Puppy training is one of the most daunting, but most rewarding task you'll ever take as a dog owner.
Why? Because you'll get to shape your puppy into the ideal dog that you always want - loyal, smart and incredibly affectionate to you.
Training your dog early also leads to the dog being far more socialized and adjusted, resulting in far less behavioral problems for you and other pets and owners.
The other upsides to you would also be that you'd be a far more experienced dog owner, and you can replicate these techniques over and over to any new puppy you have.
Better yet - you could also teach people what you know, especially if you developed a unique methodology or insight!
In a way, it's nearly like raising your own child, but with four legs, and remains extremely adorable their entire lifetime.
Ready to take the plunge?
Let's get right into it.
Before training considerations
There are a couple of considerations before we begin the puppy training in earnest. Namely:
Well-being of puppy
As much as we want to have the perfect dog and train our puppies to be perfect, it's also important to consider the puppy's emotional health.
This means you make sure that you create an environment where the puppy feels safe around you.
Simply put, make sure you don't raise your voice to the puppy, and always be affectionate and loving to them.
It's still new to you and the world, and any negative experiences early on will damage your relationship with the puppy,
This also means making sure that your puppy's needs are met.
Does your pup need to go out and pee or poo?
Don't force them to hold it in, as it can create accidents in the future.
Has your dog been exercised enough?
You'll know if they finish the day with you, exhausted but happy to snuggle by your side.
The point is to ensure that all the puppy's needs are met with positivity and love first, before the training. The relationship with your puppy is the most crucial at this age!
Have ideal setting for puppy to learn before bringing puppy home
Alongside any puppy positivity and love, it's also important to consider the practical side of it - do you have the necessary tools ready and prepared for puppy training?
In a way, it's almost like preparing to take care of a human baby; you'll need to research and prepare the best tools and knowledge to welcome the baby into the world.
In the same way, you should prepare the best tools to the best that you can for the arrival of your new family member too!
This includes the leashes that the puppy will be using, toys, and beds, but more on that in the FAQ section on recommended tools.
Of course, things can and will change depending on the situation. However, it's always good to have some idea of what should be prepared as your puppy grows up into the dog you want it to be!
Puppy Training Timeline
For the best result (and the most well behaved dog), it's best to know how to train your puppy early.
However, there are certain ages where you should be doing more specific training, as their trust in you grows, but more on that on the timeline itself.
8 - 16 weeks
Ideally, when you get your puppy at 8 - 16 weeks old, the best thing you can let them do is to explore their new world.
That's right, just let them sniff you, your home, the yard, and everything they can get their little paws on.
Let them experience the world.
This is because this is the time when they're still very new in the world, and everything is a new experience with them.
You should enjoy this too - they won't stay tiny and adorable like this forever!
During this period, dog socialization is also ideal - it's a great time for them to get to know other dogs that you have, or introduce them to dogs at the local dog park.
This is so that they'll learn how to essentially be a dog - smelling each other, learning how to play and frolic around and be a little ball of love and energy.
This is also the time to start visiting your vet to get them used to body handling by the vet and the vet technicians (i.e. nail trimming, injections, being carried etc.)
The earlier you start this familiarization for your puppy, the better it'll carry over for the rest of it's life - your puppy will learn that vets are not scary, nor want to hurt them.
Basic Impulse Control
It is also at this time where you can begin with the earliest of the dog obedience training - the "sit" command.
This helps your puppy learn impulse control, and teaches the dog to wait - and "sit" - before they get a reward (which can be a dog treat, or whatever you think your dog likes more!)
You can start this basic impulse control training as early as 8 weeks old, or as soon as you get your dog home. However, make sure that your puppy is comfortable at home and with the surroundings first
4 - 6 Months
By 4 to 6 months old, your puppy should be quite familiar with the basic "sit" command, as well as learn how to be a dog.
The above is important - once we hit the 6 month phase, your dog will begin to learn very quickly. And it's up to the dog owner to make sure that the pup learns the right things, and not pick up bad habits!
It is also at this time that you should introduce your dog to a leash and learn to let your puppy walk with a leash.
This will also allow you to correct any behavior that is not acceptable, such as pulling too much on the leash.
Learning how and when to play
By 6 months old, you dog should begin to know how and when to play, as well as when to stop.
For example, when you tell your dog to "drop it" as a command, your dog will stop what it's doing and drop whatever it's carrying in the mouth.
This is extremely crucial, because this can eventually save a dog's life!
Puppies at 6 months old are at an age where they're teething and constantly biting and chewing at everything, even things that can potentially be very life-threatening. So, learning when to play is important, but learning when to stop is just as important!
When I had Kafka years ago, I had to shout "Drop it" to him - he froze and out of his mouth, dropped a grape that I had dropped by accident in the kitchen. Talk about a brush with death! (he wasn't a puppy then, so he immediately knew what to do after being drilled into him)
But of course, all this should be done force-free. If you do impose some kind of physical force, it will hurt your relationship with the puppy, and they might eventually see you not as an owner, but a bully that they will not like.
At this point, we assume that you've already gotten the proper dog beds, pee pads and the necessary equipment to help your dog learn the places around the house, and what it can or cannot do at specific spots.
At this age, you should continue to house train your dog. Especially teaching them where to eliminate in the right places!
Crate Training and being alone
It is also at this time that crate training your puppy can begin.
Crates, when covered by a dark cloth helps to simulate a den for your puppy, which it will recognize as a safe space for it to rest.
Crate training a puppy is important because it'll help it remain calm in a safe space, and it's a great tool to ensure that your puppy can be left alone for a short period of time.
The next step in dog obedience training, the "recall" command basically gets your puppy to come back at the command "Come", or similar words.
This again can be quite a useful skill for your dog to master, especially if it wanders close to a busy road or traffic intersection. In this case, you can possibly avert a dangerous situation for your dog!
Continued impulse control
At this age, if done right, your puppy should be politely asking you for their favorite things by sitting first. This means sitting before getting food, playing, and so on.
If your puppy still barks, jumps or nips at you for attention, you'll need to make sure that you reward the behavior you want of the dog, and not the behavior that is unacceptable.
6 - 12 Months
Your puppy is nearly all grown up and is almost an adult - congratulations!
This also means that the puppy training timeline is nearly at the end, and both you and your puppy will be reaping the benefits of a well trained dog soon!
Mastery of basic behaviors
Basically, your puppy should be quite well versed and very good at the basic obedience training techniques and impulse control now.
Your puppy should know how to "Sit", "Come back", and "leave it" well even with distractions. And be able to walk on a leash relatively well.
Once your pup has mastered the basics, you can move on to more difficult commands. Or, just leave this as it is and continue building the relationship between your now adult dog and yourself 🙂
Caveat on puppies younger than 8 weeks
A point to note here: Sometimes you might adopt a dog that is younger than 8 weeks. Usually, these cases are quite exceptional - they're usually abandoned or orphaned puppies.
But if you happen to chance across a breeder that lets you take puppies younger than 8 weeks, DO NOT TAKE THEM AT THAT AGE. There are a few reasons for this:
They don't know how to be a dog
Usually, the mother dog teaches the puppy quite a few things up until 8 weeks of age - most importantly, how to be a dog.
If separated from it's mother, an under 8 week old puppy should not be separated from it's littermates.
When puppies leave their mother and littermates too young, it tends to manifest in behavioral problems.
The most common one would be a lack of confidence and great fear, due to the puppy being alone.
Another common problem would be that the puppy can be very independent, which can cause the dog to not bond with you at all.
Or worse, the puppy will attach itself to you so closely that it'll not be able to relax if the puppy can't find or see you.
Basically, the puppy will be in a permanent state of panic, or in a flight-or-flight mode if taken too early from their family.
Because of this, they won't act very well around even other puppies and interactions can go badly. So, they will be very socially inept, until another dog teaches them how to be a dog again.
A lot more blood-drawing biting
As with above, one of the lessons a mother dog and its littermates teaches her puppies is to control its biting.
While biting in puppies is common and expected, they won't know how hard is 'hard', and is very likely to draw blood from even a play bite.
This can result in the dog also being scared to bite at all - the puppy certainly didn't want to make you bleed. But the implications of this trauma can haunt a dog for the rest of its life.
More difficulty in house training
When a puppy is too young (i.e. 3 - 4 weeks old or younger), their bladder and bowel control is not strong, so they would find it very hard to learn how to eliminate effectively.
This means they will relieve themselves when they need to, and making the lessons not stick.
It can be made worse with a dog owner who doesn't have patience with these young pups - their confidence and trust with the owner will be broken.
Having puppies too young is actually illegal in the United States!
So having puppies too young is literally illegal, and can land you in unnecessary legal soup.
Other Tips and FAQ
Here are other tips that can help you train your puppy a little better, and a little easier.
This FAQ section is always growing based on new information, so check back often!
Tips to make training fun and pleasurable
Some dogs respond to different sorts of positive reinforcement. For example, if you observe that your puppy prefers praise and touch over food, you can definitely use that in place of treats!
Of course, treats should still be used for food-specific training, but don't forget to pile on all the praise and love for your puppy.
Also always remember to reward the behavior you want. When your puppy runs up to you and sits calmly instead of jumping around, it's a good time to praise and reward your puppy!
At the same time, ignore the behavior you find unacceptable. If your puppy bites your hand hard when playing, withdraw any attention.
Then, return and offer a toy. When your puppy grabs the toy, praise your puppy and continue play.
Assume good intentions!
Dogs are rarely stubborn, and NEVER vengeful.
If your puppy doesn't follow a cue or command, it's most probably because it still doesn't quite understand what you're saying.
Dogs also learn very contextually - a "sit" command in your quiet, calm home may work, while the same command might not work at a noisier dog park.
Practicing in different environments and situations will help set your puppy up for far better success!
Anxious puppies can cause accidents
Sometimes dogs do things unintentionally when anxious, such as eliminating in the wrong area of the house. Don't get mad! It might not have fully understood the house training yet, and a bit of patience will work wonders with it's learning.
However if this happens often and regularly, your puppy might have some bladder issues, and you should schedule a visit to the vet.
Your dog 100% did not do it out of anger, or to spite you. I can guarantee that.
You can find our review for best dog beds for puppies here - there are 7 beds listed, and they perform well in different circumstances.
The other recommended tools are coming soon!
Remember that for each phase of a puppy's life, you should be getting them to learn and do certain commands - these impulse control trainings will snowball and lead to greater discipline for your dog. This will also make your life a lot easier and be able to get them out of dangerous situations!
At the same time, if you notice your dog trying to do what you asked but are failing, be kind and gentle with them - they're trying their best.
Of course if it's a repeated problem, they might have certain bodily issues. In this case, consider bringing them to the veterinarian for a checkup (which can also end up as a positive learning experience for your puppy!)
If you need tools, have a look at the list in the recommended tools section - we always make sure to thoroughly review and offer the best, most honest choices that will benefit you and your beloved puppy.