Puppy training: When should I start training my puppy?



How old was your puppy when you started training her?

I believe it’s never too early to start training a puppy. And since most puppies are already 8 weeks old or more when they go to their new homes, that is a perfect age to begin basic training.

I actually prefer to adopt dogs that are at least a year old or more. Not because they’re trained (some are, some aren’t), but because their energy levels and personalities are clear.

Still, if I ever adopt a puppy, she will be learning all kinds of tricks and commands right off the bat. She will be better than all the other puppies. :)

By basic puppy training, I’m referring to:

  • Potty training
  • Basic rules and manners
  • Beginning obedience commands
  • Not to pull on the leash

Zeus learned sit and stay at 12 weeks

Some puppy owners don’t begin training their pups right away. This is often because:

1. The puppy is so cute and little, so no one minds when she has bad manners.

2. The puppy’s owner is afraid of training the puppy incorrectly, so she doesn’t train the puppy at all.

3. Some puppy owners expect puppies to be naughty because that’s just what puppies do.

They’ll be better when they’re older, the owner thinks.

Well, not really. Not unless you teach her.

If someone allows a 16-week-old puppy to get away with bad manners, it won’t be long before a 9-month-old puppy is getting away with the same bad manners.

Dogs need to be taught the rules. It’s unfair to expect them to change just because they’re no longer little puppies.

So, how should someone go about training his or her puppy?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so here are some easy tips:

1. Manners and rules

What expectations do you have for the adult version of your puppy?

For example, if you don’t want your future 75-pound Lab jumping on you, then don’t allow your 7-pound puppy to jump on you.

If you don’t want your future adult Pomeranian on the bed, then don’t allow your Pomeranian puppy on the bed.

If you don’t want your future German Shepherd dog pulling on the leash, then don’t allow your puppy to do so.

2. Basic obedience training

Puppies are very capable of learning the basic commands – sit, down, stay, come.

I took my family’s golden retriever puppy to obedience classes, and she had all the basics down by the time she was 12 weeks old. A blog I follow called Alfie’s Blog mentioned that Alfie the Entlebucher mountain dog also knew the basics when he was about 12 weeks old. His owner sets a great example for her blog followers.

While every puppy will learn at a different pace, the key is just to get started teaching the basics. Work in short sessions of just 2 or 3 minutes multiple times per day. Your puppy wants to eat? Have her sit first. She wants a toy? Have her sit. Keep your goals simple and go from there.

“… the key is just to get started teaching the basics. Work in short sessions of just 2 or 3 minutes …”

I also highly, highly recommend enrolling your puppy in a puppy obedience class. This will give you a refresher on how to go about training your puppy, and it will give your puppy the valuable experience of socializing with other dogs her age.

3. Potty training

I won’t go into the details on puppy potty training because there is so much info out there already. I just want to add one thing:

Get rid of unnecessary steps when you are potty training a puppy.

If you want your adult dog to go potty outside, then that is where you should take your puppy.

Skip the newspapers. Skip the puppy pads. Skip the fake grass pads or whatever else. These just add confusion.

Sure, there are always exceptions. Some people live on the 20th floor in New York City apartment buildings, and it’s impossible to get a puppy outside on time.

However, most of us do not have that kind of excuse. We’re just too lazy to walk down one flight of stairs. Or we use the cold as the excuse. That’s confusing to the puppy, and it’s not fair.

If you want your adult dog to go potty outside, then take your puppy outside. Every time. Just my two cents.

For those of you who have adopted a puppy recently (or not so recently):

What is your #1 puppy training tip?


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  1. Linda - Alfie's Blog on January 28, 2014

    Puppies are amazing, so keen and eager to learn – and apart from teaching your puppy cool tricks and manners, you’re also building your bond by training them from day one.

    Thanks for linking back to Alfie’s blog by the way :-)

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 28, 2014

      Of course! I was impressed with his early training. And I’m still impressed with his training now. He’s a good boy.

  2. Cathy on January 28, 2014

    You forgot #4 on the list of reason why people don’t train puppies…because they think puppies are born understanding English. Those people who just keep screaming words at the puppy without ever teaching the poor puppy what the word means.

    I started training my girl at 8 weeks, and since she was scaling her x-pen at 8 weeks and 1 day it wasn’t a moment too soon!

    My tip is if you’re going to use food rewards, have your puppy work for her kibble. My girl is 5 now and she still, happily, works her furry butt off for kibble.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 28, 2014

      Haha! Oh how could I forget #4? :)

      I’m so glad my dog will also work for kibble, at least in most situations.

  3. Sylv on January 29, 2014

    One word: consistency! If you don’t want your dog on the bed at night, don’t have the dog on the bed during the day. Same with everything else – it’s either allowed or not allowed, and that doesn’t change depending on my mood.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 29, 2014

      So true! Consistency is not always easy, but it sure is effective.

  4. Les Wright on January 30, 2014

    I have 5 5week old puppies – contained within xpen with open crate and ‘elimination’ area. The temperature here has been -25 degrees, so putting puppy outside is NOT an option. They are quickly learning to void in the area provided, and although they will have to relearn outside, I feel that they now have a headstart!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 30, 2014

      Great! I’m sure you will have no trouble training them to go outside once it warms up.

  5. David on January 30, 2014

    Thank you for all the wonderful insight and suggestions I also wanted to see if you would review the Piddle Place and comment. We have one, and it has made a huge difference in our life. I volunteer at a shelter, and I see so many dogs abandoned due to housebreaking issues. I also work as a physician, and can’t always be home to walk my dog. I encourage people to consider the option of an indoor dog toilet puppylitterboxes.com for times they are not able to walk their dog. Perhaps more people would adopt.
    Thank you for sharing….PS. My dog always goes for a long walk as soon as I get home!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 30, 2014

      I used to be really against these types of products, but I can see the value in them for some dogs. Not something I would use, but not everyone has the flexible schedule I have.

  6. Dawn on January 30, 2014

    So true about why some people don’t start training right away. I’ve been guilty of the 1st and 3rd reasons. You must have heard me talking about Maya since you used the 75 pound Lab jumping on you as an example! :D Actually, she’s only 65 pounds. And she knows not to jump on me. It’s stopping her from jumping on other people that has been a challenge. My neighbor has a new Lab puppy and is having the same trouble. He’s trying to do the right thing and not let Scooby jump, and I try to help by not petting Scooby unless he’s sitting. It’s hard not to use the excuse that it’s a Lab thing.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 30, 2014

      Haha! I don’t think I remembered that Maya is a jumper! We had a golden that jumped really bad when I was growing up. Thankfully, Ace has never jumped on people. I think it’s because he’s too “top heavy.” It’s awkward for him to jump!

  7. DogTrainingSecrets on January 30, 2014

    When i got my first dog i made an huge mistake by training him only indoors. Reason was that i did not have any where else to go(no garden) and on the street side other dogs that where passing us where more interesting for him.
    After some time he only obeyed indoors. when it was outdoor time he did not even react to hes own name

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