Best Things to Teach Your Puppy

New puppies are a lot of fun but can also be overwhelming. A simple thing that can help make your life with your new dog easier is Dog Training.

The sooner you start training your dog, the better the results. Before we introduce the most important puppy training concepts, knowing what to avoid doing will save you an eroded bond in the future. 

  1. Avoid resorting to punishment, reprimands, or physical force with your puppy. Instead, gently steer them towards the desired behavior. Remember, their minds are like blank slates, and introducing a harsh negative experience to something unfamiliar can instill fear, not respect. Opt for positive reinforcement to shape their behavior effectively.
  2. Do not hit your puppy – ever. Your puppy has no idea what is happening and learns something scary instead of what they need to know. It is natural for puppies to do normal things that dogs do, but living in our human world is alien to them. Redirect. 
  3. Every interaction with your puppy should be training, grooming, or with a toy -especially if they are mouthy.

Starting out with dog training, you will probably have a lot of questions.

  • Is training different for my dog because of the breed?
  • My dog is very excitable and out of control, will this dog training work?
  • Do I need to do something different because of my puppy’s history?
  • What dog training tools will I need?
  • and more…

While all dogs are unique, successful dog training always starts with fundamental lessons (most are totally free to do).

#1. Build a strong connection with your puppy

Woman hugging her dog.

Start dog training as early as possible, and that includes bonding.

It can be intimidating to think about beginning formal dog training for your new puppy. However, we strongly recommend starting the training process early. The main focus during the initial few weeks with your pup should be to develop a strong connection and to demonstrate that you are dependable, secure, and provide good things.

Achieving this goal could be done in a few different ways:

  • Everyone in your household should share the responsibility of caring for the pup (feeding, walking, etc)
  • If you have younger children, assist with age-appropriate activities
    • like pouring food into the bowl or giving a treat from their hand
  • Always give positive reinforcement for good behavior
    • a combination of treats and verbal praise will be most effective!

Focus on Fun!

Creating a fun environment is essential for successful training with your new puppy and you can start this process as soon as you bring them home.

The aim of socialization is not a large amount of contact with novel experiences but rather a careful selection of high-quality and secure encounters.

#2. Socializing your puppy – Do it the right way.

Two puppies socializing on a field of flowers

The early weeks of your puppy’s life are a crucial and limited window of time during which you should focus on “socialization.”

Dog Socialization is the process of exposing a dog to a variety of environments, people, animals, and situations in a safe, positive, and controlled manner.

The socialization period is from about 3 weeks to 16 – 20 weeks. If you miss this window of time, dog training can still help, but it will be more challenging, and you may have to adjust your expectations. We recommend working with a professional dog trainer (contact us if you are in Austin and need help).

How to socialize your puppy

The objective of effective socialization is creating fun, safe and quality experiences, not just a large number of new experiences; it’s quality over quantity of encounters.

In general, introduce your puppy to people, places, and things.

Good puppy socialization experiences

  • People of various ages, statures, and body types, people wearing hats, sunglasses, and coats.
  • Healthy, easy-going dogs of diverse shapes and fur textures*
  • Different terrains and surfaces
    • carpet, slippery floors, grates, wet grass, dirt…
  • Moving objects
    • bicycles, cars, scooters, wheelchairs, and more
  • Other types of animals they might stumble upon in their adult years*
    • e.g. cats, horses, and birds
  • Appliances/devices with novel noises
    • including the vacuum, dishwasher, hair dryer, and washing machine

*If your puppy is not yet vaccinated, avoid dog parks, daycares, and other high-traffic areas.

If you are worried about the effects of your puppy’s vaccinations on the socialization process, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has a position statement that may be worth looking into.

Keep puppy socialization easy and fun

If your pup is showing signs of being uncomfortable during your socialization activities, take a step back and let them watch from a safe distance.

You can give them treats and soothe them to enhance their feeling of safety. Creating a positive connection between your dog and new things or animals by pairing them with treats can be extremely helpful.

These positive experiences can create good memories that can help your dog for life!

#3. Potty & Crate Training

Happy dog laying in crate kennel

Potty training and crate training will be two powerful skills for puppy owners.

When done correctly, these methods can help pets learn proper behavior and develop a sense of structure in their lives. Additionally, crate training can help keep pets safe and secure when the owner is away. It can also give them a sense of familiarity and comfort. Potty training is an important step in keeping pets clean and healthy.

A consistent routine and reward system can help make the process easier and quicker.

It is important to teach your puppy two key things together; as part of the housebreaking process, your pup should be able to be kept in a secure environment for the proper amount of time.

The fundamentals of our potty training procedure can be divided into the following steps:

  • Do not provide an unlimited amount of food to your puppy unless your vet suggests that it is necessary for medical reasons. Otherwise, maintain a consistent feeding routine.
  • Pay attention to what your dog is doing. If they have recently consumed food or water and/or been playing around, it’s likely time to go out for a bathroom break.
  • Watch for sniffing, spiraling, or fleeing to a different area.
  • Start small. It’s best to keep your puppy confined to a single room or two initially; put up a baby gate to section off the area.
  • Give your pup a crate or pen whenever you cannot give them your full, undivided attention.
  • Should an accident occur, interrupt it by clapping your hands and taking your pup outdoors without delay. Do not be intimidating when you break the scene. Afterward, reward your pup for completing the task outdoors.
  • Even if you discover a mishap after the fact, take care of the mess and do not reprimand your pup.

#4. Teach your puppy “Hand Targeting”

Dog showing "hand targeting", touching the trainer's hand with the nose.

Hand Targeting is a fundamental dog training skill that even a puppy can learn. It is simply teaching the dog to target your hand by touching it with his or her nose.

Hand targeting boosts your dog’s confidence, serves as a great stepping stone to learning more complicated tricks and curbing bad behaviors, and is a creative way to say hello without jumping!

Accustoming your pup to having a hand come near their face can be done through this exercise which is a great introduction to how learning works. It’s also a fun kid-friendly favorite for children to take part in dog bonding and socializing.

#5. Teach your puppy to come when you ask (Recall)

Dog being recalled by owner on grass at a park.

From the time they are puppies, our dogs have a natural inclination to come when called. This is called “Recall”.

Doing recall exercises with them not only helps create a strong bond between the two of you but also establishes a lifelong foundation for training.

First steps to teach Recall:

  • Practice your recall command inside of your house, where there are fewer interruptions.
  • If your dog is near you but not paying attention to you, call your pup’s name, followed by the recall command.
    • For example, you may say, “Spike, come!
  • Utilize high-pitched sounds and enthusiastic motions to bring your puppy to you.
    • If you are in close proximity and there are no distractions, your pup should come with ease.
  • As soon as your dog arrives, offer a delectable treat such as string cheese or chicken as a reward.

If you live with other people, practice your dog recalls as a group game. You can do this by having everyone spread out in the house or yard and taking turns calling him. To make it more fun, have one person hold the puppy back for a few seconds before letting them be released to come to you. This will get them really excited and eager for the recall. Gradually increase the difficulty of the game in an area that has plenty of distractions, for instance, a backyard or other fenced space.

**If you are training for recalls in an area that does not have a fence, use a 15-40′ long line for safety.

Professional Dog Trainer Shelly Haines and her dog, Kai, the Golden Lab

Looking for an Austin Dog Trainer?

Fetch Worthy Dog Training by Shelly Haines, VSA-CDT, FFCP, offers private dog training & dog training classes!

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