What’s the first thing you should teach your puppy? Expert trainer spills the beans!

Portrait of a border collie puppy sitting with his owner in the park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you have a new puppy, there are plenty of different things to teach them. With so many things to consider, it can be difficult to know where to begin!

And, of course, different dog parents will have different priorities, depending on your own preferences and your day-to-day life. For example, some dog parents like to teach their dogs not to go on the furniture early on, but others are more relaxed about pets on furniture, and may teach this later, or not at all. Some are more strict when it comes to handing out the best dog treats – others are more liberal with them, within moderation. We’re all different. 

Professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant Amelia Steele, or Amelia the Dog Trainer, has outlined the one all-important thing to teach your puppy first – it might be one that you don’t expect…

“Naturally, one of the first things I like to do with puppies is teach them to respond to their name,” Steele begins. “This can be really helpful in general. Obviously, we want them to know when we need their attention, but it’s also a really good skill to lay the foundations for recall training.”

Steele describes a game that she enjoys playing with puppies. It involves throwing a piece of food for your dog to go and find, Once your dog has found the piece of food, call their name, give a marker like ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl,’ and then give your dog a little piece of treat when they get back to you. 

Repeat this exercise – essentially, your dog will learn that good things will happen when they hear their name. If you’re not quite at this stage yet, and you’re still on the hunt for the perfect name for your pup, here are the 32 best dog and cat names.

Steele’s advice makes sense, as it’s important for your dog’s safety that you teach them their name sooner rather than later. It’s important that you can get your dog’s attention whenever you need it – it helps to keep them safe – and calling their name is a great way to do so, particularly if their name isn’t something that might get confused with other commands easily. 

If your dog’s recall isn’t brilliant, there’s no need to panic. Here are just three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it) – there are various potential reasons, but fortunately also lots of ways to address poor recall. 

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Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.