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What Are the First Things You Teach a New Dog?

Let’s say you’ve just brought home an adopted dog or puppy.

Where do you even begin as far as training?

It can be overwhelming, but I absolutely love the process of working with a new dog.

I love the process of teaching the dog how to live in our crazy world. I love attempting to provide enough exercise.

I love helping a dog achieve “calm.”

This is why I love fostering dogs. It’s also why I always want to add another dog to our family.

Where I start with dog training

My dog Ace of Spades

I always start with a long walk whenever possible. Like, literally as soon as I get the foster dog home we head out for a walk.

Some dogs are too young or too old or too sick or injured or recently spayed and can’t go, but if we can walk for even 10 minutes, we do. An hour is even better.

For training, I begin with potty training. And also prevention, prevention, prevention.

I prevent chewing, marking, fighting and counter surfing by supervision, exercise and using a crate/kennel.

The rules are carefully shaped by preventing unwanted behavior and allowing opportunities for good behavior.

If a dog is either on a leash or in his kennel, he’s not going to have an accident. He’s not going to chase my cats. He’s not going to chew my shoes.

Here’s my general order:

1. Long walk right away and lots of exercise every day

2. Potty training

3. Kennel/crate training

4. Basic rules

5. Teaching the dog his name

6. Basic obedience

Some of the rules I slowly teach:

Dogs sit before I put their leashes on them. They don’t barge through doors.

I expect a calm household. Very little playing, wrestling or running indoors.

No chasing cats.

No begging while I eat. Dogs sit before eating. No charging the food bowl.

I begin teaching the dog his name if he doesn’t know it. Saying it and giving food and attention.

These are the things I start with, and more.

It is a lot, but I have high expectations for calmness in my apartment.

Freedom is earned, even just being off the leash when I’m home is earned.

I do not feel sorry for a dog recently sprung from a shelter. He made it out; he is one of the lucky ones.

I use a lot of food rewards and affection for reinforcement. And toys. I say “no” a lot, firmly but calmly. But I try to pause and let the dog think for himself.

I am constantly working on my patience.

So that’s where I begin.

Where do you start when training a new dog?

And doesn’t Ace look so young in the picture? That’s when he was about a year old. 🙂

Related posts:

How to potty train a puppy

How to prepare for a foster dog

Kennel training a dog


Wednesday 20th of December 2017

I love your articles. It's like an online class for dog care. I am a dog sitter and I stay booked. I meet all kinds of dogs and parents. I took early childhood Ed but decided I liked fur kids better. I am great with dogs and have a good record of getting good behavior out of them. Some pet parents do not like the idea of crate time. They think it is cruel. I find those pets the most out of control. Sometimes your posts reinforce why I do what I do and help me shake off the doubt that maybe I could be wrong in my methods. I do my homework. I like to know I am being the best I can be. I have cared for dogs, children, and the elderly for many years. Somehow all of those combined together have helped in having pet clients. Keep those articles coming! You are amazing!

Amanda Chong

Tuesday 19th of December 2017

We adopted a senior chocolate lab this summer. Thankfully, he came leash-trained, potty-trained, trained to not counter-surf, or to be overly excited about food. He is very sweet and this pre-training made him a breeze to integrate into our family.

One thing we did try to teach him from day one was to not go in certain rooms (i.e. bathrooms where cleaning supplies / over the counter meds could be dangerous if he were to get into them, my husband's office where important papers may be, etc). When we got to one of those doorways in the home and he started to cross the doorway I just stomped my foot on the ground once to draw attention to it and calmly said "ah!" to let him know not to come in. When he would sit down and wait I would praise him / pet him. He figured it it within a day or so and would just sit at that doorway and watch me from the doorway if the door was open. Super glad we taught him this. I plan to do this with future dogs too!

For the record, he still has plenty of room to move around and be free even with those few rooms restricted. :)


Tuesday 19th of December 2017

I just got 2 yorkie puppies, litter mates. They play together all the time but sometimes it gets a little rough and they go from sounding like cute puppies to vicious little creatures. I tried distracting them with toys and separating them but it's as if they they hold the grudge until they meet again because they go right back at it. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Mary Kubenik

Sunday 14th of May 2017

I'm nursing a swollen face, mouth, and knee after being pulled abruptly to the blacktop by my wonderful, energetic, friendly, very strong Golden retriever that I didn't for. I've had bilateral knee replacements so slightly disadvantaged from the get go. I had no warning and this could have been much worse. He's done it before...but I landed on snowbanks. Vet recommended shock collar training with local trainer. Don't think I can manage this loveable boy without further training. He's been to obedience training. He's two. I LOVE this dog. Today, as I ice my body, I'm rethinking my career path.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 14th of May 2017

Oh, Mary I'm so sorry to hear you were hurt. I hope you're feeling better as soon as possible.

Mary Kubenik

Sunday 14th of May 2017

That should say, "that I SIT for". Been pet sitting for 8 months.

Barbara Rivers

Friday 24th of February 2017

Oh I love this post, that's exactly what I did with my pups. Setting clear boundaries, rules, and providing tons of physical and mental exercise has gone a very long way.