The perfect puppy
We, as puppy owners, all dreamt about the vision. A leisurely puppy strolling beside you or sitting calmly at your feet at an outdoor cafe. But reading some steps to help ensure your pup is on the right track with their training to get there would be great!
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 obedience training and learning basic commands.
So how do you know what you should begin training your pup on? No matter what age you bring home your new dog, 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 that perfect pup you envisioned!
1. Use your pup’s food for training!
Your puppy’s food is a phenomenal resource and one of the best tools you can use to train your puppy! In those early puppyhood months, having your puppy work for their food is a super-easy way to get and hold their attention on you. It rewards them for doing so and creates a positive association with looking to you for direction!
At The Worldwide K9 Academy, we often start our dogs on food and use that for their training sessions. It’s also part of the Basic Canine Training Foundation. You will often hear us recommending our clients keep a treat pouch on or near them at all times in the beginning weeks with their new pup at home. (Don’t worry, you can and will wean off as they get older!) Having access to your pup’s food comes in so handy for redirecting them away from something they’re doing that you don’t want them to do, getting them to come to you, having them focus on you to build that guidance-based relationship, and rewarding them for their good behaviors to encourage them to do that again!
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. Establishing communication between yourself and your puppy takes time, 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 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 true regarding puppy training! You’ll want to schedule a few short training sessions daily 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 yet, go back to fill in some of those missing areas if necessary. It’s essential to remember 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 not ready yet to move on to the next phase!
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 feeding and water, play and training, potty breaks, and naptimes. BE CONSISTENT
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 dog 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 divide it in half to determine how long they can go between potty breaks.
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! Plus, begin crate threshold training by having your puppy pause calmly before barging out as soon as the crate door opens. This will immediately introduce them to learning impulse control, teaching boundaries, and helping set the expectations for other door thresholds as they age.
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 daily 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 take backward steps away as you say “Come” with your hand extended to lure them towards you. When they come to you, reward them with a “Good!” and 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 “Come” when your puppy follows you for their food and water bowls. This simple exercise of “Come” and “Sit” using the food lure is one of our favorite routines and a tremendous relationship-builder activity to practice daily!”.
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 undoubtedly 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 ensure they know the difference between your hands, feet, and shoes from their chew toys!
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 inside the home, still using food rewards.
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. Visit our leash training blog to help your puppy love their leash and harness!
Continue socialization by introducing new people and letting your puppy meet calm dogs post-vaccinations. A safe way to do this has your pup in a playpen by the other pup so that they can observe and interact with a barrier in place. Additionally, start getting them used to common noises they will hear in everyday situations, such as construction, traffic, garbage trucks, etc., by playing recordings you can find in YouTube videos.
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 allows your walks to be calmer.
3-4 Months Old
Your puppy is starting to grow up quickly, and you can begin 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 to 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 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! You may need a higher value treat if their everyday food isn’t working to maintain their focus better!
Begin to socialize with other new pups after your puppy has received all their vaccinations! Remember, it’s not the number of interactions but their quality that is crucial! Make sure you match your pup’s personality with others that suit them. Don’t force your puppy to interact with dogs or people they don’t want to and don’t let pups “work it out” among themselves. Monitor your pup’s play and step in to interrupt it when needed while they’re learning.
If you haven’t yet, introduce structured play sessions of fetch and tug, which will also help improve their Drop-it, Come and Stay commands!
4-6 Months Old
At this point, your puppy should start to work on their commands outside your home and in public spaces and 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. As your pup gets better, start adding distance, duration, and distractions to their command work in the 3Ds: space, time, and distractions!
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 while they are training by asking for several commands 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 their 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 start to increase the 3Ds! Introduce more distance between you and your pup as you practice their commands, have them hold commands for extended periods, and have more distractions to have them work through! We recommend using a long line to practice these safely outdoors and don’t forget to include Recall to practice your pup coming to you from long distances. Challenge your dog by bringing them to more populated areas with different distractions to work through and improve their skills!
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 ease up at home! It’s not unusual to temporarily see regression in your pup’s training. Stick to your schedule and daily training sessions to help your puppy get over this hump faster!
Generally, every week and month should progress with socialization: meeting new people, other puppies, experiences, noises, etc. It would be best if you continued advancing their potty schedule, and eventually, as your puppy grows and can hold it longer, start increasing the time between potty breaks. The first 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 activity and good behaviors throughout the rest of their life. Even if your puppy started at an older age, you could work on catching it up, so they are on track to being well-behaved by reaching their 1-year mark!