When’s the Best Time to Start Puppy Training?
by Bethel Farms on Mar 15, 2023
Did you know that puppies are born temporarily blind and deaf?
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't love these little cuddly balls of fur. Puppies bring happiness to everyone they meet with their cute eyes and diminutive features. That is, until, they take a poop right on your brand-new carpet.
Puppy training is an essential part of any dog's life. Without it, you're risking more than a naughty pet that chews up your pillows. You're risking one that is unruly around humans and may threaten the lives of others.
That said, it's hard to know when to start a puppy's training--and what methods to use. Nor is it fun having to scold your bundle of joy for doing what they naturally do.
We're here to help. Keep reading for the definitive guide on when to start training your puppy at different stages.
Don't Start Puppy Training too Early
While it's important to ingrain good behaviors as soon as possible, understand that it's best to train puppies on a timeline.
For the first few weeks of their life, they're not ready for any of that. They don't even open their eyes until about fourteen days.
Puppies usually spend the first seven weeks of their life with their mothers. They need this time to feed, rest, and gain strength. If to mother is your dog, just ensure she is cared for, fed and watered, and has a warm place to sleep with her pups.
At this moment in their life, all that matters is that you give them light socialization. Get them used to being in your presence. Keep track of any runts, as there may be a health reason they are not growing as fast as the others.
You shouldn't try to wean puppies of their mother's milk until about 3-4 weeks. At that point, you can start to give them puppy food.
Any medical procedures like shots and deworming usually need to wait until six weeks. Puppies have weak immune systems, which they need to build up before getting a vaccine. Then, they need to get their vaccines on a regular basis--every 3-4 weeks.
You can slowly introduce your puppies to more and more people as they get older. Unlike human babies, there's far less risk of a human-to-dog disease infecting them. However, limit how much you hold them until they begin to roam away from their mother.
Early Puppy Training: 8-10 Weeks Old
If you purchased your puppy, this will likely be the age when you can first bring them home from their mother. Understand that this puppy has only just gained its sight and hearing within the past few weeks. You are witnessing it as it first experiences the world.
As such, during these first few weeks, you must demonstrate patience. It's during this period that they:
- Learn what their name is, and begin to respond to it
- Basic good manners for living in your home
- Early socialization to behave well among you and other humans
- Some basic commands
Let's go over some of the key things a puppy will learn during this period.
Get Them Used to Your Home
Chances are your puppy will need a few days to explore your home. They'll want to sniff every part of it and crawl under the furniture. However, it's likely you want them to stay out of the bedroom or upstairs.
At this point in their development, it's best to install puppy gates--toddler gates, if you have them. This creates boundaries that the puppy will eventually learn to understand.
Establish a feeding area. This can be outside or inside, but don't change the location. This way, the puppy will learn where to go when they're hungry.
Most importantly, try to keep their crate in a single place. You want them to automatically associate the crate with quiet time and sleeping time.
Adhere to a Daily Schedule
Puppies don't yet have a schedule for anything. They have a lot of energy, while also requiring a lot of puppy naps. They may sleep half the day and then spend the night yowling for attention.
To get them into a rut, keep a tight schedule.
For starters, have a feeding schedule. Feed them at the same times every day, and in the same place. You can even pair feeding time with a bell or a command so they develop a Pavlovian response to feeding.
Get them used to regular potty breaks after they eat. Even if they don't go, it's still good to take them outside for at least a few minutes.
Let them nap as they need it, but again, pair this with the crate. Eventually, they'll come to love the crate and treat it as their personal space.
Start Potty Training
For most, this is the least favorite part of owning a puppy. Puppies are animals after all, and animals poop and pee whenever they feel like it--wherever they feel like it. It will take at least six months of training before your pup realizes they aren't allowed to relieve themselves inside.
Start potty training from day one. Make potty training a fun trip outside for them, and learn how long they can hold it. They have very small bladders, so they won't usually last more than an hour like an older dog.
You can even calculate how long they can hold it with a simple rule. Divide your puppy's age in months by half. That's how long they can usually hold it before they just go.
Being ready to poop takes longer, of course. The average puppy needs about four hours or so before they need to poo.
Avoid negative reinforcement, such as forcing their face into the poop or pee to dissuade them from doing it there. Positive reinforcement teaches them not to pee inside without traumatizing your dog.
Initiate Crate Training
Crate training is about teaching your dog to love and respect its crate. That means going inside it willingly at night, and not crying when left alone there.
Crate training will take several weeks, and may involve some sleepless nights. The puppy may howl for hours until it overcomes separation anxiety.
However, this is all valuable for a puppy so they learn boundaries and impulse control. They'll need that later when developing other habits and skills.
Learn Basic Obedience Commands
Dogs are very intelligent creatures, though it may not seem like it at first. It will take weeks before your puppy realize what its name is. During this time, they can also learn some basic commands.
Stick with the easiest things they can learn, here. Focus on:
- Come: teach them to come to you paired with hand gestures
- Sit: sitting teaches them patience, especially when eating or getting treats
- Good: paired with a happy voice, this rewards them for good behavior
Give out treats for good behavior to establish positive reinforcement. Don't yell at them or chastise them when they fail. This can make a dog even more difficult to train, result in it lashing out, or worse.
A dog needs to learn how to live around humans--but no dogs until they get vaccinated. Introduce them gradually so they develop good people behavior skills.
Nipping Chewing Behaviors in the Bud
If there's one thing puppies are known for, it's chewing. A puppy will chew up clothes, furniture, and even plants. This is just in their nature, so you can't stop them from chewing.
What you can stop them from chewing is your stuff. Make it clear that they can chew on chew toys and bones. But also make it clear that hands and the carpet are off limits.
Puppy Training for Weeks 10-12
Puppies grow fast, and you may notice a huge change in just the first two weeks. It may seem slow, but be patient. Your puppy can learn a lot!
Teach Them New Obedience Commands
In addition to strengthening old ones, teach them new tricks. These can be things like learning to heel or staying put.
Begin Using a Leash/Harness
Puppies need a while to understand the concept of a leash. Take them on walks around the house, letting them learn that they can't run away while on the leash.
Expand Its Socialization
With vaccinations complete, it's time for your pups to meet other dogs. Let them play with other pups for now. Take them on short walks outside so they can experience everyday sounds and smells.
Puppies will have very poor impulse control still. The easiest way to teach them is by making them wait to eat their food. They can only eat once you give the command.
Puppy Training for Months 3-4
Your puppy has grown a ton by this point. They recognize their name, obey basic commands, and socialize well. Now things get a bit easier.
Strengthen Obedience Training
Now that your dog can follow the commands you taught them early on, build on those commands. Combine it with impulse training. For example, staying still and not jumping up to get a treat.
Improve Control When Outside
Taking a puppy off a leash can be risky with so many outside distractions. This is a good time to teach them how to heel. Give them treats to reward their impulse control.
Further Expand Socialization
Now your puppy has had a few vaccinations and can meet more adult dogs. Let them learn how to interact. Do be ready to step in, though, as some older dogs may be rough with them.
Puppy Training for Months 4-6
At this point, your puppy is starting to feel like an established member of the family. They obey commands, do their business mostly outside, and behave in a wider variety of situations. However, anyone who's owned a puppy knows you're not out of the woods yet.
Teach Them Commands in New Settings
Now improve your dog's command response by practicing away from home. This can be at a park or dog park where other people may be present. These distractions will teach them to focus on you and no one else.
Make them obey commands for longer, and try to do so at longer distances.
Take Longer Walks
Leash discipline is improving, so trust your dog with longer walks. Go all the way around the block and use commands along the way.
Use Affection and Praise Instead of Food
Your puppy has grown to expect food rewards. Now, wean them off of those. Let verbal affirmation replace them so they behave even when you don't have treats.
Puppy Training for Months 6-12
It's hard to say when puppies stop being puppies, but most agree it's about one year. This is when your puppy has almost reached full size. They have a solid base of understanding how to live with you, and may well be very obedient.
With things so established, it's time to refine what they know. Work on any pain points that they have been struggling with up to this point, such as peeing on the bed.
Pet training is a process that continues beyond when a puppy becomes an adult dog! Don't assume that after a certain age, your puppy won't require further training.
Further Increase Commands
Now, you can already teach a puppy more complex commands like roll over. They likely love to play fetch but make sure they return the ball. Teach them how to shake, speak, and do anything else they struggled with before.
Keep a Structure and Schedule
While your puppy may already behave well most of the time, think of them like a young child or teenager. They can and will be disobedient given the chance. Continue positive reinforcement to continue weeding out any bad behaviors.
Keep Some Gotta Go Grass on Hand
Puppy training is essential if you want a dog to be well-behaved, obedient, and well-adjusted. It begins from the moment you bring them home at eight weeks and continues up to their first year. Establish schedules, obedience commands, and provide ample opportunities for socialization.
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