Tamar Geller has trained the dogs of Oprah, Ben Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres. Tamar Geller has trained the dogs of Oprah, Ben Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres. Tamar Geller has trained the dogs of Oprah, Ben Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

How to choose the right dog for you

Celebrity canine trainer Tamar Geller tells you what you need to know before and after you bring a pet home.

A puppy’s cute face and a wagging tail may make you melt, but there’s a lot more to consider before getting a dog, and even more to take into account once you bring your new pet home with you.

So we turned to dog expert Tamar Geller, who grew up in Tel Aviv, a metropolis on Israel's Mediterranean coast. She has trained the canine companions of A-List celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Affleck, Jon Stewart, Larry King, Ryan Seacrest, Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman with "The Loved Dog" method she devised 25 years ago when she moved to the U.S.

We asked Geller to share with From The Grapevine readers some valuable advice for choosing and training the dog you adopt.

Ask yourself, ‘Am I ready for a relationship?’

Who? Me? Scooby-Doo is just one of the gang.Who? Me? Scooby-Doo is just one of the gang. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

“People think, ‘I’m going to get a dog. I’m going to get a certain breed. The dog will know to sit, stay, come. Then the dog will be the best and I don’t have to do anything.’ This is absolute nonsense. If you want the best dog, you have to put in the work. It’s not about training. It’s about the relationship. You need to be willing to have a relationship with that being that has four legs.”


Personality is key

Geller says to be wary of a puppy that yawns all the time.Geller says to be wary of a puppy that yawns all the time. (Photo: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock)

“The qualities to look for: a dog that is not nervous, and not aggressive. You don’t want a dog that wants to run the show or a dog that pees on everything or a dog that doesn’t want to be touched, or hides or yawns all the time. These are two extremes you do not want.”


Don’t get hung up on the breed

Breed doesn't matter, Geller says. A dog's personality is more important.Breed doesn't matter, Geller says. A dog's individual personality is more important. (Photo: PardoY/Shutterstock)

“A Labrador will have much more energy than another breed, but at the end of the day breed doesn’t matter. All dogs have the same needs. What you need to do is look at your lifestyle. Do you like to stay at home all day? Do you have hyperactive children? Do not get a Labrador. They are energetic dogs and they might be overbearing for your kids. But all dogs from a breed are not the same. Dogs from the same litter can have completely different personalities, just like siblings raised by the same parents can be very different.

"I believe in mutts. Mutts come from a bigger gene pool. I see more screwed up dogs that come from breeders, who breed for looks, not for health or personality. I’m so against going to breeders. You do not know what you are getting. A shelter or rescue organization can tell you a lot more about the dogs because they spend time getting to know them.”


Take a test drive

This dog seems quite happy that he's on a road trip. Maybe it's the tunes coming from the radio.This dog seems quite happy that he's on a road trip. Maybe it's the tunes coming from the radio. (Photo: Tom Wang/Shutterstock)

“You can go to a rescue organization and ask to foster a dog. It’s like dating. That way you can return the dog if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle or your personalities don’t match. You get to find out before you adopt.”


Training philosophy

Geller says you should look for a dog that expresses mindfulness.Geller says you should look for a dog that expresses mindfulness. (Photo: Javier Brosch/Shutterstock)

“I don’t train dogs, I teach them life skills. The main skill that I teach them is how to move away from their God-given impulses and move toward mindfulness. All dogs can be mindful. I use games to coach dogs and teach them to choose to do the right thing because it’s a huge source of pleasure. And I teach people to develop the muscle of looking for specific things to praise. Don’t wait till the dog is perfect. Do it till it becomes second nature to you.

If the dog is performing at the lowest level, they get one treat. But if the dog is doing something I never expected, surprising me, they might get eight or nine treats. You give them rewards for reaching milestones.”


Have a problem dog? The problem may be you.

Tamar Geller, pictured here, says the onus for training is on the human.Tamar Geller, pictured here, says the onus for training is on the human. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

“One of my first clients had a cocker spaniel who was stealing his socks. I told him the problem was not the dog, but the relationship. ‘The only time you pay attention to the dog is when he’s stealing your socks.’ He changed and he met the dog’s needs for mental stimulation, for love and connection. In two days we solved the problem. I’ve never met an untrainable dog.”

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