Training a puppy can be confusing. There is so much conflicting information regarding when, how and what can be accomplished with puppy training.
It can often be incredibly frustrating for new puppy owners, as their bundles of fur can quickly start causing trouble around the house. While some dog trainers claim that you shouldn’t train a dog until they are at least six months old, others recommend starting it as soon as you get them home. So, who is right?
In this article we are going to talk about why some trainers recommend six months and why others think starting immediately is the best option. We are also going to discuss what puppies can learn and some of the best ways you can start training.
Why Training Is So Important
New puppy owners often make the mistake of spending too much time figuring out what collar they want, the best treats and what bed should they get for their dog. While this stuff is important, getting your dog trained correctly is equally, if not more important.
A badly behaved or poorly trained dog can be an absolute nightmare to live with. We all want to be that owner with a well behaved dog that walks nicely by our side, but that takes work.
Training your dog can keep them safe in dangerous environments, make them much easier to live with, and your friends and family will think your puppy is amazing too.
Why Do Some People Recommend Training at Sixth Months?
The idea that you should put off your dog’s training comes from more “old school” training where heavy collar corrections were used. This meant that dogs needed to be old enough to withstand wearing a collar and dealing with physical corrections or punishment when training.
Most trainers agreed that around six months was the perfect time for dogs to start training as they were physically stronger.
Additionally, it was believed that dogs would reach the same skill level in adulthood, whether they started at six months or eight weeks old, so there was no reason to start them earlier.
What About Training at Eight Weeks?
Generally, eight weeks is about the time puppies are taken from their mother and siblings, and then sent to a new home.
Puppies that are under eight weeks old should be spending time with their mother and siblings to learn about being a dog. They learn about what it means to be part of a pack, canine communication, how to play and what discipline means. This is an incredibly important time for puppies and taking them away earlier can be detrimental to their development.
The idea that training should start at eight weeks is simply based on the fact that most puppies go to new homes around this time. They have learnt what they need to off their mothers and now it is time to learn off their new owners.
In addition to this, a puppy’s brain isn’t properly formed to learn much before eight weeks. They do not have the ability to learn correctly and it is best to wait a little bit.
When Should You Start Training a Puppy?
Here at DogOPedia, we believe that you should start training a dog as soon as you get home, whether that is at eight weeks or twelve. While young puppies have short attention spans you can teach them basic obedience commands such as “follow”, “sit”, and “come”.
You need to also teach your dog about taking food gently, not to bite and get them socialised.
Modern training methods such as rewarding, luring and clicker training can be used from the get go and are much more enjoyable to use than forceful methods.
Your puppy will learn all the time, so we feel it is beneficial to use this to your advantage and start training immediately. Remember to also have fun and don’t expect too much of your puppy during this early stage of their life.
What to Expect from a Puppy?
If you start training a puppy at eight weeks old, you shouldn’t expect them to get the hang of things straight away. Young puppies are impulsive, have little self-control and their attention spans are very short.
Do not start correcting your dog at this early stage and make sure you are not making training sessions too long.
Think of your puppy as a child, they will try and go where they like, play with anything they like and do anything they like. They don’t understand what is theirs and what is not, so do not punish them for chewing your shoes. Puppies at this age will not be able to listen and act on your every command or word.
We have created a rough guide for a puppy training schedule below.
Let’s Look at a Puppy Training Schedule
The following training schedule may be slightly different for each individual dog, however, it should give you a rough idea of what you should expect your dog to learn at each stage.
8 – 10 Weeks
When you first get your new puppy home, your focus should be on getting them socialised, toilet training and how to take food. You shouldn’t expect too much at this stage and do not create any formal training sessions, just let them happen naturally.
You can reward your dog for following and coming to you naturally from the moment you take them home. This will help you with more advanced commands down the track.
- Socialisation – Dogs need to be socialised as soon as possible and you need to introduce them to a range of different people and animals. While you may not be able to take them out for walks straight away (due to vaccinations), you can still introduce them to a friend’s dog who has been vaccinated.
- Follow – Teaching your new puppy that following you is good is very important. It forms the basis of many more advanced commands and will help when you teach your dog to “come”. Reward your puppy heavily when they follow you.
- Recall or come – While you are not teaching your dog to come properly, you are teaching them that coming to you is a good thing. This involves rewarding them when they naturally come to you.
- Not to bite – You want to discourage hard biting, but allow mouthing.
- How to take food – Nobody likes a dog that snatches food and you should be teaching your dog how to take food gently at this early stage.
- House Training – One of the most important things you can do at this early stage. Get your dog house trained, but remember it will probably take a couple of months before accidents stop completely.
10 – 12 Weeks
This stage is pretty much the same as eight to ten weeks. You are not introducing much more here, just double down on what you have already been doing. However, you can introduce heel training at a very basic level when they are this old.
- Socialisation – Increase the amount you socialise your dog and make sure they are meeting a wide variety of people and dogs.
- More recall training – At this stage you might introduce the ‘come’ command, but only associate it with the action. Only use the word ‘come’ when they are already moving towards you. Keep on rewarding your dog if they come to you naturally.
- Discourage biting – discourage and hard biting, but allow mouthing.
- Fetch or retrieve – Encourage your dog to chase after toys and pick them up. Don’t try and get them to fully retrieve yet, but reward heavily of they do.
- Walk by your side – Start to introduce heel training by getting your dog to walk by your side. You can do this by either using clicker training or food rewards.
3 – 4 Months
At three months, most puppies will be able to easily sleep through the night and they will be having less toilet accidents in the house.
Despite discouraging biting from day one, you may find that your puppy is even more keen to sink their teeth into you. Don’t worry about this. Three months is the peak age for biting, so don’t expect to cure the problem yet.
You can introduce positions such as ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’, but don’t expect your dog to stay. In addition to this, you can start rewarding your dog when they come to you and get them associated with a lead.
- Lead walking – Introduce a lead to your dog for short periods of time. Take them for walks around your garden or house and get them used to it. Read more about lead training here.
- Even more socialisation – Once your dog is vaccinated, you can introduce them to more dogs and take them more places. Take advantage of this.
- Come – Once your dog has associated “come” with the action of moving towards you, you can begin to use it as a command. Try and get your dog to come to you in a distraction free environment.
- Biting – No biting should be allowed, but gentle mouthing is ok.
- Fetch and retrieve – Continue to encourage your dog to retrieve different items or toys.
- Introduce some new positions – Start rewarding your dog when they sit or lie down. We are not fully training them yet, but letting them know we like it when they go into those positions. Read more about teaching your dog to sit here.
- Basket – Introduce the idea that sitting in their basket when you are doing the washing or when you are eating dinner is good. Reward them for doing so.
4 – 6 Months
At four to six months old you should be getting your puppy’s biting problem under control and mouthing should be discouraged. Additionally, your dog should be well toilet trained, however there still might be some accidents if they are left too long.
You should also teach your puppy to let you touch their face, inside their mouth and paws. This can help you when checking for any problems and your vet will appreciate it.
Puppies at four months will be a lot more capable and you will be able to expect more from their training. You can start to introduce more commands, but avoid making training sessions too long.
Despite their ability for more advanced training, don’t expect your dog to walk at heel or stay for long periods of time.
- Come – Introduce distractions into your dog’s ‘come’ training routine.
- Sit and lie down – Introduce distractions and get your dog sitting and lying down at your command
- Stay – You are not going to ask your dog to stay, but use commands like sit and lie down to get them to.
- Heel – Continue getting your dog to walk by your side and introduce more advanced heel training.
- Socialisation – Continue to socialise your dog.
- No more biting – There should be no biting or mouthing allowed.
5 – 6 months
- Command and obedience training – Continue training for commands such as ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘come’ and ‘heel’. Introduce distractions in their training routine.
After 6 Months
Once your dog has got to six months, you should have the basics fully ingrained into your dog’s mind. They should be able to carry out basic obedience commands and they should be socialised.
Now that they are six months old, you can begin to raise your expectations for their training. Your puppy should be able to sit and stay for longer periods of time, and you should begin to introduce more distractions into their training.
Puppies at this age should be perfectly capable of walking at heel for extended periods of time and they should come at your command.
Introduce any other commands you want to teach your dog, but make sure you are reinforcing the stuff you have already taught them.
Six month old dogs can cause a lot of problems as they are quite powerful and are full of energy. You may experience some challenges with your training, but you should be able to work through them.
An Excellent Dog Training Course
If you are looking for a step-by-step guide to training a dog, we can recommend the one from ‘The Online Dog Trainer’. It features videos from a professional dog trainer that covers everything you need to know about raising a puppy from eight weeks through to one-year-old.
The guide covers what you need to do at different stages of your dog’s life, so you never need to guess.
We feel this is one of the best dog training courses out there and is a great tool for new owners to learn how to train their canine. There is so much to this course, we recommend just checking it out for yourself at the link below.
Examples of What a Puppy Can Do
While the puppies below are quite advanced for their age, it does show what can be achieved. You may not be able to advance your puppy this quickly, but it should give you some motivation.
Here’s a Lab puppy at 16 weeks old.
and this impressive little French Bulldog is only 12 weeks.
Should You Consider Puppy Training Classes?
Most pet owners can teach their dog everything they need to know. With a bit of consistency and persistence, you should able to train your dog to respond to commands predictably and reliably.
While you can teach everything yourself, some people prefer to take their dogs to puppy school. In puppy training classes, instructors can demonstrate techniques and help you through the training. They can advise you on any problems you may be facing and how to fix them.
A major benefit of puppy training classes is that they force you to train your dog. Too many people get a dog and intend to train it, but never carry on through with it.
However, we feel that the main benefit of puppy training school is that it is a great way to socialise your dog. You are in a group setting and there are plenty of other dogs around for your puppy to play with. Socialisation is incredibly important for a dog’s development and because of this we feel that training school is worth it.
If you have access to other dogs, you may find that puppy school is less beneficial for socialising. First time dog owners will get the most out of training classes.
Remember to be the Pack Leader
Puppies are hard-wired to follow the pack leader. Leaders need to be consistent and strong, however, many dog owners fail miserably at this. They are not consistent with their dogs and while they are strong leaders at work, they go soft when they are with their canines.
A puppy will sense confidence levels and they will try to take control if they do not find a suitable pack leader. When this happens to a puppy, they can begin to behave badly. They may start barking, pulling, chewing or they can develop anxiety.
Becoming your puppy’s pack leader is the most important thing you can do. You need to maintain this role throughout your entire dog’s life, not just when they are bad or when they are old enough. It starts from the moment you get them home.
Summing Up When to Train a Puppy
While there are differing opinions of when to start training a puppy, most modern trainers would agree that you should start training them as soon as you get them home.
Ultimately, it will depend on you and whether you start at eight weeks or four months, it won’t probably make much difference in the long run.
We do feel that it is important to have even the slightest amount of control over your dog, and you will want to start house training right away. Additionally, training your dog to not bite and not to snatch food is incredibly important.
Remember to never ask too much of your dog and that progress can be quite slow. Do not get frustrated and try not to compare your dog’s progress with another.
If you do start training at an early age, you will be surprised by how much your puppy can learn. Training is a great way to spend quality time with your dog and can be loads of fun.