The Importance Of Building Life Skills For Your Dog.

How many times have you heard yourself or someone else say, “Oh he won’t let me” and they meant their dog won’t let them? It may seem like a cute statement that makes people smile but the underlying issue is this: Your dog lacks the basic life skills he needs to get along in this world.

The relationship with your dog starts on day one not day twenty-one after you have “gotten to know one another”.



From the beginning we are smitten. Either by the cuteness of the puppy or by the needs of the rescue dog, it really doesn’t matter; we are putty in their paw from day one. We need to fight the urge to smother their bad behaviors away and instead start working on the basics. 

Find a trainer that you can work with; someone that can evaluate your puppy or rescue and start teaching you so that you can teach the dog. Whether it is through a dog-training club staffed by volunteers or a private trainer that comes to your home, all dogs are individuals. How you trained or worked with a previous dog may not be the best method for the new arrival. 

Find a puppy playgroup or puppy classes you can attend. Make sure the person running the group has a background in positive training including clickers, treats and toys. Let them evaluate your puppy’s interaction with others so you can quickly get started on life skills. 


I had a rescue puppy that really did not enjoy other puppies. The abuse he suffered required life around him to be quiet. Noisy puppy play was very stressful and made him aggressive, but Kirby was smart so we attended puppy classes to learn our basics, to get out in the world but we did not participate in the free for all puppy play at the end of each session.

I had to learn how to work with him and accept his limitations. With an adult rescue, find out the dog’s sensitivities from the person who fostered them. It will take time but soon you'll be bringing out the best in them.

One of the first life skills any dog should learn is “stand for exam” which means they need to be taught to stand calmly while the vet, a groomer or you run your hands over the dog. This exercise may require two people so grab a friend.

Get their attention with treats or a favorite toy while someone approaches then gently strokes the dog’s body.The goal is that the dog will eventually ignore the person and focus on the treat, the toy or you.This way when your dog needs an annual examine they will not be bothered and will stand quietly. Even Kirby was able to achieve this.


If your dog is nervous and/or reactive to this attention try using a topical calmative like Farm Dog Naturals Relax. It will help settle the dog and allow them to focus and learn while the exercise is being performed.

To do this successfully, apply Relax, aromatic calmer, 20 minutes before you intend to start your training session. Your dog should visibly begin to relax and become more focused on you. If you need an additional dose to get the dog into a calmer state for training, do it. It’s perfectly safe. Again, have their favorite reward standing by and once they are calm, begin working with them.

Start with what is successful first – body rubs for example, then move onto your problem areas: teeth, mouth, ears, feet.

It may require a separate training session for each area of the body. Don’t rush and don’t go in with expectations they will get it the first session. Train in small increments and always end on a high note with a jackpot treat that makes them feel successful and makes training a positive experience. Be patient.


Some dogs will respond immediately and can give the correct behaviors on a regular basis. Others will need their calmative before every training session and can take months or years to learn to relax and trust depending on the abuse or stress they have endured in their life.

Always remember, dogs are designed to please us but it is our responsibility to bring out the best in them.

It is a journey that lasts their whole lifetime. We can teach any dog new tricks if we take the time to find out what they need to be successful and then provide it for them.



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