Having a new dog is a big adjustment. Your pup needs meals, daily exercise, a solid routine, and they need to adjust to this new home you’ve created for them. With new dogs, especially puppies, you’re likely thinking of training but you’re not sure when to start.
This article will cover what age to start training your dog, as well as a few training tips to get you started.
When to Start Training Your Puppy
Puppies are like babies, and they need all the guidance they can get as they learn how to navigate this exciting new world. In that way, almost every interaction you have with your pup is training in some way.
In the first few days that you bring your pup home, the main focus is on establishing a bond with them and helping them settle into their new home. This isn’t formal training, but it is helping them learn a new daily schedule and the importance of routine.
After your pup has had time to settle in, you can start more formal training. Starting them off early makes it that much easier when your dog gets older.
8-10 weeks old is the typical age of a puppy when you bring them home. At this age, they are ready to learn:
Crate training (if desired)
A few basic obedience commands like sit and come
Another big component to training at this age is socialization.
While many people worry about socializing their pups before they’ve had all of their vaccinations, vets, animal behaviorists, and many trainers recommend starting as early as 7-8 weeks because socialization is that fundamental to the health and happiness of your dog.
Socialization means exposing your dog to new life experiences and helping them build positive associations with those experiences, so they’re a more confident adult dog. Careful, this doesn't mean throwing them in the deep end in a dog park but rather walking near those areas and simply letting them observe to start and eventually building up to interacting with other dogs once they seem confident.
You’ll keep the training sessions short while they are young, but you can slowly increase the amount and difficulty of training as your pup grows and learns.
Puppy Training Tips
Puppies are the sweetest, but they can also be handfuls. If you’ve just brought home a new puppy, here are a few tips to set a good foundation for future training.
1. Start a Routine Early
Puppies, like babies, crave consistency to help them feel safe and secure. Create a routine for feeding, potty time, sleeping, and training to provide structure for your dog’s days.
The consistent schedule removes some uncertainty from their otherwise new, sometimes scary world, so they can feel confident in their new home. A consistent potty routine also helps keep accidents in your home to a minimum.
2. Set up a “Puppy Safe Zone”
Puppies can’t be trusted until they’ve been trained, but it’s impossible to monitor them 24/7. Setting up a puppy-proof area in your home helps keep them out of trouble, protects your furniture from destruction, and gives them a place they can feel safe in.
Use baby gates, exercise pens, and doors to block off areas of the house that they’re not ready to explore yet. Over time, you’ll open up these restricted areas one at a time to supervised visits while you build trust and instill good behaviors. 3. Reinforce Good Behavior
It’s never too early to reward your dog for good behaviors. These moments don’t need to happen in format training sessions. Instead, look for moments where your dog is naturally displaying good behaviors and reward them, like settling down or coming when they’re called.
The more you can reinforce the good behaviors at an early age, the more likely they are to understand and practice those behaviors in the future. 4. Be Patient
One of the most important things you can do as a new puppy owner is to practice patience. Your puppy is experiencing the world for the first time, and they don’t understand how to interact with that world yet.
It’s up to you to guide them on what’s right and wrong. This kind of training takes baby steps and lots of practice, but with consistency and patience, you can build a strong, positive relationship with your dog that lasts a lifetime.
When Should You Start Training a Rescue Dog?
If you’ve brought home a rescue dog, your training timeline can look a little different. Every dog from a shelter comes with their own unique past to overcome.
For some dogs, they will already have a great foundation, and you can jump in right away with more specific training. For others, you may need to take more time to gain your dog’s trust and build their confidence before you can truly dive into training.
Every dog will be on their own timeline for when to introduce new training concepts and when to make things more challenging. It’s best to check with your vet and consult with a professional trainer to understand exactly what is best for your new pup going forward.
Ready to Start Training Your Dog?
Whether you just brought home a puppy or you adopted an adult dog from your local rescue, working with a professional trainer is a great way to instill good behaviors early and build a strong relationship with your dog by learning to speak their language.
A professional trainer can help you, not just with basic obedience skills, but with more complex behavioral challenges like leash pulling, resource guarding, jumping on people, potty training, reactivity and more.
If you’re ready to start training your dog with professional guidance, I’d love to help! At Elite Canin, we believe in personalized, relationship-focused training that empowers you and your dog to thrive in real-world settings.
Contact me today, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have!