Puppy Training: 5 Critical Tips for Training Your New Puppy

Christmas is a big time for people to get puppies. I want to emphasize to those of you thinking about getting a puppy that the most important thing to do is to start puppy training from day one. This is truly critical to your new puppy and his life with you.  I have a complete step by step “nose to tail” video series for you also.

Why? Because your new puppy will form lifelong behaviors (good or bad) within the first 2 weeks to 4 months of his life with you. Yup, that fast. It’s really so much easier to begin training good behavior from the beginning than having to go back and fix what you broke.

Here are 5 critical life skill tips that you must focus on teaching him if you want a lifetime of great memories with your new puppy.

First Tip: Understanding house manners

Your puppy has only learned to greet his litter mates by sniffing crotch and butt, then immediately engaging in puppy social play as they hump, jump, bump and carry on.
Your House manners should be very clear that your puppy learn to sit quietly to greet.

Your puppy’s play includes running, chasing, biting and chewing on his litter mates. That’s how puppies play naturally.

Your House manners should require your puppy to learn to play nicely with children and don’t bite when they catch them. Not a bad idea either to teach children how best to play with your puppy. That way it sets him up to succeed.

Your puppy sees everything as a chew toy! He won’t discriminate between your good shoes and a chew bone and if it smells more like you- that’s even better!

Your House manners should teach your puppy to appreciate and leave your valuable stuff alone. Constant supervision and redirects to appropriate toys works best. Crate him when you can’t supervise his activity.

Your puppy will tend to go potty when he feels the need to go no matter where he is, unless you teach him differently.
Your House manners should be very specific about not using your home as his toilet area.

Even though you’ve set your house manner requirements, you will discover that your puppy has an unquenchable thirst for exploring, getting into everything. If you already know this then you’ve discovered your puppy is an opportunist.

 If you leave your dinner plate on the coffee table as you make your way to the kitchen to refill your water glass, you may return to find that last piece of pizza you so badly wanted – gone!

 If you leave the front door open, he will inquisitively go through it to explore.  And, the list goes on.

The good news is that your puppy can learn your crazy house manners and more – if you teach them and are very consistent every day.

Start your house manners the day you get your new puppy. You’ll be glad you did. Take advantage of his opportunistic nature by trading things he wants for things you want.

Be extra careful and pay attention to your new puppy so that he doesn’t develop any bad habits like chewing on the couch or coffee table. Have plenty of chew toys like a stuffed Kong toy or Nylabone ready for a quick redirect. How you handle the correction (never harsh) will have a lifetime affect on your relationship with your new puppy.

Second Tip: Getting up close and personal with family, friends and strangers

I think micro-managing your biting puppy around your family or friends, that just want to pet a cute puppy, should not be what you have to think about all the time.

The best way for you to get your puppy okay with everyone is to start working on this the day you get your new puppy. There will be many opportunities for your new puppy to willingly accept pets, hugs and belly rubs.

In order for him to conform to your personal need of close contact, immediately begin to socialize him to children and adults alike. You can never have a puppy that’s too socialized. Don’t you agree?

I remember when we first got our black Lab Sammy. I had him up at Randall’s shopping center asking everyone coming out of the store if they would pet my puppy and give him a treat.

Remember, your puppy’s window of socialization closes somewhere between 3 ½ to 5 months of age. Plan to map out a strategy to achieve maximum socialization by 5 months of age. A good rule of thumb is 90 kids and adults in 90 days

Since you probably got your puppy from the breeder at about 8 weeks of age (2 mos.), that’s when the socialization clock starts ticking. Beginning the day you get your puppy, all family members should be touching his ears and paws as well as examining his mouth (teeth) and private parts while associating food treats with the process.

Begin to socialize your puppy to places you will eventually take him. Take your puppy to the veterinarian; have them give him a cookie then leave. If you will eventually require the services of a professional groomer, do the same thing and put him on the groom table while he listens to the dryers, gets a food treat and gets comfortable with the environment.

If your puppy gets stressed by groomers, vets or strangers he will be more likely to bite. So if your puppy missed the opportunity to get that much needed socialization by the time he is 4 to 5 months of age, you will need to ramp up your socialization process. You must commit to doing the work, remembering to take it at your puppy’s own comfortable pace.
They are not all built the same. Some take readily to people while others shy away and need more time.

Third Tip: Potty in the right place

Now you’ve probably heard this before. Your puppy usually won’t potty or soil in his den or crate where he sleeps. When you finally get your new puppy to your home don’t make the mistake and assume that cleaning up potty mistakes is going to be a natural part of your house training process. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Don’t make the assumption that your puppy should be able to “tell” you when it has to go potty. Until your puppy is closer to 4 months of age, there is not a strong connection between their brain and their bowels and bladder. When your puppy has to go, he squats and goes right there. Your job is to be proactive, not reactive.

The key is managing your house training process with crates, exercise pens, leashes and hands on supervision. Okay, but what if you’re saying, “I already do that!” If you are really using these things “correctly” it is entirely possible for your puppy to never have an accident in your home. Not using these tools correctly sends a confusing message to your puppy.

Fourth Tip: Help your puppy develop confidence being alone in his crate

Puppies are “pack animals” and that is probably the one trait that closely resembles our family orientation. Your puppy is no different.

Your puppy, especially in a new place, will not do well being by himself, at last at first. So an important part of raising your puppy is to teach and condition him that being by himself in his crate is okay. In fact, you will not be available 24/7.

To condition your new puppy to being, “okay” by himself, randomly crate him for varying lengths of time when you are home – nights and weekends.

When we were training our lab, Sammy, we would crate him in a bedroom, shut the door and let him stay there for 30 minutes, an hour or sometimes two hours. We put his crate in different rooms where he could also see us. He quickly learned to not worry about being crated.

We also downplayed our departures and arrivals. It’s important to build on the amount of time you leave your puppy in the crate. The most important message is “you always come back.” One other note – never let your new puppy out of the crate when he is whining or barking. Once your new puppy is quiet, then let him out of the crate.

Some physical activities that will help your puppy cope better with his time alone are:

  • Exercise on walks will help to manage his energy
  • Games like fetch or tug-of-war, all with specific rules
  • Doing sits and downs (obedience training) creates mental fatigue

All of these activities will give your puppy novel sights, sounds and experiences to process in your absence. In some extreme cases puppies can develop a separation anxiety disorder caused primarily by spending too much time with the owner and not enough time alone. Make sure you integrate alone training into your puppy training experience.

Fifth Tip: Appropriate play with humans

Puppies naturally play with their teeth so teach your age-appropriate children appropriate play with your new puppy.

Instead of playing chase, play a game of fetch, tug-of-war or hide and seek – all with rules to teach kids, train puppies and keep your puppy’s mouthing to a minimum.

When playing with age-appropriate family members, it is best to always have rules to every game you play with your puppy. With tug-of-war for example, the game rules should go like this:

  • Start the game with a “Sit!” command
  • Offer him his end of the tug toy with “Take it!”
  • Now the fun begins and when you are ready to end the game,
  • End the game with a “Sit!” command
  • Collect the tug toy with, “Drop it!” and “Good Boy!”

Game over. Always maintain control of the tug toy. Any attempts in biting or mouthing human flesh during the game results in a time out in his crate for two minutes.

Since your puppy uses his teeth for many things like eating, chewing on things and initiating play with his litter mates, it’s going to be very important that he learn not to mouth human skin.

Teaching your puppy a “Drop it!” or “Leave it!” command is the best way to retrieve tug ropes and tennis balls from your puppy during games thereby preventing your puppy from challenging you over the toy. Use a food treat initially to swap for the toy as you say, “Drop it!” Eventually wean him off the food treats.

Remember, the habits and rules you set in the very beginning with your puppy will be forming a life-time of behaviors. You have a golden opportunity to make them good behaviors.

P.S. Your puppy is even learning when you are not formally training, so be very careful!

I am excited to share my dog and puppy training knowledge with you. I truly hope you found some great suggestions for helping your puppy. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think or if your have questions

Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His 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.