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Puppy socialization: Read this first!

Puppy socialization: Read this first!

Puppy socialization:  Most new puppy owners have heard those words.  Indeed, the term “puppy socialization” hangs like the very Sword of Damocles, in just about every dog training and puppy rearing website on the internet.  The critical socialization period starts at just 2 – 3 weeks and is over at 16 to 18 weeks. The message is that If your puppy is not properly socialized by the time the critical socialization period is over, he will have problems for the rest of his natural life.   There are many published studies that suggest that good social experiences from a young age are imperative to puppy developing into a friendly and happy adult dog later on.  Properly socialized puppies are less likely to be hyperactive or fearful, engage in unwanted chewing or show aggression toward people or other pets.

So, let my puppy play with other puppies, right?

For many new puppy owners, this dire warning about early socialization is interpreted as a dire need for the puppy to play with other puppies.  And they are right:  Play with other puppies does play a key role in the early socialization process.  But from a behavioural standpoint, it is much more

Puppy socialization with child
Puppies should be familiar with children from a young age

important to get puppy thinking positively about all the things we take for granted that are part of living in a human directed society.  This includes people of all descriptions, places, objects, animals, environmental sounds and experiences.  Don’t get me wrong: Playing with other puppies is important to developing pups!  But there are much more pressing issues to consider to get an infant member of a foreign species to truly embrace human culture.

Develop positive social experiences gradually!

Puppies are born with an instinct to be really cautious about new things.  Dogs have evolved over tens of thousands of years and this instinct to be cautious has helped to ensure the success of their species.    After all, an overly precocious puppy can easily lose his way, get stuck somewhere, or be an all to easy snack for many predators.  So puppies have evolved to err on the side of caution about nearly everything.  Their instinct tells them to steer clear of wierd things and observe from a safe distance until the weird thing proves that it is safe, before approaching it.

Puppies can feel threatened by a lot of the weird things that we humans take for granted in our human oriented world.  Puppies can (and need to) learn to associate these weird things with good things happening.  Here are some things you can do to make sure your puppy gets the socialization experiences he needs to grow into a well behaved, problem free adult dog.

Tips to get on the right paw with puppy socialization

  1. Get a puppy from a breeder or shelter who does their work to socialize pups from just a few weeks old.  Handling should begin before puppies eyes open. Children should be carefully introduced to puppies before they leave their mother.  Poorly socialized mother dogs tend to produce shy or reactive puppies.  Insist on meeting at least the mother dog before adopting a puppy. If you choose to adopt a pup from a poorly socialized litter, know that the road ahead may hold challenges.
  2. Don’t push!. Let puppy set the pace. Wait with him and offer some snacks while he observes new things at a distance he is comfortable with, and gradually, systematically close the distance when he is comfortable.  If you use food at distances at which he is showing no fear, you will greatly speed up his progress.
  3. Puppy playgroups are a great start to learning how to play with other puppies.  Step in and quietly distract and redirect puppy if he plays too aggressively or rough for his playmates.  Be there to protect your puppy and remove him from the action if play becomes too intense.
  4. Socialization includes handling, people, places, things and noises.
  5. Download a variety of sounds from the internet.  Play sounds of children playing, babies crying, diesel trucks and fireworks at low volumes while you play with puppy.
  6. Don’t isolate your puppy in a crate most of the day.  Crates are a great place to nap and play when you can’t supervise, but they can act as a sensory deprivation chamber.  This can make the normal world really scary for your puppy.  Use the crate judiciously, and don’t overuse it.
  7. Take your puppy to puppy classes run by a CCPDT certified dog trainer.
Ditch the Label- Train the dog

Ditch the Label- Train the dog

Labels: We have all used them.  We use them as explanations for a dog’s behaviour and even for not dog training is simplebeing able to train particular dogs.  They are frequently used to blame the dog for training failures when the trainer reaches the end of their knowledge and abilities.  Labels are sometimes used to justify using unnecessary punishments on dogs.

Labels are often invented and used by “dog whisperers” to mystify dog behaviour even though dog behaviour is really very simple.

I’m going to throw these out there, and you just see if you recognize or even use any of them:

Dog training labels

  • Abused
  • Bad
  • Good
  • Aggressive
  • Alpha
  • Calm submissive
  • Dominant
  • Stubborn
  • He’s a ___________ (fill in breed name)
  • Difficult
  • Dumb
  • Smart
  • Impossible

Labels do nothing to help train a dog.  Too often, a label is an excuse for not training a dog or even for using harsh training methods on a dog.  Using them is not helping you or the dog.

All animal  and human behaviour is based on just 3 things: 

  1. Antecedent. (What happens right before the behaviour happens)
  2. Behaviour. (What the animal does)
  3. Consequence. (What happens right after the behaviour)

Dogs do what works for them to get things they want, or to avoid things they don’t want.  There are no exceptions to this.  This means, when your puppy jumps up on your guests, and getting reinforced with interaction (off! No! Down! are attention too!) he is not being dominant, there is no complexity in the greeting ritual.   Here is how the behaviour sequence looks:

  1. Antecedent: Guest arrives.
  2. Behaviour: Puppy jumps up
  3. Concequence: Puppy is told “off!”or “down”  

With this sequence, Puppy is likely to continue jumping up, as “off” or “down” mean nothing to him and he is way too excited to care anyway.  As far as he is concerned, “off” and “down” are sounds humans  make when they greet him.

Another way it could happen is this:

  1. Antecedent: Guest arrives
  2. Behaviour: Puppy jumps up and then sits down
  3. Consequence: Puppy is reinforced with praise and a treat

With this sequence, Puppy is likely to continue the jumping and then sitting


  1. Antecendent: Guest arrives
  2. Behaviour: Puppy has four paws on the floor
  3. Consequence: Puppy is reinforced with praise, quickly followed by  a treat

With this sequence, puppy is likely to keep his feet on the floor.  Once he is used to this, we can start to add another behaviour, like “sit”.

If training is failing, it might be due to a failure in simplicity, timing, or consistency.  We need to be sure not to ask for too much too soon.  Training failures are never due to the dog being unbalanced or dominant or because he is a _________. There is no room for labels in the application of behaviour principles in dog training.   If a dog is not doing what we want him to do, we have to stop labelling (and blaming) him and adjust our training plan so that he can understand it easily.

For more info, check out our website at:

Housetraining your puppy: 5 tips for success

Housetraining your puppy: 5 tips for success

How to house train Bulldog PuppiesPotty training a puppy or new rescue dog takes dedication, a plan, good timing and lots of love and patience. Remember, your puppy is a member of a foreign species that has no way of understanding that her potty is outdoors until you show her very clearly. If she makes a mistake, don’t get mad, and don’t correct.  Assess what YOU need to do better and then work with her according to a well thought out plan. Here are some quick and easy tips for puppy potty training will help you get your new puppy or new rescue dog on the right paw for a lifetime of good habits.

  1. Schedule all food, water, potty time. Take her out about every hour at first.
  2.  Confine with a crate or tie her near you or to you or supervise all the time. She should spend the majority of the time interacting with you, not alone in her crate.  Remember:  She will sniff the floor very briefly right before she potties. This is when you need to hustle her out. FAST!
  3. When she gets outside, you must go with her with food rewards. Run with her to the same spot every time. she will forget why she went out. Don’t play with her until after she potties. When she goes, praise her dramatically, give her food (important!) as you praise. Then play with her for a few minutes before you go back inside.
  4.  Keep her off the carpets! Thoroughly clean up any accidents with an odour neutralizing cleaner like white vinegar. Don’t worry, the vinegar smell goes away.
  5. Don’t scold for accidents! Just interrupt with a loud (don’t scare, interrupt) noise Silently hustle her outside. Clean the accident up when you get back. She is just performing to natural, unconscious (like a toddler)bodily functions. If you scold she will get scared and not want to go potty in front of you. Which will be a problem when you try to get her to potty outside.

Reactive Dog? Aggressive Dog? What’s the difference?

Reactive Dog? Aggressive Dog? What’s the difference?

Aggressive dog snarlingThe terms, “Reactive” and “Aggressive” are sometimes used interchangeably. Neither word defines the dog, but both words describe behaviour which is very often rooted in fear, and rarely, in dysfunctional social skills.

The only way to fix reactive dog behaviour permanently is to change the emotional response of the dog to the scary thing is by carefully applying a program of progressive counterconditioning and desensitization and having the dog practice self control through specialized interactive games. Changing reactivity to non reactive, calm behaviour requires changing the dog’s emotional response to a perceived threat, whether we are dealing with leash reactivity, resource guarding, or any other situation where the dog becomes aggressive.

Why not just correct the dog with a tug on a training collar, or another physical or verbal correction when he acts aggressively? There are several good reasons not to correct your dog for aggression. The first is that most dogs will figure out that when scary things approach, you become aggressive and confusing. This will stress a dog more, and the dog will often learn to associate the scary thing with stress and getting a physical correction. Then when you aren’t around, the aggressive behaviour tends to increase, and new anxiety related behaviour may show up. Science has shown that dogs who are trained through the use of corrections are more likely to show an increase in aggressive behaviour. Since the early 21st century, at least two published studies have found that dog aggression and anxiety behaviours increased when punitive training methods were used.** Meghan Herron and her colleagues from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reported in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science that using punishing techniques when training dogs tends to increase the aggression in the animals, rather than decreasing it.** Not surprisingly, dogs trained using corrections don’t learn as quickly as dogs trained using positive reinforcement with a scientifically designed training protocol. One study even found that most owner directed aggression would cease when the dog owner stopped using physical corrections in training.

The only long term, effective approach to training a reactive dog is always to use a counterconditioning and desensitization protocol.

How long will it take? The time it takes to thoroughly fix any behaviour problem depends on the individual dog, owner compliance to the training program, and how many times the behaviour has repeated itself successfully before the training program began. While improvement is typically seen after the first session, each repetition of the new, calm behaviour will help to make the threat response disappear for good. It can take up to 3 months of practicing controlled repetitions before the new, confident, controlled and relaxed emotions are solid enough to be reliable.

** Dog Training Methods: Their Use, effectiveness and interaction with dog behaviour and and welfare, EF Hibey et al, Journal of Animal Welfare (2004)
**Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors Meghan E. Herron *, Frances S. Shofer, Ilana R. Reisner, Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour (2009)

5 tips to help keep senior dogs healthy and happy

5 tips to help keep senior dogs healthy and happy

Senior dogs can stay active and healthy as they age.  Although there are definitely genetic components to aging, here 5 tips to help your dog to stay healthy and happy during their senior years. Please click on the links for even more information!

  1.   Keep her physically active.  Walks can become several short jaunts at her own pace instead of one long hike.   You might find she still likes to zip around a bit off leash, so go to the dog park when there aren’t a bunch of young dogs there.  Play a little fetch if she likes to play fetch.  Besides walking, older dogs can benefit from doggy exercises like a sit/stand sequence, and mild pedestal exercises. Exercises like these help to keep the hip joints active and limber, so your dog can stand up more easily.
  2. Help her to stay mentally active with interactive games, tricks, and even puzzle toys and chew toys.  Staying mentally active helps to keep dementia at bay.  Your old dog might not be up to going for a run anymore, but she will certainly appreciate any chance to show off her mad skills at “high-five”.  Check out theses activities from
  3. Keep her from gaining too much weight.  Excess weight is really hard on the joints and organs like the heart.  There are many senior diets available that are lower calorie and protein than the ones made for all life stages.  You may find that switching to one of these diets helps to keep the pounds from adding up to excess.  If your dog is on a raw or home cooked diet, adjust the ingredients as necessary by adding more fresh vegetables.
  4. Keep toenails trimmed.  Some senior dogs become sensitive about nail trims.  If this is the case with yours, your veterinarian can very likely assist with this.
  5. Take her to visit the veterinarian.  A veterinarian can give her a thorough check and make sure bumps and lumps aren’t cancerous tumors.  Your vet might prescribe a non steroidal anti inflammatory (like Metacam)to help your dog feel more comfortable.  More vets are prescribing CBD oil for dogs, which is proving to be effective for many of the ailments caused by the aging process.
10 Dog Training Tips for Success

10 Dog Training Tips for Success

Here are 10 dog training tips that will help you to get the best out of your dog.

  1. Have a basic routine and always be consistent with training and rules. Don’t allow the dog on the bed sometimes if you don’t want the dog on the bed at other times.
  2. Keep training sessions short and sweet.  Aim for 3-5 minutes per session, 4 or 5 times per day.  Short dog training sessions will help your dog to stay focussed and interested.  Like they say in show biz: “Always leave them wanting more!”
  3. Think of the behaviour  you want rather than the behaviour you don’t want.   Use positive reinforcement to create positive associations with doing what you want.  Don’t let him self reward for behaviour you don’t want by preventing this behaviour while you teach the one that you want.
  4.  Be assertive, not dominant.  Just forget about dominance. Your dog doesn’t want to be your boss and could care less about Alpha status.  He just wants to get what he wants the easiest, most efficient way.  If he can get a sandwich when he steals yours, he will steal your sandwich. If he can get you to give him a treat just by lying down and waiting, he will lie down.
  5. Set goals for behaviour. Work in baby steps to reach the goal.  If your dog fails at one step more than twice, go back to the last step and repeat it a few times before trying the more difficult progression again.
  6. The harder the behaviour we want from the dog, the higher value the reward should be.
  7.  Be a slot machine, not an ATM.  Start with frequent, small rewards, and as soon as you get the behaviour 10 times in a row, start to make the treats intermittent.
  8. Keep your treat pouch behind your left buttock. Then it won’t distract your dog.
  9. Always reward on and off leash check-ins, at least with a really happy greeting and sometimes with a food reward or game.
  10. All training starts with creating a positive association with attention to name.  Practice saying her name and rewarding a few times a day.

Dog behaviour problems: How to easily get a dog to stop jumping on you

Dog behaviour problems: How to easily get a dog to stop jumping on you

Dog behaviour problems: Get your dog to stop jumping up

dog behaviour problems with pitbull
Dog behaviour problems: Don’t over-think common issues like jumping on people

Want your dog to quit jumping on you and your guests?  Lynne Fedorick demonstrates how to teach your dog to greet people in a calm and gentle manner, quickly and easily.

For More dog training tips, check out our website:

How to Get Your dog to come back in the house


Democracy in Wild Dogs

Democracy in Wild Dogs

A pack of African wild dogs shares an impala.
Credit: Megan Claase

From the “Smarter Than You Think” files:

So, what if I told you that wild dogs are democratic, taking votes on group activities?  No, don’t leave yet! There really is scientific evidence according to an international study done on wild dogs in Botswana.  The study recorded 68 social rallies from 5 different dog packs Dr Neil Jordan, who headed the study says African wild dogs exhibit highly energetic greeting ceremonies called social rallies after rest periods, before they move off together again.  During the rally, the dogs start sneezing.  If there are enough sneezes, the pack goes off hunting and exploring.  If there are not enough sneezes from the majority of dogs, the dogs go back to sleep for a while.

The dominant pair influences the way the pack votes.  If these two didn’t sneeze, then more votes will be required before the pack goes out hunting.

Study first author Reena Walker, of Brown University in the US: “We found that when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off.  However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed — approximately 10 — before the pack would move off”

It gets even more complex:  Each dog’s vote appears to have a unique value in the voting process. Some dogs required more sneezes for their vote to count.  Something to think about next time your excited dog sneezes at you!


Sneeze to leave: African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) use variable quorum thresholds facilitated by sneezes in collective decisions;  Reena H. WalkerAndrew J. KingJ. Weldon McNuttNeil R. Jordan; .

Five dog training secrets to get your dog to listen

Five dog training secrets to get your dog to listen

Do you have an unruly dog that couldn’t care less about what you want him to do?  Do you have a pup that is embarrassing to take for a walk because he pulls on leash like he’s out to win the Yukon Quest? Or worse, on walks he freaks out with a full blown hissy fit if he sees another dog? Are you ready to have a well mannered dog you can always be proud of?  I’ve got a few tried and true tips that will get him on the right paw.   Here are 5 things you need to start doing today:

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