Dog Trainer Brandon McMillan on How to Give Your Dog ‘What It Needs, Not What You Think It Needs’ [Exclusive]

A record number of rescue and shelter dogs were adopted during the pandemic, which dog trainer Brandon McMillan from CBS‘s Lucky Dog and author of “The Story of Your Dog” said is great news.

The bad news is some people realized they adopted a dog that didn’t fit their lifestyle. “I wish [potential dog owners] understood the breed,” McMillan told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “You have to understand your lifestyle and understand your dog’s genetics. So first and foremost, I always say understand the dog’s breed, understand the dog’s genetics, and origins. You can’t change these things. Domestic dogs have been around for 15,000 years as we know it.”

“Essentially, they date back even further than that when you are talking about wolves, but domestic dog genetics are 15,000 years old. That’s a lot of generations. Suddenly, in the last 150 years, we just turned them into pets. So essentially, they’re more of a working animal than a pet,” he said. Adding, “But a lot of people get dogs that aren’t built for their lifestyle.”

Brandon McMillan said some people adopted dogs that didn’t fit their lifestyle

“During the pandemic, we saw a record number of adoptions,” the celebrity dog trainer said. “That was a good and bad thing. The good thing is the dog got adopted. The bad part was a lot of these adoptions, they were impulse buys. So a lot of people just got a dog because they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m home all day, well, hey, I’ll just get a dog.’ The problem was they didn’t do the math saying, ‘A year and a half from now I’m going to get back to work. And now my dog’s gonna be sitting on my couch for eight hours a day.'”

Dog trainer Brandon McMillan smiles with a dog who is wearing sunglasses and a shirt
Brandon McMillan |Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

“So a big part of the book, ‘The Story of Your Dog,’ is about understanding the dog you have, not the dog you want to have. In other words, if you have a border collie, that’s a herding dog. No matter which way you slice it, you can’t change the genetics of the herding dog. You can’t change the energy. You can’t change their need to herd constantly. It’s in their genetics, and there are certain things about animals and especially dogs you cannot change.”

The dog trainer said to give your dog what he needs (not what you think he needs)

“So that’s what the book is about,” he continued. “And I really tried to warn people, during the pandemic, I said, ‘Get a dog that actually fits your lifestyle before and after the pandemic.’ And so what a lot of people did was they said, ‘OK, I’m going to get a high-energy dog and I live in an apartment. I’m actually a homebody and I barely go out myself.’ So now you’re stuck with this dog. It’s a high-energy dog. And what are you going to do?”

“So, this tended to be the problem during the pandemic,” McMillan reflected. “The good news is it’s all fixable. The whole point of the book is you read about your dog and you give your dog exactly what it needs, not what you think it needs.”

“Unfortunately, we’re starting to see a lot of [people returning dogs] now because a lot of it was impulse adoptions. And so people realized whenever they went back to work, this was the wrong dog. So, unfortunately, that’s one of the repercussions of the mass adoptions that happened a year and a half ago. But like I said, the good news is adoption nowadays is more popular than ever. It’s actually more popular than going to a breeder.”

Dog training tracker and tools to help dogs and pet parents

What can dog owners do to meet their dog’s needs? Dog training tools can help. McMillan recently partnered with Link Smart Pet Wearable, which is the only pet GPS tracking system that features remote tone and vibration training tools for positive reinforcement.

“So it comes with basically it comes with a tone and a vibration. The tone is like a little beep and the vibration is like how your phone vibrates. Once a dog is trained to it, you can use a tone as a recall,” he described. “So let’s say your dog’s at the beach or a park and the dog runs a few hundred yards away. It’s very difficult, even if your dog has a good recall, you can’t yell across the whole park because so many elements [get in the way] that the dog might not be able to hear you.”

But, “The dog is wearing the collar, you simply hit the tone and the dog is trained to come right back to you. So it’s like a recall without you yelling across the park,” he said. Plus, the tracker element allows pet owners to know where their dog is at all times.

McMillan said training your dog for a few minutes throughout the day will keep you and your dog happier. He suggests a few 15-minute sessions a day of training to boost engagement and overall happiness.

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