How to Train Your Puppy At Home
For many people, puppies are the ultimate image of cuteness: small, fluffy, and cuddly. Although puppies are cute and a lot of fun, they also take a lot of work to raise right. Turning a puppy into a well-behaved dog will take a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love, but your efforts will pay off in the long run. A well-trained puppy will become a wonderful dog to have around, while not training your puppy could mean that you soon have a problem dog on your hands. Begin your puppy training by establishing a good relationship with your dog, then move on to teaching your puppy all the important commands it will need know in life.
Part 1 – Mastering the Basics of Training
1 – Prepare your family and yourself for the responsibility of a puppy.
While it is incredibly exciting to bring a new puppy home, it is also very important that you decide the different duties each family member will play in training your puppy, and the rules you will have for you puppy. Discipline is key-and not just for your pup.
- For example, if you have decided that your puppy should sleep in a crate until house trained, do not let anyone allow the puppy to sleep in its bed the first few nights.
2 – Give your puppy clear rules.
The puppy needs clear rules from the first day it arrives at your home. You’ll want to make the rules easy to follow. For example, if you don’t want the puppy upstairs, put up a stair gate. If you don’t want a dog begging for food at the table, never feed a puppy food from your plate. Remember not to scold the puppy too much or his/her trust in you will go down
3 – Find the right reward.
It is nearly impossible to train a puppy without some kind of reward involved. Most puppies respond well to food rewards. However, be aware that when training with food rewards, or “treats,” you should use small treats, even pieces of regular dog food work!
- Feeding large treats each time you give a reward will soon make your dog unhealthy and overweight. Use high value treats for new work, for example turkey is very healthy for dogs, and lower value foods, like a piece of dog food, when doing re-training work.
- Some puppies respond better to toys. You can reward a dog that loves fetching by throwing the ball each time he does something correct, or another dog by playing a quick game of tug-of-war. However, toy rewards take up more time, can get the puppy too excited and wound up to train, or may get boring after a while. Toys work especially well for agility training, although agility cannot be trained until 18 months of age because puppy joints and bones can’t handle this type of training.
4 – Study your specific breed.
Different breeds of dogs are very different, so it would be a good idea to read up on your breed to know what to expect. Each breed needs specific training in order to thrive, so make sure you know what the specific needs of your dog are.
5 – Give your puppy verbal praise.
In combination with any other reward you choose to give your pup, you must also use verbal praise. When your puppy responds correctly, praise it in a high-pitched, kind voice. Puppies respond to a pleased and happy tone.
- Clicker training is also very helpful. In this training, you purchase a clicker and each time you say the command you immediately use the clicker.
- On the other hand, when your puppy disobeys, you should use a stern voice to reprimand your pup. It is important that puppy learns the difference between your pleased voice and your voice that tells her she did something wrong. Always make up with a dog after you need to scold them.
6 – Keep your training sessions short, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Also try to keep the sessions full of new, fun things, like little games you make up yourself. If you see the dog begin to get bored, distracted, or frustrated, end the session and take a break.
- If you begin to get frustrated, end the session. However, try to end on a good note, with praise and rewards. This way the puppy will look forward to the next training session.
- Try to stay committed to a 10- 15 minute session every day, so the puppy will learn new commands faster.
Part 2 House Training Your Puppy
1 – Begin house training when you bring the puppy home.
Keep in mind that puppies 12 weeks or under do not have full control of their bladder or bowels. Even if they wanted to “hold-it” they simply cannot do that, so do not harshly reprimand them when they eliminate in your house. Most puppies are not fully house trained until they are six months old, and in some cases even older than that.
- When house training your pup, it is important to keep a positive attitude even when you encounter an accident.
2 – Keep in mind the hour to month rule.
Puppies can generally only hold their waste in for the number of months they are old. So if your puppy is four months old, he should not be left without access to the outside for longer than four hours.
- It is different at night, as puppies shut down the way we do at night. By the time your puppy is four months old, he should be able to go the entire night without needing to go potty.
3 – Establish a regular feeding schedule.
As you may be able to guess, a big part of when a puppy goes potty is when it is fed. In order to speed up the house training process, establish a regular feeding schedule and stick with it. Unless advised by a vet, do not “free feed” (leaving a filled food bowl out at all times.)
- Free feeding will give your puppy a random elimination cycle (when she pees or poops) and will not establish you as the provider of the food (which is important in teaching your puppy that you are the pack leader and in charge.)
- Do not feed your puppy anything in between meals.
4 – Take your puppy outside consistently.
Young puppies generally need to potty every 30 to 45 minutes. You should create a consistent schedule for when you take your puppy out. Puppies should be taken out every hour, as well as shortly after meals, naps, and playtime. You should always take your puppy out first thing in the morning, before you and the puppy go to bed at night, and before you leave the puppy alone for any extended period of time.
5 – Praise your puppy whenever it eliminates outside.
Give your puppy a treat and verbally praise it when it pees or poops outside. Try to bring your puppy to the same spot each time to teach her that this is where she is meant to go potty. When you bring her to the spot, say “go potty” and wait for her to go.
- Bringing the puppy to the same spot will help it associate the smells of the spot with going potty. Smells can often prompt a puppy to eliminate.
- Stay with your puppy outside while it is potty training so you can immediately praise it when she goes potty. Keep in mind that some puppies will go potty as soon as your take them outside, while others may need to sniff around or play a bit before they can eliminate.
6 – Watch your puppy for signs that it may need to potty.
Common signs are sniffing, circling, whining, leaving the room and pacing. Take your puppy outside as soon as possible when you see these signs. You must watch your puppy carefully.
- If you see your puppy begin to eliminate in an inappropriate spot indoors, clap twice sharply. Your clapping will startle your pup, stopping it in midstream. Quickly run with your puppy outside, either by leading it with its collar, or encouraging it to run beside you.
- Once outside, keep the puppy in one place and allow it to eliminate. When it does, verbally praise it and give it a treat. If the puppy doesn’t have anything to eliminate, don’t worry, just make sure to try to be there the next time it does so that you can bring it outside.
- Don’t scold the puppy and never rub its nose in an accident. Just clean up the mess and try to get the puppy outside next time.
7 – Create a ‘den’ for your puppy.
This is especially important to do when you are not home. Choose a crate or area that you can block off with a pen or baby gate and ‘puppy proof’ the area. Lay down newspapers and put its bed, toys, water and food bowls in the space. Over the course of a few weeks, you will notice that your puppy begins to pee or poop in one particular spot in the area.
- You can begin reducing the amount of newspaper you use in the space, so that eventually only the place the puppy has designated as her elimination spot is covered with newspaper. You will then be able to slowly start moving the newspaper to other locations closer and closer to the outside door and the puppy will continue to eliminate on them.
- If your puppy eliminates somewhere other than the designated spot, you may have reduced the amount of newspaper too much, or moved the newspaper away from the original spot too quickly. Potty training a puppy takes a long time, just remember to be patient.
- Praise your puppy when it eliminates in the designated spot. If your puppy has an accident but you do not catch her in the act, you should not reprimand her. She will not understand why you are reprimanding her for something she did an hour ago. If you do catch her right after she has had an accident, hold her near the accident and firmly say “no.”
8 – Open up the rest of the house to your pup.
When your puppy has become generally reliable in using its ‘potty area’, you can begin to let the puppy explore more of your house. Its best to open the house up to your puppy one room at a time. Only do this when your puppy can be supervised–any time your puppy cannot be supervised, but her back in her ‘den.’
- Put your puppy on a leash when it is exploring a new room. It is much more difficult for your puppy to get into trouble when you are attached to the other end of the leash.
Part 3 Training Your Puppy to Stop Biting and Chewing
1 – Know that your puppy doesn’t intend to hurt you when she bites.
Puppies explore their new world through their mouths. So they will probably bite you during their exploration or when they are playing. Puppies don’t know that their teeth can feel like razors piercing our skin when they gnaw on us, which is why it’s important to train your puppy not to bite at an early age.
2 – Teach your puppy to be gentle.
Puppies don’t know how hard their biting can be. When you are playing with your puppy, allow it to mouth on you if it is doing so already. When it bites too hard, yelp or let out a loud ‘ow!’ Doing this will startle your puppy and make it stop biting you.
- Ignore your puppy for 10 to 20 seconds after it has bitten you, or walk away for 10 to 20 seconds. Then go back and resume playing. When it bites too hard again, say “ow!” again and ignore it for another 20 or so seconds. Doing this teaches your puppy that gentle play continues, while painful play stops.
- Once your puppy has stopped biting you very hard, you can begin to teach it to not bite even moderately hard. Repeat the steps listed above when it bites you moderately hard. Continue this process until your puppy only mouths on you gently or doesn’t mouth on you at all.
3 – Stop your puppy from nipping at your feet.
If you puppy likes to ambush your feet while you walk, carry a toy in your pocket. When you puppy begins nipping at your foot, freeze, take out the toy and wave it so that it gets his attention. When your puppy has started chewing on the toy, begin walking again. Eventually your puppy will learn that chewing on toys is better than chewing on feet.
- If you don’t have a toy, freeze when your puppy begins nipping at your feet. When it stops, praise it and go get it a toy.
4 – Stop your puppy from chewing on things it shouldn’t be chewing on.
When you see your puppy chewing on something like a shoe, furniture, or sock, take the object away from him and scold him verbally. Direct its attention to something it can chew on, such as a favorite toy, and praise it when it begins chewing on that instead. Doing this teaches your puppy what objects to chew on and what not to.
- If your puppy continues to chew on things it shouldn’t be, you can use a taste deterrent, like bitter apple, to get it to stop chewing on those objects. You can buy taste deterrents at your local pet store. Bitter apple works well, as the bad taste will cause your puppy to stop chewing on the object immediately.
Part 4 Training Your Puppy to Obey Key Commands
1 – Train your puppy to sit.
Every dog should know the sit command. If you want your dog to be obedient, safe, and able to learn more complicated tricks, you must teach the sit command first.
- Have a treat ready to go. You should use a treat to teach this command, unless your dog doesn’t like food rewards.
- Your puppy should be on a leash. The leash will help you to guide your pup’s movements.
- Hold the treat in front of your puppy’s nose. While gently pulling the leash up, move the treat upwards, keeping it by your puppy’s nose.
- Your puppy will most likely follow the treat up, automatically landing in a sit. If not, gently push your puppy’s rear down. As soon as your dog lands in a sitting position, say “Sit!” Then give a treat and praise.
- Repeat the steps frequently and be patient. Some dogs take longer to learn than others. Once your puppy begins to recognize the word “sit,” say it just before your dog actually sits. With time, patience, and practice, your dog should eventually learn to sit on command.
2 – Train your puppy to lay down.
Once your puppy learns to sit, it needs to learn to lay down on command. Start with your puppy in the sitting position. Once again, have a treat ready. Your puppy should be on a leash so you can control its movements.
- Hold the treat where your puppy can see it, in front of its nose. You may want to kneel so you are lower to the ground.
- Keeping a little pressure on the leash, so the puppy can’t get the treat, move the treat slowly onto the ground. The puppy should lay down to get a little closer to the treat.
- If this doesn’t work, apply slightly more pressure to the leash. Pull the collar downwards, while moving the treat. Once your puppy is laying down, say “down” and give the reward.
- Eventually say “down” right before the puppy lays down. Continue to practice these steps eventually your puppy will learn how to lay down when he hears the command.
3 – Train your puppy to come.
This is another important safety command. You need to have control over your dog and know that it will come to you when asked.
- Keep your puppy on a leash. Tell it to either sit or lay down. Take a few steps away and kneel down. Have a favorite toy with you.
- Encourage your puppy by saying its name in an excited voice. Do not apply pressure to the leash. Show the puppy its toy. Pat your knees. Continue to talk in an encouraging voice.
- When the puppy begins to come to you, say “Come!” When it gets to you, praise and reward it.
- Continue to practice this, gradually doing these steps from further away.
- Once your puppy knows the command, try calling it while it’s playing.
4 – Train your puppy to stay.
This is one of the most important safety commands. Your puppy must know how to stay in one spot. This is important when taking walks, playing outside, greeting other people and dogs, etc.
- Keep your puppy on a leash. This time, do not show it the treat, but keep it ready to reward the puppy when the time comes.
- Have your puppy sit. Firmly, say “Stay.” Hold your hand in front of the puppy just above its head. Your hand should be where the puppy can easily see it. Until your puppy has learned the command, do not move your hand. It will help it stay focused and get the message.
- Very slowly, while maintaining eye contact with the puppy, take a small step backwards. If the puppy begins to move, say in a sharp, loud voice, “Ah ah!” That will get the pup’s attention and let it know it has done something wrong. Do not be upset, it does not yet know the command. Instead, firmly but gently put the puppy back in the same place, once again in a sit. The puppy must be in the same place or it will think that it can get away with moving forward even in a stay. Repeat the command and try again.
- When the puppy stays, say “Okay!” and let it get up and come to you. Praise the puppy and give it a reward.
- Continue practicing the command. Once the puppy has learned the command, gradually move farther away from it and have it wait longer until you give the command to break the stay.
5 – Teach your puppy additional commands.
After your puppy has learned the basic commands, and is following your commands consistently and promptly, you can work on “trick” types of training. There are many good books and internet articles around that can help you find out the best tricks for your puppy to learn and the best way to teach these types of commands.
- Teach your dog how to roll over. Your friends will be impressed and overwhelmed with how cute your dog is when it rolls over.
- Teach your puppy how to high five. Its important to get your kids involved in the training process of your puppy, so why not have them train your puppy to do something both the dog and child will both enjoy?
- Teach your dog how to do the doggie dance. Can you think of anything cuter than a puppy doing a little dog dance?
- Teach your puppy how to shake hands. Shaking hands is a classic trick that all dogs should learn.
- Teach your puppy to play fetch. Puppies have a lot of energy. Why not teach your dog a trick that will burn off some of that puppy energy?
6 – Consider taking your puppy to training classes.
Join in a puppy training class so your puppy can learn from other puppies, and their owners, and learn in a more distracting environment. Your local veterinarian, extension service, or pet store can help you find a good puppy training class in your area.
- Never call your puppy to you in order to punish it. Doing this will cause your puppy to associate coming to you’re with being punished, which will make it fearful and distrusting of your call.
- Keep training sessions inside until the puppy knows the commands better, and is more focused and calm. Then, move outside, with more distractions, but keep the puppy on a leash or in a fenced area for safety.
- Begin training sessions right before you feed your puppy. Your puppy will begin to associate eating as a reward.
- If a puppy has a short attention span and is getting bored during even a short session, include games during training. These can include hiding treats and telling your puppy to find them, playing fetch, and any creative, fun game you and your dog will enjoy.
- Do training with one puppy at a time (If you have more than one) so that he focuses on just you.
- Keep your dog away from young children’s rooms, especially if you have babies. Animals usually have a sense around young children and won’t bite them, but keep them apart just in case. When you let them play together, be sure to watch closely for any signs of agitation from the dog.
- Do not hit your puppy with anything. Hitting your puppy will slowly dissolve any human-dog bond that would have been forged between you two.
- Be gentle and careful when pulling on the leash to help guide your puppy into a new position, such as “sit” or “down.” Do not yank the leash, simply apply slight pressure so the puppy knows what to do. If the puppy begins to struggle or choke, stop and gently push down the puppy’s rear instead.