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Top Skills to Teach A Puppy!

Getting a puppy is a fun and exciting time. Everyone wants a well-trained, friendly and obedient dog. But, not everyone has a plan to set their puppy up for success. In order to have a well-trained puppy, you MUST have goals and a training plan in place to help you achieve success.

You should start training your puppy right away as puppies are very impressionable and are learning machines!!! Training should NOT be a stressful “drill session” for you and your puppy. Instead, your sessions should be short and fun so that your puppy learns skills and builds a relationship with you.

But what skills should you train your puppy? What are the most important skills to teach right away? Well, here are Anthony’s suggestions!

These skills are not necessarily in chronological order, so I am not suggesting you must teach your puppy these skills in a specific order. That said, I will say that you should start teaching your puppy his/her name, coming when called and eye contact right away!

Your Training Sessions

The Length of Your Session

Your training sessions should be short and fun. Many puppies have very short attention spans. Keeping a session short and fun will leave a better impression on your puppy. A short session might be 1 to 3 minutes! That’s right! I said 1 to 3 minutes. You can train your puppy for 1 to 3 minutes, take a break by playing or allowing your puppy to chew on something and then repeat the process one or two more times. OR you can literally have a 1 to 3 minute training session and then end it on a good note and move onto something else.

Make it Fun!

Most owners (including myself sometimes) make training sessions this repetitive boring activity. This may cause the puppy to become disinterested or even a little stressed. Make your sessions enjoyable by using food, toys and verbal praise. Get your puppy excited and interested in working with you as a team. Doing so early on will benefit you down the road. Making sessions fun also helps a puppy build a relationship with you, which is very important when teaching the 5 Foundation Skills I have listed out below.

Step 1: Hire A Professional

Many puppy owners decide they do not need a dog trainer, until they decide they need a dog trainer. It is important that you consider hiring a professional as soon as you get your puppy (or before your puppy arrives home) so that you have someone coaching and guiding you to help lay the foundation for success. You can check out our website to learn more about how we can help you and your puppy. Click HERE to learn more!A puppy sitting

The 5 Foundation Skills

  • Name Game- Your puppy knowing his name is extremely important. A dog’s name should mean when it is said, your puppy turns and looks at you and/or comes to you when his name is said. Many dog owners think a puppy knows his name, but this is a skill that must be taught to a puppy. It is also important to keep in mind that you do not use the puppy’s name as a negative thing. You do not want your puppy learning that the name means he is in trouble, because the chances are is that he will learn to avoid you over time.
  • Coming When Called (aka Recall)- Coming when called is a skill everyone wants their puppy and adult dog to know. My advice is that you should teach this skill as soon as you get your puppy. AND you should teach this as a fun, positive and enjoyable skill. Coming when called should be the best thing ever in the eyes of your puppy! PRO TIP: If you have dreams of allowing your dog off-leash, then teach your puppy this skill right away! Most owners seem to wait until their dog is 6 months to 1 year old before practicing recall and off-leash skills. This can be too late for some dogs, so start early!
  • Eye Contact- Many puppies need to learn that focusing on their owner is a valuable and rewarding skill. Eye contact teaches the rules of attention. Depending on how you teach eye contact (because there are many ways to teach this skill), it can start to lay the foundation for self-imposed impulse control. We want to teach a puppy that offering eye contact is a good thing. You can check out this video on how I like to teach eye contact using The Third Way method.
  • Sit Maintain- Sit Maintain, also known as Sit Stay, is a skill I like to teach right away. I teach this using The Third Way method created by obedience champion, Chris Bach. I want a puppy learning to sit and maintain his position until I release him with a release word. This is a great skill to continue in helping a puppy learn about self-control. Sit Maintain becomes a useful skill that can be used in many areas of the puppy’s life. For example: sitting at the door rather than bolting out the door, waiting politely for dinner rather than jumping or begging, waiting to be released out of his crate instead of just rushing out and much more. This skill takes some time, consistency and patience. If your puppy messes up, don’t be hard on him, instead help set him up for success.
  • Relaxing/Settling- One thing to get in the habit of is teaching your puppy to relax. I personally like doing this on a dog bed with a bone, food puzzle toy or other valuable chew item. I like placing the puppy in this space after play time, coming back from a walk or some other stimulating or arousing event, this way the puppy can shift down a couple gears and relax (and maybe even fall asleep). As you consistently practice this skill, it will help your puppy get into the habit of relaxing faster. Click here to watch this video on this simple concept!

puppy running through tunnel

Extra’s to Consider:

Since everyone likes extra things, here is a little list of other things I like doing with puppies while they are young and impressionable.

  • Socialization- This is exposing a puppy to his world in a safe and positive manner. You can check out our detailed blog and socialization check list by clicking here.
  • Learning Tug-of-War and play- Playing tug-of-war and other play skills is not only fun, but it starts building a relationship between puppy and owner. A great resource on tug and play skills is the book called the Interactive Play Guide by Craig Oglivie. You can also check out our blog and “how-to” video on tug.
  • Top 10 Things To Do With a Puppy- Here is our list of the top 10 things to do with a puppy! You can check this out by clicking here


Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with severe behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home and virtual behavior consultations, as well as dog training services across Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony has seven professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM), Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP), Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, and The Third Way Certified Trainer. Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest, both of which are training in agility and sheep herding.

July 23, 2021