Foundation Skills

There are certain skills that ALL puppies and dogs should learn to help them live a happy, healthy life. These skills will not only help them learn future skills but also aid them in being able to make good decisions.  Four of the most important skills are listed below.  


Find It!

  1. Have a few (3-4) small treats in your hand.
  2. Say “find it”, take a breath, and then toss the treats down on the ground.
  3.  If your dog looks at the ground when you say “find it!”, toss the treats on the ground.
  4. For a longer duration say “find it” again and toss more treats.  You can continue repeating this for an extended period of time.
  5. Here is a good video
Recap: Treats in Hand → “Find It!” →  Breath → Toss treats


Relax on Mat

  1. Sit quietly next to your dog’s mat.  When they approach, start quickly placing treats on the mat.  Do not look at them or talk to them.  Put the treats in the same place each time.
  2. Continue doing this until your dog starts to relax. As your dog starts to settle and sit or lay down lower the frequency of treats placing treats between their front paws.
  3. Do this during quiet times of the day for about five minutes  1-2 times a day.
  4. Here is a good video
Recap:  Treats on Mat → Dog moves onto mat → Treats between front paws → Dog relaxes → Slow treat delivery

Why is relaxing on mat important? All dogs need to learn to have an off switch. Relaxation is a skill that doesn’t necessarily come intuitively to dogs (or humans for that matter!)


Hand Target


    1. Place your flat hand (or two fingers) vertically in front of your dog’s nose.
    2. When your dog goes sniff or touch his nose to your hand, click and treat.
    3. Repeat several times.
    4. Add cue “touch”  when your dog is freely offering to touch their nose to your hand when it is presented.
    5. Here is a good video

      Recap:  Flat hand → Nose touches hand → Click → Treat

      Why is this useful? You can use a hand target as a fun recall. You can use it to get your dog to move away from other people or off of furniture. You can also use it teach your dog other fun skills such as spin or jumping over/on objects.

    Attention Game

    This is a very simple game that encourages your dog to look at you!

    1. When your dog looks up at you “click” and throw a piece of food on the floor.
    2. When they finish eating and look up again REPEAT step 1.
    Recap:  Look up → Click → Treat on floor

    You can also do this on walks. Every time your pup offers you attention mark and give a treat!

    Why is this important? This encourages your dog to CHOOSE to look at you. We are alway telling our dogs what to do. Having them make their own choices encourages good decision making in the future.