Training is an important part of helping your puppy to grow up to be a happy, confident dog. Not to mention, a well-trained dog is much easier for pet parents to live with — and your visitors will appreciate it, too. But when is the best age to start teaching your puppy these important life skills?
Obedience Training Starts Today
As long as your puppy is at least eight weeks old, it’s best to start training them as soon as possible. The younger they are, the easier it will be to curb bad habits before they start, i.e., “My new shoes are NOT a chew toy!” But any older puppy or dog has the ability to learn — even senior dogs can be trained.
The first commands that a puppy learns are usually sit, stay and come. Once they have mastered those, they can move on to other useful commands like heel, drop, off, and release. Leash training should be another of your puppy’s first training experiences. However, if your puppy hasn’t been fully vaccinated yet, check with your veterinarian to learn if it’s best to stay inside while practicing walking on a leash.
If your puppy is around six months old, you may find training to be a little more challenging. This is your puppy’s “teenage” phase so they will probably need some extra patience from you to deal with their increased energy and frequent distractions — “a leaf moved!” However, if your puppy is a star pupil by six months, this is also a great time to try training sessions in different settings. This will help them learn to focus on you and not the game of frisbee happening on the other side of the park.
Simple, consistent commands – When starting to train your puppy, make sure your commands are simple and you are consistent in how you say them. Your puppy could easily become confused if you started with “stay” and now you’re saying, “Stay there, don’t move.” If there are multiple people training your puppy, make sure you’re all using the same words as commands. Of course, once your pup is skilled in the basics, you can try out some fun commands like sing, dance or peek-a-boo.
Short, positive training sessions – Young puppies have the attention spans of… well, of a puppy. It’s best to keep sessions about five minutes long and just do a few sessions each day. If your puppy is showing signs of boredom or distraction, that’s a good sign that it’s time to stop.
Training sessions should always involve positive interactions and end on a high note. Puppy-sized food treats are commonly used rewards for training; however not all pups are motivated by food. Some puppies may be motivated by a special toy, and others may be happy enough with an excited good job and a pet from their favorite person. Just experiment to find out what works best for your puppy.
Start Socializing Now, Too
Adequate socialization is one of the most important things you can do for your puppy. It will help them become a confident adult dog with less risk of behavioral problems later in life. The best time to start socializing a puppy is before three to four months of age, when they are less fearful about new experiences. However, a young pup’s immune system isn’t fully developed, and they may not have received all their vaccinations yet, so check with your veterinarian on when it is OK for them to socialize with dogs of unknown vaccination or health status.
No matter what age your puppy or dog is when you adopt them, socialization is still important. Continuing to provide your puppy with new social experiences as they age will also help to keep them comfortable and confident. To help keep track of your puppy’s socialization experiences, check out this handy socialization checklist.
Let’s Go Potty
It’s a good idea to start a “going potty” routine with your puppy straight away. This helps them learn that outside is the appropriate place to go potty, not inside on your favorite rug. Being patient is important with potty training, as it can take four to six months for your pup to be fully house trained.
Crate Training Timing
Training your puppy to be comfortable in a crate can have many benefits, including helping with potty training. It can also provide your puppy with a comforting, safe place to rest, particularly when you need to leave the house. It’s best to start getting your puppy used to their crate as soon as you bring them home. Just remember that the younger your puppy is, the more frequent potty breaks they will need.
It’s OK to Ask for Help
Sometimes training doesn’t go as planned and you need some expert advice. That’s perfectly OK! You can ask your veterinarian for help or check out what group or private training classes are available in your area. Puppy training classes not only provide much needed socialization for your puppy, they’re actually fun for you too!
Training your puppy can be a challenging experience — for you and your puppy. But with persistence and patience, it also has many long-term benefits for both of you.
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