Food For Thought

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




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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Plan A Walk That Works for Your Puppy and You

a small boy and his dog are walking away from the camera. The dog is on a line line and he is looking up at the boy.

If you have a puppy or a young dog and you are finding leash walks challenging read on. You will find lots of helpful information here. It’s a bit long but worth the read. We have included some sample plans as well as a worksheet for you to plan your own walks.

Special ConsiderationsPull quote: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I coach people in a bustling city. I specialize in early education. My students have mainly young puppies and adolescent dogs. They face common challenges along with having some common goals. In this post I want to discuss the goal of going for walks with a puppy or young dog. The challenges associated it, the complexity of it and ways to work toward a pleasant walk in the hood with your dog.


A Tricky Mix

Some of these challenges are unique to big city life. The complexities of a city create complexities to the training, which is already complex enough on its own.

Navigating condo life, picking your way through construction zones, and dare we talk about heavily dog-populated parks. Plus there is always lots of tantalizing stuff on the ground (trash!) to sniff and eat. Just thinking about it can be stressful.

Distractions created by the blend of visual, audible and olfactory stimulation is a master class in itself. Lucky for us our dogs are so adaptable they can learn to focus. The key word here is learn.

No matter where you live, each place will present its own set of distractions and challenges for a pup.

Walk Like A Puppy Champ

One of the things people look forward to doing with their new pup is going for walks. I live in Toronto and it is filled with great neighbourhoods and lots of green space for playing and hiking.

A constant goal of my students is to have a dog that walks well on a leash. This is also not what I call a puppy-friendly priority. I always say 6 feet of leash, a puppy and a sidewalk does not a good time make.

There are foundation moves to put in place in order to become proficient with more complex moves such as leash walking around distractions for a prolonged period of time. Read more on this here.

Top Two Tips for Teaching Your Pup Leash Walking

Presence of mind

You know what it feels like to have to concentrate on something with distractions around.

My hope is when you stop and think about what it must feel like for your puppy while he is out you have compassion and patience.

A Game PlanPull quote: “Your pup won't be able to do this and you will get frustrated. Meet your puppy where they are.”

Keep in mind that you are putting a foundation in place. Foundation exercises and ‘puppy stuff’ is what your focus should be.

Time out walking with your pup should be about your pup, not about getting somewhere fast. Your pup won’t be able to do this and you will get frustrated. Meet your puppy where they are.

A Game Plan Always Helps Get You Where You Want To Go

A game plan along with realistic goals, foundation moves and patience is key to you and your pup’s success.

Long Line or Leash?

Aim for short, fun walks with your plan organized before you hit the trail. Or, my favorite, a long line romp. This offers much more flexibility and ease. The puppy has the opportunity to run and sniff and meander. Mix in some fast, fun training and you have created an excellent time for your puppy and for you.

Stop To Smell The Flowers

Remember that sniff time for your puppy is essential for his soul to be soothed. A nice balance between sniff and ‘train’ should be your aim.

I also recommend walks that are JUST about the sniff. Relax and follow your puppy around don’t stress about how he is on a leash right now. You will get to there.

How Does It Look?

When your puppy is walking on a 6-foot leash what do you want that to look like? Picture it, make a plan and train for it. Keep your pup’s limitations in mind.

Is he on your left or right?

How often do you want him checking in with you?

Is he right beside you or is a little in front ok?

Walk Rules You Should Never Break

  1. Always take treats
  2. Never run out of treats
  3. Length of walk – keep it ‘puppy friendly’

Why Treats

Treats are for reinforcing behavior you want, for ‘socialization introductions’ and for trading for trash.

Walk Warm-Ups

Take a few minutes before every outing to get your pup’s attention and interest in you peaked.

Fast, fun repetitions of sit, hand target, chase me or eye contact are good ways to get your pup ‘tuned into you’ BEFORE you hit the road.

Start with walk warm-ups inside and repeat them as soon as you go outside.

What Will You Practice On Your Walks?

Here are four ideas that will get you the results you want.

Play Connect The Dots

With the pup on the side you want him walking on say ‘lets go!’  and take ONE step.

Stop after the ONE step.

Mark with a verbal ‘YES’ or click as you stop.

Treat your puppy by the pant seam of the side you want him on.


Gradually adding more steps in between stops.

Walking backwards, dropping treats ‘Hansel and Gretel’ style

Like the kids in the story, drop a trail of treats as you walk backwards in front of your puppy. Periodically swing back around beside him for a few steps then back out to in front walking backwards. Keep repeating this.

Self imposed quotasPull quote; “Training should not feel arduous and insurmountable.”

This is you deciding ahead of time what you will implement in your plan. 5 sits, 5 hand targets, 2 downs, 3 reps of chase me, etc.

Sometimes I will just say to myself on the walk. Okay from here to the corner I will practice 3 waits. Mess around with this idea.

You will be implementing the winning combination of mulitple, rewarded repetitions, in a short period of time. Training should not feel arduous and insurmountable. Regular repetitions of behaviors that you reinforce for will start to look smart and be reliable.

Three Things Worth Thinking About

Your puppy may try and pick up lots of stuff from the ground.

Play Cash for Trash.

Your puppy WILL pick up things in his mouth. What is your game plan for this?

Don’t Invade – Go For A Peaceful Trade.

Monitor the surroundings your are walking and playing in vigilantly for dangerous items. Puppies explore the world with their mouths. They pick everything up!

Ignore the item if it is not dangerous.

Turn trade into a game by offering the off limit item back again and repeat. If it is something like a leaf or bit of bark, grab another leaf, trade for this and repeat. The point here is that we are not grabbing for things all the time. This will create keep away or guarding behaviour that can be prevented with your good work.

The weather will affect your pup’s ability to walk and to focus.

Hot sunny days will get your puppy seeking shade and pulling out of the sun.

Windy days will have him chasing things that blow by.

Rain my have him not wanting to go out. Knowing that your pup may be affected by what is happening outside will help you prepare and deal with what ever comes up on the walk.

Meeting other dogs on leash is not advisable.

Play dates should be thoughtful, well-curated events.

Nothing fun can happen when a pup is confined to 6 feet of leash. Meeting other dogs on leash seems like a good idea in the moment but can lead to stress and unwanted behavior later on.

Keep it short if you are meeting other dogs on leash, the three-second rule is a good one. And be careful of adult dogs that do not tolerate excited pups.

Ready Set Plan

Now you are all set to plan your next walk. Check out the sample plans and the Worksheet we have created for you. Happy Training!

Loose Leash Game Plan


P.S. This is a reminder that we continue to offer You’re Lucky You’re Cute on a regular basis. Check here for a date that works for you. This is a live Webinar with Q and A to help you navigate puppy prep and the arrival of your new puppy.