Leia with a strange object — part of socialization 🙂

Socializing puppies is one of my favorite things to do.

Not only am I exposing Leia to the world and the humans that inhabit it, it is an interesting exercise in reading people too.

I’ve often written about how our dogs mirror us, but they are also intuitive barometers in the way they relate to strangers.

“Awwwww, pupppppeeeee!” screams a teenager.  She comes running towards me and Leia. I ask her to stop, please wait, and to understand that I am training my puppy.  I explain that I want Leia to learn to greet strangers calmly and with all four paws on the ground. I ask Leia to sit, and then I allow the teen to say hello and pat her.  Leia is wriggling and trying hard to contain herself, but she does manage to stay sitting.

“Hey! Can I pet your puppy,” calls a young man just getting out of his car.  He’s grinning broadly but waits until I ask Leia to sit for the greeting.  Regardless of my attempts, she tries to jump all over the man who is now kneeling on her level.  I can tell right away that Leia is feeding into his high energy.  He tells me he has four dogs, and it’s obvious the way he interacts with Leia.

“How old is your puppy?” asks an elderly woman pushing a shopping cart inside the Tuesday Morning store. I tell her she is fourteen weeks old and her name is Leia. The woman calmly bends down and strokes Leia gently. Such good energy, and Leia responds by sitting quietly and licking her hand.

“Oh my, what a beautiful English Lab!” exclaims a tall woman who just walked out of the grocery store.  She is a true dog savvy person – she knows how to approach a puppy being socialized, and she doesn’t squeal in a high voice.  She talks to Leia quietly and caresses her gently.  Leia again responds by showing good manners and sitting calmly. 

“Look at the puppy!” says a father to his two children.  A prime socialization opportunity for Leia to interact with kids; their energy is so different from adults.  Again, I use it as an opportunity to teach the children how to greet a strange person with a dog. I encourage them to first ask, “May I pat your dog?” Then I show them the best way to touch a dog – gently and with soft strokes in the direction of hair growth.   

I’ve learned that when I socialize my puppies it is as much about training people as it is about training dogs.  I’ve discovered that many people do not understand canine behavior and respond to puppies and dogs as if they were human babies/children.

Proper socialization of puppies helps to create a confident, well-grounded canine that is a pleasure to live with.  WHOLE DOG JOURNAL has published a helpful checklist for puppy owners to use as a guide when socializing their puppy.

Although time-consuming, it doesn’t take much to shape a new puppy into a worldly and well-adjusted canine citizen. With the right supervision and judicious guidance, that unsocialized puppy can walk into a hardware store that has a pet aisle, and, after getting a few scratches behind the ear from strangers and a new chew to take home, will saunter right back out with tail wagging happily.


Leia very quickly discovered the bird bath in my rear shade garden and immediately claimed it as a place to bide awhile, chewing on a leaf or a twig. It was a very zen-like thing to observe – this tiny puppy contentedly curled up within the bowl like shape.  Ironically, when I first brought this bird bath home, the yin-yang symbol was carved into the base.  I’d won it at an Audubon fund-raiser with a silent auction bid.

Leia watches the birds as much as I do. There’s lots of bird activity because I keep 8 feeders filled in my yard. 

She dashed off into my neighbor’s yard to try to make friends with the robins. She watches the Canada geese flying overhead.  She holds conversations with the occasional crow that stops by. She studies the finches feeding on sunflower hearts. She is intrigued by the darting flight patterns of birds commuting through my property.

I can only begin to imagine how fascinated she will be by the hummingbirds when they arrive.

Last week there was an explosion of feathers left in my yard, probably from a mourning dove who fatefully encountered the local hawk.  Leia insisted in picking up the feathers and carrying them around. 

“She’s birdy,” remarked my friend Wendi. 

That she is, and the feathers just get added to Leia’s stash of souvenirs which are carried indoors every time she comes in. 


Leia at 14 weeks

Blocks of time to write have been scarce. I feel like I’ve been on a treadmill the last two weeks with interruption after interruption.

Things have been moving fast and furious, plus I hit a housebreaking snag about two weeks ago.

Leia is progressing with simple obedience commands and adding a few of her own. 

One of her newer ones is called “the leash flop.” She desperately wants to run and play with Heidi in the yard. But after she took off towards New Road last week, I’m not taking any chances until I get a fence installed.  So she is now going out into the yard on leash to toilet. We proceed outdoors, and she will take a few steps until she decides that she’d rather not be tethered, and she flops. While it is annoying, it’s also funny to watch.  It’s the Leia version of playing dead! A dead dog doesn’t need to be leashed! However, I think we’ve come to an understanding. Dead dogs also don’t get treats!  She doesn’t do “the leash flop” anywhere except in the yard. 

Interruption: transfer dog laundry to dryer and start my own laundry

The surveyor was here last week to mark my property lines, and the Invisible Fence guy came out to flag the underground wire lines.  The township authority and Verizon have painted an abstract in my yard with orange, blue, and green paints. Everything is now completed, and I’m waiting to hear from the fence people when they’ll be out to install it. I was hoping it would be done by the end of February, but now it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen due to the weather.  There’s so much rain predicted in the next week.

Interruption: Verizon arrived to mark underground cables prior to fence installation

Leia has graduated to riding in the back seat of the Honda CRV which has been designated as the “dog car” OR Canine Riding Vehicle (CRV).  She outgrew the crate I borrowed, so I decided to give her a chance to succeed in the back seat, and she’s done very well. I had a crazy Deb inspiration and installed a baby gate behind the front seats to keep Leia from venturing into the front of the car.  It works! 

Interruption: take Leia out to toilet

Along with riding in the back seat of the car, Leia has progressed to off leash walks in a few of my favorite safe places where I know we won’t run into other dogs. I believe Heidi is enjoying Leia’s company, and they take off romping and playing in spurts.  Because Leia is so young, I am mindful to limit the time we are out and the distance we walk.  Normally Heidi and I walk 2 or more miles when we go alone, but that’s too hard on young puppy joints at this time. 

Interruption: delivery from Amazon

On one of our walks after a heavy rain, Leia discovered the joy of water.  She crashed into a huge belly-deep puddle and took off running and leaping and splashing. She reminded me of how Hannah went nuts when water was involved.  Heidi just dipped her toes in the water; she’s not as much of a water dog as Hannah was or Leia appears to be. 

Interruption:  Leia gets lunch. . . and so do I!

However, the biggest challenge has been the housebreaking snag I hit a few weeks ago. Suddenly Leia started soiling in her crate. Naturally I blamed myself at first – I’d increased the size of the crate too soon? – I wasn’t paying close enough attention? – I wasn’t getting her out enough? You name it. I was berating myself to no end.  Then I started trying to get a sensible perspective on the problem.  I had a vet appointment in two days, and I was now suspecting there was a medical reason.  Sure enough, diagnostics showed a severe E coli UTI, and Dr. Jackie prescribed antibiotics for a month. 

Obviously a UTI affects frequency of urination, so that forced me go back to square one and treat Leia’s toileting like an 8 week old puppy.  Out and in repeatedly, including getting up once in the middle of the night.  The challenge was not only to keep her from soiling her crate, but to try and break the bad habit as well.  Dr. Jackie urged me to toilet her frequently in an attempt to help flush the infection from her urinary tract. 

Interruption: Leia out to toilet

So that’s where we’re at folks. Leia is now a beautiful 14 week old puppy. She’s smart, loves people, and holds court in the local hardware store.  I know once we get through treatment for the UTI and re-establish the ground-work for keeping a clean crate, things will get lots easier. 

When I have my moments of frustration, I repeat my current mantra, “This, too, shall pass.”


Chimken is a high value treat!!

If you’ve ever watched any Tucker Budzyn videos, this phrase will be familiar to you.

So far, Leia’s training treats have been her kibble; kibble is generally considered a low value treat. This morning I decided to cook some chimken breasts to use as high value training treats. Leia has made some great progress with WAIT, but I knew a higher value treat would help me confirm what I was asking of her.

I can’t train if Heidi is present, so I either take Leia into the yard or onto my covered porch to work with her alone. 

Leia is such an eager pup that WAIT is challenging for her.  But I’m seeing the little aha moments. I knew chimken would give me that little extra advantage in confirming the desired response.

I keep my training sessions short, and try to make them fun – hey, isn’t that what we do with kids in school? Leia is in kindergarten. So, learning the commands is a little like learning to read and starting to understand the words.

It’s rainy and raw today, so I did three short training sessions on my porch throughout the day. 

We run through SIT and LIE DOWN, and then move to WAIT. 

Her WAIT has improved so much that I can walk about 10 feet away and delay the command COME for about 5-10 seconds.  She’s usually eager to COME, and she gets some CHIMKEN!!

Great way to build a foundation. 

Then I went into my “push the envelope” mode, and started teaching her LEAVE IT. This is a totally new command for Leia. Here’s where SIT and WAIT gave me an edge. 

I asked her to SIT and WAIT; then I put down a bit of chimken on the floor and said, LEAVE IT.

If she broke, I quickly picked up the chimken, waited a bit, got her attention, and started over.  After about 5 minutes of repetition, she began to understand.

I finally ended up the session with her sitting and waiting after I said LEAVE IT until I released her with OKAY!

Then she bounced and pounced on the chimken with delight!



First ride in an elevator – 12 weeks old

I needed to make a quick trip to Bensalem to drop off some paperwork, so I decided to take Leia along.  She has figured out that car rides usually bring good things. When I open the door, she puts her paws up on the ledge. She can’t jump in yet, but when I pick her up, she crawls into the crate willingly.

However, our trip took a circuitous route.

The business complex is located on Street Road, a horrendous main artery which feeds into the Pennsylvania Turnpike as well as Route 95. I missed my turn-off and was hemmed in by traffic on all sides when I heard Leia whine.  Pulling over was impossible – there was nothing but concrete and a narrow shoulder.  Too dangerous anyway, so I kept driving. 

Then, suddenly, I smelled it . . .  Uh Oh, I thought.  As soon as I saw a shopping mall with a grassy area, I pulled over. Sure enough, Leia had an accident in her crate.

I put on the leash and got her out of the car. Then I proceeded to clean up the mess in the crate. Because the Honda CRV (Canine Riding Vehicle) is the dog car, I’m well prepared for emergencies.  I had handi-wipes to wash off the crate and a fresh towel.

Leia was taking in the strange sights and sounds while I worked when a man on a broken down bicycle stopped to talk to her.  He admired her and asked me how old she was.  We chatted a bit, and then he asked me if I could spare some money. He was homeless and trying to meet expenses for a cheap hotel room. I’m fully cognizant of “stories” that many homeless people concoct, but who am I to make that judgment? If he was being honest and truly needed the money, then hopefully the $10 I gave him would help. 

He thanked me profusely and rode off.

Leia and I got in the car and proceeded to our intended destination, this time with the help of Google Maps. 

I delivered my paperwork and realized that this was a prime training opportunity. So, I got Leia out of the car again and focused on her leash work as we walked to the building.  She’s getting the feel for the heel position and not pulling on the leash.  A+ Leia!

The entrance to the building is non-stop glass, and Leia tried to walk through the glass instead of the door.  The lobby was spacious and full of new smells and sights; it was also void of people.  Leia was curious but relaxed.  She’s such a confident and bold puppy. 

The elevator was straight ahead.

I pressed the button, and the door opened. Leia examined the crack between the lobby floor and the elevator floor but stepped right over it into the empty enclosure.

Fourth floor please.  

The gears engaged, there was a small jerk, and off we went.  Leia rode confidently, got out at the fourth floor, inspected the carpeted hallway, and re-entered the elevator. We rode back down to the main floor. Another A+ Leia!

I am so proud of this puppy.


I finally decided how I would register Leia with the American Kennel Club. The paperwork from the breeder had been lying on my counter for a month. I also needed to complete the microchip registration.

So, I took a half hour this morning to complete the forms and write the check.

Not only did I choose the name Leia because I am an old Star Wars fan, I also loved the origin of the name. It is Hawaiian and means child of heaven.

But when I am given the opportunity to let my creative juices flow, I have fun playing with what will ultimately be the dog’s AKC registered name. 

Hannah’s was Ridgeway Moonshadow Hannah.

Heidi’s registered name is Ridgeway InLak’ech Zenith Heidi. I’d just returned from Belize where I’d experienced the beautiful Mayan culture. In Lak’ech Ala K’in is a Mayan phrase which loosely translates into “the light in me honors the light in you.”

Leia’s official name will now be Luminous Leia.

“Luminous?” you ask?

Yes, for those of you who are the original Star Wars fans, you will recall one of Yoda’s famous teachings. “For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that part of Heidi’s name also references light.

Leia has already shown herself to emit light and radiance, two qualities that will surely enhance her presence as a therapy dog when the time comes.


Leia: “Me? I’m not guilty.”

Some days it just all adds up. . .

Rain, wind, and snow – neighbor’s yard furniture and trash cans blowing into my yard – getting soaked in a sudden cloudburst – trying desperately to keep up with work for an organization, and cracking the bridge of my nose on a heavy metal bird feeder while trying to keep Leia from venturing out of the yard.

No matter how much I advocate positive training, there are times when circumstances like these cause me to lose my patience.

It was blustery and cold at 11:30pm.  I’d taken Leia out on leash to toilet, but she wouldn’t.  According to her routine, I expected her to pee and poop, but all she wanted to do was grab the leash and play.  I walked and walked, hoping she would toilet so we could go back into the warm house.  She got tangled in the leash because she was tugging and leaping around. 

And I lost my patience. . . I just didn’t feel like coping with shenanigans.

I always feel terrible afterwards – like I somehow failed to deal appropriately with puppy nonsense. But I remember that I’m human and sometimes subject to roller coaster emotions.

The last two nights have departed from her familiar routine, so it made me pause. Routine is one way I set my comfort level in dealing with the labor intensive days of puppy raising.

She’s growing up, I thought. The routine is bound to change.

It’s time to be flexible and go with the flow.  Adapt to and accept the changes. Take a deep breath and laugh.

Easier said than done some days, especially when one thing after another seems to go wrong. 

I finally gave up giving Leia the opportunity to toilet and headed to bed.

I slept soundly and deeply, only awaking when my alarm went off at 7a.m.

The sun was shining.

It’s a new day, I thought. Yesterday is old news.

And I went downstairs to greet Heidi and Leia with a smile on my face.