When Should You Start Training Your Puppy?

  • 03/03/2021

When you first bring home your new puppy, they’re ready to start training. Just like babies, they are constantly soaking up information about the world around them. Puppies are typically eight weeks old when they are able to leave their birth mothers and be adopted. This is the perfect time to start with teaching basic commands like “sit”, “down”, and “stay”. Positive reinforcement is the best method for these early training sessions.

Avoid Harsh Punishment

When your puppy does something wrong, like go to the bathroom on the floor or chew up your shoes, you might be tempted to hit or spank them. Other harsh training methods include the use of choke, prong, and shock collars. These methods can cause long term damage to your dog by instilling feelings of anxiety and fear. Using treats, favorite toys, and petting and praising them by saying “good boy (or girl)!” in an upbeat tone are the best ways to train your pet with positive reinforcement.

7-8 Weeks: Using Food to Train

Puppies have short attention spans, so don’t expect to spend too long on a training session. Repeating these sessions a few times a day will help make the lesson stick. Using food is a common way to train a puppy to do a desired action. The trainer gives the command, moves the food for the action, and then gives praise when the puppy gets it right. For example, when training a puppy to sit, you would give the command and move the treat above the dog's head and back until the dog sits to look up at it. Then you can give him the food and pet him. When teaching the puppy to lie down, move the food down to the floor. Some puppies aren’t motivated by food at all, so try using their favorite toy instead.

8-10 Weeks: Crate Training

If you’re going to use a crate to confine your dog when you’re out of the house or headed to bed, starting early will make the training process easier. You want them to think of the crate as a safe place that’s just for them. This will also help if you plan to use doggie daycare or boarding. To get the process started, only keep them in the crate for 10-15 minutes at a time and always reward them with positive reinforcement, like treats, praise, or a toy. Make their crate comfy and welcoming with a soft bed or a blanket to lay on.

10-12 Weeks: The Biting Phase

It’s inevitable that your puppy will go through a biting phase. Just like babies, puppies explore the world by putting things in their mouths. They’ll want to gnaw on you during playtime and if you don’t break this habit, they can carry it into adulthood when the bites will hurt with their stronger muscles and sharper teeth. When they bite you, give them a toy that is something you want them to chew on. You may even need to fake some pain and cries to get their attention and let them know that biting is hurtful.

12-16 Weeks: Potty Training

You can always start practicing for potty training as soon as you bring your puppy home, but they might not actually get it down until about 12-16 weeks old. Always take your puppy outside first thing in the morning and after meals, playtime, and naps. You’ll also want to take them outside before bedtime. Messes in the house will happen with any puppy, but taking them out frequently will help cut back on the cleanup. You can also purchase potty training pads. These have waterproof backs and soak up the liquid. Place them where your dog sleeps in case they wake up in the middle of the night and need to go. It won’t be long before your puppy has gained bladder control and has had enough potty training to figure out that the bathroom is your yard.  

6 Months Plus

At six months, your puppy is becoming a teen. Old recommendations suggested waiting until your dog reaches six months to really start training, but by then you’ve missed out on precious time when they are soaking up knowledge. Attention spans at this point are very short and everything is exciting and distracting. Start training as soon as you bring your puppy home, but do continue to repeat and practice training and good behavior throughout their life. Everybody loves an obedient and well-behaved pup. Make sure you give them plenty of toys to play with, and while you’re at it, grab some cute gifts for dog lovers for yourself!

Bio: Cyd Ross is a founding member of an organization dedicated to rescuing livestock and pets from evacuation zones. Ranch life has given her experience with most animals, but her focus is on training horses and dogs. Cyd loves competing in endurance events of 50-100 miles with her Arabians.

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