Author Archives: Sydney

3 Tips To Take Your Socialization Strategy from Blah to Brilliant

Young woman cheering her puppy socialisation strategy.

What Does It All Mean?

It seems like most folks have a vague idea about what socialization is. More people are enrolling in puppy class and this is a great thing. But what is it really and why does it matter? What does it mean specifically for a new puppy person and the dog now in their charge?

There is a small window of time in a pup’s early development where, what happens or does not happen, will have a significant impact on his entire life.

In his ‘Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training Steven Lindsay says “During a brief period from 3 to 16 weeks of age, an average puppy will probably learn more than during the remaining course of its lifetime, forming a lasting emotional and cognitive schemata of the social and physical environment. Furthermore, these early experiences format the general outline and organization of how and what the dog is prepared to experience and learn in the future.”

We know for sure that it is a time-sensitive, paramount consideration. Best practice means that it is understood and carried out proactively and thoughtfully with a new puppy.

Invisible Gains

Socialization isn’t sexy but it should be. My theory on why people don’t get excited about socialization is because of the lack of tangible returns. You teach your puppy to sit when you ask and are rewarded almost instantly because you are able to see him do the behavior. Socialization, on the other hand, is not so easy to spot since you will not see the benefit of your efforts immediately or maybe never notice them at all. It is only when that work has gone undone and the dog suffers that you notice. Then it is too late. Know that your attention to detail in this area will have myriad long-ranging positive effects.

Here are three tips to help you rise to this important occasion.

1. Think Everyday Items

While it might not be in the schedule to get out on an elaborate socialization field trip with your puppy every day you can still do interesting and worthy introductions at home using seemingly ‘everyday items’ from around the house.

Make An Obstacle Course

With a handful of yummy treats take your puppy exploring right in your own living room. Scatter treats about or feed the pup as he explores, safely and at his own pace.

  • Trash bags or tarps draped over a couple of small piles of stacked books or big pillows can make strange, uneven surfaces.
  • A baking tray also makes a weird, slippery surface for your puppy to explore. I like to put the tray on something skid proof, for example, a yoga mat makes a great base from which to build your novel surfaces for puppy exploration.
  • Drape a sheet over a couple of chairs and create an opaque curtain for the puppy to walk through or you could call him to come from one side to the other a couple of times.

If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play on

It is important to NOT startle the pup but introduce a sound gradually and from a distance. And remember to ALWAYS pair with tasty treats.

  • Get out your bongos, tambourines, and maracas. If there is a guitar or a piano, let the music play.
  • Dollar stores or thrift shops are good bets to find instruments if you don’t have any.
  • Let the pup see and sniff the instrument before you make any noise with it.
  • Introduce the noise at a low volume from a distance.
  • Wait to see if the puppy is interested in coming closer, investigating, and is curious.
  • You can also make noise with a hairdryer, the vacuum or the blender.

Play Dress Up

Big floppy hats, Halloween masks or wigs are good props. My students with children have no shortage of fun things for us to get creative with.

2. Seasonal Miss Outs

If you live in a climate with drastic weather changes like my students do you will want to consider what the different seasons bring. Puppies that go to new homes in the winter miss out on seeing warmer weather things like hoses, bikes, and skateboards because they are not around. Pups that go to their homes in the summer miss out on winter wear, snow shovels, and plows. As a result, we end up with pups nervous about these things when that season does roll around.

Get creative with introductions of these seasonal miss outs. If you have a summertime puppy, bring out the winter coats and simulate some snow shovelling. Roll out your bikes and skateboards for a quick meet and greet for those wintertime pups

  • Winter parka with the hood up
  • Bulky winter boots
  • Umbrellas
  • Bundle Buggy

3. Make A Plan

I have discovered the value of a plan when it comes to teaching my dogs. If you don’t have a plan you don’t really know what you are doing and this early socialization is too important to leave to chance.

We have created lists and worksheets for you to use to get inspired and think strategically in regards to your pup’s socialization. The Socialization Section at Ultimate Puppy is full of photos of the work being done and troubleshooting tips.

The Social Schedule and Socialization Field Trip worksheet have been designed just for you to help you navigate this period of development with your puppy.

Please use these and feel free to share far and wide.

Have you gone on any interesting socialization expeditions with you pup lately? Have you noticed any stress in your adult dog regarding things that may have been missed during early introductions?

Happy Puppy Raising!


We help you get ready

Don’t forget, we now have an online lesson with workbook and videos for anyone that’s getting ready to bring home a puppy…


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Food For Thought

Food for thought - a collie catches a treat in his mouth

What Goes With What?

If you have dinner parties and get excited about pairing wine with different courses you will appreciate this analogy. To my mind pairing treats with puppy life requires the same consideration.

From making a good impression when introducing your pup to the nail trimmers, to a smooth and effective training session, pay attention to the food you use.

And remember a ‘treat’ is not a treat unless it is a ‘treat’ in your pup’s eyes.

The Right Treat For The Job

I’ve said it before, all treats are not created equal. There should be different options available based on what the occasion calls for.

For example, a gooey or soft reinforcer won’t work in a food dispensing ball or snuffle mat. Sometimes a handful of kibble tossed in liver dust or the teeny tiniest speck of bacon fat is just what’s needed.

Other times we must up our game and go higher on the pay scale. Say we really want to pull out all the stops when it comes to introducing our puppy to his new crate. Why not cook up a little steak or chicken for the occasion.

I encourage you to experiment and get creative. Keep things interesting for your dog.

A Meal’s Worth

Use your dog’s daily food in training and play.

A great way to use your pup’s kibble comes from Susan Shelton’s (Austerlitz German Shepherd Dogs) blog post The Power of a Pacifier. I love this one. Use the kibble blended with some vegetable stock and cooked egg. Mash and stuff into a topple treat toy or a hoof.

Any regular meal portions can be used for training sessions, ‘toy stuffing’, or hand feeding.

Fast Food

If you are doing rapid fire training sessions with your puppy a softish, tiny treat works best. You want something easy for you to ‘dispense’ and easy for the pup to ingest.

A healthy baked dog biscuit is a good choice for a quick snack to toss on the mat when you want your dog to do a quick ‘settle for a spell’ or stick a few in a Holee Roller ball for some problem-solving enrichment fun.

An airtight jar of tiny dried treats such as kibble, dehydrated lung or dried liver provides ready to use reinforcers for recall or bathroom training. Stash by the back door or by your puppies’ bathroom location. You will never miss an opportunity to reinforce a recall or a bathroom training win.

A Case For Whole Food

We love good food and so do our dogs. When we need to up our game in the treat department this is a good category to explore. Experiment with whole fresh food for stuffing, training or snacking. The prized ‘high value’ nuggets that may be needed for certain training or management situations will fall into this category.

Unseasoned cooked chicken, beef or lamb, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, toast with a titch of butter, cheese, apple, carrot or blueberries all serve as options for extra delicious treats. Stuff a toppl treat with plain goat yogurt and blueberries and freeze it. Scramble an egg with a titch of grated cheese for a fun morning training session. Tiny pieces of chopped up boiled chicken breast are great for playing some ‘in and out’ of the crate or any other fast, fun training sessions you want to use them for.

Romaine hearts or bits of apple or a green bean make a healthy, crispy chew for your pup. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion to lavish your dog with healthy delicious treats in life. They can be part of the everyday.

What’s On The Menu?

If your treat larder is uninspiring shake things up. Your pup will love it and you will have fun. Whether it is for training, playing, snuffling or snacking the treats they eat matter. Below are a couple of recipes that I love. The meatball recipe is a go-to for me and many of my students now make it for their puppies too.

I hope this inspires you. Buon appetitio to your perrito!


Monica Segal’s Sardine, Blueberry and Ginger Tea Frozen Treats Recipe


Caryn Lile’s Meatball Recipe

POSTSCRIPT July 31st 2019…

Hi Everyone we got such a great response on this blog. Folks really enjoyed the recipes so we decided to share a bonus recipe with you.

Janine Anderson a student near and dear to my heart gifted me with a sampling of these delicious biscuits she makes for her Aussie Shepard Pete (@sweetpetetheaussie on Instagram) Now you guys are the lucky ones. Check out this healthy ‘Fen and Pete’ approved offering. With Pete’s permission of course.

Janine Anderson’s Dog Biscuits @sweetpetetheaussie


Remember You’re Lucky You’re Cute is available on demand so if you have just got a pup or know anyone who has you don’t want to miss it.

3 cool things you don’t know about Ultimate Puppy

6 Tips That Will Help You Calm Your Puppy Down

puppy sleeping while woman meditates

Find The Puppy Om

A new puppy does brings lots of fun and excitement. Along with that adorable bundle of joy also comes their natural puppy behaviors that can quickly get overwhelming for folks without a game plan and some know-how. Do you have a new puppy? Are you struggling with your puppy biting, jumping up or running away from you? Read on to learn how to bring some calm into your day.

Set the precedent of calm right out of the gate.

Organize and execute a calm exit from the crate. Have food ready as you open the crate door. Ask or lure the puppy into a sit and reinforce 5 times quickly for looking at you, staying close by or not jumping up. Use a variety of delicious HIGH VALUE food.

Be still.

We can tend to jerk away from a wild, biting puppy. It’s natural! Those razor sharp teeth can hurt. Adding to the chaos is the fact that this movement often makes them more excited. Be aware of your moving body parts. When wanting more calm and focus from your dog become calm and focused yourself. Keep your movements to a minimum. Avoid flailing arms and upper body.

Be quiet.

We can be such chatterboxes with our pups. It seems we never stop talking, singing, cooing or chasing after them while hollering ‘whoa puppy!’

The good news is if you have a pup who is timid or reserved that sing songy communication can be helpful. But if you are dealing with an amped up puppy all this yapping can have a stimulating effect. If there is a situation where you want to ensure your pup is ‘chill’ be mindful of your outside voice.

Please Handle with Care.

Surprise and gasp, often our new furry friends are not as fond of all the reaching, picking up, petting and adoring that we shower them with. Our constant thoughtless ‘hands on’ can manifest into behaviors from the pup such as:

—running away from us
—a negative association with a harness and leash
—not wanting to be picked up
—growling and biting

When it comes time for lifting, cuddles or putting gear on, be gentle, pair lifting with a treat (every time). Pet the puppy in a way they enjoy. Avoid the head or right around the neck.
Use firm long strokes rather than short light pets.

Tie it up and clean it up.

Long dangling hair, clothing or jewelry is a very exciting attraction for a puppy. They will be motivated to jump and bite for all these dangling delights. Be sure that you don’t have bits and pieces hanging down that will inadvertently be encouraging your pup to jump up at you.

One last piece of advice to. Try keeping your play and training sessions shorter. And be sure your pup is getting enough cozy, undisturbed sleep time in their crate.

Happy puppy raising!

Companion Animal Psychology 2019 Blog Party

We’re pleased to be participating in the #Train4Reward Blog Party. Be sure to check out all of the other great blog postings at Companion Animal Psychology!

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How Often Should I Train With My Puppy

sheepdog puppy learning new skills

Information Overload

It can be intense and sometimes overwhelming learning new things. Add to that the complexity of applying your newly acquired skills to teach the puppy. In order to have fun and be effective you need a plan. How do you take the new information and skills you are learning, and create an effective strategy when it comes to training your pup?

Here are five tips that will help you sort through the process.

1. Focus on YOUR mechanics and YOUR behavior.

How well your pup learns in training sessions is based on your skills.

So it stands to reason you want to master a certain amount of proficiency with your timing, your treat delivery and keeping your hands still as you train.

I will do short, fast training sessions with my dog with the focus on a certain skill that I want to get better at myself.

For example, I need to remind myself to keep my hands still when I’m training. So I’ll do a fast, short session focusing on always putting my hands back at home base (my belly button area) after I have given my dog her treat.

Another key aspect of the success you’ll have teaching your puppy is how well you take the information and skills and apply it on a regular basis in day to day life. The more you practice it starts to just feel natural to be in ‘teaching’ mode. It won’t ever feel like a chore because you have made it part of the ‘routine’ way you interact with your pup.

2. Feed all meals by hand and use this opportunity as a time to hone your skills as well as teach your puppy.

Practice everyday moves like sit, eye contact and hand targeting during meals. These are not complex behaviors but spending time getting these moves smooth will help build a foundation to work from.

3. Set aside short periods of time throughout the day for more ‘formal’ sessions.

For example aim for a few 2 minute sessions in the morning before work. You might practice walking together in your living room area or a hallway  and reward the pup for staying close or looking up.

Or you might set a timer for 3 minutes and practice running and calling your puppy to ‘come!’ (chase you) then rewarding. This is golden for helping maintain that delightful puppy recall response. Finish up by adding a couple of ball tosses into the mix. Excellent time spent!

Set aside at least 15 minutes each day with your young pup to do a series of interesting socialization introductions. Use our Social Schedule to get inspired with things you can do around the house. Then plan for a minimum of two longer outings per week for more elaborate field trips.

4. Practice in ‘real life’ situations around the house, start small.

Some worthwhile examples include front door etiquette, family mealtime etiquette, realistic ‘puppy impulse control’ around the kids. And everyday moves around whatever household distraction your home holds.

For example – practice adding duration to the pup staying settled on a mat while you unload the dish washer or prepare a meal.

5. As you progress start to practice your moves with added moderate distractions. Go at your pup’s speed. But it is important that we train for ‘real life’ skills.

Once your puppy has mastered sit and eye contact around the house head out to an area with mild to moderate distractions.

Maybe your front yard, a dog friendly shop or a public gathering place like the local ice cream shop patio.  Have a game plan for this outing. Practice a couple of sits and some eye contact.

This type of short outing with a FOCUS on your puppy, plus the added distractions of real life situations is a great way to proof the behaviors you are teaching.

Now you are on your way to having a dog who will hang out with you at the ice cream shop, maybe you’ll enjoy ice cream together.

All Together Now

Being able to include our dogs in some of our excursions out and about and know they are calm, comfortable and able to focus on us in public is great positive reinforcement for you for your effort and time spent training.

Happy Training!



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Has Your Puppy Taken Over Your Mornings?

A woman with a big cup of coffee is looking out the window.

How Will You Greet The Day?

Good Morning Sunshine!

Or is it?

A few extra minutes for yourself in the morning can make a big difference in how your day goes. If your morning routine with the new puppy is starting to get you down read on.

You Need Your Time and Your Puppy Needs His

If there are periods throughout the day where you feel overwhelmed with the new pup take the time to take stock of each particular situation. Make a plan and get organized so you can avoid the stress. Learning how to set yourself and your pup up for success is time well spent since it makes you feel better.

What Is It Time For?

Let’s look at some situations and define whose time it is.

After pup’s morning bathroom break crate him with a delicious chew or food stuffed toy, my favorite for this is the Toppl Treat toy by West Paw. Put a bit of the pup’s breakfast in along with some other type of higher value food.

Now you’ve created some time for yourself to have a coffee, stretch, check your email. Whatever it is you want to do when you first get up. 

Your puppy has had a bathroom break, some love and a stretch. Back in his crate for 15 or 20 mins while you wake up is not a problem. In fact you are doing right by the pup providing structure if you are not supervising. Bonus!

Meal and kid time are other examples of when you are focused on something other than your pup.

These times can be high energy or stressful already. The addition of a rambunctious puppy makes it a big old mess. This is family time and or meal time. Crate your pup with a ‘high value’ food stuffed toy or chew.

High value is a very important consideration. Your pup HAS to love what’s in his crate. If he doesn’t it’s up to you to experiment with food, toys and chews to find a combo that WORKs for this purpose.

Check out our Toytorial for inspiration.

Eye On The Prize

A puppy will demand your full attention and patience when you have him with you. Be prepared for this.

One of the most helpful things you can do is have a PLAN for the puppy when he is out of the crate.

Set specific times in the morning and throughout the day to spend FOCUSED on your puppy. Playing, training or romping. The key word here is focused. All your attention should be on him. Not half an eye. The half an eye approach spells disaster and this is where people get stressed and the pup can get frustrated or confused.

When you take that puppy out for a romp that’s HIS time. You should be prepared with food, toys and TIME for your pup.

Meander with him. Engage him. Have a plan for your outing. Check out our leash and long line training plan here.

Finding A Balance

Quality time for yourself and for your puppy is the goal. With a bit of practice and forethought you will find this balance. Happy puppy raising.



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