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Tips from dog trainer for potential new dog owners

As a new or potential dog owner, there are several things you should take into consideration before buying or adopting a new puppy or adult dog.

Ask Yourself Why?

First things first. Think about why you actually want a dog. Dogs only look and act like puppies for 6-12 months after which the cuteness factor can wear off for a lot of people. People looking to purchase a dog should want a dog, not a puppy. 6-12 puppy months is a very short period when you consider that most dogs live between 10 and 20 years. Many impulsively purchased puppies end up dumped in a shelter or worse once this novelty wore off.

The Breed or the Need

Carefully consider your breed choice. Different breeds have VERY different needs. For example a Presa Canario or Cane Corso (two large, dominant dog breeds) would not be the best choice for a first-time dog owner with three small children, regardless of their personal preference for what the dog “looks” like. A new owner should base his/her breed choice on what the dog was bred to DO and then on what the dog was bred to look like. People can find themselves in deep ‘doo-doo’ (pun intended) if they reverse these two considerations. Size should also be taken into account. Especially for households with small children, and/or elderly or disabled family members. Dogs can range in size from about 1 lb up to 200 lbs and typically reach their full-grown height and weight within 1-2 years.

Pet Store vs. Breeder

The location from which you purchase your puppy should also be considered. While it is hard to resist the cute pet-shop puppy sitting behind the glass at the mall, I encourage the prospective owner to do his/her research and find out just where that puppy came from. The answer in many unfortunate cases is that it came from a puppy mill where breeding dogs and other puppies live in absolutely deplorable conditions. The quality of breeding in most of these cases is also questionable. It is doubtful that those who would produce so many puppies under such horrible conditions would bother to take into careful consideration breeding characteristics such as possible inherited diseases and temperament when breeding these dogs. Instead, take the time to find a reputable breeder that takes pride in his/her breeding stock and is not out to simply make money mass producing puppies. There are plenty of such breeders out there. You may have to join a waiting list to get your hands on one of their sought-after pups, but in the end the wait will be worth it. Or, better yet, take a trip to your local shelter. There are plenty of perfectly good puppies/adolescent/adult/senior dogs sitting in shelters and rescues waiting for homes. These dogs cost a lot less to get your hands on, are usually neutered, and typically have all their shots. In many cases they have even had some training!

Early Training is Key

Once you bring your new best friend home, take the time and spend the money to hire a good trainer, at least for an initial puppy or training consultation. A simple 1-2 hour consultation or puppy class can save you a lot of time, money, and overall frustration down the line. It could even mean the difference between euthanasia and a long happy life in your home. Avoid the traditional crank and yank trainers and instead look for one that ONLY uses humane positive science-based training methods. Any trainer that uses fear, pain or other intimidating punishment techniques should be avoided like the plague. Simply learning the basics on proper training and socialization can prevent many common emotional and behavior problems, not the least of which are fear and aggression.

What’s for Dinner?

The quality of pet foods is a big debate right now. Owners should take the time to do some research and find a good quality pet food that works for their dog(s). There is plenty of good information out there in books, magazines and the Internet. Your vet can be another good source of information when it comes to nutrition, but do take the time to research his/her recommendations. Most importantly, don’t take the advertisers word for it. Learn to read labels and nutrition facts. A few extra dollars spent on the right food can save you thousands of dollars in vet bills over the life of your dog. Not only that but he/she will be much healthier and happier as a result.

And finally…

Enjoy and have fun! Sometimes people get so wrapped up in caring for their dogs they forget why they got them in the first place. You bought or adopted your dog to be a companion/worker/athlete, etc., not a mobile shedding lawn ornament.

Matthew Tuzzo, ABCDT, is owner and head trainer of Jersey Shore Dogs, which specializes in owner-focused training in a one-on-one atmosphere. Headquartered in Central New Jersey, Jersey Shore Dogs is committed to educating and training owners on how to handle his/her dog’s issues while demonstrating various techniques to teach basic obedience or solve a variety of behavioral problems. For more information, visit or

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