Puppy Training Secrets: What Age Is Appropriate?


Many people wonder what age is appropriate to begin training a puppy. Is there a puppy training secret to doing this right?  Doing training while your puppy is still young will certainly make things easier, but you can train a puppy at pretty much any age.

The best time to begin training a puppy is the day you bring the puppy home which generally is around 8 weeks of age. One of the reasons you don’t want to get a puppy from a litter younger than 8 weeks is that while a puppy is still in it’s litter they learn a lot about bite inhibition from their litter mates which is helpful to you when you get the puppy home.

Here are a few tips to make the process of training as easy as possible.  As you’ll see there really are no puppy training secrets, just good sound knowledge:

  1. Always be consistent in your training. Whatever behavior you are trying to teach your puppy, do it every single day for about 3 minutes and do it the same way every single time. It doesn’t really take much time out of your schedule. Two or three times a day for about 3 minutes each time is plenty. Puppies have a short attention span and will tire and get bored quickly.
  2. Keep your training age appropriate. Do not expect a young puppy 8-12 weeks of age to be able to hold a sit or a down for more than a few seconds. If your expectations exceed the capability of the puppy you are setting you both up for failure and frustration.
  3. Always use the same word for the command each time. Pick one word and stick to it. Do not confuse the puppy by saying down when you want him to lay down then turn around and say down when you want him off the couch. One behavior – one command word.
  4. Never, ever punish your puppy in any way, shape or form. If your puppy does not obey a command simply say wrong in a totally non-emotional tone of voice. Hitting, yelling at, or striking your puppy lays the groundwork for having a confrontational relationship with your puppy who will soon become a grown dog. Aggression begets aggression – simply do not do this.
  5. Always praise your puppy when he performs a behavior properly. You can periodically give a food treat to make the training more rewarding for him, but understand how to wean off food treats. A simple Good Puppy said in a happy high pitched tone is also a great reward.

There is a lot to learn in training a puppy, but if you do it well, with the right information and the right techniques, you can easily have a well trained puppy in just a few weeks.

These are just some of the basics that will help you get started on the right foot with your puppy. Puppies are very smart and learn quickly, especially when they are taught from an early age.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Jim’s  Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him.  You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.  The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010




New Puppy? 9 Misconceptions of How to Begin to Train a New Puppy

  Everyone loves puppies and especially that wonderful puppy breath. But did you know that most new owners do almost everything wrong to begin to train their puppy? Unfortunately, people view puppies as small dogs, and they’re not – they are babies. Puppies have certain needs to not only be trained, but needs related to their food which must be high quality, needs related to their ability to fit into our human world and needs to be comfortable with everything in our human world. Up until the time you get your new puppy, their entire world pretty much consisted of their litter mates and the area where they were kept by the breeder. The first things owners want to do of course is to have their puppy potty trained, then right behind that is dealing with the biting and nipping that all puppies do. Among new puppy owners there is a common thought process about the problems of potty training and biting and nipping that complicates an otherwise easy process, because this thought pattern confuses the new puppy. Here are 9 misconceptions new owners have about their new puppy:

  1. Having accidents every day in their home is part of the potty training process – it’s just what they do.
  2. Leaving the puppy in the back yard to potty is good potty training and easy for the owner.
  3. The new puppy should be able to give them a sign or a signal when it needs to go potty.
  4. It’s cute when their little puppy jumps.
  5. The puppy is asking for love and affection when it jumps, that’s all.
  6. When the puppy bites, it simply means that the new puppy is just teething and the puppy will grow out of it.
  7. Letting the new puppy sleep with them is great for the puppy and lots of fun for the owner.
  8. Leaving the puppy’s food and water down all day for it to eat and drink is easier for them.
  9. It’s fun and the puppy loves to wrestle or rough house with the kids and me – it’s how we bond.

These thoughts can not be further from the truth. Whether you are at your wit’s end with your new puppy, or just beginning your puppy training efforts, you must understand immediately what you need to do to help your puppy be successful now and in the future. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Puppy Biting – Are You at Your Wit’s End? Four Facts About Puppies and Aggression

Puppies are generally taken from the litter at 7 to 8 weeks of age. This time with its litter mates is critical as it is used to help puppies learn to read body language and signals with it’s littermates through play and interaction. Signals like, let’s play or too rough!, or back off please!

Good breeders do not take their puppies from the litter too soon because they are aware of the importance of this time needed for socialization and puppy training so that prospective owners don’t wind up having puppy behavioral problems (like biting).

Responsible owners wait until the optimum age to get a puppy and then immediately begin their puppy training in the home. Smaller dog breeds like terriers or toy pups should stay in the litter until 8 to 12 weeks. A little research along with the following note worthy facts and you may have a better understanding of why your puppy is exhibiting aggressive behavior.

  • Fact: It is common to frequently see aggression develop in dogs that were removed from their mother and litter mates between the ages of 2 to 6 weeks.
  • Fact: A lack of experience in the socialization process with littermates and other puppies can lead to fearful behavior and possibly defensive aggression. Puppy training and socialization with other puppies is critical.
  • Fact: This same aggressive behavior is also seen in dogs that are brought home at 8 weeks of age but are never taken out for environmentally rich experiences like meeting and playing with other puppies and dogs, walks in parks and the neighborhood and proper training when it comes to meeting people and children.
  • Fact: These dogs automatically opt to use defensive aggressive behavior as their only tool when first communicating with other dogs.

If adequate puppy training, desensitization and socialization is started as early as possible after puppy is brought home, many puppies can learn to develop the critical social skills they need to lead productive and positive social lives interacting very well with other puppies and adult dogs.

Be as careful about the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!


Dog Training: 4 Steps To A Potty-Trained Puppy

If you have a new puppy in your home one of the first things you want to accomplish is to get your puppy potty-trained. No one wants their home to smell like a kennel and constantly cleaning up potty accidents after a puppy gets annoying and stressful. Most dog owners know that puppies don’t understand that they have done anything wrong. It is their natural instinct to potty when they need to. The connection between the brain of a puppy and the bladder and bowel doesn’t really start to mature until closer to 4 months of age. So puppies have to be taught potty training. Here are some tips that will make this easier for you:

  1. Do not free feed your puppy. What does this mean? Simply this: feed your puppy on a schedule 3 times per day. Give a measured amount of food at each feeding. Pick up the food after 10 minutes whether the puppy is done eating or not. What does this accomplish? You can determine the exact amount of food the puppy has eaten, you know when the puppy has eaten, which in turn, will help you determine when it’s potty time for your puppy.
  2. Remember that young puppies will always have to go potty at these times: immediately upon waking in the morning or waking up from a nap. After playing and about 5 minutes or less after eating.
  3. Do not scold your puppy for accidents. It does absolutely no good to come upon an accident, go get your puppy, rub his nose in it then scold him. Puppies/dogs only understand correction or praise within 1.0 to 1.5 seconds of doing the behavior. Rubbing their noise in it is a confrontational move on your part and not the way you want to train your puppy.
  4. When you absolutely cannot watch your puppy, confine him to a small gated space in your home or crate him.

What about overnight accidents? A puppy is best kept in a small indoor crate or pen at night until they are old enough to hold off the need to potty for several hours at a time. Also, avoid feeding or having your puppy drink lots of water right before bedtime and do not put food or water in their crate with them at night. Take the puppy out immediately before crating them for the night. And remember the rule of thumb: for every month old a puppy is, generally speaking, that’s the number of hours they can hold it. Plan on getting up during the night with your puppy.

Yes, it’s inconvenient but it’s your responsibility to train this puppy right. Again, whatever you do, never resort to physical punishment when your puppy has an accident. Puppies haven’t learned a good potty routine yet and they wouldn’t know why they are being punished. What they will know, is you’re not safe. These tips will help reduce the number of accidents in your home over a short period of time. The most important thing to remember is to start training your puppy as soon as you bring him home. Behaviors are much easier to change when a puppy is still young. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember “Opportunity Barks!”

Dog Behavior: Puppy Play Or Aggression – Be Careful How You Train


One of the benefits that a puppy receives by staying in the litter until 8 weeks (assuming the breeder is doing their job), in addition to bite inhibition, is learning how to communicate with their litter mates. Certain signals between puppies say “let’s play,” “out of my space,” “easy,” or “no harm intended.” It is these signals for communications that dogs learn as puppies and as adolescents which they carry into their adulthood. These signals, when used while playing, allow dogs to communicate with each other and to keep play at a reasonable and tolerable level and most of all fun for all.

Some dogs never learned these signals because they were not given the opportunity to interact and learn how to communicate their intentions to other dogs or people. As they develop into adolescent pups and begin to interact with other dogs and puppies in the real world, they are unable to play normally. This is where normal play stops and threatening behavior begins to intensify. These dogs begin to ignore all clear signals from their playmates, that would normally keep the play at a fun level.

The intensity of behavior is triggered at what would normally be considered lower thresholds of play by the other dogs. This type of aggression may inadvertently also be directed at humans who begin to play with the dog. Humans, by rough housing with their puppy too much, can accidentally increase the intensity of the play to a boiling point and the aggression begins. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between play aggression and what is thought to be rough play.

The lesson here is don’t rough house with your puppy and make sure that your puppy gets an adequate amount of socialization with people, kids and other dogs. It is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing. Rough play can escalate into aggression for some puppies. When we see rough play in very young puppies, there is a greater chance that some of these puppies will develop escalated behavior (aggression) as they mature. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Dog Training Step by Step: How to Help Your Puppy Overcome Being Fearful

Unfortunately, sometimes you have a puppy or dog that seems to be fearful of either one thing – or many things. Everyone wants a happy, outgoing puppy or dog that just loves life and everything in it, but that isn’t the case with every puppy. If your puppy seems to be afraid of certain things, like men, kids, the vacuum, you can change that.

Lots of dog owners believe that puppies will outgrow their fears, but that isn’t always how it happens. The best thing you can do is help your puppy get familiar and comfortable with things that seem to make them uncomfortable. You have to instill confidence in your puppy and this can usually be done by building structure into the puppy’s life and teaching obedience training. Both of these things give your puppy confidence.

Here are some good guidelines to follow:

  • Most importantly, the puppy should be able to lessen his fearfulness at his own pace. Never try to force a person or situation that scares your puppy. If you do this, it just confirms to the puppy that the person or situation is dangerous. Let the puppy do it on his own time.
  • There are some things you can try to help your puppy along without forcing him. If he trusts you because he views you as his strong leader he will trust that you can handle the scary situation.
  • If you have been training him to sit or stay, start redirecting his focus by training the puppy in the area of the person or situation he is fearful of. Do this at a comfortable distance. Then, over a period of time, you can slowly begin to get your puppy closer to the “feared object”.
  • If your puppy is afraid of a person, have the person stand a distance away from the puppy, not look at the puppy, not make a big deal of anything and toss food treats periodically to the puppy. Done repeatedly when the person is around the puppy, the puppy will begin to associate good things with the once “scary stranger”.
  • It needs to be your puppy’s choice if he wants to approach his fear and if he backs off, that is okay. It takes time and patience to show your puppy that there is nothing to fear. Just as with a small child, things don’t happen immediately. You have to work with patience and understanding and do things in a gradual manner.

Sometimes it helps to think of yourself, your fears and things that make you uncomfortable. Would you want someone to force you into a situation you are afraid of? Your puppy shouldn’t be forced either. Give him time and with a little training he will come around on his own, gain confidence and lose some of that fear.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”


Do You Know the Critical Time Frame For Socializing A Puppy?

Did you know when the window of opportunity to socialize your puppy begins to close? If you said 6-9 months you are way too late. It is critically important to begin socializing your puppy before four months of age. If you wait beyond this point to begin training your puppy how to act outside the home and with other people, he may become fearful. Why? Because he hasn’t been exposed to the outdoors, children, other animals etc. during a time in his life when puppies are most open to accepting new things. This lack of socialization can cause unwanted behavior in your dog such as barking and snapping. Puppies only know what they are exposed to. If they are kept indoors the entire time they are young, they won’t know how to behave around other people, children, other dogs or animals, or the sounds of passing cars, shopping carts etc. These things will all be foreign to him and can cause a range of behavior problems down the road. Exactly how do you socialize a puppy? By exposing him to everyday life. Before I list examples of how to do this I want to make sure you understand a few things about socialization and the importance of where your puppy is in his vaccination schedule. Never take an non-vaccinated or under vaccinated puppy into a public pet store, a dog park or a common area where lots of unknown dogs gather. Let your puppy be around dogs that belong to your friends and you know are healthy and fully vaccinated.

  • Invite people to your home so that your puppy learns that it is okay for someone other than you to be inside your home. This can prevent your dog from becoming nervous, fearful or even aggressive when unknown people come into your home.
  • Take your puppy to the exit door of a supermarket. Lots of different sounds and smells. As people exit the store, explain that your are getting your puppy used to lots of people and would they mind petting your puppy. If they have children, get the children to pet (gently!) the puppy also. Kids can be tough on dogs so be sure to supervise how they touch your puppy.
  • Take your puppy to your vet just as a walk through. Let him get used to the smells and sounds. Have the vet techs and the vet pet him and give him a treat, then leave. No shots, no exam. Just a pleasant trip with cookies! Do this a couple of times so your puppy will not always associate your vet with something painful or uncomfortable.
  • Let children you know be around your puppy. Be sure to supervise the children with the puppy and take this opportunity to teach children how to be gentle with dogs. The relationship between kids and dogs is a tricky one so be sure your puppy’s first experience with a child is only positive. No yelling or screeching, no pulling ears, no fingers in the eyes, no pulling of fur, just nice soft petting and talking to the puppy.

Socializing your puppy is important if you care about raising a secure, confident dog that won’t bark at every noise or snap at any strange person they see. Once you have the socialization underway, it will be time to start training your dog in other behavioral areas. Teaching the puppy to sit and stay are the next steps. These behaviors are as important for their well being as socialization. Treat your pet as you would your child, so that they will grow up to be happy, secure and confident. You wouldn’t let your child train themselves, would you? Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog, as you are the teacher of your children and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

How Soon Can Puppy Training Begin?

Lots of puppy owners have the incorrect belief that puppies are not capable of learning at such an early age. To the contrary, early training of your puppy is the best time to begin. Instead of waiting till later and allowing the puppy to learn bad behavior, train early and teach good behavior from the beginning.

Ideally 10 weeks of age is a nice time to start training. The puppy is generally old enough to stay awake and participate in the short training sessions. Here are some easy tips to incorporate when training a new puppy:

  • Be patient, no yelling or harsh treatment. This early time in a puppy’s life is critical. Harsh treatment or abuse gets ingrained in this fear imprint period. You can certainly ruin a good puppy by being too hard on them.
  • Puppies have very short attention spans in their early months. Train in short intervals.
  • Keep everything pretty basic. Remember, a young puppy is NOT going to hold a sit or a stay for more than a few seconds. Keep your expectations in line with the age of the puppy.
  • Build your puppy’s confidence by setting your puppy up to succeed instead of fail. Be proactive in his training, not reactive.
  • Initially concentrate on the commands and behaviors that are important to you AND are age appropriate.

Some commands that are appropriate for a 10 week old puppy to begin learning are:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Come when called ( this takes a while)
  • Walk on a leash
  • No biting
  • No jumping
  • No nipping

And of course the usual house training and crate training.  If you need help now, check out our  DVD  puppy training.

Make training fun for you and fun for your puppy. Once your puppy is completely vaccinated and usually around 4 – 5 months of age, a group obedience class is appropriate for your puppy to get better at the basic commands around controlled distractions of other people and other dogs.

If where you take your dog for basic obedience allows playtime once temperament of all dogs has been evaluated, that is a wonderful opportunity for more socialization for your puppy and a great place for him/her to learn how to play appropriately with other dogs.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”


Puppy Biting – What Not to Do… And Why


There are many suggestions on how to stop  puppy biting. One is that an owner should “come down hard on the puppy” and give the puppy, among other things, a “strong blow to the nose!” This sounds like something out of the dark ages. Here’s an example of how that out of date training would work. The example is based on a daughter who decides to share some fat scraps from her dinner plate with the puppy and the puppy bites her.

Behavioral science teaches us positive methods to train, correct and redirect our puppies allowing us to leave behind forever the old “school of hard knocks”. Nothing is mentioned here about setting the puppy up to succeed – not fail by simply crating the puppy during mealtimes so that you can work with the puppy in a positive way during a controlled training session, thereby avoiding physical punishment. Kids, like dogs need behavioral counseling as well, as a puppy owner you must teach the children in the household how best to interact with the puppy, i.e. “no table scraps are to be hand fed to the puppy thus avoiding the need to physically punish altogether.” There is also the added concern that if this physical punishment happens during a puppy’s critical fear imprint period, the owner could seriously compound problems that could have long term negative affects on the puppy.

Normal puppies should play-bite as they interact socially with their litter mates. But since we remove them from their litter mates too early, and bring them home, they become isolated from opportunities to continue to fine-tune their bite inhibition. We, as dog owners can allow our puppies to continue to work on bite inhibition during their very very early age (7-12 weeks) by allowing puppies to bite us ADULTS under controlled circumstances as they interact with us. Allowing puppies to bite gives them some idea of their bite strength. You use positive methods to redirect the biting. This critical information gives them a point of reference from which to work to soften their bite and then finally only lick human skin.

There is a process to go through with your puppy to stop puppy biting. . Most trainers familiar with positive reinforcement training can take you through this process so that the learning is positive for both the owners and the puppy. Puppies should always be supervised on leash around children. Here’s another interesting thing revelation from dog behaviorists. “Kids get along well with dogs when parents provide gentle and enlightened guidance to both.

When emotional and/or physical parental excesses take place, children and dogs both tend to react according to the Be-Like Act-Like (allelomimetic) principle. If a dog owner gets angry and punishes a child quite often, the dog may start getting edgy when the youngster is around him. If an owner does the same to the dog, the child may take on the role of punisher and get into trouble when the dog defends himself.” Based on this theory, if the daughter in the example, sees the parent physically punish the puppy, then she, at some point takes on the role of punisher, there is a high likelihood that the dog (being forced into defense drive) may bite the child. There are simply better positive ways to approach correcting a puppy.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your puppy, as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!


House Breaking A Puppy – The 3 Things You Don’t Know

One reason people find it difficult to train and house break a puppy is that the puppy has absolutely no idea what the owner is trying to teach. And, many times, the owner’s expectation of the puppy is beyond what the puppy is capable of at that certain age. This communication gap is never more painfully obvious than in house breaking a puppy. It can be a very frustrating process. It doesn’t have to be, but sometimes there are those puppies that are difficult to house break. Many people will say, “I’m doing all the right things” or, “I’ve read a whole stack of books” and the bottom line we keep getting back to with some puppies is, “House breaking this puppy” is difficult – or at least so it seems – but in reality, they’re generally overlooking some very simple “tricks of the trade” to house break a puppy. There are many factors that impact house breaking a puppy. None of them can be viewed separately as they all work together. One component most puppy owners do not consider is the impact that nutrition has on house breaking a puppy. What kind of food, how much and how it’s prepared can heavily impact how quickly you can house break a puppy.

1. Step one is to feed a high premium, nutritionally balanced diet to your new puppy.

Tip: Inexpensive dog food is chocked full of artificial preservatives, dyes, bad fat and low grade carbohydrates used as fillers. You can not purchase high quality dog or puppy food in a grocery store or a big box store. They don’t carry high quality foods. Tip: Keep your new puppy on the breeder’s food for at least 4 days once home. Any change in diet should be done gradually to prevent digestive problems and any related house training issues. Tip: When you are ready to begin switching to your high quality food, begin using this formula: day one – 3/4 old food, 1/4 new food; day 2 – 1/2 old food, 1/2 new food; day three – 1/4 old food, 3/4 new food and finally on day four – all new high quality food. If at any point your puppy develops a soft stool, simply go back to the previous day’s formula until you get a firm stool.

2. How much you feed is important. Many people over feed their puppies and in fact, leave the food bowl down all the time so that the puppy can free feed.

Tip: The quantity they tell you to feed on the bag of food is not set in stone. Be flexible and adjust to your puppy’s appetite and weight. Too much food and you will have a puppy with loose stools. Tip: Puppies have a very difficult time or simply can not control loose stools resulting in accidents for which they should not be blamed.

3. Developing a regular and consistent feeding schedule is important.

Tip: Keeping your puppy’s feeding schedule consistent on weekends as you do on week days is critical. Once you have the diet correct, there are other components you will need to put into your house breaking routine. These include:

  • How to be proactive in teaching your puppy to be house broken instead of being reactive.
  • Understanding the importance of the crate in house breaking your puppy.
  • Teaching your new puppy where not to go is the final part that completes the process.
  • Remember that throughout this process avoid any and all punishment of your new puppy

Again, always set your dog up to be successful. Give your dog what he needs and he will give you back years of wonderful companionship and love.

Need help now???  Check out our puppy training course.  You’ll think I’ve moved in with you 🙂

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”