Bringing home, a new puppy can be a very exciting time for you and the entire family. While a wriggling bundle of delight can bring smiles on the faces of everyone, training your puppy can seem overwhelming because there is no much to teach. The good news is that puppies are ever willing to learn new things at a very early age, which is why the best time to start their training is immediately after you bring them home. It is never too early to teach them the importance of good manners and imparting them good potty training. You should appreciate that even if you are not giving your puppy formal lessons, your puppy is learning form every interaction.
Puppy Training – Best Practices
You need to know that you can start training pups from the age of eight weeks; however, at this young age they can learn only the basics because of their short attention span. Puppy training sessions are more effective when they are short, fun, and accompanied by opportunities to play. Puppies are best trained when they are well rested and eager to learn but make sure they are not hyper because they will find it difficult to focus. You must make it a practice to take the puppy out for a potty trip before and after the training session. You will invariably also need to carry with you some high-quality puppy treats because you need to reinforce their lessons with lots of small but tasty treats. According to American Kennel Club, the treats should be soft so that your pup does not spend time in chewing it.
Training Milestones for Puppies
Eight to Ten Weeks
It is the stage where you should focus on helping your puppy to become acclimatized to its new environment and start learning manners that will serve them well in later life. You should set up a schedule for all the daily activities as dogs do well when they know what to expect. The schedule can include all activities like meals, play times, walks, training, potty, and naps in the crate. During this stage, potty training a puppy and crate training are especially important. Your pup needs to learn that a crate is not where they go as a punishment but rather it is a happy place for resting. Also, doing potty outside is a great way of earning a treat. Enroll your pup in a training class to help it learn social skills in a regulated environment. It is also a good time to make it learn to be comfortable when it is on its own. After you have made it learn how to be comfortable in a crate, you should practice leaving it alone for not more than three to four hours, either by going to another room or leaving the house entirely.
At this stage of life of the puppy, you should get it used to the concept of the leash because you will need to put it on before going on walks. In the beginning, you can clip on the leash and let the puppy run free. After this, you can get it used to walking with a leash without you pulling it. Another important skill the puppy needs to learn is sitting when given a cue. Ideally, you should start the training in an environment free of distraction and then expose it to different environments.
Ten to Twelve Weeks
You should continue to improve your pup’s social skills by taking initiative to make him meet visitors to your home and taking it out on brief outings to places where it will not encounter other dogs. Carrying along treats can help. Typically, your pup will have started to bite and chew whatever it can find so it is a good time to give them some robust chewable toys to work off their energy. You should also make it clear that biting you is not acceptable. During this time, you should also train your dog to be comfortable with you handing its body and not react when you handle its ears, mouth, tail, paws, tummy, etc. Once the puppy is comfortable with the handling, you can introduce it to common tools like a brush, comb, nail clippers, toothbrush, etc.
You should also continue to train your dog to be comfortable in the house when left alone by extending the time that it cannot see you or feel your presence. You can leave them in the crate with a favored toy for not more than three to four hours. This stage of life is also ideal for you to teach it to say “please” when it wants something like a toy or to go out. A simple lesson it can learn is to sit when they want anything from you. You should also start training your puppy to respond to training signals like responding to calls, sitting and briefly staying in one place. Using treats as incentive and keeping the training lessons short can help your puppy keep its enthusiasm high.
Three to Four Months
After the vet has administered all the necessary vaccines to your puppy, you can start taking it to busier and more populated places. Let the puppy set its own pace for exploring the place and meeting other animals and people. You should remain alert and not force them into situations they find uneasy. You need to continue leash training because your pup will be getting bigger and stronger. While there is no need to teach it to walk at heel because it cannot explore its environment, it is a good idea to train it not to pull at the leash. Introduce your dog to more crowded and distracting environments to make it learn to be comfortable and also work on training to it respond correctly when you call it and extend the time it can stay. Find a trainer who can help your pup to keep refining early lessons with positive reinforcement.
Four to Six Months
You should keep teaching your dog to behave properly when on a leash in various environments so that they can deal with various levels of distraction. Even though your puppy may have completed its basic training, there is still a lot left for it to learn. You need to continue reinforcing the behavior training taught earlier and consider enrolling the pup for advanced training. As you keep teaching your dog new things to do and practicing many of the old lessons, you should not stop giving it the treats it loved. However, when it does something well, you can substitute a treat with an alternate reward like an opportunity to play.
Potty Training Tips
One of the first things you will want to teach your new puppy is where to do potty. As you may expect, potty training requires considerable timing, patience, and supervision. As explained earlier, you cannot underestimate the importance of regular routine for everything your puppy needs to do, including potty. Make it a point to take the puppy outside after meals, after play sessions, after naps, and before and after you crate it. Potty accidents will happen inevitably if you leave the pup unattended to roam around the house. It is a good idea to crate it if you cannot supervise it. Also install pet gates so it can easily go outside when it wants to. You can give it more time inside the house when you are confident it will alert you when it needs to go out for potty and there have been no incidents inside the house for a month. It can take six months of patient potty training for your pup to become fully housetrained.
One of the most important things you need to learn is recognizing your pup’s signals that it wants to do potty. If you leave it to the time it is circling around and sniffing, it is most likely too late to avert potty accidents. Every puppy has its own way of alerting you that it needs to go and you need to learn to pick up the cues and take your puppy outside in time. Once you are outside with the pup, you should take it to a familiar location and allow it to find an ideal potty spot. Give it a treat immediately after it is through on the spot without waiting to return inside. You can also train your pup to recognize a verbal cue that it ultimately recognizes as a potty trigger. You can use this trigger to assist them to do potty during adverse weather. You must appreciate that once in a while, especially in the early days, potty accidents can and will happen. However, you should never punish it for the mistake; instead you can interrupt it and take it outside to the designated spot to complete the job.
Owing a dog can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience. However, you will need to train it suitably so that it can cohabit peacefully with you and other residents of the house and people outside. Training a puppy is not as hard as it may seem but you need to have lots of patience and not let your love overcome the need for discipline.