Puppy Socialization

In a puppy’s life, there are windows of opportunity for important events. If the puppy has positive experiences at these times, she will develop to her potential. If she doesn’t experience life at an early age, her psychological growth is stifled, and she’ll be fearful in new situations.  An extremely respected fellow trainer recently said to me that the word “socialization” is often misinterpreted.  A better word than socialization is “neutralization.”  Because it isn’t absolutely necessary that a puppy be everyone’s new best friend or play with every other dog in the dog park.  But what is necessary is to expose a puppy to the “S’s” in life;  Sights, Sounds, Smells and Surfaces.

Socialization or neutralization – the exposure to people, places, and activities – is critical to a dog’s psychological development. From the age of 9 or 10 weeks onward, a puppy must meet people, go places, learn and experience things, live life! Neutralization must start before four months of age, and continue into adulthood. In the absence of this critical, on-going exposure, dogs develop fear of the unfamiliar – or “neophobia.”  Additionally, if you bring a puppy home and already have a dog, it is important to remember that the puppy will imprint on the dog instead of you.  It is critical that from 8-12 weeks of age the dog has more human contact than dog contact.

Unsocialized dogs often seem normal in familiar surroundings, which is why many rescues tell potential families that the dog is friendly. In a familiar environment they act like a normal dog. But take them out of those comfortable surroundings, and they can’t adjust. They have been deprived of the opportunity to develop coping skills learned through socialization.

The saddest part is that this is 100% preventable. All that someone has to do is spend a little time providing their new puppy with new experiences. That’s all – just some time and attention with a young dog.

So what can someone do if they find that they have a dog with no social skills? There is no one scenario that fits all unsocialized dogs. I’ve seen successes and failures – with no pattern.

I’ve worked with unsocialized dogs, gently and repeatedly exposing them to experiences, and have seen dogs make a complete reversal – learning to enjoy life. With gentle, positive experiences, through learning simple behaviors in a totally positive way, some unsocialized dogs do learn to learn. The devoted family must introduce new, unstressful experiences very gently so the dog gradually learns to cope. It’s critical that training be totally non-punitive, and the family watches for and respects “calming signals.” We also have a couple of special dogs on “staff” that act as calming dogs for dogs that have little or no socialization.

There are no guarantees that this approach will work, however.  Even though a new family is ready to give the dog all the love and attention in the world, the unsocialized dog may be incapable of accepting it.

So if you are considering a new puppy and you simply don’t have the time to do all of the work that goes along with training and socializing your puppy.  In that case, or if you have a dog at home already, we encourage you to consider our in-house 4-Week Puppy Training Package.  I know it seems impossible to be without your little treasure for a month, but trust me he will come home and give you a lifetime of wonderful companionship.  It’s those first few weeks that are so incredibly critical.  Let the trainers at The Dog Knowledge do the hard part.


Treats as Rewards


With dogs there are a handful of Primary Reinforcers:  Two of the most obvious are Food & Water.  Secondary Reinforcers include Praise, Clicker, Toys, etc.  In other words, those things that a dog requires to survive are Primary Reinforcers.  Those things that bring pleasure to a dog are Secondary Reinforcers.  As trainers we like to utilize Secondary Reinforcers coupled with Primary Reinforcers for maximum impact in training.  We also know that once a dog begins to associate Secondary Reinforcers with Primary Rewards, those Secondary Reinforcers take on more value.  And finally, through studies we know that when Positive and Reinforcement (both Primary and Secondary) are dished out in a variety of forms, a variety of volume and at varying and random intervals, they are most effective.

In layman terms it’s this simple.  Keep your dog guessing.  The reason he enjoys Secondary Reinforcers is because in the beginning they were paired with Primary Reinforcers such as food. As your relationship builds with your dog, Secondary Reinforcers such as praise and a pat on the head become more and more important as your dog wants to please you.  However make no mistake, your dog also has in the back of his mind that maybe, just maybe the Secondary Reinforcement just might be paired with a juicy piece of chicken.

Constantly I am asked as a trainer, when can we wean off of treats?  Or worse, I am told, I don’t bribe my dog with treats.  I only use praise.  Or even worse, I don’t use praise or treats.  I only use punishment when my dog disobeys.

My analogy to those people should make the differences crystal clear.

Scenario 1. You go to work for Bank of America and your boss tells you that he is going to put a shock collar around your neck.  Every time you do something wrong you will get an electric shock.  After a few nasty experiences, your boss no longer even needs to administer the shock.  Just holding up the remote control is all it takes to keep you working and in line.

Scenario 2. You go to work for Bank of America and your boss tells you that you are not going to be paid for what you do but instead of money, he is going to give you a tremendous amount of praise for any of your accomplishments.  Day after day you work hard and time after time your boss pats you on the back and tells you good job.  Hmmmmmmmm.

Scenario 3. You go to work for Bank of America and your boss tells you that he is going to teach you exactly what he expects of you.  He will load you down with praise and bonuses for each accomplishment.  Occasionally, once you know your job if you slip up and start goofing off he might in fact correct your behavior.  However, most of the time he is going to pay you a great salary and best of all your salary will be commensurate with your accomplishments.  In other words, if you do something awesome, you will receive a HUGE bonus.  And best of all, you never really know what that bonus might be.  Maybe a new car, maybe a cruise, maybe just a dinner on the town with your sweetheart.

Is there any question which scenario has you working harder, happier with yourself and most of all respecting, admiring and genuinely caring about your boss?

I rest my case.


Traveling With Your Dog


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Traveling With Your Dog

Traditionally, in the South, the end of winter marks the beginning of trips to the beach. For anyone whose travel plans include the family pet, here are some things to keep in mind for your dog’s comfort away from home, to make your trip more pleasant, and to ensure that as a dog owner, you won’t be making or leaving a bad impression for those who follow after you.

Probably the most irksome issue to both dog and non-dog people alike is the subject of elimination. There are two parts to this: getting your dog to eliminate in new situations, and dealing with waste.

Being a creature of habit, if your dog is used to eliminating off leash in the privacy of your yard, he may be reluctant to relieve himself in a new place while on leash with you waiting, baggie in hand. A little prior training can get your dog used to going on leash.

Before leaving home, take your dog to new places to make sure he’ll eliminate on leash. If he doesn’t, spend some time getting him used to it by taking him out on leash, and waiting until he goes. The first time you try this it may take a while. If it takes too long, go back inside and either keep him on leash with you, or put him in a crate. After 15 minutes or so, try again. Keep this up until he recognizes that he has no choice but to eliminate on leash. Praise a lot. It will get easier after that.

The second part of the elimination subject is picking up after your dog. Always have a supply of plastic bags to clean up after him. I always carry extras so I can clean up anything else I find, regardless of whether my dog did it or not. Beyond being common courtesy, it’s the best way to ensure that dog-friendly places remain dog friendly.

When making plans, make sure your dog will be welcome wherever you plan to stay. Check with hotels or friends and relatives to make sure dogs are allowed. Many places need the reassurance that your dog is trained and under control. Some hotels may prefer you keep him crated to leave him in the room. Check ahead so you’ll know what to expect.

If you’re going out-of-state, carry a current health certificate, including proof of inoculations. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, check on what paperwork you need for your dog — health certificate, inoculation record and the like.

Unless your dog is a seasoned traveler, going on vacation means upheaval. To reduce stress and make the trip pleasant and fun for your dog, stick as closely as possible to your dog’s normal routine, bringing familiar objects such as food and water dishes, blanket or bed, crate, and toys.

Pack your dog’s regular diet and water from home, or use bottled water. Dietary changes can upset a dog’s digestion, resulting in distress for everyone. If he’s on medication, remember to pack it.

Traveling with a crate makes being away from home less stressful for your dog, and easier for you. When a dog is stressed he may express his anxiety by chewing. So it’s far safer to leave your dog in his own crate if you leave him to go out to dinner, or the like. Since the crate represents his room, he will feel less anxious being left in it in unfamiliar surroundings. If your dog is not crate trained, get him used to it prior to traveling.

If you allow your dog on the bed, cover the bed with your own bedspread. Bring towels from home to dry him off if it rains or if you take him swimming, and remember to pack his brush and grooming supplies so you can keep your room as free of dog hair as possible. Think about the guests who will follow you. And consider the management as well — don’t make them sorry they allow dogs.

We are all ambassadors for dogs and for dog owners. This means we have a responsibility to others – dog owners and non-owners alike. If we all show consideration, dogs won’t suffer from a bad reputation, and you’ll be invited back. Have a great vacation!

And don’t forget, if your travel plans don’t include the family dog, phone The Dog Knowledge and set up times for our pet walking service, pet sitting or book a holiday for your dog to stay in one of the Sam’s Town Cottages.

FREE Puppy Seminar

Tips, Tricks, Tr
aining to Raise the Perfect Pup
Monthly Every 3rd Sunday from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm

Puppies Should Be Easy.  (Not)

Puppies like children don’t come with a handbook.  So in an effort to unravel some of the myths behind raising a good social puppy, The Dog Knowledge invites you to our upcoming free

PUPPY SEMINAR to dispel myths and share our personal experience, opinions and popular research to training a puppy that will become the perfect family companion.


The first weeks in a puppy’s life are critical in determining the temperament of the dog.  Just like a child, some of the puppy behaviors are inherited; determined by breed, determined by genetics.  However, many of the behaviors are learned.  If the mother is taken away too soon the puppy will not learn proper social behavior.  A good mother and a proper whelping box can teach a puppy the importance of eliminating away from where he eats and sleeps.  This will go a long way to making potty training a breeze.  If the puppy is taken away from his littermates too soon he doesn’t learn to play well with others and such lessons as bite inhibition, etc.

Remember, the first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life is similar to the first 5 years of a toddler’s life.  Events that seem insignificant to you may shape your puppy’s personality for years to come.  Dogs think in pictures and a puppy has a clean slate, a blank album.  A few tips and tricks will help you fill your puppy’s mental photo album with positive images.

DID YOU KNOW… that if you ring the doorbell and knock on the door every time you arrive home that your puppy will never become a “door rusher” barking his head off every time the doorbell rings?

DO YOU UNDERSTAND…why your dog is potentially a threat to the postman?  The answer is simple.  Each time the postman comes to the door to deliver the mail your puppy learns quickly that if he barks he is rewarded by the postman going away.  (Little does he know that the postman goes away regardless.) As the puppy matures, he becomes bolder until maturity catches up with attitude.  And soothing your growling dog is only encouraging him to continue this behavior.  Same with a dog that is afraid of loud noises or thunder.  Soothing him encourages his fear.

DO YOU KNOW… what to do in the event that a dog is off leash and running toward you and your dog?  If there is not the threat of traffic you should drop the leash to minimize aggression.  Often by dropping the leash you can avoid conflict.

DID YOU KNOW... that you should never use a collar with a plastic clasp to walk your dog?  Only a collar with a buckle or a slip leash.  Plastic clasp collars should only be used for identification purposes.

DID YOU KNOW… that a harness only encourages your puppy to pull?  All pulling dogs such as huskies, work dogs, cart dogs etc. use harnesses.  If you want to teach your puppy not to pull you should introduce him to a slip leash.

DID YOU KNOW... that there are 100’s of things you can do with your puppy the first 6 months of his life that will give him positive experiences, open up his mind to learning, create a bond between you and your puppy and give your puppy a desire to explore the outside world.

The Dog Knowledge encourages you NOT to enroll your puppy in any type of formal training before the age of 6 months.  Instead build a lasting bond with your puppy, teach your puppy basic manners and be your puppy’s best friend.  Then at 6 months, once teething is behind your puppy it’s time to begin more structured formal training.  But even then, make it fun and positive.


These are just a few of the tips you will learn at our as well as our philosophy behind training.  While you are welcome to bring your puppy with you we strongly encourage you to come without your puppy so that you can concentrate on “The Knowledge.”

The Magic Pill


Weekly we are visited by concerned dog owners who have “issues.” More importantly, these well meaning owners have fallen victim to watching quick fixes by TV whisperers who with a session of strategic “shhhssing” commands transform a snarling vicious dog into the perfect pet.

So the other day I was thinking about how best to make pet owners understand what they are communicating to their dog and what they can and can’t do regarding “issues.”  Suddenly I had an Ah-ha moment, an analogy or illustration that might make sense to dog owners wanting rehabilitation for their dog’s unwanted behaviors.

First of all, let me share one fact that all dog behaviorist agree on; 98% of ALL dog aggression whether it is dog to dog or dog to people is fear based.  The cause of the fear we can guess at but fear it is.  Usually this fear follows a predictable course.  The fearful puppy takes refuge behind their owner or lurks in the shadows hoping not to be seen.  As time progresses and the fearful puppy begins to mature he experiences a terrifying world.  Sometimes he can avoid his worst nightmares but sometimes he is cornered.  Once cornered he is faced with 2 choices, Fight or Flight.  Since flight is not an option he gives off warning signals, a growl, a snarl or even an air snap.  The source of his fear retreats.  The fearful teenage dog realizes his first confident moment.  His actions resulted in persuading his nightmare to go away or step back.  The fearful dog practices this behavior until one day he feels more confident in his ability to scare away his demons.  As he reaches maturity the day comes when what he fears comes a little too close a little too quickly.  The fearful, now mature dog takes the next step.  He attacks.

If this is your dog, this is usually when you find yourself sitting across the table from me asking the question, “Can you fix it?”  I respond, “How long did it take your dog to get to this point?  And you want me to guarantee that I can ‘fix’ your dog in 3 weeks?  The good news is that 90% of the time we actually can ‘fix’ your dog.  Can we change his perception of the world.  The answer is yes but there is only one way, one ‘magic pill’ as I call it.”

That magic pill is as simple as it is difficult.  A fearful dog doesn’t enjoy his frantic state of mind.  A fearful dog would love to know that he was safe in the care of someone else.  But like the gawky teenager that attends their first prom without a clue about what to wear or how to dance, a fearful dog simply doesn’t know where to turn for the answers.

The answer is obedience.  A dog taught obedience with positive reinforcement will learn to trust his handler to deal with the demons that confront him every day.  I try to preach to clients that they can’t correct a dog for attitude but they can correct a dog for disobeying their obedience by breaking from a heel, breaking from a sit, jumping up from a down.  If you try to correct a dog for growling at an approaching stranger or jumping toward an approaching dog then you will only intensify that dog’s fear.  In other words, every time your dog sees what he fears the most his handler tenses up, pulls hard on the leash and talks in an excited voice.  Proof enough that there is reason to be fearful.  If a dog truly knows how to heel and remains in a heel with a confident handler by his side, he will learn that passing an oncoming stranger or dog means absolutely nothing.  In fact, sometimes it results in a tasty treat.  No big deal.

So how does one go about teaching a dog the kind of obedience it needs to help him gain the confidence he needs.  Well that’s where we can help.

FREE Goodie Bags For Tomorrow’s Big Event!

Check out the awesome goodie bags that we will be giving away at our event tomorrow….


FREE Rita’s Italian Ice Voucher

Taste of the Wild Dog Food Sample Bag

Bright Bites Dental Treat

Barbara’s Canine Cafe Treats and Coupon

7 Day Fitness Pass from the YWCA

Free Teeth Whitening and Coupon from Advanced Dentistry of Charlotte

Bring Fido Bumper Sticker and Coupon

Charlotte Magazine Pet Issue and BOB Awards Little Black Book

Dog Knowledge Clicker

PLUS….lots of free goodies from our 15+ vendors!

Click here to see more details about the event.

Silent Auction Items For One Year Anniversary Celebration – THIS SATURDAY!

Here are the products and services that will be available at our silent auction this Saturday, November 5th.  All proceeds will go to Green Acres Animal Rescue.  Thank you to all who donated for this!


The Dog Knowledge


3 Week Training Package

Value of $1495

(minimum bid of $500)


Advanced Dentistry of Charlotte


$1000 Savings Certificate for Cosmetic Dentistry Treatment from choice of:

Invisalign, Six Month Smiles cosmetic high speed orthodontics, or Porcelain veneers (Smile Design of a minimum of 6 teeth)

(minimum bid of $100)


Advanced Dentistry of Charlotte


Ultimate Whitening Package

Value of $790

Includes Zoom whitening and at-home tray whitening.

(minimum bid of $100)


Cotswold Animal Hospital


Annual Wellness Package

Value of $800 – includes year supply of heartworm/flea/tick preventative, exam,

vaccinations, fecal test, heartworm test, dental cleaning and oral health exam.

(minimum bid of $350)


Donna Foster Photography


Portrait Session For You And Your Pet In Our Garden Studio

Includes consultation appointment, portrait session, proof presentation and print credit.

Value of $325

(minimum bid of $150)


Metro Fitness Club


3 Month Club Membership

Value of $285

Full use of gym and amenities

(minimum bid $50)



3 Month UNLIMITED Club Membership

Value of $585

Full club access – gym, amenities, and all classes

(minimum bid of $75)


Wells Fargo Championship


2 Weekly Ticket Booklets

Value of $280

Access to the grounds for all 7 days of the Wells Fargo Championship

(minimum bid of $50)


Paul Simon Co.


$250 Gift Certificate for 2 custom shirts

(minimum bid $50)


Brain Balance of Charlotte


Sensory, Motor, Behavioral and Cognitive Assessment

(approx. 4 hours in 2 hour increments) plus a report of findings for a child with ad/hd, a learning disability, autism or other neurobehavioral disorder.

Value $295

(minimum bid $50)


Hope Family Wines


Case of Liberty School and Candor Wines

Value of $200

(minimum bid $50)


Taylor Global


3 bottles of Crown Royal (Extra Rare, Reserve & Black)

Value of $190

(minimum bid $50)


Trudi Norris


Tulips With Bosc Pear Painting

12×16  with Gold Accents

Value of $200

(minimum bid of $75)


Turq Jewelry



Value of $90

(minimum bid of $40)


Monkey Joes


Birthday Party

Includes 8 kids, drinks, paper products, balloons, Party Pro, set-up/clean-up.

Value of $169.00

(minimum of $40)


Stomp Chomp and Roll


$25 Gift Certificate to The Pizza Peel, Mama Fu’s, The Flying Biscuit, Moe’s or Monkey Joes

(minimum bid $10)


Charlotte Fire Department

Lunch at Fire Station #15

Located in East Charlotte – Busiest Fire House on East Coast!

(minimum bid $25)