Category Archives: Getting Started

Ultimate Puppy is specifically designed to guide you through the critical stages of your puppy’s development. There is a strong emphasis on how to socialize your pup and do preventative-styled exercises. We’ve also provided you with detailed information on how to develop and maintain an effective and healthy relationship. Ultimate Puppy offers all the necessary information, exercises, and games you will need to start raising your puppy properly.

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

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.

The Benefits of Working With A Dog Trainer

Shouts from the rooftops ring out across the land. We’re getting a puppy! Exciting times to be sure.

The time to call the dog trainer is before the new addition comes home. A good coach will help you be ready and thinking about the right things to focus on from day one.

Many dog trainers offer free consultations to potential students. Why not take advantage of such an offer? You will get a sense of her or his style. You can ask questions. You will most likely learn something too.

Avoid stress that comes from being unaware of what to expect.

Woman let's out joyful whoop! While puppy lays on his back while pawing at an abacus


Raising a puppy has its share of joys and challenges. Let’s look at some of the benefits of working with a dog trainer from the get go.

4 Reasons

  1. A good trainer will help keep you focused on the fundamentals of training. They will teach you the correct order of things. Taking into account the pup’s age, capabilities and attention span. Often new puppy parents want to teach the pup to walk on a leash or stay. These are not ‘puppy friendly’ behaviors. Start with the base layers and work towards more complex behaviors. This helps ensure success for both puppy and human. Your trainer will help you set goals and reach them.
  2. Working with a dog trainer will add a motivation factor. This motivation factor will help ensure the important early work gets done. There is an immense amount of valuable information to glean from a trusted educator. Participating in a weekly class and doing your homework will keep you and the new pup moving along. They will keep you working at a pace that is realistic and fulfilling. This will help you reach your goals. The first year is the meaty stuff. The foundation that you put in place will help ensure you have a happy, well-adjusted pup for years to come.
  3. Even if you have raised a pup in the past, working with someone the next time around is always a good idea. Certified trainers must take part in continued education. This keeps them fresh and current in the ever-growing body of work surrounding pet dogs. If you are working with one of these folks you will enjoy this knowledge too.
  4. Your trainer is your sounding board, a trusted ally. Raising a puppy can be emotional. You can count on your coach to be there for you when you are feeling overwhelmed. You can also count on them to be cheering for you. They will celebrate your achievements right along with you.

Win Win

There is no down side. Don’t wait until your puppy is home and you are feeling the pressure. Do your homework, audit some classes and interview some trainers, book your space. Take advantage of all the wonderful information a good trainer has to share with you. This will enhance life for your pup and for you.

5 Ways You May Be Stressing Out Your Puppy

A woman on the left looks confused while a husky puppy on the right looks directly at the camera

1. Not providing enough structure.

Structure in the form of a crate, exercise pen, baby-gate or leash is a must for a new puppy. You pull quote: “There is a big difference in something the puppy loves, versus something you think the pup should love.”can not expect him to make the ‘right’ choices until teaching him what they look like. That is way too much responsibility to pile on a pup. Too much freedom equals chaos. Neglecting to provide a calm and contained environment leads to negative side effects. A handful of undesirable behaviours would be: destructive chewing, bathroom accidents and biting. It is of no service to a puppy to have too much freedom. Little by little teach your pup what you expect of him and how he can succeed. Do this and as he matures he will be able to handle longer stretches of freedom. Short cuts make for long journeys. Avoid having to do damage control to fix problem behaviours. Think prevent over cure.

2. Not using food to teach, motivate and reinforce.

Rewarding your puppy with food right after he does something you like will help ensure he does it again. It is a win-win situation. Using food to educate your pup is a no brainer. It keeps the learner (your pup) engaged, motivated and happy. Inadequate pay and poor working conditions lead to stress and unhappiness. Learn how to teach your puppy using food.

3. Expecting too much too soon.

Polite walking and learning how to stay are not puppy friendly moves. This is like expecting a pull quote: “Inadequate pay and poor working conditions lead to stress and unhappiness.”toddler to do high-level math problems. Look at the education of a pup as a series of layers. Time sensitive considerations like socialization and early prevention should get special attention. Teach the other behaviours in a thoughtful and strategic way, building on one another. Create a positive association with the learning process. Keep your goals and expectations realistic. This sets your dog and you up to succeed. Remember to take your pup’s age, attention span and the quality of your efforts into account.

4. Not providing appropriate things to chew.

Puppies bite and chew. When we give a puppy stuffed animals or ropes to chew on we are not practicing best chewing methods. They need to gnaw appropriate chews and animal bits that they love. They need to learn what is okay to gnaw on. These are things you must stay involved with. Provide the chews, teach the pup, and manage the chews. There is a big difference in something the pup loves, versus something you think the pup should love. Learning a pup’s preferences is essential. It goes far beyond tossing a dog a bone.

5. Not learning to speak dog.

Learn what your puppy is communicating. A dog uses his whole body. The secret life of dogs should not be a secret to anyone who wants to live peacefully with this creature. They have a have a whole other agenda. It makes for a lot of unpleasantness for a dog if we do not gain an understanding of their species-specific ways. Use compassion and the desire to understand what makes your dog tick. This will help create a heartfelt connection.

The fantastic Lili Chin has provided the following infographic on dog body language for all of us to use. Thank you Lili Chin.

Doggie Language starring Boogie the Boston Terrier

Illustration: Lili Chin

Count Down to Puppy – Part 3 of 3

A young boy and his jack russell puppy stand side by side looking stage right. They are both wearing red caps that are flying behind them. The boy is also wearing a red mask. All to help promote the series

A New Life Together

This final instalment of our series we’ll get you ready for the car ride home and walk you through what to expect in the early days. We will provide links that show fun things to do. It is important to do these exercises with your puppy, as they learn best before 16 weeks of age. Take advantage of this time to get them used to their environment (“socialization”). This is top priority.

Car Ride Home

Pull quote: Creating a positive first encounter with all the new experiences your puppy has is important. ultimatepuppy.comCreating a positive first encounter with all the new experiences your puppy has is important. Be prepared and think about all new encounters. Make sure you have treats and a couple of toys with you when you go pick up your puppy.

Your pup may stressed.

This may be the very first time pup is separated from littermates and mom. Your puppy may never have worn a harness or collar or experienced a leash. There will now be lots of firsts.

If possible hold the pup during the car ride home. Take a partner so someone can hold the pup during the drive. A crate can be used too if that is your preference. Depending on the length of the trip you may need to alternate between crate and holding the pup.

Supplies to bring

•  A blanket or towel for the seat or your lap

•  Paper towel – poo bags

•  Water and a water bowl

•  Harness, collar, leash

•  A variety of food treats

•  Bring a few options for the pup to chew on too – bullies are a good bet

You will need to stop along the way for a bathroom break. Use a word or phrase that will become the pup’s elimination cue, like “show me”, “do the business”… you get the idea. Be sure and treat the puppy for going.

Arrival Home

Take pup directly to the chosen bathroom spot immediately upon arriving home, even before the pup goes into the house for the first time. Keep pup on leash. Be prepared with a treat if the pup goes.

Honeymoon Period

There is a honeymoon period for the first week or so when you bring a new pup home. Your puppy may be quiet, more placid, and not very nippy. He is dealing with a lot of newness. As he acclimates to his new home he will start to change. You will know when the honeymoon is over.

Dealing with Barking or Whining in the Crate

Ignore it. As hard as it can be ignoring the barking is the best approach. Any talking to the pup, cooing or letting the pup out will just make the process longer. Expect a day or two of barking and or whining and expect it to get loud. It’s a bonus and a small miracle if it doesn’t get loud. Be prepared with lots of good things for the pup to chew on in the crate – always toss a few treats in the crate every time your pup goes in. Keep a jar of treats on top of the crate, this way you are always prepared.

Get A Rhythm Going

It is nice to do the introduction to your home on leash. Take the pup around so he knows about his new environment.

Provide lots of bathroom breaks to the chosen spot. Every 15 – 20 minutes if the pup is out of the crate.

Remember 100% supervision. No free time unless you are there and paying attention.

Tips for the First Night

Expect some sleep deprivation.

Set an alarm to get up for bathroom breaks. Take the pup on leash, use your verbal cue, reward.
You may want to keep the crate in the bedroom so pup feels safe and knows you’re near by.

Tips for the First WeekPull quote. Go beyond the home, get out of the house.

If you work at home or have taken some time off from work, make sure the pup gets some time alone in the home. You want him prepared for spending some time alone when you need a break and for your eventual return to work. There should be no big hellos and good byes. Just get out of the house and leave pup alone for an hour or two in the crate. He needs to learn that your coming and going is normal.

100% Supervision

There should be zero unattended time outside the crate. This is lethal for a new puppy. It is much easier to prevent annoying behavior than it is to change it. Think prevention versus cure.

Pups need lots of sleep, lots of quiet time. Lots of crate time.

Keep the leash on in the house to help with management of your pup. Have lots of chews available for your pup to chew on.

Be proactive and set your pup up to succeed. Build good habits from day one with structure, training, playing, exploring, the crate, etc.

Socialization Checklist and Field Trip Worksheets

Here are two handy sheets for you to use for early introductions, aka socialization.

Socialization Field Trip Worksheet

A Social Schedule

Your puppy should be meeting lots of new people and getting treats from everyone.

Take walks through the neighborhood, don’t worry if you carry the puppy a lot in the beginning this is fine, fun and normal.

Make sure you have your treat pouch full of a variety of tasty, soft treats that your pup loves.

Plan a couple of socialization field trips in advance that you will do during the first week. Book a fun vet visit. Ensuring a variety of new experiences is essential. Go beyond the home, get out of the house.

Games and Training

There are lots of fun games and new behaviors to teach your puppy. Keep sessions short, reward all the behaviors you want to see more of.

Patience & A Sense of Humor

Note for fridge. There are two things we want you to always keep in mind as you raise this puppy. Patience and a sense of humor; write this on a piece of paper and put it on the refrigerator.

There are two things we want you to always keep in mind as you raise this puppy. Patience and a sense of humor; write this on a piece of paper and stick it on the refrigerator.


Here’s to all the adventures that await you and your dog.