Training a puppy is a major commitment. Most puppies can be potty trained in 4 to 6 months – but “puppyhood” can last up to three years. If you have a puppy, plan on spending the next three years training your puppy for at least 20 minutes per day. By the time he is a full-grown dog, all the effort you put into training will pay off – and you’ll have a well-adjusted companion and a new best friend.
Starting Training Early
On day one, start training your furry friend not to pee on the floor, chew through the trash, bite, and yank on the leash. Expect to spend several hours a day caring for your puppy, playing, or training at least three times a day — in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening.
The goal is to create and reinforce good habits and build a loving bond with your puppy. This is the foundation of raising a puppy into a balanced, well-behaved dog. It all starts with a solid routine – and a lot of love.
The total amount of time it takes to train your puppy depends on how much time and effort you put into training, your skills as a trainer, the age of your puppy and his personality, and the goals you want to accomplish. It can be frustrating but stick with it, and you will have a well-trained puppy in the end.
When it comes to puppy training, the goal is to have your puppy repeat good behaviors and eliminate bad behaviors. The more your puppy practices good behavior, the more likely he is to repeat it. Puppies learn from people through a process called “conditioning.”
The first thing you should train your puppy are the words “yes” and “no.” When your puppy does something good, say “yes” and reward with a treat. Likewise, when your puppy does something bad, say “no” and redirect him into doing something positive. Another fundamental part of training is establishing consistent rules and a fixed routine.
In the beginning, everything is new and stressful for your puppy. Establishing a routine is essential for quickly integrating your puppy into the family rhythm. Consistent rules also avoid confusion and make training go faster.
Potty training is an important step in training your dog. Training a puppy to pee outside takes 4 to 6 months on average, but it can be a lot quicker if you are very consistent about taking your puppy outside every few hours. Some puppies can be potty trained in as little as two weeks. Plan on taking your puppy out for a potty break as soon as he wakes up, during or after playing, and after meals.
Very young puppies do not have the bladder control nor the communication skills to tell you they need to go out. No amount of punishment will train a puppy not to have an accident on the floor. If you see your puppy peeing in the house, immediately take him outside to finish his business. After he goes, set a timer for two hours. Take your puppy out again when it goes off. Repeat for the next three months.
Most puppies will enjoy going outside with you, and naturally prefer to pee on grass instead of their “den” area – especially if you reward good behavior with lots of affection and a bit of playtime.
It generally takes about 3 to 4 weeks to train your puppy not to bite. Your puppy does not have hands, so he will use his mouth to play. Play along. Get some fun chew toys or play tug-of-war. If your puppy nips, say “ouch!” in a high-pitched voice and stop the game for five seconds.
This is the same way puppies naturally learn not to bite each other. If one puppy bites too hard, the other puppy squeals and all the fun stops. Keep playing the game and repeat the lesson if the puppy intentionally or accidentally bites again.
Have a chew toy handy to redirect your puppy’s mouthing behavior to something other than your hand. Puppies normally learn bite inhibition at around 7-10 weeks of age. Teething and chewing happen at around 3 to 6 months of age. During this time, keep lots of fun toys around so your pup always has something appropriate to gnaw on. It’s also a good idea to keep babies and young children away from the puppy until he learns that biting people is not a game.
5 Obedience Commands
Dog obedience is a lifelong training process, but you can train your puppy simple commands in a few days. There are five basic commands you should start training your puppy when he is at least eight weeks old: sit, down, stay, come, and leave it.
The easiest command to teach a puppy is how to sit. Hold a treat close to your puppy’s nose and say “sit!” while moving your hand up, so he will look up and sit down. Reward your puppy with a treat and affection.
After your puppy learns how to sit, try the “down” command by moving your hand and the treat to the floor, so your pup follows the treat. These same techniques can be used to teach harder commands like “come” or “stay.” All it takes is consistent practice, patience, and motivation.
Crate training is an easy and essential part of your puppy’s training, and can usually be accomplished in 2 to 4 weeks – though it varies from puppy to puppy. Some will accept being crated with little or no fuss, while others need careful coaching for weeks or even months.
The slowest process involves meticulously rewarding your puppy for spending time in the crate, extending time in the crate, and closing the door and leaving the room. Even with the best training, crates are going to be stressful because it is unnatural for a puppy to be separated from the pack.
Sleepless nights are a common frustration that many new puppy owners experience as they go through months of crate training. Night time is also challenging because your puppy will need to be let out mid-way through the night to potty and then try to go back to sleep in the dog crate. Tiring your puppy out before crating can help reduce some anxiety.
Socialization is one of the most time-intensive parts of training a puppy. Puppies under four months old will need several play sessions per day instead of a walk until they have had all shots. For young puppies, the most important socialization period is from 4 to 12 weeks of age. In nature, this is the period when your puppy would have ventured away from his mother and begun interacting with other members of the pack.
As your puppy grows, he should be exposed to other people, dogs, places, sounds, and smells to build self-confidence and social skills. High-energy dog breeds will need at least two walks or play sessions at a dog park every day. It takes a lot of time, but dogs who are poorly socialized in puppyhood can develop permanent anxiety, depression, fear or aggression issues. With you by their side every day, your puppy will find his place in the pack.
Teaching a puppy how to fetch seems like an easy task, but the reality is that some puppies will instinctively pick up the game when they are 6 to 8 months old, and others will never understand — even retrievers. Fetch is an advanced game, so start with the basics. First, you will need a toy that your puppy is motivated to chase. If your puppy isn’t motivated by toys yet, start with easier games like tug-of-war before you start training how to fetch.
Continue with easy games until your puppy is reliably looking at the toy as a reward and watching you attentively when you have the toy in your hand. Then throw the toy and encourage your puppy to chase after it and pick it up. Next, teach your puppy to drop the toy.
This is an excellent lesson even if your puppy does not fetch. Say “drop it!” and reward your puppy when he releases the toy – but do not chase after him if he tries to play “keep away.” You can reinforce good behavior by throwing the toy again and praising him for bringing it back.
If your puppy wanders off or does not bring it back to you, a good trick is to stand next to a box filled with toys in the backyard when you are playing fetch. Puppies may naturally bring the toy back to the toy box, even if it is just to grab a different toy or because they want to see what you are going to toss out of the box next. Gradually step away from the box when you are playing, and eventually, your puppy will learn to bring the toy to you. Fetch is a great way to exercise and have fun together.
Walk on a Leash
Like you, puppies need exercise every day. Training a puppy to walk on a leash is one of the longest and hardest parts of dog training, but also the most rewarding. It can take years before a dog is fully trained to walk in a straight line with a slack leash. The best strategy is to start in early puppyhood. Introduce a collar as soon as you can.
Once you are bonded, your puppy will instinctively follow along at your heel as you walk around the house or yard. This is a good time to introduce a light leash in a low-stimulus area like the backyard for short periods of time. When your puppy is fully vaccinated, venture out into the world and slowly build up the intensity of your walks around the neighborhood.
Let your puppy’s energy level be your guide. The key is to start small and control the environment to avoid fearfulness of people, other dogs, or new experiences. At first, your puppy will be more interested in sniffing and exploring everything he sees along the way instead of walking. This is completely normal and age-appropriate behavior.
Your puppy will also get tired after a few blocks. Puppies may not have the stamina or maturity to walk longer distances until they are 6 to 8 months old. It is important not to exercise your young puppy too hard. The first year of leash-training can be frustrating, but your puppy will eventually learn not to yank on the leash, jump, zig-zag, or eat things he shouldn’t.
Training your puppy is an ongoing experience that lasts for years. You’ll be able to train him to do the basics in a few months, but remember never to abandon training and always give positive reinforcement. Make sure you continue to train your puppy. It will make for a more enriching experience for both you and your dog.