Like babies, puppies have a lot to learn in the first few months of life. When it comes to interacting with their environment and exhibiting good manners, it is never too early to start training your puppy.
It is important to note that, because puppies are such enthusiastic students, every interaction with your new little furry friend is a potential lesson. From simple behaviors such as the way you greet them all the way to where they’re expected to relieve themselves, your puppy will pick up on what is acceptable behavior rather quickly. As a result, the basic training your puppy receives during their first few months in your home will serve as a basis for more complex learning later on.
There are different types of training you can begin applying with your puppy when they are as young as eight weeks of age, while more complex behavioral lessons can be done when they are a little older. Still, all training for puppies (at least until they are six months old) must be short, fun, and filled with positive reinforcement.
To set your puppy up for success when training, make sure they are well-rested and relaxed, while keeping plenty of puppy treats on hand. It is best to choose a high-value treat that is small in size but still tasty enough to keep your puppy interested.
Puppy Training Schedule by Age
8 to 10 Weeks
Congratulations! You just welcomed your new puppy into their forever home. Over the next two weeks, all training will be focused on helping them adjust to their new environment and setting up a healthy routine. This helps them start off on the right foot (or paw!) when it comes to behavior.
Start with setting a daily routine for your puppy. Make sure their meals, play times, nap times, and even potty times all follow a consistent schedule. Puppies thrive when they know what to expect, and a schedule will help them do just that. You should also account for alone times, which is when your puppy will learn to be comfortable when left alone. Without alone times, puppies may develop separation anxiety and struggle to be away from their owners.
Your primary focus during this time will be potty training. This one may take more than a couple of weeks for your puppy to understand and master, but they will usually learn quicker if introduced to crate-training early on. Teach your dog to feel safe and comfortable in the crate, and they’ll soon become comfortable with scheduled potty times.
An easy command to start practicing at this age is “sit”, which teaches your puppy to control impulses. Whenever your puppy responds to your cure correctly, offer them an immediate treat and congratulate them on a job well-done. Start in a low-distraction environment then move the practice elsewhere when you feel your puppy has mastered undistracted sitting.
10 to 12 Weeks
Now a little bit older and therefore a little bit wiser, your puppy may be ready to start learning more commands, the most common being “stay” and “come here”. These are vital in impulse control and may protect your dog from engaging with potentially dangerous surroundings when out and about.
This is also when your puppy begins teething; they will want to chew and bite everything. Teach them to direct their chewing to more appropriate outlets, such as specialized toys. You can also reduce their tendency to bite you by utilizing the “ouch” technique.
Body handling is important to introduce at this stage, which includes a variety of caretaking processes that your puppy should be completely comfortable with, such as brushing their hair and teeth, clipping their nails, and checking their paws and tail for any injuries. You can start by checking your puppy’s mouth, ears, neck, paws and tail on a daily basis. Once they feel safe, you can then begin introducing items such as toothbrushes and nail clippers.
You should still be potty training your puppy throughout.
Three to Four Months
Hooray! Your puppy is now old enough to be vaccinated, which means they can begin to socialize with other puppies. While they are still too young for a crowded off-leash dog park, your puppy would benefit from meeting a few puppies of similar age in a controlled environment.
You can begin leash training your puppy. Teach them to walk alongside you and not pull on their leash, and listen to the “sit” and “stay” commands even when distracted by other animals or humans outside.
Four to Six Months
At this age, your puppy should be fully house-broken with few to no accidents indoors. They should also know polite leash manners and be able to socialize with humans and other dogs. Nonetheless, you should continue offering them positive reinforcement through alternate rewards such as playing or toys.
If you are struggling with puppy training, you can always sign up for a basic puppy training class or hire a professional trainer for best results. This is also recommended in case you wish to teach your older dog a more specialized skill, such as protection or service training.