That said, early training is always ideal. This means that if you’ve recently adopted or are planning to adopt a puppy, you’ll want to get started on the training process as soon as possible—no matter how distractingly cute your rambunctious little pup may be!
When to Start Training Your Puppy
Puppies are natural learners. Despite their short attention spans, they’re constantly soaking in new information as they explore the world around them.
While the thought of diving into formal training sessions right away may seem overwhelming, it’s important to begin training the moment you bring your little pup home with you. Even the smallest interactions can be an opportunity for a lesson in manners: how you greet each other, how you play gently, or how you walk together using a leash, for example.
The longer you wait to address and correct your new dog’s behavior, the more likely he is to develop bad habits which he’ll need to unlearn later on. Within the first year, you’ll want to prioritize the following:
- Socializing your puppy
- Teaching basic commands
- Potty training
- Crate training (or learning to be comfortable when alone to avoid separation anxiety)
In order to set the foundation for successful training, you’ll also need to focus on establishing a predictable routine and developing a strong relationship with your pooch. The more he trusts you, the more he’ll want to follow your direction.
It’s also worth noting that even if you missed the peak training window—whether you’ve adopted an older dog, or simply didn’t get around to properly training your puppy—it’s never too late. Training may just require some extra patience, energy, and effort, but it’s certainly doable.
Socializing Your Puppy
A socialized dog is typically a happy dog. Socialization is, essentially, teaching your puppy that the world isn’t a scary place as you expose him to different experiences, situations, people, and pets. Through socialization, you’re preparing your pup to feel comfortable and confident in various environments and settings.
Ideally, you would be able to socialize your puppy when he’s between the ages of eight weeks and four months old. Gradually expose him to different surfaces and textures, sounds, animals, and people, keeping in mind that too much at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive.
Teaching Your Puppy Basic Commands
Puppies are able to start learning simple commands (ie: “sit,” “down,” and “stay”) as early as seven or eight weeks old. The earlier you teach your pup these foundational commands, the easier it will be to teach him more complex obedience commands and tricks as he gets older.
Food-lure training tends to be an effective method when it comes to puppies and obedience training. Use small pieces of food, a favorite toy, or training treats to motivate your puppy to cooperate. For example, give the “sit” command, and then place the food over your puppy’s nose and backwards until he sits down.
It’s important that you only give the command once, and then use the food to position your puppy until he catches on. Don’t keep repeating the command, or he’ll learn that he doesn’t need to obey right away.
Whenever you practice obedience training, make sure to do so in a quiet environment free from distractions. Additionally, keep your pup’s attention span in mind—training sessions should be kept short and sweet to maintain that positive association.
Potty Training Your Puppy
Potty training: the not-so-fun but VERY crucial part of puppy training. Puppy potty training is best done between 12-16 weeks old; before that, your pup is still learning to control his bladder and bowels!
Early on, you should implement a consistent, predictable routine so your pooch knows when to anticipate his bathroom breaks. For example, bathroom breaks should occur:
- When you wake up
- When your pup wakes up from a nap
- After meals
- After drinking water
- After playtime or exercising
- Before you go to bed
Whenever you take your pup outside, use the same door and go to the same spot. After he does his business, offer plenty of praise (ideally, in treat form). Eventually, your pup will catch on and learn to communicate with you that he needs to go outside before he soils the house.
Crate Training Your Puppy
Some pet owners see crate training as a cruel form of confinement. However, when used correctly, crates can be incredibly beneficial for both you and your dog.
A crate provides your pup with a safe, secure space all to himself. Dogs are den animals by nature, so a crate can be incredibly comforting for an anxious dog. They also help to establish a sense of independence, teaching your dog to be okay on his own for occasional periods of time. Plus, crates can be a helpful house training tool: if your puppy sleeps in a crate at night, he’s much less likely to soil his own space.
Ideally, your dog’s crate should be big enough for him to stand up and turn around, but not big enough that he can make a mess and comfortably avoid it. Remember, you’re trying to encourage him to hold his bladder until he goes outside!
Note: a crate should never be used as a form of punishment.
As you teach your puppy how to navigate the world around him with proper etiquette, you’ll also want to promote his overall health. Pet Honesty’s SuperVitamin+ Chews are formulated for dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes to support multiple areas of health and keep your pup in peak condition. (Plus, they come in a tasty smoked salmon flavor!)