It has been brought to my attention many times over the years that most people don’t know exactly who they should listen to when it comes to their dogs. I find this more often with first-time puppy/dog owners, especially those who are purchasing or adopting an 8 week old puppy. Who they should listen to when it comes what to feed, what toys to buy, where to groom, how often to bath, which vet to choose, which training methods to choose, how to pick a trainer, what food to feed–the list goes on and on.

The biggest conflict I am finding right now is company employees or business owners who operate one type of business, but advise and suggest things to pet owners about something that is not related to what they are selling.

Here is the general rule I suggest all pet owners to follow: First, always do your own research when you are choosing what is right for your pup, from reviews on products and persons to length of time product or company has been in business. Ask for referrals from other clients who have used the services or products. Ask your friends and family who own pets if they have used the services or products.

Second, ask a professional in the field based on what you are researching. For example, a dog food store who only sells high-end dog food, treats, toys and other pet related supplies would be a good choice to ask about the types of food suggest to feed your pup, if your breeder hasn’t suggested for you. Once this store has suggested the food, consult your vet to ensure this food is a choice he or she would recommend for a healthy diet.  Check reviews–just because it costs the most doesn’t mean it is the right food for your pup. Some of the higher end dog foods may be too rich in protein for your pup to digest or too low in fibers or not enough of the essential probiotics, vitamins, fats etc. that a puppy needs. Some small breeds need a food just for them, like larger breeds need food for larger growth.

If a salesperson then begins to tell you how to house and care for your puppy, how to housebreak your puppy, when to give vaccines, when to train, then you need to step away. This person is a distributor of food products. They do not (in most cases) have the training or knowledge, other than personal, to give advice on other areas of your puppy’s well-being.

When you choose a vet, make sure this vet has worked with your breed before, again looking at reviews and talking to existing clients. When you meet, talk to them about what you are feeding, what treats you are using and make sure they are on same page with the amount of food, water and treats you are giving. Make sure they feel your choice based on the dog food store is a good choice for your pet.  Let your vet guide you as to what vaccines are needed, when to spay and neuter, what type of flea, tick and heartworm prevention to use. You may ask your vet which trainer(s) they recommend. But resist from asking them training questions. Some vets have taken course in basic behavior problem solving to give basic advice on chewing, housebreaking and a few other pointers. However, remember they attended schools of veterinary medicine, not schools for dog training. I have seen some vets who feel a more dominant approach is best for all pups regardless of breed and this can cause owners to do things to a pup that isn’t correct and create more issues for them in the long run.  So, just like a food distributor, use your vet for veterinarian-only reasons.

As a Professional Trainer, I ALWAYS tell my client when I give recommendations on monthly prevention, foods, treats, vaccines, etc. to CONSULT your vet as well. There is nothing wrong with cross-checking between professionals. If all three of the professionals in your pups life all agree on the same thing then chances are it’s good for them.

One of the biggest catch-alls is the one-stop shopping places. Like a Walmart, big name pet stores may have trainers, groomers and vets on staff. It may be the best choice for you and your pup. But also be open minded to just use one of the services offered. A one-stop shopping pet store may have great reviews on the staff and products of the store but bad on the other ends, or rave reviews on the groomer but bad on the trainers. Doing your research and not being scared to question why there are bad reviews will only help you make the right choices in your pup’s life.  If you find a product or person and you start having issues, then be ready to look again. Just because one product, person or service is right for one pup doesn’t mean it’s right for all.