Life Skills for Puppies: Laying the foundation for a loving, lasting relationship.


 Click on the cover above to go to this book at

Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills are both vets and specialists in dog behaviour, with a strong belief that preventing behavioural problems is better than trying to cure them once they’ve become bad habits. ‘Life Skills for Puppies’ looks at the skills that pups need to learn in order to be able to cope with the world. Each chapter focuses on a different skill, such as being able to listen, to follow rules, and to cope with surprises. There are also reminders to humans that pups need help with making choices, and that dogs have the right to be dogs, and even to say ‘no’. The aim is to teach pups to be resilient, and be able to cope with life as adults. The approach is more how to ‘raise’ a pup the way you’d raise a child, than how to train in the traditional sense.

Many guides to raising pups focus on more mundane aspects of puppyhood, like housetraining, with maybe some obedience training thrown in.  It’s refreshing to read a book that takes a more holistic approach to raising a dog, for example, teaching a dog to choose to exercise self-control, rather than simply teaching the dog to obey commands.  Raising dogs also involves two-way communication, but humans aren’t always able to understand what dogs try to tell us, so the photos are particularly useful, because they help with interpreting a pup’s body language. 

I actually bought this book to use with an adult dog, who had had very little contact with humans before he came to me. He needed to learn some lessons that he should have learnt as a pup, so it made sense tackle some of the gaps in his education by starting at a puppy’s level of understanding. ‘Life Skills’ proved very useful as a guide to remedial training with him. It might be worth the authors stressing in later editions that adolescents, and even adult dogs, are still capable of learning many life skills, even though these skills are best learnt as pups.

This is probably the most useful puppy book around for novices and, because the authors take an innovative, holistic approach, it’s also a very interesting guide for experienced owners, which can pinpoint gaps in training programmes. Very highly recommended.

Review by Alison Lever 2015