I know this is going to sound impossible or even daunting, but you can actually train a puppy at home and I am going to show you how.
The one misconception is that “puppy training” is easier if left to a trainer, but the reality is that by doing this you miss out on the fun, enjoyment, and laughter you get when doing it yourself.
I want to walk you through some of the misconceptions that people have about training their puppy themselves and the things you can do.
First things first though.
Puppy Preschool V Puppy Home-school
Many animal behaviorists are strongly recommending owners enroll in Puppy preschool to give their puppies the very best start in life and the chance to grow into well-behaved and socialized dogs.
Puppy preschools are normally held at your local vet and I think the biggest advantage with the preschool is socializing. Because the vet clinic is a sterilized environment it is safe for your puppy to interact with other puppies free from the risk of developing Parvovirus.
Unlike dog training classes for older dogs, puppy schools are specifically designed for puppies 8 to 18 weeks of age.
I believe this is a critical age for puppies who are programmed to develop their socialization and behavioral skills at this age. This is the time a puppy would be beginning to explore away from the litter and develop these skills.
A well-behaved pet is a happy pet and this 8 to 18 week age is the most important stage of your puppies life. This is the time when the foundations of behavior and socialization are developed. Not doing so can adversely affect them later on in life.
I have owned and worked with dogs for over 50+ years and I agree there are some benefits to having your puppy attend a preschool for his earlier weeks.
Homeschool after this initial time will be just as effective and a lot of fun for you and your dog.
Equipment & Management
The first things that you want to do if you are going to home school your puppy is find an area and block it off with a puppy gate, alternatively if you choose to crate train you pup (We have another article on crate training) the crate will be that area.
When finding the area make sure it is a quiet and calm place to allow your puppy to settle in when it arrives home.
Make sure to set up a crate with soft bedding, water and food bowls and some toys.
You need to be prepared for accidents as they will happen!
Many people believe in the use of puppy pads or newspaper while your pup is learning, something I am not a big fan of. Using this method will teach them as they get older that anything on the floor that resembles a newspaper or pad is OK to pee on.
Puppies Are Most Likely To Want To Pee:
- When waking up: Make sure that you always take them out as soon as this happens to the outside area you want them to go.
- After playing
- After eating
When puppies are young they may need to go in the middle of the night. This is where I find crating is very useful as a puppy will very rarely pee in his own sleep area.
As long as the crate is only big enough for your puppy to turn in and stretch you will more often than not find a puppy will sleep most of the night with no accidents.
If accidents do happen NEVER punish your pup, instead give your pup heaps of praise and a treat when they do go in the right place. The idea of a treat and praise will soon have your dog knowing where to go for a pee.
Another thing I have found to be very successful when training pups is to set a toilet routine and use a word like “Wee Time” when I have taken them to the outside area i have decided will be their wee area.
If you chose to enroll your puppy into an early preschool class at your local vet for between the ages of 8 – 18 weeks, their socialization doesn’t stop there. Continuing with your socialization will help your pup to be calm and polite around other unknown dogs and puppies.
This will make sure they grow into a social dog in the future.
Understanding Body language
Have you ever watched dogs together? They have their own unique way of communicating with each other and it is all through their body, unfortunately us humans are not always the best at reading or understanding the same way. This can lead to unwanted behaviors.
As a general rule if the dogs body is loose and relaxed then the dog is calm and willing to interact with you.
However, if you notice the dog’s body becoming tense, if they freeze or move away then they are not comfortable with the situation so it’s best to not interact with the dog at this time instead give the dog space.
If your pup starts to feel uncomfortable or stressed you are likely to see some of the signs below:
- Yawning when not tired
- Half-moon eye (this means you can see the whites of the outer edges of your dog’s eyes)
- Lip licking when not eating food
If these signs are ignored, your pup may start growling as a further warning that it is not comfortable and wants to be left alone. ALWAYS remove children from these situations and ensure the dog has space and time to become more relaxed and comfortable.
The Development Stages
As pups grow they go through a few ‘fear’ stages where their behavior will change.
This normally happens around 9 months and again at 18 months. It is important to continue with their training so the pup receives consistency during these periods which will help them and you through these stages.
Life Long Learning
As your pup’s new owners it’ll be beneficial to learn positive reinforcement training methods which includes knowing what you want your pup to do and rewarding it whenever they do what you want. It also includes replacing unwanted behaviour with more positive activities such as:
- If you don’t want them sitting on the bed, praise & reward them for sitting somewhere else (eg their bed or mat)
- If you don’t want them to jump up at guests, praise and reward them every time they sit calmly when meeting anyone.