2 Games You Should Teach Your New Dog in the First Week Together
Step 8 of 15 in the Dogly New Pet Channel
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

New dog parents often ask what is the appropriate type of training during their dog's first week at home. As a certified professional dog trainer, I can tell you that training can - and should - take a back seat for this first week.

The most important thing you can do during these first few days is to help your just-arrived dog decompress and not to immediately start practicing.

Your dog surely can be a nose-work or parkour superstar in training, but for now, he or she needs to decompress and feel safe and comfortable at home.


Think learning through fun & connection not "training sessions"

Instead of "training," think setting your dog up for success so he or she will have many, many opportunities to be rewarded (with a highly desirable food reward) for simply settling in and beginning to get a sense of where things are and how to adjust happily to this unfamiliar life. Make it easy for your dog to get everything right (and no punishment ever for "mistakes")!

Pro tip: Make sure all family members are on board and consistent with the focus on setting up your pup for success in every way for decompressing and settling in.

Nothing confuses a dog or derails your progress more than conflicting messages from you and different family members. Dogs thrive on predictability - especially a new dog who is trying to figure out this new world and how to make everyone happy.

Forgo structured training sessions now & keep it super simple with these 2 games...

Many dogs find playful learning relaxing though, so do give your dog opportunities to interact with you in light games as your dog learns with plenty of verbal praise and treats.

Always have food rewards handy so you can positively reinforce your dog immediately and often when any good behavior or just positive connection, happens anywhere in or around your home - and elsewhere as you eventually venture out. Your dog's confidence and bond with you will grow with each of these wins - during training games or just living your lives together.

Give me an example

When we say reward your dog immediately and often for any good behavior or connection, we mean reward the simplest of wins! For example, if you get your puppy's attention by saying your dog's name and your dog turns to look at you, treat immediately!

And if your dog is across a room and it takes a minute to deliver the treat, say "yes" or click your clicker immediately then deliver the treat. (That immediacy, by the way, is based on how dogs' brains work and the connection they make with what behavior was rewarded. You can learn much more about that in Dogly's Manners Channel when you and your dog are ready.)


Focus on keeping it simple for your dog in this first week by teaching your dog these two easy learning games:

Try this

The Name Game

  1. Start with your dog in a sitting position.
  2. Show your dog a treat, say your dog's name, and then give your pup the treat.
  3. Repeat this 5-10 times. The goal is for your new dog to start making the connection that his/her name means a yummy reward.

Why do the lessons of the Name Game matter?

It's a fun, engaging way to teach your dog that when you say his/her name good things happen. It is also very useful if you want to change your dog's pre-adoption name to one of your choice and for any pet parents wondering how to teach a dog its name.

With this game, you're establishing a positive association with your pup's name and setting up and reinforcing a dependable way to get your dog's attention and have your dog respond consistently to their name. If you happen to have adopted a new puppy, you probably already know getting a curious puppy's attention can be even more challenging, so this game can be especially helpful in positively reinforcing your puppy's responses.

(Remember to only use your dog's name positively; never for scolding or anything negative. Otherwise, you deplete its value for getting attention and communicating with your dog.)

Try this

Pendulum/Orientation Game

This game is great for dogs who may be unsure of their new surroundings.

  1. Start with your dog in a sitting position, holding a treat in your hand close to your pup's face.
  2. Slowly move the treat from one side of your dog's face to the other, allowing your pup to follow it with his/her nose.
  3. As your dog follows the treat with his/her nose, move your hand in a small circle. Reward your pup with the treat! Repeat 5-10 times.

Why do the lessons of the Orientation Game matter?

This game will help your dog to understand that good things happen when his/her head and attention is oriented toward you. And remember, the key to success is keeping it short and sweet!

For a variation on the Pendulum/Orientation Game once you're both comfortable with adding a little more action:

Try this

  1. Start as you did in the first orientation/pendulum game with your pup seated in front of you, eyes on you and treat in your hand, but allow more space on each side for your dog to go get a tossed treat.
  2. Toss the treat - not too far - to one side. When your dog gets the treat, mark it with a click of your clicker or word like "yes" and hold up another treat to bring your dog back to center on you.
  3. Repeat to other side. Then alternate back and forth a few times, centering each time with you in between tosses, as long as your dog is enjoying the play and reward.

Most important for this first week, the Pendulum/Orientation Game is a super fun game for you and your dog to play together and build your relationship and bond. For both now and the long-term, it helps your dog focus, builds the foundations for recall and orienting to you, develops check-ins with you, and is a great energy releaser.


Have fun & don't try to do too much at once that might overwhelm your new dog.

Simply focus on these two games and let your dog decompress in his/her new home. Don't start other training practice until your dog has started to adjust from the move, instead learn through fun and keep it simple!

Both of these games are easy to do and don't require any special equipment. You can do them anywhere, anytime! Do always start training in a low distraction, quiet, and calm environment like inside your house or in your backyard.

Soon enough, you'll be able to move on to gradually increase your learning work together and add more distractions in the outside world in more advanced future training!

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Next up in the New Pet Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to have a successful first week with your new puppy or dog, continue on to the next guide to learn how to set your new dog up for success with enrichment games.

If you have any questions about acclimating your new dog as a happy member of your family, just ask in the community discussion in the New Pet Channel.

Or if you ever need more personalized dog training guidance, please reach out!

Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour