Author Archives: Eric Goebelbecker

Socialization: Starting Puppies Off Right

I love working with puppies. Every week, when I start my puppy kindergarten class the same thought crosses my mind: I’m getting paid for this? I don’t just love working with puppies, I also love working with families with their new puppies. It’s a special time, and being a part of it is a privilege.

But working with puppies has some responsibilities too. Getting a puppy off to a proper start can make a huge difference in the dog’s entire life and as a result, in the life of the family. Puppies need to be taught bite inhibition, need to be housetrained (hopefully with a crate), and by far most important puppies need proper socialization.

Proper socialization to people, places and other dogs teaches a puppy that these things are good things. When insufficiently or poorly done, it can lead to fear and aggression. Many of the behavior issues I see are rooted in socialization issues, and many trainers will tell you that most of the dogs that people think were abused were most likely poorly socialized.

Operation Socialization

Ariana Kincaid founded Operation Socialization (OS) in order to build a network of places for people to socialize their puppies, as well as useful tools for dog trainers. (Proud Disclaimer: I am an Operation Socialization Certified Trainer.)

OS’s stated mission is:

To make sure puppies grow up into behaviorally healthy, happy dogs that make great lifetime companions, thereby saving millions of dogs from surrender and euthanasia.

OS does this by providing puppy owners with a set of “socialization destinations” where they take their puppies and get their socialization passports stamped. By making socialization a game, puppies get what they need and puppy parents get important positive reinforcement.

Interview with Ariana Kincaid

I spoke to Ariana about what lead her to create Operation Socialization, the resources the wonderful Operation Socialization website provides, and her thoughts on veterinarians and breeders that recommend not socializing puppies because of the fear of disease.

Operation Socialization’s website has a great list of resources for puppy owners. One of my favorite part is the idea of behavioral vaccinations. While many people fret over exposing puppies to communicable diseases, the fact is that more dogs die from behavior issues caused by insufficient socialization than from disease. Ariana discusses approaches to helping people with this in our talk.

We also discussed OS’s fun Puppy of the Month feature (look in the sidebar) and how to enter. The email address is here. Send a photo and your puppie’s particulars there.



Pet Play Therapy: Using Animals to Help Children

Pet play therapy: Kirrie helps with the doggie gumball machine

Kirrie helps with the doggie gumball machine

Pet Play Therapy is a way to use pets to help children deal with various emotional and behavioral problems. This week’s guest defines pet play therapy this way:

“the integrated use of animals in the context of play therapy, in which appropriately-trained therapists and animals engage with children and families primarily in play interventions aimed at improving the child’s psychosocial health and the animal’s well-being. Play and playfulness are essential ingredients of the interactions and the relationship.”

Pet Play Therapy on the Animal Cafe

I spoke to Dr. Risë Van Fleet about her pet play therapy program and how she uses dogs (and other pets too!) to help children work through various problems and communicate better with adults. For example, how can you use a simple “trick” to help a child that is afraid of the dark? How did some well-timed counter-surfing prove to be fortuitous for Dr. Van Fleet?

Of course dogs love to play, so pet play therapy is a way to use that drive and curiosity to help children try different activities and become curious enough to experiment and learn. Dr. Van Fleet discusses the different games the dogs can play with children and how these games are integrated into a therapy plan.

Pet Play Therapy: playing with lights

Kirrie with her night light!

Both animal assisted therapy and play therapy are well-documented ways to help children (and adults) and pet play therapy is a logical extension and works extremely well. It is also a great demonstration of how the human-animal bond is proving to be more and more beneficial for both humans and pets.

Dr. Risë Van Fleet

Risë VanFleet, Ph.D., RPT-S is a licensed psychologist and registered play therapist-supervisor with 35 years of clinical and leadership experience in a variety of settings. She is the president of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center, Inc. in Boiling Springs, PA. She is the clinical consultant for the Beech Street Program. Dr. VanFleet is the founder of the International Collaborative on Play Therapy and a Past President/Board Chair of the Association for Play Therapy. She has authored several books on filial/family therapy, numerous chapters on play therapy, and is featured on 4 DVD workshops. Risë has trained thousands worldwide, and she has received 2 prestigious national awards for her work.

Dr. Van Fleet with Kirrie

Dr. Van Fleet has a very active Facebook group that you can join, as well as the Playful Pooch fan page where you can find news and articles about pet play therapy. Kirrie has some notes on her own over here on Facebook!

Children and Dogs Are Safe Together with Jen Shryock

This week in the Cafe, Jen Shryock, the founder of Dogs and Storks has stopped in to discuss keeping children and dogs safe together, and tells us about her new project The Dog and Baby Connection.

children and dogs

Jen Shryock – our guest

Jen is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who has been training and fostering dogs for over 15 years. Nine years ago Jen founded Family Paws and started offering her Dogs and Storks presentations after seeing a need for more information about children and dogs. Since then Dogs and Storks has grown into a resource for trainers looking for information and resources about the intricacies of children and dogs and for families wanting to find trainers that have what they need. Jen is also active with the National Canine Research Counciland shares her home with Windsor, the NCRC “poster dog” for resident vs. family dogs. (See the link for details.)

Keeping Children and Dogs Safe Together

In our talk Jen explains how she got started helping families with children and dogs with safety and socialization, and how the Dogs & Storks program has grown into in international resource for families that have dogs and children. Some great examples are the answers to questions you can find on the Dogs & Storks site such as Does my dog know I am pregnant? and the very well written pair of FAQs here (and here) on the Dog and Baby Connection website.

In our talk we discussed some great precautions for making sure that their children and dogs are living safely together, such as spending some time getting to know their dogs’ body language before a new baby arrives, creating both dog- and child- free zones so everyone has a safe and quiet place to retreat to, and about how getting a professional involved early can keep dogs in homes, instead of surrendered to shelters.

This Week’s Chat

This week Jen and I will join the rest of the Animal Cafe regulars for a chat about children and dogs and safety at the usual time of Wednesday at 9:00PM Eastern. I hope you will join us! Jen will be ready to take your questions.

Do you have small children? Are you planning on having a new baby? Do you already have children and are planning on adding a new dog? Come in and join the discussion!

The Podcast



Teaching Children to Stay Safe Around Dogs

Joan Orr of Doggone Safe joins the us in the cafe this week to discuss Doggone Safe’s Be a Tree program, their educational courses for parents and professionals, and of course, their exciting International Bite Prevention Challenge for 2011.

This year Doggone Safe is challenging its members and Be a Tree presenters to teach 50,000 children how to stay safe around dogs. Their presentations teach children how to read canine body language and how to react when approached by a strange dog and how to react when any dog becomes too rough. It’s a very comprehensive program and how undoubtedly already prevented many bites.

Check out the interview and join us for the chat!


Interview with Marjie Alonso, President of IAABC

Marjie Alonso

Welcome to the first episode of Animal Cafe!

This week I spoke to Marjie Alonso, the President and Executive Director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). We spoke about the IAABC, of which I am both a member and a Board member, and about our upcoming conference, which has a fantastic line up of speakers.

Marjie is a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant living in Somerville, MA., with her two dogs, two sons and very understanding mate. Marjie first started dog training in the late 1970s, eventually starting her own full time training and behavior consulting business, City Dog Training, LLC. Marjie serves as behavioral consultant for the New England Dog Training Club, the oldest AKC club in the US, and for several dog rescue groups and shelters, providing evaluations, rescue dog acclimation programs, one-on-one training sessions, training plans and behavior modification programs. Marjie is a member of the America Humane Association’s Advisory Board for Companion Animal Behavior and Training.

Marjie is also a contributing expert trainer for and the Australian site Marjie takes her continuing education quite seriously, and attends many seminars, workshops and advanced internships each year in the field of dog behavior, behavior modification techniques, training and temperament evaluation and assessment. Recent seminars include those by Sue Sternberg, Suzanne Clothier, Patricia McConnell, John Rogerson, Clicker Expo, APDT Annual Conference, Kathy Sdao, Pia Silvani, Jean Donaldson and many more. Marjie is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and a Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).

The episode is embedded below: