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How and When to Socialize Puppies






When your veterinarian accidentally leads you down the wrong road! 


Serious trouble comes from socializing a puppy AFTER they have had their vaccinations.  I can’t tell you how often I hear this dilemma from puppy owners.  The vet said they can’t step foot outside of their house until the puppy is fully vaccinated (around 16 weeks old).  The internet says the puppy needs to meet 100 diverse people in the first few weeks of having him, which is around the 8-12 week mark.  


Both of those scenarios do not give puppy owners and accurate view into what they can and can’t do, why, how and when!  It can be maddening so I’m hoping to shed some light and perspective on the issue. 









Before we get into the “what should you do or can you do”, lets go over some facts.  

  1. A puppy’s prime socialization time is between 3/4 weeks and 16 weeks old.
  2. A puppy doesn’t finish booster shots until 16 weeks old.
  3. Parvo virus is the dangerous virus your puppy could get (though unlikely) if you were to come into contact with any poop from an animal that has parvo.  This is mostly dogs and occasionally other animals like coyotes.  It is highly contagious.
  4. Because a puppy’s socialization time starts so early, it is up to the breeder to do much of the work, but you must understand, most of them do not.
  5. A puppy does not “grow out of things” that relate to bad behavior linked to emotional responses.  For instance, a puppy that doesn’t want to check out other dogs and puppies.  They have an emotional response by moving away, being tentative or stoic.  This is not a “phase” they will get over.  I know there are some exceptions, but that is the general reality of raising animals.  If you don’t work them through things and help guide them regularly, they will not change and sometimes get worse.


The idea of keeping your puppies inside and just having people over is a terrible idea that is a contributing factor to dogs over the age of 6 months old winding up in shelters and rescues.  It’s very irresponsible to not fully unpack what puppy owners should do rather then just stay inside and scare them about parvo.  If you are responsible and really look at your surroundings you can do some things outside and must do some things outside we are going to discuss.  Then we will go over what to stay away from.


I personally have learned that the missing link in the socialization talk with puppies is quality or quantity.  So when you read online about puppy parties at your house, I encourage you to do that, but also look at the pup you have.  That may be scary for them, or they may go crazy with too much attention!  If you want to socialize your puppy, you need to find as diverse of situations, sights, sounds and surfaces that you can.  


After that first round of boosters, having someone come over to your house, men and women of different size, age and diversity is a great way to help your puppy.  Make sure these guests will listen to you and not get crazy excited.  When you first get your puppy you can teach them come and sit easily in 5 minutes if they are responding to food.  Have the guests do the same thing.  Then calm pets.  Picking up the puppy calmly and touching feet, giving food, looking at ears, giving food, holding the puppy differently like on his/her back, etc.  That is ideal!  If people can’t come to your house you go to them and make sure they have an area you can put the puppy and not worry about ruining a carpet, because accidents are going to happen.  Honestly, doing this once a week or at least a couple of times a month for a few months is very valuable.   It’s a lot of work, I know, but it is so worth it.  You do not have to have a party of 10 people.  In fact, I am not a huge fan of that.  Meeting people that I know will listen to me and not make the puppy frantic excited is much more valuable to me, even if that is only 4 people.  I will just visit those 4 people as much as I can.  Having huge parties or having people that go crazy when they see puppies will encourage your puppy to be frantic when they see people, so quality vs quantity.


Socialization with other dogs should be done with another dog you know is fully vaccinated and has a responsible owner.  Make sure you don’t let your puppy overwhelm the other dog or vice versa.  Use food and encourage sniffing.  Many adult dogs do NOT like puppies and will tolerate very little.  This is NOT a chance to teach your puppy a lesson for being pushy.  The only way that can even have a chance at working is if there are 99 positive interactions to every low key correction from the other dog.  Often it is very necessary to settle down even a 12 week old puppy from overwhelming and biting another dog that isn’t interested.  That is another blog for another time, but you must know you can’t allow that pushy behavior.  For now I will mention using food with a tug on the leash to get your pups attention and work on basic obedience around other dogs rather then interaction if you are having that problem with your puppy until you can get a trainer to help you.  Don’t rely on picking your puppy up all the time from bad situations like being pushy with a dog or getting into something in the house. 

Puppy Classes are a GREAT way to socialize your pup or checking online sources of other puppies in your area for playdates.  Make sure the pups match relatively in size or a large breed puppy will make your puppy shy or feel the need to protect their space.  It’s about creating positive interactions.  Many puppy classes will allow you to come after 2 booster shots and just take off or cover your shoes in a sterile area.  If your puppy is overwhelmed or scared, then it may be too much for them and during socialization, make sure the trainer matches your puppy with one other puppy that is a good match to build confidence if needed.  I did this a lot when I taught puppy classes and I was shocked at how many clients had bad experiences at puppy classes with driven puppies overwhelming and scaring their pup and all they did was pick up their pup and then put them back down only to be scared again.  Make sure you feel comfortable in your puppy class. 


That is just the tip of the iceberg!  Don’t worry if you don’t have access to kids or very many people.  There is more to be done!  

  1. At home, play different movies (for sound and light changes…think superhero), radio and different sounds for your dog.  You can use youtube or purchase a dog desensitizing sound cd.  That way you cycle through traffic noise, fireworks, cat and dog noises, kid noises, etc.  This can be played daily at a low level while you are away as well as working with your dog so the puppy gets used to it.  Gradually up the sound level.  Do this a few days a week.  Vacuuming and daily chores are good as well.
  2. Adding puzzle toys like kongs where the puppy works to get the yummy treat out is a great idea to layer to the noises that may make your puppy uncomfortable.  It will build confidence. (freeze dried is great because it’s healthy)
  3. Find different surfaces for your puppy and puzzle toys for food.  Get creative:   Carpet is easy, hard floor, slick floor, a plastic lid of some sort that is relatively flat, bubble wrap, etc.  If you do a youtube search for confidence building and socializing with puppies you will find all kinds of ideas you can implement at home.  
  4. Make sure you are utilizing a front and back yard if you have one (assuming front yard is blocked off from other dogs)  Doing this daily while working on come and basic obedience as well as play will go a long way in helping your dog build a relationship with you outside and inside.  You can even start walks in the yard.  I know not everyone can do this and if that is the case, you should work hard on place command and come inside for a week and I’ll explain why below!
  5. Get a travel bag and go outside!  If your pup has had one round of boosters start taking your pup to run errands in a travel bag.  Take your pup to work and have co workers say hello calmly (if it is okay with your boss).  You can get a sling or carry your puppy to the park.  Let your pup watch the world go by.  It is JUST as important that not every person your puppy sees says hi as it is to have someone occasionally say hi.  Use food to reward your puppy when people and dogs, bikes and skateboards, fire trucks and anything new go by.  That is why it is a good idea to feed your puppy through training daily meals so you are not relying on treats.  (expect your puppy to have an accident while traveling, it happens) There are many pet friendly places you can try as well.  Still take your pup in a carrier of some sort, but it’s a great opportunity to observe.  Even stopping by a vets office is a great idea as long as the dogs in that office are not barking.  Again, keep your pup in the carrier or carry him/her without coddling/snuggling.
  6. If you have been working your puppy on leash in the house, courtyard, yard or even condo hallway, you can use those skills of come and place developed in a week outside!  Take a mat, your pup, leash and food pouch and head down to the park.   For extra caution bring a blanket.  Find a quiet spot you are able to observe things going on around you and work your pup outside with everything going on.  Stick to easy commands like come and sit and target them on the place mat/bed.  Even setting up a little travel ex pen with a blanket on your day off is worth it if you live in an apartment building.  If your pup gets anxious and starts jumping and barking at everyone, then you should look for one on one training right away to curb that early! 
  7. A big one is CAR rides!  Puppies often get car sick, just a heads up!  But working on car rides that are short, gas station stops, post office stops where you can carry your pup in, etc.  These are great ways to get your pup out there in the world.



A big misconception is that your pup is outgoing and social now so you don’t bother to continue it.  Puppies have a need to check things out at an early age.  That is why, even though my list seems daunting, those are just ideas.  They are not things that need to be done everyday!  Quality vs quantity, remember?!  But it is important to note that just because you have a friendly puppy, doesn’t mean you stop trying with a 3 month old.  They change so much and it is really something that should be done thoughtfully, but regularly in combination with the training that will help a very driven and excitable dog to exist and not just interact.


Don’t forget, what you do at home really speaks volumes for how your pup will be with people and dogs even if you don’t get to do a lot of socializing and I mentioned MANY examples of what to do at home.


I must make note of my own personal preference when working with puppies with two booster shot rounds.  If I have been working with a puppy on basic obedience and they are doing well, there is no reason in my mind I can’t go to a clean park in a very nice, well kept area and spend a little time on concrete in a small space working on come and place and meeting people I feel might be okay to say hi.  (you don’t have to let anyone say hi, but you’ll have to get good at politely saying no)  With that being said I understand the need to maybe take a blanket for the puppy to work on.  (expect accidents)  For me the benefits FAR outweigh the risks to have a well adjusted puppy vs the high amount of nervous, anxious and unhappy dogs I work with daily.  


With that being said there are some things I would not recommend.


Stay away from dog parks with your puppy, they often carry disease like Giardia and that is HARD to get rid of, though not life threatening.  It is also just a bad place to socialize a puppy.


Stay away from public water areas or an area with any standing water.   Many places have public areas for your pet to drink from a water bowl.  That is a terrible idea for a puppy.  Their immune system cannot handle all of the things on that bowl!  


Don’t let your puppy greet another dog or puppy that you do not know. 


Keep your puppy away from grass that isn’t in your yard.


Hopefully that opens your eyes up to some great ideas you can and should do with your pup before they are 16 weeks old, NOT after :)  


This blog was written for puppies 16 weeks old or younger.


-Bethany Wilson

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Is a 2 day seminar right for me?

If you want to gain a better understanding of your dog's behavior and learn how to not only tell your dog what to do, but teach them to learn and become more self reliant in their decision making, this seminar is for you!


The target focus two day weekend seminars are leash handling skills and how different types of leashes and tools are beneficial for different reasons.  It’s also important to know how and when to use them. With the leash we’ll be going over when and how to be gentle, when to guide, as well as when to challenge and address a situation or moment.  Those fundamentals are what we will focus on.


We will also be talking about body language, not just the dogs, but our own.  We so often rely on our training tools or just a leash, and we forget to read the dog and act accordingly.  When you know what a dog needs based off of body language and the energy they are giving, how to answer that with the leash and your body language becomes more evident.  We will talk about when we teach spacial pressure to a dog, how we do it and when it isn’t safe to do it.


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Do Dogs like Hugs and getting in their face for Kisses?!

Do dogs like hugs and getting in their face for kisses?



This is something we come across a lot and I hear debated by so many people.  I might watch a video or read an article with another trainer talking about how dogs hate hugs and it doesn’t come natural to who they are and causes stress.  Then many people will be angry at that swearing that their dog loves hugs.  So here is the skinny!  They are both right.  


For me, in my experience it comes down to trust and easiness of nature.  Now this isn’t the type of trust you might think.  I don’t necessarily mean earned trust with structure and guidance like I have talked about numerous times before.  I don’t mean trust through feeding and treats.  I mean basic general trust for the human race (which often bleeds over into other species as well for the dog)  Dogs that genetically have a more trusting disposition of people will not only tolerate hugs from adults and kids, but just enjoy the attention and interaction.  This does NOT mean they love being hugged specifically.  This means they just love the attention in any form it comes in most of the time.  My German Shepherd Dakota is a perfect example of this.  Not only does she love hugs, but she’ll get in your face as much as possible to sniff and kiss hello and loves it if you get to her face first.  She wants just about anyone to do this and even if she does has a reservation about someone (she once barked at a woman with hiking poles) after telling her no, she decided she loved that person as much as anyone and she should introduce herself, ideally by getting a hug!  


This is NOT every dog.  I’m inclined to say it isn’t MOST dogs, but I am jaded.  The vast majority of questions I get from around the world looking for dog advice and the dogs I work with on a daily basis are there for a reason…because they need help!  That makes my perspective of how many dogs are trusting enough of the entire human race to love hugs vs those that do not, very biased.  However, I have worked with so many rescues and rescue dogs at this point that I can say seeing any dog put in a new situation, in a new environment, even acting friendly, could be the most deceiving when interpreting behavior and dangerous.  That is a strong statement, I know, but hang with me for a bit and this piece of information may really help you or someone down the road save you from a bite or save a child’s life. 


A situation that I do know is more common then most people think is the same scenario told two different ways. 

  1. A husband and wife get a puppy to raise.  They love the puppy more then anything and have a wonderful life with the puppy and that puppy turns into an adult dog.  The couple get pregnant and have a baby.  The dog is unsure.  The couple tries to socialize the baby and dog and get the dog used to the baby.  Things are…okay.  The baby gets mobile and crawling or walking.  Now the baby is getting in the dogs face sometimes and the parents are trying to teach a 1 year old how to ‘pet’ the dog properly.  The dog is feeling so much pressure and one day the baby gets in the dogs face and snap!!  Seemingly out of nowhere the dog bites the baby and the family naturally becomes terrified and must get rid of the dog. 
  2. A family adopt a really happy and excited dog from a shelter.  The dog is so great with the kids and they are all excited to save this dogs life.  The family brings the dog home and they show the dog the new house, the yard, maybe go for a walk and play with some toys.  The dog seems happy and excited with all the attention and new stuff to explore.  The family sits on the floor and just loves on the dog and gives lots of pets.  Then someone gets in the dogs face or gives the dog a hug and they strike and bite, or worse.  


This is such a sad scenario for the people and the dog.  Any dog in a new situation, even with a trusted family member or a new dog to a new family may seem happy and excited, but to jump to a level of spacial pressure that suffocates the dog is dangerous, even if the dog seemingly asks for it.  Dogs take TIME to settle and build trust if rescued and even dogs you have had from the age of a puppy will act in surprising ways when a new situation or pressure source presents itself.  


An example of this is our border collie Dusty.  He was happy and eager to get out of his kennel environment at the rescue.  He was friendly without a hint of reservation when meeting us.  Just a few days of settling in he showed signs of being more reserved like a typical border collie with new people (and this is without us spoiling him, haha)  We quickly learned that he liked people just fine when he felt comfortable, but did NOT like people getting in his face and he would do a warning bark out to the side.  Having him made me realize how many people will say hi to a dog and then immediately go down to a dogs face, mostly strangers.  We started working on that immediately, advocating for him and letting him get more comfortable first.  He was doing so well and was really solid with anyone coming inside and even getting comfortable with kids petting him.  Then, seemingly out of the blue, someone he knew well and really liked said hello by leaning over him and getting in his face.  He did his bark jumping to the side…a warning.  We hadn’t heard it in over a year.  What could have caused this?  We had just moved to a different home and we were having a get together.  The combination of the stressful move and many people coming over (Not to mention my frantic cleaning and cooking!  Not exactly being the pillar of leadership in that moment!) It all led to that moment…that set back.  What if his instinct wasn’t to give a warning bark.  What if it was to use his teeth immediately like with many dogs? 


This is a very real problem for many people and my advice is this.  Never get in a dogs face or hug a dog that you do not have a regular and daily relationship with.   Don’t do it at all if that dog tends to be more reserved naturally or has other behavioral issues you think would never be used towards you, because that is likely not true.  If it is your own dog, know your dog and respect certain aspects to their personality or be actively working on it to change it if that is your goal.  More importantly, make sure you demand that other people respect those things about your dogs personality.  Finally, make sure your dog really does enjoy the close interaction with you and if not, you can actually condition them to be more comfortable with it, believe it or not.  We worked on that with our dog Dusty and now he really loves it from his family and people he knows well, but he isn’t comfortable with it from people he doesn’t know well, so we make sure not to put too much pressure on him in that regard.  Know when you have a dog like our Dakota, who seeks out hugs wherever she goes and has an easy nature about her.  That doesn’t mean don’t keep an eye on your dog in situations like that because EVERY dog has their limit, but just see and respect the difference in different dogs temperaments and personalities.  After all, dogs are not bred instinctively to be tolerant and great with all scenarios.  There are certain breeds that are much better with those situations on average and keep that in mind when choosing your pet. 


I hope this sheds some light on the dog hugging debate.  Mostly this really boils down to seeing the dog individually and not what you want the dog to be or what the breed usually is.  I’ve had multiple Australian and German shepherds and while the similarities in the breed are amazing, they were still incredibly diverse and all with different levels of tolerance and different behaviors with different people and kids.  Some were great from the start and others were not.  Know you dog, choose wisely and be careful with children…always. 


-Bethany Wilson

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The Incredible reason why your dog's nose is dragging you around town!

The INCREDIBLE abilities of a dog's NOSE and some insight into why your pup's nose may drag you around town! 


I have always been fascinated by a mammal’s senses from an orca whale to an elephant and a dog’s nose is an amazing thing worth examining.  Unlike our noses, a dog really knows how to tap into their abilities and utilize them.  We’ve been able to really hone in on that natural ability to accomplish some incredible things with dogs!  This should also give you a great amount of insight to why certain things might be surprisingly difficult when training your dog.  For instance keeping your dog from marking their territory over another smell, or calling them to you off of a strong prey smell. 


I get a little picture crazy on this blog so bare with me and enjoy all the cute noses! 



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Puppy Training Time!

Puppy Training Time!

You got a new puppy over the holidays, you're headed back to work and now struggling? 


Here are some specific steps to help!


Puppies need confidence, structure and repetition of obedience commands to have that balance of fun mixed with setting them up to succeed.


Let’s tackle obedience commands first and things you can do to build a bond with your puppy. 


By puppies, I am referring to dogs less than 20 weeks old.


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The Deep Connection

The Deep Connection

How to matter to your dog... be relevant... find that deep connection with dogs we see and hear about in the movies and books. So many owners feel that their dog, even if they behave well, don't ever listen!! 


Let me try NOT to get into the weeds by talking about initial genetics of a dog, certain behavioral limitations and just give some awesome foundational generalizations you can use with your pooch at home. 


I'll start with human examples and then relate it to dogs. I know, I know, we shouldn't humanize dogs, which is incredibly TRUE, but in some ways we should (breaking the rules!)


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Yard Laziness Syndrome

Yard Laziness Syndrome

What is it, how to prevent it and how I still fall short of my goals, but what I have learned has allowed me to be able to see certain things with my dogs that really help guide what they need from me. This is not just for dogs that need serious training...even your sweet family dog could suffer from this.


When you have a yard it is easy to fall into the trap of letting your dog run outside when they want, sneak in chasing a squirrel, barking the neighbor dog, etc. with no instruction.

You take more liberties by not walking your dog for constructive exercise because you are tired or have other things you need to do so you give your dog a bone, ‘free-time’ in the yard, encourage zoomies (running fun and frantic circles around the yard) or just play extra fetch.


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You can't hide it...

You can’t hide it...from your dog.


You think you are hiding it from your friends, colleagues, even family, but you aren’t from your dog.


You aren’t first challenged by your work, family or obligations. Your first challenge is how you treat yourself and how you talk to yourself and then handle yourself in those work, family and other obligations.  In a world with big obligations, big goals, big expectations and a fast paced lifestyle, many of us feel we are falling short or drowning in this sea of expectations and potential.


A BIG reason behind that is because of how we talk to ourselves. It is causing a great deal of depression in our society that manifests in many ways.

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The Future of Rescue Looks Bright!

The Future of Rescue looks bright!

The potential new wave of adopting dogs from rescues with training is upon us!  Let me clarify training.  I don’t just mean sit, down, stay, place and come (although very valuable).  Most of the dogs that I work with know all of their basic obedience, just not when it matters.  They don’t know what sit means when that neighborhood dog walks by and barks or when a squirrel taunts them from a tree.  That stay goes out the window in a hurry when company comes or the mail carrier rings the doorbell to have you sign for a package.  

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Are you sheltering your dog?

Are you sheltering your dog?

I was recently reading an article in psychology today on over-parenting. That can be a hot button issue in and of itself, but stay with me here. The woman used several examples of kids being sheltered and things done for them, resulting in them being resentful or spoiled to the point they cannot take care of themselves or cope with the most basic of challenges in life. You are probably wondering what this has to do with dogs…quite a bit actually.


As a dog trainer and educator, I am seeing this trend in dogs more and more.  Owners with good intentions want their dog to just be ‘happy’. As a result, anything that makes their dog uncomfortable, seemingly sad or stressed is avoided as much as possible. 

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The working dog brain vs the family dog brain.

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Training Shelter and Rescue dogs

Training Shelter and Rescue dogs

Boy could I go in a million different directions, but let’s start with something simple.  Who am I? Well, my name is Bethany and I started training dogs in basic obedience when I was very little in 4-H and for dog shows.  This definitely did not prepare me to work with behavioral issues or dogs from ‘the system’ as I like to call it. When I moved out at 19 I headed to the big city and got a difficult pup of my own.  That truly was my first introduction to animal shelters and rescue dogs.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but there was no social media or smart phones. Just me, growing up on a farm and playing ‘Oregon trail’ on the computer. I never knew anything about them and now I’m surrounded by people that need my help with dogs with “difficult pasts”.  I wasn’t ready and started to do some serious research, studying with other trainers, books and eventually the world wide web became everyone’s go-to. I became very skilled using different methods and approaches to different dogs and issues.  Over the years I realized something incredible. People who raise dogs from puppies have the same issues as the shelter dogs with “difficult pasts”. How can that be? All of these abandoned animals are much more difficult and require more love to feel like they fit in, right?  

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Creating Calmer Dogs

Creating Calmer Dogs

You get what you pet…  

Reward calm behavior…  

Reward the mindset you want with praise in the form of food or pets.


These are things we say often, including myself, and they are true and important, but what can get lost is the context of affection when training.  For the dogs we see with behavioral issues, they need less affection in general, especially when their dog is calm.


Haven’t we all heard that you should only reward a calm dog if a calm dog is what you want?  That alone is difficult for most owners, but it isn’t even the whole truth and if taken literally without context, it can actually make things much worse.

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