There are so many things to teach a young puppy. It can be hard to know where to start. Parents usually focus on obedience behaviours like SIT or LEAVE IT because they are handy skills. IF you have loads of time, you can get going on a bunch of different behaviours, as long as the first lessons are appropriate for a puppy. 

Always Socialization

But here’s the thing. Critical learning, such as building confidence and having positive experiences, can’t be delayed. No matter what else you choose to teach, your puppy can not go without socialization during the first weeks at home. And if you think socialization means meeting and playing with other dogs, head over to to get you up to speed..

So what else should you teach?

Learning Is Fun

Before I tell you my top choices, let me say that taking the time to teach your pup that learning is fun – that training is something they will enjoy is just as important as what you teach. Your dog will be learning throughout their life, so getting them started by showing them it’s fun is a great first lesson. Whatever you choose, make sure you make it an enjoyable experience, so they look forward to doing it again. Training doesn’t need to be serious, even when teaching an important behaviour such as a recall or LEAVE IT. Acquisition and retention are actually better when the student is having fun, and the lessons are enjoyable. 

So let’s get started on my list. 

Mat and Settle

My first choice regularly makes it onto my top 10 lists because it is the most valuable skill you can teach a dog. Hands down. A solid settle on a mat behaviour can be used:

  • when you are eating
  • when you need your puppy out from underfoot
  • when visitors arrive, to prevent counter-surfing
  • to prevent jumping up
  • to begin developing independence and start separation training
  • to introduce duration and distractions into training
  • to help your dog settle in different environments such as the car, a patio or a friend’s home

Do you need more? Do not underestimate the power and value of this skill. Chances are that you will need it at some point for remedial training, so why not add it to your puppy’s skill set now?

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Settle At Your Side

Another fantastic skill to teach your pup is to settle at your side. This is a foundation leash skill in all our programs for good reason. It builds connection and value, providing a great starting point for leash training. It also sets the stage for polite greetings, calm social interactions with other dogs and relaxed behaviour when you stop to chat or want to take a break. Taking advantage of your young pup’s desire to be close makes this the perfect time to build this super important skill.

A Recall

And while your pup still finds being near you highly reinforcing, why not take advantage and teach a recall? Most people just use their puppy’s name to get them to come over. I recommend starting to teach an actual recall at this stage. You can get a solid foundation and then continue to strengthen it as your puppy matures. This will give you a head start and help you through the trying teenage months that are coming.

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To recap, my top recommendations for a pup’s first lessons are:

  1. Socialization
  2. Learning is fun – make all training enjoyable
  3. Mat and Settle
  4. Settle At My Side
  5. A Recall

Did your choices not make my list? As long as your puppy’s early learning is pleasant, you’ll have some additional skills underway. That’s great. However, I recommend that you consider getting started on the ones on this list. As usable skills for everyday life, they are all invaluable. In addition to having a ton of practical uses in daily life, they also prevent common challenges from developing.

Do you want a hand teaching these or other skills to your puppy? Would you like to learn how to turn the doorbell into an automatic cue to send your dog flying to a resting spot? Head over to and book a complimentary chat to learn more.