Training is an important part of helping your puppy grow up to be a happy, confident adult 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 should you start training your puppy on these important life skills and establish a puppy training schedule? We’ll help you get the training process started with our puppy training guide.
When to Start Training a Puppy
There are a lot of adjustments going on during the first week with your puppy — for both of you. But 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!”
Any older puppy or dog also has the ability to learn — even senior dogs can be trained. So no matter what age your puppy or dog is when they join your family, begin training them as soon as possible.
Basic Puppy Training Tips
The first basic 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. When starting puppy training, make sure you are consistent in the way you say the commands. 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 cues. Once your pup is skilled in basic obedience commands, you can try out some fun tricks like sing, dance or peek-a-boo!
Short, positive training sessions are important because young puppies have the attention spans of… well, of a puppy. It’s best to keep your dog training sessions short, 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.
Use positive reinforcement training and always end your sessions on a high note. Puppy-sized food rewards are commonly used when puppies complete a command; however, keep in mind that not all pups are motivated by food. Some puppies are motivated by their favorite toy, and others may be happy enough with an excited “good job” and a pet from their favorite human. Just experiment to find out what toys, treats or praise works best for your puppy.
Add Leash Training to Your Puppy Training Schedule
Leash training should be another top priority on your puppy training timeline. It’s important your pup learns at a young age to walk on a loose leash without pulling — especially if you have a large or giant breed pup that could easily pull you around the block when they’re an adult. Start by introducing them to their collar, harness and leash, before you put them on together. If your puppy is not fully vaccinated yet, check with your veterinarian to learn if it’s best to stay inside while practicing walking on a leash.
Socialization Training Sessions Start Now, Too
Adequate socialization is one of the most important puppy development skills. 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 and environments.
However, a young pup’s immune system isn’t fully developed, and they may not have received all of their vaccinations yet, so check with your veterinarian on when it is OK for them to socialize with other dogs of unknown vaccination or health status (e.g., at the dog park). To help keep track of your puppy’s socialization experiences, check out this handy socialization checklist.
No matter what age your puppy or dog is when you adopt them, socialization is important. Continuing to provide your dog with new social experiences as they age also helps them remain comfortable and confident throughout their life.
Start Your Pup on a Potty Training Schedule
It’s a good idea to start a “going potty” routine with your puppy right away. This helps them learn that outside is the appropriate place to go potty, not inside on your favorite rug or behind the couch. A schedule to use as a starting point is first thing in the morning, after naps, at playtime (before, during and after), 10–20 minutes after eating and before bedtime. Being patient is important with potty training, as it can take four to six months for your pup to fully understand what toilet training is all about.
Crate Training Is Key
Training your puppy to be comfortable in a crate has many benefits. This includes helping with potty training as dogs naturally don’t want to go potty in their “den.” A crate provides your puppy with a comforting, safe place to rest, particularly when you need to leave the house. It also means you won’t come home to a chewed-up couch or trash spread all over the kitchen.
It’s best to start getting your puppy used to their crate as soon as you bring them home. Place the crate in an area where your family spends time so they can go to the crate on their own without feeling isolated from the rest of the family. Just remember that the younger your puppy is, the more frequently they will need potty breaks.
Prepare for a Puppy Training Hiccup: Adolescence
If your puppy is around six months old, you may find that training starts to be a little more challenging. This is the start of the puppy adolescence or “teenage” phase, so they will probably need some extra patience from you to deal with their increased energy and frequent distractions — “a leaf moved!” They will also need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation during this time. You may also notice some changes in their behavior.
Around six months of age is also a great time to try training your pup in different settings. This will help your puppy learn to focus on you and not the flying disc game happening on the other side of the park. Continued socialization is also important during adolescence as teenage dogs can become more fearful or reactive to new dogs or situations.
It’s OK to Ask for Help
Sometimes puppy 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 and obedience training classes not only provide much needed socialization for your puppy, they’re also fun for you, too!
As a new puppy parent, training can be a challenging experience — for both of you. But with persistence and patience, it also has many long-term benefits for both of you. You’ll have a well-behaved and socialized adult dog that feels confident in the world around them.