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Mark Your Calendar: Here’s When to Start Training a Puppy

Your puppy training schedule, from 8 weeks to 6 months. Let’s do this.

by Melissa Dallier, CPDT-KA
October 22, 2021
Border Collie puppy shaking owner's hand
etreeg/Shutterstock

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

YES! You got an endlessly cute puppy. Hope you’ve been doing your vocal warm-ups because you’re going to be saying “awwww” a lot. Of course, all things will also soon be chew-worthy and bathroom breaks will seemingly be needed every five seconds. But don’t fret — if you’re running on a less than ideal amount of sleep courtesy of this new fluffy explorer learning about their new world, help is on the way. Here’s your puppy training cheat sheet to pull off your first six months together like a couple of pros:

8-12 Weeks

Bonding 

This early time is for lots of love, positive experiences, exposure, and learning about their home and family. It’s your puppy’s time to know they are home and safe. 

Potty Training

Puppies under 10 weeks old typically can’t hold their bladder for more than 30 mins or so; that number will increase a bit each week. This means you either need to plan to take your pup outside consistently or, as a fallback, have a safe area available at all times (puppy pads or grass pads). Puppies need to go out: 

  • When they wake up

  • After they eat

  • After they drink 

  • After they play 

  • Any time they look confused 

  • Every 30 mins

Basically, when in doubt take them out. Every time your puppy pees or poops outside, give them a high-value treat (e.g. something your pup loves) right after they finish doing their business so they know to continue heading out whenever nature calls. Avoid punishing your puppy for accidents. It’s frustrating, but they’re still learning and can’t control themselves. Clean it up, throw it in the wash, and get back to rewarding your puppy for all the right things they’re doing.

Socialization

Arguably the most important piece of any successful puppyhood (with proper vaccinations and go-ahead from your vet, of course). This is the process of teaching your puppy all about the world through positive, gradual experiences. The world can be scary for a puppy and it’s your job to help them learn it doesn’t have to be. Signing up for a puppy socialization class or working with a trainer when they’re young can help your pup establish a positive comfort level from the start. The first 16 weeks are critical for your puppy’s development, so definitely don’t wait on this one.

Name Recognition

Say your puppy’s name and give them a treat. After enough repetitions — which shouldn’t be a problem since volunteers will be lining up for this tough assignment — your pup will start to respond at the sound of their name and know something good will follow. And ta-da, one of many sweet milestones to come accomplished. 

Training Program

Try these free training programs from our friends at Dogo to help with new dog life and basic obedience.

Start Training

12-16 Weeks

Keep Up Socialization

Why? That limited window isn’t closed yet, but we’re getting close. Keep focusing on new experiences. Don’t wait (you know you’d rather take your puppy everywhere as your plus-one anyway).

Home-Alone Training 

Puppies, and dogs in general, are not predisposed to being alone. It takes time and positive experiences to learn that being home alone is safe and tbh kind of great. Start by creating good experiences in safe places like a puppy pen, crate, or made-safe-for-your-puppy room. Use lots of treats and toys your pup loves, and a favorite bed. Leave for only seconds or minutes at a time. Gradually increase time if your puppy is comfortable — they may vocalize a little but excessive whining, crying, barking = distress. Don’t let them just “cry it out.” If your puppy isn’t progressing being home alone within a week or so, contact a positive reinforcement trainer for help sooner rather than later.

Bite Inhibition 

Puppies bite. A lot. It’s normal. Part of your job is to help them learn they can play with other dogs and toys with their mouth, but your skin is sensitive. Over the first several months, we “shape” our dogs to use their mouths softer. They get to bite some, but don’t be afraid to use those toys to redirect them when it gets too rough.

Basic Cues and Behaviors 

This can be a good time to start teaching some very basic cues to help open communicate with your puppy. If needed, don’t hesitate to work with a positive reinforcement trainer for help. My top three behaviors to teach puppies: 

  • Touch / Hand Target 

  • Offered Attention (looking at you) 

  • Drop it (start with trading for treats) 

Leash Training

You will be working on walking on a leash for months or longer. But this is a good age to introduce a leash, let your puppy drag it around, and start to reward your pup for walking with you. Harnesses are also the best fit for a young puppy learning about leash walking (actually best for all dogs during walks and healthier for their necks). Be generous with treats to teach them what you want and be patient.

16-24 Weeks

Don’t rush in teaching too many things, too fast. Learn about your puppy and what your and their specific needs are. There is so much time to teach new behaviors. Focus on the foundations of just a few basic skills now and ensure your puppy is well socialized, comfortable in the world, sniffing all the sniffs, and having positive experiences on walks. They’ll be taking in new sights, sounds, and experiences with ease. Not to mention, connecting with you. Just like humans, your new puppy will be learning forever. Slow down and enjoy the walk. 

Melissa Dallier, CPDT-KA

Melissa Dallier is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Dogly Training Advocate. Her specialty is helping pet parents feel more connected to your dog through positive, evidence based training. Melissa lives in Colorado with her two dogs Rodger and Moxie.