How To Start Training Your Puppy

Updated Jun. 19, 2024
yellow labrador puppy pulling on his leash


Puppies are constantly learning, whether it’s from their environment, from socializing with people or other animals, or from direct training.

This creates a critical foundation that will set the stage for their adulthood. Providing puppies with the appropriate socialization and basic puppy training allows them to grow into confident adult dogs.

Follow this step-by-step puppy training guide to set you and your puppy up for success!

When Can You Start Training Your Puppy?

Training a puppy starts as soon as you bring them home, which is typically about 8 weeks of age. At this young age, they can learn basic puppy training cues such as sit, stay, and come.

Puppy Training Tips

Here are some basic puppy training tips to get you started.

1. Use Positive Reinforcement

There are many different methods of training your puppy that you might have heard about or even seen in person with a dog trainer. However, there is only one acceptable and scientifically backed method of training, and that’s the use of positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is the process of giving a reward to encourage a behavior you want. The use of punishment—including harsh corrections; correcting devices such as shock, choke, and prong collars; and dominance-based handling techniques—should be avoided. These methods can produce long-term consequences that result in fear and anxiety for your dog as an adult.

Positive reinforcement is the process of giving a reward to encourage a behavior you want. The use of punishment should be avoided.

To apply positive reinforcement to your puppy training, first find out which rewards work best for your puppy. Some puppies might find something as simple as a piece of their normal kibble exciting enough to train with, while others might need something tastier, like a special training treat.

Then there are the puppies that are not motivated by food at all! For those puppies, try to find a toy they enjoy that they can get when they do a good job. Praise is also a way to positively reinforce a puppy. Petting or showing excitement and saying, “good job!” may be all you need for basic puppy training.

2. Keep Training Sessions Short

Puppies have short attention spans. When training a basic cue, keep the sessions short—about five minutes each—and try to average a total of 15 minutes per day. End your session on a positive note so they’re excited for the next session.

3. Use Consistency When Training Your Puppy

It’s important to be consistent in your approach to cues and training. Use the same word and/or hand signal when you teach your puppy basic cues such as sit, stay, and come.

It’s also important to reinforce desired behaviors consistently, even when it’s not convenient. So if you’re potty training your puppy and they’re at the door needing to go outside, stop what you are doing, let them out, and reward them for going to the bathroom outside.

4. Practice in Different Environments 

Taking a puppy to a new environment, such as a park or the beach, and asking for a cue is vastly different than training at your house. This is because of the new sights and smells they’ll encounter, which aren’t present at home.

Make attempts to practice in different settings. This will set your dog up to be confident, no matter their situation.

But keep in mind that puppies should not go to areas where there are a lot of dogs until they have finished their puppy vaccination series. You can always talk to your veterinarian about safe ways to socialize and train your young puppy.

5. Be Patient

Puppies are growing and learning, just like young children. They will make mistakes and may not always understand what you are asking.

All puppies learn at different speeds, so stick with it and don’t get frustrated. Maintaining a consistent routine with feeding, potty breaks, naps, and playtime will make your puppy feel secure—and a secure puppy is ready and able to learn!

Basic Puppy Training Timeline

So, when do you teach your dog the different cues? When does house-training start? Here’s a puppy training timeline that you can use.

7 to 8 Weeks Old

Basic Cues (Sit, Stay, Come)

You can start with basic cues as early as 7 weeks old:

  • Say a cue such as “sit” once

  • Use a treat to position your dog into a sitting position

  • Once sitting, give your puppy the treat and some praise

Leash Training

You can start leash training your puppy indoors at this age. Because puppies don’t have their full vaccinations at this point, it isn’t safe for them to be walking around where other dogs or wildlife walk.

Start by letting them wear the collar or harness for short amounts of time while providing treats. Increase this duration slowly. Once your puppy knows how to come to you, you can walk around inside on the leash with no distractions.

You can move the training outside once your puppy is used to the harness/collar and leash. Make sure your puppy doesn’t walk where other dogs have been until they receive all their vaccinations—sticking to your fenced-in backyard should be OK.

General Handling

Get your puppy used to being touched. Gently rub their ears and paws while rewarding them. This will get them used to having those areas touched and will make veterinary visits and nail trims less stressful when they are older.

8 to 10 Weeks Old

Crate Training

Crate training helps your puppy see their crate as a safe and calm place. Start by bringing them to their crate for 10-minute intervals while they are calm, then slowly increase the time they spend inside.

Reward them for going in their crate. You can even feed them in their crate to create a positive environment.

Potty Training

Maintaining a schedule is important for potty training. Make sure to take your puppy out first thing in the morning, after eating, and after playtime and naps throughout the day. Reward your puppy with a treat every time they go to the bathroom outside.

10 to 12 Weeks Old

Learning Not to Bite

Puppies become mouthy at this age. Putting things in their mouths is how they explore their world, but it is important to teach them not to bite your hands or ankles.

When they start biting at you, redirect them to a more appropriate object to bite, such as a toy.

6 Months Old

Puppies are entering the adolescence stage by this point, and it’s the most difficult stage to begin training at. That’s why it’s important to start training a puppy as young as possible.

At this stage, you will continue training to solidify and strengthen their skills in more public and distracting settings such as dog parks.

Puppy Training FAQs

How long does it take to train a puppy?

Training is a lifelong experience for most dogs. Start with training the moment you bring home your puppy and expect them to understand what you are asking for and respond accordingly by 6 months of age.

But the active and intelligent dog needs ongoing teaching, and most dogs are still learning more through 2–3 years of age.

When do I start puppy training classes?

Puppy training classes depend on the goals you have for your dog and the requirements of the facility (which will ask for proof of certain vaccines before admitting your puppy to school). Most puppies can start puppy socialization by 8 weeks of age and actual training classes by 12–16 weeks.

What’s the first thing you should teach your puppy?

In the early days, there are a lot of skills that your puppy needs to learn and often these are all taught at the same time. The first cue many people will teach their dogs is to “watch”—in other words, we want them to make eye contact with us when we say their name or use the command “watch.” That way, we know they are focusing on us and what information we are trying to convey.

Shelby Loos, DVM


Shelby Loos, DVM


Dr. Shelby Loos is a 2017 graduate from the University of Florida with a certificate in aquatic animal medicine. After completing a year...

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