How Can We Help?

Search for working dog conference recordings, articles on health, breeding, socialization and organizational management, webinar recordings and more.

Old Conference Archive Page | View all IWDC 2023 Recordings | View all Breeder's Workshop Colorado Recordings


Week 7 (42-49 Days)

Jump to:

Quick Reference Guide


Puppies are well into their critical socialization period and have fully developed visual, auditory, and olfactory senses. Emphasize variety of novel object and noise exposure as well as building handler-puppy relationships.


Around your facility – such as outdoor play areas, rooms near the den, or puppy-proofed locations for “onsite field trips”. Introductions to van/car and bath.

Volunteer Activities

A variety of volunteers with an active understanding of puppy body language and reinforcing positive behaviours. Volunteers should understand how to manipulate the environment to set pups up for success.


Massive brain development continues this week.  Milestones include near adult vision and an innate inquisitive about their environment. The motor skills are more advanced so the environment can include larger objects for pups to climb over, go through or stand on. 

Enhanced proprioception ability enables pups to enjoy more advanced motion equipment. This is the time to offer a more enriched environment full of different visual, sound, movement, surfaces as well as a large variety of people of all ages. During this age group there is a huge potential to influence just how sound and confident the puppy will become as an adult.

Labrador Retrievers are in the middle their most influential critical period to be exposed to novelty and nearing the end for sounds and motor development. Increase variety and provide both passive and active opportunities being mindful to observe the emotional state and adjust as needed. German Shepherds most sensitive period for novelty is 4-7 weeks.

Make sure you’re familiar with our guide to Emotional Conflict during Early Socialization.

  • Pup is in the Engaged (Green) zone most of the time: they will happily explore a new environment, play with littermates then fall asleep, and accept familiar handling techniques, surfaces, objects and textures without issue.
  • When alone or in groups in a familiar situation pup readily acclimates in a new environment and/or around novel objects, noise.
  • Pups respond readily to being called, accept being handled for an exam or cradled on their back in your lap.
  • Pups are adept at climbing on and around items that are no higher than one half of their leg length.
  • Pups are socially polite around people. They do not bite hands, shoes or ankles.
  • Pups accept being in a crate with another pup for up to 10 minutes.
  • Variety of exposure is very important. Rotate a wide variety of sights, sounds, objects, people, and places while being mindful of biosecurity.
  • Pups still need large amounts of sleep. Do not over stimulate the pup. It cannot learn in this mode 

  • Observe pup and adjust procedure appropriately so it is a positive learning experience. Each pup is worked as an individual and techniques are for this pup not the whole litter.

  • Early repeat exposure in different environments will add to pup’s confidence and ways to resolve inner conflict.

  • Keep it brief: Remember pups have short attention spans. A successful exposure may be only seconds long and an entire education session should be no more than 5 minutes.

  • Make adjustments to help the pup stay in or return to a productive emotional state: Shifts in energy, ability to stay engaged with you, body language signs of stress are all indicators that the pup needs a break. Allow the pup to sort things out or just simply take time to relax.

Adaptability is an important skill in working dogs. Teaching pups to accept daily changes in environment, handling and routine during this age group will help them generalise to any environment in their working life.  

Teaching pups to interact with their environment without overreacting is an important skill in producing sound working dogs. 

Teaching these skills during the early critical learning period will produce better results than introducing it after 12 weeks of age when pup is not as adaptable to changes. 

Increasing the pup’s repertoire of positive associations around new and novel objects and environments will result in resilient dogs.

Problem Solving

  • If the pup is struggling with body handling you may have progressed too fast, tried to do it for too long or the pup has had a negative experience previous to this session.
  • After the pup has released any emotional energy and relaxed, reestablish a positive connection then briefly position the pup between your knees for the first step of body handling, Stroke the pup calmly for a few seconds, praise and release the pup.
  • Repeat once more as above
  • After giving the pup some time to play or explore, do another brief body handling exercise at the level of an earlier step where the pup is comfortable. Release the pup as soon as you feel the pup relaxing or accepting.
    • Consider adding the marker word YES when the pup relaxes, release the pup and follow-up with a food reward and praise.
  • Over the day do no more than 1 minute of body handling 2 or 3 times. Progress only as the pup is relaxed.
  • For pups that are very wiggly or stressed, proceed more slowly but do more successful very brief sessions in a day

Should pup show concern around crating remember it is helpful to feed pups in their crates individually at this stage with the door closed in order to build this positive association around crates.

Once finished feeding take pup out to drink and toilet helping to promote clean pups.

When crating at other times ensure pup has toys and some form of food source (e.g. kong, chew or nylabone with peanut butter on end). Reward quiet behaviour with a treat.

If a puppy has a significant change in energy and/or needs a longer time to recover, give the puppy time to resolve the conflict on their own. The handler can give the puppy support and encouragement with voice and soft petting. If the puppy has a severe change in energy and is no longer able to be engaged with the handler and activity, end the session on a positive note and return the puppy to their litter.

  • Allow pup time to resolve inner conflict themselves 
  • Offer emotional support via voice and touch
  • Shorten duration of visit. If one pup displays distress signs (whining) the others will usually follow. Be prepared to move when all pups are quiet so as not to reinforce a negative behaviour (whining gets what I want) 
  • Engage with pup using favourite toy
  • Look for an improvement in the pup’s confidence with each exposure to the stimuli. If the pup has displayed 2 or 3 stress signals, set pup up for success and aim for less next time by building the pup’s confidence.

Utilise supports like mom, littermates, or a known handler. In a similar manner to mom during the previous few weeks, a confident littermate can assist a concerned puppy by interacting with the item in question, showing the concerned pup that the item is safe. A handler can provide verbal support, petting or food to build positive associations with the item in question, though ideally, give the pup an opportunity to reach a positive conclusion on its own and thus develop those important problem solving and adaptability skills.

Stop and place hands around pup’s chest area. Do some gentle circular motion with your hands. Once pup is calm again you can resume the body handling.

It can help to go back to an area on the body that pup is comfortable being handled and try again.

Should pup still not be comfortable reduce the session times then build up again.

Try luring with slower, more deliberate movements. Make sure you have pup’s interest in the lure and maintain that connection. Practice moving your arm with a “mixing bowl” movement – wide, sweeping and steady.

Consider introducing a “get a toy” command to encourage puppy to chew and mouth on an appropriate toy instead of your hands and arms!  Introduce this by getting a soft toy and engaging in play. Each time pup takes the toy into it’s mouth say “get a toy” / “good puppy”.

Pups may also get mouthy when they are overstimulated. Consider the puppy’s emotional state and the context around the mouthing behavior. Did the mouthing begin after a stressful event? Or perhaps the puppy is tired? Keep this in mind for next time.

Passive Environmental Enrichment

Passive exposure continues by exposing pups to a variety of surfaces, sounds, movement, objects in their crate and den environment.

Here are some unusual objects you might be able to rotate into your passive socialization schedule:

Piñata: An example of a colorful object that puppies will not normally encounter in a kennel environment but may encounter one day.

Baby Mobile: This mobile is brightly colored, plays soft music, and moves. This item encourages puppies to be aware of objects that are above them. 

Waffle Block Cube: Waffle blocks are made of hard plastic and can be placed inside the kennel for passive environmental enrichment. The cube also breaks up the kennel which can help reduce rough play between puppies.

Safety Vest: Continue to expose puppies to people wearing a variety of different items. A safety vest is an easy example of an item that can be worn by staff in the kennel without taking up additional time in their day. 

Below we have marked each activity with one to three ✓. Although all activities are important, we have highlighted activities that are particularly critical during this period of the puppies’ development. Make sure you still offer the pups a wide variety of activities and do not only focus on those with the most ✓!

Our pups are developing great hearing, sight, smell and motor skills. Make sure to keep rotating a variety of items in their den environment – Variety is important to keep pups inquisitive and accepting of change.

Make sure to emphasise different surfaces: putting new surfaces in your den rotation is great for passive socialization.

Some examples of items to introduce include:

  • Toilet Box (To be used if needed by pups in between toilet breaks)
  • Ramps between areas (for example, ramps between indoor and outdoor pens, or up into a slightly elevated crate)
  • New sounds – search on Youtube for soundtracks: Weather sounds, Cafe/kitchen sounds, children playing, cartoons or episodes of shows, etc.
  • More visuals: Posters or print-outs of patterns at puppy-eye height and items that are brightly coloured.
  • Surfaces: Different fabrics, household surfaces like tiles or wood, cardboard, concrete, fake or real grass, and other more complex and creative surfaces
  • Novel objects: Mannequins dressed in weird and wonderful outfits; statues of dogs or statues found at garden centers
  • Hanging toys: These help develop puppies’ perception of items above their head. Wind chimes, baby mobiles, streamers. (Make sure hanging toys are at an appropriate height as to not risk puppies being caught up in them.)
  • Hard Chew Toys (puppy appropriate!) can be introduced.

Note this video covers multiple age groups. Please see the section from 3:08 – 5:13 for content appropriate for this age group.

  • Working dogs encounter a variety of sounds throughout their career. Some dogs may travel with their partner through busy cities while others may go to the Opera or loud concerts with their partner. With all of the different sounds a dog may encounter, we want our puppies to be comfortable and confident with many different sounds during their critical socialization period.
  • When exposing pups to new sounds, think about variety. Music can include jazz, classic, country, pop, or simply putting on the radio.
  • Playing the news or weather report on the TV or radio exposes pups to different voices and different types of sound.
  • Music can be played quietly on a radio or computer in the same room as the whelping box for about an hour per day.
  • If Mom is uncomfortable with items or will chew items up, only place them in the den under supervision for a short period of time.

Working dogs must be accepting of a variety of novel objects they may encounter in the community; so, it is important that at an early age they begin to build their reference library of unusual items, including those that move, so that they are comfortable and confident with different novel objects. 

Ensure you introduce a large variety of new people, start gradually to build up pup’s acceptance of difference. Demographics to cover include; young, elderly, male, female, toddlers, different ethnic groups. Here is a list to get you started:

  • Men, women of different ages (see note below on children)
  • Men with facial hair/beards
  • Large and small people / tall and short people
  • People using different mobility items: wheelchairs, white canes, walking canes
  • People holding umbrellas
  • People with bulky handbags, backpacks
  • People wearing hats
  • People wearing glasses
  • People who speak loudly; laughing people
  • People from a distance (for example, knocking at the door) – both visiting pups and not visiting pups
  • People making erratic movements
  • People sitting on the floor or on chairs
  • People standing and talking together

A note regarding children
When socializing your pups with children, be careful to introduce young puppies to calm children who understand how to appropriately interact with the pup. If possible, letting the pup see and hear children without direct interaction can be helpful. Children can be loud, smelly (with tasty morsels on their clothes and face), and move erratically. Children can also react to puppies in ways that either encourage puppies to chase them, or alternatively might scare the pup. It’s ideal to have a few initial interactions at a distance or with calm children to build a healthy foundation, particularly when socializing younger puppies.

Additionally, make sure children are gentle with the pups – hold the puppy yourself and encourage the child to gently pat the puppy; or get the child to sit on the ground before placing the pup in their lap. Do not leave puppies and children unsupervised, and do not let children hold the pup in case they accidentally drop the pup!


It is important for working dogs to be comfortable with walking over different types of surfaces such as grates and uneven pavements. Puppies learn quickly that walking over bumpy and open surfaces is completely normal. 

It is important to have a variety of surfaces for the puppies to walk on so they do not grow accustomed to only walking over one particular surface. When selecting equipment, think of having different textures and materials.

More challenging surfaces can be added in the litter’s room to encourage them to climb and walk over different surfaces. This helps build the puppy’s confidence and also their muscles!

You may find your socialization items cover multiple objectives: for example, a textured wobble-board is both a new surface and a motion item; or tiles might be loud when puppy nails tap on them. Take this into consideration when choosing items appropriate for your puppies, and recognise that these items might be quite challenging for some pups.

Get creative – but keep in mind that the surfaces need to be age and skill appropriate. Some ideas for new surfaces could include:

  • Baking trays tipped upside-down (could be slightly wobbly)
  • Milk crates or pallets
  • Trays with a small amount of water in them (to replicate puddles)
  • Sand, bark, gravel (supervised)
  • Wooden panelling
  • Tiled floors (also consider the noise of the floor and the room, e.g. echoes in a bathroom)
  • Balance beams
  • Elevated / uneven surfaces

Passive open crate exposure is the foundation to crate training. Puppies can explore the crate and go in and out as they wish. Hard plastic crates can be used if the front door is taken off to prevent puppies from becoming stuck in the crate. The latch can be securely fastened back (or the door is removed) in a metal crate.

Although this is a passive activity, we recommend someone is in the general area to listen out in case any issues arise.

Soft bedding and interactive toys will help to promote positive associations around the crate.


Working dogs need to be comfortable walking on unstable objects and comfortable with objects that move. It is important that puppies learn to be confident with walking on unstable objects and being around moving objects.

One useful item to introduce motion are exercise cushions or wobble boards. These tools can help pups develop muscle and motor skills and can often be adjusted to add more complexity/movement as the puppies grow. (For example, a mostly deflated cushion gives young pups an unusual but secure surface with some movement – the same cushion when fully inflated could be a suitable challenge for confident 8 week old pups). When using these tools, make sure to introduce them as secure items with very little movement so your pups aren’t frightened. Use foam or towels as padding which can easily be removed as your puppies grow.

Passive exposure to TV or movies creates an unpredictable “real world” safe environment inside of the kennel. Below are examples of channels and movies and their benefits:

Channel or Movie ExamplesBenefits
Children cartoonsVariety of different character voices and unusual noises
NaturePassive and controlled exposure to thunder, rain storms, birds chirping, water flowing, etc.
MusicalsVariety of singing, laughter, and noises
Disney MoviesVariety of singing, laughter, and noises

This TV is mounted on a mobile TV stand. The height of the stand can be adjusted for the age of the puppies. 

Alert symbol Make sure that wires are out of the puppies’ reach when setting up. 

Play TV at a low-medium volume level. Watch the puppies’ body language and turn down the volume or change to a different channel if puppies begin to show stress signs.

Interactive Activities

During interactive activities, we continue to promote the puppy handler bond. Remember that YOU are the reward for the pups and deepening your relationship and bond is enhanced by touch and interactions that are rewarding to the pup. Occasionally food is needed but think of it as icing on the cake. You need to build the foundation of your relationship first. This week is a great time for one on one time with each pup to develop skills needed when pups leave for their puppy raisers.

  • Use praise, touch, and play as well as food rewards – figure out what is more rewarding for the pup. The frequency of food rewards can become intermittent then phased out when the pup is older. 
  • Purposeful play with littermates exploring novel objects, sound objects, motion objects, and surfaces 
  • Puppies build positive associations with new stimuli – allow for support through fear periods
  • Every interaction with the puppies continues the building of handler engagement
  • Use sessions to get feedback about how the pup responds and what support it will need in the future

Below we have marked each activity with one to three ✓. Although all activities are important, we have highlighted activities that are particularly critical during this period of the puppies’ development. Make sure you still offer the pups a wide variety of activities and do not only focus on those with the most ✓!

It is important to start to build a solid foundation of skills. Body Handing is ongoing and involves lots of practice. It can be done in short sessions throughout the day in order to set the pup up for success by keeping skill training fun and expectations consistent. Body handling is the process of teaching our puppies to accept all parts of their body being handled while remaining calm while we touch and move all parts of their body.
This is beneficial for health/Vet visits. These skills also help with body sensitivities to equipment the pup may need to wear such as boots or coat.

Remember, Body handling should be a calm, gentle process – it’s not a time for cuddles or play – that can come later! Take extra care around your pup’s teeth, ears and paws – these areas are crucial for Body Handling but many pups find the handling of these areas strange at first.

Start by Teaching the “Close” position: (Note at younger ages puppies may need to be put in this position to begin the exercise. With age, pups can be taught how to manoeuvre into that position using the lure as described below.) 

  1. Start by crouching on the ground with the puppy in front of you, facing you. 
  2. Place your right knee on the ground – If pup is on a lead put the lead under your knee so both hands are free 3. Use your left hand to lure the pup from your right knee in a circle until they are between your legs facing away from you 
  3. Tilt your lure back over the pup’s head so they go into a sit 
  4. Mark and pay 
  5. Put your knee down so you are kneeling with pup sitting between your legs and place your two hands on the pup’s chest 
  6. Repeat steps 1-6 until pup is quickly and easily moving into position as you lure
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 but this time say the word “close” just as their bottom touches the ground Do this 3 times 9. Fade the lure and work on duration – Reward pup for being still and calm. Ignore any wriggling or mouthing.
  8. Do this 3 times
  9. Fade the lure and work on duration – Reward pup for being still and calm. Ignore any wriggling or mouthing.

Handling Method

NOTE: For pups over 3 weeks, all handling starts in the “Close” position.


  1. Gently hold the puppy’s chin with one hand then use the other hand to lift their ear 
  2. Look inside and smell their ear for any signs of infection 
  3. Repeat with the other ear 
  4. Gentle praise, reward


  1. Hold puppy’s chin gently and look at each eye 
  2. Gentle praise, reward


  1. Gently hold pup’s chin and use the other hand to lift pup’s chin on one side to look at their teeth 
  2. Repeat on the other side 
  3. Gentle praise, reward

Legs and paws

  1. Run your hand down one of pup’s legs to their paw 
  2. Feel between the pads on their paw 
  3. Gentle praise, reward
  4. Repeat with other 3 paws 

Vet Restraint

  1. Use your left hand to gently restrain pup’s head against your chest so they are looking towards your left 
  2. Run your right hand down the back of the pup’s right leg to their elbow then raise their leg (it should be outstretched as if for a blood draw) 
  3. Mark and pay 
  4. Switch so pup is facing the opposite way and the other leg is outstretched 
  5. Gentle praise, reward

 Lay Over

  1. Place one arm underneath pup’s front legs
  2. Lift your arm (therefore lifting the pup’s front legs)
  3. Lean down until you are lying over the top of the dog 
  4. Remove your hand from under the pup 
  5. Gentle praise, reward

Release cue

  1. Tell the puppy “Go free” and allow them to break position 
  2. Give them a pat and plenty of praise

Previously, puppies have been exposed to new environments while their mother was present. Depending on the confidence of your pups, you can consider taking the litter for short adventures without their mother to different (but previously introduced) environments. If puppies struggle with this, keep bringing mom along for support and try again next week. You could potentially start off with the “Trolley ride with mom” activity to transport pups to a familiar area, and during the session mom can be removed briefly but kept nearby in case she’s needed.

Goal: To allow puppies to explore multiple novel objects with a handler and to be comfortable with novel objects.

To prepare your designated space for this activity, please complete the following steps.  

  1.   Gather 5 novel objects. Remember variety when selecting objects. 
  2.   Arrange the objects in a circle spread apart enough for the puppies and handler to move around comfortably.

You are now ready to retrieve the litter of puppies you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppies to explore the room upon entering for up to a few minutes (consider needs of the puppies!). 
  2.    Invite the puppies to explore each of the objects with you. 
  3.   Continue around the circle in the same manner.

We have introduced our puppies to a variety of different sound items, but many items that play unusual sounds will also make flashing lights (e.g. traffic crossing buzzers, sirens – and conveniently for our socialization work, children’s toys). Our “sound activity rooms” can now be expanded to “Sound & light activity rooms”.

Goal: To allow puppies to explore multiple sound objects with a handler and to be comfortable with a variety of sounds, including items that both emit sound and light.

Equipment Required:. 

  • 3-5 objects that emit both sound and light.
  • Socialization tracking sheets (to measure individual pup’s responses for future socialization sessions)


  1. Bring out a toy 
  2. Allow pup to sniff and investigate it (NOT CHEW IT) 
  3. When pup is comfortable, activate item a short distance from pup 
  4. Reward pup when they are calm (not shut down) or for approaching the item
  5. Remove the item 
  6. Re-present the item closer to the pup 
  7. Reward pup for being calm (not shut down) or approaching the item 
  8. Repeat with other items

Advancing this Skill:

  1. Start to ask the pup to follow simple cues (Sit, down, walking etc.) while the light/sound toy is activated 
  2. Reward them for working with you and ignoring the item

Follow Me can now advance to being on leash. The foundation to leash walking builds off of the goals of follow me: 

  •       Pup starts off attentive to you and chooses to follow you without any coaxing or luring.
  •       You reward the pup’s voluntary decision to follow.
  •       Pup follows you and works to keep up with you even when you turn

The only addition is a leash! To prepare for this activity, gather a leash and treat bag filled puppies’ kibble before getting a puppy to work with. SInce this is the first time the puppy has been on leash, it is important to set the puppy up for success with a distraction-free environment such as an empty room or inside of an x-pen in a safe area.  

  1.   Connect the puppy’s collar to the leash and give them a food reward
  2.   Tell the puppy “Let’s Go” and take a few steps 
  3.   Praise the puppy for walking with you.
  4.   Continue with the regular follow me protocol around the room twice
  5.   Make sure to keep the session short and fun!


If the puppy bites the leash and is having difficulty focusing on the activity:

  • Call the puppy and wait for the puppy to take their mouth off of the leash. Reward the puppy with a treat. When the puppy begins to focus on you, reward the puppy again and continue. 

If the puppy “puts on the breaks” and refuses to move forward:

  • First, observe the puppy’s body language. Is the puppy showing any fearful or overstimulated behavior? If so, it may be best to end the session and try again later. If the puppy is displaying calm behavior, hold the leash still and tell the puppy “Let’s Go”. Wait until the puppy moves towards you and give verbal praise.
  • Note: It is important to not lure the puppy with a treat in this case or the puppy will quickly learn that in order to receive a treat, they just need to put on the breaks and refuse to walk.

Puppies can now begin to get used to settling inside a closed crate. You can review further information on crate settling here.

Some tips:

  • Soft bedding and interactive toys will help to promote positive associations around the crate. Make sure to supervise puppies with bedding in case they chew it. If the puppy chews bedding, remove it for the safety of the pup and make sure you provide appropriate chew toys while the pup is in the crate.
  • Pup should spend time in a crate away from their littermates but around people. Puppies need to learn to settle in their crates while people are around, as this will prepare them for crate time in their raiser’s home.
  • Offer the pup a stuffed Kong or nylabone.
  • Start off slowly to build positive associations: gradually increase time in crate from 5 min to 30 mins. Make sure to toilet the pup before and after.

All our work exposing pups to body handling, bonding with people and introductions to new environments begins to pay off as we introduce bath time.

Baths should be introduced slowly – expect to spend multiple sessions before you get the pup wet. Some key points to keep in mind:

  • Introduce pups to the room prior to placing pup in hydrobath.
  • No water initially and keep a non slip mat/towel on floor
  • Keep pups in pairs or small groups, and utilise the support of known handlers and mom during early introductions.
  • Use familiar toys, meals and voice and touch for reassurance and to build positive associations.
  • Keep bath exposures short and positive.

Puppies can now be exposed to the strange feeling of a leash. This is an important step that must be taken before clipping a leash on a puppy and expecting it to follow you without hassle.

This activity requires full supervision to avoid puppies getting caught in the leash, chewing on each others’ or their own leash, or getting the leash caught on items in the environment.

Initial Introduction of the Drag Leash

Initially, short segments of leash (or another similar fabric- (rope, biothane, etc) can be clipped to the puppies’ collars during familiar activities (such as mealtime). Previous exposure to things like unusual textures and puppy coats should help this process. 

Getting Pups Used to the Drag Leash

In following sessions, increase the length/weight of the attached leash. Supervise short play sessions, allowing the puppies to interact in a safe and supervised environment whilst the leash is attached. If the puppies try to play with or chew on the leash, make sure to redirect them to a suitable toy.


Adding the Handler

As puppies get used to the feel of a leash, you can start working with the puppy, using activities that the puppy already knows, with the main difference being that the handler is now holding the leash.

Do not use the leash to manage or direct the puppy – continue using voice, praise, toys and treats to direct the puppy in the activity. Make sure to manage the leash so that it does not get caught on items in the environment. Our goal is for the puppy to be desensitized to the leash and unconcerned about it. As handlers, we also want to avoid over-reliance on using the leash to manage or control the puppy – this is particularly important in these early weeks of leash introduction!

This activity allows you to transport puppies to new environments in a biosecure way. Having their littermates nearby will also support the puppies as they’re introduced to new sights, smells and sounds.

  • Use bedding that has the pups/Brood scent on it
  • Bring familiar toys
  • Setting up a play area in an office, lounge, etc can be a useful way to introduce puppies to new people. Make sure any guests follow your protocol for handling (or not handling) puppies. Puppies do not need to interact with every stranger but will still benefit from meeting new people.

From six weeks, puppies have developed more robust proprioception abilities and are generally beginning to show more confidence and curiosity. You can begin to introduce more challenging surfaces in this interactive activity room.

In the above image, you can see some age-appropriate examples: milk crates and pallets, waffle blocks, cavalettis and repurposed fitness equipment all offer some great challenges for puppies whilst being an appropriate height for short puppy legs.


Goal: For the puppy to confidently explore each surface with a handler. 

  1.   Choose a variety of 4-5 surfaces. Items can be different heights, just be mindful of the puppy’s height, do not make it unsafe for the puppy.
  2.   Arrange the items in a circle with enough distance for the puppy to walk comfortably around each item.

You are now ready to retrieve the first puppy you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppy to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds.
  2.   Encourage the puppy to climb on or walk over all of the surfaces.  Reward the puppy with praise, petting, and food rewards. 

3.    Continue around the circle in the same manner.

Please Note: If at any time the health or safety of the puppy is at risk (i.e., the puppy is eating something they aren’t supposed to, or the puppy has escaped the yard) please disregard this protocol and immediately address the concern.

Goal: To associate the cue “Puppy, Puppy” with being fed and to use this cue to call the puppies to you. 

When to do the activity: 

  • Before feeding the puppies

After you enter the kennel, tap the bowls, and say “Puppy, Puppy” before putting the bowls down.  This conditions the puppy to associate being fed after the bowls are tapped together and they hear “Puppy, Puppy”. 

  • Bringing the puppies in from the yard

Materials needed: Treat pouch with the litter’s food

When you are ready to leave the yard, say “Puppy, Puppy” to and give each puppy a treat. Exit the yard and encourage the puppies to follow you into the concrete walkway. When you are halfway to their kennel, give the puppies a treat and reward them for their hard work. 

Use the cue “Puppy, Puppy” to bring the puppies in to their outside kennel. Say “Puppy, Puppy” and encourage the puppies to follow you. Give the puppies a treat when they come into their back kennel. 


If the puppies won’t come to you or follow you out of the yard:

  • Decrease the distance between you and the puppies in the yard. Cue the puppy by saying “Puppy, Puppy” and treat them when they come to you. 
  • Incorporate the “Follow me with Mom” game to introduce the concept of following your voice.

In a few short weeks, puppies will need to travel to their new home in a car or van. Many organizations will use vans to transport dogs throughout the dog’s life. We can introduce these concepts early on and help our puppies become familiar with the car or van as a “new environment” before we even turn it on.

Initially, while the car/van is turned off, you can set up crates in the boot or back seat area of the car or van. Puppies can be introduced to this area in groups. Similar to our “introduction to Bath” concepts, you can feed pups small high-value meals such as yoghurt to build positive associations with the new environment.

Another option is to set up a “play pen” in the back of the car/van using puppy fencing and toys. 

Over the next few weeks, we can introduce more formal car/van travel. Make sure to develop this skill slowly – cars/vans can be noisy, smelly, moving things that puppies will need to get used to during their working life, so taking these initial introductions slowly helps you develop a solid foundation to build upon over the next few weeks.

Advancing Van/Car Skills

Once puppies have been introduced to the van or car using the above protocols, you can advance to short van trips with the pups in their crate.

Note, it can be helpful to start the van/car without the puppies in it, then load them up, to avoid the initial loud noise and smell of gas. (Make sure you’re in a well ventilated area!)

Session 1

  1. Put puppies in the van
  2. Go for a short trip within the guide dogs center – less than 5 mins

 Session 2

  1. Put puppies in the van
  2. Go for a short trip around the center or to a close-by destination (don’t get the pups out, though!) – less than 10 mins 

Session 3 Onwards

If puppies are comfortable, you can start to take them to various places offsite – Maximum 25 minute drive. If you’re travelling to a specific destination make sure the area is biosecure (a good place to visit could be a trusted volunteer’s nearby home, where you can ensure the area has been properly cleaned and puppy-proofed).

Continue practicing the “wearing things” skill. This step positively introduces the concept and feel of a puppy coat.

Goal: To allow puppies to explore multiple motion objects with a handler and to be comfortable with walking on unstable objects and moving objects. 

To prepare the designated space for this activity, please complete the following steps. 

  1.   Gather 4-5 motion objects. Remember variety when selecting objects. 
  2.   Arrange the objects in a circle spread apart enough for the puppies and handler to move around comfortably. 

You are now ready to retrieve the litter of puppies you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppies to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds. 
  2.   Encourage the puppies to explore each of the objects with you. 
  3.   Continue around the circle in the same manner.

At 8 weeks old, puppies receive their first vaccines amongst many others that they will receive during their lives. Spending some time beforehand and allowing puppies to become familiar with equipment and procedures that veterinarians will use during their appointment will help prepare puppies for their first vaccines.


  • Nail trimmers
  • Cotton swabs soaked in alcohol
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Children’s doctor set
  • Scale




Remember to take each step slowly and at the puppy’s pace. If the puppy begins to display more than two stress signals, take a short break before continuing.

Use the children’s doctor kit to do the following procedures

  1.  Hold pup, using stethoscope, pretend to listen to chest and stomach
  2. Introduce puppy passively to rubber gloves, nail clippers, letting the puppy see and sniff each item
  3. Use the otoscope to pretend to look inside the puppy’s ears and their eyes
  4. Place cotton ball on puppy’s shoulder to mimic where the doctor would give a vaccine
  5. Gently restrain puppy for 5 seconds

To increase pup’s confidence and exposure to nail clipping, try using clippers to cut small pieces off a wooden skewer next to puppy to acclimate them to the sound of the nail cutting. Rewarding pup with food after each clip creates a positive association to the sound of the clipping happening right near the puppy’s feet.

More Resources

IWDA members can access the following articles, presentations and lectures that can help you upskill and build upon your socialization program. Discover some of the science behind our Early Socialization Program. Not a member? Learn more here.

General Socialization:

Measuring Behavior:

Puppy socialization to improve your working dog program:

Was this article helpful?
0 out of 5 stars
5 Stars 0%
4 Stars 0%
3 Stars 0%
2 Stars 0%
1 Stars 0%
Please Share Your Feedback
How Can We Improve This Article?
Table of Contents