Puppy Kindergarten: Class Notes

How We TrainPuppy K PrepPuppy K NotesTraining TipsResources

Welcome to our Puppy Kindergarten classes! We’re glad you’re here!

Joyful Dog teaches classes online through Your Dog’s Friend, as well as offering online and outdoor private training.

Our “YDF” puppy classes are rolling registration, which means that you and your puppy can start at any of the six sessions. Here’s a loose guide to the content in each session, with links to pertinent video and training handouts. Because the classes are each a standalone we’ll identify the classes by color, rather than number.


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Discussion: House Training
Handout: Pat Miller’s Potty Time

Attention Games
Video: Attention Pattern Games Video
Handout: Attention Pattern Games handout

Targeting (“Touch”)
Video Michael Baugh: Michael Baugh Teaching a Hand Target
Video Kikopup: Kikopup Teaching a Hand Target
Handout: Teaching a Target handout

Luring a Sit and Down
Video Kikopup: Kikopup Introducing a Lure for Sit, Down, and Stand


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Introducing our puppies to novel sights, sounds, smells, surfaces, and other experiences in such a way that it’s enjoyable builds a foundation for a lifetime of comfort with novelty. A puppy who practices happy interactions with men in hats is likely to be comfortable when seeing men in hats as an older dog. Playing your puppy’s favorite games during thunderstorms can help build a positive association with thunder.

It’s important that we don’t simply expose our puppies to lots of things, but that we manage their introductions to novel things in such a way that it’s a positive experience. Exposure that results in a negative experience can also color their lifelong responses.

Let your puppies explore at their own speed, and keep things short if they seem uncertain.

Here are some resources to help you with this important training:

Socialization Blog from Old Dog New Tricks

Handout on Socialization Bingo from the folks at Fear Free.

Handout on How to Socialize a Puppy

Handout on Pet Professional Guild Puppy Socialization Checklist

Video on Body Handling from Sarah Stoycos of YDF

Video from Joyful Dog on desensitizing to sounds

YouTube audio for desensitization from CalmSounds

Fear Free website with lots of wonderful resources … for free!

Teaching a Sit and Down
Video on using a food lure to introduce a sit and down

Another way to teach a Down
Video on capturing a down 

Handout on teaching a “Stay”

Handout on teaching a “Find-It”
Video on teaching a “Find-It”


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Leash walking
The best way to teach our puppies not to pull is to teach them that it’s wonderful to stay by our side. Here are two great videos on introducing our puppies to the place by our side as a “reinforcement zone”. Note that the handler is not pulling back on the leash. As it happens pulling back on the leash triggers a natural response in our puppies and older dogs to pull in the opposition direction! For more information on leash walking explore our blogs on walking with our dogs.

Video on introducing your dog to choose to walk by your side:
Video on teaching the “1-2-3” walking exercise, by YDF trainer Susan Sanderson

What the well-dressed dog wears! Joyful Dog recommends a harness for most dogs because it removes pressure from the dog’s throat and neck, thereby avoiding some of the physical and behavioral issues that can arise if your dog pulls against a collar. For more information on gear, check out our blog on our favorite gear.

BackUp Recall
Our puppies and older dogs love to come to us when we move backwards. Let’s take advantage of that while they’re young! In the video below I have my dog on a leash and use a technique called “walking up the leash” to prevent him pulling forward, but with our puppies this exercise is best introduced off-leash, or on a loose leash.

Video on teaching a backup recall


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Attention Games — “Out and Back”
This variation of the pattern games teaches our dogs to come back to us after moving away. It’s a great foundation for teaching the recall (come when called).

Video: Pattern Games “Out and Back”

Teaching our dogs to drop something in their mouth keeps things friendly. We want to avoid pursuing our dogs when they have something in their mouths, nor do we want to forcibly remove something from their mouth unless it’s a matter of safety. Chasing or forcing can lead our dogs to begin guarding their treasures, which can include snarling and biting, or even ingesting the treasure. Keeping it friendly and fun, though, can teach our dogs that it’s excellent to give up things when we ask!

Video on teaching a “Drop” by Chirag Patel
Handout by Joyful Dog on teaching a “Drop”

Leave It
We want to teach our puppies to happily leave something that we don’t want them to have, such as acorns on a walk, a pill we dropped on the floor, or a toy our kids left on the floor rather than putting them away. This approach lays the foundation for teaching our dogs to give up something wonderful in order to get something else that’s wonderful. Remember to keep it light and fun, rather than intense and harsh.

Video from Laurie Luck of Smart Dog University on teaching a “Leave It”

The Counting Game
This brilliant game developed by trainer Chirag Patel is a great way to bring our dogs to us, and also to get them to move away from something we’d like them to leave.

Video of the Counting Game


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Dog Body language
Our dogs speak through movements and postures, as well as other body language. Knowing what our dogs are saying helps keep communication smooth and friendly. We want our dogs to feel safe and secure, so learn to recognize when they are comfortable and happy, and work to keep them in their happy space. These resources are a great start for you and your family to learn about what our dogs are saying:

Video on “What Your Dog Really Wants You to Know”
This book from Lili Chin is a wonderful reference for you and your whole family:

We want our dogs to come to us readily when we ask. We introduce it in tiny bits, as demonstrated in this…

Video on the “Bacon Recall”

Note that a powerful recall can also be the foundation for a great “Leave It”.


Relax on mat
Video: Introducing a Hyper Puppy to a Mat
Handout: Magnetizing to a Mat

Our dogs need physical exercise, but mental exercise is just as important for their behavioral health, and it can provide gentle socialization opportunities as well. Here are two videos on “freework”, a way of creating an exploration experience for our puppies and older dogs:

Video from Joyful Dogs (UK) of freework in a large space
Video from Joyful Dog (US) of freework in a small space

Teaching our dogs a great “stay” behavior can help them keep their wits about them when friends approach. Here’s a handout on introducing this important skill in tiny bits:

Teaching a “Stay”, from Joyful Dog

We also want to be able to call them to come away from greeting a friend. The “Bacon Recall” is an excellent start!

Video of trainer Lisa Mullinax’s “Bacon Recall”

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