puppy training 101

Dog Mom Talk: Puppy Training 101 with Ali Smith, Founder of Rebarkable

If I could revisit puppyhood with Henry, there are lots of things I would do differently in terms of puppy training.

Puppy training should start as early as you can. Apparently, the easiest thing (and first thing) you can train your puppy to do is probably sit…even though they might not always get it on the first try!

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Clubhouse lately, chatting and meeting so many new people in the dog community. If you don’t know what this wonderful new audio-based platform is, you can find out and join here

We talk about everything under the sun when it comes to cavaliers; from puppies to grooming to funny stories! Recently, our Cavalier Dog Mom’s club on Clubhouse hosted a room about puppy socialization and the dog moms chatted all about our different personal experiences. We were so lucky to have a professional in the room with us that day, Ali Smith, to answer all our puppy training questions!

Ali is the founder of Rebarkable, a ressource for all your dog and puppy training needs! Her mission is to help new puppy owners make the very best out of that little bundle of fluff (and teeth!), to raise a fun, capable, confident member of your family – in the easiest and most reliable way possible. 

Originally from London, UK and now living in Maryland, Ali studied with the IMDT and is a positive-reinforcement trainer. She is also dog mom to Indie, a German Shepherd cross (he’s ¼ Japanese Akita), and Shelby and Lucy who are her coonhound girls!

In this post, she’s sharing all about her new business, Rebarkable, as well as her best tips for puppy training 101.

Let’s have a dog mom talk!

“As a dog trainer, one of my big things was to “Set your dog up for success” with all their training.”

Check out the Rebarkable website here for more dog training tips!
Follow @re.barkable on Instagram!

puppy training 101
henry the smol

“I want to help [dog parents] raise confident, capable dogs who are fantastic members of their family.” -Ali

What inspired you to start your business, Rebarkable?

As a dog trainer, one of my big things was to “Set your dog up for success” with all their training, don’t set them up to fail. Because we learn by getting things right, and repeating that success makes it a learned behaviour. 

But, I spent a lot of time working with dogs whose parents had (through no fault of their own) gotten it a little wrong at the beginning, and it had developed into something more. For instance, the mistreatment of an uncertain German Shepherd puppy in his fear phase, getting “dumped in the deep end”, developed into fear reactivity, or a puppy who had been left just a little too quickly developed into separation anxiety. This made me really sad because I only got called when things had already gone wrong. 

It made me happy to help, of course! But, I wanted to find a bigger solution. One that could help set our dogs up for success from the moment we got them home. And slowly, our Pupdates came into existence. 

I knew that my time with Indie as a puppy was tough! There were so many resources that all conflicted, some of them weren’t written or made by dog people, and the ones that were, were clunky and full of jargon that was beyond me, at the time!

My goal is to make it accessible for all, both financially and terminology-wise.

What are some of your goals with Rebarkable?

First, I want to keep dogs out of shelters.

That’s a big one. I found out that in the US, 98% of the dogs surrendered to the ASPCA have had no training. None. That was pretty shocking to me, and it’s something that could be simple enough to change.

Second? Genuinely, I want to help as many new puppy parents as I can.

I want to help them become fantastic dog parents, to help them raise confident, capable dogs who are fantastic members of their family. I want them to become their puppy’s best advocate, the one who understands the reasons behind what their puppy (or dog when grown) does. Because then you know how to problem solve it. I like to give the understanding not just the solution. 

Lastly? I want us to all pull together as a community and expect more from our fellow dog parents!

Because we’re all representative of each other, so let’s all be wonderful, responsible, considerate dog parents, for the sake of our dogs, us, and the general public.

What is your favorite thing about dog training?

My favourite thing about dog training is the reinforcement it gives me. I meet people who are usually in a pretty low point with their dogs. I get to problem solve, help them implement a plan and then see them get through that tough spot.

I love helping people communicate better with their pets, sometimes I feel like a therapist or a translator, but for a human to dog relationship a lot of the time! 

Bringing home a new puppy is always so exciting, but what should a new dog parent expect for the first day (or week) they bring them home?

Chaos? Can I say Chaos?

Haha, no seriously, you can probably expect hesitancy. For some bizarre reason we tend to bring puppies home on their 8th week? Which means they’ve just entered their first fear phase. I mean what a time to take away everything a puppy has ever known and put them in a new place!! Talk about insane! 

Still, the point being, they’re probably going to be shy and very tired. Patience is the best thing you can do, and give them some space to discover things, without overwhelming them by getting too in their face. It’s really tempting to introduce them to the whole family, but letting them find their paws first is definitely advisable.

When should you start socializing your puppy and what is your #1 tip for puppy socializing?

To be honest, your breeder should actually start your puppy’s socialisation. But, my best tip is to remember that socialisation is more than just dogs. It’s walking past a truck, it’s sniffing a new flower; it’s every new experience that puppy has. All you have to do is keep providing your puppy with new, positive experiences. 

    What is the first thing you should train your new puppy to do?

    As unexciting as this sounds… Sit. 

    Do you know how good a proper sit is? A proper sit means you don’t need stay. A proper sit means they won’t jump up, it means they won’t come beg at the table, it means your puppy won’t counter surf. It’s a really awesome catch-all for so many things if you really amp up the distraction level during practice. 

    Recall would be a close second, though.

      What should you first consider before getting a new puppy?

      Consider whether the breed you’re looking at is actually appropriate for your lifestyle. For example, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a wonderful companion dog – which must work really well for your city based location, Cara!

      But a Coonhound like Shelby & Lucy probably wouldn’t enjoy Montreal quite as much as Henry does. They crave a wide open space. And, to be fair with their volume levels, they’d quickly be banished from any town or city!

      It’s also about lifestyle. If you have a young family, an intense herding dog may not be a good choice, nor might a Newfoundland who doesn’t know their size that well, but a Leonberger, they might be a great fit being agile, very self-aware and surprisingly gentle.

      Each dog is very different, understanding their needs and matching that to your lifestyle can be tricky to navigate. So it’s something to really consider. 

      A big thank you to Ali for sharing so much puppy training insight! If you’re bringing home a new puppy soon or thinking about it, definitely check out Ali Smith’s puppy training tips on her website www.rebarkable.com and give her a follow on Instagram @re.barkable !

      Not sure what to buy for your new puppy? Check out this blog post about how to prepare for your new puppy.


        1. Thanks so much for the feature Cara! Im ao lucky to have my job and get to work woth wonderful dog mums like you!

        2. How do you re-train a dog who was trained before? I started training my cav at 6 months, and she was great at sit, lay doWn, hEel, and recall. Now she is 3 1/2 and she does not recall well anymore, she does not heel, and she does not sit still. She always wiggle and jumps. Please help!

        3. You’re so welcome, Ali! You’re too kind. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful tips!

        4. I’m personally not a trainer, but what has worked with Henry is repetition and lots of positive reinforcement! Try reaching out to Ali to see if she can give you a hand!

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