I have a lot of feelings about puppies. I have worked with hundreds (maybe thousands) of young puppies as a trainer and love every one dearly. Puppies are cute. Puppies can be frustrating. I like to joke that puppies are cute so we forget how frustrating they can be, and are actually willing to go through it again.

One of the biggest challenges I see happening with puppies in new homes is a big focus on teaching COMMANDS. Sit. Down. Come. Leave it. Stay. No. (Which, btw, isn’t a command/cue nor does it mean much when used in 1000 different contexts.)

Flame the 13 week old Pembroke Welsh Corgi is my most recent puppy camper. Flame stayed with me for one full week to work on foundation skills to make puppyhood and beyond MUCH smoother with her human. While she was here, she learned ONE verbal cue – touch. She responded well to it in the situations we’ve practiced, and is generalizing it well to new environments. But the list of life skills we worked on is LONG! Some of them include:

  • Offering eye contact and engagement
  • Sitting automatically to request attention (instead of jumping up)
  • Appropriate play with friendly and neutral dogs
  • Sleeping in a kennel both at night and during the day
  • Marker cues (“yes” and “good”) and great reward mechanics
  • Eating food from hands
  • Eating food dropped on the floor
  • Tracking and chasing tossed food
  • Following a lure
  • Chasing and tugging on a toy that I’m holding
  • Practiced positive nail trims and dremeling
  • Spin both directions
  • Foundation for a solid recall (which she has come enthusiastically running to 100% of the time!)
  • Potty training (in her week here, she had ZERO accidents in the house)
  • Paws up on new surfaces/objects (which can help turn into a solid stay!)
  • Going to the bathroom outside in the rain
  • Foundation for mat work/settling on a house
  • Sitting politely and being patient while humans are eating their dinner
  • Playing/training/working with a human even with the distraction of other dogs just a few feet away
  • Impulse control to not dive into the food bowl during training sessions, and foundations for not counter surfing
  • Listening to me without needing to see a treat/reward
  • Not biting hands or pant legs
  • Not digging in the yard
  • Not chewing stuff up in the house
  • Having fun taking a bath and getting towel dried
  • Novel item and location socialization in the garage
  • And more!

Again, I had this puppy for just a week! She has learned SO much. Is anything done? Of course not, she’s a baby! But these are the skills I focus on with puppies and continue to practice as they grow. A dog any age can learn to sit, lay down, and shake. But focusing first on life skills with puppies rather than “commands” will set you up in the long run for an easier adolescence, and an easier lifelong experience with your new dog.

Do you have a pup who seems like she’s always up to trouble? Want her to learn how to be the Best Dog Ever? Puppy Adventure Camp is currently open for enrollment for puppies under 20 weeks!