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Top 10 Life Skills To Teach Your Puppy

a man cuddling his new puppy and teaching him life skills

So you have a new puppy, a blank canvas so to speak! What do you start teaching them? What do they need to know? Learning is always happening from the moment you bring your puppy home – and learning is for life, but to get you started, here are our top 10 puppy life skills to teach your dog:

The Name Game

Your puppy needs to know their name! Their name should always be associated with something positive, so say your puppy’s name, and when they look at you, give them a treat.
Put a cue on teaching your puppy to look at you such as ‘watch’ or ‘look’. Practice at home first, then when your puppy is really good at watching you, take it on the road to more distracting environments.

Settle on a Mat

Whether at home, in the vet waiting room, or a local café, settling on a mat is a vital life skill for all puppies. Make the mat a positive space by adding treats when your puppy goes to their mat and build duration gradually.

Create a “Zen Zone”

Having a safe space, like a crate, for your puppy to rest is crucial as is providing enough time for good quality sleep. Puppies need lots of sleep and this will help with their development, learning and training. For more tips on crate training click here.


Play games, play tug, have fun, run around, play hide and seek and just have fun with your puppy! For some fun game ideas you can play with your puppy read our article Fun 5 minute Games to Play with Your Dog.

Walking Nicely on a Lead

So you don’t get sore shoulders or your dog trips you over, teaching puppies to walk on a loose lead is important from an early age. Our tip is to practice without the lead first and reward your puppy where you want them to walk with you, then add the lead and harness later.


Having a puppy you can take off lead at a beach or park is great, but only if they respond to their recall cue 100% of the time! Spend some time conditioning a recall word first (recall word = treats!), then start to add movement and distance before adding in distraction. Don’t be stingy with your rewards for recall, and always have a party when your puppy comes to you.

Social Skills

Who doesn’t want a dog and people social dog?! But there’s nothing worse than a dog bowling over your gran or getting a bad reputation at the park for being overzealous. Your puppy doesn’t need to meet everyone or every dog. Teaching them to be calm around other dogs and people is quite important, as is teaching a polite greeting when they do interact. Go slowly and create positive associations at all times.

Wait and Stay

We’ve combined these skills, but both are used for safety and ease of management, particularly in multi pet households and out and about. There is a difference between these skills – ask your dog trainer for help with training if you need.

Body awareness skills/confidence

Teaching your puppy to safely navigate surfaces and their surroundings will help to prevent injury, build confidence and body control/awareness. Try ‘urban agility’ (obstacles in the environment to climb over, on or around), keep it safe (low) and never force.

How to exchange or swap items in their mouth

So you don’t go through the “OMG what have you got in your mouth” phase with your dog, especially in Queensland during cane toad season, teaching a swap or exchange is pretty important both for safety and your hip pocket. Always offer an exchange with a higher value item/food (remember what is valuable is in the eye of the beholder) rather than just take.


We have left the most important (bonus) tip until last! You and your puppy’s relationship is the most important thing in the world. If you have read through the tips above and you start training your puppy with patience and positivity, fun and play and focus on the foundations, your relationship will bloom, and then you will experience an unbreakable bond to take on the world together 💗

Extra tip

Start all skills in a low distraction environment first (at home, inside or in the yard), then gradually increase distractions each time your puppy is successful.

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