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We offer top of the line dog training all over Manhattan. We are committed to bringing you the best behavioral wellness programs available and we go above and beyond to ensure that all dogs who come through our doors are treated with loving care, and cutting edge training techniques.  

The AGDT Blog

Don't Use a Shock Collar

Amanda Gagnon

To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
A thorough understanding of learning theory.
Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three things, you don’t need a shock collar.
— Ian Dunbar

There is plenty of solid scientific research on this subject (start here), but you don't need to be a scientist to understand the basics. Shocking, hitting, hurting, or any other kind of painful stimuli used for punishment is a bad idea. Would you do it to your kid? I am not being flip! I'm making a serious comparison. Corporeal punishments, like spankings, that are sometimes used to discipline children are very similar to punishments like shocks. Most people don't spank or hit to discipline children anymore, because extensive research has shown that the long term side effects FAR outweigh the benefits.

Basically, the benefits are an immediate cessation of the unpleasant behavior. That seems great, right? My dog might stop barking when I apply a mild shock (as a child might stop mouthing off if I flicked him in the ear), but the side effects are nutso: anxiety, fear, aggression, degradation of the relationship between dog and handler, etc. Do you really want to trade that barking problem in for an aggression problem?

Okay, sure, but what if your dog has a REAL problem? What if you are already trying to solve one of the "nutso" issues mentioned above? 

That's rough. Rehabilitation for aggression and fear can be slow-going and stressful. You might be scared (if your dog is dangerous), confused (by conflicting advice), angry (at your dog or community), embarrassed (by onlookers or family who judge harshly), stunned (by the cost and workload of training) and you are certainly frustrated. You might even feel like you have tried everything else, and perhaps a (well-intentioned) trainer is selling it as the magic solution. I wish it was. In fact, shock collars are especially terrible for issues involving aggression and fear. 

Let me explain by giving you another human example. Comparing dogs to humans has its problems but I find it extremely helpful when trying to simplify complicated training concepts. 

True story: The guy in the video below is a road-rager (read: man with aggression issues) who chased me and my family down the highway after a perceived infraction. We tried to escape by pulling off the road while he was distracted. He circled back, found us, dismounted, and engaged in a lengthy threat display. We had to call the cops. 

WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT in the video below.

I spend a lot of time with dogs. So, whenever someone acts like this...

...I see this:

Clearly the motorcycle man has some anger management issues. If he was my brother, and I wanted to help cure him of his aggression, what treatment would be best? Therapy? Rehab? Medication? Shock collar? 

Putting it like that makes it fairly obvious that the shock collar is the worst possible option. First, it just doesn't seem right. Second, most aggression comes from a sense that things are not safe (fear). If I zap this enraged guy every time he yells, I might see a temporary cessation of the yelling, but it will only make him feel less safe and therefore he will become more aggressive over time. 

You might be wondering what you could try instead. Here are some options for working your dog through a major behavior problem along with the human equivalents for comparison: 

  • Working with a certified dog trainer is akin to working with a therapist.
  • Medication through a veterinary behaviorist is like seeing a psychiatrist and it works best when combined with training (therapy).
  • Overnight camps (sometimes called bootcamps) are similar to rehab. Some training will still be needed after a dog returns to her home environment.
When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
— author unknown

Please be considerate and kind in the comments section below. Healthy discourse is good for all of us. Snide comments only polarize.

New Puppy Shopping List!

Amanda Gagnon

shopping pup.png

So you adopted, or are about to adopt, an adorable wiggly little puppy. Congratulations!!! You're going to need some stuff. 

The Basics:

Leash - Any 6 foot leash with a sturdy clasp. A reflective strip is a good safety feature. 

Collar - A starter collar. Get one that is safe (won't break easily), but don't break the bank. You'll be trading up for a bigger size soon.

ID tag - The cheapest option will do. You'll probably upgrade this later .

Simple Beginner Bedding - An old blanket is best. Don't splurge on the expensive beds until you have completed house training.

Water Bowl - Anything will do. Stainless steel is easy to clean.

House Training:

If you're not sure how to use any of the tools below, reach out to us. For an easy, detailed lesson on house training, check out our house training webinar!

Crate.

Wee Pad holder (optional)

Gates and/or play pen.

Nature's Miracle Clean Up Spray

Wee pads.

Biodegradable Poop Pick Up Bags

Grooming:

It is important to start grooming early, and to do so in a positive way so your puppy will learn to enjoy it. Take it slowly and feed lots of treats while you groom. You may also choose to take your puppy to the groomer for regular baths and brushouts, but you should still practice some of this yourself during puppyhood.

Shampoo/Conditioner

I love the Amber/Vanilla scented shampoo and conditioner by KibblePet. You can find that here. They donate to rescues, so it's a feel good buy.

 

Hair Comb
This simple comb is better than any fancy brush.

Nail Clippers

Toothbrush

Feeding:

Talk to your veterinarian about proper nutrition for your puppy! Your vet has the most expertise about the best way to feed your individual dog. We recommend feeding your puppy from Kong toys. For an awesome worksheet on Kong Feeding, download our Free Puppy Stuff by clicking here

Kongs! Get a few. You'll use them.

The brand I feed MY dog.

My favorite treats. Love these!

Fun Stuff!

I love buying toys for my dog!! Safety is the top priority! Just like toddlers, puppies have a tendency to swallow things. Buy sturdy, chewable toys. Don't leave plush toys with your puppy unsupervised. Here are a few reliable favorites.

Balls

Tuggable Toys

Nylon Chews

Avoid buying anything that could cause unnecessary pain, stress, or discomfort. A young puppy is very impressionable, and it is downright dangerous to use painful training tools (prong collars, choke collars, e-collars) at this age.

Happy Shopping!  :)

How Much Does It Cost To Have A Dog?

Amanda Gagnon

In preparation for this blog, I curiously searched Google for “How much does it cost to have a dog?”  This was the FIRST HIT in my results:

Holy PANCAKES!!!  I hit the “feedback” button so hard that I think I broke my laptop.

That number is WRONG, friends.  Dead wrong. 

Even if you used a rope for leash, an old comforter for a bed, and your grandfather’s advice for your dog training, you won’t whittle it down to $1,000.

Having a dog is expensive.  You can spend tens of thousands a year, if you aren’t careful.  And even if you are into budget shopping, you’re still looking at around $10,000 per year.  

Let’s break it down a little further.  The prices here are based on the middle of the road costs.  This is what it will cost for reasonable, but not luxurious, products and services. 

Food/treats - $1250 annually.
Bigger dogs eat more (which costs more, of course).
Little dogs eat less.
Organic? Raw diet? Want your dog to be vegan(Yes, I had a client once who was doing that.  Yes, I think it is a terrible idea)?  All of those cost more.

Vet - $700-$1000 annually.
This estimate is based on two wellness visits a year.  Or (for example) one visit and one episode of kennel cough, that turns out to require antibiotics.  Expect a little more in the first year (Neutering, vaccinations), and expect a lot more if your dog develops a serious health problem.

Dog Walker - $5200 annually.  (less relevant in the country or suburbia)
This is for an average dog walker doing one walk midday, five days a week.  If you live in NYC, you need a good dog walker.  We all have to go to work sometimes.  Good dog walkers charge between $20 and $30 per one hour walk. If you have a high energy dog (like a lab or dalmation), you might need more than this.

Overnight Care (when traveling) - $1200 annually.
This is one that most people don’t think of ahead of time.  When you travel, you need someone to watch your dog.  A decent overnight care option (either in home or in a day care)in NYC is $70 to $100 per day.  The number above is for two weeks per year.

Grooming -  $1664 (groomer) or $200 (self groom) annually.
I have heard more than one person vent to my husband (who owns a human hair salon) that it costs more to get their DOG’s haircut than their own. 
Um…yes.  Yes it does.
It is a lot harder to do a dog’s hair than it is to do yours.  Also, humans are significantly less likely to turn and bite the stylist during the cut.  
If you have a short-haired dog (like my coonhound mix), you might be game for grooming him yourself.  That is a significant savings.

Pet Insurance - $240 annually.
This is a good idea if you don’t have a lot in your savings.  I’ve seen people get hit pretty hard with health care issues.

Training - $350 annual average.
If you own a dog, you should learn to train him.  One class a year or a couple of private sessions will do you a world of good in preventing behavior problems and bonding with your dog.  This is based on a behaviorally well-adjusted dog.  Treatment and training for serious behavior problems can run into the thousands of dollars.  

Miscellaneous Supplies - $1000 annually.
Leashes, collars, beds, sprays, toys, coats, paw wax, blankets, towels, boots, harnesses, hotel fees, rental car fees, the rug you had to replace at your friends house after your dog chewed it up.

So how much does it really cost?

$10,000 is about what I spend each year and I don’t spoil my kid (overmuch).  Yes, I call my dog my kid.

$20,000 is not atypical.

In a pinch, you could forego pet insurance, some training (but not all), a dog walker (ask your friends and neighbors for help), overnight care (same), the groomer (do it yourself), and you could get a lot of the stuff by scouring the internet for free stuff.  That might reduce the number by half.  You cannot skimp on food, exercise, and vet care though.  Those are essential.  

Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it….

IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Great Dog Walkers!

Amanda Gagnon

Recently, I’ve been trying to hire a contractor to redo my kitchen. I feel like Goldilocks as I try on this contractor (too soft) and that (too hard). These are all licensed professionals and yet, it is imperative that I screen them carefully. I'll regret it if I don't.

Afterall, a contractor who isn’t an expert could cause my house to fall down.

When you are searching for a dog walker, be like Goldilocks.  Ask questions. Trust your gut. No matter how charming he is, do not blindly trust the first person you meet.

I take this very seriously.  A dog walker who does a bad job could kill my dog.   

Hand to God, I’d rather have my house fall down.

It may seem simple to take a dog out on a walk, but a lot can go wrong (even with a great dog walker). A decent walker understands the risks and cares enough to educate herself on the best ways to prevent problems. She should know basic dog first aid, safety precautions to prevent runaways, signs of common health problems and how to handle them, and (above all) she should be loving and completely transparent with the owners. So many dog walkers fall woefully short of this description. Be careful! Ask lots of questions. And don’t hesitate for one single moment to switch walkers if you think something is off.  

There are a few truly great walkers out there. Landing one of the best is like getting your dog into the best private school. You have to apply (the best walkers are overbooked and turn people away regularly), you need to do everything you can to hold your spot (bad clients are turned away more frequently than bad dogs), and it costs more than you expect. But it is SO worth it.

Below is a list of the people who are currently my go to dog walkers on the Upper West Side. They are not the only good walkers, but I think they are the best! The UWS is my home, so I am most familiar with the walkers in this area. If you have a great walker (or you ARE a great walker) who is not listed here, let us know.  We'll check it out and consider adding them to a more complete list that we are building for Manhattan.


Benterprise Dog Walking - Ben loves every dog he handles and he cares deeply about hiring and educating his team. Every person who works for him is knowledgeable about dog behavior, schooled on the individual dogs, and paid the premium rate they deserve for being the best.

Bryce Smith - 917-319-0579 - Bryce is a one-man operation who takes phenomenal care of his dogs. He is smart and driven and believes in keeping his operation small in order to maintain the best possible quality of care.

Hoochie Poochie - Lauren and her team are an established group of caring, loving individuals. Their service is unique because they take the dogs out for mini-adventures (called playgroups) with other pups. This gives the dogs awesome exercise and mental stimulation.

Luke Dog Walker - Tony and Christina own this service. It is a small group of well-trained, attentive, dog walkers who care deeply about their clients. They have been in the area for years and are well-loved by their clients.  

Christa Clark - Christa is another one-man operation. She is a sweet, attentive walker who has been in the business for more than five years. Her clients appreciate her for her gentle, trustworthy, effective style and her reliability.


Dog COSTUMES only! Leave the torture devices at home!

Amanda Gagnon

How about this year, for Halloween, we all agree to avoid torturing our pets!  I'm a sucker for a cute costume as much as the next guy, but it hurts my heart to see some of the things we force our dogs to wear. 

Avoid anything that limits your dogs ability to MOVE:

bad dog costume 1

Seriously?  This poor dog!  Look how far his tail is curled under.  See him licking his lips.  He is scared out of his gourd.  Do not cover your dog from head to toe in scary pieces of tin. 

Avoid anything that is highly unusual and/or uncomfortable:

Bad dog costume 2.

Is he supposed to be a chia pet?  Oh geez.

Please respect your dog's need for a little space and comfort.  Pick a costume that is minimal, non-invasive, flexible, and COMFORTABLE for your dog.  Choose something similar to the types of things your dog already enjoys wearing.  Perhaps a sweater, or a collar that is cuter than usual.  Adding a small embellishment to a harness can work beautifully. 

I'm also a fan of Non-toxic, dog-safe paints and chalks.  Do not use human products...they are often unsafe for dogs.

Look!  A happy skeleton!

Dog Paint Halloween

Have fun trick of treating!! 

xoxo,

Amanda