When to Start Training Your Puppy

The day you bring home your new puppy is a happy one. Your new, tiny, four-legged friend will bring you many laughs throughout their puppyhood, but as you will quickly discover, they also require a considerable amount of work. Aside from getting your new puppy their vaccinations and nourishing them with specially designed puppy food, like Bully Max, one of your biggest responsibilities will be to train them to exhibit proper behavior.

Starting with dog training from the moment you welcome your pup home can help establish rules and keep your puppy from developing bad habits. Putting off training until later will only result in you facing a larger dog with poor behaviors that you now need to help them unlearn.

Fortunately, training your new puppy doesn’t have to require hours of labor or be a miserable experience for anyone involved. Instead, it can be an enjoyable bonding time that takes place throughout the day. It can be a time where you and your new puppy get to know one another and improve your mutual communication.

Here’s what you need to know about getting started training your new puppy.

Getting Started With Puppy Training

puppy trainingWhen you bring your puppy home for the first time, you’ll want to develop a plan for training them. Starting from a young age can make considerably less work for you in the long run. Puppy owners will quickly find that a dog that understands where to relieve themselves, comes when called, and can walk properly on the leash is far more enjoyable and less work than one without this understanding.

We’ll discuss the basic principles to keep in mind as you begin to train your puppy.

Keep the Sessions Short

Puppy training should begin by instructing the dog in basic obedience. However, you should note that dogs this young have short attention spans. Therefore, you should plan on conducting your training lessons in 5- to 10-minute bursts a few times throughout the day rather than trying to do it all at once. Generally, aim to train the puppy for 15 to 20 minutes total over the course of the day, each day.

This system helps ensure that you have the full attention of your new dog. It also helps provide natural reinforcement of your lessons throughout the day, which can help your puppy remember.  Your puppy will also appreciate that it leaves plenty of time for playtime. Young dogs have a lot of energy, and helping them get it out with regular exercise and playing opportunities will make them more inclined to listen when you have your lessons.

Puppy Training Best Practices

As you begin to move through your training exercises, here are some general best practices that should help:

  • Consistency is key. Don’t allow the puppy to get you to repeat a command several times before obeying. Once you say the command once, expect a response. If they don’t give that response, gently remind them of the meaning, such as encouraging a seated position after the command, “Sit.”
  • Include all the members of the household. Having family members participate in the training reminds the puppy they need to obey anyone issuing the command.
  • Work on training in a variety of environments. Don’t restrict training to one room, which can create associations of the commands only applying in that room. Use the yard, different rooms of the house and even the sidewalk to practice. As your puppy becomes more experienced, add in distractions, such as practicing at parks.
  • Remember to be patient. This is a very young dog with a lot to learn. Remember the importance of patience throughout the process.

Basic Commands and Skills to Teach to Your Dog

Many young puppies first come to their new homes around 8 weeks of age. Right around this age, your dog is ready to start learning basic obedience commands and some behavioral lessons, such as “Sit” and “Stay,” so start with basic puppy training as soon as they come home.

Around the same age, you can also start working with them on leash training. You want your young puppy to know how to walk calmly on the leash without pulling or trying to play tug-of-war. You can begin leash training with them inside. Start by getting the puppy used to wearing the collar or harness. Then, begin connecting the leash and walking with them around the house.

Also around this young age, you want the puppy to get used to being touched all over. So, gently pet the puppy on their head, paws and stomach so that they get used to this type of interaction. At the same time, you can start introducing the puppy to their crate.

Introducing the Crate and Potty Training

As the puppy starts getting a little older, around 12 weeks, you can start with more intensive crate training. Prior to this age, puppies can’t control their bladders for very long, which makes it a challenge to use the crate for more than a few minutes. By 11 to 12 weeks, you can start using it for one- to three-hour blocks.

Crate training teaches your puppy to see their crate as a safe and secure place where they can go to rest. It becomes like a puppy home. This can be a helpful behavior for your puppy, when they know they have a secure place to retreat if they feel overwhelmed. To help your puppy with crate training:

  • Make sure the crate is large enough for them to comfortably turn around.
  • Add comfortable blankets or other bedding so that it is warm and cozy.
  • Make usage of the crate a low-stress time for the puppy.
  • Do not leave the dog in the crate for too long.

As your puppy becomes crate trained, this can help you with house training. Dogs don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep, so crate training can help introduce the puppy to the idea of only using the bathroom in certain areas. Once your puppy has been crate trained, you can be reasonably confident that they will keep it clean if you need to leave them for a short time. However, puppies do not have great bladder control, so you do not want to make this period of time too long while they are young.

As you work on crate training, you can further emphasize your house breaking lessons. Teach the puppy not only where you do not want them to relieve themselves, but also where they should. Choose an area that the puppy should use and bring them over regularly. This is a particularly important step when the puppy wakes up from a nap or when you let them out of the crate after they have rested in there for a little while.

From the time you bring your puppy home, you want to try and enforce the right areas where they should relieve themselves. However, note that most puppies are trained between 3 and 4 months of age. To avoid accidents with younger puppies, the best course of action is to bring them to the designated bathroom area at regular intervals or as soon as you see behavioral signs that they might need to go. These signs include:

  • Walking in circles
  • Sniffing
  • Going to an area of the house where they have had an accident before
  • Barking at the door

Now that you know the basic progression of training expectations for your puppy, we will review how you can best communicate these ideas to your dog.

The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

puppy handshakePositive reinforcement provides an established means of achieving desired outcomes in dog behavior. The basis of positive reinforcement lies in rewarding good behavior to encourage it to repeat and avoiding punishing bad behavior.

Punishments for dogs generally increase their anxiety, which can actually increase bad behaviors and bad habits, effectively leading to the opposite outcome of what you wanted.

During your training sessions, you want to provide your puppy with an immediate reward for doing a desired behavior. For example, if the puppy sits as soon as you issue the command, they should receive a reward. As the puppy begins to associate positive rewards with following commands and thus begins to obey reliably, you can slowly shift away from providing treats and shift toward expecting the puppy to behave well. To make this shift, consider using two strategies:

  1. Combine the primary reward with secondary rewards, such as back scratches and verbal praise. This praise can then transition to becoming the central reward in most interactions.
  2. Slowly transition to using the reward system on a random basis. Rather than delivering a treat of some sort for every incidence of obedience, it might be on the third incidence, then the fifth, and then the second. This helps prevent patterns from forming and avoids creating a dog that only listens for their treat. Keep in mind that this rate will have to vary depending on the situation. For example, if your dog faces many distractions while on a walk, you will want to increase your rate of reward to help them stay focused.

Keep in mind that you need to find rewards that will matter to your dog. Some puppies might respond best to cuddles or back scratches. Others might like a favorite toy or a particular dog food, such as treats. You need to find a reward that entices them strongly enough that they will look past distractions to listen to you. As you work through this process, you might find that obedience classes are a good choice for you and your puppy.

Obedience Training and Training Classes

Many new puppy owners will find that an important part of their puppy training process lies in training classes. Working with a dog trainer can help those new to puppy ownership better understand their dog’s behavior and how to train them. Many people, as they start training their puppy, find they have questions that pop up about specific behaviors. Puppy training classes offer resources, including access to trained professionals and other puppy owners who can offer insight into their own experiences. In this way, it can provide an excellent community for those trying to learn more about how puppies learn and develop.

Puppy owners who struggle with any behaviors may also find that the puppy training tips provided during the class offer valuable insights into how to properly motivate and train their dogs. When puppies go through obedience training, it can also do a good job of reinforcing the training. It works like this:

  • The puppy has to remember what they have learned in a completely new situation.
  • The puppy has to learn commands when surrounded by a number of distractions.
  • The classes encourage the puppy and owner to remember to practice the obedience training, which provides additional reinforcement of the puppy’s important lessons.

These classes can also provide immense benefits from a social perspective.

Obedience Classes and Puppy Socialization

In addition to the training itself, many dog owners appreciate the value these classes offer when it comes to puppy socialization. Once a dog has received their vaccinations at a few months old, you want to introduce the puppy to a variety of new faces, both human and dog. This helps create a well-socialized dog that understands how to react to strangers and does not show anxiety when introduced to other people in the future.

Puppy owners should also understand dog development. Often, around the age of 3 months, puppies enter an important developmental window for socialization. During this period, they often feel more ready to explore the world and have new experiences. Following this period, around 6 months, many puppies enter a fear stage in which they feel more anxious around new people, situations and animals. Therefore, the association they make with strangers during this socialization period can have a significant effect.

Obedience classes can offer an excellent resource for puppy socialization. Your dog gets the chance to meet a variety of different types and sizes of dogs as well as their owners. This creates a socialization class that benefits your dog’s emotional development.

Training your dog while they are still young can have a tremendous impact on your training outcome and the level of communication you have with your dog. Although it can feel like a lot of work, it can teach your dog to avoid bad habits and offers you the chance to bond with your puppy and develop a deep friendship for years to come.

Nourish Your Dog as They Grow With Bully Max

As your dog progresses through the stages of obedience training, the right dog food can help nourish their growing body. Bully Max’s dog food uses all-natural ingredients that have been specifically selected to support your dog’s muscle and bone growth and joints. In particular, our High-Performance Dog Food was designed to provide nutrition, not filler. So, you won’t see wheat, soy or corn on the ingredients list.

Our goal is to help your dog thrive from puppyhood into adulthood. See the difference quality food can make in the care of your new puppy.