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Updated: May 22, 2019

September 13, 2018 © Hearts and Hounds Dog Training/

“Socialization” is a word that dog and puppy parents hear a lot. “You have to socialize your puppy.” “That dog is aggressive because he wasn’t socialized.” “We’re going to the dog park to socialize our puppy.” “Our puppy is well-socialized because she goes to doggy day-care.”

There is a common misconception that socialization means meeting lots of other dogs, but that is only part of it. Socialization actually means positively exposing the puppy to new things: objects, sounds, environments, surfaces, people, other dogs, and other animals in order to develop the puppy’s skills in dealing with new experiences. It should encompass all the puppy’s senses.

It is important, however, that it is done properly. Following these three guidelines will give your puppy the greatest chance of benefitting the most from this important process.


This positive exposure to novel stimuli is most critical between three and about 14 weeks of age. Ideally, if you got your puppy from a responsible breeder, they will have begun exposing the pups to novel stimuli before sending your puppy home with you, typically at around eight weeks of age. That leaves only a few short weeks for puppy parents to accomplish this very important task, so don’t delay! According to a peer-reviewed summary by the American Veterinary Medical Association, “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and may be forever fearful in these situations.” While some veterinarians still warn people not to take their new puppy outside of their home and yard until they’ve had their full set of vaccinations (at around 16 weeks) for fear of contracting disease, specifically the very serious parvovirus, new studies show that the risk of future relinquishment of the dog due to behaviour problems such as fear, aggression and reactivity is far outweighed by the very low risk of contracting a serious disease. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior now recommends starting socialization as early as seven weeks old.

Support your puppy as she observes new things from a safe distance.


Since there is risk of contracting diseases until your puppy is fully immunized, it is important to minimize that risk while providing her with the socialization she needs. The most common way that puppies contract a serious illness is through exposure to the feces or urine of an infected dog, therefore you should avoid dog parks and other public places where you can’t be sure of the health and vaccination record of every dog. Dog parks can pose other risks to your puppy. Dogs who play too roughly and those who don’t like puppies could frighten your pup and cause her to develop a fear of other dogs. Instead, arrange play dates in the home or fenced-in back yard with other puppy parents or those with friendly adult dogs who can tolerate puppies and play nicely with them but, ideally, will let them know when they’ve gone too far. Exposure to other dogs (puppies) doesn’t have to involve interaction. A well-run puppy class in a sanitized, indoor facility provides opportunities for supervised off-leash play and teaches puppies to remain calm and focused on their handler even with other puppies close by.

Introduce your pup to a variety of species. You never know who you'll run into!


It is essential that your puppy’s new experiences during this period are positive, as a bad experience can create a lifelong fear or aggression towards the frightening thing, and sometimes be generalized towards other things like it as well. Use treats liberally. Make sure they’re ones your puppy really likes. Watch her body language for signs of stress or discomfort, such as freezing, licking her lips, yawning, turning her head away or trying to get closer to you. Don’t force her to continue. You can try reassuring her that it’s okay and she’s safe. You can use treats to lure her a bit closer, but watch her body language here, too. If she stretches forward for the treat but keeps her back feet firmly planted, she’s indicating that she’ll still very nervous. It would be best to back off and try again another time. If, however, she moves her whole body forward for the treat and doesn’t quickly retreat, there’s a good chance you can try to get a wee bit closer. Some puppies will be “braver” and will handle new experiences easily, while others will be a little more cautious. Let her set the pace.

In Part II of “Socialization: What You Need to Know” we will look at what constitutes a comprehensive socialization plan.

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© 2017 Hearts and Hounds Dog Training. All Rights Reserved

Updated: 3 hours ago

March 10, 2018 © Hearts and Hounds Dog Training /

You’re getting a new puppy! Congratulations! But are you ready for your new little ball of fur? Are you feeling overwhelmed? The key to surviving your puppy’s first weeks at home is all about planning ahead. Just as couples expecting a new baby must make certain preparations before the baby arrives, so too must puppy parents prepare for their fur-baby.

Here are the top 10 things you can do to make this truly life-changing event easier on both you and your puppy:


1: Puppy-proof the house

  • Hide electrical cords using cord covers or raise them off the floor onto a piece of furniture

  • Discourage chewing on electrical cords (and other not-to-be-chewed items) with a pet deterrent spray such as Bitter Apple; reapply often, as the spray evaporates

  • Remove plants that are dangerous to dogs, or move them out of reach

  • Ensure garbage cans either have tightly fitting lids or secure them behind closed doors

  • Keep foods that are toxic to dogs, and medications (including supplements) out of reach

  • Move shoes and clothing off the floor or into the closet

  • Store small items such as paper clips, push pins, bobby pins, pens, pencils, markers, loose change, jewellery, etc securely and away from the edges of counters or furniture

  • Ensure cleaning products are stored in cabinets or elevated out of puppy’s reach

  • Consider keeping the doors to certain rooms closed (e.g., bathroom, children’s bedrooms) or block access with baby gates

2: Purchase supplies

  • Food –It’s a good idea to find out what your pup has been eating and try to use the same product, or at least keep the protein source the same to avoid tummy upset

  • Treats –You can use your pup’s dry food for training when there is nothing else going on to catch her interest, but you’ll need something she finds really yummy (perhaps freeze-dried liver or cheese) when training amid distractions

  • Water bowl

  • Collar, harness and leash

  1. A flat collar is your best choice, but is best used for attaching your pup’s licence and identification tag rather than the leash (If your puppy pulls or jerks on a leash attached to her collar, she can damage her neck and throat, thyroid, and even her eyes)

  2. Avoid choke, prong, and shock collars which “work” by causing discomfort to outright pain to the dog and often have negative behavioural effects

  3. A “No-pull” harness is a great option right from the start to lower the chances of your puppy learning that pulling is rewarding (to be clear, these harnesses do not train the puppy not to pull; you must train your puppy not to pull)

  • Licence and identification tag

  • A car restraint specifically designed for securing dogs in the car (e.g., a seat belt- or a car harness-style) will keep your precious puppy safe; you can also use a crate but you may need to tether it to keep it from moving around inside the car

  • A crate to aid in housetraining, and as a short-term confinement area to keep your puppy safe when left alone for a short period; also often used as a safe place to retreat to for puppies who need a break from hectic households

  • Bed(s) and soft blankets for the floor and confinement areas

  • Exercise pen and/or baby gates to prevent access to certain areas of your home

  • Toys, particularly chew toys, made of non-toxic materials; interactive toys for you and your puppy to play with together; and food-dispensing toys for meals and enrichment

  • Kongs are the classic food-dispensing toys but there are now lots of others. Use these instead of a food bowl to prolong mealtimes and provide mental stimulation as your puppy works to remove the food

  • Lots of towels for cleaning up messes, wiping dirty paws and drying your puppy off after rainy walks

  • Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Grooming products

  • Enzymatic, pet-specific cleaning products to remove stains and odours from potty accidents

3: Prepare confinement areas

  • Crates are an excellent tool for housetraining and short-term confinement

  • You’ll also need a long-term confinement area for when you have to leave your puppy for longer than she can be crated

  • This can be a room or area of a room sectioned off by a puppy gate or exercise pen and should include the crate

4: Have a family meeting to establish rules and schedules for the puppy

  • when and where will the puppy be fed?

  • where will she potty?

  • who will take her out for potty breaks?

  • where will she sleep?

  • is she allowed on furniture?

  • who will walk her and when?

  • what methods of training will be used? (hint: positive-, reward-based)


5: Schedule a visit to your veterinarian

  • General health check

  • Flea/tick prevention

  • Deworming if necessary

  • Depending on age of puppy and when she received her first set of shots, possibly a booster

6: Begin house training

  • Prevent accidents through vigilant supervision, anticipating when your puppy will need to go out, and using confinement when she cannot be supervised

  • Puppies need to potty when they wake up, after eating, after playing, and about every hour or so during the day

  • Reward her when she gets it right

7: Begin crate training

  • Introduce your pup to the crate gradually

  • Create a positive association with the crate by feeding your puppy in it, tossing treats into it, and/or giving her food-dispensing toys in it

  • Keep it in a central location so she doesn’t feel like she’s being isolated

8: Socialize, socialize, socialize!

  • Socialization is much more than meeting other puppies; it involves positive exposure to a variety of novel sights, sounds, smells, surfaces, and environments

  • Plan outings to new areas where you can safely introduce your puppy to new stimuli

9: Enroll in reward-based puppy classes

  • Avoid trainers who use aversive training methods and/or use the term “dominance” or “pack leader”

  • Hearts and Hounds uses progressive, reward-based, positive methods and offers Puppy Preschool and Puppy Kindergarten classes in Vancouver (please see

10: Have FUN and cherish these new beginnings; puppies grow up so fast!

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© 2017 Hearts and Hounds Dog Training. All Rights Reserved