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When should you start training with your puppy or dog?


End of blog post...

Just kidding! But if you got nothing out of this post hopefully you just remember that!

I think the reason this question exists for people is that everyone has a different idea of what

"dog training" is, what it accomplishes, and what it looks like.

I invite you to try a 1minute exercise

  1. Close your eyes for 30seconds and actually pay attention to the images that pop up in your mind when you think of "dog training"

  2. Write down or list aloud what you saw

Here are some examples I have heard other people say...

"... German Shepards heeling next to police officers"

"... A group class where all the dogs are learning sit, stay, and down"

"...Dog sports like agility, or protection dogs in the police academy"

"...Dog boot camp where dogs do obedience"

When I do this exercise with people I rarely hear them say...

"Teaching my dog to lay somewhere else while I eat dinner"

"Calling my dog to me at the beach"

"Teaching my dog not to push out past me out the door"

"Teaching my dog how to calm down when people walk in the door"

"Teaching my dog life skills to keep them safe"

For some reason I think a lot of people don't consider the things they do in daily life as training-

but the truth is ANYTIME you are with your dog you are training them something. I also think some people are afraid that training will harm their dog's spirit because they have such a militant idea of it.

The truth is...

Training is just a communication system between you and your dog.

You create a shared language through motivation. That process builds your relationship over time with one another and allows you to reach bigger and bigger goals as you become more and more connected to one another.

At its' core training is teaching your dog life skills, and what I am going to call "academic skills".

Life skills look like:

  • Your dog not darting out of your car the second you open the door.

  • Building confidence around the bus that makes a scary noise on your walk.

  • Teaching your dog how to calm down when they feel nervous or excited

I think of life skill training as the training you do as you live your life.

Academic skills looks like

  • Teaching your dog a trick like catching a frisbee.

  • Teaching your dog how to hold a stay around something they really want to get to

  • Teaching your dog a command that means come when called

I think of academic skills as training that takes separate sessions and time to teach somewhat separate from the flow of your everyday life

Catching a frisbee might not seem as important, but you could also use this skill as a life skill if you needed your dog to come back to you quickly when they were off leash let's say. Not necessarily how I would use it, but it is helpful for a motivational reason. These skills also build your relationship with your dog as you learn how to communicate at a deeper level and allow you to go more places with more confidence.

Both life skills and academic skills are extremely important and interconnected! Both teach your dog how to operate in a human world, and how they can gain rewards and therefore control their environment. They also build your bond because you have more ways to talk to one another in a way you both enjoy!

The key is to always teach your pet dog that a calm mind, and calm behavior is what gives them access to what they want.

To go outside

To get out of the crate

To get out of the car

To gain a food or toy reward

To gain a person

And to do this at a level that your dog is capable of.

Everyone wants to start in University, but we all start in pre-school so don't over face your dog! We all like to just enjoy a meal already made for us, but dog training is the cooking! You cannot skip the ingredients or you will have no end product!

No pizza!

Hopefully that analogy made sense to you...

Make sure they feel like a winner throughout the process and you will feel like a winner too. Gradually build your skills over time and give yourself and your dog that time.

I think one of the most beautiful lessons our dogs' teach us (amongst many) is that creating something truly beautiful takes time.

That is why watching people perform at a high level with an animal is so innately breath taking. You can almost feel the connection between the two individuals and it is so beautiful to behold.

So if you just got your puppy or dog, you have actually already started training whether you wanted to or not! Make each moment with your dog count, and be self aware of when you are allowing your dog to gain access to whatever it is they want.

And if you have a nervous dog or over excited dog be there to support them. Help them find the answers you can already see, but they are struggling to understand.

Training starts the second you and your dog are together.

Happy Training!

Valerie works with dogs of all breeds and temperaments and focuses on teaching dogs to want to make the choices that we want them to; For their sake as well as yours!

She believes in building deep trust and connection with the animals she works with and has found that this is always the final ingredient in a successful partnership.

To find out more about Valerie you can visit her About page at

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