Training Tips for You and Your Puppy

Congratulations on your new puppy!

Before going any further, read this blog post:

10 Must-Haves for your Puppy

The focus of puppy training is to lay the foundation of HOW to learn and to expose them systematically to the world around them; people, places, things, sounds, etc. For dogs within the Socialization Period (from about 3 - 14 weeks old) we will focus on showing the dog what TO DO as opposed to what to do and what NOT to do through LURING, MODELING and MOLDING. 

For puppies who have passed the Socialization Stage, we still take a similar approach, but incorporate some more 'formal' training. 

socialization & training strategies

Goals of Puppy Training: The Five Fingers (Linda Kaim, Lionheart K9):

  1. Enabling mutual communication
  2. Providing novelty
  3. Discovery learning opportunities
  4. Patterning and positive reinforcement
  5. Create emotional elasticity

How to reach those goals: Simplify the Process (Linda Kaim, Lionheart K9):

  • Make it HARD to be WRONG
    • Guide choices
    • Control outcomes
  • Make it EASY to be RIGHT
    • Emotional neutrality
    • What to ignore / When to intervene
    • Say YES and mean it!


Socialization does not mean playing with other dogs. Rather, it refers to the time in a dog's life between about 3 weeks old through 12-14 weeks old. This Socialization period is when we have an opportunity to help shape their experiences to quickly affect how they will respond to things in our daily lives. CLICK HERE for an article on the importance of socialization and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) stance on socializing before having all vaccinations. 

It's important to foster novel experiences and introducing them to People, Places, Things, Sounds, Smells, but do so in a way that it is controlled in order to assure a positive experience. This is a great article on proper socialization, Click Here.

IMPORTANT: Here is a great checklist that will help keep you on track with your socialization goals. SOCIALIZATION CHECKLIST

Although meeting other dogs is important, it is a component of socialization, not the centerpiece. When it comes to introducing your puppy to other dogs, make sure the other dog is a good ROLE MODEL. Stable adult dogs are the best teachers for puppies. Do not let your puppy interact with inappropriate dogs, from over-excited to fearful...puppies are sponges and will learn from them things that aren't desirable.  Additionally, if you let your puppy play with other puppies you will see a lot of inappropriate behavior as well, so sticking to adult role models is the way to go. We do not allow on leash greetings since that often ends with the dogs getting in an argument. Leashes prevent the dog from being able to move out of an uncomfortable situation (flight), so they feel stuck and with no other option than to defend themselves (fight). So all dog-dog interactions should be off leash (leashes dragging) in a safe area. Additionally, most greetings that take place on leash are nose-to-nose, which is also inappropriate and makes the dogs uncomfortable. If you do find yourself in this situation the best thing to do is call your dog away without putting tension on the leash. 


Leash & Collar Management

Your puppy must be supervised when they aren't safely confined. No ifs, ands or buts. Before you balk at the idea of this, it's important to think realistically about the situation. Is your puppy, who has no idea HOW to live in our personal world, able to be responsible enough to behave like a mature, polite member of the family? 

Why? Because they are NOT going to make 'good' decisions when left to their own devices (bathroom accidents, chewing, rough-housing, barking, jumping, chasing kids, chasing other pets, resource guarding, and the list goes on...) It is OUR responsibility to be able to prevent those 'bad' behaviors from happening, or at least have the ability to address them if they do. Additionally, there is very little conflict when you are able to control your puppy on leash (instead, you would be chasing him down, grabbing his collar, etc.)

How? Keep your puppy on a leash a collar when they are not safely confined, and that leash should be in the hands of a responsible adult. When you cannot dedicate your attention to the puppy, they should be confined to a crate. Time spent in the crate allows the dog to learn to relax independently, and realize that the world doesn't (and shouldn't) revolve around them. Crate time while the family is home and active is a fantastic learning opportunity as well as separation anxiety prevention. 

Quality Over Quantity: It's not the amount of time that your puppy spends out of the crate that matters, its the quality of that time that really counts. Puppies need to sleep...a don't feel bad about giving then plenty of quiet time in their crate. Also, if they become over-tired you will see mouthing/biting and over-the-top behaviors (kind of like a child having a tantrum). The key is to put them up before they reach their breaking point. For young puppies that may be only about 10-15 minutes. So do yourself and your puppy a favor by committing yourself to quality interactions, by being mentally and physically attentive to them and using that time wisely. Work on confidence building, calling away from distractions, polite manners, etc. Things that will work them mentally, not just physically. 


Resource Guarding Prevention

Resource guarding is a natural behavior for dogs and is the first behavior they learn after their eyes and ears open. To help lower the risk of increasing the intensity of resource guarding or to help prevent issues from arising, we can create a conditioned response to relinquishing resources. We do this through trade games. By offering a higher value item for the one the dog is possessing we teach the dog that giving up their valuables means they get great things in return.  


Canine Body Language

What is your dog saying? To understand them you must pay attention to their body language, their primary communication method. Here is a simple guide to help you begin to read your dog. Keep in mind that context matters too, so not everything is so cut and dry.


Please note: the links below are Unfortunately not available on mobile devices. 



Crate Training


Separation Anxiety Prevention