Adding a new puppy to your family is always exciting! Puppies are adorable and fun, but when you get them home, the real work begins. You must teach your puppy what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Most puppies are ready and willing to start learning at a young age, so the best time to start training them is as soon as you bring them home.
Properly training your new furry friend will make your life easier and less stressful. It can be extremely overwhelming when your puppy uses the restroom inside your home or chews up your furniture and other belongings. However, the good news is that with proper training, these unwanted behaviors can be prevented.
Puppy Training Tips by Age:
8 – 10 Weeks Old
Most new pet owners bring their puppies home around this age. This is the perfect age to teach your puppy the basics. At this age, it is important to get your puppy used to a daily schedule and routine. If you are consistent, they can quickly learn their feeding times, play times, potty break times, and nap times.
Potty training is one of the first things you should start working on with your new puppy. If you incorporate a consistent potty schedule and routine, your puppy will be more successful with learning when and where he or she is supposed to use the restroom. Take your puppy outside frequently. It is suggested to take them outside every two hours throughout the day as well as immediately after they wake up and after eating or drinking. Always take your puppy to the same spot outside so they learn where their potty spot is. When your puppy successfully uses the restroom outside, reward them! Reward them immediately after they finish rather than waiting until you go back inside. By doing this, your puppy will learn what is expected of them. Command words like “go potty” also help.
Crate training your puppy at an early age can also be very beneficial. Enclosed spaces create a safe place for your puppy to rest and relax. Your puppy’s crate will help him or her adjust to their new home and give them a place of their own where they know they are safe. It will also give you peace of mind knowing your puppy isn’t tearing up something of yours or using the restroom somewhere in your house when you aren’t home. Crates should have a positive connection for the puppy, and doing things like keeping the door open and feeding in the crate can help. Never use a crate as a “time-out” location as it can build fear to the crate for the puppy.
At this age, it is also recommended to begin teaching your puppy basic obedience commands (such as “sit” and “come”) as well as name recognition. Socializing your puppy at an early age will also get them used to being around other people. Redirecting certain negative behaviors is also important at this age. Puppies explore with their nose and mouth. Provide them with chew toys, but make sure they know the difference between your shoes, your hands, and their chew toys. Toys should never be extremely hard- they should be soft enough to indent with a fingernail. Kongs and lick mats are good options.
10 – 12 Weeks Old
As your puppy gets older, start introducing more obedience commands to them. If your puppy has a lot of energy, they may even enjoy being introduced to “fetch” and “drop it” during play sessions. When your puppy follows a command, reward them. When they receive rewards, it helps to reinforce the correct behavior.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get your puppy comfortable with a leash and harness. Let your puppy get used to wearing their harness around the house. By doing this, they won’t be confused when you take them outside for a walk with it on. It is important that your puppy is comfortable with being on a leash and harness so that you can take them out and about without worrying about them getting away. You’ll also be able to continue introducing your pup to new people for continued socialization. When you take your puppy on walks with the leash and harness, he or she will get used to common outside noises and situations. You don’t want your puppy to be scared when a car drives by or if they hear a horn honking.
Another great skill to teach your puppy as he or she gets older is impulse control. Teach your puppy to “sit” before setting down the food and water bowls. Once they are calm and sitting, gently place the bowls down and release them from the sitting position with a simple word such as “okay”. Using the command “wait” or “stay” after sits can lessen confusion.
The older your puppy gets, the more complex training routines and commands you can introduce. At this age, “stay” and “leave it” are great commands to teach. You can even try combining different commands to keep your puppy engaged. They can start this with impulse control and slowly extend wait times during this period.
4 – 6 Months Old
By this age, you should be working on the different commands with your puppy outside of your home as well as in public places. By taking your puppy to the park, they will be able to continue to socialize and practice following your commands in unfamiliar places.
Start to wean your puppy off receiving food rewards for listening and following commands. Begin to introduce praise and affection when your puppy demonstrates the correct behavior.
6 Months – 1 Year Old
At this point, your puppy should know all the basic commands and be potty trained. From this point on, continue to reinforce what they have already learned. It is important to maintain structure in your home for the puppy. When you begin to ease up on training and structure, it is not uncommon for puppies to start chewing, nipping, having accidents, and other negative behaviors.
Proper training will help build a special bond between you and your puppy. Your pup will learn to trust and respect you while you gain love and admiration for your pup’s potential and capabilities.
Classes or activities like obedience courses, agility trials, scent training, or even having them trained in a different language can be a bonding experience for you and your dog. Puzzle toys are also a great way to keep your dog’s mind working in a productive way.