After You Get Your Puppy

What is Socialization? Puppy Health.

What is Socialization?

Socialization is creating purposeful, positive experiences for your puppy, to prepare him for life in the human world. For the first few months of his live, a puppy will go through a developmental phase known as the critical socialization window. During this period, puppies learn about the word around them, and are usually curious and resilient. This is the time brain development happens very rapidly and all experiences (negative and positive) will be remembered.

What happens to your puppy during this most important stage of development will have a direct and long lasting impact on their behavioral wellness as an adult dog. Under-socialized puppies will almost always develop some kind of behavioral problem, like poor impulse control, resource guarding, anxiety and many more.


The Most Important Part Of Training A New Puppy

When is the Critical Socialization Window?

Depending on the individual puppy, the critical socialization window closes somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Because there is such a limited window of opportunity for socialization, it should always take priority over obedience training at this young age.

You should start socializing your puppy as soon as you bring them home, when they’re usually around 8 weeks old.

Socialization is Not the Same Thing As Exposure

Socialization does not just mean exposing your puppy to lots of things; you must ensure they are having a positive experiences.

For example, taking your puppy to school where there are lots of children is not a safe way to socialize your puppy to children. You’re likely to end up with a crowd of admiring kids, all wanting to pat or hold your puppy at once. For many young dogs this is an overwhelming, frightening experience.

It would be much safer to set yourself up a small distance down the street from the school, so that your puppy can meet the children in small groups as they walk past. Be sure to bring treats and toys with you to help ensure that your puppy has a good time.

Let Your Puppy Go At Their Own Pace

Forcing your puppy into situations before they are ready will negatively impact their experiences. Let your puppy explore the world at their own pace; you can encourage them and reward them, but don’t force or rush them.

In particular, avoid dragging your puppy up to things by their leash, carrying them and putting them down in the new situation, or even luring them in with food.

For example, to socialize your puppy to swimming, you should not pick him up and place him in the water, or try to get them to jump in for a treat. Instead, find a place where there is a gradual incline, like a riverbank or ramp, and let him explore in his own time. Play fun games around the water and don’t stress if he don’t want to go in all the way at first. Wading pools are another good way to ease your puppy into swimming, and also a good way to help him to cool off in the summer.

If In Doubt, Add Some Space

Your puppy doesn’t have to be right in the middle of something to have a positive socialization experience. If you’re ever worried that a situation may be too much for your puppy, move further away and give him a chance to acclimatize.

A good example of this is socializing puppies to traffic. For many dogs, standing right next to a busy road with all the large, noisy cars can be very frightening. Avoid busy roads at first, starting somewhere like a park where you can walk along away from the road. As your puppy’s confidence improves, you can try coming closer and closer.

How Much Socializing?

Your puppy needs to have as many high quality socialization experiences as you can fit in before their critical socialization window ends.

Let’s say you took your puppy to the vet once for a socialization visit – no needles, and lots of fun, and once for their vaccinations and to check a sore leg. That puppy might think that there is a 50% chance that going to the vet is unpleasant.

If you took that same puppy on plenty of fun vet visits, they’re much more likely to think of the vet as a good place.

What Should I Socialize To?

There are six main categories of things that you should socialize your puppy to:


Depending on their personality and breed, your puppy should be socialized to anywhere between 50 and 150 dogs before they reach 16 weeks of age. Shy puppies or over-confident puppies need higher numbers, whilst easy going dogs can get away with less.

Not every encounter should be a nose to nose greeting. 50% or more of the dogs you socialize to should be seen at a distance. If you allow your puppy to greet every dog they see, they will expect to be able to do so in the future, and will struggle to pay attention to you.

The dogs that your puppy does meet nose to nose should be fully vaccinated and dog friendly. Introductions should be done off leash so that the dogs’ body language isn’t hindered by a leash.

Try to socialize to the biggest variety of dogs you can find; different ages, sizes, play styles, colors and breeds.

Other animals, like cats or livestock, should also be a part of your socialization checklist, especially if you would like your puppy to have close contact with them later in their life.


As with other animals, you should socialize your puppy to a wide variety of people. Try to introduce your puppy to people of different ages, ethnicities and sizes. In particular, dogs often have trouble with anything that changes a person’s silhouette. Common examples include facial hair, sunglasses, bulky clothes, hats and helmets, walking aids, or people carrying bulky items.

The way people move can also upset dogs if they haven’t been socialized. Things humans use in day to day life should also need to be on your list for example walking sticks, crutches, wheelchairs, skateboards, bicycles and prams, bicycles etc.


Throughout their lives dogs are expected to put up with a lot of handling from humans. It’s very important that they learn to love being touched and restrained by humans, for their safety and happiness, as well as for the safety of the humans handling them.

Your puppy should be socialized to grooming activities like, brushing, clipping, nail trimming and baths, and veterinary activities like checking ears, eyes and teeth. Go very slowly so your puppy isn’t overwhelmed. Practicing your sit restraints will also help to socialize your puppy to being held still.


Remember that puppies have far more sensitive hearing than we do. Socialize them to a variety of noises, ensuring they make positive associations by paring with fun things like food or play.

Thunder, construction noises, traffic noises, music, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners and sirens should all be included in your puppy’s socialization.

Locations & Experiences

This category covers taking your puppy out and about to experience the world. Common examples are sporting events, picnics, cafes, camping trips, the beach, markets, the vet and groomer, social gatherings and any place you might visit that you’d like your dog to cope well with.


Your puppy needs to gain the confidence to walk on a variety of surfaces; often new puppies are carried a lot and miss out on socializing to the feel of different things under their paws. This includes different textures like grass, wet grass, sand, pebbles and metal grates, and also balancing on surfaces that aren’t flat or surfaces that might shift under their paws.

But What About Contagious Diseases?

As the research into puppies’ critical socialization window is only relatively recent in the history of veterinary science, many vets and breeders are still advising new puppy parents to lock their puppies away until they have finished their vaccinations.

Unfortunately, by the time a puppy is completely vaccinated, their critical socialization window has usually closed. While it is important to be careful in regards to contagious diseases like Parvovirus, avoiding socialization during this period is actually a bigger risk.

Urine Marking in Dogs

Urine Marking in Dogs

A dog urinating on objects, usually vertical, is a normal, instinctive social behaviour. Dogs mark their territory by urinating on certain objects within their territory. The dog returns to these spots on occasion to renew this olfactory mark. Usually the amount of urine produced is a smaller amount than when the dog relieves himself. Marking often occurs in areas where other dogs have urine marked or left their odour. Although more commonly seen in intact males, neutered males and females also mark.

What is inappropriate marking? Inappropriate marking is when an otherwise healthy, housetrained dog marks objects in an area that is not acceptable to the owner, such as inside a home.

Why is my dog inappropriately marking?
Causes of inappropriate urine marking can be hormonal or social. Social factors include situations that cause anxiety or territorial stimuli, such as other animals entering their “territory,” or the introduction of something new, such as grocery bags, people, or furniture. Dogs with other anxieties, such as generalised anxiety, separation anxiety or noise phobia, can also mark.

What can I do to prevent inappropriate marking?
• If your dog is intact, neuter your dog. One study found that 40% of male dogs castrated
for marking drastically decreased their marking, regardless of age of castration.
• Neuter all animals in household. Hormonal changes in other animals, like female dogs in
heat, may trigger marking.
• It is important to rule out underlying medical problems that may cause inappropriate
urine marking. The stress of medical problems can be a contributing factor to marking.
• Clean up residual odours of the urine with enzymatic cleaners.
• Block or eliminate provoking stimuli, such as cover windows where your dog can see
other dogs walking by, block access to room where dog may hear other dogs walking by.
• Have a conversation with your behaviour consultant or therapist about separation
anxiety or other anxieties to determine if this is the cause of inappropriate urine marking.

Treat these underlying causes.
• Do not place new objects on floor until your dog has gotten used to having them in the
• During training, when your dog cannot be supervised, he should be confined to a smaller
area so that he does not practice inappropriate urine marking when the owner is not
home. He may subsequently learn that it is only safe to mark when the owner is away.
• Establish conspicuous objects outside the house where marking is acceptable, and
reward for acceptable marking.
• Change the emotional state of your dog around target areas to pleasurable areas of play
or eating
• In dogs with extreme anxiety, anti-anxiety medications may be beneficial. These are
available on prescription only from your veterinarian.

Things not to do!

• When you witness your dog marking, do not yell at him or use other types of
punishment, or this may lead to your dog marking when you are not present, or sneaking
off to mark as he has learnt it is not safe to mark in your presence. Do not punish your
dog after the fact by rubbing their nose in it, etc as your dog will not associate it with the
marking that happened awhile ago and it could negatively affect your dogs trust in you
and the relationship and bond you are developing with your dog.

Though your dog may drive you crazy marking around the house, it is not a hopeless situation!

There are many steps you can take to eliminate or minimize the behaviour, beginning with neutering. Start by analysing why your dog is marking to determine if there is an underlying problem. Animals also depend on their owners to teach them appropriate behaviours, so you must be consistent with your rules. By starting with a few of these simple changes, you may be able to change your dog’s inappropriate marking habit. If you should need further assistance be sure to contact your veterinarian, who may send you to a board certified veterinary behaviourist, or an accredited/certified animal behaviour consultant or therapist.

Hand-out created as part of a class exercise by veterinary students:
Omar Cabrera, Sara Leisgang, and Jennine Ochoa
Clinical Animal Behavior Service

How Not to greet a Dog.

Teaching Your Dog To Walk Politely on Leash.


Raising a Puppy by Sally Bradbury

Raising a Puppy – The force free way to a happy, confident pup and a great relationship.My philosophy for raising a puppy. – Sally Bradbury

  3. TEACH

Prevent what you can wherever possible and manage the pup’s environment so that he has little or no opportunity to go wrong. This means puppy proof the house, move books from the lower shelves on the bookshelves – (I had to relocate the bottles in the wine rack in the kitchen when my pup was younger!!), put bins behind cupboard doors, use stair gates and close doors to prevent access to areas where the pup may chew precious furnishings, pick up all Persian rugs temporarily and more importantly put things away such as shoes, children’s toys etc. Any time your dog engages in an unwanted behaviour, take a step back and ask yourself how you could have prevented it. Reinforce your pup for offering behaviours that are agreeable. This can be anything or can even be the absence of an unwanted behaviour. The best way to do this is to have a pot of small yummy treats, such as hot dog sausage, liver, cheese etc, say 30 in number and set yourself a challenge to catch your dog doing something that you like and would like him to do again, 30 times during the day. It could be lying in his bed, choosing to keep front feet on the floor when a visitor comes in, coming in from the garden, chewing his chew toy, the possibilities are endless (think I nicked that from an advert). To start with you may struggle to find 30 opportunities but because dogs do what works for them you will soon need more treats in that pot because your dog is going to be throwing these behaviours at you left, right and center. These are behaviours that you haven’t asked for by the way and this is by far the easiest way for a dog to learn. Teach your dog what you would like him to do. The obvious ones are to walk nicely on a lead, come when called, sit, lie down, stay…. There are lots of ways to teach your dog but it is important that whatever method you choose it is easy to understand and fair to the dog. Think back to how you learned in school. I bet your favourite subject was the one where the teacher made it fun and enjoyable to learn and motivated you with praise and rewards for good work. I tend to do pretty much all of my dogs’ training during play so lots of fetch and tug games used as rewards and the dog is having a ton of fun whilst learning. Interrupt unwanted behaviour. I know from experience that it is not always possible to prevent all unwanted behaviours when you have a puppy. It is very difficult not to get cross when your pup chews your favorite CD or expensive shoes, it is human nature. However in terms of your relationship with your dog and insuring that it doesn’t continue into adulthood you really do have to take a deep breath and try not to scowl, the damage is done nothing will undo it now. So you teach your dog a positive interrupter. This can be a word or a noise, anything you like, as long as it doesn’t frighten or startle your pup. My pup’s positive interrupter is “Moss” said in a happy voice. I can use his name because I have never said it crossly or to tell him off. You could use a “Yay!!” or a kissy noise for example. All you do is use food treats, you can move to a toy later, and say the word as you give him a treat. Repeat a few hundred times. Yes really! Now watch his response to that word next time you say it when he is doing something you would like to interrupt. Once interrupted redirect him onto something more productive.If you interrupt unwanted behaviours in a way that frightens your dog he will simply learn that these behaviours are dangerous to do when you are present and will seek opportunities to engage in them when your back is turned. And yes the dog could learn to engage in the behaviours in order to be positively interrupted BUT he will only do it when you are watching, no point when you are not, so now you can interrupt before the damage is done and meanwhile teach the dog a more rewarding behaviour instead. Think of your relationship with you puppy as a bank account, every positive interaction is a deposit, every time you punish you make a withdrawal. As soon as your account goes overdrawn then things will just go from bad to worse but keep a nice healthy bank balance and you and you pup will soon end up as millionaires in the relationship stakes.


I had a rather unpleasant experience recently with a person who wanted help with a reactive dog, but wanted me to guarantee that I could “fix” the problem, before agreeing to book a consultation. When I tried to explain that I could not make such guarantees and sent the person details on how we would approach this type of problem, as well as factors that might influence the outcome, to help her make an informed decision as to whether she wanted to proceed,she refused to read the information (because, in her own words, it was too much effort) and insisted again that I guarantee a result. At that point I responded that I was obviously not what she was looking for.

The problem is that there are “behaviourists” and trainers that do guarantee results. One popular local expert states on their website that they will fix any problem in one session. So, what is wrong with this? Should we not be confident in what we do? Surely, if we know what we are doing, we can solve whatever problem the person is experiencing with their dog?

Well, actually no. Dogs are not appliances that can be fixed, oiled or rewired when a part is broken. Dogs are living beings and behaviour is a complex function of genetics, developmental experience and reinforcement history. Physiology, health, past learning, general mood and current environment all play a role in how a dog will respond to a situation and how far they will progress with a certain behaviour modification plan. Furthermore, some owners’ expectations for their dogs’ behaviour in general is completely unrealistic and may have to be carefully “negotiated” during a consultation.

For example, there are some dogs that exhibit dog-dog reactivity that may very quickly change their behaviour to become quite sociable, with the right training and opportunities, there are others that may make slow progress, but learn to accept other dogs within certain limitations over a much longer period of time and there are others still that will never be comfortable in close proximity to other dogs, no matter how long you work with them. Why are there these differences in outcome? Well, there could be many factors. Some dogs may have had a really traumatic experience that they struggle to overcome. Some may have had virtually no social experience at all and really have no idea how to interact with other dogs. On the other hand, you may have a dog that has become a bit rusty socially or had some poor social experiences, but has an excellent early socialisation history to fall back on and so “recovers” fairly quickly. You may have a dog that physiologically reacts more mildly to stress or who does not disinhibit as quickly into a fight or flight response, which means that they are generally easier to work with. However, you might also have a dog that has done serious damage to another dog and who it is too risky to work with safely around other dogs, meaning that management may be a better option.

During a consultation, we would obviously try to find out as much as we can about a dog, so that we have a better idea of what they can cope with and how they might respond to certain scenarios. If it turned out that the dog was really well-socialised, with a fantastic early history, a generally confident and easy-going disposition and a good track record of positive and appropriate interactions with other dogs and developed some reactivity due to just a couple of recent bad experiences, I would be fairly optimistic about making progress and possibly getting the dog back to where he was before this happened. If, on the other hand, I found the dog in question was hand-raised, had no exposure to other dogs at all before the age of 6 months, is generally anxious around anything new and has been rehearsing reactive behaviour for 4 years, I would be far less optimistic. It doesn’t mean that we would not be able to help that dog, but the outcome may not be what the owner is hoping for. In some cases we may not be able to find out much about a dog at all (with most rescued dogs their history is full of holes) and may have to try and guess at how and why the reactivity developed, making predictions about likely outcomes even harder.

Then there is the human factor. While we may have the greatest training or behaviour modification plan, we have to rely on owners to implement it. Handing someone a plan and showing them how to apply it is similar to giving someone a lovely recipe and explaining how to cook the dish. Unless the person actually goes into the kitchen and assembles all the ingredients according to the instructions, the delicious meal will never appear.

So, what does it mean if someone guarantees results? Usually, it means one or more of the following:
1. They are lying to you
2. They are self-deluded
3. They are using positive punishment techniques resulting in emotional shut-down, which inhibits ALL behaviour temporarily and may look like a quick fix
4. They don’t understand anything about animal behaviour at all

As I said to the person who wanted a guarantee: The only guarantee I can give, is if you find a “behaviourist” or trainer who gives guarantees, they have no idea what they are doing!

Puppy Blues!!!

My puppy is destroying the house, what should I do????

Raising a puppy can be the best experience you can possibly have, or a bit of a nightmare. Most puppies are like little energizer bunnies, and they need to be taught in a way that they understand what is allowed and what not. Good habits gets learned very quickly but unfortunately, just like human kids, bad habits also gets learned quickly. The secret to raising a puppy is actually simple. You should create a stable, structured environment for him to grow up in, so how can I do that?

Puppies don’t know our right from wrong. It is up to us as their owners to guide them along and to teach them what we expect of them in a way they will understand. To do this however, you as owner should decide on all the rules and regulations well in advance. These rules should be applied with consistency. For example the puppy is not allowed to jump up on you. If that is the rule he should never be allowed to jump up on you. So what can you do should he jump up? Well a good idea is to teach him an alternate behavior from the start. If you teach you puppy to sit in front of you, he will not be able to jump up at the same time. The secret is to reward your puppy for the behaviors you approve of. We are very quick to let a puppy know when we are not happy, but what happens should they do something that we really approve of? We ignore it and that is where problems start. Let us look at Sam.

Sam is a 14 weeks old Spaniel. Sam is allowed on the couch and likes to sleep on the couch. Sam still has accidents inside but she mostly goes outside to do her business. We took advice from a dog whisperer now and each time we catch her doing her business inside we slap her with a rolled up newspaper. He suggested we push he nose into her urine as well to let her know we don’t approve of that behavior. Sam usually keeps herself busy with her chew toy or lying in her dog bed but the other day she made me so mad. She started chewing my slipper on the couch. After I gave her a good smack she ran outside. I don’t think she will do that again soon, I taught her a lesson. She also started biting me when we play. At one point it was really sore and I pulled away. I could see blood on my arm. I gave her a hard smack but my dog whisperer suggested I get a water spray bottle and when this happen I must squirt her in the face. I trust my dog whisperer friend, he grew up with dogs so he must know what he is talking about.

Sound familiar? Now let us have a look at this situation.

  1. Sam now and then still relieves herself indoors. That is not good but what about the other 80% of times she went outside to do her business? Did you tell her she is a good puppy and did you reward her for being such a good puppy? Or did you just ignore it? Did you keep an eye on her when she started sniffing around, a tell tail sign that she might want to go outside? Did you give her time outside an hour or two after her meals? Did you take measures to ensure that she cannot eliminate on the carpet when you are not there to supervise? Did you leave a door open so she has access to the outside world?
  2. Sam is playing with you. You tug with her and you both are having a lot of fun. Then she grabs your arm and you pull away. Her teeth are really sharp and you can see blood. Naughty puppy!!! Really? Ask yourself this, how many time did she mouth your arm or hand before that incident happen? What did you do? Just kept on playing? Smacked her for biting you? Flicked her with your finger on her nose? Sprayed her with water as punishment? Let us take a look from the puppy’s point of view. Yay we are playing, I am having so much fun with my owner. Oh he likes to play rough with me, this is so exciting, I am really enjoying this. (she bites a bit too hard and you respond with the spray bottle). OH wow what happened now? I thought we are having fun but now my owner looks really mad and he sprayed me in my face with that stuff. I don’t understand what is happening. I don’t think I can trust him that much.
  3. Sam has lots of chew toys. This one time however she used your slipper. You reacted with anger and punished her for it. What measures did you take to prevent this from ever happening? Did you put away your slippers after you took them off? If not why didn’t you? The puppy at that age will not know that your slippers is not a chew toy, so let us look at this from your puppy’s point of view. I really like my owner, he allows me to chew my toys inside the house. My gums are really itchy today, wait I will take that chew toy and I will chew on it for a bit. I am sure it will help. (you come into the picture). Why is my owner now mad at me? I don’t understand. Why is she mad at me? What is going on? I don’t think I can trust my owner anymore.

I am sure all of this sound familiar to many of us. These are only 3 examples of us humans setting your puppies up for failure. To top it all, your puppy did not learn a single thing. Even something simple as a rule to allow your puppy on the couch is important. Should you allow it, and suddenly one day you don’t allow it, your behavior will confuse your puppy. Later this confusion might lead to fear and even aggression in some dogs. The dog will also learn that you cannot be trusted, so a break down in the dog – human bond.

So what Should I do as a new puppy owner? Let us take the same 3 scenarios and figure out how we should have dealt with it.

  1. Sam is a good girl, she had an accident inside but I will have to watch her more carefully. I must remember to clean the place with a non-ammonia based cleaner, that will ensure there is not smell left over from it. I know she might go again if the smell is still there. I am going to take her outside more regularly and I am going to keep some nice puppy treats with me. I must reward her for doing her business outside. I know she will learn that she should only do this outside. I will also start crate training her. I know I will have to be somewhere else for an hour next week, I think I can crate train her in this time. If she is in her crate she will not be able to eliminate at any other place. I must just remember to hurry back, I don’t want to leave her for too long in the crate. That reminds me, I must get something nice for her to chew on for that time. I need to set my puppy up for success. Now lets look at this from the puppy’s point of view. I normally go do my business outside but I got really distracted by the cat. I will go over in this corner and quickly do my business. (You see it and clean it up and change your approach). Oh my owner now takes me outside more often, and wow each time I relieve myself I get a nice biscuit. I love this game. I did not get this treatment when I did it inside. This is fun, I love this game. I think this is where I will do it from now on. All the urine scent is out here anyway so I think this is where I must do all my toilet things.
  2. I love playing with Sam. I can see she really enjoys mouthing me. I need to be careful, I know her teeth are extremely sharp at this age. I also realize that she must learn not to bit hard on human skin. I will set up a play session to teach her this skill. I will play with her and will react with an “Ouch” as soon as she puts any pressure on my skin. I will immediately stop the play session for a few seconds. You set it up and Sam bites down a little bit too hard. You stop the play session after saying “ouch”. Let us look from Sam’s point of view. Oh good, we are going to play. I love playing with my owner. (The hard bite happens). Oh boy what happened now? I thought we are having fun. (after a few seconds you play again). Yay!!! we are playing again. (a few seconds later the same happens and you respond with Ouch and play stops). Oh NO what happened now? Wait a minute, we were having fun but every time I use my teeth my owner responds with “ouch” and then all the fun stops. My owner is really not that tough and I better not use my teeth on him from now. When I just mouth him we keep on playing but I better put my teeth away.
  3. Sam has lots of chew toys. I know she is teething and I can see she is experiencing discomfort. She is chewing a lot. I better be careful and just put all things I don’t want her to get hold of away. My slippers has my scent on them so there is a real danger she would want to chew on them, I must remember to put them away when I take them off.

In these three cases the puppy actually learned something. By manipulating the environment, and by rewarding Sam for more wanted behaviors, punishment was not necessary at all. In these cases we set Sam up for success.

Puppy – Proof Your Home

Even the best-trained puppies can have occasional hiccups in behavior as circumstances change and they are introduced to new things or you introduce new factors to the puppy’s environment. Setting your puppy up for success means setting up the environment in such a way as to not giving the puppy an opportunity to rehearse unwanted behaviors. It is actually very simple. Things you don’t want him to chew, out them away. Things you can identify that you cannot put away, don’t allow the puppy to get to such items. You can use baby gates for instance to cordon certain places off.

Reinforcing unwanted behaviours.

We are all guilty of this and it happens so easy. Say you are doing washing and Sam comes running into the room and grabs a sock. What do you do? The problem is, if you attempt to grab the sock now away from her it can very easily end up in a game of tug. Dogs love to tug. You might even think it is funny and laugh about it. Sam will see this now as a game, and we must remember that behaviors that ends in success for a dog will be repeated. If this ends up in a nice game of tug, this behavior might be repeated, and the more this happens the more it will be reinforced. Look accidents do happen and a puppy might grab something, this however should not end in a game. You can replace the sock with something else like a tug toy and that would work well. Punishing the puppy for grabbing a sock is also unfair towards the puppy as she has not learned the difference between a sock and a tug toy yet. Once again, prevention is better than cure. Keep her away from situations where this might happen. By doing so you set your puppy up for success.

The problem with punishing a puppy is that it will always have fallouts later in life. Let us have a look at some of these. This segment was taken from eileendanddogs , the fallout from the use of aversives.

  1. Escape/Avoidance: A punished organism becomes avoidant of the person who delivered the punishment,  the location in which it was delivered, and/or other elements of the environment associated with the punishment. The avoidance is negatively reinforced, which can cause a cascade of other undesirable behaviors. –Azrin, N.H, Holz, W.C., “Punishment” from Honig, W. (1966) Operant Behavior: Areas of Research and Application, 380-447.
  2. Operant Aggression: An organism attempts to eliminate the punishment contingency by seeking to destroy or immobilize the individual who is delivering the punishing stimulus.–Ibid.
  3. Elicited Aggression: (Also called redirected aggression.) An organism can be expected to aggress against nearby individuals who were not responsible for the punishment.–Ibid
  4. Generalization (related to #1 and #2 above): Fearful and aggressive responses evoked by punishment can spread to other entities. “When a stimulus shares properties with those present during punishment, it may evoke the same sorts of reactions as those that happened during the punishment. …The [subject] may respond with aggression toward or withdrawal from the punishing agents.” Sulzer-Azaroff, Beth, and G. Roy Mayer. Behavior analysis for lasting change. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1991, 486-7.
  5. Generalized Apathy: “If aversives are a common consequence of many kinds of behavior, the result may be a suppression not only of the punished behavior, but of behavior in general.”–Chance, P., 2008, Learning and Behavior, 5th Edition, 208.  The reduction in activity also reduces the organism’s chances for positive reinforcement. Chance cites the following original source– Warden, Carl J., and Mercy Aylesworth. “The relative value of reward and punishment in the formation of a visual discrimination habit in the white rat.”Journal of Comparative Psychology 7.2 (1927): 117.
  6. Conditioned Suppression/Learned Helplessness: An organism repeatedly exposed to a non-contingent aversive stimulus (that is, not under the organism’s control) will exhibit a fear response to the conditioned predictor of the aversive stimulus and a general reduction in the rate of ongoing behavior. –Estes, William K., and Burrhus F. Skinner. “Some quantitative properties of anxiety.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 29.5 (1941): 390.    When an organism is exposed to an uncontrollable (non-contingent) and inescapable aversive there is a general shutdown referred to as learned helplessness.  Maier, Steven F., and Martin E. Seligman. “Learned helplessness: Theory and evidence.” Journal of experimental psychology: general 105.1 (1976): 3.
  7. Injury: An organism can be injured from the application of an aversive in punishment or negative reinforcement.Grohmann, Kristina, Mark J. Dickomeit, Martin J. Schmidt, and Martin Kramer. “Severe brain damage after punitive training technique with a choke chain collar in a German shepherd dog.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 8, no. 3 (2013): 180-184.
  8. Reinforcement of the Punisher: The person who applies the aversive is strongly reinforced (negative reinforcement) when it succeeds. Applying punishment easily becomes habitual, and easily escalates. Powell, Russell A., P. Lynne Honey, and Diane G. Symbaluk. Introduction to learning and behavior. Cengage Learning, 2016, 358. Sulzer-Azaroff, Beth, and G. Roy Mayer. Also: Behavior analysis for lasting change. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1991, 489.

Let us set our puppies up for success. Dr Ian Dunbar believes that owning an animal should be seen as a privelige and therefore should be treated with respect and understanding.

Is your do really stubborn?

Trainers often hear clients referring to their dogs as “spiteful” or “stubborn”.  And you often hear “but at home she does everything right, she is just being stubborn now!

Really? Let us have a look at how dogs learn things, then we decide if your dog is really “stubborn”.

Firstly, to be stubborn the dog must know exactly what is expected of him (the wanted behavior must have been generalized and proofed) and then the dog must make a conscious decision not to obey.  Taking into account that all behaviors are motivated by reinforcement, being stubborn would be to no benefit of a dog and that makes it not logical.

So why is my dog not listening to me? Let me use Sky as an example.

Sky (not a stubborn dog in any sense) is my Border Collie. We are at home in my living room. We are relaxed and alone so it is the ideal time to teach Sky a new behavior.  To make this explanation simple, let’s say I teach her to sit. In five minutes flat she sits every single time I ask her to. I started with luring her in position and after minutes she sits for me without the lure and just a hand signal. Another ten minutes later I can ask her to sit using a verbal cue only and she does it perfectly. Wow Sky is a clever girl… she learn so quickly… good girl!!!!

The following day I want to go show Sky off, so I go to the obedience training field. I am going to show that trainer how it’s done. I walk up to the trainer with Sky and I ask her to sit. She prefers to jump up on the trainer . I pull her back and this time I show her the food in my hand. She runs up to me and tries to grab the food from my hand. BAD DOG!!!! The trainer looks at me and my response to him. “I don’t understand it, she did it yesterday at home, she knows how to do it, she is so naughty, I think she is just stubborn today.

Now let us back track a bit and figure out why Sky is now so “stubborn”.

For us, and for the dog “sit” is very easy to do and very easy to teach and learn. The problem is, a dog’s brain is wired much differently than ours. When a dog learns a behavior, he learns that specific behavior in a specific context. If we humans learn a new skill, we can apply it pretty much under any condition and situation at any place. If I learn to balance a glass on my head I will be able to balance the glass at a club, a park or any other place for that matter. A dog’s brain works differently. If he learned to sit in my living room, he learned that behavior in that specific context. That is where generalization comes in. We can define generalization as an extension of a concept (or behaviour) from a familiar situation to a less familiar situation. Dogs are NOT good at generalizing learned behaviours. Let’s see under what conditions I trained Sky to sit.

  1. We were alone
  2. The television was on
  3. There was music playing in the background.
  4. In my living room are 2 chairs and 2 couches
  5. We were practicing on a carpet.
  6. I was kneeling down when I taught her to sit.
  7. I did not have any shoes on.
  8. There was no distractions from outside and the list goes on. I am basically describing my whole living room.

Sky learned to sit under those exact circumstances. So what happened at the field? The thing is, when dogs learn something new, the dog (Sky) applies the whole context in which the new behavior was learned. So I taught Sky to sit in the living room, she will do it because the behavior was taught in that context. At the field the training fell apart, why? Because dogs are not good at generalizing. Sky is not choosing to disobey me and she is not being stubborn or spiteful in any way, she just was not taught that new behavior in other contexts. For Sky to fully learn and understand the sit behavior, I need to teach the behavior in different contexts, under different situations and in many different places, in other words I need to generalize the sit behavior.  So for me to teach Sky how to sit, I need to do the following.

  • Teach her the physical position by luring or whatever method I can use
  • Reinforce the behavior, pay her in dog currency (food) for correct responses
  • She must learn to obey my cue in a very simple and specific context.
  • She must learn to resist possible distractions.  (this I can set up at home)
  • I must take the behavior on the road. I must teach her to do the same behavior under different situations and at different places, in other words the behavior needs to be generalized.
  • In the end she must learn to resist almost all distractions.

The above I can do by positive reinforcement. You can say I pay her for the wanted behaviors in dog currency, something of a very high value to the dog namely treats or food. Food rewards work well because it is a biological need, so a very good primary reinforcer.  I therefore reward her well for the wanted behaviors so why would she at some point make a conscious decision not to do what I ask of her?

Maybe the problem is just that some types of dogs are harder to train than others in certain areas. It will take a real effort to teach a Beagle to retrieve something. It still does not mean he is stubborn. He was simply not “designed” to do it. They were selectively bred for a specific function, to follow their noses and to follow a scent and they are really brilliant at doing that. They have lots of stamina to do what they were “designed” for to the best of their abilities. Beagles not wanting to retrieve an object is not being stubborn in any way. They were simply not designed to do that. My Border Collie will never be able to compete with a Hound or Beagle when it comes to following a trail and they being unable to perform at the same level as a Beagle does not mean they are stubborn or spiteful, they just cannot do it as well because they were selectively bred for a different function. A Beagle will never perform as well as a Border Collie (you get exceptions but in general) in Agility. They are not sprinters but rather long distance athletes, they are simply not as fast.

In conclusion I think we are quickly to “blame the dog” even though we don’t really know what makes that particular dog tick. To call the dog stubborn is an easy way out of an uncomfortable situation. Sky is used to learning new things and I keep it fun and rewarding for her, so teaching her is very easy. Other dogs might not be used to learning new things and it will take much longer to teach them. The bottom line is all dogs are different, even dogs within the same breed are different, but because one dog learn something faster than the other does not mean such a dog is stubborn.

For more information regarding this feel free to contact me:




Puppy school is a time and place where puppies and owners are educated. The aim is to produce a well-adjusted, socially acceptable, adult companion animal. All exercises are taught as fun games and learning methods are reward-based, using the concept of positive reinforcement!


      What we cover in class:

  • The principles of positive reinforcement learning.
  • Natural bite inhibition.
  • Leash skills – how to get your pup to walk on a loose leash.
  • Confidence-building exercises (including tactile desensitisation) to produce a well-adjusted pup.
  • Inter-canine social skills.
  • Teaching your pup to reliably “come” when she is called.
  • Handling and examination skills.
  • Basic canine communication and behaviour.
  • Puppy stages of behavioural development.
  • Basic obedience exercises (sit, down, stand, recall, fetch, leave, wait, etc.).
  • Teaching your pup to concentrate.
  • Teaching the pup not to run away with your valuable possessions.
  • Basic puppy behaviour problem solving.
  • Basic puppy and dog care.
  • An accompanying in-depth homework CD is provided for all new students.


Classes are held each Saturday morning at 10:00 at our SPCA educational center in George. Handlers are expected to be prompt and to be at the grounds 10 minutes before class. They are also expected to clean up after their pups, i.e. to “scoop the poop”.


Do not feed your pup a full meal prior to class, as food is used as a motivator/training tool.  Pups with a full tummy tend to sleep through the entire class – This not conducive to learning! This is why class is held early in the morning. The missed meal is be made up when you get home.


WHAT TO BRING TO CLASS (Please wear old clothes!)

  • A hungry pup restrained on a light, flat collar (or harness) and soft leash.
  • Soft yummy dog treats.
  • A shallow water dish.
  • Dog brush and vitamin tablets – for pill taking & grooming practice.
  • Toys for playtime.
  • A large sense of humor, and a willingness to learn new things.


Classes are held under the direct supervision of one of our animal behaviour consultants, and our experienced, understanding instructors.  All exercises are performed individually and gentle methods are found to suit each individual puppy and handler.”

For more information send us a message:

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Force free science based behaviour modification and training

Eden K9 Abilties

George van Huyssteen (DipCABT)
Affiliate Member CAPBT SA
Garden Route, South Africa