How should I start training my puppy?

Everyone has their own methods when it comes to raising a dog.

Some people never use kennels and their dogs never have accidents and never chew anything. Some people carry their dogs around everywhere, and the dogs never develop separation anxiety. I’d rather not risk it.

Below are my suggestions for raising a calm, well-adjusted, confident dog from the very beginning.

Feel free to add suggestions of your own on how to train a puppy.

1. Should I let my puppy on the furniture?

No, unless you are OK with your soon-to-be adult dog on the furniture. Start setting rules for your puppy from day one. Do not allow your puppy to pull on the leash unless you want your adult dog to pull on the leash. Do not allow your puppy to sleep in your bed unless you want your adult dog to sleep in your bed. Do not allow your puppy to jump on people unless you want your adult dog jumping on people.

I suggest allowing your puppy on the couch or your bed only after you give permission with a command like “OK” or “Up.” Use the couch as a reward, not a right. If your puppy jumps onto the couch without your permission, just push her off and make her wait until you give her the OK. It’s much easier to teach your puppy to stay off the couch from the beginning than it is to break this habit later when you have a 70-pound, smelly, drooling mutt like mine.

2. Use everything as a training opportunity for your puppy.

Whenever your puppy wants something, use it as an opportunity to teach a command such as sit or down. Make her sit or lie down before she gets food or a toy. Start teaching her to sit before heading out the door or putting on her leash. Start teaching her words for “water” and “walk” and “car.”

3. How to kennel train my puppy.

Yes, kennel training is an important aid during potty training because most puppies do not want to pee in their “dens.” A kennel will also keep your puppy safe (and out of trouble!) when you leave the house.

The most important key to kennel training a puppy is to ignore all crying and barking. Never go to your puppy when she is making noise. If you do, you are rewarding her for crying. Even negative attention like yelling is good attention as far as she is concerned.

Return to your puppy only after she has been quiet for at least 20 seconds but ideally a few minutes. If your puppy needs to be let out to go to the bathroom at night, then wait and do so once she is quiet. It’s better to wake her up and take her out than to wait for her to bark.

If you believe “caging” a puppy is wrong, think of the kennel as a tool for future freedom. Dogs that are kennel trained learn to be calm when left alone. Once my dog was about 18 months old, I started leaving him loose in my house because he had learned to just chill out and be calm when I left.

For more information on kennel training, see my post on how to kennel train a dog and how to stop my dog from crying.

4. Leave your puppy alone so she doesn’t develop separation anxiety.

Karli the long haired German shepherd puppy playing with snow on her facePeople like to carry their puppies around all the time, talking to them like they are babies. This is nice until the dog develops an unhealthy attachment to her owner and freaks out whenever they are apart. To prevent separation anxiety, make sure to start leaving your puppy alone for at least 20 minutes here and there every single day. Puppies need to learn that it’s OK when you leave. You will always return.

Give your puppy a treat like a Kong toy filled with peanut butter, and put her in her kennel to be alone for a few minutes even if you are in another room. You want her to learn to accept this down time and maybe even look forward to it.

Remember not to make a big event out of returning to your puppy. This just reinforces that being apart is bad. And remember to return only when she’s quiet.

For more information, check out my post on dog separation anxiety.

5. Stick to a routine.

Puppies need a routine in order to learn what is expected of them in their new environment. It’s important to establish a routine right away because it prevents bad habits from forming and helps your puppy feel secure.

What do I mean by a routine? I mean take your puppy outside at the same times every day. Feed her at approximately the same times. Walk her at the same times. Play with her every day. Train her every day. Kennel her at the same times every day. Have her sleep in the same place every night.

For more info, see my post on setting a routine for your dog.

6. How often should I feed my puppy?

Puppies grow a lot, and they need a lot of food, so it’s OK to feed them three or four meals per day. Just make sure to feed at specific meal times and to put the food away after five minutes.

Do not leave food available to your puppy at all times. Food is a reward, and you want your puppy to see you as a source for food. If your puppy chooses not to eat, don’t add treats or other goodies to the food. Just throw the food away or set it aside until the next meal. She will be hungry by then. Use her meals as an opportunity to teach the puppy her name and commands like come, sit, stay and down.

Check out my post on my dog won’t eat.

7. How to train my puppy to walk on a leash.

Remember not to allow anything from a puppy that you wouldn’t want an adult dog to do. That means no pulling. So, ditch the Flexi, retractable leash until your dog has learned to walk nicely on a leash. Retractable leashes reward a dog for pulling. Instead, use a 6-foot leather leash and stop moving the second your dog reaches the end of the leash. Once the leash is loose, reward your puppy by moving forward. Teach her that if she pulls, you go nowhere.

For more information, see my posts on reasons not to buy a retractable leash and how to teach my dog to heel.

Sammi the brown and white pitbull jack Russell mix puppy sleeping on blanket

8. How do I teach my puppy to go potty outside?

You start right away! The basic concept is to ignore any “accidents” and to reward the puppy when she does go outside. This means you need to take her to the same spot outside very often. Take her out at least every 45 minutes until you learn how often she needs to go. And always take her out every time she wakes up and right after she eats or drinks.

This is where a kennel can help you out with potty training. If you know your puppy has to go but she gets distracted, just put her in her kennel for five minutes. Then, take her outside again. Repeat as necessary. This eliminates the possibility of your puppy peeing on your rug. Once she’s gone potty outside, let her run around and play in the house for a bit.

Do not use puppy pads, indoor grass for dogs or newspapers. This adds an extra, unneccessary step and teaches the dog to pee indoors. For more information, see my posts on how to potty train a puppy and reasons not to buy potty pads for dogs.

9. Introduce your puppy to everyone.

You want your dog to be well socialized, so help her associate positive experiences with everyone she meets. Allow her to be around adults, kids of all ages, babies, old people in wheelchairs, students wearing backpacks and people in hats. Introduce her to strollers, other dogs of all sizes and ages, cats, rollerbladers and bikes. Ask different people to give her treats and attention.

Basically, introduce your puppy to any kind of person she might meet during her life. Make sure to check with your vet to see if she needs any shots before interacting with other animals for her safety and the safety of other pets.

Check out my post on how to socialize my dog.

10. Introduce your puppy to many different environments and experiences.

It’s never too early to start introducing your puppy to places such as the vet, a grooming shop, dog daycare, car rides or boat rides. So take her to as many places as possible! Reward her for being calm. Leave her at a friend’s house for an hour so she gets used to being away from you.

You also want to get her used to nail trims, baths, wearing a coat or boots, having her teeth cleaned, etc. So make sure to touch your puppy’s feet, ears, tail and mouth every day so she gets used to being handled.

11. Should I take my puppy to obedience classes?

Yes! Even if you “know everything” about training a puppy, you should still enroll in an obedience class to get a head start on socializing your dog. I consider Ace a well-trained dog, but we still take obedience classes every now and then as an excuse to train. Puppy obedience classes are a great resource for practicing obedience commands and swapping dog advice while getting your puppy out and about in a new environment.

An obedience trainer will also help you with all the basics like how to teach your puppy to sit, come, stay and lie down.

If you live in Fargo, I recommend Red River North Dog Obedience Club for puppy training and dog obedience.

12. Do not pick your puppy up every time she is scared.

It’s natural for humans to comfort our “babies,” but dogs are not babies. Coddling a puppy only creates an insecure dog. Dogs need to learn how to deal with their surroundings. If your shy puppy cowers behind you, the best thing you can do for her is walk away.

If you pick your puppy up every time she cries and wants to be held, you are rewarding the behavior and creating a very needy and annoying dog. Instead, completely ignore your puppy if she cries and pick her up only when she is quiet and calm. Teach her that she gets affection from you only when she is sitting or lying down quietly and patiently.

13. How far can I walk my puppy?

You don’t have to worry about walking your puppy too far. It will be very obvious when a young puppy is too tired. She will sit or lie down. But once your puppy is four months old or so, she will start to be in that endless energy stage. You will never be able to walk her too far! Make sure you are providing her with enough exercise to help drain that energy. Plan on walking her for at least a half-hour twice per day. This will help her settle down in her kennel, and it will give her something productive to do with her energy rather than create her own “jobs” such as chewing your couch.

14. Provide your puppy with the right chew toys.

Puppies start to lose their puppy teeth at about four months old. This is when they will need appropriate chew toys more than ever. But, even adult dogs love to chew. It’s fun for them, it relieves stress and it helps keep their teeth clean. Make sure to provide your puppy with toys and bones to chew so she doesn’t find her own “toys.” To keep her interested in toys, rotate which toys she has access to, and only keep two or three out at a time. I recommend Nylabones, Kongs, raw bones and rope toys.

You can also teach your puppy not to bite or nip at you by completely ignoring the unwanted behavior and re-directing her to chew on her toys instead. Teach her that she gets no attention from you if she’s going to bite.

Follow these puppy training tips and you will be well on your way to raising a confident and well-mannered dog.

What puppy training tips do you have?

Related posts:

How to introduce my dog to a new puppy

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