Category Archives: Puppy Training

10 Warning Signs To Ensure You Are Not Getting A Dog From A Puppy Mill!

Nowadays it has become more important than ever to adopt a pet instead of buying it. Thousands of helpless animals are put to death every year because they are ownerless. If you have your heart set on a puppy of your own there is no reason not to call around shelters and find some puppies that way… however; if you absolutely must buy your new pup from an unfamiliar source you can still do your part to help out. Here’s how.

Puppy Farms are more commonplace than you would think. Puppy Farms exist the whole world over. Why are they so bad? Puppy Farms (also called Puppy Mills) keep numerous dogs in cramped conditions with poor sanitation and little food. The dogs are often kept in tiny cages, are fed whatever the owners can spare and are bred relentlessly with the sole aim of making their owners a profit.

To help you spot potential Puppy Farmers we put together a helpful list of points to look out for. If you suspect you have found a rogue breeder then you ought to report them to the relevant authorities.

Some ways to tell if your puppy was raised at a puppy mill:

1. The most obvious sign of a Puppy Farmer is that they will not be able to produce either of the pups parents. No parents means the dog has already been separated – usually too early. If your breeder won’t let you meet your pups mom and dad (at least the mom) then read on and see if they meet any other criteria.

2. The second thing to ask is if the parents were vaccinated. If the mom is up-to-date on shots. If not, there may be a distinct possibility that this breeder doesn’t care much for their animals. They should know this information, and if they don’t know both parents bear in mind that they therefore cannot be entirely sure of the lineage.

3. You will be able to tell a lot about where the breeder meets you. Purchasing from a reputable dealer you will often find you are invited to their home. If the address is a warehouse in an industrial estate don’t bother going. A dodgy breeder might also want to bring the puppy to you or meet at a neutral spot, so be wary of that, as well.

4. Once you meet your breeder, ask them specifically how many breeds they own. If it is more than two (or three at a maximum) then the chances are that they are a Puppy Farmer. Puppy Mills often carry as many breeds as possible, reputable breeders tend to keep their dogs at home and in comfort, and more than three breeds is hard work for a household.

5. Ask how many pups are for sale. A normal litter is between five and eight puppies (with exceptions), if there are eighteen (etc) puppies for sale then you know that the breeder has multiple pregnant dogs from different breeds, a clear indicator of a Puppy Farmer.

6. Ask what age the puppy is. Puppies shouldn’t be taken away from their mothers until “at least six weeks,” but eight weeks is recommended (and in some cases, state law). If the puppy is younger than that and the parent is nowhere in sight then alarm bells should be ringing.

7. Hygiene can be another clue. A new puppy smells much like a new baby. A puppy from a Farm will smell like a kennel. They will often be dirty in appearance and their coat is unlikely to be shiny.

8. Paperwork is important. If you are buying a breeder’s dog they will provide you with paperwork assuring you the dog is a registered pedigree. If you are not buying a pedigree of course you cannot get this certificate – however – a good breeder should care where their pups go. Your breeder should draw up some kind of paperwork that states what happens if the dog needs to be returned etc. They will often also want to call you to check in. A good breeder wants to know their dog has gone to a good home. So, look for a contract and the breeder questioning YOU (fenced in yard, do you have a home or an apartment, etc). A Puppy Farmer is a lot less likely to care. If their only concern is that you have the money and no other questions, contracts, or applications, it is more than likely a puppy mill or backyard breeder. Also, they should care with pairing you with the RIGHT dog.

9. If you are buying from a pet shop make sure to inquire about the dogs parentage. A good shop will keep records, a bad shop might be dealing in out-of-State Puppy Farmers. Always ask. In general, you should shy away getting dogs from Pet Shops, as many of them are obtained from puppy mills.

10. Deception – if you think you are being deceived then don’t buy. Do a little research. For example; if you want a small dog learn which breed of small dog specifically you would like. If you then go to a breeder armed with this information you are less likely to be fooled. Puppy Farmers are notorious for telling you what you want to hear and will make all sorts of wild assurances to make the sale. It is hard to tell when you are being lied to, but much easier if you know exactly what to look for in your prospective pup!

There are other things you can look for. If the dog seems unhealthy in any way then a good breeder will know what is wrong with them and be able to tell you how to go about fixing it. A good breeder will also have a reliable phone number, and possible multiple ways to be contacted – not true of a Puppy Farmer, who will often change numbers to avoid angry retaliation from clients. Small clues you might look out for in the dogs behavior include being afraid of humans, a generally nervous disposition and anything else that indicates that the animal has been kept in dark or cramped conditions. Puppy Farm pups are often kept in wire cages and you might see signs of this on their paws.

In general, be wary of bad breeders and report anything suspicious until no dog has to endure such a terrible life.

The website, Bailing out Benji has a solid list of known puppy mills broken down by state: Generally, you will be able to see a correlation between heavy Amish communities and known puppy mills in the area. For example, the 3 largest Amish counties in the United States, are also the 3 largest counties in those states with known puppy-mills. So, not all Amish run puppy mills; however, this is why it’s important to do your research!

So, if you are going to get a puppy from the Amish, Pet Stores, or unknown breeders: do your research! Ask for references, ask to meet the parents, meet at the place the dogs actually live, see the living conditions of the dogs, and their appearance of health!

If not, you could be stuck with a dog filled with a life of behavior or health issues.

If you have any questions, contact a trainer or vet near you to see if they have more information!

Is It Better To Get A Puppy Or An Older Dog?

Should I get a puppy or adult dog?

At our dog training classes in Northern Virginia, we get asked this question all of the time!

Once you’ve made the decision to get a family pet, a dog, there is still one choice remaining. Are you willing to put up with the necessary training in order to break in a brand new puppy or would you much rather deal with an adult dog? There are several deciding factors that can help you decide whether or not a puppy or an older dog is the perfect fit for your family dynamic.

First, consider the dedication and work that is required by a newborn puppy. You will have to train them to use the bathroom outside, not to steal food from the table, not to bark at every passing car or person who may come to knock at your door, not to chew shoes or furniture and many more. This kind of dedicated training will definitely take up a lot of time and energy in the first few months that you bring the puppy home. Not to mention, this entire process will require lots of patience, puppies are prone to in the home accidents and regardless of the rigor and strength of any training program, at first it will be trial and error as they adjust to living in a new space.

Now, most people want a puppy for the obvious reasons, they are cute, cuddly and loving but most new puppy owners fail to realize that soon the cute and cuddly can turn into big and somewhat of a headache, if not properly trained in obedience, house behavior and given adequate food and exercise. This is the reason why when you visit a shelter, you see many puppies that are within the twelve to eighteen-months age range. These are the types of puppies who were purchased just for their cute and cuddly nature and then never trained, therefore leaving their faulty owners with the only option to leave them with a shelter in the hopes that someone will come along to train them properly.

If your heart is set on a puppy, just make sure you have the time and energy to give it the proper training it needs and you and your puppy will soon become best of friends.

One reason that an older dog is a great addition to a home is that older dogs can coexist in homes with a variance in activity level. Since they aren’t puppies anymore, senior dogs require less activity and are therefore easier to manage and take care of. However, if they have a bad habit, it may take more time to break than a puppy. Still, if you end up adding an older dog to your family, go through an obedience program with the dog to ensure a bond between man and dog. This makes sure that the dog understands its role as a member of the family.

In the end, there is no strict deciding factor that determines which type of dog is best for which type of family. If you have the time and energy for a puppy, go for it. If an older, more laid back kind of dog is what you desire, look for a more adult/older pet.

If you have anymore questions about training, please contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!

Reach us at: or 888-413-0896 or

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

How do you go about training a German Shepherd in Northern Virginia?


If you live in Northern Virginia, own a German Shepherd and would like to get it trained, there are various competent options available to you in the State. 

Training Issues

The common issues faced by German Shepherd owners are jumping, pulling on the leash, hyper-activity and mouthing, there is a possibility of private classes in dog training in Northern Virginia. Our private classes are useful as they teach the dog on how to behave when there are distractions. The owners are given full support and guidance from our skilled staff at our Northern Virginia dog training facility. They will look after various issues that involve mouthing, nipping or housebreaking.

The centers for German Shepherd training in Northern Virginia will teach your dog important words such as ‘Sit Down’, ‘Come’, ‘Place’ and ‘Heel’. This gives a solid foundation to the training base and it motivates socialization during the playtime of your German Shepherd dog. During the course of basic obedience while training, they will show the dog appropriate behaviour that is required for it to become a member of your family that can also be well-mannered. It will be shown how not to pull on the leash. It will also be taught the basics of how to be polite when instructed to `meet and greet’.

Care during Training

German Shepherds will generally take to growing up as guard dogs in a natural way. It is critical that they should be taught how to be obedient to their masters. They are natural watch dogs and their bark is enough to caution you. The type of bark will also alert you whether it is something standard or unusual. Training a German Shepherd is a matter of high concern and enough care should be taken to check that there are no misguided attempts to make the dog more aggressive. This can happen through abuse or lack of soclialization and it may backfire as the dog is not likely to be kind to the person who is treating him or her roughly. If training is not given properly, the dogs may become fearful and go out of control. They will also not respond correctly in situations that are actually non-threatening.

It is, therefore, important, for the German Shepherd dog in Northern Virginia to get trained in a friendly environment and learn to be well-socialized, clear-headed, and obedient!

See over 50+ German Shepherds we have trained at our facility in Northern Virginia: or

My Dog Hates Having His Nails Cut or Collar Touched

Dog hates nails cut northern virginiaOn a daily basis we hear stories about dogs who hate having their feet touched or their nails cut, this is generally due to the owners or breeders not doing “body desensitization” with their pups at a young age.

If you have a new pup, it’s highly important for you to do body desensitization drills with this pup starting as soon as you get him/her (8-weeks old).

There are 11 key “target” points that you need to focus on:
1-2: Left Ear and Right Ear
3: Muzzle (open the mouth, check teeth, grab muzzle, etc)
4-7: All 4 paws and nails
8: Neck (collar area)
9: Tail
10. Hugging the dog
11. Brushing the dog

We have dealt with a ridiculous amount of dogs who are collar and feet sensitive and reactive; seemingly, these are the two biggest areas where we have seen this issue. In THIS VIDEO, you will see a 6-year old Basset Hound who I just finished giving a private seminar for who was very “feet aggressive.” These owners were not at fault for this, due to the fact that they rescued the dog at a later age; however, whoever the breeder was (or original owners) are generally responsible for this behavior.

I would say on a weekly basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we deal with at least 1 dog who is collar reactive; meaning, it is a dog who is friendly but will react negatively if his collar is touched or handled. The main reason that these target points can be an issue is that a child (or stranger) who sees that your dog is “friendly” will not know that these specific areas “set them off.” If this happens, you may be left with an “unexpected bite,” I would HIGHLY recommend clicking that link and reading my blog on how dogs almost never bite “unexpectedly.”

So, what’s the solution to prevent this?

It’s so ridiculously simple to prevent, that it annoys me that dogs become reactive! When you get your puppy, immediately begin doing these 11 key things above on a DAILY basis (and even multiple times per day).

This is how it should break down for you and your pup:
Touch and hold the left paw, praise or treat.
Touch and hold the right paw, praise or treat.
Touch and hold the back left paw, praise or treat.
Touch and hold the back right paw, praise or treat.
Touch and hold the left ear, praise or treat.
Touch and hold the right ear, praise or treat.
Stroke the tail, praise or treat.
Rub around the collar area, praise or treat.
Rub around the muzzle area, praise or treat.
Hug and hold the dog for a few seconds, praise or treat.
Give the dog a light brushing, praise or treat.

If you did this simple drill on a daily basis, not only will your dog NOT become reactive but they will LOVE you doing these things! Why? Because your dog has associated you touching these areas with a reward and/or verbal praise (or even both).

This routine LITERALLY takes about 20-30 seconds to complete; therefore, there are really no excuses as to why you should not be doing this with your pup. Simple things such as these when combined with picking the right dog, socialization, and confidence building, will help ensure that you have a stable and confident pup.

If you do these 11 things with your pup: your vet, your groomer, and everyone who meets your dog will love you for it.

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Puppy Training Tips in Northern Virginia


Below are some of the puppy training tips we give at our facility in Northern Virginia on a daily basis.

We were just nominated “Best Dog Trainer” and “Best Puppy Trainer” by Northern Virginia Magazine for 2014.

General Dog Training Tips

1. Pick Wisely When Selecting Your Future Pup

Whether selecting your prospective pup from an expert breeder or from a family reproducing a litter for the first time, the criteria are the same. Search for puppies raised inside with a lot of human socialization and particularly around individuals who have had experience in puppies’ training.

2. Problems in the Future Result from Early Problems that Were Not Corrected

Barking, digging, and running away are all common issues of pre-adult pups which have been assigned to a life of restriction and being left attended in the yard (boredom). Housetrain your pooch, give him a job to do, and afterward you may leave him to run freely inside. Remember, a bored dog is a destructive dog.

4. The Clock to Train Your Puppy Starts from Day 1

When your puppy returns, the clock is running. Inside only three months, your puppy will need to meet six urgent developmental due dates. On the off chance that your puppy neglects to meet any of these due dates, he is unrealistic to attain his true ability. As far as your canine’s conduct and disposition, you will most likely be playing get up to speed for whatever remains of your pooch’s life. Most critical of all, you basically can’t stand to disregard the socialization and bite inhibition, both of these are vital for having a well-rounded dog.

Pooch Training Development Tips

There are six vital developmental due dates that you need to remember

1. Your Doggy Education (before seeking)

When you search for your ideal puppy, you have to comprehend what kind of canine you are actually searching for, where to get it, and when to get it. You can read about this in my blog, “Picking the Perfect Dog.”

2. Assessing Puppy’s Progress (before choice)

When you select your puppy (normally at eight weeks of age), you have to know how to select a great breeder and how to select a great puppy from that breeder. Particularly, you have to know how to evaluate your puppy’s behavior properly. By eight weeks of age, your puppy should be used to being inside the home (of the breeder), exposed to different types of commotions; your puppy should have been handled by a wide variety of people: particularly men, kids, women, different races, and strangers; your puppy’s housetraining and ought to be underway; and your puppy ought to as of recently have a simple understanding of basic conduct and manners.

3. Errorless Housetraining (before homecoming)

You have to guarantee that an errorless housetraining and chewtoy-preparing system is initiated the very first day your puppy gets back to your home. This is so critical throughout the first few weeks, when puppies naturally take in great or negative behavior patterns that set the point of reference for weeks, months, and off and on again years to come. You can read our blog on “House Breaking

4. Socialization with People (by 12 weeks of age)

The Critical Period of Socialization finishes by three months of age! This is the pivotal developmental stage throughout which puppies figure out how to acknowledge and interact with different dogs and individuals. As a dependable guideline, your puppy needs to have met at any rate a hundred distinctive individuals before he is 16 weeks old. Your goal should be to get your pup to encounter as many different races, sizes, and ages of people as possible.

5. Bite Inhibition (by 18 weeks of age)

Bite restraint is the absolute most paramount lesson a pooch must take in. Grown-up puppies have teeth and jaws that can damage. All creatures must figure out how to restrain utilization of their weapons against their own particular kind, however pups must figure out how to be delicate with all creatures, particularly individuals. Household canines must figure out how to restrain their gnawing to all creatures, particularly to different pooches and individuals. The limited time window for creating a “delicate mouth” starts when they are born (playing with other litter mates) and it continues through about 9-months old.

6. Avoiding Adolescent Problems (by five months)

To guarantee that your balanced and decently educated puppy remains a courteous, overall well-mannered, and friendly pooch all around adulthood, your canine needs to meet new individuals and new puppies all the time. As such, your pooch needs to be taken to new places and continuously meeting new dogs and people. Your puppy may be taken for rides in the auto and to visit companions’ houses as routinely as you like.

In the event that you recently have a puppy and feel that you are behind, don’t lay down and surrender. You must recognize this and know that you are well behind and that your puppy’s socialization and training are presently a critical hurdle you must begin to jump. Promptly try your hardest to get up to speed. Call our dog training facility in Northern Virginia for help.

You can see over 550+ before/after videos of dogs we have trained, many of which are pups that are 5-months old. Do not let young age be an excuse for your pup’s horrible behavior and/or manners.

How To Prevent Submissive Or Excited Urination

We always get questions about owners’ dogs submissively or excitedly urinating during our puppy training classes in Northern Virginia.

What we hear all of the time is, “My puppy does this anytime my husband comes in the room, I swear he has never hit him or did anything to him.” People automatically assume that this is a fear-based response, this is simply not true.

First we will discuss why submissive urination occurs, and what you can do to start fixing or addressing this issue. This generally occurs in puppies, as you all know, dogs are pack animals (read blog on Pack Leadership), and a new puppy generally is viewed as the lowest member of the pack. So, some puppies show their submissiveness to who they view as the higher member of the pack by rolling over onto their backs or submissively urinating. So, don’t be alarmed and automatically assume that it has anything to do with your puppy being afraid of your or fearful of you.

Some of the things that can trigger submissive urination are:
-Scolding a puppy loudly
-A loud noise
-Using body language that intimidates your puppy
-Sometimes, the higher pack member simply walking into the room can trigger this, as well

Generally, this is something that your puppy will outgrow by the age of one. However, there are many things you can start doing with your puppy in order to prevent this sooner:
Confidence Building and Noise Desensitization Drills
-Obedience Training

When submissive urination occurs, try not to scold your puppy for this behavior, this can just increase the problem.

All of those things will help you in having a highly confident, happy, and well adjusted dog that can quickly get you over the submissive urination phase.

The next thing is excited urination, which can both be one in the same; however, a dog can show excited urination without showing submissive urination (and vice verse).

Excited urination is generally an automatic response that younger dogs will give when uncontrollable excitement occurs in the puppy.

Some of the triggers for excited urination can be:
-Owner comes home from being gone for an extended period of time

-New person comes over to the house

-When the puppy is highly excited, someone starts petting or touching them

Just like submissive urination, many of the solutions to addressing the issue are the same.
Confidence Building and Noise Desensitization Drills
Obedience training is important for this, what we like to do at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia is put the excited dog into a sit command and then we will pet them. If they jump up from the sit, we will immediately pull our hand away, put them back in the sit, and then praise. Generally, a dog will not urinate in a sit position, so this is a way we use obedience to control the behavior. Additionally, I would recommend not touching the dog until you have visually seen him/her calm down. If you pet them when they run up excitedly, chances are, they will urinate.

If you stick to these rules in dealing with your dog’s submissive or excited urination, you should see a drastic change in a short amount of time.

How To Stop My Dog From Nipping, Play Biting, or Mouthing

At our Puppy Training Classes in Northern Virginia, we address play biting and nipping a lot.  Many people refer to this behavior as different things such as, play biting, nipping, and mouthing.

Some dogs are more prone to this than other dogs; such as, Malinois, Australian Shepherds,  German Shepherd, Huskies, etc.  These are all what we refer to as “prey driven” “herding” dogs; meaning, they instinctually want to herd and chase things (squirrels, rabbits, etc).

As puppies, these dogs have these natural herding tendencies or nipping at your heels, shoes, hands; however, many inexperienced people have confused this behavior for aggression, which is definitely not the case.  Although your puppy does this with no malice intent, puppy teeth are still sharp and quite frankly, they can hurt!

This is a behavior that you definitely wanted to get nipped in the bud (no pun intended, okay well, maybe).  Why it is important to address this play biting in your puppy now is so it is not an issue when your cute puppy is possibly 1-year old and 85+ pounds.

What Can You Do To Stop or Help Play Biting In Your Dog?

This is a question we answer daily at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

First, you must understand what dogs and puppies do during play and you must replicate this same behavior.   When litter mates are playing in their early life (8-weeks and below), they learn something called, “bite inhibition.”  Bite inhibition  simply means that your puppy learns how to control or regulate the force of his/her bite while playing with the other litter mates.

When one litter mate bites another litter mate too harshly, that litter mate will let out a “yelp” and the play terminates.  So, the offending puppy learns, “I used my mouth too hard and now the fun stops.”  You know the famous quote among us humans, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt?”  Well, guess what, puppies and even adult dogs use this same quote, they just speak it in a different language.

So, when your puppy starts biting on you, you too can replicate this same behavior that their litter mates have done.  You let out a little “yelp” and then end the play session, you can either put the puppy in a different room or you can go into a different room.  After 20-30 seconds, come back out and resume the play, then repeat.

If you find this is not a deterrent for your mouthy puppy, you can go to any dog store and get something called, “Bitter Apple Spray.”  This a liquid in a spray bottle that was developed specifically for dogs  (safe and effective) and it has a very bitter flavor to it.  So, when your dog starts play biting or mouthing your arm, you can say “NO” and then spray this into their mouth.  Your puppy quickly learns to associate mouthing with this bitter taste in their mouth.

Another thing you can do is anytime your puppy begins tugging/biting on your shoes, shirt, etc, try “replacing” it with something that they CAN have (toy, bone, tug, etc).  So, you are correcting the behavior AND redirecting the behavior.  Essentially you are telling your puppy, “Doing this is not acceptable, however, you can can play with this instead.”  I have a great post on How To Properly Play Tug With Your Dog.

Lastly, try not to wrestle, slap around (in a playful way), or roughhouse with your puppy, this will only instigate him/her play biting, nipping, or mouthing.  Remember, dogs do not have opposable thumbs like we humans do, so often times they investigate things using their teeth and mouth.

If you are still having troubles with your puppy or adult dog play biting, mouthing, or nipping, you should find a qualified trainer in your area to help with these issues.

At What Age Should I Start Training My Puppy (Dog) -Northern Virginia

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we do a puppy training/consultation program as early as 8-10 weeks old. However, we really do not put too much focus on “obedience” per se at that age, we focus on things that we consider more important for puppy development; such as, bonding, socialization, pack leadership, crate training, confidence building such as object desensitization and noise desensitization , and if you have a dog who interested, properly playing tug with your puppy.

In my experience, when you have a puppy who is not yet old enough to enroll him/her in a formal obedience training program, those things I listed above should be your focus! As I say all of the time, I would much rather take in a 6-month old dog who is highly confident and well socialized than I would a 6-month old dog who is skittish and low confidence but knows 25 commands. As you will see in our before and after videos on Youtube, we can take a dog who knows absolutely nothing and give them amazing obedience in a very short time. However, fixing aggression, low confidence, skittishness, etc can take much more time. So, with your puppy, focus on the fundamentals and the actual obedience portion is the easiest part.

With a puppy, everything should be fun, positive, and motivating! There should be little to no corrective based training, at all. You should always end your training sessions leaving your puppy wanting more; meaning, you should never keep pushing your puppy until they lose interest in whatever you are trying to accomplish with them, always stop when they are still wanting more. This is a simple technique we use in order to build motivation and drive with your puppy.

Once you have all the developed all of foundational-based training with your puppy that were mentioned above, it’s time to bring them into a formal obedience training program. At Off-Leash K9 Training, we do not start our dog obedience training programs in Northern Virginia until the dogs are least 5-months old.

By the age of 6-months, you are left with a well socialized, highly confident, motivated, driven, problem-free, and well-trained dog that you can enjoy for the rest of your life!

What Is The Best Breed Of Dog To Get?

Many people ask, “What is the best type of dog to get?” or “What is the best breed of dog to get?” In order to raise the perfect dog, you have to pick the perfect dog—that is, the perfect dog for you.  Unfortunately, I cannot answer that, only you can. The question you should ask yourself is, “What am I looking for in a dog?” Are you looking for a very energetic dog that needs a lot of exercise, attention, and work (German shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Lab, etc)? Or are you looking for just a good dog to have as a companion who is completely happy just lying around the house all day? Or are you looking for something in between? Are you looking for a hunting dog, a protection dog, or just a companion? All of these are questions you have to ask yourself; your answer will help you decide what dog is perfect for you. There is no perfect dog. The Belgian Malinois is a very high–energy, high–maintenance dog and therefore is not meant for everyone. Pugs and poodles aren’t meant for everyone, either. So it really depends on what you are looking for. Also, look at the expectations you have for a dog, then ensure the dog you pick is capable of meeting them. Meaning, if you want a dog to do protection, do not get a beagle; if you want a dog as a running partner, do not pick a bulldog. There is not one that would be perfect for everyone, but there is a dog that would be perfect for you and what you want.

Once you decide on the dog you want, now you have the task of finding a good breeder for that specific type of dog. You should go to a good, qualified breeder, not who many refer to as a “backyard breeder.” These are often people with no knowledge, training, or handling of dogs who just so happened to have two dogs, one got pregnant, and now they are selling the puppies. These puppies can have a wide variety of problems, such as temperament, nerves, aggression, and medical concerns. I always recommend finding someone who is an American Kennel Club (AKC)-certified breeder; meaning, their dogs have been tested and come from good, proven lines, genetically and medically. An AKC breeder should have your puppy’s family lineage for at least a few generations back, often further.

If you are against breeders because you think they are just in it for the money, you are mistaken. Often they make very little profit off their dogs after they pay for food, medical care, and shots. Keep in mind, you cannot put a price on the eight weeks of headaches, loss of sleep, and messes made in the house by the litter of pups. I love dogs, however, for the very little profit per dog, it is definitely not worth it for me to take care of six to 12 puppies for eight weeks.

Now that you have some great breeders lined up, ensure the breeder can deliver the specific type of dog you are looking for. A big misconception people have is that if they have a German shepherd, a Belgian Malinois, or a Rottweiler that we can turn him or her into a great protection dog. That is far from the truth. Generally, protection dogs are bought from breeders who breed specifically for this type of work; meaning, they will take two high-drive, high-confidence, good-nerved dogs (usually former protection dogs) and breed them together. Not every dog out of their litter will be successful in this line of work. So, ensure the breeder you are using is breeding for what you are looking for in your dog. If you want a Lab to be used as a hunting dog, ensure you are getting a Lab that is bred from a working line. People breed for families/companions, for looks and show, and for working lines, so you have to ensure the breeder you choose is breeding not only the breed of dog but also the type of dog that you are looking for.

Once you’ve really narrowed it down to a specific breeder, do your research. Breeders are like any other business in the world, you cannot take their word for it just because it is their business. Ask for references, talk to other people who bought the same type of dog you are looking for and contact them. See if their dog is what they expected, if they had any problems, how their dealings were with the breeder. Remember, getting a dog is around a14-year commitment, so it is important to ensure that you are getting exactly what you want. A good breeder will ask you as many questions as you ask them, so red flags should go up if you can just show up with the money and take their dog without any questions from either side. Generally the breeder will have an application with a questionnaire, they will want to meet with you in advance, and they will want to find out as much about you as possible. Also, they should tell you that their dogs are not available until they are eight weeks old—this is another good indicator to look out for. Up until eight weeks, the puppies are still with their mother, learning to interact with their siblings, learning vital things such as bite inhibition (what is acceptable and unacceptable play, etc.). Great breeders want to ensure their dogs are going to great homes.

I realize that many dogs are bought from shelters and rescue organizations, so maybe you are thinking that none of this guidance applies to you. Believe it or not, it still applies, just in a different way. If you want to purchase a dog and you do not want to get it from a breeder nor pay the high price that often comes with many purebred dogs, then a dog shelter or a rescue organization is a great way to go. As I stated earlier, do not get a dog from a backyard breeder—someone who is in it only for the money and does not care about the dog’s health or well-being. Remember, often they are having a litter in the first place due to their negligence and irresponsibility. So go to a shelter or a rescue organization. These people truly care about dogs and want to ensure their dogs have a good home. Once you find a good, reputable, nonprofit shelter or rescue organization, you can apply the same guidance for picking a happy, confident, and friendly dog.

Now that you have found a great breeder or shelter, you need to pick the perfect pup from that litter. No matter what any breeder tells you, you cannot pick a pup that is right for you online or through a photo. Actually go to their location and choose a dog, even if it’s out of state. If you talk to anyone who has picked pups out of a litter, they will usually tell you the pup picked them. I am not saying you will get a horrible dog if you pick one online, I am just saying you will feel much more comfortable and confident about your choice if you go see them in person. Generally, at eight weeks, you can tell a lot about the pup. If they are shy, skittish, and hanging out away from everyone in the litter at eight weeks, there is a great chance that’s how they will be when they are older. However, if they are confident, very open and affectionate, and love to play tug at eight weeks, there is a great chance that’s how they will be when they are older. These are things you would know only by actually going and observing the litter for yourself. Then, based on what you are looking for, you can pick the pup that you think best suits your needs.

When picking dogs for personal protection, we use a breeder who breeds specifically for that type of work, as I stated above. Once we identify a reputable breeder, we go to their location and put their litter of puppies through a series of tests. Even if you are just looking for a regular household pet, this is still a great test to ensure your dog has an overall good temperament. First, you do not want a puppy who is away from the litter; meaning, off by itself and not socializing or playing with the others. We are looking for the puppies jumping at their gate in order to great us; this shows they are happy to socialize with people. Second, we will test their “drive,” in other words, how motivated are they to go after something? We are looking for dogs that have a great prey drive, so when we roll a ball, we want a puppy that will chase after it and preferably bring it back. This shows they have a high drive, which is essential. Additionally, we are looking for that same level of motivation when they play tug; for protection, your dog must have a great tug drive. As we go through these steps, we are slowly eliminating the pups that do not have these characteristics.

For their second phase of testing, we will take one-on-one the pups who have passed the prior steps in order to evaluate them further. One of the things we do is get them really excited by playing with them and then rolling them over to their backs to see how easily they submit. Ideally, you want a puppy that is fighting to get up. This shows they are not very quick to submit. We follow that with a drop test, which involves us playing with the pup and then dropping something loud beside it or making a loud noise (dropping a metal bowl, a loud clap, etc.). Ideally, you are looking for a puppy that does not overreact to a loud noise. If they do overreact, we are looking for a quick recovery, meaning, you can quickly get them to come back and engage them back into the play. One of the final things we do is the pinch test. While playing with the dog, we give them a pinch on the side until they give a little whimper. This is done to test their ability to forgive the handler for giving them a correction, meaning, how they react when the handler gives them an unpleasant feeling. Do they shut down and run away or do they quickly forgive and come back? We are looking for a puppy that does not immediately run away from us. For those that do run away, we want one that we can quickly get to come back.

If you are getting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, add in the additional step of taking the dog out and around other dogs, people, and kids in order to see how they behave with them. This is done to ensure you are not getting a people- or dog-aggressive dog before you take him home. Often, people get a dog from a shelter or rescue organization and a week later they have their first encounter with another dog or child and find their dog is aggressive. An additional step you may want to take is seeing how the dog from the shelter is with food and toys. While the dog is eating and playing with toys, touch the dog, the food, and the toy to determine if there is any possible food or toy aggression. Be proactive and find all of this out before you choose a dog.

This is the basic guideline we use in order to find a good, well-balanced, good-tempered, happy, and friendly dog. Just to clarify, there are no guarantees in dogs, however, we have found that this is a great process to follow and it is generally very accurate when trying to predict how a dog will be as it gets older.

Then, once you find the perfect dog, start looking at training options for your puppy.

How Do I Train My New Puppy – Northern Virginia


Bringing home a new puppy is like Christmas every morning, until you realize that you need to house train your puppy. You know, those mornings when you wake up to a mess in your floor. Many people wonder, “How do I train my new puppy?” House training a new puppy can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Between getting up at night to take them potty, to learning proper ways to teach them how to potty outside, and not in the house, it can become overwhelming for new owners. At our puppy training classes in Northern Virginia, we do a puppy consultation to help get you and your dogs on the right path.  Here are some helpful hints to ease the transition from new puppy to house trained pet.
Hint #1: Practice Makes Perfect: Like little kids, potty training a puppy is all about perseverance. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Taking your puppy out once an hour, and more often they smaller they are, will give your puppy a chance to relieve themselves outside. It will also teach them, with continued success, that going potty outside is preferred. 
Hint #2: Be Prepared: Have a crate readily available when you bring home your new puppy.  A crate is imperative in the house breaking process.  Your dog should be in the crate unless he/she is being “directly” supervised.  A new puppy should spend a good portion of their life in the crate.  So, ensure during the phase of house training your puppy, if you do not have DIRECT supervision, they should be crated. As I say all of the time, “A crib is just a crate for a baby.”
Hint #3: Get Help: Like most humans, we all think we need to be the doers of everything. We don’t want to appear weak, needy or incapable; so instead of asking for help when we need it, we overload ourselves. If you’re schedule is packed, and you don’t have time; or if this is your first puppy, get some professional help. Find a puppy trainer in Northern Virginia to give you some advice on how to get your puppy trained and house ready. You may find you even want to give your pup a few obedience lessons as well just for good measure. 
Hint #4: If He Goes, You Go: Puppies usually aren’t the only ones who need a little training. Especially if you’ve never had a pup before, it will inevitably do you some good to learn a lesson or two. Your best option, and your first one, should be to find a qualified dog trainer in Virginia, who can coach you and your new pup on how to interact with each other. While your puppy is learning everything he needs to know to be a great pet, you’ll be learning the tools you need to be a great master and companion.

Hint #5: Cut Off Water Early:

If you are average person that goes to bed around 10:00pm or so, you should cut off your puppies’ food and water around 6:00pm-7:00pm.  This ensures that almost all of the food and water has passed through his/her system before bed.  This way you don’t find yourself waking up as much in the middle of the night.

Hint #6: Start Confidence Building Drills and Socialization:

If you look throughout the blog, you will see our articles on confidence building drills such as How To Get Your Dog Over A Fear Of Noises, Object Desensitization, and Socialization and why they are imperative with a young pup.


Whether this is your first attempt at training a puppy, or you’re an old pro, it never hurts to have some help along the way. Whether that’s an extra pair of hands to clean up, a pair of legs to run your pup outside or a trainer to help you both out, you’ll both be better off in the end. To find a qualified professional in your area, try an internet search for K9 Trainers in Virginia, or go to

Nick White