Up with Pups at Puppy Socials

I’m a big fan of “puppy socials” – a classroom-type setting to which people bring their puppies for socializing with pups of a similar age. It’s a powerful opportunity for the puppies, especially the ones who are being raised with no other dog at home to learn basic canine social skills from – or the ones who DO share their homes another dog, but the dog is super grumpy about puppies.

I first learned about puppy socials from my good friend Sandi Thompson, owner of the famed Bravo!Pup (dog and puppy training) in Berkeley, California (bravopup.com). Sandi was lead trainer for Dr. Ian Dunbar’s pioneering business, Sirius Dog and Puppy Training, for many years, before striking out on her own. Due to the value to the puppies and the popularity among the puppy owners of the “Go play!” breaks within her puppy training classes, Sandi decided to offer the participants in her classes a separate weekly session of “just” playing and socializing. During the sessions, she helps the owners identify and reinforce healthy puppy play, and teaches them how to gently interrupt potentially problematic puppy play. She also prompts the owners to occasionally interject moments of practicing training exercises that they learned in the puppy classes, and then powerfully rewarding the puppies for their compliance in such an off-the-charts distracting environment with the best possible reward: “Go play!”

Ten years ago, I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was surrounded by wonderful and highly educated dog trainers (including Sandi), to the relative dog-training desert three hours north. But thank dog, there was ONE wonderful and highly educated dog trainer close to me: Sarah Richardson, of The Canine Connection in Chico, California (TheCanineConnection.com). That’s who I sought out for modeling for WDJ articles when I moved here in 2006, and whose training classes I attended with Otto when I adopted him as an adolescent shelter dog in June 2008. And whose puppy training class and puppy socials I am attending with my new pup Woody!

Like Sandi, Sarah offers the owners in her puppy training classes a separate session each week that is devoted to puppy socializing and play only, separated from the training classes – although she guides the puppy owners in reinforcing their puppies’ healthy social interactions and gently but proactively stopping them from practicing any sort of bullying or defensively aggressive ones. The super shy or anxious puppies are given opportunities to come out from under their owners’ chairs and explore while the more assertive and/or brave pups are reinforced for restrained on-leash behavior on the sidelines. And then the strongly social pups are given a chance to run, play, and practice introducing themselves to other puppies in manners both weird and wonderful. They learn what physical body language prompts potential playmates to engage in play and which body language triggers another puppy to take defensive action upon their own person – in other words, it’s a safe place for the little pups to learn kindergarten social skills in a group that is safe from “big kids” or grumpy grownups.

That’s not to say it doesn’t take a certain amount of management to make sure it’s safe for everyone. My friend Leonora, who fostered a litter of six TINY puppies for my local shelter recently, ended up adopting the tiniest one in the litter, Samson – all two pounds of him. I adopted the largest puppy in the litter that I fostered over the same time period, Woody, and we are commuting together to bring both pups to Sarah’s puppy training classes and puppy socials. The puppies get along famously, but they can’t yet be permitted to play together unfettered; one playful gesture of Woody’s can mean a concussion or broken leg for Samson. In Sarah’s puppy social sessions, there may be 20 or more pups of various sizes and play styles, and Samson’s stature and social needs are considered alongside of the big, exuberant puppies. Unfortunately, because all of the puppies present in our first session were so large, Samson did some of his socializing from behind a protective exercise pen, and some on leash, so that Leonora could swoop him to safety, if need be. As he grows a bit, and the pups get more accustomed to the play sessions, we hope he can “Go play!” in a more unfettered fashion.

A side note: I think the people who have big, rowdy puppies are the most likely to avail themselves of these social sessions, because they can clearly see their developing dogs need to play. But this is one of the many reasons that so many small dogs grow up with poor social skills: because their exercise needs can be met readily through less-strenuous outlets, and their owners don’t recognize that ALL dogs need time with other dogs to practice their own “language.” My friend wants Samson to be comfortable with all the dogs he meets, and is taking pains – at the highest level of exposure she can risk – to make sure he gets social time with dogs and puppies of all sizes. Smart!

At our first session, Sarah asked the puppy owner participants to described their puppies in one word, and I used “mellow” to describe Woody. That is ordinarily true, but I’m not sure anyone believed me after his first play session. There was one particularly exuberant, large German Shepherd puppy in the session who seemed to inspire Woody to new heights of both activity and over-arousal, so I had to interrupt my puppy a couple of times and bring him back to the sidelines for a highly rewarding calm-down session. I have witnessed Woody’s genetic predisposition for play-biting with a particularly extended hold on the “bite” part, and I want to nip that behavior in the bud to the extent possible. He’s got a lovely soft mouth when playing with humans, and learned to bite gently when playing with my former foster, Maebe – she would dump him unceremoniously on the ground and quit the game if he tried the bite-and-hold with her – but since Otto won’t brook ANY contact with the puppy, he’s losing practice time at this important skill, and the puppy social is a great time to regain it. I don’t want him to get frustrated, so instead of being put on some sort of punitive time-out when he gets over-the-top with play, or bites another puppy and won’t let go after a second or two, I’ll jump in with a super high-value treat and lure him off to the sidelines to practice some sits and downs for some yummy treats and some low-intensity down/tug with his favorite toy.


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Diy figure stand for animation and aerial posing

Here’s a quick tip for better action and flying poses- Use leftover parts or reassemble another Mo figure to build your own diy figure stand.

diy figure stand


10 DIY tips for sculpting custom character parts with ModiBot

ModiBot has become a critical starting point for many people's creative projects, including stopmotion animation, scene photography, custom action figures, and both digital and hands-on character design.

More and more, creators want to design and sculpt their own ModiBot-compatible parts. This is the best place to start.


1. Match the correct ModiBot kit to your sculpting material

Not all ModiBots work with certain materials. Once you have determined what material you'd like to sculpt with, it's best to choose the ModiBot kit that supports sculpting that those materials. **Its possible that there is no ModiBot kit to support the material you are most familiar with.

CAUTION: Avoid using oil or plastic-based clays with the classic MO kit because these will make the plastic (especially the joints) brittle and prone to breakage.

ModiBot Mo, the original ModiBot kit, is made of PETG plastic like water and soda bottles. Its a tough durable plastic, but it doesn't react well to the chemicals or solvents in some sculpting materials.

Original Mo kit works best with- 2-part epoxy, Masking or washi tape, 3Doodler or other handheld 3d filament extruders.

ModiBot Mo+ (plus) kit is made of durable polypropylene plastic and is more durable when used with some paints and solvents. This toughness, especially when heated, allows Mo+ kits to be used with polyclay and a wider variety of materials.

Mo+ works best with- Polyclay compounds (like Fimo or Sculpey), 2-part epoxy, masking or washi tape, 3Doodler

      2. Assemble and test all your joints before starting

      Ball joints create a lot of pressure on their first assembly. Make sure you assemble the figure and test the movement of all the joints prior to sculpting. This will prevent you from starting a sculpt on a part that is already broken or weak.

      BONUS TIP: If a part cracks or breaks during assembly, no worries, we will replace them. Contact us at mo@modibot.com with a picture of your broken part (so we know exactly which part and color you need) and your shipping address. We'll get a replacement out in the mail to you asap!

         3. Try a test part to get a feel for your materials and process

        ModiBot Mo and Mo+ kits both come with extra ball and socket parts so you can try your hand before committing to a single body part. This is especially smart for working on epoxy and polyclay projects due to the amount of time you will commit to the project. T

        BONUS TIP: These extra ball and socket parts can also be used to create your own designs for heads, hands, feet or even large elements like extra arms or wings!

        4. Consider the size and weight of your pieces

        ModiBot joints are strong and durable when assembled, but they have a limit to their ability. Creating excessively long or heavy parts can reduce the effectiveness of each joint. A general rule of thumb is- the longer the part, the more you should reduce its weight.

        If your are considering large, dynamic parts like long arms or wings, do some testing with materials to make the part weight more manageable. Aluminum foil or wire can be a simple way to create structure or mass without creating a lot of weight.

        BONUS TIP: Large hands/feet or hand-held accessories can put the most stress on your ModiBot joints. Consider fabricating large accessories with balsa wood or styrene 

        5. Work each sculpted part as a separate element

        Most sculpting is worked as a single integral piece. If you are wanting to maintain the movement of the joints, it's best to work each part as a singular element. This approach makes it a bit tougher to see how the entire sculpt will look, but it will prevent you from destroying a bunch of work as you try to unsnap connected parts.

        6. Work in layers

        Developing a process is important, and one of the most important ways to manage the work is to take small steps, this will allow you to make improvements and modifications as you go vs. trying to get each part right on the first try.

        Working slowly allows you to work the entire design more as a whole than by finishing each part and then moving on to the next.

        BONUS TIP: One additional benefit of working in layers is that you can start with a rough sculpt of each part to get a feel for the proportion of the piece. Roughing out your design in bunched up aluminum foil can help you get a feel for each part's size and proportion.

        7. Allow clearance for sockets to flex

        Its best to leave room around the sockets so they can flex as you assemble the joints. When you bury the sockets in dense material it can prevent you from assembling all your work. Its best to leave at least 1-3 mm of socket material showing surrounding each joint.

        BONUS TIP: Be careful of making your sculpt too thin surrounding your sockets. Some materials may not be as flexible as the socket material, causing thin layers of material to crack and flake-off during part assembly.

        8. Do Not bake parts while assembled

         If you are using polyclay and heating your parts, the most important thing to remember is- DO NOT BAKE YOUR PARTS WHILE THEY ARE ASSEMBLED. This WILL stretch your joints and prevent them from maintaining a tight grip. No one wants floppy joints (unless you are trying to make a marionette that is. ;)

        BONUS TIP: If you are sculpting figures WITHOUT joints, ModiBot Mo+ works great as a full-figure sculpting armature. This approach allows you to define a great pose using the Mo figure and then burying Mo inside of a full-body sculpt. If you choose to work this way, it can be best to define your pose and then use some glue to 'lock' the joints in place before adding your sculpting medium.

        9. Always bake parts at the recommended temperature

        The ModiBot Mo+ kit has been tested to around 280 degrees F. When sculpting in polyclay, follow the recommended baking instructions for your material type. Using a heat gun or baking the parts at higher temperatures could damage the look and/or function of the parts. For best results, avoid over-heating the parts. 

        WARNING!: Use extreme caution when using an oven. Handling hot parts can cause burns. Use tongs or an oven mitt when handling hot parts.

        10. Whooops! Salvaging a part

        Accidents happen. Parts may get dropped and crack, joints may get over-stretched or we may just find out that the part we made is too heavy to allow the joints to remain posable. When those accidents happen, you should try to save the work you have done.

        It's possible to cut a ModiBot part out of the original sculpt by carefully using plastic snips. Cutting off one end of the part (socket or ball) can allow you too free the sculpted piece from the ModiBot armature. In some cases you may be able to cut the part in half using a small modeling or coping saw. Its best to use a vise and hand protection when separating a sculpt from its armature.

        Once you have freed the sculpted portion you can make modifications and reattach to another ModiBot part.

        Thanks for tuning-in. Watch this space for more creative project tips and best of luck on your next project!

        New 3d printable, ModiBot 'Character Creator' parts released at Tinkercad.com

        Just in time for the New Year, ModiBot has released a variety of new 3D printable action accessories, storytelling props and rigging fixtures for stopmotion animation.

        Each image has a 3d viewer that will allow you to orbit around the items and zoom in to see the details. Just click the title to 'Copy and Tinker' them or just download the 3d print files from our profile at Tinkercad.com or stop by and check out our Thingiverse designs for even more printable ModiBot files.

        Martial Arsenal- A slew of Japanese, printable weapons for your next training video or streetfight, including new wrapped staff accessory.


        Arm/Leg sleeve set- Add some bulk to your 'bots, or just a bit of color with these snap-on arm and leg covers.


        Tutu- Yes, a tutu! How many weapons and male-themed accessories have we made? It's time we started to introduce some accessories for animating a wider variety of diverse and spectacular feats of human physicality.


        Buccaneer theme accessory set- Shiver me timbers! Need some pirate-themed props and costuming for your Mo. Here's a bit to get you started.


        Screw-mount base for stopmotion- Now you can print your own secure surface mount for creating an external animation rig. It has a ball attachment for using extra arm and leg parts for capturing action cycles and acrobatics.


        Umbrella kit- Last, but not least, we've had a surprising amount of requests for an umbrella. Maybe we'll get to some amazing 'Singin' in the Rain' shorts? Who knows?

        Vote to help decide the future of ModiBot!

        ModiBot is in full evolution mode! Click the link below for a quick survey to help decide the types of ideas we'll pursue in the future.

        Its important that we get as much feedback as possible, so once you have completed the survey, please share with any friends who you think may be interested.

        Click to VOTE NOW!

        How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

        The fun part about ModiBot is that it can be anything you want it to be. With just a few pieces of colored cloth you can outfit your 'Bot and send him off on any number of adventures.

        This kit was designed to enable character creation across a variety of known pop-culture characters, traditional hero archetypes, or to use as a jumping-off point for designing your own hero.

        Its quick to make with some materials you might have around the house and really easy to modify to add your own personal touches. It can also be used as a fun design exercise for groups of kids (or kids at heart) for school or birthday parties. We also have premade kits in variety of colors available in our shop.

        Let's get started.

        Heres a quick list of materials-
        • Scissors (or rotary cutter)
        • one 9x12 in. sheet of felt
        • one 4 in. zip tie
        • one paper lollipop stick


          Step 1: Ideate and plan your design-

          Depending on the color of your bot, you might go in a variety of directions, but, as an example, let's say you have a bright green ModiBot you want to outfit.

          There are a lot of known characters that are green and could be easy to design with this kit, like Peter Pan or Robin Hood.

          There are also character archetypes that could be fun to build by starting with green, like an elven sorcerer or jungle-camoflaged ninja.

          Think for a few seconds and let your mind wander as you think of ideas. You might even do a quick drawing of your design using our downloadable  Character Design Template.

          Step 2: Cut your felt pieces-

          Depending on whether you are going to match the existing pattern or make a design of your own, you can start by creating the strips that will be used for the tunic and sash.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Cut a 1/2 inch strip down the long side of the 9x12 inch felt sheet. This will give you a strip 1/2 inch by 12 inches.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Starting at one end of the strip, measure 4 1/2 inches and cut straight across the strip using the scissors. Now, do the same thing again, measure 4 1/2 inches down the strip and cut.

          This should leave you with 2 pieces measuring 4 1/2 inches and a leftover piece measuring 3 inches.

          Step 3: Attach your pieces to the figure

          This part can be a bit tricky, so it’s best to start by sliding the end of the zip tie into the slot until you hear or feel the first few clicks.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Then take the two longer strips and fold them over the top of the figure’s shoulders and cross-cross them. It’s easy to use your finger and thumb to hold the strips into place.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Now, point your figure’s toes and slide the zip tie up the legs to the waist.
          Now, you can slip the smaller strip underneath the zip tie belt and wrap it around the figure’s waist.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Next, slowly tighten the zip tie while holding every thing in place. It’s best to leave some slack in the belt to allow you move things around to get them just right before tightening completely.
          Lastly, trim off the extra bit of the zip tie.


          Step 4: Decorate your stick

          I chose here to make mine into a sword with a metal blade and black handle, but you are free to make the stick into anything you want.

          Step 5: Complete the design and start posing!

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero


          Making female figures with the Moli Modifier upgrade kit

          We are constantly being asked for some parts that more 'female' to complement to Mo. During our Kickstarter campaign, we came up with the idea to make a small set of female parts that you could mix with Mo to get a whole new female figure and we called her Moli.

          Originally, the only way to get Moli was as made-to-order kit from our ModiBot Custom shop. We have been selling the Basic Moli upgrade (which consists of a hip and torso) for several years, but, for the first time, we're now selling the Deluxe Moli Modifier kit here in our shop.

          The kit, available in white, is 3d printed in Polyamide, which is a form of polyester and comes on a single frame to make it easy to process and ship. In addition to the torso and hip parts found in the Basic set, the Deluxe Modifier set includes hands, feet, and ponytail, 7 parts in all.

          When you receive the kit, it is best to trim the parts off the frame using small wire snips, cuticle scissors, or, if you are careful, an exacto knife. (See the green lines on the image below to know where to cut).

          Moli Modifier Frame

          Once you've trimmed them off the frame, these 3d printed parts (shown in white) can then be added to various parts from the Mo figure (shown above in pink) to complete your Moli.

          As with Mo, Moli can be used for any number of creative projects, from drawing practice, to DIY character crafts, to stopmotion animation. Where she goes is driven by your imagination.