Top 5 Sneaky Tricks All Dog Trainers Know About Puppy Training but Never Share

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puppy training, crate training

You won’t get this information anywhere else.

That’s right, we dog trainers are an interesting group. And, I have learned that most dog trainers won’t share their dog training secrets.

But they certainly don’t want to share their puppy training secrets! “Why?” you might ask.

Because they are waiting for your puppy to develop behavior problems so that you need them.

It’s rough, but it is true.  Except for me of course; here I am about to share.

We, as dog training professionals, also want the best behaved puppy for the least amount of effort.

We would rather artistically mold the dog we want instead of dealing with those behavior problems.

Sounds good, right?

It is!  😉

So let’s get to it.

Here Are The Top 5 Sneaky Tricks All Dog Trainers Know About Puppy Training but Never Share

#1. Start Training Right Away

Most people get a puppy and carry it everywhere and fawn all over it and let it wander the house at will.

After all, they don’t want to start training right away! They think that “training is cruel”. Or they want their puppy to “settle in” first.

Let’s dispel those myths.

It is Cruel

  • Training isn’t cruel; it is positive interaction with your puppy if you do it right and you are hands off!
  • What is cruel about rewarding good behavior and training your puppy by teaching him what you like and how you want him to behave?
  • It is only cruel if you think puppy training requires “hands on” training with devices like choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars.
  • And let me be the first to tell you it doesn’t require those devices, and it shouldn’t, ever, be cruel if you do it right and learn to train “Hands Off”!

He Should Settle In

  • Why would you want your dog to develop bad behaviors at all?
  • I mean, I get letting him nap and get used to his environment. But, again, if you are doing this right, you are simply giving him much needed information.
  • We all need to know what is good and bad, right and wrong.
  • I mean you don’t show up to a new job and expect they are just going to let you wander around for a few weeks or a few months without teaching you anything.
  • It would be much harder, after that period of time, and after you had gotten used to being paid for playing games and being on your phone on social media all of the time, to change the rules and try to get you to change your behavior.
  • Think of it as “life orientation” just like new job orientation.
  • Give your puppy the knowledge of what you expect and what brings rewards and keep bad behavior from happening!

Simple, right?

#2. Crate Games Start the First Day

There is not a professional dog trainer that I know, or have ever met, that doesn’t crate train their puppies.

If you are lucky, your puppy has already had some crate training.

Good breeders will begin crate training early.

If you are thinking of getting a puppy but haven’t gotten one yet, ask the person to start the process for you.

But, a lot of my dog training clients stop puppy crate training after the first night or two.

puppy training, crate trainingI currently have one client who is having a terrible time because she allowed the puppy into bed with her the 3rd night and now the puppy is panicking worse when she tries to use the crate.

I can’t have a dog that is not crate trained.  It is essential for my lifestyle and for the safety of my puppies.

Puppies who aren’t crate trained are at greater risk of obstruction surgery and death because they have access to dangerous items.  Even an electric socket can be deadly.

I start out with crate games almost immediately, by putting my puppies food and treats in his crate and throwing toys inside, without ever closing the door.

I want to make the crate a fun place!

But I still use it the first night.

They big key is that I make it fun and I make sure I have a tired puppy before putting them inside.

If my puppy has just had a nap before bed, I can be in for a couple of hours of crate squawking.

It is my job to ensure a tired puppy and to play puppy crate training games.

And, it is just as crucial to allow my puppy to cry and self soothe for a while as he gets used to his crate.

Don’t panic, some screaming is normal for a while. It will get better if you stick to it!

#3. Do Not Feed Your Puppy From a Bowl

We dog trainers like to make our puppies work for their meals.

I know some of you are aghast with disgust right now, but let me assure you that it is better for everyone concerned.

Again, why do people get wrapped up in thinking that training is bad?

Training shouldn’t be bad! It should be THE BEST thing ever!

Spending time with you is what your puppy wants to do, so why would you deny him that at a very social time?

I mean, eating is social for humans too!

Would you want to go eat your meal alone in a room everyday… or would you prefer to eat with your family or meet for dinner with friends?

Using your puppy’s food as a reward is your way of spending time with him while he eats.

Use his food as rewards.  You will then only feed him with your hand while he performs behaviors you like.

It is the equivalent of meeting your friends for dinner and drinks and dancing.

It is fun for him!

And, guess what?

You get the benefit of having a well-trained and stimulated puppy.

Puppy training doesn’t have to be hard.

Puppy training doesn’t have to last for an hour at a time.

And, you don’t have to make your puppy work for every single kibble, use lots of jack pots and have fun!

Puppy training should resemble a game to your puppy!

#4. Begin Teaching Your Puppy to Play With Toys Immediately

Speaking of games…

Your puppy needs lots of toys!

Most of you know this, and hopefully you have gotten your puppy a toy box full of different kinds of toys so that he doesn’t chew or grab your things.

But what most people don’t realize is that actually using those toys to build your puppy’s play and prey drive will help your puppy training turn into amazing dog training in the long run.

puppy training, crate trainingYou can’t imagine how many people tell me that their dog doesn’t play, or he only played when he was a puppy.

Well, of course he stopped!

How fun is it to play alone?

It’s not! And, it is not usually constructive when dogs have to play by themselves or come up with their own games.

They think chewing holes in your carpet, digging in your yard and watching dirt fly; those are fun games.

If you play with your dog, you encourage appropriate play and you engage him mentally and physically!

And, here is a BIG one:

Later in life, instead of using or carrying treats, you can carry his toy to reward him and keep his attention!

So grab those toys and get to some interactive play with your pup or dog.

#5. Some Toys Are YOUR Toys

I hope your puppy has a toy box, as I mentioned earlier.

Like a toddler, he needs to explore his world and be able to choose from a multitude of toys and textures and use his mouth on appropriate things.

If you don’t provide something, he will eat and shred your things.

So, invest some money and stock his toy box. I like at least a dozen things or more.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, and actually you can get things a lot cheaper online and they are shipped right to you.

Pet Edge is my favorite shopping place, because most things are affordable and they have nearly everything!

Now the weird part…

Your dog’s favorite toys should be “YOUR” toys.

Meaning they only come out for training and interactive play.

For instance, my dog LOOOOOOVES her ball or a tug.

She nearly impales herself, if I am not careful, chasing after a ball.

Heck, I have a friend whose dog dislocated his shoulders because he ran into a tractor playing ball.

But these toys aren’t at her (or his because she is a trainer too) disposal all of the time.

That makes those toys ultra extraordinary!

If my dog could grab a tennis ball or rubber ball and play with it by herself or whenever she wanted, it would lose its value!

It risks becoming boring, like the other toys in my dogs’ basket (for that problem, click here).

It also allows me to use toys that would not be appropriate to be left in my puppy’s toy box!

My dogs are chewers and they have been since they were puppies. I can’t leave soft plush toys, or tugs in their toy box or they could eat them.

But they love these kinds of toys, so I bring them out for play time!

Then I put them up for the next time I want to exercise them and do some training!


So there they are – the top 5 tricks that we trainers use to get our puppies started off on the right paw!

Feel free to share with your friends!   😉

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There are 26 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Wow…you got this down, Chet! Puppies need a box of toys! Thank you for always providing insight into the mind heart and spirit of “man’s best friend!” You amaze me every time I read your newsletters! Great Job! Keep Us loving our pets with confidence, caring and creative play! BRAVO! ~KG


  2. Nigel says:

    Hi Chet,
    Could you amplify a bit on “don’t feed your dog from a bowl”, please?
    I’ve always fed mine using a bowl for each. They all eat at the same time, twice a day, and I sit nearby, while they are eating, to see “fair play”. Are you saying that’s not good?
    Thanks for sharing the tips, great stuff!


  3. By not feeding puppy from bowl, am I to assume you mean hand feeding instead??


  4. nadia says:

    would love for my doxie to play with toys, but he never had them to play with for all his life. my daughter has three dogs who LOVE to play with their toys, but max just looks. i have tried a ‘treat ball’ (since he is food oriented) but he just looks at it and then at me and does not try to get the treat, even though he can smell it. what do i do?


    Minette Reply:

    search my articles on teaching your dog to play. Also you can use faux fur toys that some dogs prefer to learn to play with


  5. Stevee says:

    Enjoy your letters Chet. Don’t have a pup yet but working on it. Everything I can learn is so helpfu. Thank you.


  6. Judy says:

    I gave my dog tons of different types of toys since she was a pup. She played with them for 2 seconds and then was no longer interested. The only toys she loves to this day are tennis balls. I tried the safer balls but she only wants the tennis ones. She gets them and brings them back and can do that for hours.


  7. IRISH PACK says:

    Same issue here and I have been training dogs for 35 years. My Papillon/Pom was 6 months old when I rescued her. In all my time training, she is the only dog that ever bit me. She was a wreck and had been severely abused. She would chase a toy or play tug, but never for very long. Now she only wants to play tug with my hand or my fingers.

    It took me the better part of 3 years to socialize her to let her know that not everyone would hurt her. Her breed needs activity and stimulation but I am at a loss when it comes to toys, I am not able to re-kindle her interest. I do have a toy that I fill with peanut butter and she loves that….HEY! Epiphany!! I am going to try throwing that for her. Didn’t occur to me til just now. Smack my head.


  8. Ann Spear says:

    I agree that #5 is VERY important: Keep the best toy for yourself. I actually discovered this by accident, but I never thought it through before. My GSDs absolutely love to fetch tennis balls and sticks. I bought a bag of tennis balls and because I didn’t want to lose them before they wore out, I put them away after each session. And I quit throwing sticks, which sometimes hurt my hands anyway. (Now it’s their job to carry a stick when we walk.)
    The result was that now when I say “Play ball?” they’re instantly ready, and I can use the ball as a reward for other training exercises.

    I do have a question about #3, don’t feed puppy from a bowl. You’re not very specific about what TO do. I get asking puppy to learn to sit and wait politely for his meal, and I’d never put him off by himself to eat, but are you recommending hand feeding??


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, make him work for his food while you are training.


  9. Brenda Wright says:

    So, what is the toy they shouldn’t be allowed to play with in #5? You mentioned several.

    Also, no explanation was given for not feeding in a bowl. How should you feed?

    Don’t tease and not give answers…no, I won’t buy your materials if that is what you do.


    Minette Reply:

    The toy depends on the dog. Big dogs like great danes shouldn’t use tennis balls, but a small dog can play with a tennis ball. Just go size appropriate.

    As far as not from the bowl, as discussed his food should come from your hand during training.


  10. Mickey says:

    LOVE this article. My dogs are taught from day 1..THEIR toys are in the toy basket. The Balls are kept by ME the Master 🙂 and only used for special WE time. And when the younger dog has to be crated? She HAPPILY runs to her crate to get her “Special” Crate toy…usually a Sterilized natural bone with p.butter inside. I DO NOT allow real bones of any kinds to lie around the house…THEY cause fights..Nylabones don’t.
    I never have guarding issues or selfish dogs because there are not ONE…but 5 nylabones….not ONE…but 5 other type safe chewies. In fact? when my dogs are getting ready for a meal? Instead of bothering ME and whining, pacing etc? They go to their toy basket…grab a bone…”place” on a rug and chew until their meal is ready. It is like a pacifier for them. And for me? HEAVEN ! And YES…Even my 2, 6 lb Chihuahuas do this !!
    I have at least 10 if not 15 bones in their basket. One dog takes one and the other wants it? They go to the basket and take one for themselves instead of arguing over one.
    In the beginning? I spend a lot of time replacing “bad” things with a nylabone. The minute a puppy/dog/ starts doing undesirable behavior? I give them a bone. By the end of the week even the youngest pup knows..”Go get your bone!!”


  11. lois mays says:

    I adopted my rescue dog when he was about 1.5 y/o. J ames Dean is a black lab/pit cross ending up at about 65lbs.
    I didn’t have the chance to work with him as a puppy butt these techniques work with him when I work then consistently.
    great job thanks for info.


  12. Kristy says:

    Great content! I’m a new breeder of Newfoundland dogs and yes yes yes to all this! I crate train, potty box train starting at 10 days and my pups ALL have basic obedience manners and LOVE to look to people for direction, exercise, rest and training because it’s fun and rewarding! Great training tips!


  13. Cindy & Ty says:

    I am SO glad to hear about providing your puppy lots of toys! I’m a believer in this also! My puppy has lots of toys and a toy box. Some he plays with by himself and has a blast just running in the back yard with a toy as big as he is and tripping and rolling around and then he is back up again! Others we play with together by throwing and playing “fetch”, and some are tug toys! People have made fun of me for having more than a couple of toys – stating I am spoiling my dog. I respond with he loves them all and plays with them all – he’s happy and so am I. We have fun!!!!


  14. Joan Walsh says:

    Great tips but i cant use them yet as my 14 month old Buddy is recovering from Elbow dysplasia and hes not allowed to get excited or play ball for another 37 days and counting !


    Minette Reply:

    You can still use his food ! 😉


  15. I have a ?? Why do my dogs lick constantly on sheets and pillows even myself?


    Minette Reply:

    Read this


  16. Joan Walsh says:

    Thanks !Yes I do use his food .


  17. Jane says:

    Hi Chet
    I was wondering if you had any suggestions for play toys for my Belgian Malinois 1 1/2 year old. She has tennis balls I use to play catch and a chew horn which she loves. She seams to go through every toy I buy. And she is in desperate need of some new toys as she only has the two.
    Thanks Jane


    Minette Reply:

    I only allow my dog to play with toys with me so he/she don’t shred them.

    For toys I leave in their toy box, I buy indestructible toys but realize I will need to buy more after a few months.


  18. Shari says:

    I have only recently found these blogs, and truly appreciate all of the tips. Once I have some extra money, I intend to purchase some of the lessons. My German Shepherd/ Black Lab mix was very sick when we brought him home from the humane society, so I had no choice but to hold off on training. Now I’m trying to break the bad habits he learned in those beginning week’s, since we let him do or have anything He wanted and we weren’t sure if he was going to make it. Fortunately he did, because I couldn’t imagine life without this smart little guy (4 months now and over 40 lbs already). I have a huge toy box filled to the brim and he plays with everything. I found that you can go to your local salvation army/ thrift store and find all types of dog toys (many brand new with tags) for a fraction of the cost of buying at a pet supplies store, your vet, or big box stores like Wal-Mart.


  19. Dayl says:

    We have a golden doodle male puppy who just turned one. He would eat his food in one gulp no matter what we gave him from the very start. I did some research and purchased a ridged bowl feeder that resembles a spiral. You stick the food in the grooves (in this case raw food) and use this as his bowl. It takes work and time to eat his food, but he enjoys the challenge. He now sits and waits until we give him the ok to eat and he not only gets his meals but brain exercise as well. We also feed him once in awhile with a toy called a Kong.


    Minette Reply:

    But having him work for a meal for YOU would be even better 😉


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