Are you looking to train your new puppy? Then this Puppy Training guide is for you!
We have specially designed it so beginners to puppy training can easily build a solid foundation for training a young dog.
In this guide, we cover how to train some vital life skills, basic obedience training commands, housetraining (toilet training and crate training), as well as early enrichment, including socialising your pup.
Let us begin.
Table of Contents
- Importance of Early Puppy Training for Puppies
- Preparing for Puppy Training
- Toilet Training (Housebreaking)
- Crate Training
- How To Crate Train Your Puppy
- Dealing with Accidents in Puppy Training
- Read Your Puppy’s Cues/Body Language
- Teaching Your Puppy Basic Obedience Training Commands
- Seeking Professional Help if Needed
- FAQs – Puppy Training for Beginners
Importance of Early Puppy Training for Puppies
The best age to begin puppy training is generally around 8 to 10 weeks old. At this age, puppies are more receptive to learning and have the ability to understand basic commands.
The best dog breeders will start Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) training with their puppies from birth. They will also crate-train their puppies and provide early life skills training to ensure they are raising confident and optimistic puppies. Buying your puppy from a breeder that carries out crate training from 6 weeks of age will ensure your puppy has some level of tolerance to frustration and independence. Both tolerance to frustration and independence are important life skills to prevent the development of common dog behaviour problems like separation anxiety, barking, reactivity and destructive chewing.
Please note that it is never too late to start puppy training. Even older puppies can benefit from consistent and positive training techniques. Remember, patience and consistency are key throughout the training process.
Ideally, you can begin toilet training and crate training the moment your pet comes home from the breeder. The sooner you establish the basic house rules, the quicker your young pet will understand their new routine.
Preparing for Puppy Training
To prepare for puppy training, start by puppy-proofing your home. Remove wires, toxic house plants, etc. from the rooms and the yard.
Also, designate a toilet area where your pet can go potty. It could be a small area in the backyard or even on dog training pads or puppy pee pads placed on the balcony (if you live in an apartment).
You also need to buy some supplies for puppy training. These include:
- Dog crate and crate pad
- Blankets and dog bed
- Cleaning supplies
- Leash and collar
- High-value, good quality training treats
- Toys – chew toys and interactive toys
- Long-lasting chews and raw meaty bones for chewing
- Cleaning supplies for toilet accidents
Toilet Training (Housebreaking)
The first and most important aspect of puppy training is toilet training. Your young pet will want to empty its bladder several times a day.
As the owner, you have to “show” your puppy where it is okay to ‘go potty’ and where it isn’t.
That is why you need to designate a toilet area that is easily accessible to your young dog.
- Take your puppy to the toilet area several times a day.
- Give the command – Go potty!
- The moment your puppy urinates there, give it a treat and praise it.
Repeat this several times a day, and set up a schedule for toilet training. For example, your puppy will want to go potty
- After each meal
- After each nap
- First thing upon waking
- Last thing before retiring or the night
- And several times in between these activities
Toilet training a puppy might seem like a lot of work. But, once you consistently do it, your puppy will get toilet-trained a lot faster.
If you’d like more information on toilet training your puppy fast – see our free Puppy Potty Training Guide.
Your puppy will also benefit from crate training while you are toilet training it. Many people erroneously think that crate training is inhumane. That is not the case. When done right, crate training can be a powerful tool for toilet training a puppy.
Here are the benefits of crate training:
- Provides a den-like, safe, and cosy space for your puppy for some down-time
- Keeps puppy safe and out of trouble.
- Reduces your cleanup hassles – once you crate your dog, it won’t pee/poop in the house.
- Makes it easier to take your dog to the vet in pet carriers.
If you’d like more information on crate training your puppy fast – see our free Puppy Crate Training Guide
Start by placing the crate in an accessible area of your home. Leave the door open and entice your puppy to explore it by placing treats or toys inside. Your pup should be able to see you while it is in the crate.
Slowly, increase the time your puppy spends in the crate while you’re absent from the room. You might have your puppy in their crate next to you while you work on your computer and when you go to the toilet, make coffee etc, your puppy spends a brief amount of time alone in the room inside their crate.
Don’t make a fuss when you return, if anything feed treats when you’re leaving them alone for a short period of time. This will teach your puppy that the process of your leaving is a positive event and not something to be feared or anxious about.
Encourage your puppy to enter the crate willingly by using treats or praise. Never force your puppy into the crate, as it may create negative associations.
Line the crate with comfortable bedding and add some familiar toys to make it inviting. The crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Feed your puppy’s meals near or inside the crate. You can also offer treats or chew toys for it to enjoy while in the crate. This helps create positive associations with the crate.
Start by closing the crate door for short periods while you’re nearby. Gradually extend the time your puppy spends inside the crate, always ensuring it is comfortable and relaxed.
The crate should be a positive and safe space for your puppy. Using it as a form of punishment will create negative associations and hinder the training process.
Establish a regular schedule for crate time, including naps, bedtime, and when you need to leave the house. Consistency helps your puppy adjust to and consider the crate as part of its routine.
Dealing with Accidents in Puppy Training
During the course of toilet training, your puppy might have accidents indoors.
If that happens, do not shout, hit, or punish your pet. Instead, use this as feedback in the puppy training process: your puppy needs to be taken out to go potty more regularly and shouldn’t be left unsupervised to roam the house until they are fully toilet trained. Rehearsing peeing and pooping in the house, will result in more of this behaviour occurring.
Calmly clean up the mess using an enzymatic cleaner. This will remove the urine odour and keep your puppy from using the same area as a ‘bathroom’ again and again.
Your puppy will also give you clues when it wants to go potty. When you see your little dog circling, sniffing, or attempting to urinate/defecate, clap your hands loudly or make a loud noise to distract it.
Immediately take your dog to the designated potty area. When your puppy ‘goes potty’, praise and reward it instantly.
Teaching Your Puppy Basic Obedience Training Commands
In addition to toilet training, your puppy training should include teaching some basic obedience commands. These commands make it easier to get her/him to obey and do what you want them to do. The six basic puppy obedience commands are:
Here is how to train your puppy to sit:
- Hold a treat close to your puppy’s nose, then slowly raise it upwards, guiding its gaze upwards as well.
- As your puppy follows the treat with its head, its natural response will be to lower its rear end into a sitting position.
- As soon as its bottom touches the ground, say “sit” and praise your pup enthusiastically while giving it a high-value treat.
- Repeat this process several times, gradually phasing out the use of the treat and relying more on the verbal command and praise
- Practise the command several times in areas with distractions like the dog park, etc.
- Start with your dog in a sitting or standing position.
- Show your open palm to it and say “stay” in a firm and clear voice.
- Take a step back, and if your dog remains still, praise it or give it a treat.
- Gradually increase the distance and duration of the stay, always rewarding and reinforcing the behaviour when your puppy successfully stays in place.
- Have your puppy sit.
- Hold a treat close to its nose and slowly lower it towards the ground, close to its paws.
- As your puppy follows the treat with its nose, its front legs will lower, and its body will naturally transition into a lying down position.
- Once your puppy is fully down, say “lie down” and reward it with a treat and praise.
- Repeat the process, relying less on treats.
- You must also practise the command in busy areas like the dog park, beach, etc but first learn about taking your puppy to the dog park safely. Similarly, taking your puppy to the beach can also be a fun and rewarding social experience.
- Get your puppy’s attention with noise or movement.
- Once your pup comes to you- say ‘come’, reward and praise it.
- Practise this several times.
- The come-command relies on you being the most important thing for your puppy. You need to practise it in busy areas where your dog is distracted by other dogs, squirrels, etc.
Leave it /Take It (Impulse Control life skill training)
- Keep a tasty treat in your hand/fist.
- Your dog will attempt to get it. When they back off from attempting to steal the treat. Say, leave it.
- The moment your puppy stops trying to get it, say good!-praise and reward. You can open your fist and let your pup have the treat. At that moment – say, take it!
- After several tries, your dog might start pulling back from the treat. This is the moment you treat and praise it. This will help your dog learn that ‘ignoring’ the treat is wanted behaviour.
- Practise with your palm open and the treat in it.
- The moment your pup steps back or ignores the treat, reward and praise.
- Repeat the ‘leave it’ command with toys.
- Practise with distractions around.
Off (To Stop your puppy from Jumping up)
- When your dog has its paws on furniture or it jumps on people, say “off or down”.
- Show your dog that you want its paws on the ground.
- The moment your pet’s paws touch the ground, praise and reward it.
- You can also prevent it from jumping up on people by giving the Sit command.
- Practise the ‘Off command’ several times in places with distraction.
- You can have people approach your pet. The moment it jumps on them, say “no” or give the ‘off/down’ command.
- Repeat often but eventually you need to practise without rewards.
- If your puppy gets excited and jumps on guests, do not allow the rehearsal of this behaviour. Put your puppy in their crate or in another room until they calm down and bring them out to greet guests on a leash to prevent them from jumping up.
- Eventually, practise the ‘down’ command when guests are around once your puppy has mastered it with minimal distractions.
Tips For Puppy Training in Basic Obedience
- Start early
- Keep training sessions short – no more than 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Practise daily.
- Set your puppy for success – minimise distractions.
- End each session with something your pup knows well.
- Schedule training before meals.
- Stick to feeding tiny, low-calorie treats.
- Choose a training time when puppy is not sleepy/hungry.
- Avoid training when you are upset/busy/stressed.
- Only use positive reinforcement.
Socialising is an important part of puppy training. It means helping your puppy develop the life skills to help them cope in new environments thereby creating a confident, calm dog.
Puppy socialisation also involves introducing your young pet to people and other animals. Once your puppy’s vaccinations are complete, you can take it for short walks in various environments or arrange play dates with other vaccinated dogs. Take your puppy out on leash walks to the beach, shops, dog-friendly cafes, etc.
You can also have your dog get used to the sounds of the TV, vacuum cleaner, blender, etc.
Arrange to have kids come over to play with your puppy. Kids should be able to pet your dog without it showing signs like growling, snapping, etc. Teach kids to respect the dog – no tail pulling or sitting on it.
If you think an experience has a chance of being negative for your puppy, avoid the situation and put your puppy in its crate. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to remembering traumatic experiences that occur in the first few months of their life. These brief but impactful experiences can lead to fear, aggression and reactivity behaviour problems later in life.
A dog behaviourist is generally required to formulate a behaviour modification plan if your puppy experiences trauma during their early social experiences.
This is also a good time to teach your puppy bite inhibition. Provide your teething puppy with chew toys and rope toys. If it bites kids’ toes or jumps up on kids, use the Off/No commands and distract it with a toy. Your puppy should know what is and isn’t acceptable to chew on.
If required, consult a professional dog trainer to advance your pup’s early education. You can also enrol your pet in puppy kindergarten for advanced obedience training and to socialise it with other dogs.
FAQs – Puppy Training for Beginners
How do I start basic puppy training?
Start basic puppy training the day your pup comes home from the breeder. Begin with easy commands like sit, come, etc. Practise regularly. You can also crate-train and toilet-train your puppy. Find out what your puppy enjoys most; some pups are food motivated while others thrive on play. Utilise these motivators as rewards to train new behaviours and dog tricks.
What is the first skill to teach a puppy?
Obedience commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ can be helpful for puppies and are a great way for owners to learn ‘how to train’ their puppy. They can also help you teach other skills and are also important from the point of view of your puppy’s safety.
However, life skills such as calmness, confidence, optimism, flexibility, focus, independence and tolerance to frustration are important to teach a puppy and reduce the likelihood of behaviour problems developing.
How to toilet train a dog?
Set up a designated potty area. Take your puppy to this area first thing upon waking up, after each meal, and several times in between. Reward your pet when it goes potty here. Do not reprimand your puppy if they accidentally pee or poop in the house. This doesn’t teach your puppy what you want them to do and can result in behaviour problems like anxiety, fear and avoidance. Instead restrict their movement around the house and don’t leave them to roam freely unless you are able to supervise them.
Crate training is a helpful skill to teach your dog as it can reduce toilet accidents thereby speeding up the toilet training process.
What age do puppies learn best?
Puppies learn a lot quickly between 7 – 16 weeks of age. This is the fear period for puppies and they are particularly sensitive to positive and negative experiences. Similarly, the heightened sensitivity experienced during this period is paired with an increase in the laying down of memories. Both of these factors make puppies particularly primed for learning at this age.
Puppy training is a crucial step for pet parents to establish a strong bond with their furry babies and ensure a harmonious coexistence.
By incorporating patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement techniques, new dog owners can lay the foundation for a well-behaved and happy dog.
Remember, training should be an ongoing process, and you must continue training your dog for life. It may seem tedious, but the rewards of a well-trained puppy are immeasurable. If your puppy displays growling or aggressive behaviour towards people objects or other animals consult a canine behaviourist to determine the cause and solution.
Start early, stay committed, and enjoy the journey of shaping your puppy into a loving and obedient member of your family.
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