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Training Tips

10 Most Important Things to Teach Your Puppy

1. Socialize Your Puppy

Socialization is the process of introducing a puppy to the world. The most critical socialization window is before 12 weeks of age, but can last as long as 16 weeks in some puppies. This is the most impressionable time in a dog’s life, where she can learn to love, hate and/or be afraid of anything. Memories, associations, social bonds and relationships are forged during this time in a dog’s life, which can affect the way she interacts with the world. Early experiences have the power to influence a dog’s life. Puppies should be encouraged to explore and investigate their environment and the things in their environment. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, environments, objects, textures, sights and sounds.

That being said, do not just place your puppy into these situations. Make sure your puppy is comfortable and enjoying each socialization exposure. Do not bring your puppy to places that might be scary like loud family gatherings, parties, etc. Start out in more controlled environments like the homes of friends and family. Make this fun by using food, toys and play. Over time, you can increase the intensity by going to more stimulating environments like public places.

Last but not least, attend puppy playgroups (not the dog park!) that are run by force-free positive reinforcement trainers so that your puppy can learn how to properly socialize with other puppies.

2. Prevent Separation Anxiety

Avoid separation anxiety and isolation distress by introducing alone time gradually. Using a crate and/or exercise pen during this process is important, but you must train your dog to enjoy the crate and pen.

Plan to take at least a few days off from work after your puppy arrives, so you can help her get accustomed to longer and longer periods alone. Play with her first so she’s tired, take her out to eliminate, and then put her in her crate or pen with a food-stuffed Kong or other enjoyable chew. Afterwards, sit nearby, reading or working on your computer. Slowly increase your distance from the puppy. Then start leaving the room for short periods of time. As long as the puppy is calm, start leaving the house for short periods of time, slowly building on the duration of time she is alone.

3. Housetraining

Teach your dog where it is appropriate to eliminate. Housetraining requires a lot of consistency and management on the owner’s part. Young puppies should be taken out every 30 minutes to 1 hour during daytime hours, and may also need one over night elimination break. If your puppy eliminates, give her some freedom in a puppy proof area to run around for 15-20 minutes. Over time, as your puppy starts to become house trained, you can increase the puppy’s free time. If your puppy doesn’t eliminate, bring her back inside and place her back in her crate for 10-15 minutes and then try again. Make sure to also teach your puppy an elimination cue like “get busy, go potty,” etc. and then reward right away after the puppy eliminates.

4. Allow Chewing

Puppies need to chew because they are teething. Allow your puppy to chew on her own safe designated chews. Each dog enjoys different chew toys. Some love bully sticks, some like pigs ears, others like classic Kong toys. Provide your puppy with many different textured chew toys. Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, so provide appropriate chews. Always supervise your puppy with chew toys.

5. Teach Puppy to Maintain Position

Teaching a puppy to sit or lay down is great! But can your puppy maintain that position until you release her? This is extremely important as it can build better self-imposed impulse control, which can help your puppy learn other behaviors down the road.

6. Possession Prevention

Possession behaviors, also known as “resource guarding,” is a natural survival behavior that can escalate and become quite dangerous if not addressed appropriately. Prevent this behavior by NOT reaching toward your puppy’s bowl of food while she is eating, or chewing a bone or toy when the puppy has these things in her possession. Do not tease or provoke your puppy as this can make things worse.

7. Teach a Recall Cue

Teach a recall that is fun for the puppy so that the puppy continues to respond over its life. Make returning to you the best game ever; using rewards, play, praise and games can help reinforce this cue.

Pro-Tip: Never use a recall as a negative thing or punishment!

8. Human Touch = Love

Teach your puppy that touch is a good thing. Do not over touch or restrain your puppy unless necessary. Teaching your puppy to enjoy handling and touching is important!

9. Enjoying the Car Ride

Introduce your puppy to a car with the engine off. Let your puppy play in the car with toys, and use treats to create a positive association. Next, turn the car on and do the same. Over time slowly move the car a foot, 5 feet and so on. Do not make the first car ride a traumatic experience like going to the vet or groomer. Instead, go to the park, go for a hike, visit grandma, etc.

10. Create a Relationship

Positive training methods help build confidence and a relationship between owner and dog. Training, playing and spending time with your dog helps build a strong relationship. Furthermore, be your dogs advocate and don’t let friends, family, neighbors and other trainers try to change what you are trying to accomplish. You are your dogs advocate, be your dogs voice.

Useful Resources

Reading Suggestions

  • Meet Your Dog by Kim Brophy
  • The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller
  • The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
  • The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
  • How Dogs Learn by Mary R. Burch & Jon S. Bailey
  • Dogs by Raymond & Lorna Coppinger
  • On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas
  • Decoding Your Dog by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Local Veterinary Behaviorist

Our Approach

Our approach is to teach owners how to teach, guide and navigate their dogs to success. We do this by providing one-on-one lessons that are customized for each dog and owner.


Owners will learn how to:

  • Train and work with their dog
  • Change behavior & manage behavior
  • Understand their dog and why their dog does what he/she does
  • Set their dog up for success in & out of the home
  • Create clear and consistent rules & boundaries
  • Develop a lasting and enjoyable relationship

Training is provided using positive reinforcement-based methods and a LIMA approach (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive)

Benefits of Positive Reinforcement & LIMA Training

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement means reinforcing your dog for doing the right behavior. When teaching a dog skills, we want to reinforce their behavior. When a behavior is reinforced, it is likely to be repeated. Reinforcement can be in the form of treats, toys, praise etc. Through clear reinforcement, practice and consistency, the goal is to get your dog to respond to cues with little to no food.

What is LIMA?

LIMA is an acronym that refers to "Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive." Trainers and behavior consultants who follow the principles of LIMA adhere to least intrusive, minimally aversive strategies to achieve the best outcome for success when training or addressing behavior concerns. Click here to learn more about LIMA.


✓ Proven results for both training & behavior modification for dogs of all ages and breeds
✓ Training becomes enjoyable for your dog as he/she gets rewarded for a job well done
✓ Teaches skills while setting boundaries and rules in a clear and consistent manner
✓ Fosters a powerful relationship between the dog & dog owner using a friendly & humane approach