• Brainstorm Marketing

You hear trainers, vets, and breeders say it all the time. “Socialize your puppy early and often”. Well, I get asked a lot, and I see it done wrong a lot, “what does socializing my dog look like. What do I do? Not do?” So, I figured it would be a good subject to talk about here.

I’ll start with saying, socializing, when properly done, is one of the most important things you can do for your dog’s well-being. I’ll add, socialization starts within the litter. This is why it is imperative puppies stay with their littermates until at least 8 weeks old. Failure to do so sets the dog up for later issues. This is especially true with certain breeds (working type dogs). When picking a puppy, I always like to see them interact within the litter. See who is a bully, who is submissive, who is shy, who is independent, etc.

So, now you have your puppy at home. Now what? Vaccines! I strongly recommend you finish your dog’s vaccination regimen before getting little Fluffy out on the town (or anywhere else). Their immune system is simply not ready to tackle the world yet. Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines. During this time it is the best time to simply bond with your dog. Potty training, lots of hand feeding, and teaching basic manners are good things to pass the time during this phase.

Now, your puppy is roughly 4 months old, had his shots, bonded with you. Now what? The dog park!?! In a word…NO. There are those who will disagree. I’m ok with that. Here’s my take...”there’s no true good for the average puppy coming from an off leash dog park. But, we’ll discuss that another day.

I take my young puppies out to more and more distracting places as they are ready. The first places are the easier ones. Tractor Supply, an empty park, places where we will encounter people, but hopefully not other dogs. At all places, I’m asking my dog to simply relax. I’ll have treats and praise and pet as needed, but the dog’s job is to just be neutral. You’ll hear me use that word a good bit, neutral. Not too excited, not fearful, just relax and be neutral, blend in. During this phase I will allow strangers to pet my puppy. However, the puppy must stay in control, feet on the ground, no biting, no demanding anything. And all attention comes under my say so. I go ahead and start teaching the dog to wait for permission to approach people. They don’t get to self release. They must wait for a “free” marker to allow them to break from my side. Don’t worry, if that’s confusing, I cover it with my customers.

After these first few outings, it’s time to add a little more. Think, the vet’s office, pet stores, Home Depot, etc. Same rules apply. I may or may not allow anyone to pet the dog. What I ask for is the dog to focus on me. Disregard other people, dogs, equipment, etc.

This is an especially good time to make sure the dog stays neutral around other dogs. YOU must be your young dog’s advocate. All dog owners aren’t aware of how rude their dogs are. I never allow a dog to approach or to stay in my dog’s face. I remove my dog from that. I don’t allow them to initiate it, nor do I ask them to accept it. That is a problem waiting to happen.

This isn’t a place in my training where I worry about someone else’s feelings. They’ll get over it. I will not accept my dog getting snapped, scared, or hurt for someone else’s ignorance. PERIOD. These are the things problem dogs are made of.

Back to the positive….Your Vet will think you are amazing. Your dog will think the Vet’s office is amazing. Take treats. Make him happy, go into an exam room, treats, praise, petting, then exit. Nothing bad happened. No shots, nothing up the rear, nothing bad. Just praise, petting, treats, and we’re out of there. Do it 3 times and see how your puppy likes the Vet’s office after.

Hint… Leave before you think you should. These visits take 3-4minutes max. Don’t linger. Leave on a high note.

By the 3rd time, I’m really asking my youngster to focus around all the distractions, especially other dogs. This is teaching the young dog to accept environmental changes while paying attention to me. That is my goal in socializing. Not having my dog entertained by other dogs. That presents too many opportunities for my dog to learn bad things. Ignoring me, dog aggression, dog reactivity, self-rewarding, just to name some. I want my dog neutral in all environments. This is where it all starts. Right from the start, it’s ALL about relationships!

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  • Brainstorm Marketing

Helping you know what tools to use for training your dog

People often ask: “what tools do you use or not use?” The short answer is simple. I use all tools at my disposal, dependent on the dog and the situation at hand.

Now, for the longer answer. I won’t rule the use of a particular tool in or out. What I will rule out is the misuse of a tool or abuse of an animal. For instance, I really don’t like chokers. But, I have found some dogs, a very few, that they were the right choice for. So, for those dogs, I used them. I use e-collars all the time. I stand by this statement I recently made on social media…”when used properly, there is no more effective and humane tool in a trainer’s toolbox than an e-collar”. To understand that statement, you must read the first three words with emphasis.

Any tool can be abused. I grew up on a farm. We routinely worked on stuff. And we routinely abused tools. We beat on wrenches with hammers until the wrench broke and then fussed because it broke and skinned our knuckles. Was the tool bad, or the use of the tool? Leashes, food, all sorts of collars, clickers, etc. all have their place. To use the tool, one should understand its use. The “why” is what is really important here. Our tools should give us a way to clearly and effectively communicate with the dog. In order to train a dog, they must be able to understand what we want them to do and not do. Different dogs, different environments, and different lessons require different tools.

We shouldn’t fear any tool. We should respect them enough to learn about them. I was recently visiting with an old veterinarian friend. He was asking me about some clients’ dogs with behavioral issues and what the first steps to resolving the issues might be. When he was done, I asked if he had a minute or two to answer a couple of questions for me. My preface was simple. "Don’t candy coat anything because you know me. This isn’t about me. I need honest feedback, period". He said OK, so I proceeded. Holding up a pinch collar, I asked “How many injuries have you seen caused by these, total with proper or improper use?”

Without a second’s hesitation, he answered “none, never seen an injury caused by one.” So, I continued, “what about e-collars, or shock collars?” He immediately stated “A handful. Collar necrosis from the collar having been left on too long, allergy to contacts, movement rubbing a little raw spot. But, that’s about it.”

“Ok”, I said. “So, what about other collars. What causes the most injuries you have treated?” Again, without hesitation, he said “Regular collars…Flat buckle collars. We treat embedded collar injuries a good bit. I’ve also treated my fair share of neck injuries from dogs pulling on them extremely hard. And a few larynx injuries from the same kind of thing.”

Honestly, the answers were pretty much what I expected. I know from my own experiences, I had seen basically the same thing. Next time you have an opportunity where there are an abundance of dogs,

just sit back and watch…and listen. See dogs lunging on a flat collar? Hear their breathing being altered? (that’s called stridor).

So, I’ve been thinking about it lately. All the hoopla over this collar, that collar, this tool vs that tool. It made me wonder. As long as we trainers (and owners) are not abusing an animal, and we are giving the customer the results they needed, why would folks make such a stink about it? I believe the answer is as simple as this. They do not understand the tool and it’s proper use. E-collars have come under a good deal of scrutiny lately. Primarily, because people don’t get educated on the proper use of them. Long gone are the days of strapping a shock collar to a dog and shocking them at high levels until they

responded as the owner wished. Just for the record, I never did that. The e-collar is a language that must be taught to the dog. Generally, we don’t teach behaviors with an e-collar. We use the collar to reinforce the behaviors we’ve already taught and to teach the dog, what we say matters at any distance. I’ve seen tons of problematic and confidence lacking dogs helped greatly with the proper use of an


I care little to nothing about arguing the issue of using tools. I do what I do for one reason. I get results. Safely, solidly, and without breaking dogs, I get results. One of the most abused things out there are food bowls. Look around, much like us, our dogs have become obese. Causing a multitude of injuries and health conditions. Is that not abuse? You decide. I take the stance of, every tool has its

place. They should always be used with the animal’s over all welfare in mind.

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