Introduction To Surviving Puppyhood

Welcome to your new Surviving Puppyhood online class. Here you will be able to find detailed written instructions and homework to go with each of your in-person classes. 

To get you started, below is a link to download a free copy of our Official Kindred Companions Training Manual to get you started. Please give it is once over before you attend your first class. We have also included some other freebies. You can access them at the bottom of this page.

Rules and important information regarding your first class:

  • Be on time. 
  • Have your puppy on a flat collar or harness. No choke, prong, e-collars, or retractable (flexi) leads in class. If you're transitioning off one of these tools, bring it to class along with the required class equipment and we will be happy to help you.
  • Poop bags - Every puppy's gotta poop!
  • Closed-toe shoes or sneakers - no sandals, flipflops, or heels. We don't want anyone falling on a puppy!
  • Bring LOTS of treats! 1-2 ziplock bags at least. However, if you run out, you can always purchase more from the store. 
  • Do not allow your puppy to greet or play with the other dogs in class until you're directed to by your instructor. This is highly important to ensure class flows properly and all puppies can pay proper attention.
  • There are no makeups for classes. Please refer here for the information you missed if you could not attend a class.

Once you have attended your first class, go ahead and click on the class title that corresponds with the class you just attended. At the top of each page, you will find handy links which will help you navigate to each particular lesson as well as the real world exercise for that week. Underneath each lesson will also be a link to a PDF version of the lesson/exercise for you to print out at your convenience. 

Please do not jump ahead in the lesson plans as each topic will be covered in class.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your instructor via email. They are always happy to help you.

Kindred Companions Official Training Manual

Freebie - Dr. Ian Dunbar's After You Get Your Puppy

Health and Handling

Welcome to Health and Handling! Throughout most of your dog's life, physical handling will be a requirement. However no dog is born liking to be held, restrained, have their collar grabbed, or touched in strange ways. This class will help get your dog get started learning to like these things during the much easier formative puppy stage, versus having to fix it during adulthood.

Lesson 1: Collar Gotcha   /   Lesson 2: Sit   /   Lesson 3: Body Handling & Restraint
Lesson 4: Muzzle Training

Download Health and Handling PDF


What is it?

It’s where you take hold of the dog’s collar.

Why is it an important skill?

Our movements towards our dogs to capture them can appear very intimidating so they might scuttle out of the way. We don’t want our dogs to instinctively become excited or feel nervous/aggressive, so we condition them to the fact that sometimes we need to take a hold of them.

How to teach it:

  1. Reach your hand down past the side of your dog’s head. Mark (click or say “yes”) and reward. Repeat until your dog no longer flinches away from your hand.
  2. Reach your hand down and touch the outside of your dog’s collar underneath between the 4 ‘o clock and 8 ‘o clock position. Mark and reward. Repeat until your dog is eagerly anticipating your hand coming towards him.
  3. Gradually start to slide a finger underneath his collar, then two fingers, then three fingers. Mark and reward each time.
  4. As you reach down to take a hold of your dog’s collar, say “Collar”, and then slide your fingers underneath his collar and take a firm hold of it. Mark and reward. Repeat many times until your dog knows what the word “Collar” means.

What is it?

It’s where the dog puts his butt on the ground.

Why is it an important skill?

It allows us to ask the dog to bring himself under control, and becomes a default behavior for many daily things e.g. when his meals are placed on the floor, when he waits before you let him out of the door or car, when he is in public settings.

How to teach it:

  1. Hold a treat between your two fingers slightly above the dog’s nose, and move it back slowly just out of reach of his nose. Mark and reward when your dog follows the treat with his nose.
  2. Continue to mark and reward every time your dog begins to fold into the sit position.
  3. Continue by marking and rewarding when the dog’s rump touches the floor.
  4. When the dog is reliably offering the sit position, introduce a verbal “Sit” cue.

What is it?

It’s where we accustom the dog to being handled in all sorts of intrusive ways.

Why is it an important skill?

We will have a lifetime of taking care of our dog’s physical needs: grooming, bathing, hair trimming, nail trimming, teeth brushing, ear care, anal gland care, and of course, veterinary visits. We would like our dogs to be comfortable this level of touch.

How to teach it?

Handle your dog on a daily basis, as demonstrated in class.

Remember that:

  • Handling = Food
  • No handling = No food

Why is muzzle training important? 

Because you never know if your dog may need to wear one. Accidents (broken legs) can happen, and most dogs will bite when they’re in great pain. If the first time that you introduce a muzzle to your dog is when he is already highly stressed, then you further increase that stress level. Many vets, rightly so, are concerned for the safety of their staff, and will automatically advocate using a muzzle if necessary. By introducing the muzzle to your dog at an early age, and reminding the dog every so often of what a good thing it is, it becomes a non-event. And that’s exactly what we want it to be.

What kind of muzzle? 

We recommend using a plastic basket muzzle rather than a cloth one. Baskerville is the best brand. Clicker or marker training is a very effective way to teach your dog to accept the muzzle.

How to teach it?

  1. Let the puppy approach and eat treats out of the muzzle, and have him follow it.
  2. Avoid going towards the puppy with the muzzle. Allow the puppy to choose to put his muzzle into the basket.
  3. Place soft food (soft cheese, peanut butter) in the deepest part of the muzzle, and show your dog that the only way to get to the good stuff is by poking his nose into it.

If you have any questions regarding this lesson or any other lessons, contact your instructor.

Eyes on Me & What a Brave Dog You Are!

What is it? 

This is where your dog looks at your eyes when you ask him to do so.

Why is it an important skill? 

The first step in any training is to have our dogs focused on us. The cue can also be used in a variety of contexts to get your dog to refocus on you, despite distractions.

How to teach it?

  1. Start in a low distraction environment such as your bathroom. Have your dog on leash with you sitting in a chair. Mark (click or say “yes”) the instant your dog looks at your face and reward your dog by tossing a piece of food to the ground. Vary where you toss the treat with each repetition. Practice once or twice a day with 10 to 15 treats each time.
  2. Add a verbal cue “Watch Me” once the behavior is predictable. As your dog finishes eating his previous treat and turns to look at you, give your verbal cue. The verbal cue should precede the eye contact.
  3. Repeat Step 1, but with you standing upright. Leave off the verbal cue until the eye contact from your dog is reliable again.
  4. Then start to hold out for longer eye contact, building up duration by a second at a time before you mark and reward. Build to 5 seconds of eye contact. Don’t always make it harder; sometimes you should just mark and reward for a really short duration.

What is it?

It’s where your dog walks politely next to you without pulling. It is not the same as a formal obedience heel for competition.

Why is it an important skill?

It will make taking him out in public more enjoyable. Walking your dog once or twice a day off your own property is also very beneficial to your dog; good for his behavioral well-being and it gives him a chance to catch up on his social media. Remember that teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash takes many months of consistent training on your part, so let’s get this started on the right foot. We assume that your dog is already comfortable wearing his leash and collar.

How to teach it:

  1. Start every walk off with this stationary ritual: Mark (click or say “yes”) and give your dog a treat in the golden zone of reinforcement (i.e. right next to your pant’s seam). Repeat rapidly for 5 to 10 treats.
  2. Then, no matter where your dog is relative to your body, you should take a single step backwards. Mark and reward your dog for moving with you.
  3. Stepping backwards is a good method of enticing your dog to come with you. Repeat a few times.
  4. Then take one step backwards, followed immediately by one step forwards. Mark and reward your dog for moving with you. Repeat a number of times.
  5. Then take one step backwards, followed immediately by two steps forward. Mark and reward your dog for moving with you.
  6. Gradually increase the number of forward steps you take, but don't always make it harder and harder for your dog to stay with you.
  7. If your dog pulls, you should stop immediately (your puppy must learn that pulling stops all forward motion), and wait for your puppy to pay attention to you. As soon as he turns his head to look at you, mark and reward him at your pant’s seam. Then start off in a different random direction (to the left, right, backwards or forwards). Change the direction you turn in each time. If it takes you twenty minutes to walk down your driveway for the first week, then you are teaching this right!

What is it?

Strange and moving objects can be very disturbing to a dog who is not slowly introduced to them.

Why is it an important skill?

It is important to expose your puppy to moving objects because dogs who do not have a positive association with strange moving objects are usually terrified of them. This can lead to problems with barking, growling, and even aggression. However early positive associations lead to happy content adult dogs, as well as setting a great foundation for tricks, therapy work and agility.

How to teach it:

Start out far away from a moving object and let your puppy watch it. If the object is safe, let your puppy investigate it. If your puppy stays away, just let them watch. Never drag a puppy up to something they are unsure of. You can drop treats in the vicinity or feed your puppy while they watch it move. Repeated exposure with positive association - meaning a food reward, will help make your puppy brave, empowered, and a content adult.

Obstacles & Sounds

What is it? 

This is where your dog turns his head to look at you when he hears you say his name. You can use it as a precursor to another cue, (e.g. Rover, Come!) but all the name means is “turn your head and look at me”.

Why is it an important skill? 

Many owners overuse their dog’s names, and so the dog starts to ignore it because it has become white noise to them. Also, some owners will use their dog’s name in an angry tone of voice, so that the dog begins to associate his name with punishment. When you are feeling angry or frustrated, then you should rather use a nickname for the dog, because this allows you to burn out names without ever spoiling his real name.

How to teach it?

  1. Start by dropping a treat to the ground behind the dog. As soon as the dog finishes eating the treat, say his name. Mark (click or say “yes”) as soon as his head turns towards you, and toss the new treat to the ground behind your dog. Repeat many times over.
  2. At home, whenever you say your dog’s name, pair it with a treat so that the dog learns to pay attention to you whenever you say his name. Use nicknames for all the more casual situations.

What is it? 

“Leave it” is where you puppy learns that “you see that thing over there? Well, you are not to pick that up”. In contrast, “Drop it” is used to tell your puppy, “that thing you have in your mouth? Well, please spit it out.” Today we’ll focus on teaching “leave it”.

Why is it an important skill? 

Because we don't like our dogs eating deer poop, goose poop, their own poop, the medicine tablet you just dropped on the ground, the chicken breast that just slipped off your plate onto the floor, the neighbor, the neighbor’s dog or that child’s ice-cream.

How to teach it?

  1. Start by holding a treat in your closed fist. Present your fist to your puppy, and he will likely try to get at the treat inside your hand. Eventually he will give up, and the instant that he turns his head away, you should mark and reward him with a different treat. Repeat until you see that your dog understands that he needs to give up the treat in order to get the treat.
  2. Repeat, but gradually build up the duration to 5 seconds of your puppy not trying to get at the treat, with the treat still being held inside your closed fist.
  3. Then open your hand so that the treat is lying on the palm of your hand. Present your hand just above nose height, and mark and reward the instant our puppy turns his nose away from your hand. If your puppy tries to go for the treat, simply close your fist, but do not pull your hand away.
  4. Repeat this step with the open palm, but now build up to a duration of 5 seconds of holding the treat in your open palm with your puppy not trying to get at the treat.
  5. Once your puppy clearly understands that he cannot have the treat, start to add the verbal cue “Leave it” as you present your hand.
  6. Then lower your hand to the ground, leaving the treat resting on your palm, and your knuckles resting on the ground.
  7. Then place the treat on the actual ground but be ready to cover it with your hand.
  8. Finally stand up straight, leaving the treat on the floor. Be ready to cover the treat with your foot if your puppy goes for it.
  9. Note: we do not expect you to complete all of these steps in Puppy class, but take it as far as you can. We will teach this skill again in the Adult Pet Manners class with much more rigor. Here we are just getting started. Just introducing the concept that your puppy has to “give up the treat to get the treat” is good.

What is it? 

This is where you hide a treat or toy (or yourself) around the house, and then ask your dog to go “Find it”.

Why is it an important skill? 

This game gives our dogs an outlet for their exploratory behavior. It’s an excellent way of using your dog’s fantastic nose skills, and also tires out his mind. It’s great as a rainy day activity to play indoors with your dog. And, if he shows that he really loves this game, then you might want to consider enrolling him into some fun nose or scent work classes. And most dogs love this game!

If you have multiple dogs in the household, then please start this game with just one dog at a time. When first teaching this game, start with some delicious and strong smelling food such as small bits of cheese, ham or bacon.

How to teach it?

  1. The first few times that you play this game, allow your dog to see you “hiding” the treats around the room. Place at least 10 treats in areas that your dog can reach on or near the floor, for example, behind a table or chair leg, on a ledge, behind a flowerpot, behind a door. Whilst you’re putting out the treats, have somebody holding your dog still so that he cannot immediately swoop down and hoover up the treats. You can also put him behind a barrier or into a crate if you don't have somebody available who can help hold the dog.
  2. Once all the treats have been placed, release your dog with the cue “Find it” and let him go and gobble up all the treats. Don't help him find the treats – his nose is far better than you think, he just needs to learn to use it!
  • As your dog gets more used to this game, you can make your hiding places less obvious. 
  • You should not let the dog observe you whilst you’re hiding the treats.

Puppy Come!

What is it? 

Your dog bops his nose against the flat palm of your hand.

Why is it an important skill? 

It’s a nice easy behavior that is useful for so many things. We can use it to teach our puppy to follow our hand through a crowd, or onto a weighing scale at the vet’s, or to teach tricks to our dogs, to touch objects; or to give them something concrete but easy to do if they are feeling anxious about something.

How to teach it?

  1. Hold your hand with an open palm facing your dog about 1 inch away from his nose. Dogs are curious, so will move their noses towards your hand, and bop it. Mark (click or say “yes”) the instant his nose touches your hand and give him a treat.
  2. Repeat many times, until your dog is confidently touching your hand.
  3. Add the cue “Touch” once his nose-bopping-your-hand behavior becomes predictable.
  4. Now start to move your hand slightly further away from your dog’s nose e.g. 2 – 3 inches. Each time, say the cue as you present your hand, then mark and reward him for bopping your hand with his nose.
  5. Now start to hold the palm of your hand slightly below, slightly to the left, slightly to the right, or slightly above his nose while cueing “Touch”. Mark and reward all correct touches.
  6. Gradually start to increase the distance your puppy must move to touch your hand.

What is it? 

Your emergency cue. It’s not the same as “come”, but should have a special word attached to it that you only use when you really want your dog to immediately drop everything that he’s doing and come charging to you. It’s not a burnt-out word like “come” that your dog ignores because he has learnt that is has no value for him. It’s precious – use it deliberately and sparingly.

Why is it an important skill? 

It’s the most important cue your dog will ever learn! It will remain in training for the rest of your dog’s life – which means that for the rest of your dog’s life, he will be getting treats for it!

The Five Rules of Recall:

  1. Never call your dog for anything unpleasant such as nail clipping, bathing or having his leash clipped on to go home from the park. In short anything that might give him pause the next time you call him.
  2. Never call your dog if you are not sure he will come. All recalls should be successful recalls. Work at your dog’s level. If he has a kindergarten recall, don’t give him a graduate assignment like being called away from a cat in a tree.
  3. If you call your dog and he doesn’t come, you must make it happen. Run over to him and put a treat in front of his nose, backing up as you get his attention so he follows you.
  4. Never repeat the cue. Resist the urge to call over and over and over. It only teaches your dog to tune out the cue. Call once and, if necessary, use rule 3. Make the recall happen.
  5. Fabulous rewards get fabulous recalls. If you want your dog to stop whatever interesting doggie thing he is doing and come running to you, make it worth his while. Use extra yummy treats—no dry biscuits here! —or a well-thrown ball, if that is your dog’s fancy. Give a minimum of 5 treats for every single recall.

How to teach the “The Recall Game”:

  1. Two people stand 3 feet apart. The first person calls the puppy to her - no name, no “here” cues – just any happy noise you can think of such as “pup pup puppeee”.
  2. As soon as the dog comes to you, make a fuss and give him 5 treats, one after the other.
  3. Then ignore the dog – look up at the ceiling and fold your arms.
  4. Now the other person starts to call the dog in the same way. Continue in this round-robin fashion until the dog is happily looking to the next person to call him over. Gradually increase the distance between the two people.

All About Self Control

What is it? 

Your dog has to wait for the cookie to come to him. Your goal is to slowly move the cookie closer and closer to your dog’s nose whilst he holds himself still.

Why is it an important skill? 

Your dog learns self-control by waiting for good things to happen. This is one example of a control exercise that is good to practice for the first year of the dog’s life (and thereafter if your dog still needs to work on self-control).

How to teach it?

  1. You can be sitting for this exercise. Show your dog a cookie and hold it up at shoulder height. As soon as your dog holds still, mark (click or say “yes”) and quickly reward him with that cookie. It doesn’t matter what position your dog is in, you are marking him for being still.
  2. Once your dog begins to settle into the exercise, you can slowly begin moving the cookie towards him. If he moves towards the cookie, then the cookie goes way back up to shoulder height.
  3. If your puppy makes two mistakes in a row by trying to go for the cookie, then you’ve made the exercise too hard too quickly. Go back, and make the exercise easier.

What is it?

Your dog learns to enter a holding pattern until she is given
permission to go do the next thing. It will become one of your most used cues.

Why is it an important skill?

It’s a safety issue. Puppies often move at the speed of light, and are getting into trouble without even realizing it. Wait is another piece to the self-control puzzle.

How to teach it:

"Wait" with the crate

  1. Throw a cookie into the crate, and let him chase in after it. Briefly close the door.
  2. As you put your hand on the latch to open it, raise your other hand and hold it with your palm flat facing the puppy (as though you’re a policeman controlling traffic). Say, “wait”.
  3. Then continue to unlatch the door and remove your hand signal. If your puppy rushes towards the door as it opens, simply close and re-latch the door and start again. You are showing your puppy that staying in the crate causes the door to open and approaching the door causes it to close.
  4. Once you have the door completely open, say, “Wait” one more time, and then release your puppy to join you. Your release word can be anything you choose (Common choices include “Ok”, “Let’s go”, “Break”, “Done”). 

“Wait” at the outside door:

  1. Follow similar steps as in crate training. This time leash your puppy, and go with your puppy to the door. Say ”Wait” as you reach for the doorknob. This time, as both your hands are occupied, you can use your body to block the puppy from moving forward.
  2. Do not release your puppy until the door is wide open. If your puppy goes for the door whilst you are still opening it, then immediately close it while saying “Wait” again.

“Wait” in the car:

  1. Whether your dog is crated in your car or not, you still need a solid “wait” cue before releasing your puppy from your vehicle. As you open the car door to fetch your puppy out of it, say, “Wait” and then use your body to block the dog from pushing past you and give your police officer signal. Then leash him up, and say, “Wait” again. Your puppy needs to wait until you release him by saying your release cue.
  2. Do not release your puppy until the car door is wide open. If your puppy goes for the door whilst you are still opening it, then immediately use your body to block and then close the door while saying “Wait” again.

Chillin' Out

What is it? 

Your dog learns to chill out and relax on his mat, bed or blanket.

Why is it an important skill? 

Your dog learns self-control and relaxation. Both of these are important skills in our human society. Dogs learn to be both patient and calm in different locations – at home, in the classroom, at the vet, out and about (e.g. outdoor cafes)

How to teach it?

  1. With clicker and treats ready, make a big show of putting your mat on the floor. Mark (click or say “yes”) for the dog’s first movement or orientation towards the mat. Deliver the treat to the dog on the mat (i.e. drop the treat onto the mat).
  2. Continue to mark any interaction with the mat. Deliver treats on the mat.
  3. Reposition the mat slightly and continue to mark and reward any interaction.
  4. When the dog is reliably standing on the mat with all four feet, begin to shape the dog to lie down: wait for sitting, nose dips, or elbows bending.
  5. Continue to slowly raise criteria until the dog lies down on the mat.
  6. Once the dog lies down fully on the mat without prompting, begin introducing a verbal cue such as “Settle” as the dog is moving towards the mat. Mark and reward all correct responses.
  7. This is only the first step in teaching a ‘Settle” behavior – the Basic Manners class will take this training much further with new locations, duration, distance and distractions.

What is it? 

Your dog learns to lie down with his elbows and rear on the floor.

Why is it an important skill? 

It’s the second stationary cue that you teach your dog (the other one is “Sit”). It is helpful because it allows you to put your dog into a controlled relaxation posture whilst you are busy with something else, or when you are out and about in public. Most dogs have a preference with either the Sit or the Down, and it’s good to be aware of that preference.

How to teach it? 

Easiest is to start with your puppy in a sitting position.

  1. Position your hand with a treat in it, about 1 inch in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. Slowly move the treat hand straight down to the ground (think “Nose to Toes”), and then back towards his elbows. As your dog’s head lowers and his chin tucks in to follow the treat, mark (click or say “Yes”) and give him the treat.
  3. Continue to mark and reward for your dog getting closer and closer to the full down position.
  4. Once he is going into the full down, vary the location of the treat delivery: you can place it on the ground between his feet, you can toss it away from the dog, or you can hand it to him.
  5. After a few repetitions, you should be able to lure the behavior without a treat in your hand, i.e. just pretend to have a treat in your hand. Repeat until your dog is reliably offering the down position when prompted by a treat free hand movement to earn his mark and reward.
  6. Add the cue once the behavior is predictable. Just before your dog lies down, give your verbal cue “down”. This verbal cue should precede any hand movement.

Note: In this class we only teach the basic concept of a “down”. Our Basic Obedience class takes this much further, by teaching the puppy that you standing upright is a part of “down”, and we also introduce the concepts of difficulty, distraction, duration and distance.


The doorbell rings, your dog runs barking excitedly to the door. 

BE CALM, THINK ZEN:

  1. Follow your dog to the door, and insert yourself between your dog and the door, with your back towards your dog. Tell him “I’ve got this”.
  2. Wait for him to calm down a little. Grasp the doorknob, open the door an inch or two. If he starts barking, then shut the door again.
  3. Repeat, until you can open the door all the way with your dog staying quiet. (It’s a good idea to put a note on the outside of your door, explaining that you’re training your dog, and that your visitor should please be patient. Let your visitor know this is about teaching your dog to be calm, and not because you have a dangerous dog).
  4. Let your guest come inside. Have your guest turn away from and ignore the dog. You can gently take hold of the dog’s collar to hold your dog a step away.
  5. Move calmly to your living room or wherever you want to sit. Keep ignoring the dog. Sit down with your guest. Don't fuss, be calm. The dog usually settles down amazingly quickly.

Implement this technique from the very first that you have your puppy. If it’s not working, talk to us after class.