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How to Train a Puppy

Welcome to That Mutt! Browse these categories to find answers to some of the most common puppy training questions. For more, also see my dog training tips page.

Common Puppy Training Problems

How to train a puppy

Puppy Potty Training

See my post: How long does it take to potty train a puppy? (longer than most people expect!)

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. When I got my new Lab puppy, Rip, I was taking him outside to go potty every 30 minutes!

When you can’t supervise your puppy, put him in a kennel or an ex-pen or at least a gated-off area.

I generally do not recommend puppy pads, indoor grass for dogs or newspapers. This adds an extra, unnecessary step and teaches the dog to pee indoors.

For more puppy potty training info:

Puppy’s first night home

Puppy craziness! Chewing & biting

Puppy kennel training

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.

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:

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

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.

Karli the long haired German shepherd puppy playing with snow on her face

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.

Socializing your puppy

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 puppy socialization tips.

Puppy exercise and leash manners

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 20 minutes 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.

For more info:

Introducing your puppy to your other pets

Other common puppy training issues:

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.

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.

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 sleep in your bed unless you want your adult dog to sleep in your bed.

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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.

What puppy training tips do you have?

Let me know in the comments!

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