When Should You Start Training a Puppy?

September 2, 2014

puppy train michael gilBy Laurie Darroch

The moment you bring home that adorable ball of fluff, you are committed to a lifetime of supervision and “parenting” this new family member. Puppies are like human toddlers in many ways. They get into everything, explore the world around them, and are full of boundless energy. Training is an ongoing process, and it is best to start early and quickly before bad habits take hold.

The sweet, gentle gnawing at your finger and on your belongings may not be as appealing when the puppy grows up. A tiny puppy jumping up on you may feel like nothing, but when that little dog becomes big and is jumping on visitors or knocking things out of your hand in his exuberance, it is not so pleasant.

In the early weeks, a puppy will spend a lot of time sleeping. They play hard and fall asleep quickly, often on the spot. As they grow, they need less sleep and have plenty of energy that needs to be vented in acceptable ways.

A puppy can begin to learn the house rules starting at a very young age, but they will learn steps at a time and start to make associations between their action and your reaction. They absorb everything around them like a sponge, including your lessons. If you start training when you first bring your puppy home, they will grow with those rules of behavior as a part of their normal everyday life. A puppy may take longer to learn the skills and need constant reinforcement to finally master them, but with persistence and consistency, eventually even little ones learn. Don’t expect it to be an instantly learned lesson with very young puppies, though.

train puppy siniStart with simple lessons and commands. Look at the task in steps. With their ravenous appetites, food often works as a reward. Use a delicious CANIDAE treat to teach a puppy to sit or when you want them to behave during the family dinner, which will help them learn self-control and obedience. Giving them a quality food they really like – such as CANIDAE’s grain free Pure Foundations for puppies – is a major incentive.

Potty training is a little different than learning other behaviors. It depends on when a puppy has more control of his bladder, but generally around three months. In the early weeks they need to be with their mother to learn. At about eight weeks, bladder control is still short in duration, a couple of hours, unlike an older dog who can hold it much longer.  That doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching your puppy how to go in and out of the door, where to go and provide the puppy with praise when they get it right. Just don’t expect them to master it until they have better bladder control and are a little older. The older they get, the longer they can hold it without the instant urge to go.

You will know when your puppy has reached understanding of whatever trick, lesson or behavioral adjustment you are trying to teach them. If you watch a puppy learning, there is often a moment when you realize it has finally clicked. Always let your puppy know they have done something good by praising, petting them and on occasion giving them a small treat. It doesn’t have to be the full lesson learned to get praise. It can be one step or a close approximation to let them know they are starting to get it right. Don’t be shy in your praise. Let your puppy know for sure that they have done even the smallest thing right. Positive reinforcement does wonders.

puppy train andrea ardenOffer your puppy alternatives to unwanted behavior, such as providing them with a chew toy instead of your finger to bite. This gives them a little guidance and control that they can master, and provides an alternative to behaviors that are not necessarily bad but are really instinctual, chewing being one of those.

Puppies learn at different rates and master various skills when they are ready or capable. Every puppy is an individual, but how you reinforce their learning in a positive way will help them master the skills. Be patient, the same way you would be with a human child. When they are very young, it may take longer for them to learn, but it never hurts to start the process at a very young age.

When your puppy learns, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment along with them. They will know when you are pleased. Love and rewards work wonders in puppy training.

Top photo by Michael Gil/Flickr
Middle photo by Sini Merikallio/Flickr
Bottom photo by Andrea Arden/Flickr

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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  1. I started training my dog Max when he was 5 weeks old with simple commands like sit, come and down. I always gave him food or gave him praises as a reward for doing the commands. It’s a fun thing to do but you need longer patience.