Puppy Training: Tips for Success

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 09, 2014
4 min read

Bringing home your puppy is fun and exciting. It's also the perfect time to start training. Here's how to get things off to a good start.

Set up a good schedule. Then stick to it, says Richard Green, DVM, owner of Mont Clare Animal Hospital in Chicago. "Your puppy should wake, eat, and sleep at pretty much the same time every day -- and that means weekends too."

Feed them at least three times a day, says Houston veterinarian Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS. Take them outside often, especially during housebreaking. Try for at least seven times a day, starting with first thing when you wake up.

Be consistent and patient. It'll probably take a few days to get on track.

Teach them the rules. Your dog won't know the rules when you bring themhome. It's your job to show them what to do and what not to do. Is it OK to sit on the furniture? How about overturning the garbage can? Make it clear.

Teach them to sit, stay, and come when you call them, and walk on a leash without pulling. Say things like "good boy" when they dowhat you want them to do.

Praise good behavior. If they waitat the curb instead of running into the street, for example, reinforce the good behavior with a quick "yes" or "good" at the exact moment they do what you want, says Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA. He's a dog trainer and behaviorist in Los Angeles.

Set up a reward system. Reward behaviors you like. Don't reward behaviors you dislike. Always use immediate consequences.

Rewards can be simple, like a doggie treat or a good belly rub. Or they can be special, like playtime with doggie pals or a game of fetch. To teach them not to do something, ignore them or take away things they like. For example, if they jump up on you when they want to play, show them it's not OK by turning away. When they sit down, shower them with attention.

Ward off biting. "Many puppies try and play with their new owners' hands and feet in the same way they played with their littermates -- with mouthing and biting," says Beale. You'll have to teach him it's not OK, so don't allow any type of biting or nibbling on people, even during play.

"If your puppy does bite you, yelp loudly," he says. If they continue to mouth or bite you, step away and ignore them for 30 to 60 seconds. That will teach them that biting makes playtime end, so it should stop the behavior.

Give them appropriate things to chew on. "Remember, puppies need lots of things to chew on," says Greene. Give them appropriate toys that they can mouth, like chew toys. Leave lots of toys around so they don't feel the need to play with your hands or ankles.

Playing along when they chew on a toy will feel extra fun to them and reinforce proper chewing.

Teach good manners. When your pup is polite, everyone benefits. Train them to sit when guests come to the door instead of jumping up to greet them. Teaching them to sit will keep them calm when guests arrive, Green says. It may help to keep them on a leash.

Too much barking can be a nuisance. Ward it off by teaching them when it's OK to bark and when it's not. Try using a stern "no." It may also help to get rid of or minimize the cause.

Introduce them to other dogs. The perfect time to have your puppy meet other dogs is when they are about 2 to 4 months old. That's the sweet spot when most dogs learn to accept animals, people, and new places and experiences more easily.

Puppy play dates and puppy classes are a good place to start. Stick to places where dogs are healthy and vaccinated. "Dog parks need to wait until all the shots are done," Klein says.

When your puppy meets another dog, it's best if they're both on a leash. That will give you and the other dog's owner better control of the situation. "Allow the two dogs time to smell each other," Greene says. "This is their way of getting to know each other." Praise them when they behave well.

Go slow. Don't worry if your puppy doesn't jump right in and play with other dogs. Many puppies are reserved and need time to transform from wallflower to social butterfly, Klein says.

Follow your puppy's cues. "If he doesn't want to go, don't push it," Klein says. Give them the time and space they need to feel comfortable. "The most important thing is that every socializing experience be a pleasant one, with no scary moments."