a puppy pulling a leash

Puppy Training 101: The Puppy Parent`s Quick Guide to Training

To make sure your puppy grows up into a happy and well-behaved dog, you will need to train them. It may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! This Puppy Training 101 guide will give you all the basic puppy training info you need for socialization, crate training, potty training, leash training, and basic commands.

The day you bring home your new puppy is fun and exciting - but it can also be scary! There is so much to learn about how to train your puppy and how to raise them to be kind, loyal, and well-behaved dogs. It’s also easy to make mistakes that can cause problems years down the line. Honestly, it can be overwhelming. That's why we've put together this Puppy Training 101 guide to give you all the basics you'll need all in one place so you can help your puppy grow up into a truly paw-some dog.

Here are the categories we'll be covering:

9 minute read

Puppy Socialization

What Is Puppy Socialization?

“Puppy socialization” is the term for getting your puppy used to being around new people, other dogs, and other animals. It also means introducing your puppy to new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. It lasts throughout the first year of a puppy\'s life, but the first three to four months are especially important.

How to Socialize a Puppy

Puppy socialization starts right after they’re born. While in their first home, they start learning how to interact with other dogs and people by being around their mother, their littermates, and their human caregivers.
puppies and mama dog
When you bring your new puppy to their fur-ever home, you will need to continue socializing them. This means you will need to get your puppy used to many new sights and sounds. For example, you may have other dogs or other animals in your family. Be sure to introduce them gradually to your new puppy. You’ll want to make sure your puppy gets along with everyone in the family! Introductions should be positive and gradual. Give your puppy time to adjust to any new people, things, sights, or smells. Also, be creative and try to think of as many different things as possible to gradually introduce to your puppy.
puppy meeting kitten

If you don’t have any other animals in your home and your puppy is fully vaccinated, you might consider puppy classes. These will give your puppy more experience being around other dogs - and it will also help them learn basic commands and obedience.

Why Puppy Socialization Is Important

A socialized puppy is a less fearful puppy. Fearful puppies become fearful dogs, and fearful dogs can develop behavioral problems.

Socializing your puppy could literally save his life! “Behavioral problems” often include aggression toward, or even biting humans, and that can lead to dogs being put to sleep. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.On to the next step in Puppy Training 101: Crate Training!

Crate Training Your Puppy

Why Is Crate Training Important?

There are several benefits to crate training.
  • It gives your puppy a safe space that is all their own.
  • It helps potty train your puppy.
  • It protects your puppy in the event of an emergency since it makes it easy to take them with you if you need to evacuate your home.
puppy crate training

Is Crate Training Harmful to Puppies?

Some new pup parents feel guilty about crate training their puppy, but crate training isn’t “imprisoning your puppy.” If used properly, a crate becomes your puppy’s space, and theirs alone - like a little puppy bedroom. This helps your puppy relax and reduces their anxiety.

How Does Crate Training Help Potty Training?

Understandably, dogs don’t like going to the bathroom where they sleep. Putting your puppy in a crate helps them to learn to “hold it” and only go to the bathroom outside or on a pee pad.

Make sure to watch the clock! How long your puppy should stay in the crate depends on how old they are. The younger a puppy is, the less time they should be in the crate since they can’t wait as long between trips to the bathroom.Here are some recommended times:

  • 8 to 10 weeks old: 30-60 minutes in the crate
  • 11 to 14 weeks old: 1-3 hours
  • 15 weeks old to 6 months old: 3-4 hours
puppy running outside

Puppy Crate Training Tips

Here are some helpful tips for crate training your puppy:
    • Buy the right size crate. The crate should be big enough for your puppy’s adult size. For breeds that start out super tiny but grow up to be huge, some crates come with dividers to make them more “puppy-size” at first.
    • Don’t force the puppy into the crate. It’s better to entice the puppy inside the crate with toys or treats and then reward and praise them.
    • Don’t use a crate as punishment. The crate should be a safe space, not a “time out” space. For example, if you think your dog might act out (like getting a little too jumpy when guests come over), you might consider giving them a treat and leading them to their crate beforehand instead of waiting until they start misbehaving and then putting them in the crate.
    • Watch the clock! As mentioned above, make sure the time your puppy is in the crate is appropriate for their age.
  • Leave the crate door open when you’re at home. This lets your puppy explore the crate whenever they want and really treat it as their own little personal safe haven.
  • Be careful with collars or tags. Collars and tags can get caught on the bars of wire crates and could even strangle your dog! Often, it’s best to remove collars when your dog will be in a crate, especially if you can’t be there to watch them.
  • Be patient. Crate training can take months, so being patient is key.
puppy in an open crate

Potty Training Your Puppy

Any puppy that’s going to live indoors will need to be potty trained, and there are many things you can do to make the process easier.
  • Keep a consistent schedule. This means keeping to a schedule for everything in the puppy’s life, like eating, exercising, and taking them outside.
  • Use a crate. As mentioned earlier, crates help puppies learn to “hold it” for short periods of time that get longer as they get older.
  • Keep their age in mind. Young puppies can’t “hold it” as long as adult dogs can, so make sure to offer them appropriate potty opportunities regularly.
  • Praise your puppy! When your puppy goes when and where they are supposed to, make sure to praise their success.
  • Remember that accidents will happen. As upsetting as accidents may be, scolding or punishing your puppy won’t help but could make things worse.

How to Pee Pad Train a Puppy

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of pee pads before using them to train your puppy. Giving your puppy a place to pee indoors may make them confused as to where the appropriate place to go is. Some puppies also like to chew on (and even eat!) their pee pads.Depending on your situation, though, the pee pad can be a helpful tool. For people who live in apartments or have mobility issues, it may not be possible to take their puppy outside every time they need to go to the bathroom, and the pee pad can help.
puppy with pee pad

The main thing you can do to pee pad train a puppy is to bring them to the pee pad regularly.

“Regularly” in this case doesn’t just mean “a lot.” It means “on a set schedule. For very young or very small puppies, this could mean every 15 minutes! Timers (like on your phone) can be a huge help in remembering to take your puppy to their pee pad.

Another major ingredient in the potty training recipe is being observant. As you get to know your puppy, you’ll start recognizing the signs that they need to go to the potty. These are usually things like whining, going in circles, or sniffing.

As soon as you see these signs, make sure you bring them to their pee pad immediately.And, of course, always make sure to praise your puppy for a successful potty trip. 

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puppy training 101: the puppy parent's quick guide to training

Leash Training a Puppy

Leash training is a very important part of puppy training. It keeps your puppy safe and out of harm’s way when you’re out for your daily walk - and in many places having your puppy leashed when they’re outside is required by law!
puppy on a leash
Some key points to remember when leash training a puppy:
  • Get them used to the collar/harness first. Long before you’re walking your puppy outside, show them their walking gear and get them used to it. This means putting it on them for short periods of time and praising them when they wear it.
  • Add the leash later. This is still while you’re in the “indoor phase.” Clip the leash on and let them drag it around for a little bit. Slowly start introducing the concept of you holding the leash and your dog following you.
  • Praise is key. After every success, make sure your puppy knows you’re pleased. Praise (and the occasional treat) will go a long way toward reinforcing your puppy’s good behaviors and making them a leash-walking pro!
  • Be patient. Even when you think your puppy is ready to go on a walk outside, there may be some bumps in the road. All the new sights and sounds will probably have your puppy running around and investigating instead of walking with you. Patience and praise for good behavior will help calm your puppy down.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Gradually increasing the lengths of your walks will increase your puppy’s ability to walk on a leash far faster than taking them on long walks right out of the gate. It may be a bit tedious at first, but your leash-hesitant puppy will be a leash-confident dog before you know it!

On to the final phase of the Puppy Training 101 guide: basic commands!

Basic Commands to Teach Your Dog

Teaching your puppy basic commands like “come,” “sit,” or “stay” aren’t just fun little tricks - they can help protect your puppy from getting hurt! For example, you might see your puppy about to go somewhere or eat something they shouldn’t and need to stop them quickly.

These commands also help to stop unwanted behavior like jumping up on people or running out the front door. After all, your pup can’t jump on you if they’re sitting down.

For all these commands, consistency is key. Also, short but regular training sessions will give you the best results.

How to Teach a Puppy to Come

Also known as "reliable recall", this command consists of saying "come," your puppy\'s name, or another chosen word and being 100% positive that your puppy will come to you. This can be a life-saving command in emergency situations.
  • First, pick the command you\'ll use. This is often Come! or Come, [puppy\'s name]!
  • Next, while in a distraction-free environment, show your puppy a toy or treat. Praise your puppy when they come to you to get the toy or treat.
  • After doing this a few times, add your verbal command. It\'s important to say the command only after your pup starts walking toward you so they\'ll connect the word with their actions.
  • Slowly start increasing the challenge. This means things like saying your command before you show the treat and gradually increasing the distance between you. Even if you don\'t show a treat, it\'s important to reward your puppy with a treat when they get to you.
puppy coming when called

This can be a challenging command that takes a lot of patience. When you take your puppy outside and try to use your “come” command, don't be surprised if they don\'t obey at first. After all, there are a lot of distractions in the great big world out there! Consistency and patience are key.

How to Teach a Puppy to Sit

Treats will be your best friends when teaching your puppy to sit.
  • Stand in front of your puppy.
  • Hold a treat above their head. Be careful not to hold it up too far, or they’re likely to jump up to get it.
  • Move the treat slowly over their head. They will follow the treat by leaning their head back, and then they will sit down.
  • Say a marker word, like “Yes,” give them the treat, and praise them.
After a while, your pup will start sitting as soon as they see your hand start moving whether you have a treat in it or not. Once this starts happening, it’s time to phase out the treats and replace them with the “sit” command.
  • Say “sit” first, then use the hand movement.
  • When your dog sits, say your marker word and give a treat as before.
  • Do this regularly, gradually stop using the hand movement, and only say “sit.”
training puppy to sit

How to Teach a Puppy to Lay Down

Once your puppy has learned “sit,” there are several other commands they can learn. One of these is “lie down.”
  • Tell your dog to “sit.”
  • Take a treat, hold it in front of their nose, and lower your hand to the floor. Your pup will follow the treat down and end up lying down.
  • Say a marker word, like “Yes,” give the treat, and praise your puppy.
Just like with sitting, the verbal command “lie down” comes a little later.
  • Say “lie down” or “down” first, then use the hand movement.
  • When your dog lies down, say your marker word and give a treat as before.
  • Do this regularly, gradually stop using the hand movement, and only say “lie down” or “down.”

How to Teach a Dog to Stay

“Stay” is another great command that comes after your puppy learns “sit.”
  • First, pick your “release word.” This is the word that lets your pup know it’s okay to get up. Many pet parents use words like “okay” or “all right.” Make sure to use this same word every single time.
  • Once your puppy is sitting, throw a treat on the ground in front of them.
  • When they get up to get the treat, say the release word.
  • As they get used to this, start saying the release word first, then throwing the treat. This lets them know that it’s the word, not the treat, that means it’s okay to get up.
puppy training to stay

As your puppy slowly gets used to staying for longer periods of time, you can also add distance. That means you can try walking further away from your puppy before saying the release word.

Like all other types of puppy training, patience is key! For example, when we talk about training your puppy to stay while you walk further away, this should only be a half step or so further each time.

The Final Woof

Puppy training can definitely be a lot of hard work, but it’s also worth it. Training your puppy with consistency, love, and patience will help them grow up into a happy and well-behaved adult.
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