Compiled by Nathan Ratchford

Wildrose Kennels.jpg

Courtesy of Wildrose Kennels

From Ducks Unlimited’s Puppy Month Video Series

What Not to Do: Establishing Boundaries

In the early stages of development, avoid behaviors that may lead to future problems. Remember the following:

  • No chase
  • No tug-of-war
  • No free run of the house
  • No chewing on your hands
  • No jumping on you
  • No sleeping in the bed with you


Establishing clear rules will prevent undesirable behaviors from becoming ingrained habits. Patience and consistency are key to successful training.

Place Training: Establishing Essential Behaviors

Place training is a fundamental skill that transitions from home to field. Using raised platforms with non-chewable edges, teach your puppy to stay within boundaries. Consistency is key; reinforce the "place" command as your puppy learns to remain in the designated area. Gradually introduce distractions and movement, ensuring your puppy understands the concept in various environments.

Crate Feeding: Creating a Safe Haven

Using the crate for mealtime can transform it into your puppy's happy place. By associating the crate with food, you're teaching your puppy that it's a safe and secure space. Gradually opening the door reinforces this idea, making the crate a comfortable environment at home or during travel. It becomes their den, providing both safety and comfort.

Leading (Part 1): Teaching Proper Walking Etiquette

Teaching your puppy to lead is an enjoyable part of training. Using a light collar and lead, guide your puppy to walk beside you. Whether on the left or right side, consistency is key. Keep your puppy's focus away from distractions, encouraging them to stay by your side. In part two, we'll address handling distractions and maintaining your puppy's attention during walks.

Leading (Part 2): Managing Distractions

Puppies are naturally curious, especially when it comes to scents. To keep your puppy's focus during walks, start on pavement where scents are minimal. Utilize physical barriers like curbs to keep your puppy close and focused on you. Minimizing distractions can reinforce proper walking etiquette and build a strong foundation for future training.

Singles: Beginning Retrieval Training

Introduce your puppy to retrieving in a controlled environment, starting with trailing memories. By rewarding calm behavior and gradually increasing difficulty, you're laying the groundwork for future retrieval training. The focus is building positive associations with retrieving, setting the stage for more complex exercises.

Doubles: Early Retrieval Memories

Starting early with double retrieves helps establish positive memories for your puppy. Setting up a 180 double creates a controlled environment where the puppy can focus on retrieving without distractions. Before sending your pup, ensure they're calm and focused on the task. This builds anticipation for the reward, reinforcing the desire to return with the retrieved item. Ending on a positive note reinforces the behavior, setting the stage for future training success.

Agility: Building Confidence Through Exploration

Socialization is more than just introducing your puppy to new people and places; it instills confidence and trust. One way to achieve this is through agility exercises. Take Odie, for example, confidently navigating ramps and bridges. While you might not have these structures in your backyard, you can explore playgrounds with your pup, introducing them to various surfaces and obstacles. These experiences help build your puppy's confidence and curiosity, laying the foundation for a lifelong learner.