Puppy Training: When, How to’s, Tips and Tricks

Training stubborn puppy
At your wits’ end with your stubborn pup? Never give up!

If you’re feeling a bit frustrated because your puppy just doesn’t understand your house training instructions, you’re not alone. Many pet owners feel frustrated by the process of puppy training. Each dog is unique, presenting his or her own specific set of challenges. However, there are certain instincts that will help to make the house training process go by smoothly. In this article, we’ll discuss the exact steps that will help you train your puppy and create a trusting, loving relationship between you and your new pet.

Overtrained puppy urinates
It seems to be too much training

In their earliest months, puppies are quite often enthusiastic consumers and producers. They grow and develop very quickly at this developmental stage. This means your puppy will be eating a lot, burning up a ton of energy, and constantly needing to use the potty! Unlike adult dogs, puppies don’t have bladder and bowel control which makes them unable to resist the urge to empty themselves. Learning how to train a puppy is a process that requires patience but, with time and a loving attitude, your efforts will pay off (ASPCA shares news)

After several months, your puppy will develop a special housetrained instinct, where they no longer feel that they need to eliminate waste and urine wherever they happen to be. Instead, they will learn that there are specific areas for using the bathroom. As the owner, you’ll need to carefully supervise your puppy so that he or she learns where to go to the potty.

When to Start Training

The age of your puppy when you take him or her home will influence the ability to be housetrained, and how long you can allow between bathroom breaks. Try not to view accidents as something to get frustrated over; instead, think of it like a baby who has to learn how to control her bladder. The general rule of thumb for when to start potty training is that at 16 weeks, puppies can hold their bladders for up to 4 hours. Before this, the bladder will only last for about two hours, so bathroom breaks should be planned accordingly.Puppy training tip 01

When the puppy reaches four to six months of age, the puppy will seem as though they’re “half” house trained because they want to constantly explore. Unfortunately, your puppy’s drive to discover might keep him from going to the bathroom when you take him to the potty spot. At this age, puppies can wait 4-5 hours before needing to eliminate, while 6-month-old puppies can wait about 6-7 hours.

Shepherd puppy training
First training day

At 12 to 24 months, your puppy will be close to the age of maturity, depending on their breed. Hopefully, most bad habits will have been trained out of your puppy, as long as you’ve devoted plenty of energy and focus to keeping them on track.

How to House Train a Puppy

Puppies don’t understand that they need to eliminate waste in a specific place until they are fully housebroken. House-training is a very important part of caring for your puppy and, in the earliest stages of life, they might have to eliminate every 30-45 minutes. Their schedule depends on the last time they ate or drank and how active they are. Each puppy is different, so be sure to keep an eye on how often your pup seems to need to go. Of course, when your pup is sleeping, they won’t need to use the potty — and the good news is, they sleep plenty!

To get started house training your puppy, the first step is to essentially catch him in the act. When you spot your pup first starting to go, use a command such as “Outside” to interrupt the process and start building associations between outdoors and going to the potty. Scoop up your pup and take him to his designated potty area in your yard. When he goes in the right place, give him plenty of praise and issue treats as you’ve planned in your training schedule. Make sure you always put him in the same place every time. You can put him out on a leash for ideal training, as this will keep him in just one location.Puppy training tip 02

Try not to punish your puppy if he has an accident. Scolding or using physical responses just make your dog fearful and sad. Behavioral problems beyond housebreaking can occur in your pup’s developmental cycle if you don’t stick to strictly positive methods. Your puppy won’t be able to understand the reason for punishment (also see How to house train a puppy).

How to Potty Train a Puppy

When starting a successful puppy potty training plan, it’s important to incorporate four basic elements. These are confinement, training, timing, and praise. Confinement is the most important part of potty training, as a good crate is critical to confine your dog in the earliest stages of training. You need to leave the bottom of the crate bare, and make it big enough so that he or she can lie down and have room to get comfortable.

Puppy training can be hard
Not easy, eh?

In terms of training, getting your puppy a slip-style leash is the easiest method. If the pup doesn’t want to stay on the leash, slip it on but carry her outside and use the phrases you’ve been teaching him for elimination. Generally, one key word will always be “outside.” When you get to your designated area, use the phrases you have chosen for urinating and defecating. Give a gentle leash tug when your pup gets distracted. Let her sniff around a bit when you say “go potty,” and use an encouraging tone of voice. When the pup has eliminated, use a happy tone of voice and praising words to show you are pleased, such as “good dog.” Usually, your pup will urinate first and defecate after.Puppy training tip 03

Finally, be sure to incorporate timing into your potty training plan. Your puppy will often start to need to use the potty at regular intervals, so anticipating her needs is the best way to achieve success. At 2 months, your pup will need to go about every 2 hours and at 3 months, every 3 hours. The same goes for 4 months, 5, months, etc. If you notice she suddenly changes behavior (walking, playing, or eating, for example), that’s a sign your pup needs to go outside ASAP (see also How to potty train a puppy).


How to Crate Train a Puppy

The crate training process is fairly simple. First, place the crate in an area of the house where your family spends the most time, such as the den or family room. Let your pup explore the crate at his own pace. Bring him over to it and encourage him, in a happy tone of voice, to make sure he associates it with safety and security. You can toss treats into the crate to get him to think of it as a good place to be.

You can then start feeding your puppy regular means near his crate. This creates positive associations.

Once he starts to eat regular meals in the crate with no signs of anxiousness, you can confine him there for short periods of time when you are at home. Then, once he can stay in the crate for 30 minutes without being afraid, you can leave him crated for short periods of time when leaving the house. Use your regular commands and treats and leave him with a few safe toys (see also Crate training a puppy).

Housebreaking a Puppy

When you begin to house train your puppy, he’ll learn that he needs to go outside to do his business. This will allow you to give him more freedom to start roaming around your home as he likes.Puppy training tip 04

When you start housebreaking, follow these steps for a successful regimen.

  • First, keep him on a regular feeding plan and take away food between meals.
  • Second, take him out to eliminate first thing in the morning, and then every 30-60 minutes after. Take him outside after each meal or every time he wakes up from napping, then let him go out one more time at night.

Take him to the same spot every time to do his business. Stay with him outside until he gets the hang of being house trained. You can give him praise, treats, or a walk around the neighborhood as a reward (see also Housebreaking a puppy).

How to Stop a Puppy from Biting

Teaching your puppy to curb her natural mouthy behavior is an important part of house training. There are specific ways that will foster a loving relationship between you and your pup and continue toward the goal of training your puppy not to bite people completely. The main objective is teaching her that people have skin, which is very sensitive, and your puppy has teeth, which are sharp! So she must be very gentle when using her mouth near people.

Often, puppies will bite peoples’ hands if they are stroked or petted

Puppy plays biting hand
Train our puppy to stop play biting

Generally speaking, puppies learn bite inhibition — or the ability to control force of teething — while playing with other puppies. Notice that when you have your puppy in a group with others, that while they play, pounce, and wrestle with each other, they also bite quite a bit. If your puppy is the victim of a painful bite, he’ll usually yelp and stop playing for a bit. The offender usually stops playing as well, but soon enough both puppies are back together, playing again. This type of interaction teaches puppies how to control their bites so that they don’t hurt anyone.

To teach your puppy not to bite, substitute toys or chew bones when he tries to bite fingers and toes. Often, puppies will bite peoples’ hands if they are stroked or petted. If your puppy gets a bit too enthusiastic while you pet him, feed him small treats from your other hand while petting him. This helps him get used to being touched without having to bite (more about How to stop a puppy from biting).

If your puppy tends to bite your feet or ankles, carry his favorite chew toy in your pocket. Then, when he attacks you, stop moving your feet right away. Take out the tug toy and wave it for your puppy. When he grabs it, then you can start moving again. When he stops biting you, praise him and reward him with a toy. Repeat this process until your pup is accustomed to seeing you move — but without the urge to bite!Puppy training tip 05

How to Leash Train a Puppy

Teaching a puppy how to get used to the leash may be a simple process, or it might be a bit more trying if your pup tends to not take to the collar easily. Some owners find that putting their pup on the leash as soon as they get them is important, especially if you live in an area with leash laws. The key is to be patient, calm, and confident, taking it as slowly as your pup seems to be inclined to.

If he does naturally, that’s fine, but don’t try to force him to

Puppy watching its face gallery
You might want to do the same for your puppy

First, you need to find a collar and leash for your pup. Light, flat collars and light leashes for young pups are typically preferable to start with, since they are gentle and not overly constricting. Next, you’ll need to get your pup familiar with the collar. Avoid putting it on him in situations where he could be fearful or concerned. Put the collar on when he is distracted by other pups, toys, or exciting events like riding in the car.

You can attach the collar when he’ll be out in the yard or even at home, just interacting regularly. Put the collar on snug, but not so tight that it becomes uncomfortable for him. He should be able to forget the collar is even there when you get his attention and interact with him normally.

When you first attach the leash to your puppy, don’t try to get him to walk at heel right away. If he does naturally, that’s fine, but don’t try to force him to. Be calm and gentle in directing him on the leash. Sometimes you might just need to stand still and kneel while he figures out what’s going on.Puppy training tip 06

Be sure your pup has time to figure out what the leash’s purpose is, and allow him to gain trust in you, the leash, and himself. You can use a hand-held treat at your side, at head level of your pup, to get him accustomed to walking beside you on the leash, making him stop periodically and sit for the treat (read more Leash training a puppy).

Puppy Obedience Training

Teaching your pup to behave obediently is one of the most important aspects to having a well-behaved dog as he grows up. The “sit” command is the simplest, and most important, because a puppy who knows how to sit when commanded is much easier to manage until he’s learned how to control himself.

Puppy is training to use stairs
Stairs are hard

To teach “sit,” get at your puppy’s level — either on the floor or in a chair beside him. Hold a treat by his nose and let his head seek the treat as you move your hand upward. While his head is moving up, his behind will go lower to the ground. As his butt hits the floor, let the treat go to his mouth. Then praise him right away. Repeat this tactic multiple times throughout the day, pairing it with the spoken word “sit.”

Teaching your pup some simple obedience commands early on will help him gain confidence, self-control, and attentiveness (also see Puppy obedience training).

Puppy Training Pads

If you live in an area that makes indoor house training a bit of a challenge, having puppy training pads can help. While most indoor dogs are easy to housetrain, sometimes you’ll need to use puppy pads instead of going outside.Puppy training tip 07

To use puppy training pads, select a spot that’s slightly away from your pet’s eating and sleeping area so that it will be easy to clean up. The location should stay the same at all times. You will need about 3-4 square feet of space covered with pads. Let your puppy go to this spot after each meal or water drink, as well as after nap and exercise times, and whenever your puppy seems agitated and circles or sniffs the floor.

Some puppy training pads have attractants to keep your puppy seeking them out when she needs to eliminate. With a no-leak underside, you’ll also avoid floor cleanups. Try to restrict your puppy’s access to the pads so that she learns she only goes to them for a particular reason.

Tips and Tricks on Training Your Pup

As soon as your puppy gets home, training should start right away. It can be a bit tough to figure out just how to start training, but there are a few tips and tricks that make the process easier.

Puppy training tip 08First, pick your dog’s name sensibly and respect it. Dogs often have names with strong endings, such as Clover, Ginger, or Granger. These names perk up the puppy’s ears when you place strong emphasis on the end of his name. Always associate his name with fun and pleasant times, not negative ones. He should think of his name the way he thinks of “cookie,” “dinner,” or “treat!”

Puppy training: Do not push puppy too much
Do not push puppy too much

Help your puppy relax when he comes home. When first getting him into the house, give him a warm water bottle and let him sleep for a bit, especially with a ticking clock at his sleeping spot. This is reminiscent of the heat and the heartbeat of his time in the litter with his fellow pups, and it will calm him down in a new place.

Finally, be sure to reward your puppy’s good behavior with treats, love, praise, and toys as much as possible, but never reward bad behavior — and don’t punish it, either. Simply focus on the good stuff and your pup will soon become a well-trained, obedient dog who is a dutiful and loving companion.

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