Getting a new puppy or dog is always an exciting event! The days, weeks, and months that follow will be loads of fun, as well as, thought provoking and challenging! Start building a great foundation the very first day you bring your new pup or dog home!

1. “Structure” how your new dog or pup spends his time each day.
This means maintaining a balance between the amount of time your new dog spends with you and the amount of time he spends away from you. Developing and maintaining this balance will help your new dog or puppy to be more self-assured when he is left alone and will also encourage him to be more willing to work and play when he is with you.

2. Make yourself the “best game in town.”
Be wary of letting your new puppy or dog engage in extended play or bond with your other dogs during this critical time. Your pup should have the most fun ever when he is with you! Don’t try to compete with your other dogs for your pup’s admiration. Be the best game in town!

3. Be a consistent leader figure and provide clear boundaries for your new puppy or dog.
Manage and monitor your new pup’s behavior, access to space and resources. Be clear and consistent in what you expect by preventing behavior you don’t want and seizing every opportunity to reinforce behaviors you would like to see again and again! Your new dog will test you every single day to see what acceptable and what will earn him rewards. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to begin to develop a great relationship with your new partner!

4. Take the time to build drive and focus!
The sport of agility is a game of chase! Build your new dog’s desire to chase, play and interact with you. Play games and have fun with your pup in lots of different locations and situations. If your dog is having fun it won’t matter where he is or who else is around! He will be ready to play and train with you!!

5. Play with a purpose.
All of your training should be done during play sessions! That’s right! In between play, toss in skills your dog will need for agility. Sits, drops, spins, and so on. Play and train your puppy or dog when he is alert and full of energy. Reinforce all behaviors or even tiny parts of behaviors that you want to see again. Stop the session when your puppy is tired and but when he still “wants more.”

6. Develop a capacity for learning and success will follow.
Practice concepts and techniques that are positive and encourage pup to be correct and earn rewards. The more often your puppy or dog is correct and is rewarded, the more confident, willing, and enthusiastic he will be to try anything new you might throw his way. If he is eager to try new things, he is already on the path to success!

7. Balance all the reinforcements you use when playing and training.
What does your new dog or pup love? Is it an old sock? A ball on a rope? Chasing the water hose? A good belly scratch? Figure out what he loves, and expand this list to include all kinds of activities, treats, and toys. When you can reward your dog with a large variety of things, you have the ability to increase the value of reinforcement for extraordinary accomplishments when you are training. Reward your new dog or puppy with all kinds of treats, toys, and activities. The more stuff your dog learns to like or love, the more rewards you will be able to use to build drive and reinforce all the behaviors you want to see happen again!

Your new agility prospect is a clean slate. Capture every opportunity each day to build an awesome foundation for success with your canine partner!

Judy Ramsey has owned, trained, and titled a variety of breeds. In addition to training and showing each of her dogs, she actively participated in therapy dog work for more than 20 years, involved her three children in training and showing, and accumulated a multitude of loyal students. She has earned many titles in AKC Obedience, Rally, and Agility. Those titles have included an Obedience Trial Championship (OTCH), a breed Championship, two Master Agility Championships (MACH). In addition to earning titles, her dogs have won or placed in various AKC national competitions in Obedience, Rally, and Agility. She can be contacted via the KraftyK9 Dog Sports website: