When you first bring home a new puppy, you’ll have so many firsts to enjoy together. Some milestones — the first accident, for example — aren’t quite as cute, but that’s why you’ll want to start training with your pup as soon as possible. Understanding puppy training stages will help you break down all your goals into realistic steps, making you and your new best friend more likely to succeed.
Remember, training your pup is just one important aspect of his well-being. Make sure you’re taking care of his diet, health, and happiness, too. These first few weeks together are ultra-important for your puppy’s development, so here’s your ultimate puppy training schedule, week by week:
It’s important to establish a routine as soon as you can. Not only will this ensure that you and your pup have every need met, but it also will let your new dog become more familiar with his environment. As dog trainer Ken McCann says in his YouTube video guide for puppy training, “You’ll be setting them up for success,” especially for potty training. Make sure to supervise while he’s outside!
Luring your new pup to you with a treat is a great first step toward bonding and training. At this point, he’s working purely on instinct, but he’s learning the reward value of treats as well as a praise word — something like “yes” or “good” to let him know he’s doing well.
This also gets your pup used to working for a treat, which builds motivation and confidence. Negative reinforcement won’t teach him anything but a feeling of unease at this age, so it’s a good idea to focus on rewards instead. Now that he knows that following you gets that reward, he’ll soon be ready to move on to the next stage.
By nine weeks, your puppy has had some time to adjust to his new environment. He’s probably gaining confidence by the hour as he learns what his little body can do, so it’s extra important to keep your fur baby supervised during this developmental stage.
Your puppy’s name should be used as a tool for training at this age. Instead of using it at every chance to try to get him used to it, use it sparingly as a way to grab his attention — and then reward him for responding! This positive reinforcement will help the name stick, so he knows to respond when he hears it.
Keep your routines consistent to give your young dog the chance to learn new habits. Knowing that it’ll be time to go potty soon, for example, could determine whether your pup has an accident in the house.
This is a great time to start increasing the challenge of your pup’s commands — using baby steps, of course! If you haven’t already, have your puppy sit (use a treat to lure him into position by raising it from nose level to above his head) before receiving every meal. This further integrates training and teaches him manners.
If you’ve been luring him toward you with a treat, try leading him a few steps back and forth, or even in a circle, for more of a challenge. Use the word “come” when you lure your pet around with a treat, and soon he’ll start to understand. Don’t forget to praise your pet with words and a treat every time he completes a command. Yes, every time!
During this time, keep on practicing everything you’ve introduced to your pup. Have him wait a little longer before getting rewarded, teaching him a bit of patience at a time. Take each “sit” a step further by practicing “down” (just lower the treat down toward the floor) or take a few steps away while your pup works on patiently sitting.
It’s a good time to introduce a collar, harness, or leash if you haven’t already — though you shouldn’t jump right into wearing it. Baby steps are a good idea when trying anything new with your fur baby!
Once your vet gives you the go-ahead, it’s important to socialize your puppy. Doing this in short, calm trips outside will help your fur baby build confidence as you go.
As your pup gets to know other dogs and people, it’s extra important to practice commands like “leave it” and any others you’ve been learning. This will give you more control over playtime should anything get out of hand. Generally, though, pups are great at giving one another a verbal signal — a little yelp — if a sibling or playmate bites too hard.
Remember, every dog, no matter what age, runs on their own body clock. No two pups develop at exactly the same rate, so don’t feel discouraged if your furry friend is technically “behind” in any area. If you’re truly concerned, though, it’s never a bad idea to let your veterinarian know. They’re here to help you find your way along this crazy path of puppyhood, after all. You can do it, pet parents!
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