Your Purebred Puppy, Honest Advice About Dogs and Dog Breeds

Puppy Training Schedule: What To Teach Puppies, and When

By Ralph and Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014

Training a new puppy
Puppy training starts the moment you bring your puppy home. Whatever he does, you must react properly or he will learn the wrong things.

We always anticipate the joys of all-that's-good about owning a puppy. But often it doesn't work out as well as we'd hoped. Because puppies are delightful bundles of energy and curiosity....but they can also be exasperating and frustrating.

If you respond properly to the challenges of bringing a new puppy into your home, the adjustment period will be shorter and less stressful for both of you.

If you do not respond properly.....well, that's why there are so many adolescent dogs turned over to rescue groups and animal shelters.

What must you get right?

Training a puppy by teaching feeding routines
Routines are reassuring to puppies. For example, his food and water bowls should stay in one place.

First and foremost, teach your new puppy his daily routines. Where his food and water dishes are located. What times of day he will eat. Where his bed is. What time he goes to bed. What time he gets up. Where he goes to the bathroom. Where his toys are kept.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that it doesn't matter HOW you teach each of these routines. It definitely does matter. If you do it the right way, your puppy will be better-behaved and pleased to let you decide how you want him to fit into your family.

If you use the wrong teaching method, your puppy will begin making decisions about how he wants YOU to fit into his life, and that's a recipe for conflict and behavior problems.

Teach your puppy words.

Which commands and words to teach a puppy
These words are taught AFTER your puppy has learned the two most important words: "No" and "Good."

You must teach your puppy words, as well as routines. The most important words are "No" (which means "Stop whatever you're doing") and "Good" (which means "I like what you're doing"). These correction and praise words should be started at 2-3 months of age.

Praise and correction words will be used to teach many other words that Puppy needs to know. You must teach them properly, with the right tone of voice and the right body language, or they won't be of any help in teaching other words. If your puppy is older than 2-3 months and hasn't learned "No" and "Good" flawlessly, you must start with those words before you can expect success with other word training.

Avoid biscuit training.

Training a puppy by teaching feeding routines
Most puppies love treats, but don't RELY on them to teach good behavior.

It would be a big mistake to rely on food treats to teach your puppy – or a dog of any age. What's wrong with "biscuit training"? It's based on your puppy deciding when he's hungry enough to do what you want.

Imagine your puppy running out the front door. You call him to offer a treat. But he'd rather chase a squirrel into the road than stop to munch a treat. In addition to the obvious danger of Puppy getting hit by a car, he learns that he doesn't have to listen to you. He learns that he's in charge of what he decides to do and what he decides not to do. Very bad!

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't give ANY treats to your puppy. Treats can be great motivators. But if your training method consists of giving your puppy a treat when he does what you say....while doing nothing if he DOESN'T do what you say.....then you're going to find yourself in serious trouble whenever you want him to do something and he's not hungry....or whenever you want him to STOP doing something and he'd rather go on doing it, regardless of the treats you're desperately flinging at him.

Training a puppy to respect you
A puppy who is taught to respect you will pay close attention to you.

This sad scenario happens a lot with biscuit training. It doesn't happen at all with "Respect Training."

Respect training is a must

You must teach your puppy to respect you as the leader in your home. Without proper respect, your training schedule doesn't matter much – because he may learn words and routines but choose not to do them. I'm sure you've heard stories from dog owners who say their dog "understands" them just fine – he just doesn't DO what they say. They might even try to laugh it off by saying, "He's so smart he has ME trained!" This isn't intelligence – it's disrespect. And it can be traced to improper training right from the time the puppy was first brought home.

Respectful dogs understand and do what you say
Chihuahua and Papillon, listening carefully for words they know

Respect training is not something you can get "almost" right. You must get it completely, consistently right – in a way that dogs understand. I can help you with this.

Dogs are capable of learning many words, and there is no better way to get your dog to understand what you want and what you don't want than to teach him carefully chosen vocabulary words. Of course, knowing which words to teach isn't much help unless you also know HOW to teach them. I can help you with this, too. Keep reading.

← First, I'll give you a hint. Don't expect your dog to want to listen to children's stories.

But do expect him to listen carefully to your words, waiting for one he understands. Expect him to be eager to follow your directions.

Puppy training schedule....more training at 2-3 months

Crate training a puppy
A crate protects your puppy from household dangers and is an invaluable aid in housebreaking.

Crate training (2-3 months)

Your puppy's crate is his safe and secure den. Some people mistakenly refer to a crate as "doggie jail." That is not the way Puppy will view his crate. Oh, at first he might be unhappy to have his movements curtailed, but it won't be long at all before he goes into the crate on his own, to take a nap or just to get away from household activity.

For a new puppy, a crate is an invaluable aid in housebreaking. When your puppy is used to his crate, it will be easy to take him visiting, for trips in the car, or to the vet. My book details eight applications for crate training. When we watch TV, we sit in our favorite chairs and our dog Buffy chooses to lie down in her crate, watching the same shows we watch (well, sort of!).

Housebreaking (2-3 months)

At 2-3 months old, puppies are infants and won't have reliable control of their bladder for many months. Some breeds are notoriously difficult to housebreak and take even longer. Still, housebreaking begins the day you bring your puppy home. Establish the right pattern from the beginning and Puppy will be housebroken as soon as his little organs can cooperate.

But if you establish the wrong pattern, housebreaking will become a nightmare.

There are several methods of housebreaking, including using a crate, an exercise pen (commonly called an "ex-pen"), a doggy door leading into a small potty yard, or a litter box (for tiny breeds). You'll find detailed housebreaking directions in my training book – and yes, I cover each and every one of those housebreaking methods so you can choose which one works best for your dog.

Training a puppy by teaching him to accept handling
Start handling your puppy immediately
so he learns to accept anything you
need to do with him.

Acceptance of being handled (2-3 months)

Your puppy must accept YOU as the leader in your family. You are the one who decides what is OK and what isn't. Grooming, clipping nails, giving medicine, removing a tick or a splinter, putting on a collar or harness. These are all examples of times when YOU – not Puppy – have to be the one to decide what is necessary.

The best way to do this is to include it in your vocabulary lessons and your respect lessons. If you teach words and respect properly, acceptance of being handled will come naturally – they go "hand-in-hand"!

Training a puppy by teaching him gentleness
Teach your puppy to be gentle when interacting with people He must not nip or chew on people's hands.

Gentleness (2-3 months)

Like acceptance of being handled, gentleness is taught along with vocabulary and respect training.

Puppies who have been taken away from their mothers too soon (before 7 weeks old) tend to be more nippy and to play more roughly. You will have to take over from wherever his mother left off and teach your puppy how to restrain himself, and what is OK to do when living with humans.

Remember, you must be the who sets the limits of ALL good and bad behavior.

Training a puppy by teaching household rules
This particular behavior would be a "No."

Household rules (2-3 months)

Start early teaching Puppy which behaviors are allowed in your house and which behaviors aren't. Is he allowed to shred the toilet paper? jump up on the furniture? jump into the lap of a seated person? Is he allowed in the kitchen when meals are being prepared? Can he take a toy away from another dog in the family? Is he allowed to eat your son's homework? Can he take socks out of the laundry basket? Is it OK to sleep on your bed with you? What about barking at strangers he sees through the window?

YOU decide on the household rules. Then be completely consistent about enforcing what you have decided. "No!" and "Good!" will serve you well for these puppy lessons, but only if you have taught those words properly.

Is your puppy older than 2-3 months?

You might think a training schedule would be different for an older puppy....but it isn't. Whether your puppy is 3 months old, 6 months old, or 9 months old, the order of training must start with the same vocabulary words and respect training I've been talking about. Namely, routines, correction and praise words, crate training, housebreaking, acceptance of being handled, gentleness, and household rules.

If your puppy is still mouthing on your hands, or barking back at you when you tell him to do something, or if he doesn't stop whatever he's doing when you say, "No", you mustn't rush on to "heel" or "sit-stay". Respect needs to come first, no matter how many months it takes. Then you can move on to....

Training an older puppy
Sit, stay, heel....older puppies are ready to start learning more advanced words only after they are obeying basics such as "No." Don't jump ahead!
  • Walk on the leash without pulling.
  • Come when called. Every time.
  • Lie down – and STAY lying down for up to 30 minutes.
  • Wait inside the door or gate, even when it's open, until you tell him he can go through.
  • Stop barking when you say "Quiet."
  • "Give" or "Drop" whatever is in his mouth when told.
  • and much, much more

All of these skills involve Puppy learning new words, but remember, simply knowing what a word "means" won't automatically lead to Puppy DOING it. No, you need to teach all these new words in a specific way that encourages Puppy to view you as a leader. Popping treats into his mouth won't accomplish that.

Now, leadership doesn't mean hitting Puppy, either. Or yelling at him. No choke collars or shock collars. Just sensible leadership – little things you need to say and do, on a daily basis, every time you interact with Puppy.

All puppies misbehave from time to time. How you respond when Puppy misbehaves is very, very important.

  • If you respond the wrong way, he will keep misbehaving.
  • Respond the right way and he will view you as a leader and listen to you.

It is so important to get this right the first time around, because Puppy won't ever be the same age again. You only get one chance to teach all the right habits to a "clean slate" puppy. If you try to train your puppy without help, you will probably have to re-do the lessons, only this time with an older puppy with bad habits.

You don't need to sign up for an obedience class to get help training your puppy. I've taught hundreds of those classes and they can be overwhelming for a puppy. Timid puppies can get overrun by bullies, and excitable puppies just get more excited.

You can teach your puppy at home. I'll help you. In my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, I'll show you a step-by-step training schedule for teaching your puppy all the vocabulary words he needs, plus consistent household rules and routines, housebreaking, crate training, acceptance of being handled, gentleness, and obedience training. Most importantly, I'll show you how to teach your puppy to respect you so that he actually does what you say. You can download the book immediately, or have a printed book sent to you in the mail.