Getting a new puppy is an exciting time for everyone. Time is spent choosing the perfect breed for your lifestyle, names are explored, and toys are purchased in abundance.
We have dreams of the perfect puppy, cuddling on the sofa and playing in the garden. A puppy that walks on the leash perfectly and obeys our commands.
This doesn’t happen naturally though, puppies are mischievous and adventurous, and ultimately need training, boundaries, and leadership to live a happy and healthy life.
Once you are ready to bring your new puppy home, it is time to start the daunting process of training. It can be confusing and difficult to know where is best to start.
Of course, it’s tempting to jump straight into the cute tricks we can teach them and to overly compensate for misbehavior because they are young and adorable.
But it is important to remember, however, that to help our puppies be successful they need to learn who is in charge and what behavior is acceptable as well as what isn’t acceptable.
That’s where I come in.
Read my complete puppy training schedule based on your puppy’s age. An all you need to know guide to shaping your puppy into the well-behaved family dog you’ve always dreamed of.
This guide can be used no matter what age your puppy is, it is never too late to start training.
General Training Tips
There are a few general tips and tricks that can help you make the most of your puppy’s training and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
The puppy training process is not always linear and can be frustrating at times.
Your puppy is still finding their feet in the world and is going to make mistakes. You are also both learning to communicate with one another in languages you don’t understand.
Remember to take the time and really establish a strong connection with your puppy to ensure a healthy bond and training experience.
If that means taking a break from learning a command or behavior to have some play and relaxation, that’s fine, there’s always tomorrow.
It is also important to remember that just by simply existing within your household, your puppy will still be learning their place and how things work in its new home. There is always room for indirect training such as this in a training schedule.
Use Their Food
When your puppy is very young, their food can be an incredibly effective training tool and one that I strongly recommend you utilize.
Making your puppy work for their food is a great way to keep them focused on the task, motivate them, and create a positive association with looking to you for guidance.
This technique can be weaned off as they get older and are more capable of following verbal commands and have established a bond and leadership hierarchy with you.
Consistency Is Key
This tip is true for both learning new commands and practicing old ones. The easiest way to ensure consistency when training your puppy is to implement a training schedule.
It doesn’t have to be strict, but just setting aside some pockets of time every day to dedicate to training your puppy can help you and your pup stay on track and stay consistent.
It is also important to remember to practice commands your pup has already learned to help them retain them. Mealtimes can be a great time to practice commands and tricks your puppy has already mastered.
Getting your puppy to sit, heel, or lay down before getting their food can be a fun way to practice and give a reward at the same time.
Now that you know the basic foundations of successful puppy training, let’s get into our schedule.
This age is when most new puppy owners get to bring their new addition home for the first time.
It is important to remember that separating a puppy from its mother any earlier than this is detrimental to the dog’s wellbeing. It should be avoided at all costs, excluding extenuating circumstances.
Create A Daily Routine
This is the most basic first step toward successful puppy training. Once your puppy is home implement a daily routine for them that includes set mealtimes, playtime, nap times, and potty breaks.
This will help your puppy to settle more easily into their new environment and give them structure.
One of the most important things you will teach your puppy is their name. This is a word they will respond to for the rest of their life and is the easiest way to get their attention focused on you in the future.
While first teaching your puppy to respond to their name, it is important to use their full name, the nicknames can come later.
The easiest way to teach your puppy their name is to repeat it to them throughout the day while interacting with them and to get their attention. This is a great time to use food rewards.
With a treat in your hand, call your puppy’s name. When they turn to look at you, raise the treat to your eye level to encourage eye contact with your pup.
Each time your puppy looks at you when you call their name reward them with praise, excitement, and the food if you’ve used it. In no time at all, your puppy will be bounding over to you each time you say their name.
This one is important for obvious reasons. The sooner your puppy is potty trained, the sooner you can stop worrying about stepping on something unsavory.
Potty training should start as soon as you bring your new puppy home, the easiest way to implement potty training is to have a potty break schedule.
Taking your puppy outside for potty breaks regularly and showing them where you want them to go is the best way for them to learn.
When you take your puppy for a potty break, say the command for ‘go potty’ (the exact command doesn’t matter as long as it is consistent), put your puppy on their leash, and take them to the spot you want them to use, repeat the command.
When outside it is important to stay in that spot with your puppy until they have been potty. This can take a while in the early stages, especially if they have had an accident inside recently, this is where the importance of patience comes in.
When your puppy does potty in the correct spot be sure to give them lots of praise and let them know that they did a good job.
As a general rule of thumb, when working out how regularly you should be taking your puppy for potty breaks, take your puppy’s age in months and divide it by two.
For example, a 2-month-old puppy should be taken for potty breaks every hour, as they can usually hold their bladder for an hour at a time.
Your puppy’s crate should be a safe space that they can retreat to when they need space or want to chill out.
Crate training is an important step in avoiding separation anxiety for your dog. The most important thing to remember if you are crate training is that it should never be used as a punishment.
When setting up your crate there are a few things you can do to make it a pleasant space for your pup. Firstly, make sure that the crate is big enough for your puppy and will not be outgrown too quickly.
A bigger crate will need to be purchased as your puppy grows. Secondly, make sure there is a comfortable bed or blanket for your puppy to sleep on, sometimes a blanket that smells like an owner can help in the beginning.
Thirdly, ensure that there is a puppy pad, especially overnight.
Your puppy’s crate can also be a great place to begin implementing more advanced training techniques such as threshold training and boundaries.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths, they are prone to chewing things and have a hard time knowing the difference between objects they can chew, furniture, and our hands and feet.
To reduce unwanted chewing behaviors, the best tool in your arsenal is chew toys.
Try to avoid attempting to take an object, such as a slipper, from your puppy when they are chewing it. The act of pulling on the object can seem like a game of tug-o-war to your puppy and does not discourage the original behavior.
Instead, simply redirect your puppy’s attention to their chew toy by making it seem as interesting as possible. Once your pup is ignoring the original object, simply remove it from the area.
At this stage of your puppy’s development, the easiest obedience commands you can teach are ‘sit’ and ‘come’. These are commands that you are likely to use most often in your puppy’s life.
Again, food is a great incentive in teaching this command, luring your puppy over to you using a treat in your hand while saying the ‘come’ command is a great way to teach this obedience lesson.
Again, remember to give lots of verbal praise when your pup follows a command properly.
Allow close family and friends to interact with your puppy inside your home to get them used to encountering people who are not their humans. This is a helpful step in reducing the anxiety they may feel on their first walks.
Ensure that the interactions your puppy has with other people are fun, engaging, and enjoyable.
At this point, you can begin to advance your pup’s obedience commands and socialization and begin working on their impulse control. The majority of your puppy’s training should still take place inside due to vaccination status.
Introduce The Leash And Harness
If you have not already introduced your puppy to its leash or harness, now is the time to do so. Put the harness and leash on your puppy and let them wear it inside your home as you supervise them.
This will allow them to get used to the feel of the harness before going on their first walk.
Socialization at this stage is still limited by your pup’s vaccination status. If they haven’t had all vaccinations their socialization should be limited to human interaction still.
You can continue to prepare your puppy for the outside world by introducing them to sounds that they may encounter when they are outside such as sirens, construction noise, and traffic by playing Youtube videos of sounds at an appropriate volume.
If your puppy has finished its vaccination schedule, you can introduce it to calm dogs. This should be done in a controlled environment. With the puppy in a playpen, allow it to see and interact with the dog through the barrier.
This can help avoid your puppy being overwhelmed or overpowered by the older dog.
Advance Obedience Commands
If your puppy has mastered the ‘sit’ and ‘come’ commands, you can move on to other basic obedience exercises. Teaching your puppy ‘down’ and ‘heel’ inside your home will be useful for when you can take that first walk outside.
Threshold Practice And Impulse Control
This is a training practice that will also be helpful once your puppy is able to go for walks outside.
Threshold practice involves making your puppy take a pause before crossing a threshold or boundary. This can include sitting or lying down for a moment before entering a room, leaving its crate, or using a crosswalk (when outside).
This helps discourage over-excitement when experiencing a new area and sets a foundation for calmer walks.
Impulse control has a similar effect to threshold practice, making your dog take a pause before gaining access to something. The easiest way to train impulse control is to have your dog sit before their food and water bowls are put down.
Once they have calmed down waiting for their meal, set the bowls down and give a command to release them from the ‘sit’.
By now your puppy will be able to handle more complex commands and even combinations of commands. Your pup should also be fully vaccinated and able to experience walks and socialize with other dogs.
Introduce Structured Play
To mix up your puppy’s training schedule you can add structured play sessions. These sessions are effectively learning through play.
Games such as fetch and tug-o-war can help to implement the ‘come’ and ‘leave it’ commands while exercising your puppy. It may be necessary to practice these commands outside of structured play to confirm that your puppy understands the command properly.
Introduce Leave-it And Command Combinations
The leave-it command is important in ensuring the safety of your puppy, if ever they have something dangerous in their mouth it is imperative that they respond to this command.
At this stage, your puppy will be able to learn command combinations. Using commands they have already learned, give them one after the other. For example: sit, lie down, stay, come.
Working on different combinations will keep your puppy engaged and entertained while reinforcing their training.
Practice Heel Command
The heel command is especially useful when you are on walks with your puppy. Once they have mastered it, their walks will be much calmer, and unwanted interactions with unfriendly dogs or nervous people can be easily avoided.
Practicing this outside, such as on a driveway allows your puppy to learn to ignore the distractions of the outside world. To begin with, you may need to increase the value of the treat on offer to your pup.
Socialization With Puppies
Once your pup is fully vaccinated they will be able to go on proper outside walks and socialize with other puppies. Interactions with other puppies should be supervised closely as it is the quality of interaction rather than quantity that is important.
Do not force interactions with other puppies and if the play is becoming too rough or your puppy appears uncomfortable, step in and interrupt the interaction.
The most important thing to remember is to limit the number of bad interactions your puppy has with other dogs to ensure good socialization.
If your puppy does have a poor interaction with another dog, it is important to avoid drawing too much attention to it. Instead, initiate an interaction with a known, friendly dog to reinforce the idea that interactions with other dogs can be fun and stimulating for your pup.
If, after a negative interaction, your puppy begins to act defensively or aggressively around other dogs, it is important to speak to a professional about the problematic behavior. Vets or dog behaviouralists can be helpful in such situations.
At this point in your puppy’s training, the majority of work should be done outside of your house. The focus will shift to acceptable behavior on walks and around other dogs and people.
Your puppy will also learn to focus on you while experiencing numerous audio, visual, and odorous distractions.
Advance To Outside Training
Taking your puppy to the park to practice their commands is a great way to strengthen the focus your dog has on you, and to incorporate natural distractions into your training.
When practicing commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘heel’ in an outside environment, it is important to make sure you have your puppy’s attention before giving the command.
Begin Weaning From Food Rewards
To begin weaning your puppy from food rewards you can ask for combinations of commands before giving a treat. You should also switch to verbal and physical affection rewards for singular and mastered commands.
Your pup will be just as happy with a scratch behind the ear as they would with a treat.
With your pup growing physically, you can now extend your walks to cover a larger area. This gives you more chance to work on leash training and the heel command.
6 months – 1 year
At this stage, your puppy is beginning to turn into an adolescent and they can be similar to human teenagers. This is where your puppy will really benefit from your training schedule and consistency.
Maintain Home Structure
Sticking to the schedule you have implemented over the last year is key here. It is likely that you will see regression in some areas of your puppy’s training as they begin to test boundaries.
Maintaining your puppy’s daily routine of mealtimes, regular exercise, and structured play can assist in reducing these unwanted behaviors.
As your pup becomes more confident outside of the house and with their commands, you can begin to make them more challenging. Try to add in various distances between you and your pup, or have them hold commands for longer to keep them stimulated.
It is also important to begin to teach recall in your pup. This is best done with a long training line until you are confident in your puppy’s ability to obey and respond correctly.
When attempting to recall off the lead for the first time, ensure you are in a secure location where your dog cannot come to any harm if they fail to follow your command.
As mentioned at the start of this article, one of the biggest factors in successful training is being consistent. This is something that should remain for the rest of your puppy’s life.
Commands should stay the same so your pup doesn’t get confused, and boundaries should be kept within your home.
Dogs can learn bad habits as well as they can learn good ones. Blurring the boundaries of what your dog can and cannot do in your home or on walks can cause confusion and result in training regression or behavioral issues.
If you begin to see signs of this, return to your training schedule and check whether the same rules are being implemented.
Training a puppy takes a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be an enjoyable experience for both you and your puppy.
Creating a strong bond with your puppy will make the training process of the first year significantly easier. Remember to incorporate plenty of play and affection into your puppy’s first year and establish yourself and your home as safe places for your puppy to be.
Don’t forget that training a puppy can be a frustrating experience and it is important to step away from situations (if it is safe to do so) if you need to.
Dogs do not respond well to raised voices and it could be counterproductive in the long run. If you feel overwhelmed by the training process or are struggling to control your puppy, it is okay to reach out to professionals for help.
Although the first year of training can be intense and difficult, the rewards are wonderful. The happy, healthy, obedient companion you’ve always dreamed of.