How to Pick a Puppy or Dog- Part One

How to Pick a Puppy
There’s More to Picking a Puppy than You Might Think…
Choosing a dog or puppy is not an easy task, and the consequences of choosing with your heart may affect your life for the next 10+ years.  I’ve been getting a lot of calls from clients who are looking for advice on how to pick a puppy or dog for their family.  While the tests I’ve described below are complex in nature and best performed by a professional, I’ve attempted to make them understandable enough for anyone to attempt.  Please comment below if you have any questions.  I’m sure you’ll only help other people with similar concerns.
How to Pick a Puppy Tests
While all of the tests listed here are great for dogs, these tests in particular are best suited for a puppy 8-10 weeks.  Any signs of aggression during these tests should be noted, but watch for the subtle differences between a dog that is vocal and one that is displaying aggressive tendencies.  The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the context of the situation.  Did the puppy growl when you put your hands on him to pick him up, or when he was scampering over to you?  This should make the decision of what is aggressive and what’s playful a little easier.
The Hang Test:  A young puppy can be picked up by the scruff of it’s neck without causing it any pain.  It is in fact, how it’s mother moved it around at the beginning of it’s life.  Simply grab one of the puppies that you have your eye on, and pick it up by the loose skin on the back of it’s neck with one hand, and hold it up high.  How does he react?  Does the tail go between it’s legs, or is it ticking away like a metronome?  Is he looking at you in the eye, or is his gaze casting about looking anywhere but you?
The passing grade is given to the puppy who’s tail is ticking away and seems completely content to “hang out” with you.  He’s not afraid to look you in the eye and will relax into the hanging position.  If he does resist it should be short lived.
Avoid the puppy who’s tail goes between it’s legs, and continues to struggle to get down and away from you.  This is a sign that they may not be compliant (won’t accept your training), and worse yet there may be hidden fear issues.
The Cradle Test:  Pick up the puppy and hold it in your arms just as you would cradle a baby.  Look for how their body reacts to this unnatural position for them.  Do they squirm at first, and then relax, or do they continue fighting until you put them back on the ground?  Do they look you in they eye, or do they seem afraid of you, and seem listless?
High marks are given to the puppy that quickly accepts this position and then relaxes in your arms.  It’s even better if they are unafraid to stare you straight in the eyes.  We are looking for a dog who will accept input from you, and will act unafraid, and this test helps you root out some potentially problematic dog behaviors that may occur later in life.
Meet the Parents: If you are able to check out the parents of the puppy, do it.  Set up a time, and make this happen.  This may be the most telling test of all, as genetics are linked to many traits that you’ll want to avoid.  Fearful dogs may act aggressive, or possibly just seem very shy.  Look for the parents who seem happy to say hi to you, that have an energy level that you would like to see in your puppy, and have an overall disposition that you would like to have someday for your dog.
There are many other tests that you want to use while checking out any dog.  Those will be covered in “Tests to Help Your Pick a Puppy or Dog- Part Two”, that will be published next week.
Did these tests answer questions for you, or leave you with more concerns?  Leave us a note below and we’ll answer back.
Andrew Wildesen
Owner- The Canine Training Center
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What Can a Dog Smell?

My daughter has an imaginary friend, as many 5 year olds do.  This imaginary friend happens to be a talking dog.  They chat about things like mermaids and unicorns and such.  Though a bit far-fetched, it got me imagining what a real conversation with a dog might be like. It may go something like this:

Dog:  “Dude, you smell that?”

Human:  “Smell what? I don’t smell anything.”

Dog:  “Really??? I can practically taste it.”

Aside from this canine’s exaggerated sense of vocabulary, the content of the conversation is not off base at all.  It is no secret a dog’s sense of smell is far superior to its human companions….but how much?

The Science Behind a Dog’s Nose

It is estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater.  Most dogs have more than 220 million olfactory (scent) receptors in their nose.  Humans have 5 million.  Though
their brain is 1/10 the size of a humans, the part dedicated to the sense of smell is 40 times larger.  They have a chamber within their nasal system which collects scent particles.  The particles stay there even when the dog exhales.  This enables the particles to build up there until there is a high enough concentration for them to identify the odor.  Oh, and the whole tasting thing- not a farce.  There is this neat thing they have which is termed Jacobson’s organ.  Its function is basically a fusion of taste and smell.

What Can a Dog Smell?

So what kinds of things can dogs smell?  They can smell fear (due to a release of  pheromones), they can smell scent articles up to 40 feet underground, they can smell insects within the ground or in woodwork, they can smell disease in humans (sometimes referred to as the sick sense), and they can smell human fingerprints that are a week old.  The list goes on and on.  I suppose a more challenging question would be “what can’t they smell?”  The benefits to the human world are paramount.  The more obvious roles include detection of drugs and explosives, cadaver detection and search &  rescue.  Some dogs olfactory optimus is used to ascertain termite infestations, diagnose early signs of cancer or oncoming epileptic attacks, detect rodents and snakes in overseas shipping arenas and determining the best time for farmers to breed their livestock.

I read somewhere that a dog’s sense of smell compares to ours like our ability to reason compares to theirs.  It is so far beyond human ability it is difficult to comprehend.  I do know this: the next time you are walking with your canine companion and he turns to you
and says “something smells fishy”- get your rod and cast a line!


Do you have a question about how a dog’s nose works?  Leave it for us in the comments section below, and we’ll be happy to respond.

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Goodbye from, Johanna

Hello fellow Canine Enthusiasts!

Sadly, I am here to bid you a doggie farewell

but before I leave my position as the Blog Author

for The CTC, I do ask just a couple things of



Please don’t be angry because I’m leaving

Don’t be ashamed

Don’t get crazy

Do not be sad

Instead, smile!

Be goofy!

Remember the good times

And know, that I will miss you all…very very much.


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The ASPCA’s take on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

***IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog post is based on the opinions of the ASPCA with regard to Breed Specific Legislation and does not neccesarily express the views of The Canine Training Center.  Content was derived entirely from the ASPCA website.

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is a broad term for laws that attempt to regulate or ban certain breeds with the intent to reduce dog attacks.  “However, the problem of dangerous dogs will not be remedied by the ‘quick fix’ of breed-specific laws—or, as they should truly be called, breed-discriminatory laws.”

Just because you do not own a Pit Bull does not mean that your dog is safe from BSL.  In some areas, “regulated breeds” also include American Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or a mix of these breeds and some areas also restrict dogs who merely resemble them.

Why the ASPCA doesn’t think BSL is effective

According to the ASPCA, breed specific laws are expensive and difficult to enforce and there is no evidence to support claims of their effectiveness.  Prince George’s County, MD spends more than $250,000 a year to enforce its Pit Bull ban and according to a study conducted by the county in 2003, “public safety has not improved as a result of the ban.”

After an in-depth study of human dog bite fatalities, the CDC has decided not to support BSL due to the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty of identifying breeds.  The CDC also believes that people who make dogs aggressive will substitute these dogs with other unregulated breeds.

Why the ASPCA think BSL is bad

  • Dogs are kept hidden- Dog owners are forced to hide their beloved pets to avoid exposure.  They limit their dogs time outside, avoid licensing, microchipping and veterinary care.
  • Good dogs and their owners are punished- Dog behavior has no merit; well behaved dogs are banned as well.
  • False sense of security- Focus is taken away from the enforcement of effective safety laws such as: license laws, chain/tether laws, leash laws, dog fighting laws, spay/neuter laws and laws that require owners to keep safe control of their dogs regardless of breed.
  • May inspire ownership by irresponsible owners- Outlawing a breed increases the breeds allure to outlaws.

ASPCA points

  • More than 70% of dog bite incidents involve unneutered males.
  • An unneutered male is 2.6 times more liable to bite.
  • 97% of the dogs involved in dog attack related fatalities in 2006 were not spayed/neutered.
  • A chained dog is 2.8 times more liable to bite.
  • In 2006:
    • 97% of dogs involved in fatalities were not spayed/neutered.
    • 78% were not pets but instead were used for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding.
    • 84% were owned by irresponsible owners.  Meaning that the dog was abused, neglected, not humanely handled or was allowed to have unsupervised contact with children.

The ASPCA states that they advocate the enforcement of effective laws that are not breed specific, “laws that hold dog owners accountable for the actions of their animals.”

What is your opinion: should specific breeds be banned or do you agree with the ASPCA?


Source: All content was derived from the ASPCA website

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Dog Overheating: A Veterinarian’s life saving tips and what to do

Cool down

With our current heat index well into the hundreds and BGE Peak Rewards customers reportedly left without A/C for hours on end, the topic on everyone’s mind is: how to keep cool?  Some of the affected homes have temperatures peaking into the 90’s and these homes need not forget the danger that this heat wave poses to their pets.

This is critical information that ALL dog owners need to know, kindly given to us by Dr. Weisberg, DVM from the Emergency Animal Hospital of Ellicott City (410-750-1177) in Howard County, Maryland.

Early signs of overheating:

  1. Panting, while not always caused by overheating, if you think your dog may be panting due to heat, immediately start taking steps to cool him down.
  2. Abundance of drooling.
  3. Unstable on feet, collapse.
  4. Gum Color can turn blueish purple, bright red or pale from lack of oxygen.
  5. For more signs click here.

Canine Temperature, consequences and susceptible breeds:

Dr. Weisberg strongly suggests that all dog owners keep a digital thermometer for their dog.  His normal canine temperature guidelines are between 101 and 102.5.  Anything above 105 degrees is a clear indication that something is very wrong and that the dog needs medical attention.

A dog with a temperature of over 108/109 degrees is at high risk of organ damage.  High body temperatures can cause brain swelling, destruction of the lining of the intestine, kidney failure etc. and these conditions are not immediately obvious.  After being cooled down, dogs with serious heat damage can often times walk into the Vet’s office as if everything is fine.  It can take a couple of hours for the consequences of these conditions to become apparent and by then, it could be too late.

Some dogs are more prone to heat related illness.  It may seem obvious that long haired breeds are more susceptible but did you know that breeds with flat faces are also at high risk?  Some examples of these breeds are: Bull dogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers.  The facial structure of these dogs inhibits their ability to pant effectively; therefore, they are incapable of taking in as much air as other breeds.  Consequently, these breeds should never be allowed to overheat.

What to do if your dog overheats:

If your dog’s temperature is 105 degrees or more, take immediate action.  ALWAYS COOL THE DOG OFF AT HOME BEFORE TRAVELING TO THE VET’S OFFICE.

  1. Use tap water (luke warm, not hot or ice cold) to douse the dog.  Water that is too cold constricts blood vessels and decreases the vessels ability to effectively transport sufficient amounts of blood back to the body; therefore taking longer to cool the dog off.
  2. While dousing the dog with water, set a fan to blow on the dog.
  3. Move the dog to shade or A/C.
  4. DO NOT make the dog drink water.  Your dog may be too focused on breathing to drink.  Allow him to drink when he is ready.
  5. Continue all cool down attempts until the panting stops.  Stop cooling once the dog’s temperature gets to 103; cooling any further could lead to hypothermia.
  6. Take your dog to the vet once he is cooled and at a temperature of 103.

Once a dog is cooled down, a Veterinarian will not be able to immediately gauge how much damage was done.  This is why it is so critical that dog owners take the dog’s temperature at home; this equips the Veterinarian with the information necessary to help save the dog’s life.  Dogs that suffered from body temperatures in access of 108/109 should be checked out and hospitalized for observation.

Dr. Weisberg expressed how sad it is to see an otherwise healthy dog, become ill and/or die from overheating.  Help spread this vital information; you could help save a canine life.

Did you know that in heat like this, a car’s temperature can jump up 50 degrees in just 15 minutes?


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Who is smarter, Cats vs Dogs?

Yep, I went there and apparently, I am a brave soul.  The question of canine versus feline intelligence has been a battle viciously fought by animal lovers everywhere.  The bell has rung, let the battle begin!!!!

According to one study ran by Dr. Britta Osthaus, of England’s Canterbury Christ Church University, dogs are the smarter being.

Cats were required to participate in a series of experiments that tested their intelligence in terms of cause and effect relationships.  The experiment tested the cats ability to obtain food from under a plastic screen.  There were three scenarios:

  1. One string with treat attached.

  2. Two parallel strings but only one string had a treat attached.

  3. Two strings were crossed with only one having a treat attached.

The psychologist saw no evidence that the cats understood the purpose of the strings.  All cats successfully completed the one string test but unlike dogs, none of the cats consistently selected the correct string in the second scenario.

Dr. Osthaus concluded that dogs performed better than cats.

The question is, what does this experiment prove?  Maybe that dogs are the superior being or maybe just that dogs are far more treat motivated.

So, what do you think?  Who reins supreme for their insatiable learning ability, the dog or the cat?  Stand up for your choice and cast YOUR vote in the comments section.

The battle continues…


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Why do dogs do that?! 4 crazy dog behaviors, explained

We love our dogs and share our entire homes and lives with them but what’s up with those strange and not humanly acceptable behaviors that they thoroughly seem to enjoy?  More simply put, why do dogs do the crazy things they do?

  1. Why do dogs drag their butt on the floor? The simple answer is that their butt is bothering them but it goes much deeper than that.  Here are some reasons dogs drag their bottoms: a clump of stuck feces, full anal sac (that needs expressing), wound(s), growth(s), swelling or irritation.
  2. Why do dogs eat poop? According to PetMD, Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons, including: malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, increased appetite, an underlying medical condition, parasites, undigested food particles in the stool.  Mother dogs eat feces of their newborn pups, puppies witness Mother eating feces and partake in the behavior as well, attention, in response to punishment, to keep their environment clean or in my experience, the dog might just like the taste!!  Always rule out all medical conditions first and then speak to a dog trainer to help kick this nasty habit.
  3. Why do dogs roll in smelly stuff? At one point or another, we will all fall victim to this uber disgusting doggie behavior.  Picture this, it’s a beautiful day and your dog is enjoying the great outdoors when you notice her rolling in something.  You walk over to witness her rolling on the carcass of another animal!  WHY FIDO WHY?!!  According to Psychology Today, the most viable theory is that dogs roll in smelly things to disguise their canine scent from possible prey, thus allowing the dog to get closer to their prey during a hunt.  An instinctual behavior that has stuck with our dogs long after their undomesticated days.
  4. Why do dogs ruffle their beds before sleeping? According to VPI Health Insurance’s website, before domestication, wild dogs would dig shallow beds for themselves to help keep them warm.  The dog could also be using the sweat glands in her paws to mark her territory by scratching the ground and dispersing that smell.

Now imagine a different scenario.  How quickly would you kick a human out of your house if they scooted their bare butt on the floor, ate poop and rolled in carcasses :)?  Aaah, it’s that human to dog connection that you just can’t find anywhere else :) :).

Did you know obsessive tail chasing has been linked to high cholesterol in dogs? Find out more here.


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Dog Dental Health: 3 things that wear down dog teeth

Your dog’s teeth, it’s his life source and a symbol of good health.  Did you know that a lot of owners unknowingly allow their dogs to engage in behaviors that could prove detrimental to canine dental health by causing teeth wear?  Here’s a list of behaviors that you should limit.

  1. Pruitis- According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, the most common cause of worn teeth is pruitis, also known as itching and chewing.  Hair is very abrasive and “will commonly cause severe wearing of the incisors, although the canines can also be affected. This can progress all the way to the gumline, and occasionally below.”

  2. Tennis Balls- These seemingly harmless dogs favorite pastime can have serious consequences.  Tennis balls are very abrasive and with heavy use will eventually wear and blunt teeth.  “Dogs that chew on tennis balls or other abrasive toys (think of tennis balls as a scoring pad), will often wear their smaller front cheek teeth (premolars), and the back aspect of the canines. This abrasion won’t do much over the course of one day, but chewing every day for years can cause significant wear.”

  3. Other Hard Objects- Objects like hard dog toys, fences, crate bars etc are also things that you need to watch out for.  “Another cause is chewing on things like fences, which will wear down the backside of the canines. Finally, malocclusions can cause two teeth to come together and wear on each other.”

I’m not saying that should immediately strip your dog from all of his tennis ball and hard toy glory but you should limit his time with these items.  Remember the classic saying, “Everything in moderation!”  Make sure that your dog is not constantly partaking in these behaviors and you will be one step closer to maintaining that healthy snarl :).

Help spread the word by sharing this with your friends!

Is there anything that you think should be added to this list?


Source: First picture, Courtesy of Anika Evans with Anika Evans Photography; blog content, AVDS; second picture, Lola; third picture, General Lee.


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5 Tips for 4th of July Canine Safety

Patriotism, family, friends and fire…an awesome combination indeed.  While the Fourth of July may be our Independence Day, it is also a favorite American pastime that many of us will share with our pets.  Remember these ASPCA tips while you partake in the festivities.

  1. Refrain from taking your dog to the fireworks display- While we greatly enjoy the event, a lot of dogs are very afraid of fireworks.  Dogs can freak out, flee or even become aggressive.  Keep them safely confined in an escape proof section of your home and do not leave them outside unattended.

  2. Keep poisonous drinks and foods away from dogs- Alcoholic beverages can intoxicate dogs and even cause them to slip into a coma.  Click here for a list of commonly unknown toxins.

  3. Only use dog approved sunscreen and insect repellent on dogs- Human sunscreen can cause drooling, upset stomach, excessive thirst and lethargy if ingested by a dog but did you know that human insect repellent containing DEET can cause neurological problems?!

  4. Keep matches, lighter fluid and citronella candles away from your dog- Certain matches contain chlorates that can damage blood cells, cause difficulty breathing and sometimes even kidney disease.  Lighter fluid and citronella candles are irritants that can cause gastrointestinal distress and maybe even depression of the central nervous system.

  5. Do not light fireworks around your dog- Beyond the obvious risks, fireworks contain toxins such as: potassium nitrate, arsenic and heavy metals.

Take out that grill, invite some friends, let your dogs romp and play but always remember, SAFETY FIRST!

What safety tips would you add to this list?  Please comment, I would love to hear your thoughts.



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Dogs sense of taste: 5 facts you don’t know


  1. Dogs have less taste buds than humans: 1700 taste buds compared to humans that have 9000.

  2. Young puppies sense of taste is not fully developed: puppies are born with their sense of touch, taste and smell but the taste buds do not fully mature until after a few weeks of life.

  3. Dogs do not crave salt like humans do: Since meat has a high sodium content and wild dogs primarily eat meat, dogs ancestors already had enough salt in their diet and never developed the highly tuned salt receptors that humans have.

  4. Dogs have meat taste receptors: Like humans, dogs are omnivores but unlike humans, a wild dogs diet consists of more than 80% meat; therefore, dogs have specific taste receptors that are fine tuned to meats, fats and meat related chemicals.

  5. Dogs can taste water, while humans can’t: “Dogs also have taste buds that are tuned for water, which is something they share with cats and other carnivores, but is not found in humans.”

My dog loves to lick habanero peppers.  What crazy thing does your dog think tastes good?  Answer in the comments section below :).


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