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How to Start Training a Puppy

February 4, 2020

When you bring a new puppy home, it’s important to start practicing obedience and good behavior with them. How should you start training your puppy? These tips from Embark’s veterinarian team will help.

When to start training your puppy

You should start training as soon as you meet your puppy because this is the time where they’re learning the most. That’s why experts recommend setting boundaries from the beginning. Crate and house training should start the first day your new puppy is home. 

As for command training, wait until your puppy is at least eight weeks old to start. In the meantime, you can focus on socialization training. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends exposing your puppy to as many new dogs, people, places, and experiences as you can in a safe environment during their first three months of life. Puppies are more curious than they are tentative during this time, so take advantage of their adaptability to prevent behavioral problems from developing in the future. 

Before you begin training, make sure you have the right supplies: low-calorie training treats, a clicker for positive reinforcement, and a light leash for your puppy to wear around the house.

Your puppy’s first training session

When you’re ready to start training your puppy, you’ll need a lesson plan. The American Kennel Club suggests these five basic commands for your puppy:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Lay down
  • Come
  • Heel, or another command for walking on a leash

For the first three, don’t make your puppy hold the commands for too long.

Another handy command for curious pups who like to get into everything is “leave it.”

These essentials will help you teach more complicated commands as your puppy grows.

Keep your first few training sessions to around five minutes. Shorter sessions get your puppy into the habit of training without tiring them out. Focus more on establishing the routine and less on seeing results early on.

When starting training, reward your puppy for every repetition of the correct action. Once your puppy shows they understand the command, you can start giving them treats less often and use praise as a reward instead.

Building a training routine

Consistency is key. Run through multiple mini-training sessions on a daily basis. It’s natural to want your puppy to learn a command as quickly as possible, but remember that every puppy learns at their own pace. Some will learn certain commands in a few minutes while others will need repetition over days or weeks. Once your puppy learns a command, you’ll need to reinforce it during their first year so they don’t forget.

Another factor in your puppy’s training is their breed mix. Different breeds are suited to certain commands. For example, more energetic breeds like Belgian Malinois and Yorkshire Terriers often struggle with “sit,” “stay,” or “down” commands but do better with more active commands like “come” and “shake.” Breed mix can also inform how to reward your pup: Some breeds are more food-motivated while others would prefer a toy. If your puppy’s breed mix is unknown, consider using an Embark dog DNA test to get useful insights for training.

Stay patient with your puppy

An important part of training your puppy is knowing when to stop. If your puppy is acting very resistant and won’t engage with you during a session, you’re probably expecting too much of them. Make sure they have plenty of unstructured playtime with their toys. 

If you make training a positive experience, you can do it throughout the entire day. Renowned veterinary behaviorist Sophia Yin kept her puppy at her hip with a leash all day to teach good behavior and even fed her pup the required daily calorie amount through training treats alone. She practically wrote the book on puppy training

Sometimes your puppy may forget a command you thought they had nailed down. That’s okay. Just stay patient and start from the beginning. Even if your puppy doesn’t accomplish your goal for the training session, always end on a positive note. 

As long as you start early, stay consistent, and use positive reinforcement, training will be a great bonding activity for you and your puppy.