Early Socialization - Relationship Skills

Make sure to review our Relationship Skills information before working on skill development with the puppies.

Developing Skills: Choosing You

  1. Follow Me
    Goal:  builds the desire of the pup to choose you using the pup’s innate desire to follow which is strong in neonates and lessons by age 12 weeks.  Note in the video how the relationship skills are used

    – 5-6 weeks – foundational training starts with the pups following you and their mom for short walks.
    7-8 weeks- one on one with the pup, short lessons
    – 9+ weeks- progress to different situations with and without distractions.


  2. Check-In 
    Goal- The pup turns and makes eye contact with you, on or off leash, without being prompted for the behavior.

    This is a two-way communication, with both dog and handler responsible for their half of the relationship. Your part is to return eye contact and reward the check-in from your puppy.
    – Check-in is a key component to developing and keeping a connection with your puppy, an important step in teaching your pup to listen and respond to your directions. 
    – Check-in helps develop and maintain effective communication and a deep connection between dog and handler. It is a core skill that will stay with the pup for the rest of his life.
    – Reinforce check-ins to increase the strength of your connection so the pup chooses to remain interested in and attentive to you, even in the presence of other distractions. 

A young puppy naturally checks in, first with his mother, and then with his handler. This behavior has been rewarded during the pup’s time at the CDC. You will maintain and deepen this connection by rewarding the check-in in many different situations and with varied distractions.

  1. Have your pup on a loose leash. This will require him to keep track of you in other ways.
  2. Sit or stand quietly in a comfortable position and remain aware of the pup without staring at him.
  3. Be patient. Wait quietly for the dog to turn and acknowledge you. Initially this could take 2-3 minutes or longer.
  4. When he turns and looks at you, mark it with a “Yes!” and use your voice and whole self to express how pleased and excited you are that he checked in with you, unprompted.
  5. Throw a party! This should initially last 10-15 seconds with high value treats.
  6. As your puppy successfully checks-in in low-key and familiar locations, begin to up the ante with mild and then moderate distractions.

Developing Skills: Sit & Down

Goal: Pups respond to voice and/or hand cue promptly when asked and stay in position until indication given to be “free”.

6-8 weeks:

Start foundation work for sit and down.

Practice in multiple situations


9 weeks: 

Progress to no lure in varied situations


10 Weeks:
Start building duration

Developing Skills: Distraction with Dogs

Goal: Pups are polite, confident and calm around other dogs

Social skills:  Pups develop good social skills and confidence so they are relaxed and polite around other dogs. 


Use skills to direct dog: Handlers use follow-me, head turns, sit, down and stay as skills to direct the dog and keep focus on the handler in the presence of dogs.