If you’re reading this, you’ve probably realised that it’s going to take more than your puppy’s sweet eyes and thriving personality to become well-mannered.
Puppy training involves learning many things that will make you and your puppy’s life much easier. Whether it’s life at home or when walking in the park, puppy training will make sharing moments together feel blissful and rosy.
By the end of this blog, you’ll know puppy training from A to Z. Let’s get started.
When should I start training my puppy?
Straight away would be the straightest answer we can give you.
From the moment they’re born, puppies are learning. Therefore, bringing them home with us is always going to be a good time to get them learning about all the rights and not so rights.
So when should you start training particular things?
The first few days at home
In your puppy’s first days at home, you should focus on toilet training, on teaching them their name, sleep training, crate training or settling in their bed. Of course, take this time to bond and build your relationship by playing fun games and having cuddles – these also count as training!
PRO TIP: The Golden Rule to successful puppy training is always a yummy reward. As long as they’re doing something (literally anything) you want to see them do, rewarding them with heaps of praise and a food reward right after.
Show them your delight! Seems like us humans could enjoy quite a lot of that as well in our day to day.
Ah yes, toilet training. We know the funny feeling about this one. But no worries, it’s definitely not mission impossible. It’ll be sooner than you think until it’s mission accomplished.
Good breeders will have started working on toilet training for you – or at least your puppy’s Mum would have. Mothers show puppies to go to the toilet away from their bed area, so all we need to do is continue to do this at home.
Real team player, she is.
Using a playpen and crate is key for toilet training, especially at the beginning. Just make sure to place their bed and puppy pad at opposite ends (of the room if you’re using a crate, or inside the playpen if opting for that) to avoid them getting confused about which is which.
Successful toilet training – The First Week
Before dozing the day away, here’s a checklist you should get through before hand:
- Have their crate ready beside your bed – with comfy blankets or vet bed lining such as this one.
to keep them warm. This won’t be there forever, if you don’t want it to – just for the first few weeks so that they don’t feel too lonely.
- Night trips to the toilet will definitely be on the agenda at first. Probably for the first 6 weeks. You’ll notice this by hearing them wake up at night and move around – take this as a warning that if not taken to the loo soon, the crate will become their toilet.
Here’s a good nighttime itinerary:
- Head to bed quite late. About the time when the clock strikes midnight is good.
- Before you get into bed, take your puppy to their toilet area, and wait for them to go for a last wee – you probably know by now that puppies are easily distracted, so just be patient until they let go.
- This is where it gets interesting. Set an alarm for 3:00 am (yes, we know, sorry) and see if your puppy has woken up and needs the toilet. if you’re a light sleeper, your puppy will be your alarm as they’ll probably start squeaking.
- If they’re awake, take them straight to their toilet area. Remember to keep your eyes on them, and reward them when they manage to pee.
- Of course, 3:00 am is just a suggestion but your puppy might need to go at any other time. If you wake up from their squeaks, make sure to take them outside as quick as you can – you may notice they’re not very good at holding their bladders, so doing this is key for giving them the chance to always go in the right place.
- Set yet another alarm for 7:00 am and take your puppy out straight away – it’s pretty much certain that they’ll really need to go as soon as you get up. Flick the switch on the kettle on your way past…you’ll need that coffee over the next few days!
Toilet Training In The Daytime – The First Week
Your puppy is going to need the toilet an awful lot in the first week. And let us tell you now – when they’ve got to go, they’ve got to go.
To avoid running into (literally) any smelly surprises on your living room floor, make sure to always take your puppy to their toilet at these times:
- Straight after waking up every morning
- After eating
- After drinking
- After playing
- After napping
- Roughly every 15 minutes
We know it might sound like a lot…but by doing it this way you’ll avoid accidents!
TIPS FOR TOILET TRAINING
- Rewards! Rewards are your best friends when toilet training your puppy. Keep soft yummy treats to hand at all times to reward and celebrate with your puppy with every time they go potty correctly. Blow away the cobwebs for all we know.
- Punishment is never on the agenda: It didn’t work on you as a child, and it won’t work on your puppy. If they have an accident, it’s highly likely that it’s because we didn’t catch the signs. It’s alright though, you will with time!
- Sniffing, circling or being agitated are the signs you need to pick up to make sure your puppy makes it to their toilet area on time. If we may make a suggestion – make it there quickly!
- Be their companion too: Always go outside or to the toilet area with your puppy – not because it’s a show of some sort, but because you’ll need to know when they go to reward them. Hm, when we put it that way it does sound a little bit like a show doesn’t it?
- Clean up accidents with an enzyme cleaner: Ammonia-based cleaners like bleach will make your puppy want to go in the wrong place even more – completely the opposite of what you want to accomplish, quite frankly.
The older your puppy gets, the more you’ll be able to reduce the number of toilet visits. Don’t worry – it won’t be like this forever!
But we would like to strongly encourage you to follow this process every day – the more success you’ll have at turning your puppy into a gentleman. Or rather a gentle-dog.
Crate Training – The First Day
We know you must think crates look rather sad; we agree that the metal bars and chunky structures aren’t particularly dashing. But they really make life much better, for the two of you.
For this to happen though, crates need to be introduced in a positive way – the key is to get your puppy liking it in there.
Here’s what you do:
- Set the crate up in the room you’re going to spend most of your time in on the first day. Pop it next to your chair or sofa, so you’re close by.
- Encourage your puppy to go inside by sticking some treats or throwing a toy in.
- Keep it light and fun – forcing your puppy in there or shutting the door isn’t fun, just to clarify.
- Feed their meals inside the crate – puzzle feeders will help make the crate and your puppy closer together by making mealtimes more playful. When your puppy has started getting used to the crate, you can gently close the door while they’re eating – but make sure to stay next to the crate yourself.
- When you see your puppy nodding off, pop them in the crate so that they get used to sleeping in there.
PRO TIP: Make your life easy by having two crates- one for your bedroom and one for your living space
Sleep Training – The First Week
Wherever you want them to – you’re the boss. But while they’re young, the best place for puppies to sleep is beside you.
This first week will sit a little funny with your puppy – there’s so many new things happening and to take in. Being taken away from their family is quite a big change, so they’ll need your company to help them feel comfortable and safe.
In line with toilet training, it will be a while before your puppy can sleep through the night without needing the toilet; so having them sleep beside you at least for the first few weeks is a good idea to help them to the toilet when they need it.
How to Start Sleep Training in 10 Easy Steps
Sleep training your puppy isn’t so hard. Here, we’ve narrowed it down for you in 10 steps:
- Place their crate next to your bed
- Make it extra cosy and snug for your puppy to be warm – heat pads or hot water bottles are quite nice as they mimic the warmth from their mother or littermates. Quite adorable.
- Make your bedtime late – preferably midnight, like Cinderella.
- Before heading to bed, remember to take your puppy out one last time for a toilet trip.
- Remaining quiet and calm, place your puppy in the crate and turn out the light. Act as if you’re a cloud, carrying them to bed.
- Your puppy might struggle to settle down at first. They simply might be too happy about their new home. Give them some time to relax – talk to them quietly or reach over and put your fingers through the crate for comfort and to let them know you’re there for them.
- During the first weeks, you’ll probably not manage to get a deep sleep (it’s simply a part of the journey to embrace, isn’t it?). When your puppy wakes up in the night, listen to see if they are going back to sleep. If they’re making squeaks and other cute noises it might mean they need the toilet. And yes, this means getting up at whatever ungodly hours of the night. But chin up, you’re doing it for a good reason 🙂
- An early morning means avoiding accidents. We thank you in advance for making the beautiful effort for waking up at around 6:00 or 7:00 am to get your puppy to the toilet. Otherwise, heading to the toilet area as soon as you can hear them waking up should be fine.
- Bottom line, take them straight to the toilet before you do anything else. Yes, even before going to the loo yourself.
Sleep Training Tips
Puppies won’t sleep through the night at first: Not quite a tip, but a good piece of information. Just to let you know, your puppy is highly likely to wake up several times during the night – and will need the toilet in one of those too!
Be ready for the eyebags: We know your struggle all too well already. But your eyebags won’t last forever; before you know it your puppy will sleep through the night. Also, eyebags are wonderful. They represent your hard work and love for your new puppy!
Moving the crate away: Once your puppy has settled into your routines and gotten used to their new life with you, you can start to move their sleeping crate to where you want them to sleep permanently. If you want them to sleep next to you in the long term, then you’re good to leave it there.
Consistency is key! Make sure to stick this routine every night – once your puppy’s confidence and ability to ‘hold it in’ grows stronger, you’ll be getting a lot more sleep!
The best way to teach your puppy they’re alright when left alone is by doing it in baby steps.
For example, by leaving your puppy in their crate when it’s meal times, or giving them time and space when they’re playing with toys. What you want to start doing, essentially, is allowing them some independence.
You can start alone training after their first week at home. It’ll be good to take the first week to bond and get to know each other better, but you can start alone training after that.
Don’t worry if it takes some time to do – all puppies are different, and it will be easier to master for some than others!
Here’s our tips to start you off on alone training:
Take it easy: There’s no need to rush – everything will come at its own pace. If your puppy looks like they’re not having such a great time, it’s much better to teach them that no matter what, they’ll always be safe.
Good things come after you’ve left the room: A good way to make them feel more comfortable about being by themselves, is that good things such as yummy rewards come after you’ve left the room.
The loo always comes first: Before you start alone training, make sure to stop for a toilet break beforehand. We wouldn’t want to add yet another funny smell to the training!
Treats, treats, treats: The number one tip for any kind of training is to always have treats to give. For alone training, you bet you’ll be using them too.
- Throw and scatter some treats on the floor where your puppy is
- While they’re busy munching away, step outside the room (close the babygate if you have one too) and pop round the corner out of sight. No need to get out of the house, as long as they can’t see you, it’s fab.
- Come back after 2 minutes but keep your return lowkey. This will show them that it’s nothing to write home about if you’re leaving or returning.
One of the best ways for your puppy to master being on their own is to practice. We recommend practicing this exercise every day for a week – the more you do, the more you can start increasing the amount of time you leave them. Remember to take it slowly too!
Patience is another of the golden rules to make things work in puppy training. Or in anything in life, for that matter.
How much training should I do with my puppy per day?
To start, short training of about 5 minutes will be just enough for your puppy’s short attention span to retain information. It truly is enough time – puppies between 8 and 16 weeks old are truly like little sponges that soak up everything you teach them!
What to train your puppy: Week 1 – 2
In the first couple of weeks with your puppy, you should start teaching the basics. It will become their solid base for their life as well-mannered adult dogs!
Here’s what you should focus on:
- Toilet training: Teach them where to go! And avoid playing poo minefield inside your house.
- How to play: Human hands are their friends, not their chew toys. Encourage them to play with toys to reduce puppy biting! Those tiny teeth are a lot more shark-like than they look.
- Sleep training: Puppies need to sleep A LOT! You may know what sleep deprivation looks like for you – it isn’t good for us and it definitely isn’t great for puppies either.
- Introducing the crate: Making it feel like their crate is a palace and not a prison will certainly come in handy.
- Hand Touch training: On the same line as teaching them how to play. Hands are for petting, not biting
- Learning their name: You probably won’t have too much trouble remembering their name – but they still need to get the hang of it. It’s an important step for getting your puppy’s attention and working on recall exercises. Also useful for when you train them to bring you ciders and a bag of chips.
- Teaching to walk on different surfaces: Walking on different surfaces will give them confidence. Take it as poetically as you wish.
- The first steps of a recall: With the help of your trusty treats of course, teach them that if they come when they’re called, good things will happen. You’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll pick this up.
- Sit: Not at the table, on the floor is fine. Sitting is probably one of the first few things we teach them by tradition – we all know how much we love those puppy sits.
- Fetch! Whether it’s a toy or the newspaper, teaching and rewarding your puppy for bringing things back to you will also show them the value in giving up items willingly.
Weeks 2- 3: Keep improving and adding new exercises
For the next set of weeks, work more on the skills and tasks you started in week one, and add a little more to keep things interesting.
- Grooming: Beauty is not everything, but a matted coat is no fun. Teach them to find the brush lush by giving your puppy peanut butter- stuffed Kong to entertain themselves with while you brush them.
- Sit: At this point, you can start about adding cues if you haven’t already.
- Adding a cue to the recall: Cues like ‘here’ or ‘come’ in a nice happy voice work well.
- Introducing a collar or harness – The things which will prevent walks in the park becoming a circus. Prepare for outside walks by popping a collar or harness on them several times a day while doing fun activities like playing or training. Again, it’s all about building positive associations!
- Jumping up: More like not jumping up. Avoid getting angry looks by teaching your puppy to sit when greeting other people. It makes sense, nobody is truly a fan of muddy paw marks on their clothes. When they come toward you, ask them to sit for strokes, praise, treats and kisses!
- Down: Teaching your puppy to lie down can be tricky sometimes. If they struggle, break it down into smaller steps; just start rewarding for a head dip.
- Settle: When teaching your puppy to settle, a blanket or a mat will be a handy tool. Have it on the floor next to your sofa and show them it’s magic powers; if they lie on it, they’ll get treats.
- Home alone training: Go slowly with this one, it’s not something that comes naturally to them. As you can tell, they love being around people. But do keep practicing, they’ll make it eventually.
Weeks 4 – 5
- Lead walking: Ah, now it gets interesting. Get them ready for the outside world by having them follow you around the house or the garden with the lead on so it doesn’t take them completely by surprise.
- Settling for longer: Try to see if you can space out the time between settling and treating your puppy for settling on the mat. Can’t be handing out treats forever!
- Outside Recall : Let’s stay with a lead on for now. We recommend using a long recall line (about 5 to 10 meters long) so that you allow your puppy some freedom, and can build up your length of recall.
- Here’s a fun game to play to practice recall: Pretend you’re playing tennis (you’ll need another person. Imaginary ones don’t count). Your puppy becomes the ball, and gets rewards when they come to each person when they call them.
How much time per day can I spend training my puppy?
Puppies are always learning – whether we are actively training or not.
While puppies have a short attention span, don’t let this fool you – when they’re focused, they can absorb whatever you’re teaching them quite well. That’s why we recommend short and sweet structured training sessions.
Just so you get a better idea, 10 minutes is already too long! Better stay between 1 and 5 minutes.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget you can always reward your puppy for things they do they you want to see more of throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be in a ‘training session’.
How much time you spend training your puppy also depends on how old they are. The older they get, the more time they can give you their full attention for.
If your puppy is…
8 -12 weeks old: Sessions lasting 1 or 2 minutes at a time, 5 – 10 times per day is enough.
12 weeks onwards: Training for 5 minutes to a maximum of 5 times per day is ace. 15 minutes per day is quite a good goal to have and is achievable for most owners, but no worries if it’s shorter. Whatever works best for you!
Things to take in consideration before you can start training
Differences per dog breed
No two dogs are the same. Especially when talking about different breeds.
Some breeds of dog are easier to train than others. It all boils down to different levels of intelligence, what they were bred for, how motivated they are by food or toys, how eager they are to please, and ultimately, what their personality is like.
But there’s really no need to compare them. At the end of the day, your puppy is there as your companion, and they’ll be able to catch on to some training eventually! It will just need to come at their own pace.
Can I train my puppy before they have had their vaccinations?
Of course! Training begins at home anyway, so there will be absolutely no risks of doing so there.
On a similar note, when starting to train your puppy a low distraction environment will work best for their concentration. Your home probably sounds like the best place to be then.
Ah, one more thing to think about. We’re sorry to tell you that many of the things we teach our puppies at home will not translate so easily when being next to the road, or in the park. It’s quite a different scenario, so keep in mind you’ll likely need to go back to the basics.
It’s not your fault though, nor truly theirs either. It’s because they don’t tend to generalise well at first.
What is generalisation? (This section should be inside a highlight box I think)
Generalisation refers to when your dog can do the things you have taught them in any setting.
Sit means sit whether it’s in your kitchen, at the train station, in your puppy class, or at the park.
The thing is, dog’s don’t generalise automatically – it involves lots of practice in different environments.
Here’s something you can do to improve your puppy’s generalisation. Think of 10 locations ranked from easiest (i.e. your home) to most difficult (i.e. the pet store) and work your way up them when training your puppy their cues. They’ll eventually work out that ‘sit’ means the same in every location.
Training your puppy to generalise also applies to what you are doing at the time, so whether you’re sitting or standing or even the clothes you’re wearing.
Try it out and see how he copes – make it slightly easier if he struggles, and aim to succeed in a location before you upgrade. Baby steps will lead the way with this one!
‘But he knows how to do it at home’
We know this phrase all too well…we hear ourselves saying it all of the time too! It’s not your puppy disobeying you or being stubborn (or entering a rebellious phase, as it could look like). They just haven’t made the link between carrying out a behaviour in a known environment and doing it somewhere new…yet. But they will!
On your part, patience and positivity will help you get there.
Here’s some good tips for how to work on generalisation at home:
Cues: Practice cues like your puppy’s name, or ‘sit’ while you’re sitting on a chair, your back towards them, or standing on your head. Okay, that one may be a little bit of a stretch.
- Add some distance – Puppies naturally learn things when they are right up next to us (it’s quite adorable, to be honest), so keep this in mind to avoid getting frustrated. Try stepping away little by little and giving a cue your puppy already knows well to start with.
- Add distractions: You’ll see that trying this at home is easy. Try asking your puppy to do things when the dishwasher is going, or when you have a big coat on (maybe put on a costume to take it to the next level).
- Other people: This is a good one. Ask other people to give your puppy the cue – will your puppy still do it?
Here’s the good news.
Generalisation is a skill that puppies get better at the more they practice. The more you practice, the faster they’ll get at generalising new ones!
Conclusion: Most important things to keep in mind when starting to train your new puppy
- Keep your training sessions short and sweet: Poor pup can’t concentrate for long. It’s better to not over-tire them, and instead leave them wanting more!
- Stay positive: There’s no doubt that everything will be okay. If something doesn’t work out right, take a break and come back to it later. Everyone’s allowed an off day aren’t they?
- Encourage good behaviour: Here’s a good insight. Training doesn’t all have to do with obedience, like following cues such as ‘sit, down and roll over’. It is also about rewarding your puppy for behaviour you want to see more of! Simply being a ‘good dog’ is enough to earn a reward.
- Be consistent: Puppies thrive on consistency, so make sure to stick to the rules you decide on. Don’t forget to implement them in a positive way!
For example, they’ll get very confused if you let them on the sofa as sleepy puppies, but not as grown adults – especially for big breeds like a Golden Retriever or Great Dane. They’ll definitely get all the good spots. Better train them as puppies to settle on the floor next to the couch!
PRO TIP: Download our template and have your help house fill it in. If you don’t want your dog to do something, find something they can be rewarded for instead. For instance, better give them a Kong in their crate than have them beg for a piece of your dinner at the dinner table.
- Find out your puppy’s motivators: Some puppies aren’t so fussy about food rewards. It’s quite funny how this is often related to which breed they are. Labradors are notoriously food motivated, and they’ll gobble anything down, whereas other *cough* mini-poodles, can be a bit more discerning. Spaniels are more ‘ball crazy’, while Pugs rather think like ‘Nah gimme the food’.