When it comes to training a puppy things probably haven’t changed in 32,100 years. That’s our best guess for how long humans have cohabited with dogs. Whether you live in a cave, a tent, the arctic or high desert the basics remain the same; sit, down, potty outside, go to your place, walk on a tether without dragging anybody down a mountain, come when called, leave it, and my personal favorite, Go Lay Down.

With 6,500 languages spoken throughout the world today a well-trained dog could probably intuit a simple request regardless of how it is spoken. But there is another language so universal it precedes the spoken word, in fact it precedes humans. That language is Play and it is how all babies learn. It is also my motto when it comes to training:

Play is the Work of Puppies

Take any young thing from T. Rex to whales, giraffes to gerbils, goats, horses, even reptile babies. All babies excel at Play, and this presents a golden opportunity when it comes to training just about anything. Individual Play styles also reveal a lot about all of us and puppies are no exception. When we choose a puppy it’s the first thing we learn about our new best friend.

You can tell a puppy’s philosophy about life, his level of confidence, even his ability to enjoy himself by watching him play. And herein lies the secret to phenomenal training success: Play with your puppy. Give him a game he can lose himself in while following your lead. Train through games and he’ll develop laser focus, learn to regulate all that explosive energy, and do all he can to figure out what you want.

When puppies learn to regulate their energy up and down on command it’s much easier to teach and live with them. With human children we call this impulse control, the downside of which is over-stimulation (aka meltdown, tantrum, and down-for-a-nap time). Any baby’s ability to remain calm and focus on a task is your first goal. Teach him to do this on cue and you get a willing playmate and dance partner.

At the Hound House we weave Play throughout all of our training. Games can teach a puppy or dog how to solve problems, figure out what you want, experiment with novel situations, and grow amazingly confident. Whether you are training for competition or a place on your sofa, playing games is an effortless way to lead, set rules, mold behavior and enjoy your charming new friend.

So GAME ON – Here is your first game, “Make the Right Choice,” and stay tuned for more fun and games at the Hound House.