3 Skills You Should Teach Your Puppy First

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So you’ve brought home a brand new puppy, now what?! Well first, throw a little party for yourself! You have just embarked on an incredible adventure with your new fur-friend. What you do next will determine how smoothly your puppy folds into your family’s lifestyle. Whether this is your first puppy ever or you are a veteran dog owner, whether you’d like your dog to ultimately work for you or just be a companion animal, there are 3 skills you should teach your puppy first!

Skill 1: Focus

                The focus behavior teaches your puppy to willingly look to you for direction. You want this behavior to mean, “Look me in the eyes and give me your full attention.” In the dog world, eye contact is a fairly threatening behavior that either result in avoidance or confrontation. Because of this, we must teach our puppies that eye contact with humans is a positive thing that will always end with a reward. Many practical uses for the focus behavior include walking past or working around distractions, interrupting an unwanted behavior such as excessive barking and, very importantly, establishing a strong and positive bond with your puppy that will last a lifetime!

Skill 2: Loose Leash Walking

Have you ever tried to walk a dog that pulled the entire time? It can be a frustrating experience for both the handler and dog alike! Unfortunately, the more often you follow your dog while he/she is pulling, the more your dog is learning to pull. Dogs have an opposition reflex, which means they instinctively pull, or push, in the opposite direction of pressure in order to free themselves. Of course, your puppy does not understand what a leash is or that it is for their safety and the safety of others. So why is it important to teach your puppy to walk on a loose leash, other than to save yourself some aggravation? For several reasons, actually!

Walking with constant pressure against their neck can cause a dog to ultimately become reactive towards other dogs or even people. What starts off as excitement to meet someone new quickly turns into frustration from feeling the pressure and, eventually, even fear from associating that new person or dog with pressure and pain. Of course, there is also the concern of damage being done to your dog’s neck, as well as injury to yourself from potentially being pulled off of your feet. Taking a few minutes every day to practice, as well as consistently reinforcing a loose leash every single time your pup is attached, will most certainly pay off in the long run!

Skill 3: Recall (“Come”)

Having a solid recall, or ability to call your dog back to you, can be one of the most life-saving of the 3 skills. This is the number one safety cue that any dog trainer will stress the importance of! Not so surprisingly, having a positive and strong bond with your puppy is the foundation for this skill. If your dog has learned that interacting with you results in punishment and frustration, they are not very likely to want to give up their freedom and come running in your direction. A few tips for creating a solid recall are: moving quickly in the opposite direction, throwing a party when they get to you, and practicing every single day!

You want to avoid moving towards your dog when calling them to you. Dogs love a good game of chase and it is your job to teach them that they are always “it”! Be sure to have your dog’s favorite reward and to only bring it out after they have gotten to you! If you are waving freeze dried liver around to get them heading in your direction, guess what they are coming to. The liver, not you! As always, practice, practice, practice with your puppy!  If you don’t teach them what you want, how will they ever know? If you want to learn more about teaching your puppy a reliable recall check out this blog: How To Get Your Dog To Come When Called, Every Time!

Name one skill we never ever want to teach our puppy? Which of the 3 skills have you found most useful? Put your comments below.

About the trainer 

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help.  The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants.  Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.

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