When you first buy a new puppy, one leading cause for concern is training. When should I start training my puppy, how and what elements should be taught? These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic we will answer today.
Starting puppy training can be difficult, especially when you are a new owner. From behavioral training such as sitting and lying down to potty training, this reinforcement will allow your pup to grow into a well-mannered dog. Furthermore, training will bring structure to both yours and their life and ultimately make for a happier home.
When to Start Training Your Puppy
Breeders, trainers, and behaviorists widely debate this topic. Some argue that training should begin the moment a puppy is born through very minute and small sessions. Others argue that it is pointless to begin training until the age of two months. Where a puppy can fully understand praise and comfortably move. The differing opinions often relate back to sensitive periods. Sensitive periods are age ranges in puppies where types of behavior and learning are strongly influenced. Behaviors are also more difficult to reverse once the period is over. The four periods include:
- Prenatal: The fetus may be affected by the mother during pregnancy
- Neonatal: (0 – 2 weeks) Touch and smell sensitivity
- Transitional: (2 – 3 weeks) All senses are now working and your puppy is adjusting to the world
- Socialization: (3 weeks – 4 1/2 months) The introduction of humans, dogs, pets and even objects and training should be done during this time period
Try to introduce your puppy gradually at age two months to different stimuli. Allow them to wear their collar for a minute at a time with gradual increasing longevity. Try to train your pup to sit using positive reinforcement. We generally believe that training can begin from birth but very gradually, more so consider it the introduction of training and stimulus. At age two months is when normal training can then be put in place.
What to Teach Your Puppy
Here are the key elements you need to teach your puppy when you first get them. These are great starting points and we explain how to train them to perform these different tricks and behaviors.
It can be argued that this is one of if not the most important initial behaviors you should teach your pup. Preventing them from peeing inside the house can save your carpets and furniture. If this is not taught well and at a young age, dogs can struggle to learn it for a lifetime. Expect this behavior to take a while to fully teach, your pup may slip up and it will require a lot of patience from you to get this routine etched in your dog’s mind. Try to begin house training your dog at 12 weeks of age due to developed bladder control and understanding of reinforcement.
In order to potty train your puppy, you need to regularly take your puppy outside to the same location. When they use the bathroom, praise them with attention and maybe a treat! If they use the toilet inside, scold them once and firmly, but do not punish them. Evidence shows that positive reinforcement aids with training and bonds between an owner and pup without inducing fear or aggression, which can be seen when using negative reinforcement. Make sure that you stay outside with them and watch them until they use the toilet, as they may go outside, forget and then re-enter the house.
Providing an eating schedule can prevent negative begging, minimize the chance of forgetting a dog’s meal, regular toilet use, and even weight loss or gain. You’ll want to develop a regular eating schedule while your pup is on puppy food, and then one for when they are on dog food. The meal numbers should be spread out during the day. If your pup is having three meals, serve them once in the morning, once at midday and once in the evening.
Furthermore, make sure that the meal is served in the same location. Developing this routine will prevent your dog from constantly waiting for food. They will know when and where to expect their meal and will hang around that area at that time. It should ideally be placed near their water dish but leave space from other dogs. During meals, you will want to make sure your pup is only eating their food and not another pet’s, consider monitoring and using reinforcement overtime to ensure this.
These commands may seem unnecessary, but they can provide you with control to further ensure your dog’s safety. For example, if you are walking your dog near busy traffic, basic commands such as sit can make your dog behave when crossing the street. Commands exist to allow for control for safety, good behavior, and even training competitions. These competitions can be both a fun and bonding experience for you and your pup, so there are many benefits from training your puppy some basic commands.
We would recommend “sit”, “lie down”, and “stay” as some starter basic commands. With training, dogs will association a behavior with a command. In order to teach the command “sit”, there are two methods to consider, capturing or luring. Capturing involves waiting for your dog to sit whilst standing in front of them holding food, once they do so, give them the treat whilst saying the command and praising them. Luring is when you sit in front of your pup, treat in hand and slowly raise the treat from below to above his head. Once they sit, reward them. Repeat this process multiple times a day until your puppy reacts to the command without the need for a treat or praise.
At age three weeks plus, you should start training your puppy to be social with animals in the house and people of different ages. This should teach them that these individuals are not scary and will not harm them. They will develop a comfortable association and will grow up to be more confident around these species. Of course, only introduce your dog to species it needs to be introduced to. There is little need for introducing your puppy to your enclosed hamster, and with especially instinctual breeds, this is a bad idea. We recommend cats, dogs, adults, and children should be on your socializing list.
To give a proper introduction, have your puppy in the same room as whoever you are introducing them to. Make sure that both are provided space and are not suddenly allowed to run towards each other. You want both individuals to be calm before this takes place. Allow them to occupy the same space and when they are calm they can wander around each other. Be prepared to separate your puppy if either they or the other individual shows fear, this process is gradual and should not be expected to work in one day. With the case of children, watch out for your puppy’s sharp teeth, they will not mean to chew.
Instinctually, puppies have a natural guarding instinct. This is not a problem when they are young but can become a large issue when you have a fully grown dog guarding every meal or toy in a family home. Stop this negative behavior early so your dog will not display guarding aggression as they age. To prevent guarding in your dog, you do not just want to grab a toy from them in the middle of play, this will only cause them to guard further. Gradual behavioral training and redirecting are the best methods to prevent guarding.
In the instance of food, if you very slowly train your puppy to be fed by hand. Then place single biscuits into their bowl, all the while not rewarding them unless the aggression is avoided, this will get them used to the bowl being adjusted with. Slowly introduce more normal feeding behavior until each stage is accepted without aggression. Toy aggression can be dealt with in a similar manner, although it is also recommended to redirect your puppy’s aggression with a treat or another toy so you can gently grasp the other. This is a form of associative training and can allow your pup to realize that when a toy is taken away, it is not permanently gone.
When to Start Training Your Puppy – FAQs
We have found the four most searched FAQs about training your puppy and answered them to make sure you are fully informed with puppy training.
When Should I Start Taking my Puppy on Walks?
You can begin to walk your puppy outside around 10 – 14 days after their final booster shot. By providing boosters and waiting to take your dog out until after this time frame, this helps protect your puppy’s health. Here is the booster schedule for every puppy:
- First vaccination: 6 – 8 weeks old
- Booster: 10 – 12 weeks old
- Final shot: 14 – 16 weeks old
How can I Punish my Puppy?
You do not need to punish your puppy, instead, provide positive reinforcement to teach the correct behavior. Positive reinforcement is where your dog is praised either with a treat or attention when they do something desirable. For example, when potty training, instead of scolding your puppy for urinating inside, you can praise your puppy for doing so outside.
What are the First Things to Teach a Puppy?
This all depends on your priorities. Potty training is always a good starting point, especially if your dog is a household pet. If you are buying a puppy and you have a family, you will want to consider preventing guarding resource behavior and jumping up as soon as possible. Whereas, if you are training your puppy for trick based competitions, you may want to start with basic commands such as sit and stay. It is usually recommended to multitask and teach a little bit of everything each day.
How Long Should a Walk be for a 4-Month Old Puppy?
A twenty-minute walk should be enough exercise for a 4-month old puppy. Too much exercise for a puppy can actually be detrimental to your young dog. You can gradually increase this exercise as your dog ages, but make sure not to push it too long. Fun play sessions at home are a great method to use up all of your pup’s energy, as when they are tired, they can easily just walk to bed.