Puppy Training 101: Beginners Guide To Training A Puppy
Congratulations on getting your perfect puppy! His momma has worked hard to teach him what she knows and through his siblings he learned how amazing friendship can be.
Now he has come to you and needs you to guide him through life. Growing, learning, and exploring together, your puppies first week's home will be full of learning curves for both of you. From accidental nips, chewing, potty accidents, to them finding their voice (barking) their developmental stages happen so fast! Being patient and gentle while they learn will have your puppy looking like something out of a movie.
No matter what age your puppy is you can use these steps to guide your training journey with your new little one. Soon they will be showing off for you while you beam with pride at them.
The First Step Before Training Begins
Before training can begin you want to make sure your pup has settled in and knows they have a new home with you as their new pawrent.
Your bond can begin from the moment you pick your puppy up. You want your puppy to feel safe and trusting with you, not just for the sake of learning, but for the sake of becoming family.
Just like people, structure can help with knowing what is expected. Puppies thrive in a structured environment and this can help in leaps and bounds with their training.
Once you have created this loving and trusting bond it's much easier to teach your puppy new commands and behaviours.
Everyone Needs Some Tips & Tricks
Use Food As Treats When Training!
Food is an amazing resource that can and should be used as treats. In those beginning puppyhood months getting your pup to work for food (treats) is a super easy & rewarding way to hold their attention. Food can also redirect them from things they shouldn’t be doing, getting them to focus on you, working on recall, and building on your guidance based relationship
When you are in the middle of training it’s easy to over-treat your puppy. Treating with food can be the best way to make sure your puppy’s good behaviour is still being encouraged without maxing out on treats. Reward them for their good behaviour, without the high calories in treats ;)
Puppies Can Read Emotions
Be calm, patient, and consistent.
Puppies can test us and it’s normal to feel frustrated with the training process. Because your perfect little one is still learning & understanding the world it makes sense that mistakes happen. It takes time to find an understanding between you and your puppy, so try not to expect them to get it on the first try. You can help your puppy stay on track by maintaining their puppy schedule.
Puppies can read your emotions and can tell if someone is upset - getting mad at your puppy can cause damage to your new bond and actually cause them to digress in training.
Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More
“Practice makes perfect” is one of the truest sentences when it comes to training with your puppy. By scheduling short (5-15 min) training sessions throughout the day to practice commands, this will also in turn help you stay consistent!
Opportunities can arise throughout the day but one of the best times to schedule practice rounds are at meal time! You can have your puppy work a little for their meals so that they are eager to do the command over and over again. Keeping your training sessions short and sweet will reflect in your puppy a fun and motivated learning experience.
With those 3 tips and tricks for puppy training stored away, we can now move onto the developmental life stages and milestones of your puppies training. Our outline begins at 8 weeks old and goes up to a year. You can use this guide as your puppy continues growing or, if you have an older puppy, you can hop in where it is relevant for you. IF your puppy is older and hasn’t seem to have hit their milestones yet, then that’s OK. Everyone learns at a different pace, just go back to basics and be patient. Go at your pups speed and when they are ready move onto the next!
Training Milestones To Work TowardsEach milestone is an exciting new adventure where you get to add on to what your pup has already learned! All dogs learn differently and smaller breeds may seem to mature faster than large dogs. Don’t feel discouraged if your pup is struggling to hit their milestones, just slow down and go at their pace.
he perfect first few weeks with your puppy start in most homes around the 8-10 week mark. This phase of life is when your puppy begins exploring and learning the basics of life like their name, good manners, socialization, and some basic commands. Because you are still bonding with your puppy, try to focus on exposing your puppy to their environment instead of diving straight into obedience.
- A Daily routine can include simple things such as meal time, play time, walks, potty breaks & nap times *Pro tip: Feeding a fresh food to your puppy instead of generic kibble brands will help with your dogs growth and actually
- Introduce basic commands like sit & stay. These will probably be two of the most commonly used and equally useful commands you will teach your puppy. It’s easy to introduce these commands at mealtime as your puppy will happily work for their dinner.
- Begin crate & potty training. While these two can go hand in hand, crate training a puppy can also be used to help them work on alone time while you begin to potty train a puppy outside. You can introduce these as soon as your puppy comes home.
- Socialization looks different at different stages, and this early on in life you want to expose your new puppy to sounds in the house, car rides, different types of floor - you name it. It’s important early on to get your puppy exposed to life so they can focus on positive experiences.
- Name recognition has such an underrated importance. It’s what your puppy will be called for the rest of their lives so it’s obviously super important that they know it. You’re going to use it not just throughout training but in your dogs day-to-day.
- Redirecting chewing and accidental nipping as they occur with the help of an actual chew or a chew toy! Since your puppy is exploring the world through their nose and mouth you want to make sure they know the difference between your fingers, shoes, and their toys.
- Impulse control can be one of the more difficult things to teach. With life being as exciting as it is, especially for a puppy, teaching impulse control will go a long way, especially in unpredictable environments. The easiest way to begin teaching this is by having your puppy wait for the food or water bowl in a “Sit”. Once they have calmed down you can place their bowl down and release them from sitting with a word such as “ok” or “break”.
- More socialization, and more socialization, and more - ok you get the point, but now that your puppy has had their first set of shots it’s time for more introductions. Let your puppy meet calm dogs, take them for walks to get used to common life noises such as traffic, construction people, etc. *Pro Tip: You can play YouTube videos at home to help with desensitization.
- Leash training! Time to let your puppy fall in love with their leash and harness. If you haven’t already done this at 8-10 weeks you can let your puppy get used to their leash by wearing it in the house with supervision.
- Threshold training may not be something you are familiar with, but it involves having your puppy sit at doorways, crosswalks, gates, and walking calmly through them. This helps with your puppies impulse control as it teaches them not to lunge or pull each time they see an open door aka a new adventure waiting for them. Threshold training will also benefit your walks as it helps your puppy respond calmly to all of the unpredictability that can happen on a walk.
Where has the time gone?! Your puppy is growing quickly and it’s time to start introducing training routines with a smidge more complexity to what they have already learned.
- Stay & Leave it! It’s time to introduce the following step from sit.
- Walking on a leash nicely. Anyone who tells you that they aren’t too concerned about teaching their dog heel should seriously reconsider. It can be so simple and rewarding to teach, and it may take a treat of higher value to maintain their focus, but it will make walks and outings that more enjoyable.
- Socialize with other dogs and people now that your puppy has had all of their vaccines. First things, you don’t want to focus on the quantity of interactions but the quality of them. Make sure your puppy's personality is being matched, you don’t want to overwhelm your puppy and force them into a situation that makes them uncomfortable while they are learning. Monitor your puppy’s play and step in if you need to interrupt for their sake.
- Structured playtime is a thing and playing games like fetch and tug of war will help improve their recall (come), “drop-it”, and stay commands.
- Begin combining commands like sit > come > down > stay > ok/break. Get your puppy to hold their commands for a little longer to help improve their focus.
- Find a dog trainer. You have had some time to build a bond with your puppy, and now that you have done some beginner stuff together, finding a trainer could be a great step for you both. They can help show you how to turn your training into manageable day-to-day learning.
Your little one is growing and developing so fast. Now is the time to be training in busy areas and getting them used to the distractions of life.
- Go strong with advancing commands so that means getting outside and practising. Bring your puppy to new places like the beach or the park and begin practising your commands. This helps your puppies work on their distance, concentration time, and distractions.
- Longer walks are in order which means it’s time to put the focus on your puppy’s leash training and Heel.
- Distractions everywhere! It can be hard to concentrate on a simple task like sitting when there are birds a few meters away. Make sure you are enforcing the sit/stay and offering treats, toys, or positive reinforcement.
6 months - 1 year
At this point you and your puppy are sure to have gone through some ups and downs. However, through the ups they would have learned basic commands forming a solid foundation in potty training, socialization, & crate training.
- Reinforce and be consistent with all training. Always practice commands and introduce more time/distance between them, meaning have your dog hold the command gradually for a longer amount of time. Practice and be consistent.
- Maintain routine and structure at home! The adolescent phase is not for the faint of heart(this goes for people too). If left alone with too much time on their paws they will begin chewing and can become destructive. It isn’t uncommon for there to be a regression at this age simply due to their stage in life. Stick to your routine and structure at home so you and your pup can push past this stage.
You have an adult dog, now what?
Some breeds of dogs, mostly small dogs, mature faster than others meaning your training is going to fluctuate on your dog’s maturity levels. If your dog came to you as an adult, you of course don’t know what kind of training they have had prior. Positive-reinforcement training can help dogs at any stage recognize that they can have fun while behaving politely.
You can keep practicing and keep introducing new commands - trick training is very fun and is just as rewarding as basic training (ok maybe a little cooler).
There are also other forms of training, like dog agility, that is a great way for you and your dog to bond, exert some energy, and keep their training super sharp!
Professional help in Vancouver is just a click away…Sometimes you might think you need a dog behaviourist, thankfully there are many different types of training to meet your needs. Some are held right in pet stores like petsmart dog training that will help you with basic training and might even teach you some tricks to teach your dog. The most common and probably the best puppy training you could find for your dog is hiring a one on one professional who can tailor lessons to you and your dog's needs. These 3 trainers are some of the top rated trainers in Vancouver.
- Canine Connection Training - This team makes it clear they are extremely passionate about using the most ethical, non-intrusive, science supported, and up-to-date training methods out there. Canine Connection uses food, toys, praise, and life-rewards to reinforce appropriate behaviours.
- RaintownDog Training - Their slogan reads: Here to empower dog-parents with inspiration, skills and knowledge. Fascinated by the way your dog's brain works and the language they speak, Raintowns desire is to help you communicate with your pup so you can grow in mutual love & respect.
- Zen Dog Canine Training - With 30 years of experience Shannon of Zen Dog is driven by her passion to always understand more so that she can do better by her dogs or her clients dogs. Shannon calls herself a cross-over trainer, using positive reinforcement methods. She is recommended by veterinarians, breeders, and rescue organizations.
A puppy is a lifetime commitment, and even as you begin training your puppy it will be a continuous thing. It is “forever learning”. Life will change and as your puppy turns into an adult they will (almost) always be looking to you for guidance. By building a close bond with your dog, training often becomes fun and before you know it those beginner lessons will become part of your day to day. Use this guide to walk you through the many different life stages to come with your puppy and remember to have fun!
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