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Building a Foundation with Your Dog

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Achieve the ultimate dog, human bond & relationship

The foundation of a dog’s life is similar to our life, with the necessity of key elements for a healthy development. Learning begins with a foundation that is chosen by the educator. Depending on what we want or what is required, will determine the outcome and the response of that animal. Before a foundation is built, we need to determine what the needs and wants are for the owner. In return, the dog then needs to be evaluated for their needs and wants. The foundation for our dog needs to be solid and we need to monitor the development of this foundation. If we try to develop the foundation before the base has been laid, we will have then built a weak point in the learning. We may see no harm today, but over time, that weakness will affect you and or your dog. It is similar to the foundation of a house. If a support beam is missed or placed incorrectly, the house may stand today, but in the future, any strains on the house could result in the collapse of the structure. I often see dogs that have been rushed in their learning with the basic obedience training. Many are pushed through the commands without really grasping the concepts. Ample practice and work must be applied when educating a dog.

So, the question is: “What are the defining factors for developing the foundation?” There are eight factors to consider:









These eight learning factors will determine the training outcome. Even when we follow these eight elements, every dog is different and will learn at different rates.

Example: If a puppy is removed from the litter before 8 weeks of age, some learning capabilities will not be in place for the puppy to develop and learn. An outcome in this situation would be increased separation anxiety. The worrisome outcome is aggression towards males and small boys more so than woman and girls, the threat is still present so caution when saying hello needs to be implemented

Another example: If a puppy is removed too early, some of the socialization skills that take place in the litter will not have occurred. An outcome in this situation would be the lack of knowledge in greeting or playing with other dogs, which will also result in a lack of confidence in the puppy. Two fully developed life skills in dogs are essential for achieving a well-rounded, adaptable dog. We can do this by exposing them to different sounds, smells, dogs, people, farm animals, children and activities. Some activities could include playing Frisbee, soccer, Hide and Seek and hiking.

What does the learning process look like? Take a learned task such as “sit” or “go pee”. Imagine the construction of a concrete high-rise building. Once the support beams are in place and the underground parking lot has been poured and set (these learned tasks) the builders are then ready to move up to pour the first floor. You then teach some more tasks such as “go to your bed”, to build that first floor and so on and so forth. If you do not wait for the concrete to set before starting the next stage, there will be a crack in the foundation or a collapse in the building. Moving forward with the training prematurely, or before the dog has grasped a basic concept, can result in the breakdown of performance and learning, that can be the cause of a dog’s injury or death. Below is a simple exercise to find out where the dog is at with the learning. I find this exercise to be a great benchmark test.

Walking at a normal pace and a distance of about 60 feet, you want to see how many times the dog looks at the handler. If the dog glances over 16-18 times, ideally 22, then the dog is ready to go to the next step of learning. This represents a high standard of performance.

Dog socialization is important

Within the North American society, there are laws and expectations affecting dogs and dog owners. When the owner is educated below the standard that is expected, they are at the mercy of the law. There is no excuse for not knowing the law and developing your dog to his or her full potential. However, many training practices have not kept up with changing times. A good example of this is ensuring your dog is off leash trained, with a high percentage recall rate. Your dog’s socialization with other dogs and the degree to which it can communicate with other dogs is an important ability many of us want or should want for our dogs. When teaching a dog, we need to break down the learning to ensure it is simple yet challenging. Dogs and people learn best when it is fun and rewarding. It is imperative when acknowledging a progressive step in the dogs learning, to praise them with touch and minimal verbal communications. This is the standard we are trying to achieve.

Building a foundation with your dog, these two dogs are following their human to the next boulder. Dog training classes.
Building a foundation with your dog, these two dogs are following their human to the next boulder.


ALPHA, Never relinquish your position to the dog; for the dog will capitalize and beat you at the game it knows best…SURVIVAL. Through every door there is a training opportunity.

RESPECT, It is essential the dog be taught respect. You deserve it! You buy the food, give shelter and oversee safety. The least you should get is respect. You are the alpha. You have great responsibility, so expect good behaviour once the dog has been educated to the standards you have set.

PRACTICE, Capitalize on unconventional training opportunities. Use environments that incorporate everyday living. Setting aside designated training moments is good, but incorporating the training into daily events is better. Umbilical training while washing dishes or reading is one example. Requesting the dog to sit stay when speaking on the telephone is another.

MOVEMENT, Minimizing your natural movement to accommodate the dog’s movement will cause fatal errors in keeping with the established communication that you are alpha. Dogs naturally move quicker than people, yet people typically slow down their movements when learning how to walk with a dog. Minimize physically compromising your position to accommodate the dog in daily practices.

EXPECTATION, Dogs are brilliant. At an early age, puppies learn how to manipulate and sway humans to please themselves first. We need to set expectations which show that compromising our position will not happen. The value of the set expectation needs to be clear to the dog. “Be surprised when your dog does something wrong, not right.” –Kevin Pattison.

CONSISTENCY, Stay, true to yourself without giving up on yourself. The chain reaction once you have given up can be fatal. Work through each day as it comes, keeping in mind the long-term outcome of both you and the dog. Learning should always be fun!

NEGOTIATIONS, Will lead to potential disaster if negotiations between the dog and owner develop to the point where the dog ‘wins’ and capitalizes from the outcome by becoming alpha. It is imperative to check each stage the dog challenges, and acknowledge that it is your responsibility to control, capture and terminate the negotiations.

COMMUNICATION, In order to effectively work and bond with a dog, the lines of communication must align first and foremost with body language, second with hand signals and thirdly with human verbal. Confusion lies in the ‘old school’ methods of dog training, where little to no emphasis was placed on body language, vs. this new method of training. Training your dog through this line of communication will be incomparable to any other previous method of dog training. Essentially, we are teaching through the dog’s primary root of communication. Results will be seen ten-fold not only in the training of the dog, but the bond created between owner and dog.

Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist, Vancouver Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer

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