Should You Get A Puppy?

Those big eyes. That soft fur. The sweet puppy breath. Puppies, they are so hard to resist. You are walking down the street and you see someone with an adorable puppy and you think “I want one!”

Did you know there is actually a biological reason why we have that thought? In 1949, Ethologist Konrad Loranz proposed the idea of kindenschema or baby schema. Infantile physical features such as a big head, large eyes and a round face are deemed cute and motivate adult individuals to take better care of the young thereby ensuring better rates of survival.

So before you start shopping for that puppy make sure it isn’t just your biological instinct driving you to do it and consider everything that goes into owning a puppy.


First, there is the expense of getting the puppy. Rescuing a puppy from a shelter will obviously be your most economical choice. If you have your heart set on a pure bred puppy than you should be prepared to spend some money, but be aware that there is not a direct correlation between how much a dog costs and how well bred it is. Do your research. Some questions you can ask the breeder are:

  • How long have you been breeding dogs?
  • Have you done breedings with these dogs before?
  • Have you encountered any medical issues?
  • Can I meet any dogs from previous litters?

Veterinarian bills

In the first year, you will have 4 or 5 well check visits to the vet and then it goes down to just a yearly visit. Hopefully, you won’t have any major medical issues early on, but you can expect that at some point you will be facing some larger vet bills; especially as your dog ages. If you don’t want to be caught with a huge unexpected vet bill all at once, consider purchasing insurance.

Food and preventive treatments

Dog food might seem like a small expense, but quality dog food can cost a pretty penny, especially if you have a large dog. On the other hand, feeding quality food can minimize possible health issues that can lead to more costly issues.

Time and Energy

Don’t let this happen to your shoes!

Puppies need attention! If they don’t get it when they are young it can lead to issues down the road. They are just figuring out the world. If you don’t teach them the rules, they will make up their own. Be prepared to spend time socializing and training your dog.

Housebreaking might be the most time consuming aspect of training your puppy at the beginning. It is so important to start off on the right foot. You will be rewarded for your efforts in the end because you won’t spend a lifetime cleaning up messes. A general rule of thumb when it comes to housebreaking is that a puppy can hold it’s bladder for how old it is in months plus one. So a 3 month old puppy needs a bathroom break every 4 hours. This means you will likely have some middle of the night potty breaks at first. You also will need to have a plan in place if everyone is out of the house all day. Can someone come home at lunch? Or maybe you need to hire a dog walker/sitter.

All dogs need exercise, but some breeds require more than others. Puppies will require more than older dogs. We coincidentally just started working with a client who got a Golden Retriever puppy and called us because she was overwhelmed by the amount of energy he has. Take your lifestyle into consideration when choosing a puppy. Do you like to spend your free time curled up on the couch reading or going for a hike?

Me cause trouble? Never!

Puppies can be a great addition to your family and can bring a lot of joy, but owning a dog is a big commitment so be sure you are ready for it. If we can help answer any questions you may have before taking the leap, feel free to contact us.

Trick or Treating with Your Dog

Is it begging if we’re wearing costumes?

The start of the holiday season is upon us, starting with Halloween.This often means spending a lot of time celebrating with friends and family. For dog owners, this may mean trick or treating with your dog. Having dogs be part of your festivities can be fun for all if you keep some helpful tips in mind.

It’s all about the outfit: Halloween dog costumes

Nowadays there are so many choices when it comes to Halloween and dressing up your pooch. Whether you decide to DIY or buy a costume online, follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Avoid any toxic ingredients.
  2. Beware of choking hazards.
  3. Keep it simple.
  4. Never leave your dog unattended.
  5. Think about comfort.
  6. Consider a test run.
  7. Take the temperature into consideration.
  8. Don’t go overboard.
  9. Keep photoshoots short.
  10. If your dog looks uncomfortable, ditch the duds.

If your dog isn’t so keen on wearing a costume, remember that like with all dog training, treats and praise go a long way. At first, just have your dog wear the costume for a minute or two and heavily praise and treat them. Over time, work your way up to them wearing it for longer. Hopefully, by the time Halloween rolls around your dog will be all set for trick or treating.

To bring your dog or not

dressed up chihuahua

How do I look? image by Denise McQuillen from Pixabay

Did somebody say treat?

Now that you have the perfect costume picked out, the big question is: Do you bring your dog trick or treating with you or not?

To answer this you need to think about your dog’ temperament . Does your dog do well in crowds? Do they startle easy with weird sounds or lights? Will they walk easily on a leash? Do they get along with other dogs? If the answer is no to any of the above, then it is best to let your dog enjoy Halloween from the comfort of your home and just post some cute pics to social media.

Last, but not least, make sure those tasty treats stay out of your dog’s reach. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and mass amounts of sugar can upset their stomachs and leave you cleaning up the mess.

bulldog wearing a hat

image by Daniel Borker from Pixabay

From all of us at the ADC, have a Happy Halloween!

Pack Theory: What it is and what it means to you

wolf pack

Wolf pack image by Vincent Boulanger from Pixabay

What is pack theory?

Back in the 1930-40s some Swiss scientists, one of them being Rudolph Schenkel, studied captive wolves in a zoo. They observed that one male and female would assume the role of leader. The leaders would control the other wolves by the use of dominant behaviors. There seemed to be constant competition among the wolves to gain control. The scientists believed this led to the aggressive behavior they were observing.

David Mech in 2017

Later studies in the 1960-70s, supported this initial finding. David Mech, a renowned wolf expert was one such corroborator of the initial study, but Mech would later change his opinion. He came to believe that since the wolves studied were living in an artificial situation that their behaviors didn’t mirror those found in nature. He believed that unrelated wolves living together in close quarters would cause more tension than in their natural habitat.

Pack theory has been defined as a system of relationships in an animal group that is based on hierarchical ranking usually achieved by aggressive encounters so that one or two members are at the top and the others are submissive.

In 2000, Mech revised his previous beliefs and said that a pack is more like a family with family dynamics. There is a mom and dad in charge and the children follow and learn from them.

So what should we conclude from all of this?

Related animals may have less tense relationships when living together than animals living in contrived situations, but then isn’t that what most dog owners are facing?

Whichever way you slice it, there is a hierarchical structure to a pack of dogs. Just look in your own backyard or at your local dog park and observe how dogs interact with each other. You will see a variety of dominant and submissive behaviors playing out.
This video is a great example of two dogs exhibiting dominant and submissive behaviors in acceptable ways that lead them to be able to form a playful relationship.

What does any of this mean for the average dog owner?

Understanding pack structure is useful. It can help us understand our dog’s behavior. It helps us to ensure more successful interactions with other dogs and informs our training. The difference just may be that pack theory used to lead people to believe that a more aggressive training approach was necessary whereas now many trainers, ourselves at The Asheville Dog Company included, see that a more balanced approach is needed. See our first blog post here to read further about balanced training.

In a pack, the alphas are in charge, but they also interact with the pack in playful and loving ways. Only if it is needed will they assert their dominance. Once everyone sort of understands their place, then things run smoothly. This is as it should be with the human as the leader as well. When you first bring a dog home, order is established through teaching and training. Then, ideally, things fall into a rhythm. Whenever a pack dynamic changes, then the order can get upset and needs to be reestablished.

Let me note, that when it comes to our households, the group will include all the dogs and people that are living together. If you pay attention, you will see that dogs relate to the people in their families differently. A dog may bond more closely with one member of a couple or see a young child as an equal or lower down family member.

So the next time your at the dog park or sitting on your back porch watching your dogs play, take a moment to notice how they interact and how the dynamics change depending on the situation and maybe you will have a little more insight into your dog. The more you understand your dog, the better your relationship will be.

The Stages of Dog Training

Chewy and I heeling from today!

Posted by Todd Slepakoff on Saturday, December 30, 2017
Todd working with Chewy, one of our GSDs, on heeling.

Often times, when people contact us about dog training they focus on one problem. They say something like, ” I just want my dog to not jump.” Or ” I just want them to come when called.” They see their training needs as just one little thing. Some tasks can be simple to accomplish, but a lot of the time people are missing the bigger picture when it comes to dog training. Even something that may seem simple, like having your dog come when called, is actually not just one thing, but the end of a process. Training and achieving the outcomes you want are about building a working relationship with your dog. To do this you need to work through the stages of dog training for each command you are trying to teach.


Our goal in the first phase of training is to make your dog a problem solver. We want them to understand that they can earn rewards for certain behaviors. If they can figure out what we want them to do, they get a reward. The key here is that it must be a reward that THEY value. At this stage, we aren’t correcting your dog for not doing the behavior we want. You can’t correct a dog for not doing a behavior when they are still trying to figure out what behavior we want. In this stage, we’re trying to build a love of learning. We are trying to encourage your dog to try and earn the rewards. This is our foundation from which we build.


Once a dog knows a command, such as sit, in one environment or situation we move on to teaching them that we want them to do it in all situations. This is called generalizing. As distractions increase so do the rewards. Most likely, you will now run into a situation where the distraction is more appealing to the dog than the reward. Imagine you are walking your dog down the street. The leash is nice and loose when all of the sudden he sees another dog in a yard. He starts pulling towards it. You try to regain his attention with a reward, but nothing is working. This is when corrections are introduced. There are a variety of ways to correct a dog, that I won’t go into here. I’ll just make two points. First, the goal of a correction is to make the dog understand that it needs to listen and follow commands in all situations. Second, corrections should always be matched to a dog’s temperament. By using a combination of reward and correction we ensure that your dog will always listen to you, not just when it feels like it.


This is the final stage of training and maybe the hardest for a lot of owners. Once you’ve got a command under control or an unwanted behavior eliminated it can be easy to slack off on training. If you don’t keep up with the training than old behaviors can slip back. Your dog may lose the consistency with which he listens. And consistency is key to having a happy relationship with your dog. If you have built a good foundation, than you shouldn’t have to train with your dog as much to maintain a behavior as you did to first teach it.

So remember, training is a process. It takes time and patience. Try to enjoy it and you and your dog will be happier for it.

For a more detailed look at the stages of training check out this site. We may not totally agree on everything , but this is a detailed break down on the stages of training. It has a positive outlook on the difficulties of training and can remind you to stay calm and keep working when training is proving harder than you thought.

german shepherd in the snow

‘Tis The Season

So hopefully you made it through the kick off to the holiday season without anything like this happening:

and now it’s time to get ready for the winter season with all the celebrations and cold it brings. I know at our house we have two different attitudes towards the cold when it comes to our dogs. There is our chihuahua, who will be burrowed underneath a blanket for the next 4 months  and our shepherds who will be ecstatic every time it snows.

 Being dog trainers, we follow a lot of social media groups having to do with various aspects of dog training and care.  I can tell you that this time of year brings about a lot of debate and heated feelings about how best to take care of your dogs in cold weather. Let me just say right off the bat, that I think a lot of the arguments people have with each other are due to the fact that we don’t differentiate between different types of dogs. We have owned many different breeds of dogs over the years from the chihuahua I mentioned earlier to husky mixes, rottweilers, chow mixes and many more in between and we have seen first hand that they have different needs based on their physical attributes.


Some tips on how to keep your dog happy and warm in the winter

  • Not all coats are created equal: 

    Dog’s cold tolerance will vary depending on their coat type. Does your dog have very short hair, long hair, a thick undercoat? A dog’s coat is it’s first line of defense against the cold so if they don’t have a nice thick undercoat then make sure not to keep them out for too long.

  • Play Dress-up:

    If you have a short hair dog and love to adventure outside in the cold, don’t fret. There are so many options for dog sweaters and jackets nowadays that you can surely find something to help keep them toasty. Bring them to any local pet store such as Weaverville Pet Pantry or Asheville Pet Supply and even try on the gear then you can make sure it fits and remember to think about ease of getting it on and off.

  • Breed History:

    If you know your dog’s breed or breeds you can do an internet search and find out some info about where they originally hail from and their purpose. This can give you an idea on whether or not they are bred to be in cold weather.

  • Check the paws:

    Dogs with great coats for the snow often have very furry feet as well.Their paws can easily get impacted with snow and ice so make sure to periodically check them. If they do become impacted just bring them inside to a warm place and let it melt. Dog booties are also an option for dogs who want to be out in the snow a lot or for dogs who really just aren’t meant for those kind of conditions.  Booties are also a great option if you walk your dog in areas where people use different products to help keep walkways clear as the products can be irritating to sensitive paws.  If you don’t opt for booties, just give their paws a wipe when you return home.

  • General health:

    General health, body fat stores and activity level can all play a role in how your dog does in the cold. Arthritic and elderly dogs may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Short legged dogs may become colder faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow. (Yes, I have actually swept the grass in my yard to  make a potty spot for our chihuahua.) Pets with certain diseases like diabetes can have trouble regulating body temperature.


When in doubt, take a break from the cold and go inside and enjoy some hot chocolate! (Not for your dog of course!) Here’s to a safe and happy winter season with your four legged family members!



dog walking

Tail Wagging….What Does It Mean?

Have you ever found yourself encounter a dog with it’s tail wagging and when you reach down to pet it, you are met with a growl or a snap instead of the happy dog you were expecting? Well, chances are you aren’t alone. Most of us were brought up on the idea that a wagging tail equals a happy dog, but that just isn’t true. Tail wagging is actually a way more complex form of communication than most of us realized.

Dogs’ tails serve two different purposes. First, they serve a physical purpose of helping a dog balance when they are walking in narrow spaces or steering when they are moving quickly. Puppies don’t wag their tails until they are a few months old and the need to communicate becomes necessary.

The second purpose, is communication. It has been observed that dogs don’t wag their tails when they are alone. Dogs like other animals need to be able to communicate a lot more than happiness so let’s look at just what some different tail wags can mean.

  • Left vs Right wag: A dog wagging it’s tail to the right is likely in a positive mood where as a dog wagging it’s tail to the left is likely in a negative mood. A 2007 study in Current Biology found that this was due to the side of the brain that was controlling the tail. The left side, which controls the right side of the body is more associated with positive and engaging feelings. On the flip side, the right side of the brain is associated with feelings of withdrawal. 


  • Helicopter wag: If you’ve ever seen this you will know what I’m talking about. The last time I saw it was on meeting a very large, but very sweet yellow lab. His tail was high in the air and  circling like a helicopter propeller at the prospect of getting to play with one of our dogs. This wag shows a state of great excitement.


  • Tucked tail: I guess I could call this the anti-wag  A dog with it’s tail tucked between it’s legs is in a heightened state of nervousness or fear. They are literally protecting their most sensitive body parts. Also, by holding their tail down they are inhibiting the spread of their scent to those around them which is a way for them to try and go unnoticed. The opposite of this is the dominant dog that holds their tail high to release more scent to those around them and claim their territory.

The chart below shows different tail positions and speeds with which you will see dog’s wagging and gives you a cheat sheet into what they might be trying to communicate with their tail. Make note that you can have different combinations which can make reading a dog more difficult. For example, A dog with it’s tail held high and wagging it quickly is showing excitement which can be positive excitement or nervous excitement. A dog with it’s tail held high but moving slowly could show a level of interest, but a more confident or mellow feeling as well.

Reading another animal’s behavior can be tricky. Often, there isn’t a lot of time to read an animal’s body language before an encounter. Another thing to remember is that a dog’s feelings about a situation can change as can their tail wagging. Maybe they were feeling excited, but then the excitement turned into nervousness and then just as quickly something can make them feel reassured again and make them relax. Remember, to keep an eye on their tail wagging as it is one of the more visible ways to judge a dog’s feelings in a situation.


Labrador retriever service dogs

Service Dogs

Not long ago, I was in our local bakery when a woman walked in with her dog. It was a small breed dog. As soon as they walked through the door, the dog was pulling in all directions. Sniffing around, trying to snatch any little crumbs on the floor. Even jumping up on the display case. An employee walked over and asked the woman if it was a service dog (Side note, there is only one question a business can ask a person regarding service dogs: 1. Is this a service dog? While a person may carry some sort of certification of training it is not required.) The woman answered yes, but I noticed that after a few seconds she told her friend, who she was with, to go a ahead and order and she would wait outside.

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed an increase in “service dogs” out and about? I put the phrase service dogs in quotes because there is no way these dogs can be performing a service to their owners with the behavior they are exhibiting.

A service dog is a dog that is highly trained to perform tasks that an individual can’t do for themselves. Training can take up to 2 years. Think of a dog helping a blind person cross the street or alerting a deaf owner to the doorbell ringing or bracing someone when they have a seizure or picking up and retrieving things for someone with impaired mobility. Not only do service dogs need to be able to learn complex tasks, but they need to have a temperament that allows them to be able to stay focused in a public setting. Flash back to the dog in the bakery, pulling as hard as it possibly could to try and reach some morsel of food on the ground. If that was a service dog, it was the most poorly trained service dog I’ve ever seen.

You may be thinking, ok, but why does it matter? So people love their dogs and want to be able to bring them everywhere with them. What’s the harm? Well the harm is to the people who actually need service dogs and to the agencies that train them. The law is deliberately set up so there is no burden of proof on people with disabilities who benefit from service dogs, but if the law gets abused then maybe that could change. People who spend their time training these dogs can get a bad reputation and their efforts can be hurt when people pass off misbehaving dogs as service dogs.

So, love your dog. Train your dog so they can go with you to any businesses that allow them, but don’t try to pass them off as something that they are not.  And if you want help with that training just contact us!

Service dog

image by Skeeze from Pixabay


To learn more about service dogs vs support or therapy dogs check out this link:

To learn about the American Disabilities Act and  a Minnesota bill that is being considered to fine those passing off pets as service dogs go here:

Chihuahua sitting on pillow

Meet Our New Rescue Dog, Satellite!

If you’ve worked with Todd, then you know he loves German Shepherds. You may even have met one of ours at a lesson, but what you may not know is that we have fostered and rescued a lot of dogs over the years. I won’t share the exact number because then you may think we’re dog hoarders. Actually, it would just take me too long to count.

It has been awhile since we’ve added a new rescue dog to our pack, but with our pack dwindling to a mere 5 and the loss of our chi-chi, Potato, this summer; it seemed time.

What? You think my ears are big?

A few weeks ago we adopted Satellite. A 3 year old or so Chihuahua who ended up at the shelter when her home was condemned. Ever since she has been living with us we have been reminded of what it is like to bring a rescue dog into your home.

So, some tips to keep in mind if you find yourself stalking rescue group websites  and ogling over those cute furry faces:

What you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Dogs in shelters are traumatized and are likely not acting as they would in a normal house situation. They are stressed which can make them milder or wilder than they really are.

They have a history, you just don’t know it. Shelter workers do their best to assess dogs that come in to them, but often background info is scant and they have limited resources and time to perform assessments. For instance, how can they say if a dog is good with kids if they don’t know if it has ever been around a child?

Be patient and be vigilant. It will take time for everyone to adjust to the new situation, especially if you already have animals at home. You will have to figure things out as you go. The most important thing is that as soon as your new rescue dog comes home with you, you help guide it so it can learn the ropes of your house.

It is a lot of work at the beginning, but it will be so worth it.

Just in case you’re looking:

Asheville Humane Society

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue


Balanced Dog Training

Here at the Asheville Dog Company we believe in a balanced approach to dog training.  I tell people this a lot and have noticed that many nod their head and smile but it occurred to me that a good number of those people probably have no idea what I am talking about.  So here goes…

Balanced dog training, in simple terms, means that we assess the overall picture of dog and owner and try to use a variety methods to ensure us the best chance of getting lasting results.  Trainers started using this term several years ago partly in response to the “All-Positive” training fad that was emerging and gaining strength.  This group of All-Positive trainers claim that you can achieve the same level of success in training by only using positive reinforcement (treats, praise, and toys in exchange for behavior).  True or not, the problem with using this approach to training eliminates half of the experiences ALL animals learn from.

You see, learning in all animals works the same up to a point.  Operant Conditioning is how animals learn from interactions with their environment.  In simple terms, if we do a behavior and it leads to a positive outcome, we as animals are more likely to do this behavior in the future.  I totally agree with this statement and it is the foundation of how we train behavior at the Asheville Dog Company.  However, I also understand that this is only half the picture.  You see, if a behavior consistently leads to a negative experience this same science tells us that this behavior will happen less often.  To ignore this fact is ignoring the science of how animals learn.

Balanced dog trainers understand that although the foundation to good training is through the use of reward, we also acknowledge that consistency and harmony in training can only be reached when a dog understands not only what behaviors are good and worthy of reward but also understand that certain behaviors are off-limits and can have consequences.  Through this process we raise a well-rounded member of the canine community; dogs that are happy while having a healthy respect for leadership.  We are helping owners to raise dogs that understand how to deal with negative experiences, persevere and come out the other side stronger and smarter.  After all, isn’t that what life truly is all about.  Mistakes are a crucial part of the learning experience, but this only holds true if these mistakes lead us to future success.  Take, for example, the student who acts out in class.  If the teacher ignores this behavior, because if not reinforced it should go away, but students in class giggle and snicker, the teacher will find the behavior does not go away.  If, as a dog trainer, I try to merely ignore unwanted behavior, then I don’t give the dog a clear message, I will get mixed results.  You must understand what is motivating behavior in order to correctly address it. It can certainly seem confusing and overwhelming at times to know what to do but one thing for me seems clear….leaving half of my tools at home because the word punishment doesn’t sound nice is not in my client’s or the dog’s best interest. There is no one right way to train a dog but there can be ways that are faster, smarter, and more effective.