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Level 2

Training the Family Dog



Remember the true goals for proper socialization...

Socialization is about building confidence, optimism, focus, and calmness in your dog. The confident dog has the coping skills to handle things well. The optimistic dog can see the good in new things and not panic or worry. The calm dog stays in control, makes appropriate decisions, has good manners, and behaves well in any situation.

Socialization Reminders

This should still be a top priority for your puppy. Practice your cues and play your gamesat home and in new environments - build confidence, optimism, calmness, and now some focus!

  1. Observation - seeing, hearing and smelling the world around them. Puppies who do not get adequate socialization during the critical period (by 16 weeks) tend to be fearful of unfamiliar people, dogs, sounds or objects or new environments. Get your puppy out and about.
  2. Build Confidence - use your Sniff It Out game and Noise Box game with different objects, in different places. Pair appropriate games with Noise Work. This is socialization at home. Play your concept games that build confidence and teach your dog to have a positive view towards the world.
  3. Experience New Objects and Textures - walking on different surfaces, everyday but strange human objects - at home (Sniff It Out, PawsOn, and Noise Box address this), in the neighborhood, out and about.
  4. Observation of Different People (then interactions if your puppy is wanting it). DMT people at a distance. Use games to help your puppy handle situations appropriately - DMT, Reward Nothing, Calming Touch, Parking, etc. Balance out just seeing people and actually saying hello. Keep greetings calm and quick. Hold the collar or harness to prevent jumping. End the greeting if your puppy gets over-excited or seems nervous. If your puppy disengages, the greeting is over. Don't let the person persue. Remember that sniffing does not mean the puppy is wanting to be pet. Reinforce calmness as much as possible.
  5. Plan for the Future - this especially rings true if you are young and don't have children yet, but someday will. Or if grandchildren will be a part of your future. Get your puppy used to kids, babies, toddlers. Parks, playgrounds, friends or family... you will need to visit places where there are children and help your dog get accustomed to these strange humans.
  6. Other Safe Dogs (and I don't mean go to dog parks) - a trip to your local pet store will give you the ability to observe other dogs and practice calmness and focus on you. Classes provide experiences with other dogs in a safe environment. Friends or other (outside the home) family dogs that are dog and puppy friendly and fully vaccinated can be an interaction experience. Calmness first - walk dogs together. Keep them separated at first and reward calmness. Premack to play. Interrupt play often to keep arousal levels lower so they practice good manners.
  7. Proper Greetings - use Premack to give your dog permission to say hello to someone. That way it is on permission and not always an expectation. This helps your dog learn to be calm and not anticipate saying hello to everyone they see. Remember that focus on you is the top priority. Everything else is none of your dog’s business until you say it is. Parking and Collar/Harness Holds help to prevent jumping. DMT and rewarding on the ground or down low also help to put value on keeping the paws on the floor. All these games and strategies can be played when you are out and about as well as with home visitors.
  8. Continue Building Calmness - your key to success for a dog that uses good manners with situations both at home and out and about iscalmness. A calm dog has manners and makes good choices! So you should continue to build calmness at home and when you go outside. Puppies, young dogs, and dogs new to the idea of calmness still need support in building this concept, and using your crate and ex-pen is essential for your road to success. These beginning boundaries allow you to put structure on promoting calmness and are places that you can build a strong association and value with calmness through your various calming games.


  • Observation first so you can see how your puppy feels about the situation.
  • Be at a distance to where your puppy feels safe and can be calmer, only then will you be able to build any sort of positive association.
  • DMT (a dog that takes food is a good indicator that he's in threshold or not overly fearful or excited)
  • Balance between observing and interacting. Maintaining calmness and focus on you is crucial to handling the world well. Don't build expectations that every person or dog your puppy sees will say hello. This builds anticipation and can lead to over-excitement, anxiety or frustration if things don't go as expected.
  • Calmness should be rewarded so it will become default in the future.

DMT Review - Distraction, Marker, Treat


Keep it simple and work non-triggers first! It is for anything that your puppy sees as interesting. DMT is for everything with which you want your dog to have positive associations. It is for everything that you want your dog to be calm around. DMT is your go-to game when out and about, introducing your pup tothe world. It is also for work at home, with visitors, sounds, and other occurrences you want your dog to get used to and learn a calm and controlled response.

DMT at Home

You can use DMT for visitors, helping to create positive associations with people coming into your home and help to promote calmness with visitors. That is also where you can use the "occupied" and "unoccupied" strategies of DMT. It involves using your crate, ex-pen, gate, or other boundary and teaching calmness and manners withvisitors. Occupied means that you give your pup something high value to chew with the arrival of guests, and periodically add in DMT when conditions change. Unoccupied means that your dog is in management/boundary and does not have something high value to chew on, and you will DMT the arrival. Occupied is easier and typically your first step to helping with calmness and positive emotions.

DMT Out and About (and Socialization)

It can be visual: cars, people, animals, objects, etc.

It can be or audio: barking dogs, engines or horns, people talking or cheering, animal sounds, construction sounds, etc.

Working Through Excitement

Some puppies are very social and thrive on attention. These are the wiggly and jumpy puppies who love to say hello to people, and possiblyother dogs. If excitement is rewarded with a greeting, it can quickly start to get out of hand. Anticipation builds upon the sight of another person or dog. You "disappear from your puppy's mental picture" and you get ignored, your puppy unable to ocus on you because arousal levels are too high. Sometimes DMT and other games can help calm your puppy initially so you can allow a greeting. Dmt during the greeting as well and utilize a nharness or collar grab to prevent jumping. If your puppy is to excited, you need to walk your puppy away. Calmness and some self-control needs to be rewarded, not over-excitement and ignoring you.

Keeping Your Puppy Safe

You need to learn what makes your puppy feel safe and secure. Only then can you build positive associations and confidence. Over-excitement can eaily shift to anxiety. Frustration can lead to fear. Proper socialization is not easy. It takes insightful observation of your puppy and learning how to read subtle cues. Going up to someone and sniffing them does NOT mean a dog wants to be pet. It does mean the dog is gathering more information to help him decide what to do next. Behaviors can easily be misinterpreted by people. So, proper socialization can also mean rejecting someone who wants to pet your puppy. But in the grand scheme of things, your puppy needs to trust you and that matters more than a stranger's wants or opinion.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: SPACE! - Space is of utmost importance. It keeps a dog safe, and it separates a dog from distractions. Be far enough away so your puppy feels comfortable and can focus on you, too. Far enough away so that your puppy can be more calm and relaxed.


  1. Level 1 - Pairing: When you notice, but your pup has not yet - mark and treat "no reaction is a good reaction." Continue through the entire experience with that distraction.
  2. Level 2 - Classic (classical conditioning): When your pup goes on alert and notices distraction but has not reacted yet, you say your CRM (Calm Reward Marker) and reward your puppy. At this stage, this is regardless of how your pup behaves. It is classical conditioning, a scientifically proven method, and at this stage in the game, you do not require any behavior. Hopefully, by catching things early, you will have the opportunity to reward "no reaction is a good reaction" by marking and rewarding no response.
  3. Level 3 - Transitioning (classical conditioning transitioning to a behavior): Your dog notices the distraction first, and you immediately begin DMT. Your dog is not acting out in any exaggerated way. That includes no barking, jumping, whining, growling, etc. but they might still not be behaving in an ideal manner. When you say your marker, your puppy turns to look at you. The marker helps your puppy to disengage from the distraction. It might be for just a moment and then the focus is back on the distraction, but DMT is starting to facilitate disengaging from the distraction and a calmer initial response.
  4. Level 4 - Auto-Response (operant conditioning): When you see that yourdog is now automatically offering eye-contact with you when faced with a distraction. Your dog is still experiencing a level of arousal with the distraction, but now has the coping skills and proper associations to stay within the realm of thinking and can react appropriately - check in with you. Keep this going and make sure to always reward your puppy for this awesome choice!

With consistency, this creates a "habit" of turning/looking to you whenever somethingcatches your puppy's eye. That is the automatic behavior you want to start seeing.

This technique limits eye-contact with distractions, interrupts emotion and reactivity, and turns your puppy's focus on you to be his/her emotional anchor.Your goal with DMT is calmness.

Releases or cues are to let your puppy know if it is okay to interact but only with permission. Management tools (leashes, crates, ex-pens, gates) are there to prevent rehearsal of unwanted behavior and to keep your puppy safe - avoiding going over to see something, sniffing, chasing, etc. Depending on where you live, curiosity can turn into a life-threatening situation (snakes, porcupines, trash, unfriendly dog, car, etc.)


Dogs parks are unsafe for young puppies, vaccinated or not. Not only are dog parks places common inhabited by parasites and disease, but they are also a poor socialization environment. They are not worth the risk in your desire to socialize your puppy to other dogs. Bad things can happen fast, and your number one priority is to have all socialization experiences with other dogs go well. If you don’t have friends or family with safe dogs, don’t worry. Your dog will not be deprived. Continue to build confidence and calmness and DMT your puppy around dogs that you come across in an outing without interracting. Socialization is about what is in your life! If your puppy has confidence, optimism and calmness, encounters with dogs will go well no matter when it happens.

Training Tip: I make it a rule of thumb to automatically DMT specific things that dogs can possibly have a tough time with; either in the beginning or later on. This includes dogs and people, and especially children. So every time you take your puppy out on an outing, bring plenty of food with you and DMT  "everything dog" (jingle of collars, barking, seeing a dog) and people/children (sounds and sights). And if you have cats or other small pets in the house, you will also want to include them!

DMT is not a puppy thing, it's a dog thing. So this applies not only in puppyhood, but also during adolescence and with adult dogs, too. This is a "go to" strategy game for all things new, all things distracting to your dog.

Noise Work: Beginning Steps (Non-Triggers)


It is important to get your puppy used to all the noises in his world. So, take some recordings of common sounds and play them (super low volume at first) during a calm time - while your puppy works on something yummy like a Kong or bully stick. Help to desensitize and buildpositive associations with the sounds in your specific environment.

Record sounds in your neighborhood, or you can use general soundsoff of YouTube.

Pair these sounds with DMT, calming protocol, passive calming activities, massage, focus games (working foundation cues), confidence sniffing games, and other wonderful things.

This is an easy step for audio-socialization and sound desensitization. Work noises and teach "no reaction is a good reaction." This is good preparation for when your pup's core vaccinations are complete and the world now opens up to more opportunities.

You will also want to use this technique for practicing with thunder and fireworks sounds BEFORE they become a "trigger" for fear, anxiety or worry.

Thisis continuing the work Theresa has been doing at the kennel with all her pups...

My major in college was Music Therapy. It works for animals just like it does for people. Here is a link to the Through a Dog's Ear which is music therapy for dogs that was started in shelters to reduce stress... There are also apps you can get, and apps that work with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Noise Box


This game also teaches a pup to use his nose, sniff out the good stuff, ignore the rest. Scent games are great for teaching a dog to pay attention to not just what they see, but also what they smell so they can get good, accurate information about their surroundings. It can also be a good intervention game and help a dog transition form a higher state of arousal to a lower one.

Adjust the game to fit your pup.Begin with just a few items. They may have to be "softer" so they don't make as much noise.Over time, and within your individual pup's comfort level, include other items - things that make more noise, or more items in the box so your pup has to rummage around more to find the kibble at the bottom.

This game is not just about dogs with sound sensitivity. It builds focus and tolerance of frustration depending on howmuch stuff you put in the box! It's also a fun and easy "rainy day" activity.

Paws On Game


This is a confidence, but also so much more!

This is useful for a number of reasons:

  • Value of proximity
  • Optimism with the environment
  • Content with novelty and new things

This game is also the foundation for crucial concept-building extension games for this later in this level and level 3 packages. It can be a great conversation starter game for dogs that are nervous in new environments. It is also a game that we will use to teach necessary skills for complex cues in the future. This game is also great for practicing your Premack cue!

Paws On Next Steps


This is the next step in the game. You will put the behavior on cue, and then fine tune visual cues as well.

Continue to build more confidence and focus with different objects as well.

You will also generalize the behavior so that your dog will put his paws on a variety of objects, building optimism and confidence further, as well as flexibility.

This game can then be used as a “converstaion starter” in new environment. Bring something familiar, an object that you have used for this game at home, and use it in a new environment to have a recognizable anchor for your dog to adjust and build focus in new situations and build confidence outside - “I’ve never seen this place before, but I know that object and know what to do with it."

This game is also a great warm-up before a walk or other activity outside.

How you place, remembering the information on your Reward Experience topic, will ascertain if the game is arousal up (fast moving, tossed food) or arousal down (slow, more duration on the object, calm rewards from hand to mouth).

Harness Shaping Game


Typically most dogs will take to a harness fairly easily. But, as I am always proactive in my training and want to ensure good associations with any tools I use with my dogs, here is a fun game to get your dog used to a new harness.

Sniff It Out Games - Varations to Add from Level 1


This is a great game to play for socialization skills with objects and novelty. It builds optimism, body awareness, the ability to navigate through obstacles, and focus. Depending on what you use, you can also help to promote back-end awareness.

This game is a great introductory socialization game to play at home. Start simple, but over time you can get very elaborate and create a variety of experiences for your dog and build confidence. It also helps with flexibility, getting your puppy used to new items in new places, and the novelty of that type of situation.

Create obstacles that your puppy has to go over, under, through, between, across, and around.

Use things with different textures to walk on. Include items that will roll or move. Things that might make noise when your puppy moves it. Things that your pup can climb inside that might be dark or a tight fit that she has to back out.

This game can be used as a transition game for calming strategies. Keep the obstacles less stimulating (so little movement and noise). Sniffing and searching help the canine brain to become more centered and focused. It is also a good "rainy day" game for inside mental stimulation.

Muzzle or Cone Game


A fun game to play with your puppy or dog to aid with socialization (to objects), build confidence and trust, and desensitize a dog to things that cover the face. This can be just a fun game, and can also help for future training and generalization and with other tools like head collars, elizabethan collars and muzzles - because you just never know! Even certain harnesses require your pup to put his head through, and this game helps with that.

You can take this a step further and require the head to go all the way in past the eyes - just make sure that the edge of the object is very smooth for safety of the eyes.

You can also build duration by delaying your marker, a little bit at a time.

Build confidence with novelty and things coming to and over the face. Use different items each time you play and be random and creative with your choices.

I am always about "prepare for the worst, hope for the best." I am very protectiveof my dogs, for they depend on me to keep them safe and take care of them. They don't necessarily know what is best or what consequences might be, but I can do my best to know what life might bring and be prepared. I recently saw a video on Facebook where a St. Bernard puppy had passed out, choking on a ball. The pup was brought into the police department, and they rushed to help the pup. They were able to clear the airway and revived the pup, thankfully. But what stuck out the most for me was when they tried to give the pup oxygen through a mask and the pup kept turning his head away. Seeing this just reiterated how important this game could really be. So don't skip this one!