high pitched, and are often accompanied by wagging “propeller tails,” loose or wiggly body language, play bows and jumping.


Ask those dog owners who would like to interact with your dog to wait for calm, quiet behavior from your dog before greeting to avoid reinforcing the behavior. If your dog strains at the leash when you pass other dogs and barks non-stop at the dog, you are probably pulling the leash taut and transferring your tension, stress and fear down the leash to the dog. Now the dog feels he is the pack leader and has to defend both of you. The barking ramps up even more; and soon you find yourself dreading walking or meeting other dogs. A dog who knows you are the pack leader and who walks beside you- not in front will be less likely to have fear or defensive barking at other dogs.


You need to train your dog to look at you with the “watch me” command to distract your dog as you approach another dog. First encounters with a friendly dog should just be “walk-bys” several times with the emphasis on getting your dog to look at you and away from the other dog with a treat lure and sounds. Once you consistently have your dog’s attention, you can advance to having your dog sit quietly at your side as the dog passes. After this stage you can allow your dog to sniff and greet the other dog while keeping the leash loose.

Enjoy a well-mannered dog that is an asset to your family. Invest in training to transform your dog into the best friend you have always wanted. Call Jean Cary for an evaluation and a customized training program for your dog. (650) 593-9622.

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Teaching your dog not to jump up

By Jean Cary, Service Dog Tutor

One of the most obnoxious behaviors a dog can exhibit is jumping up on its’ owners or on visitors. The dog is trying to elicit attention and is showing dominance. When he was a puppy this was considered “cute” and he was rewarded with people bending over to pet and fuss over him. Now that the dog is 20 or more pounds the jumping can quickly escalate from annoying to dangerous. His rough greetings may knock packages out of your arms, soil your clothes, terrify children and injure frail visitors. When you yell at the dog he is still getting attention, so you are continuing to reinforce the bad behavior. The first rule of dog training is don’t let your puppy get away with behaviors you don’t want displayed when he is a grown dog.

Okay, so now how do you stop the jumping? First everyone in the family and your guests have to be told how to respond to his presence in the same manner. When you enter the house, don’t make eye contact with the dog, ignore him until he calms down by himself. Don’t repeatedly tell him to sit. When the dog jumps on you, plant your feet in a shoulder wide stance and wobble your legs back and forth. Dogs won’t stand on an unstable surface, so he will back away and perhaps try one or two more times. Then you will notice him “air jumping” rather than touching you. Once he does this, the old behavior is beginning to be replaced with the new behavior. He has to learn that whenever he jumps on someone there is no balance point. Keep doing this greeting consistently for a week and you will be surprised at the resolution of the problem. If he jumps on you while you are sitting, wobble your legs back and forth. Once the dog has all four feet on the ground, praise him immediately. If he jumps again, wobble again. If your dog is a larger breed and jumps up putting his feet on your chest, pivot around with your back to the dog until he is calm and sitting. The key is to ignore the dog and not give him attention. The next step is to teach the dog to go sit and stay in his spot with a treat until the guests have entered and are ready to greet him.

Enjoy a well-mannered dog is an asset to your family. Invest in training to transform your dog into the best friend you have always wanted. 

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