I follow lots of positive reinforcement and force free dog trainers and behaviourists on social media. Some of them produce the most amazing content which I share, and there are always new ideas to be picked up. But not everyone following them is a fan. On one post about a training exercises and owner commented, “why are you always training your dogs?” She said she hadn’t trained her dog at all and he was just naturally well behaved. “Why,” she asked, “should I tell my dog what to do all the time? We just love walks and hanging out. He chased a deer once so we keep him on the lead near them now.” On a gundog training group a new puppy owner asked, “When should I start training my puppy? He is 10 weeks old.” The first answer was, “I don’t train my puppies until they are 6months old.”


Were these people lying? No. They just have a different definition of training to me. But the idea that they haven’t trained their dogs is just nuts!

Take the first lady. She definitely doesn’t just allow her dog to be a dog. Just being a dog would mean he slept where he wanted, took any food he found, toileted when and where he chose, and explored the world at will. She has taught her dog to walk on a lead without pulling, and to come back when called (unless there are deer about!). Indoors she has set out the ground rules about where the dog can go, toilet trained the dog, taught food manners, and a host of other things that make her dog nice to be around. She just doesn’t call setting some basic rules on good manners and teaching them to the dog ‘training’. But it is! Her dog can only ‘relax and be a dog’ because he has been taught the rules that allow that to happen.

Take our gundog guy. If the novice follows his advice to the letter he will be looking for someone like me to help him out when his 7 month old Cocker is a self-employed hunting machine and menace to all furred and feathered creatures. The gundog guy means that he doesn’t start formal training until 6 months. The gundog guy doesn’t call rolling socks along the floor for his puppy to fetch, using a whistle to call the pup in for his grub, waiting until the puppy sits before feeding him, or playing tennis ball hide-and-seek in the long grass training. But that is exactly what it is.


Before your puppy comes home agree a list of ‘ground rules’ with the other people in your house. Agree the words you will use as cues for your puppy, and ask the breeder what cues they have already introduced (a puppy from a good breeder will come with some basic training already started!).

As soon as your puppy is home use food and toys and the comfort of being near you to start moulding their behaviour to fit your ground rules. But be flexible… you aim might be for your puppy to sleep in the kitchen on their own, but they might need you closer for their first few nights.


From the minute your puppy opens their eyes, to the minute they fall asleep they are learning, so you are training! If you aren’t helping your puppy to learn the right behaviours by setting them up for success, you are making lie harer for both of you in the long run.

Training isn’t just sit, stay, come, give paw and roll over. The best owners help their puppies to learn self control and life-skills as well as following cues.


We highly recommend enrolling in a puppy class either in person or online. Choose a trainer who uses positive methods (they may call themselves positive, fear free, force free or similar).

You might also enjoy the following books:

Mission Control – Jane Ardern: a book that uses fun games to help dogs learn self control.

Life Skills for Puppies – Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills: how to have a dog that fits into the modern world.

Easy Peasy Puppy Squeazy – Steve Mann: A very easy to read, and funny, guide to understanding and training your puppy

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