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Level 1

Building the Relationship and Teaching the Foundation


WEEK 2 - Topics, Skills, Cues, and Games

and the Concepts They Address


Understanding Calmness:

Baby Steps

From Socialization Page:


Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus

(Socialization, Relationship)


Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus

(Relationship, Socialization)

Sniff It Out

Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus,  Arousal Down, Tolearance of Frustration, Independence (Socialization)


Collar Hold

Confidence, Arousal Down, Disengagement, Proximity, Thinking in Arousal, Calmness


Movement Games On Leash

Confidence, Focus, Proximity, Engagement, Impulse Control, Thinking in Arousal (Relationship)

Mix in last week's skills (handling, grooming, follow a lure, Walk N' Drop, Follow Me) with the new ones when spending time with your puppy.



Confidence, Focus, Engagement, Proximity, Arousal Up/Down

(Recall, Relationship)


Confidence, Focus



Confidence, Arousal Down, Calmness, Impulse Control, Thinking in Arousal



Orientation Basics/Fun

Confidence, Focus, Arousal Up, Disengagement, Engagement, Proximity, (Recall, Walking With Manners)


Fetch FUNdamentals Chase and Switch

Confidence, Optimism, Arousal Up, Focus


Mix  in last week's games with your new ones for variety and building focus.

Play IS training!


Understanding Calmness - Baby Steps

A dog who is calm for the majority of the day…

  • can conserve energy for learning, training, play, and performance. Even when their “battery is full,” the dog can be calm until it is time to GO!
  • does not have issues with being in a bad headspace.
  • is a pleasure to live with and an awesome teammate. How nice is it to be able to relax at home, and have your dog relaxing there with you!
  • travels effortlessly. During rides, the dog iscalm and relaxed. Hotel room stays are not stressful because your dog knows how to settle.
  • can both switch on and switch off.
  • is not reactive when out and about, in class, or around a trial environment.
  • is a happy dog!! They feel balanced, content, and good!

Sounds pretty amazing, right?

Understand that teaching calmness and having a dog learn how to default to calm easily and quickly, takes time and practice. There are several steps and stages your puppy has to go through to get there. You need to be patient.

Right now, calming down is exhaustion. There is no off-switch. Your puppy won't want to choose calmness either. This is because puppies have value in doggie activities like play and chewing. These are natural behaviors that are easy and self-rewarding. Calmness has no value as a choice yet. It is only a necessity at this point.

Additionally, puppies don't necessarily want to be alone, nor handle it well. Being alone and calm requires confidence. it requries skills on being able to self-entertain. These are things that your puppy needs to learn. The ability to self-soothe will take time to build.

The road to teaching calmnessas a default behavior can be a long one. Calmness is what you will be growing with your puppy for the first year, maybe more. There are many steps you will be taking as your puppy grows to achieve default calmness.

Growing Calmness

Growing calm is an ongoing process. In the beginning stages of promoting calmness, you will need to set up options with limited and appropriate choices. That means you will be using management to help you.

  • Management is not bad, and it is not punishment. Get over your guilt. Without management strategies, behavior training doesn't work. Prevention is a critical part of the learning prcess. So you need to use your management if you are going to train your puppy successfully.
  • Management supports prevention. Crates, leashes, ex-pens, and baby gates keep your puppy safe. They prevent undesirable behaviors from being rewarded or happening altogether, limit your puppy to better choices, and give you support and confidence when working through behavior.
  • Boundaries - your beginning boundaries are crates and ex-pens. These places limit access and control options to a selected few.
  • If you want calmness in a space, you get calmness in that space first. Utilize a space that has limited stimulation. Set your puppy up for success and build value in these calm places. Nice,yet peaceful things happen here.
  • Invest in calmness. Because puppies don't naturally default or choose to be calm, to achieve it, you must reward it.

You will be taking various steps to grow optimism, confidence, and calmness in your puppy. The various games in the training levels work through different energy levels. Observe how these games, and how you play, influence your puppy's own energy. When playing, alternate between higher and lower energy, so your puppy gets practice calming down a bit when being active. Calmness does not necessarily mean relaxing or sleeping (see Calmness Triad). It can also mean lower-energy, lower-arousal activity. Support the concept of calmness with your puppy throughout each day:

  • Calmness before fun things happen. It can be something simple, like sitting and being quiet for a second or more. Or it could be after some time in the crate or ex-pen, after a passive calmness activity, or after a nap - and yes, you can wake the sleeping puppy.
  • Calmness after things happen. Bring energy levels down gradually and into a level of calmness.
  • Help your puppy calm down with games and activities that bring energy levels down.
  • Reward calmness at every opportunity.
  • Require short periods of calmness during the day. Knpw that these periods could be long or short, and in the beginning it will be if your puppy can handle it or not. Over time, this will get more predictable as your puppy grows this skill.

For detailed strategies on growing calmness, how to reinforce it so your puppy begins to value it more and more, and how to work through vocalizations and unsettled behavior, see your handout.

SOCIALIZATION (Throughout Training)

Sniff It Out Games


This is a great game to play for socialization skills with objects and novelty. It builds optimism, body awareness, the ability to navigate through obstacles, and focus. Depending on what you use, you can also help to promote back-end awareness.

This game is a great introductory socialization game to play at home. Start simple, but over time you can get very elaborate and create a variety of experiences for your dog and build confidence. It also helps with flexibility, getting your puppy used to new items in new places, and the novelty of that type of situation.

Create obstacles that your puppy has to go over, under, through, between, across, and around.

Use things with different textures to walk on. Include items that will roll or move. Things that might make noise when your puppy moves it. Things that your pup can climb inside that might be dark or a tight fit that she has to back out.

This game can be used as a transition game for calming strategies. Keep the obstacles less stimulating (so little movement and noise). Sniffing and searching help the canine brain to become more centered and focused. It is also a good "rainy day" game for inside mental stimulation.


Collar Hold


It is a hold on the collar, and does not involve any pulling or yanking. Practice positive associations when you hold the collar or harness. If you start now, you will be able to have a simple and positive way of gaining control of your dog.

Many dogs develop a negative association with this because something the dog does not like (punishment) follows. That then causes problems down the road with off-leash scenarios and with recall (come cue).So be proactive and conscientious about how you handle your pup and make sure it all has good associations.

Collar grabs come in handy for very nippy/mouthy pups who like to grab on to clothes and not let go. Use a collar grab to eliminate the ability to pull by applying gentle pressure towards you. When your pup lets go, you can mark and reward and then redirect your puppy on to something more appropriate.

Collar grabs, when they have positive associations, can also help in calming a dog down a little.

It can also be a tactic when a dog is playing tug with a toy and does not know to let go oncue yet.

Movement Games: On Leash and Outside


Continue playing your Movement Games inside off-leash at every opportunity when your puppy is out of the crate or ex-pen. When given more freedom to roam in a room, supervision and training has to take place, because your puppy is learning and making choices constantly. Make sure that those choices are the ones you want and support your efforts in raising a well-mannered dog.

No cues! Capturing gives you a variety of behaviors you can mark and reward rather than just one, like with a cue. Frequent reinforcement is necessary for puppies! Games are flexible and allow for a variety of correct responses which helps your puppy be more successful and enjoy training and paying attention to you.

You are now going to add to your movement games and create various scenarios for your puppy to work through. You are going to play it on leash, and teach your puppy how to continue to move with you like in the game when off-leash. You are also going to continue your efforts in teaching your puppy to ignore the leash.

In the beginning, your puppy may jump or nip - which you will respond by taking fewer steps, slower movement, and capture good behavior sooner. If the jumping happens, but then your puppy catches herself and offers a better choice, reward it. That is the beginning stage of learning.

Over time, you will begin to change the expectation (called raising criteria) and only mark and reward when the absence of any undesired behavior happens to prevent "behavior chains" that involves an unwanted behavior followed by the correct response.

Remember to build up to a faster and more unpredictable movement over time. Typically where the difficulty lies is when your pup is more excited or in the morning when the "battery is full."

Once your puppy is doing well with off-leash and on-leash scenarios, you are going to take the game outside. This is a whole different ballgame! Outside is much more interesting and distracting. YOu have a lot more to compete with, so this is where you will need to up your game. This is where having frequent opportunities to mark and reward multiple behaviors is going to make the difference! This is where you might also need to mix in some higher-valued rewards to boost motivation and improve some focus.




This cue is essential for every dog to learn.

People are taught to greet dogs by reaching out a flat hand for the dog to sniff. Even though this is incorrect, as a dog owner, it is imperative to teach our dogs skills to handle the general public. It is also an excellent cue to have, forit is used to teach and support othercues such as loose leash walking and the Come cue.

Touch also builds confidence, focuses a young dog, and will help you in your efforts of teaching bite-inhibition.

Touch can also be used for socialization experiences to get your puppy to turn away from something and break eye-contact, yet be fun and rewarding to create positive associations. It also helps with distractions in public places.

Touch can be a recall (coming to you), and this is one of the ways you will use the cue, inside and outside. Touch is to be used until you formally teach your puppy Come, including outside (Part 2). So, refrain from using the "Come" verbal cue and do Touch first. Make sure that your puppy is proficient with Touch at a distance before you consider moving on to teaching the Come cue. You want to avoid the cue "Come" and have your puppy not respond, risking the reliability of the Come cue right from the start! Touch is used in many contexts, and much easier to fix than Come.

There are two ways to teach touch - a flat hand and a closed fist. I encourage you to teach both ways. The flat hand is helpful for socialization with people. The closed fist is useful when teaching loose leash walking, recalls, and how to handle distractions when out on a walk.

Look (Eye-Contact on Cue)


Eye contact is the first line of communication between you and your dog. If your puppy is looking at you, you have his attention. It makes training much more manageable. Having your dog good at breaking eye-contact with something helps to alleviate anxiety and excitement and is crucial for working through distractions.

Socialization: It builds a tight bond between you and your puppy so that you can be your puppy’s anchor. It helps to redirect your puppy’s attention off of things hemay be unsure about during socialization experiences and back on to you where you can help support him through the situation.

Possession: It can also help in support of preventing guarding behaviors and teaching your puppy to look away from valued items, therefore lessening ownership.

Teamwork: If your puppy gives you eye-contact, you know that he includes you in the experience. That is crucial when out walking, especially if you have goals of having your dog off-leash. It is imperative to reinforce "check-ins" when your puppy offers you eye-contact on his own.

Focus: Remember that focus is not just about eye-contact, but this is where it all starts! Eye-contact is your first line of communication.

Working with distractions and in public areas: Looking at you on cue helps you to work your puppy through distractions and keeps your puppy's focus on you.



Teaching your puppy to lie down on cue can come in handy in many situations. A dog that is lying down will settle better than a dog sitting, achieving calmness better. A Down-Stay tends to be more reliable with duration than a Sit-Stay or Stand-Stay. At this point, I don't teach Stay - it's not developmentally appropriate yet, nor do little puppies have the necessary skills to achieve learning that cue successfully for reliability for the future.

If you like to go out and have coffee or lunch at an outside cafe with your dog, having your dog be able to lie down on cue and settle there is worth the effort in teaching your dog this cue. This cue can also be handy and used for specific manners and control, like for the front door and when someone comes to visit.

If you plan on doing herding or agility, your dog must have a fast down response. Dogs entering therapy, assistance, and service work need a very reliable "down" behavior.

Training Tip: When you are working on teaching the behavior on cue, pay attention to fading out the lure as soon as possible so that your body language of bending over and touching the ground does not become the visual cue. This video covers two techniques on how to do that so you can remain standing and cue your dog into a down.


Orientation Game Basics


Orientation games are outstanding to play with your dog throughout their life. It promotes a healthy relationship and builds skills with loose leash walking, recall, focus, and so much more! Play the games inside first. Build fun and drive for the game and quick auto-orientation.

You want this to be a strong automatic behavior, so play often. You will continue to build on this throughout the training.

Throw a piece of kibbledown a hall or room - you can toss in one direction away from you to start, similar to the PickMe Game. Variations on this game to build focus are in the future. One is below.

This game differs from the Pick Me! Game in that your puppy does not need to return to you, just orient (turn), and focus back on you, which may or may not be direct eye-contact. You shouldn't be too picky, especially in the beginning stages of the game. Nose off the ground would be an excellent addition after the orientation is consistent. The difference between these two games is where you say your Reward Marker - when your dog turns around to you (orientation), or when your dog returns to you (proximity).

Play this game with food, but also incorporate playing with toys - this can be a great final reward for the end of the game as well.

The basic orientation game is excellent to play first thing in the morning when a puppy's battery is full, but yours is not. And when your puppy has a bunch of energy and is a bit mouthy, you can play this game to work through that initial bit of energy before working through more focused games and cues. Or in the evening, when you are tired from work but you need to get some energy out of your puppy. 

It is exercise - physical exercise but with structure. Your puppy gets to move, run, and chase, but it is not a free-for-all. Your puppy is learning to redirect attention back to you. It also keeps four paws on the floor and helps build your relationship!  

Orientation is a prerequisite for recall and off-leash control. It also is critical for dealing with distractions. So, you want your pup to be super good atorientation. The Side to Side game below is a rendition on the original game that ramps it up and brings more drive and more fun in orientation.

Orientation FUN Side to Side

This game builds on the original game and creates momentum and fun for orientation. It also works through flexibility in working side to side, rather than always turning to face directly to you. It is a useful game for high energy puppies and when batteries are full. I use this game often first thing in the morning to burn off some of that initial energy, and also in the evening when puppy zoomies often occur. It is also fun to play outside to support focus on you in the more distracting environment.

Fetch FUNdamentals - Chase and Switch


Building fun with play needs to be part of your daily interactions with your puppy. Play boosts your relationship, deposits into your relationship bank account, and builds value in you! Plus, this is a constructive way to burn energy. You are in the picture, part of the fun, and are involved so you can reinforce good manners and behaviors. Switching is a key factor in building fun while teaching good play habits.

Creating drive and fun with toys and play helps down the road with flexibility with rewards and gives you an alternative to food.

Play is a great way to burn energy with you in the picture so you can manage arousal levels and teach constructive behaviors for all that energy.

SWITCHING with play builds fun in all the behaviors needed for fetch (and tug).

Natural Fetch Behavior - Keeping it Fun! Some puppies have a good, natural fetch behavior. When you toss a toy, your pup naturally brings it back. It is wonderful, and you want to encourage the behavior to continue! To do this, never make your puppy give up the toy. If she gives it up on her own - yay! If your pup does not naturally let go of the toy on her own, don't take the toy away, but instead, grab another toy and toss that one to see if your pup will chase the new one. The reason I say this is because for some puppies, over time, losing the toy or having it get taken away can take the fun out of the game. Losing a toy can be a game-changer for some dogs, and it might not bein the beginning but at some point down the road. Keep it fun for your pup!

"A messy house means a happy puppy." My house always gets messy the first week a puppycomes in, as we are focusing on all the aspects of training and getting a pup adjusted. Housework takes a back seat for a while. And this is why management is critical - to keep your puppy out of trouble and keep her safe. Additionally, we work on growing calmness right at the start, so after an active training and play session, transition your puppy, winding things down, and then put your pup in the crate or ex-pen for some calmness and recovery.

Keeping It Safe

Puppies are growing machines, but that also means that there are huge gaps between the bones, which makes your puppy's frame vulnerable. All play facilitated by you should minimize jumping. Natural running and jumping by the puppy are fine, but you don't need to encourage it any more than it already happens. That will be true for the first year. Excessive running and jumping can compromise the development of the joints and ligaments and lead to early onset of arthritis. So when you and your puppy are having fun, make sure that you are also taking care of your puppy's physical well-being.

It also goes for stairs. Carry your pup as long as you can. Then, make sure that your puppy takes steps slowly, not skipping any, all theway to the bottom or top. Ramps (where you can apply them - steps and the car) can also help protect your puppy's joints.

TRAINING TIP: **Drive and fun before control!** Play drive is a part of training. Impactful learning happens through play than any "set-up" training session can offer. Developing drive in play will give you better opportunities and better results when teaching impulse control, which will be worked on down the road. You know what the game of fetch is suppose to look like, but your puppy does not. Your puppy just wants to have fun! Don't suck the fun out of play by putting control and rules on the game too quickly. Build your relationship first, and enjoy the simple joys of puppihood first.

Set your puppy up for success as much as possible and use toys that are easy for your puppy to grasp without getting your hand. But, excitement can also lead to mouthiness. Continue teaching bite-inhibition. Remember that teaching good bite-inhibition is one of the best gifts you can give your dog. So make sure that you continue to work on it. It is a process that takes weeks or even months.