It is vitally important to begin training your new puppy as early as possible, while they are most amenable to training and most likely to find it easy to learn new skills. From the time when you first bring your puppy home you should begin almost immediately, but of course, when your puppy is young, their level of understanding and what you can reasonably expect them to achieve will not be everything that it will be as they get older.
Training is of course an ongoing process, and after starting with the basics, you will be able to build up your pup’s level of understanding with time, and be able to introduce them to ever more complicated or advanced commands, as well as a wider range of skills.
Read on to learn more about what you can reasonably expect from your puppy at different stages of their development, and how to tailor your training protocols to match this.
Eight weeks old
At the age of eight weeks, your puppy will almost certainly still be with their dam and littermates, but responsible breeders will already be starting to teach their litter the very basics. The dam also has a large part to play in this, and puppies as young as eight weeks old should already be starting to pick up bite inhibition, toileting away from their food and bed, and when enough is enough where play is concerned!
Twelve weeks old
At around twelve weeks old, puppies are fully weaned and going off to their new homes. This is when you really need to start with your training basics, such as starting to teach your puppy about being on their own, sleeping in a crate, not crying when left alone, sleeping through the night, and asking to be let out. However, you should not expect your puppy to master all of these things for some time to come!
Three months to six months old
Three months to six months of age is a busy time in the life of the puppy, and when you will make the greatest leaps in your puppy’s training. At this age you should be looking for opportunities to expose your puppy to lots of different stimulus, and socialisation at this age is really important. Take every opportunity to introduce your pup to a wide range of different people, and give them plenty of chances to socialise with other dogs. Also, start introducing them to other pets and animals, and get them used to correct behaviour with them.
Enroll your puppy into a training class at this age too, in order to both provide an opportunity for socialization, and to get help with teaching your puppy the basics.
Begin to teach your puppy about walking on the lead, and how to behave when outside of the home, such as sitting and waiting when you come to a road junction. Also, work on their potty training, and reward when your puppy asks to go out. Always let them out when they ask to go, and do not expect them to be able to hold it in at this age!
Your puppy training classes will also begin to show you how to teach your puppy about basic commands such as sit, stay, leave it, no, and the recall command. These are all things that you should practice daily at home and out on your walks, and get your puppy into a routine of learning and obeying commands and that good behaviour and compliance earns a reward.
Six months to one year
By the time a puppy is six months old, they should be well on their way. They should be able to sleep through the night or at least lie quietly without making a fuss, and they should be fully toilet trained, reliably asking to go out and not having accidents within the house. You can also expect that your puppy should be able to reasonably hold their bladder at this age, but not for protracted periods of time. Crate training should be established by this point, and your puppy should have a good grasp of the basic commands too.
Six months is the age from which puppies begin to reach sexual maturity, and also, begin to get their adult set of teeth. Both of these events can throw up challenges with training, and require sympathetic management. You should teach your pup about things that they are allowed to chew and things that they are not, and what is and is not allowed and expected of them.
You can begin to introduce higher level and complex commands at this age too, although this will very much rely upon the aptitude of your puppy and possibly, their breeding.
If you are planning on getting your puppy involved in canine sports, showing, or anything else special, now is the time to start working on the basics there, and by the time your puppy is a year old, they should generally be a well trained, confident adult dog- but remember that they will keep learning throughout their lives!