Originally published on ArlNow.com 

Whenever someone gets a new puppy or dog, they are often eager to teach “the basics.”  So everyone starts in on the same things; sit, lie down, shake, stay in front of the food bowl, etc. While these are all valuable skills for your new puppy or dog to know, they definitely do not need to be at the top of the list.

Teaching your dogs cues like sit or down, are obedience skills. The premise being that whenever you give a specific cue, your dog responds with the correct position. Responding to cues is important, but what is more important is your dogs general behavior.

Ninety-five percent of your interactions with your dog do not involve giving cues. It just involves being together. What your dog does when not being cued is its general behavior, and that is where you should start.

I don’t care if your 10-week-old puppy can sit. I care if your puppy likes people. Having a pup or dog that is friendly and at ease, is much more important than if they can sit on cue.

So here are the top four things I think you should be working on with your new pup or newly adopted older dog.

  1. House training. The No. 1 reason dogs are given up is going to the bathroom in the house. This is definitely a priority that everyone can agree on.
  2. Socialization. Remember, socialization is not the ability to play with the neighbor dog or being friendly to uncle Ted. Socialization is the ability to easily adapt tonew circumstances. The only way to do this is to follow a socialization protocol and get your puppy out.
  3. Relationship. Play with your dog! Spend a few weeks playing, learning what your new dog likes and doesn’t like. Teach them that you are super awesome and relevant to them. In dog training, relationship is everything.
  4. Play and Exercise. Figure out how much exercise your dog really needs and devise some fun ways to meet those needs. Walks are great for socialization but generally do not meet any dog’s exercise needs.

Once you have these four things figured out, you will be ready to dive into training with a strong foundation.