The perfect puppy…
It’s the vision that we as puppy owners all dreamt about. A puppy that’s leisurely strolling beside you, or sitting calmly at your feet at an outdoor cafe. But there are some steps to do to make sure your pup is on the right track with their training in order to get there!
In the beginning, that perfect pup will come with some growing pains: nipping, chewing, potty accidents, barking, and more. Your puppy is growing and developing quickly. Once they’ve been home for a couple of weeks, your puppy should know the basics of a daily routine and be working on some obedience training and learning basic commands.
So how do you know what you should begin training your pup first on? No matter what age you bring home your new pup, you can use our puppy training schedule as a guideline to help your puppy grow, develop, and learn the good manners they need at home and in the world to help shape them into becoming that perfect pup you envisioned!
1. Use Reward-Based Training!
When you’re starting puppy training, research different puppy trainers in your area or online puppy training schools and their training styles. We at The Puppy Academy utilize reward-based training which uses high-value rewards like food treats and toys to encourage the right behavior from your puppy! This mode of puppy training will help establish confidence in your pup, trust in you as their leader, motivate your puppy to work and learn, and instill a lasting positive experience for your puppy
2. Be Patient and Consistent!
It’s easy to become frustrated with the puppy training process. Puppies are young and still figuring out the world, so they will make mistakes. It takes time to establish communication between yourself and your puppy, so don’t expect them to get it on the first try!
To get them on track faster, maintain a consistent schedule for your puppy. Consider creating a daily puppy schedule that includes potty breaks, feeding and playtimes, puppy training sessions, and nap times! This will help your puppy learn to understand the daily household routine, feel confident and secure, provide structure, and promote good behavior.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice!
That saying “practice makes perfect” is totally true when it comes to puppy training! You’ll want to schedule a few short training sessions each day to teach and practice their commands. With young puppies, you may only be able to hold their attention for 5-10 minutes at a time, and about 10-15 minutes with older puppies. A great time to do this is at your puppy’s mealtime, as you can have them work to earn their breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Keep these training sessions short, fun, and motivating for your pup so they can’t wait to do them again and again! And, once your puppy has completed the appropriate vaccination routine, start practicing their training routines in different locations! This will help solidify their commands, and encourage the same correct behaviors wherever you bring your puppy!
Now that we covered those three key topics, it’s time to develop your puppy’s training schedule. Below we outlined a basic puppy training schedule that starts from two months of age (8 weeks) that you can use as your puppy grows. If your puppy is older and hasn’t learned everything outlined here yet, go back to fill in some of those missing areas if need be. It’s important to keep in mind that each pup learns at a different speed, so some may need longer at certain stages, and some will be able to move on to more advanced training quicker. Go at your pup’s speed, and don’t rush them if they’re just not ready yet to move on to the next!
8-10 Weeks Old
This is around the age that many new puppy owners bring home their new puppy. During this phase of your pup’s life, they should be learning the basics such as their name, good manners at home, introducing some commands, and some early socialization.
Get your puppy used to a daily schedule that includes their feeding and water times, play and training times, potty breaks, and naptimes.
Potty training your puppy should start as soon as your puppy comes home! The best way to start potty training your pup is by incorporating a potty schedule to teach your pup where to go on the right spot, and how to hold it! If you are trying to determine your potty training schedule, as a general guideline, take your puppy’s age in months and then divide it in half to determine how long they can go in between potty breaks. For more information on potty training your puppy, visit our potty training blog post!
Crate training is one of the most valuable assets for puppy training and puppy parents! We find that it is super helpful at speeding up the housebreaking process and how it helps create an independent puppy and reduces separation anxiety. For more information on crate training your puppy, visit our crate training blog post!
Introduce basic obedience commands Sit & Come at this stage. These will be two of the most useful commands in your arsenal that you will probably use every day for the rest of your pup’s life. We recommend that you introduce these commands during mealtime. Start with some of your puppy’s food in your hand, let them smell it, and start taking backward steps away from them as you say “Come” with your hand extended out to lure them towards you. When they come to you, reward them with a “Good!” and the food! Next, you can teach them how to sit by arching your hand, with their food in it, up over their nose and past the top of their head as you say “Sit”, and when their butt hits the ground, again say “Good!” and give them the food again! Say the word “Come” when your puppy is following you for their food and water bowls. And have them settle and even guide them into a seated position and say the word “sit” before giving them their bowls.
Start socialization with your family and close friends first. Throughout your pup’s life they will encounter new people so getting them used to it early on will help them positively associate those interactions.
Name recognition is super important and will be the one thing you’ll certainly use for the rest of your pup’s life! When interacting with your pup, say their name throughout the day and get their attention on you while saying their name. We love using food with this! Each time they look at you or come to you, reward them with excitement and food! To help encourage eye contact, bring a piece of their food up to your eyes, and reward them when they look at you! Want a fun way to teach your puppy their name? Play the name game!
Start to redirect chewing and mouthing behaviors as they occur with the help of a chew toy! Your puppy will be exploring their world with their nose and mouth. You’ll want to make sure that they know the difference between your hands, feet, and shoes from their chew toys! Visit our puppy chewing and puppy nipping blogs for help!
10-12 Weeks Old
At this point, you will begin to expand on your pup’s commands, socialization, and impulse control.
Introduce more basic obedience commands such as Place, Down, and Heel at home. For these commands, you’ll want to utilize a high-value reward to help in teaching them. For puppies with higher energy, you can also begin to teach them Fetch and Drop-It during play sessions!
Introduce the leash and harness to your puppy if you have not already done so at 8-10 weeks. These will be the two most utilized tools in your pup’s life when they are out and about with you. Let your puppy get used to their harness and leash by letting them wear it around the house while you supervise them. For help with getting your puppy to love their leash and harness, visit our leash training blog!
Continue socialization by introducing new people and letting your puppy meet calm dogs post-vaccinations. Additionally, start getting them used to common noises they will hear in everyday situations such as construction, traffic, garbage trucks, etc. by playing recordings that you can find in YouTube videos. We get that “socializing” is a bit tough these days with social distancing orders, so make sure to visit our socialization blog for help!
Impulse control practice by having your puppy wait for their food and water bowls. Ask them to Sit before setting down their bowls. Place their bowls down once they are calm and release them from sitting with a word like “Break” or “Okay”!
Start threshold training which involves asking your puppy to Sit at doorways, open doors, crosswalks, etc., and then walk through them calmly. This will help discourage your puppy from lunging and pulling each time they see an open doorway to another room a.k.a. a new adventure to explore, and helps your walks be calmer.
3-4 Months Old
Your puppy is starting to grow up quickly and you can start to work in more complex training routines with the commands they’ve learned!
Introduce Stay and Leave-It commands to your puppy!
Start command combinations and work indoors. Try to get your puppy practice duration work by holding their commands longer, for example, a long Sit and Stay, and also try to link some commands together! Here’s a fun combination to try: Sit > Down > Stay > Come > Place. You can work on different combinations to really keep your puppy engaged!
Practice Heel outdoors in your driveway or sidewalk in front of your house to ease them into some of the outside distractions!
Begin to socialize with other new pups after your puppy has received all their vaccinations!
4-6 Months Old
At this point, your puppy should start to work on their commands outside your home and in public spaces, as well as continue to socialize!
Advance on their commands by practicing them outside your home in the front or backyard. Bring your puppy to a new location, such as the park, and practice their commands and some command combinations.
Extend your walks with your puppy from down the block to further down the block. Work on your puppy’s leash training and Heel command!
Start to wean your puppy off of food rewards at this point while they are training by asking for several commands first before giving a food reward, or by using praise or affection when they respond with the correct behavior instead!
6 Months – 1-Year-Old
Your puppy should know all of its basic commands and have a solid foundation of potty training, crate training, and socialization. From this point on, you will continue to work with your puppy to reinforce what they have already learned!
Continue to reinforce all the commands your puppy has learned and stat to incorporate what we call the 3Ds: distance, duration, and distractions to them! Introduce more distance between you and your pup as you practice their commands, have them hold commands for longer periods of time, and had in more distractions to have them work through! We recommend using a long time to practice these safely outdoors and don’t forget to include Recall to practice your pup coming to you from longer distances
Maintain structure at home! Your puppy is in an adolescent phase and can act up if left to its own devices. It’s not uncommon for pups to start chewing, nipping, potty accidents, or other behaviors if their training and structure start to ease up at home!
Generally, every week and month should progress with socialization: meeting new people, other puppies, experiences, noises, etc. You should continue progressing their potty schedule and eventually as your puppy grows and can hold it longer, start increasing the time between potty breaks. The first whole year of your puppy’s life will involve basic obedience training, reinforcing good manners in the home and training, and maintaining structure. By doing this consistently, you can ensure that your puppy will retain their training and good behaviors throughout the rest of their life. Even if your puppy started at an older age, you can work on catching your puppy up so they are on track to being well-behaved by the time they reach their 1-year mark!