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In this article I am going to give you the 3 Biggest Secrets to successful puppy raising and training. If you focus on the following 3 things with your new puppy, I guarantee you will be well on your way to having an amazing dog!

Sleep Is Key!

Puppies need between 18 and 20 hours of sleep every day until they are close to a year old. Most of their puppy energy is going into growth and development at this stage which doesn’t leave a lot of energy left over for being awake and making good choices. The majority of puppies we train are significantly sleep deprived and a sleep deprived puppy is a puppy who is not capable of good behavior or exercising control. What an overtired puppy commonly looks like is what I like to call “Piranha Mode” meaning as the puppy gets tired, their teeth come out.

Sleep is the first priority in puppy training because without adequate sleep, even the best toys, treats, or training techniques won’t work consistently to combat unwanted puppy behaviors like biting. We recommend a 1:2 ratio of awake time to crate napping time until about 6 months of age and then switching to a 2:2 ratio. In other words, for every hour your puppy is awake until 6 months old, they will need to follow it with about 2 hours of nap time. We recommend most of those naps happen in their crate because your puppy will get more restful sleep with less interruptions. This also helps your puppy get comfortable in their crate more quickly as it becomes a regular part of their day where they can go to relax and rest.

Ditch the Food Bowl

Hand feeding your puppy’s meals as a part of socialization and training is a great way to make use of a daily necessity to help positively shape your puppy’s behavior. This automatically gives you 3 opportunities every day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to interact with your puppy in a purposeful way while teaching them the skills they need to be a successful adult dog and while also building a relationship where you become associated with good things.

Feeding your puppy in a bowl on the ground is such a wasted opportunity! Using your puppy’s food you can build engagement (aka eye contact and focus on you) which will help teach your puppy to pay attention to you instead of all the other distractions, reward them for potty training success, practice obedience commands like polite leash walking and sitting to be pet, and expose them in a positive way to new environments, sights, sounds, objects, and important experiences like being brushed and groomed or going to the vet.

Be Proactive Not Reactive

The most common reason people reach out for puppy training help is because they don’t know how to stop their puppy from doing “insert annoying puppy behavior here”. The problem with this question is that the real answer is to stop waiting for the puppy to do something wrong to give them any feedback. We recommend being very proactive and finding as many opportunities throughout the day to tell your puppy they’re making a good choice or practicing good behavior and reward it! If you spend more of your interactions with your puppy showing them what you want and rewarding them for making good choices, you will ultimately spend much less time having to correct or redirect them when they make bad choices.

A puppy is developmentally just a baby and they don’t know yet what the right behavior is, so it’s your job as a puppy owner to help them understand which behaviors you like and will produce positive rewards. It can be as simple as rewarding your puppy for laying calmly by your side while watching squirrels run around outside or for NOT barking when someone knocks at the door or the UPS truck drives up. Reward your puppy proactively for the things that they do that you DON’T want them to stop doing and you will spend very little timing trying to figure out how to stop any unwanted behavior.

Need more puppy training help? Check out our one of a kind Platinum Puppy Program HERE!

Happy Puppy Training!

“Justin, me, Moxie and Atlas are at the beach this week (got here Friday) and it has been a complete 180 from the last couple of years at the beach. People stop them on the beach and comment on how well-behaved they are. Dogs off-leash or acting up run towards them and they are able to remain composed. It’s truly amazing and such a relief we could almost cry.

They will sit by us in the tidal pools and play or dig as little kids or dogs run by. I can’t express how wonderful it truly is, but we wanted to let you know. They’re not perfect, but they better know our expectations and now when they bark it’s more like a “hey” instead of a hey hey hey hey hi hi hi look over here HEY I NEED TO GET TO YOU RIGHT NOW.I could write more, but all of this is to say we’re so happy and grateful.”-Blake Jordan of Shipman, VA

BEFORE TRAINING: Kaiya, a 4 year old female Golden Retriever who was adopted after having spent her life as a puppy mill breeder. Her new owners immediately recognized that she needed even more than just obedience training; she was extremely fearful of almost everything including loud noises, doorways, men, and any new situations. Having never experienced living in a home let alone a downtown environment, she was struggling with the transition.

AFTER TRAINING: Kaiya is now able to enjoy the freedom of being totally off-leash at the park, coming back as soon as her mom or dad call her. She is a much more confident dog who has adjusted to life as a house pet remarkably well, she even enjoys going in the elevator at their condo. Jeff & Kaye were completely committed to doing all they could to help Kaiya live a happier and less-stressful life, and all their hard work and training practice certainly paid off.

“Heather at Lead the Way K9 Training is terrific. Our Vet recommended her and we were not disappointed. She helped us work with our very timid and skittish rescue, Kaiya. The improvement was remarkable and it was joy to watch our girl come out of her shell. Heather is very knowledgeable about training and training methods. We highly recommend her for any level of training that you might need for your canine companion!”
-Jeff Fracher of Charlottesville, VA

Gromit & Lindsay in Charlottesville, VA
4 year old female Lab Mix
Before Training:Separation anxiety and a “Velcro Dog” following owner around 24/7. Not trustworthy off-leash and would chase small animals. Leash reactivity and overall poor leash skills- barking, pulling, not paying attention on walks.

Training was important because: Owner wants to be comfortable taking Gromit on long camping and hiking trips and for her to be off-leash.

After Training:Totally reliable off-leash and able to enjoy taking Gromit with her on outdoor trips. Able to enjoy daily walks instead of getting dragged on the leash. Enjoying more freedom for both dog and owner and recently added a puppy to their family and they are getting along great.

What Owner Has to Say:“She has been great on our walks and off-leash outings! Such a difference with Gromit in a short time.”

Playing games with your puppy is more than just hanging out and spending time together. The activities and rules you choose can help your new friend get to know you better, develop their cognitive thinking and, of course, get much needed physical and mental stimulation. For grown-up dogs, playing becomes an important activity, that helps them stay healthy and feel involved. It’s crucial to be thoughtful and careful when playing with your puppy. Some owners may accidentally contribute to developing bad habits in their dog, even without realizing it. This is exactly why you’ve got to pick the games the reinforce elements of training and ensure your dog’s consistent positive upbringing.


All puppies feel the urge to grab, bite and chew nearly every single item laying around your home. Hunting and destroying these items is something their instincts tell them to do. First, try not to tempt them: hide the shoes, close all drawers and cabinets, roll up the curtains, etc. Second, make sure to get your puppy an appropriate chew toy, something like a Nylabone or a rubber Kong toy will do the job.


The key is to redirect your pup’s attention away from the stuff you don’t want to be damaged. For example, if your pup is developing an interest in shoes and slippers, you can spray them with a deterrent like Bitter Apple spray. Try to engage your pup in a game and put their toy in the spotlight. If you find a chewed-up item with your pup sitting innocently next to it, you’ll have to do a better job supervising them. Punishing your dog after the fact will not make sense to your puppy and will just confuse them.


When you start teaching your pup to play fetch, start with 2 identical toys. As the dog brings a toy/ball/rope back, throw the second toy. When your pup drops the toy in his mouth to chase the toy you threw, pickup the first toy. Repeat until your pup is predictably dropping the first toy at your feet before you throw the second toy. Another simple game to learn for your pup is Find It. While playing, you can hide a toy or a treat and ask your pup to search for it. Be flexible, start easy and gradually complicate the task.


Training your puppy is a serious, long-term commitment. Don’t feel frustrated when your little friend doesn’t get everything perfect immediately. You can always consult with our certified dog trainer Heather, and together we’ll be able to develop an individualized training plan consisting of games and commands for you and your pup to learn and enjoy. If you wish to learn more, contact Lead the Way K9 Training and fill out our contact form online!

Summer is always an exciting time not just for you but for your four-legged friends. This beautiful season opens a wide range of outdoor activities and fun adventures you can explore together. However, all the amusement can lead to unpleasant consequences if the safety rules arent kept in mind. Your dog is more vulnerable in the summer heat, which is why its your responsibility to ensure their well-being.



Overheating is one of the most common dangers your dog can face in the summer. The smaller and the hairier your dog is, the more careful you should be. When indoors, make sure your home is well-ventilated, the AC is on and the water bowl is easily accessible. When youre out, try to walk in the shade and avoid hot sidewalks and sand. Remember, never leave your dog in the car! If the technology fails, a car can get extremely hot in as quickly as 10 minutes.


Heat Stroke

Prolonged overheating may lead your dog to a heat stroke. Watch out for the early symptoms like miscoordination, dry mouth, bluish tongue, frequent breathing, or muscle twitching. Try to get your puppy to a vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. If not addressed right away, these symptoms can escalate to high body temperature, nosebleed, vomiting, or even fainting and convulsions. A general advice to avoid a heat stroke is to stay away from direct sunlight as much as possible.



Like us humans, dogs need to stay hydrated at all times, especially in the summer. If your dog is hyperactive, they need even more water. Make sure to change the water in a bowl every day and monitor how much your puppy drinks. When youre out, grab a bottle of water for your dog and offer them a drink every half an hour or so, especially after playing or staying under the sun for a while.

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