When your puppy arrives, your first priorities are most likely bonding, potty training, initial vet visits, and getting their food and stomach situation handled.
After a week or two or three of that, you can begin some more "fun" work with them—skills, manners, commands, tricks, etc.
- A couple big things to tackle that aren't actual "commands" or "skills" are crate training and socialization.
- Crate Training. From day one / week one, it's great to get your puppy comfortable with their crate. They need to know that it is a safe space for them to rest and recover from all of the stimulation that exists inside and outside your home. Puppies sleep A LOT, and you will want a break from time to time for errands, chores, or work. If you can place your puppy in their crate during that time, life will be better for you, and safe for your puppy.
- Crate training from an early age can also help your puppy not have separation anxiety when you need to leave for extended periods of time.
- It's crucial for your puppy to see lots of people and other dogs and animals at a young age. Driving your pup around town and walking them through pet friendly hardware stores or grocery stores, (in the cart if very young), and with lots of treats, is a great way to start letting your puppy know that people aren't all scary. Speak with your vet about the safest way and time to do this based on your puppy's vaccine schedule and any other health concerns.
- All commands are not created equal. Some commands could save your puppy's life.
- Name -- Teaching your puppy their name is a good place to start, and will come quite naturally, as you're likely to be saying it often while you pet them, feed them, and take them potty. When they go potty you can say things like "Good boy, Grayson" "Good Potty Outside!" to celebrate their action, and reinforce the behavior. Early on, have treats ready and when your puppy gives you their attention, especially after you say their name, give them a treat. This is the start of developing good recall.
- Touch / Come -- This one takes time, so it's good to start early, and don't expect perfection right away. Be very patient with yourself and your puppy on this, and don't give up!
- Sit and "Sit to Say Please" as our partners at Baxter and Bella teach, are good to start early too. Before my puppy gets out of his crate, I have him sit, and wait until I open the door and say "OKAY" to release him. After a couple weeks of initial potty training and teaching the basic "sit" command, I combined the two by having him sit before letting him outside. Now, when he wants to go out, he sits by the door and looks at me. Then I know he's ready to go out, and asking politely to do so. This also translated into other asks, like him wanting to come onto the couch or bed. Learning "sit to say please" was a neat way to teach my dog to communicate with me. All credit to Baxter and Bella on that one!
- Down -- is also a nice command, but most trainers recommend teaching sit first, as it is usually easier, and makes getting to a down position easier too.