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I just got a puppy! When do I start puppy training?

I just got a puppy! When do I start puppy training?

The Sooner, The Better

This is a very common question that comes up, with good news and bad news. The bad news is that if you have waited for the "magical 6 months" to start, you have waited 6 months too long. My previously stated answer to new puppy owners was "as soon as you walk into your house," but I have modified that somewhat. As soon as you meet your new puppy is really when the training starts. Of course, you will not be teaching your pup to come or down at a distance upon your first meeting, but your response to puppy shenanigans will be building the foundation of your long-term relationship. Puppies will naturally mouth and nip at things, but hands are to be completely off limits. If not addressed at the outset, most likely it will bloom into a full-grown disaster. So, we have established the when, but you might be asking, "Jeff, what am I supposed to do? What training can you do with an eight week old puppy?" I'm glad you asked. Let's take a look at some of the things to consider when caring for the new puppy (since it is likely that you already have your puppy, consider using "Preparation for Arrival" and "Day 1" to modify the current routine).

Preparation for Arrival

Though not technically "training," being prepared for the pup's arrival is very important. Water bowl: Check, Food bowl: Check, Food: Check. Collar and Leash: Check. Done. Not so fast. Here are a few other things to consider prior to the arrival of your new family member:

  • Write out a schedule. This includes walking, eating, drinking, playing, and resting/crating. Check out some examples of Puppy Schedules
  • Responsibilities. Who will be responsible for the various puppy activities? Include responsibilities in the schedule. Dogs love routines, so everyone needs to do the same things and the same way when it comes to your puppy. No exceptions. And do not leave your puppy alone for long periods of time. These are very important!
  • Where will the puppy be kept when not supervised?
  • Puppy proof your house. For example, make sure that electrical cords are not available for chewing. For more examples see Puppy Proofing Your Home
  • Pick a place for your puppy relieve himself, and bring him there every time.
  • Other items to get include are grooming tools (brush, nail clippers, ear cleaner), enzymatic cleaner/deodorizer for accidents, pen or crate or both.
  • High quality food. This is a must... more fillers, more potential problems. You can see how your dog food is rated here at Dog Food Advisor

Day 1

The first day with you will be a big change for your puppy. Keep these things in mind:

  • Keep it calm. Do not have a "New Puppy Party" with fireworks, guests, and dancing horses. Maintain the relatively calm environment for several days to a week.
  • Do not isolate your puppy. Let him sleep in your room, but NOT in your bed.
  • Put your puppy on the schedule (from "Preparation for Arrival"") right away. Remember, dogs love routines.

8 to 12 Weeks Old

During your puppy's 8 to 12 week adventure there are many things to do, some of which set the stage for formal obedience training.

  • Introduce your puppy to the crate.
  • Introduce you puppy to the collar and leash.
  • Correct unwanted behaviors. When he mouths or nips, substitute a nylabone for your fingers.
  • Be aware of the first fear period, which is from about 8 to 10 weeks old. Your puppy will be afraid of things that he has never reacted to previously. Use caution when dealing with these situations. Be encouraging, do not coddle, and do not "force him to face his fears."
  • Play games with him, like retrieving.
  • Socialize you puppy to as many new experiences (sights, sounds, surfaces, people, household items, etc.) as you can dream up. More is better, but remember YOU are your pup's protector (you can get the free Protecting Your Dog Poster and "Wait Command" bonus video by signing up at For example, instruct children how to calmly approach your puppy. Also, be careful of where older dogs have been if your pup has not completed his vaccinations.
  • Condition your puppy for future commands. For example, move you puppy's food bowl to a position over his head before each feeding. He will naturally follow the bowl and end up in a sit.
  • Condition your puppy to be handled and held. Paws, nails, ears, legs, body are all areas that someone besides you will handle someday. An occasional massage doesn't hurt either... for you or your puppy! Here are Basic Instructions on Dog Massage
  • Work on getting your puppy to recognize his name (use it frequently) and maintaining eye contact with him in a variety of situations.

You would start the more formal obedience training sessions, for walking nicely on a leash, sit, down, come, place, stay, wait, at about twelve weeks old. Everything you will have done in the previous four weeks has prepared you for twelve weeks and beyond. Happy training!

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Breaking Through Barriers, Transforming Lives... Jeff

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