Tips for….. Teaching Foundation Skills

Foundation skills for puppies and dogs are learned responses to basic obedience cues.  These form the essentials of any training program – beginners and dogs who need behavior modification.  As loving dog guardians, we can set up to facilitate learning and make it fun and low stress for us and for our puppies and dogs.  (Yes, we can absolutely teach an older dog new behaviors!)

Here are several best practices for teaching your dog foundation skills –

  • What items and activities motivate your dog? Behaviors that stick are reinforced with something of benefit to your dog.
  • Low distraction environments work best for early training.
  • Shaping is a powerful way to train.
  • Pay attention to your dog’s excitement thresholds.
  • Adjust expectations. Training is a process and learning progress is not linear.
  • Introduce distractions gradually.
  • The greater the challenge for the dog, the higher the value of the reinforcement.
  • Every dog has a “currency”; it’s on us to find it.


It is not too early to teach 8-week-old puppies foundation skills.  They are capable, and early learning makes a difference when adolescence rolls around.  Teaching an adolescent or adult dog with established behavior patterns can require additional tools and techniques.  Knowing how to engage their learning abilities leads to wonderful transformations.