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Top 10 Important Things to Teach Your Puppy First (w/Videos) | Pupford

December 12th, 2023

Filed under Training

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The holiday season and the new year are common times for families to bring a puppy into their home.

While it’s a super exciting venture for any family, it can also be a bit overwhelming and even lead to the puppy blues. This time of year we get a lot of questions along the lines of “I’m getting a puppy and preparing to train them – where do we start and what are the first things I should teach them?”

The short answer: start right here!

You can set your puppy up for a lifetime of success by teaching a handful of foundational skills, and we’re going to cover the 10 most important ones today (in no particular order; they’re all important!). Here are the top 10 things to train your puppy first:

  1. Their name
  2. Where to (and not to) go potty
  3. To love their crate
  4. To come when called
  5. Leash manners
  6. To master the basics (sit, down, stay, place etc.)
  7. Grooming isn’t so bad
  8. Impulse control
  9. A routine
  10. Love and trust


when you get your puppy you should teach your puppy their name

Getting your dog’s attention is crucial to teaching them basically anything else, and the best way to do that is by teaching them their name. One of the first things you should train your puppy is what their name is!

Most dogs catch onto their names pretty quickly. The key is repetition – say their name often and reward frequently when they respond to it.

While we know that navigating the early days of puppyhood can be frustrating at times, it’s really important to say your new dog’s name in a happy tone and without angry or frustrated reactions so they don’t form a fearful association.

Tip: Keep it positive! As mentioned above.


puppy outside looking for a place to go to the bathroom

Potty training is one of the first major training hurdles to tackle with a new puppy. The sooner you are able to teach them where to go potty – and just as importantly, where not to go potty – the better.

Just remember, accidents are going to happen. When they do, be sure you have some Oops Eraser Enzymatic Cleaner on hand! 🙌

And while it’s a tough pill to swallow, potty accidents are our responsibility as puppy parents. We have to provide potty opportunities as frequently as every hour to be able to reinforce the behavior properly…yes, even at night.

For step-by-step guidance on potty training, see our Potty Training course in the Pupford Academy.

Tip: Set a reminder on your phone hourly (or every couple of hours, depending on their age) so you don’t forget when it’s time to go out!

🐶 Don't miss this! Access the 100% free, highly-rated, video course 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here!


teach puppy to love their crate

From the beginning, we should be teaching our puppies that their crates are a comfortable, safe space to relax and hang out when unsupervised.

More importantly, we should NOT be teaching our dogs that the crate is a punishment.

This is definitely easier said than done, especially when you have a puppy who cries in the crate at night or when they are away from you (that’s totally normal, by the way).

But it’s definitely possible to teach your dog to love their crate and direct them to go in it on cue and even on their own!

For step-by-step guidance on crate training, see our Crate Training course in the Pupford Academy.

Tip: Give them meals in the crate or other treats and chews!


puppy running to pup parents when they call its name

Strong recall skills are important for allowing your dog freedom while keeping them safe. And like most skills, getting your puppy to master it early will make it more likely to stick long-term.

But if you know anything about puppies, you know their attention span is… less than stellar, to say the least. While this makes it all the more important to teach recall, it can also make it much more challenging.

For step-by-step guidance on getting your dog to come when called, see our Recall Mastery course in the Pupford Academy.

Tip: Never punish your dog when they come to you, no matter how long it took them to come. As soon as they come, reward them!


puppy learning how to properly walk on leash

Leash pulling and other bad walking behaviors can escalate quickly, making walks frustrating and even dangerous. Unfortunately, some people take a negative reinforcement approach to correcting leash walking, using choke/prong collars.

Teaching your puppy loose leash walking, heel, stop and go, and circles through positive reinforcement will show them desired leash manners without any pain or discomfort.

For step-by-step guidance on teaching leash manners, see our Leash Walking course in the Pupford Academy.

Tip: Try the stop-and-go method. Simply start walking and stop when they start to pull. Wait for them to stop pulling, then start walking. Repeat as necessary.


puppy learning basic cues like sit

If dog training is a house, certain behaviors form the foundation. These foundational skills to train your puppy include:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Look at me
  • Leave it, etc.

You can’t build a fancy home office or state-of-the-art kitchen without a solid foundation. Similarly, you can’t teach the “fancy” party trick behaviors without a solid training foundation.

The Pupford Academy has the option to train by behavior, so you can get expert-led guidance for training that focuses on one specific behavior at a time.

Tip: Start slowly in an environment without distractions before trying to teach them these things in more distracting environments.

🐶 Don't miss this! Access the 100% free, highly-rated, video course 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here!


puppy becoming comfortable with grooming

Many dogs that develop a fear of baths, haircuts, nail trimmings, teeth brushing, and ear cleanings do so because they were not introduced to them early enough or were introduced to them in a way that formed a negative association.

From the first day with your puppy, get them used to having their paws, ears, mouths, fur, and tails touched – gently and without causing them stress, of course. You can then build up to introducing grooming tools and eventually work it into their routine. This could look like:

  • Carefully putting your fingers in your dog’s mouth and touching their teeth
  • Placing a small amount of dog toothpaste on your finger and letting your dog lick/taste it
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth with your finger
  • Letting them sniff/lick/chew a dog toothbrush with a small amount of dog toothpaste
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth a little at a time
  • Full tooth brushing sessions

For more tips, tricks, and guidance on grooming, see our At Home Grooming course in Pupford Academy.

Tip: When trying to create these positive associations, make sure to use high-value treats, toys, attention, or praise (depending on what reinforcements they find the most valuable).


puppy waiting for food practicing impulse control

Dogs are impulsive by nature, meaning they tend to follow instincts and reactions. That’s why dogs love to bark at and chase a number of things, as well as lunge for food or toys at first sight.

Not only can this be annoying (“must you bark at EVERY squirrel?!”), it can be downright dangerous in some situations.

But there are ways to teach your dog to control their impulses – and have fun doing it! We put together a bundle of 21 Impulse Control Games to help your dog be calm, focused, and non-reactive in a fun way!

Tip: When giving your dog their meals, have them practice impulse control! Slowly bring their food bowl to the floor, if they reach for it lift it back up, continue trying until you are able to get it all the way down to the floor, then reward them!


establish routine with puppy for walks

Dogs thrive on routines and predictability. Establish a routine early in puppyhood to decrease potty accidents, help your dog settle comfortably into their new home, and make your own life a little easier too.

Dog routines don’t have to be complicated or be detailed down to the minute. You just need the same types of activities every day in a predictable order. For example, this is what a morning routine could look like:

  • Potty
  • Breakfast
  • Walk
  • Playtime/training
  • Crate time

Does this mean every walk has to last the same number of minutes and every training session happens in the same place? No. But knowing that training comes after their walk will help them mentally engage in both!

For more insight on dog routines and steps for creating one, check out our article 5 Reasons Dogs Need Routines + How to Establish Dog Routines.

Tip: If you need to adjust your dog’s routine, be sure to do so slowly, especially as you transition from three meals a day to two as they age. Ex. slowly give them more food in the morning and evening and less in the afternoon until the afternoon meal is no longer!


improving your relationship with your puppy

If you teach your puppy one thing in the early weeks, let it be this: that they can trust you to provide love and care. This will help their relationship with people!

Once your dog bonds with you and establishes trust, the possibilities for what you can learn together are endless. Plus, your dog will then show you unconditional love and affection in return – which is worth all the training challenges in our book!

Tip: Love and trust aren’t built overnight. Be patient with your dog and know that good things take time!


One thing to keep in mind when teaching your puppy these (or anything really) is that change can’t happen overnight. It will take a lot of practice, a LOT of patience, and even more love to raise your puppy into a happy and healthy dog.

As a recap, here are 10 of the first things to teach your puppy:

  1. Their name
  2. Where to (and not to) go potty
  3. To love their crate
  4. To come when called
  5. Leash manners
  6. To master the basics (sit, down, stay, place etc.)
  7. Grooming isn’t so bad
  8. Impulse control
  9. A routine
  10. Love and trust

Give your dog and yourself plenty of grace as you tackle this new adventure together!

Have any other advice for new puppy parents who are teaching their dogs the basics? Leave it in the comments below!

And don't forget, you can sign up for our 100% free online training course 30 Day Perfect Pup, taught by Zak George. Sign up for free here!

🐶 Don't miss this! Access the 100% free, highly-rated, video course 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here!


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