Question: What should I teach my puppy first?
Over 10 years ago I asked myself this question before I brought home my first puppy, Linus. The only real experience I had raising/training a puppy at that point was working with my roommates two puppies, Stinky (Doberman Pinscher mix) and Pepper (Australian Shepherd mix).
I had seen what I liked about those two pups and what I didn’t like. They were sweet dogs, but didn’t know a lick of obedience nor were they potty trained even though they lived in the house. The carpet was ruined. The patio cover posts were gnawed down to the size of toothpicks. If you weren’t careful they’d snag your slice of pizza off the coffee table…but they were sweet dogs…
Fast forward 8 years to the months leading up to adopting my first pup, Linus. I made a conscious decision that Linus would be a well trained dog. I purchased several books on puppy training, had my veterinarian lined up, and I even had a professional dog trainer I planned to use for our puppy kindergarten and obedience classes.
What Should I Teach My Puppy First?
After my early experiences with puppies I was determined that my first puppy would be well-behaved, well-mannered puppy. I vividly recall my puppy training goals at the time. My puppy was going to learn:
- Potty Training – Growing up none of our family dogs were indoor dogs. I wanted an indoor dog and in order to have an indoor dog I would have to potty train said dog. Linus was my first puppy and surprisingly also the easiest of all my puppies to potty train. Somewhere between 12-14 weeks old he totally got the potty training thing and hasn’t had an accident since (minus the couple times he had diarrhea)
- Crate Training – Not as easily mastered as potty training, but it was on my short list of things to accomplish with my first puppy. The first few weeks Linus cried, yelped, howled in his crate. I slept on the floor with him in his crate for several night and eventually he got it. While I don’t crate Linus anymore I do still find him sleeping in Raven or Archer’s crate throughout the day.
- Basic Obedience – At the time I didn’t know exactly what basic skills I was going to teach Linus, but my list was very similar to the list of commands I teach my guide dog puppies: Sit, Down, Heel, Stay, and Come were on the top of my list.
- House Manners – No table scraps, no counter surfing, no jumping up on guests, and stay off the furniture.
Those were the big 4! Guess what? Linus was a brilliant puppy! He learned all 4 skills in short order. The only problems is I didn’t anticipate other behavior problems or secondary skills to teach him.
What Should I Teach My Puppy Second?
It’s not really what you should teach your puppy second, but instead an addendum to my original list. Yes, I had a good start, but there’s more to raising and training a puppy then the big 4 from our list above.
Since Linus I’ve raised 10+ foster puppies, 4 guide dog puppies, and 2 service dog puppies. That’s not to mention the countless number of guide and service dog puppies we’ve puppy sat over the years.
What does this all mean? I now have oodles of experience raising and training puppies! So in addition to the big 4 from the above list here are 3 other uber important skills and behaviors you should teach your puppy:
- Socialization – this should be on the list above with the big 4, but I hate to say it even though I knew socialization was important I did not have it on my list 10+ years ago. It’s very important to introduce your puppy to new people, places, and things at an early age, but be aware not to over expose him.
- Door Manners – During his puppy years I never worked with Linus on door manners. Today he enjoy barking every time he hears the door bell ring. I’ve been working on keeping my dogs calm when people come over to the house (actually it’s mainly Raven and Linus).
- Multiple Surfaces – I learned through guide dogs that you should teach your puppy to walk on and potty on multiple surfaces. A 9 month old Linus taught me this same lesson when I took him on a camping trip, but that’s a story for another day.
I think that’s about it. Of course if you’re raising your puppy to be a service dog then you’ll have to add a few more skills and behaviors to the above lists.
What about you guys? What skills and behaviors do you think are most important to teach your puppy first? Did I miss anything? Tell me about your experiences in the comment section below.