My Puppy Socialization Plan

Things have been a little crazy around here lately; work has gotten super busy the last month or so and is shaping up to be like last year; and Tess’s allergies have made a big reappearance lately. So I’m feeling a little behind on puppy things. While I should be running around getting all the last minute things for the pup I seem to be very preoccupied with trying different dog foods and researching different options. Not fun.

But puppy D-day is quickly sneaking up on me! They will be ready to leave for their new homes in less than 2 weeks now, which I just can’t believe! I’ve been doing some more of my puppy homework; reading and watching different training videos, and have a few more to get through in the next few weeks. However, I’ve started re-looking at the puppy socialization plan I put together last year (when I was hoping to get a puppy out of Reilly’s last litter). After going through some of the new material the urgency for some of the items have changed, and others will likely have to wait a little while longer. I was hoping to put together a bit of a journal to keep track of everything I was doing (and planning on doing) with the puppy to keep me on track, I still hope to pull that together, but in case that doesn’t happen I wanted to start to group together my top priority socialization and training efforts.

Priorities for the First Month


  • Meet 100 men & 100 children
  • Visit Groomer
  • Visit Doggie Swimming Pool (for dock diving later in life)
  • Meet horses
  • Visit Training Hall
  • Car Rides
  • Attend Agility trial or training class (to get used to benching, noise, and environment)
  • Visit Vet
  • Meet a few friendly adult dogs
  • Spending time in crate: initially I planned to start with Susan Garrett’s Crate Games right away, but I’ve realized that it just isn’t as much of a priority as some of these other items. I should have no trouble starting to teach them in month two or even three. There really isn’t a panic to start immediately (while it would be good, I’m just not sure I’ll have time). However, I do need to make sure that the puppy is comfortable spending time in his crate right away. So we will work on that, and likely start the early crate game exercises.


  • Sit*
  • Down
  • Loose Leash Walking*
  • Wait (at door)
  • Release
  • Stay
  • Attention*
  • Jazz Up & Settle Down
  • Leave It
  • Off


  • Look in both ears (daily)
  • Lift lips (daily)
  • Open Mouth (daily)
  • Pat on head (daily)
  • Hug (daily!)
  • Pick up all feet (daily)
  • Touch tail (daily)
  • Gotcha / Collar grab and treat (daily)

Right now I am thinking I might make all these daily handling items into a quick routine I can do first thing in the morning before feeding.

  • Brush Teeth (3x week)
  • Trim Nails (1 foot per day to start)
  • Poke with pen / “give vaccine” (1x week)
  • Clean ears (1x month, or more if necessary)

Feeding Bowl Games:

Each “game” to be played once during the first month

  • Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Delinquent Waiter Routine
  • Pet while eating
  • Quickly place extra yummy treats in food bowl while eating a meal
  • Trade high value treat (bone) for lower value treat

New Experiences:

In addition to the training and socialization work I have planned I want to introduce the puppy to all of these things at least once in the first month, some will be pretty easy to check off the list, others will take a little more effort.

  • Train running on tracks
  • Luggage pulled down the street
  • Someone pushing a shopping cart
  • Cars driving by (busy & quiet street)
  • Bus driving by
  • Train station
  • Ride in an elevator
  • Sliding glass door (Petsmart)
  • See someone pushing a stroller
  • Someone pulling a child’s wagon
  • Cross a wobbly bridge
  • Sit (or be held) on a swing
  • See someone walking with an umbrella
  • See people wearing different hats
  • See someone wearing a long rain coat
  • Meet someone wearing a hoodie/bunny hug
  • Meet someone wearing tall boots (rain boots, Ugg’s, work boots, etc)
  • Meet someone walking with a walking stick
  • Walk on a low ironing board
  • See someone using a broom
  • Investigate plastic bags
  • Meet someone in a wheelchair, using crutches, walker, cane, etc
  • See a moving golf cart / ATV
  • See someone blowing bubbles
  • See balloons, and hear them popping (from far away)
  • See kids roll down a hill, doing somersaults
  • Meet someone wearing sunglasses
  • Investigate a cardboard box
  • Meet someone wearing a mask
  • See someone skateboarding (Tess, like many dogs, is not a fan of skateboarders so I will probably work on this a little bit), rollerblading, on a tricycle, bicycle, scooter
  • Go swimming
  • Go for a boat ride in a canoe, kayak, or on a paddleboard
  • Go watch a sports game (kids soccer, baseball, or similar)
  • Go down (or be held while going down) a slide

If it was winter we would:

  • See people skating
  • Watch kids go tobogganing
  • See cross-country skiers
  • Go snowshoeing
  • Investigate outdoor Christmas decorations
  • Wear booties and a jacket


I’ve already got a list of parks I think we can train at, I need some quiet parks where we are unlikely to meet off-leash dogs, some close to roads, some with paved paths, some with gravel or dirt paths, with water the puppy can walk or swim in. Since I do not have any children I needed to brainstorm some good places where we can find kids to meet the puppy. Some places I’ve found that have worked for training Tess have been outdoor swimming pools (when I want them to be able to see the kids but don’t really want the kids running up and surprising us), the entrance to local theme parks, busy outdoor playgrounds and picnic areas, and schools. Some places where the puppy can meet people of different ethnicities, in our area the Walmart or Costco entrance can be a good spot, ethnic grocery stores, Chinatown, and many of the day use areas at popular hiking spots. To meet elderly or injured people we can walk by a local retirement home, and the hospital. (Story of my life!) I’m most concerned about finding places where we can meet enough men; so we will also likely visit a local oil change shop that is friendly to dogs, RV dealership that allows dogs to visit, outdoor stores (like Bass Pro Shop), downtown, mountain biking trail head, and some popular motorcycle meet up spots.

Novel Surfaces to walk on:

  • Metal (baking sheet / vet counter/ scale)
  • Grass
  • Concrete
  • Gravel
  • Bark Mulch
  • Dirt
  • Frost
  • Water
  • Foamy water
  • Metal storm grate
  • Man hole cover
  • Stairs (open back, metal, wood, carpet, narrow, wide)
  • Rubber
  • Linoleum
  • Hardwood
  • Carpet
  • Tile
  • Astroturf
  • Boat
  • Dock
  • Bridge
  • Log
  • Rocks / boulder
  • Sand
  • Ball pit
  • Bosu / Wobble Board

That’s sort of my running list of items to try to get through in the first month, but seeing how busy things have been lately I know the last thing I will want to do when I get home from work is try to decide what to do with the puppy that day. So while I’m sure I won’t stick to a set calendar I think I need to break these down into more manageable lists of socialization or training sessions that we can (1) do quickly on nights I have classes with Tess or other things going on, (2) weekend sessions (out of town visits, puppy play dates, visits to the groomer or swimming pool), and (3) normal sessions. I will probably have the weekends planned and booked for the first month before the puppy comes home; but for the others it’ll be nice to just be able to pick an idea off a cheat sheet without thinking about it too much.

I’ll try to post my journal tracking pages and full idea lists once they are completed on the chance anyone else might find them useful.


My Puppy Education

It’s hard to believe but the pups are just shy of 4 weeks old now. I have loved seeing all the photos and videos Cathy has posted on her Facebook page of the pups growing up. It is really starting to sink in how quickly the new puppy will be coming home, yikes!

So, it is time to brush up on my puppy education!

I’ve re-read Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Before & After You Get Your Puppy, and Patricia McConnell’s The Puppy Primer. I plan on re-reading Dr. Sophia Yin’s Perfect Puppy in 7 Days this weekend. I have re-read my Curly books numerous times over the last few months, but will look through them again as well; Gary & Mary Meeks’ Curly-Coated Retrievers: A Complete and Reliable Handbook, and Nona Kilgore Bauer’s Curly-Coated Retriever. I’ve also been following along with Cathy Lewandowski’s The Puppy Diary as she has been posting photos, so I can better understand where the puppies are developmentally and what she is doing raising them at this point in their socialization. I find it interesting to compare the litter in the book to where this litter is.

When I was first looking at having a puppy join our crew, I set up a consult with Jade Zwingli owner of Where’s Your Sit? dog training. She has helped me tremendously with Tess and has been a great source of information to me. I wanted her objective opinion on how she thought it would work with Tess’s issues and my training capabilities. I wasn’t too worried about the “how to” puppy training basics as I’ve been through it with Tess and am fairly comfortable with what is coming up (I say this now!). But having a multi-dog household is new to me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no idea what in our routine would have to change, how to train two dogs in the house, what I could do to get the dogs comfortable together, how to best manage feeding time, and many other silly questions – like whether they would both fit in the back seat of my car! Having this session definitely put my mind at ease and gave me the confidence that I could do it. I’ve also been re-reading some of Jade’s blog posts about her pup Story who she added to her pack last fall, and some of the tips and suggestions she has posted on her website. If you are a novice dog owner (or new to having a multi-dog household) I would absolutely recommend a session like this before getting the puppy. Jade was able to give me plenty of management ideas, and suggestions on how to best set me up for success introducing our new member of the family.

I’ve also picked up a few new resources that I’ve stumbled across after Tess was a puppy, Jane Killion’s Puppy Culture and Attention is the Mother of All Behaviors. I started looking at the Attention video for some different pointers and drills that might help with agility for Tess, but also knowing how much I struggled with attention from her as a puppy I thought it would be a good idea to start teaching this to the puppy in a more consistent way. I purchased the Attention video first, I enjoyed it so much I knew I had to get the Puppy Culture video too. I’ve been looking at the Puppy Culture video for some time but thought it would be geared more towards breeders and not quite what I was looking for; but I was completely wrong! What a fantastic video full of valuable information. It does spend a fair bit of time covering pregnancy, early puppy development and socialization; all of which I found interesting but would likely be of more interest to a breeder. However, she does spend a great deal of time talking about socialization during the first month puppy is home with his new family. I spent a fair bit of time coming up with a socialization plan (and some different ideas of places to take puppy) last year when I started down this path; but this video really drove home the importance of that first month in a way that really resonated with me more than any of the books I had read. It also gave me some new ideas for socialization exposure. I hope to have another blog post on my socialization plan this coming week, and will definitely be adding some ideas from this video.

I’ve also ordered Susan Garrett’s Crate Games video and look forward to watching that when it arrives. I can’t say I had much trouble with Tess when it came to crate training for the house, but I think this will give us an added boost in the puppy (and Tess’s) ease when it comes to benching in the agility & show environment. As well as some impulse control, which never hurts!

There are so many great books and resources available I have many others on my wish list, but unfortunately the book budget isn’t stretching any further at the moment. So we’ll do what we can and slowly add to the collection!

In addition to the puppy training homework I’ve been doing, I’ve also been working hard with Tess’s dog-dog reactivity. It has been an ongoing process for some time, but I have set up an appointment with a trainer for next week to give us a little feedback and suggestions for next steps. I also want to set up the puppy pen a head of time so I can work on Tess’s “leave it,” and so she can get used to having it in the house.

While there is always more to learn, I’m feeling pretty confident at this point that everything will be ok. There are bound to be hiccups and different problems with this new pup, but I have comfort that I have the information at my disposal and a great number of knowledgeable people on my team that I can call on for help down the road should I need it.

House Rules

It’s a great idea to sit down with your family and come up with house rules for your new pup. If you already have a dog you probably have a good idea what these might be, but regardless it is a good time to think about it.

Setting consistent house rules will make it easier for your new pup to learn what behaviours are acceptable and which are not; it will also help you stay consistent as a family in what you are teaching your new puppy. These rules may change as your puppy gets older, so you may want rules that your puppy has to abide by, but which may become relaxed as your pup matures into a wonderful adult dog (kenneling your dog while you are out of the house is a good example). Your family might have special rules that apply to your situation, but here are a couple ideas to get you started:

Where is the puppy restroom?

Is this the backyard, dog run, specific spot in the yard, or on a walk?

For my dogs this is either a grass patch on my patio, or on a walk.

Where in the house is the puppy allowed?

When Tess was a puppy I blocked off the hallway leading to the bathroom and bedroom, she was only allowed in the family room and kitchen. Now she has full run of the condo when I’m home, but not allowed in the bedroom at night. Adding the pup to the mix, I don’t think I will be able to keep this blocked off and still give Tess the access she is used to. So I don’t plan to block this off, however, I will keep the door to the bathroom and bedroom closed to help prevent housetraining and chewing mistakes. Growing up our little dog was allowed free roam of the main floor and basement (when the door was open), but not allowed on the second floor where the bedrooms were. This is a personal choice and what works for your family; if someone in your home has pet allergies you likely don’t want the dog in the bedrooms. Some people don’t allow dogs in the kitchen. Try to determine what will work for everyone in your family.

Will the puppy be allowed on furniture? Which furniture?

Will the puppy be allowed on couches, on the bed, etc? Do they have to ask permission (sit) before being invited up? Some people have different rules for different dogs, and that is ok. You might not mind a 10 lb lap dog on the couch but find the 130 lb Great Dane a little much. As long as you are consistent it’s ok that the rules aren’t the same for each dog.

Tess is allowed on one couch in the family room, but not the other. I like having one off limits so if guests come over that do not like 60lb dogs sitting in their lap they have a place they can sit unmolested. She is also not allowed on the bed. I know I would never be consistent in asking her to sit to be invited up on the couch, so I have never tried to enforce that rule, but I can understand why some people implement it. I can’t see any of these rules changing when puppy arrives.

Will the puppy be allowed table scraps?

I’m terrible for this, so the answer for me is yes! However, she has to lay down in the kitchen when I’m cooking, or on her dog bed when I’m eating at the table. Again I can’t see this changing when the puppy arrives.

Will there be any rules for going through doors or gates?

Right now I don’t have any in the house, if we are going into a busy store or training center I try to get her to sit first, especially if the door can be difficult to navigate, but this is more of a check in than a “rule” for me, so I would say I don’t. However, she does have to sit and wait before getting out of the car, and at the door to leave the condo building.

With the puppy coming the car rule will definitely stay the same, that’s very important to me. I will have to introduce some sort of name call for each dog so they know who is allowed out. I think I will also implement a “wait” and “release” at the door leaving the condo when both dogs are going for a walk together so it is a little more orderly and calm.

What will be the puppy’s signal that it needs to go to the bathroom?

Some people find this isn’t necessary if they have a doggie door, some use a bell and teach the dog to ring it. Our dog growing up would scratch the door or sneeze. Having the dog sit to go out is pretty common.

I use the sit method with Tess mainly, I also walk her twice a day for her bathroom breaks, so often she doesn’t have to tell me at all. I will have the same rule once the puppy arrives, but of course when the puppy has to go, the puppy has to go! So there won’t be waiting or training then, we will practice sitting at the door to go out onto the patio just to see the world outside, but housetraining will come before politeness!

What training commands are you going to use?

This is especially important if there are multiple people in your household that will be training the dog, or requesting behaviours. Much of this will be covered in your puppy class, but everyone in the house needs to be as consistent as possible in order for the puppy to learn what you are asking him to do. Some common examples that tend to get mixed up would be: down vs. off, leave it vs drop it, come vs. the dog’s name. If you haven’t trained a puppy before I wouldn’t worry too much about this one until you attend puppy class, but once you start teaching a certain command stick with it.

Where will the dog sleep during the day and at night?

Will the dog sleep in its kennel, the bedroom, in the bed with you, on the couch, with one of your children? This one tends to be a very personal choice and can cause some family dispute! For most people this is one rule that will tend to change overtime, puppies aren’t often allowed run of the house right away; so are often kenneled or tied to a dog bed near you until house training is more consistent. Then as they are more reliable they gain new found freedom and more run of the house.

Tess was kenneled for what felt like a long time, but she found her way into trouble when left out alone. However, ultimately I wanted her to be able to sleep wherever in the house she wanted to (except the bedroom – I need my beauty sleep!). I gradually started leaving her out at night – when she was more likely to be sedate and ready to sleep – and she built her way up to being out during the day as well. This is going to change for a while when the puppy comes home, both dogs will be crated at night.  Fostering definitely let me know Tess would pester her new roommate if left to her own devices which could lead to some barrier reactivity on her part. So they will be kenneled until I am sure that Tess will leave him alone. If that never happens they will both stay kenneled; their safety is much more important than my guilt at not being able to let them have free range of the house. Since I feed stuffed Kongs and toys when I leave, this will also prevent any fights over food.


Some additional Resources:

Set House Rules for your Dog or Puppy Before Getting Them Home – Labrador Training HQ

How to Create House Rules for Your New Puppy – Jan Reisen (AKC)

Setting the House Rules for Your Dog – Rebecca Setler

10 House Rules to Consider Before Training Your Dog – Katie Morton

New Puppy? How to Prepare – Jade Zwingli, Where’s Your Sit?

Dog Photography

Photography is another passion of mine, so I thought I would digress and mention a few sources that might be of interest to others.

I have a real passion for photography (not that I’m necessarily very talented at it) so I do have some semi-professional gear, but even if you don’t there are some simple things you can do to take better photos of you dog. I might post a more technical post at some point about what works for me, but I’m going to keep it pretty general here.

A few things I have found that work for me:

  1. Photograph outside – while I certainly do photograph my dog inside the house, the lighting  outside generally makes for better photographs. This holds especially true if you do not have more professional/hobby enthusiast gear. If you are going to photograph inside, try shooting near a window and use the natural light from the window to your advantage. Indoor light often causes poor colour, grainy images, or motion blur. Below: a comparison of inside (left) to outside (right)
  2. Shoot low – to get a unique “dog’s view” of the world try shooting low, down at their level. Take the shot while sitting, kneeling, or laying on your stomach. Often I’ll put the camera on the ground and use the live screen to aim.
  3. Shoot fast – If your camera has the ability to set shutter speed use a speed above 1/1000th of a second if possible. If you don’t, try using a sport mode if your camera has one.
  4. Panning – If you can’t get a fast shutter speed try panning the camera and following your dog’s action while taking the photo. It can be tricky to perfect – expect a lot of out takes – but you can get some neat shots with focused body or head, and legs blurring from the motion. If you can adjust the shutter speed I’d start around 1/500th of a second and adjust from there. The shot below was a little too slow, causing too much motion blur in the head and body for my liking. The great benefit to this technique if you are using a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone is it can give you some great action shots even if you can’t get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. This can also work great at indoor events like agility or flyball.FB-8699
  5. Details – Don’t forget to shoot the details! Your dog’s paw, tail, nose, eyes, and facial expressions – close ups of whatever makes your dog unique!
  6. Reward your Dog! – If you love taking photos of your dog and want a willing model, make sure you make it fun for them! This could be giving them treats occasionally during the session, giving them a new toy to play with while you take the shots, or just photograph while they are doing something they love.img_7064

I hope that gives you a few ideas to try when next photographing your dog. I’ve added a few photography links on my resource page; but if you are interested in learning more, or would like some more technical information here are some resources I have found very helpful:

For someone who would really like to pick up pet photography as a hobby I would highly recommend starting with Charlotte Reeves e-book Fetching Photos. This goes through camera settings, troubleshooting, how to run a photography session with a (your) dog, and some different ideas you can try. If you are more interested in some different shot ideas her book Dog Shots  gives a tonne of excellent ideas and how to set them up.

Next I would highly recommend Kaylee Greer’s photography course The Secrets to Capturing The Best. Dog. Photos. Ever. Taken. at Kelbyone. Kelbyone has a free 10 day trial so you could watch this video for free and Kaylee’s other courses on Kelbyone. I would start with the Secrets course as it runs through the basics and gives you some suggestions for troubleshooting sessions. On top of all the excellent advice, it is nice to see a video of how it all works in real life; being able to see that the dog doesn’t have to act “perfect” to get great photos.

Many of the resources put out by these two are aimed more to professional pet photographers or hobbyists; but if you use a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone their information on setting up the session, different shot ideas, and information on angles to shoot from is very informative and I think  you would find helpful. If you are shooting primarily from a smartphone Holly Montgomery of Brindleberry Pet Photography has this excellent post you might find helpful, including some “post-processing” editing advice.

Happy shooting!

Retrieval to Hand

With a little inspiration (and help) from my friend Jade, owner of Where’s Your Sit? dog training, I have been working on Tess’s retrieval to hand this winter. It will come in handy for many of the tricks for our trick dog titles; but also it’s just down right embarrassing having a retriever who won’t retrieve to hand!

We have been working on this for a while, so she knows this “game” now. She is retrieving pretty well at this point during our mini sessions, so our biggest issue is her speed, right now she is too focused on her treats. In the video Jade prepared of her dog Ari she used the tug method, I tried it but Tess isn’t much of a tugger. So while we work on the tugging drive I used a little different method. I think the tugging method Jade suggested will help give me more of the speed I want, as would a toy Tess likes a little better. So I will keep working on these basics while we work on the tug drive, I think the next step for us with this drill would be only rewarding the faster retrieves.

Hunters out there, please don’t laugh!

Tess’s retrieval video

Tess on a Skateboard

Tess Skateboard

Tess & I are slowing working towards learning some new tricks so she can earn her Expert & Champion Trick Dog Titles. As part of that I am trying to teach her to skateboard. In order for her to pass this trick on the test she has to have at least 3 feet on the skateboard.

As you can see in the video I’m using shaping to try to teach her this trick. At the time of filming we have only worked on this trick twice before. So we are starting at the beginning on this one. While watching the video you should see us work through this process: at first I reward her for looking at the skateboard or touching it. Since she has done this before I quickly move to the next step, which is putting one paw on the skateboard. Then as the session goes on she has to put two paws on the board, or make it move to get the reward. Rewarding both of these outcomes is likely confusing her, so I probably should only be rewarding her for putting two paws on, since I eventually want movement I am torn since I do want to encourage her to move the board as well. However, the next step in our training should probably be just to reward 2 or 3 feet on the board. Once she is getting 3 feet on the board then start rewarding the movement.

I find Tess needs a lot of encouragement (kibble during this session) to keep working, so I try to move slowly when upping the requirements to get the treat, if I move too fast she gets confused and quits pretty quickly. So if you are trying to teach this trick you may be able to up the ante a little quicker with your dog, depending on how dedicated they are to figuring things out.

Youtube Video

Dog Shows, Sports & Competitions



I was going to write a blog summarizing the more popular events you could partake in with your dog, but I’ve come across a few very good summaries so I thought I would link to them instead.

AKC Events

AKC Events Summary describes these events very well

  • Conformation Dog Shows
  • Obedience
  • Rally Obedience
  • Agility
  • Tracking
  • Field Events
  • Coursing Ability Test
  • Earthdog
  • Herding
  • Lure Coursing

AKC Title Recognition Program

Non-AKC Titles recognized by the AKC

Other Events

Non-Recognized Events

There are so many fun activities we can do with our dogs, it is such a challenge to pick just a few!!!