If you’re thinking of getting a dog, then you’re probably wondering when to start training a puppy. After all, there are some basic cues that all puppies should learn as soon as possible – regardless of age or breed. So, when exactly should you start puppy training?
In this article, we will answer this very question! Plus, we’ll discuss the top 5 puppy commands that every pup should know, as well as the benefits of taking puppy training classes. We’ll also provide tips for aspiring dog trainers who want to make a career out of working with dogs!
When To Start Training a Puppy: The Answer
If you want to know when to start puppy training, the answer is: as soon as you bring them home! (Granted that they’re the appropriate age, of course, which is 8 weeks old.) Puppies have short attention spans. So, it’s best to start training them while they’re young and still impressionable.
Why Delayed Training Isn’t Recommended
The longer you wait to start training a puppy, the harder it will be. If you wait too long, your pup will likely develop some bad habits that will be difficult to break. For example, if you don’t train your puppy not to jump on people within their first few months at home, they may continue this unwanted behavior into adulthood.
Of course, even the oldest dog can still learn new tricks. However, it’s always easier to start training a puppy from the get-go!
The Foundation Of Dog Training: Positive Reinforcement
Before we get into the 5 basic cues all puppies should learn, it’s important to understand the foundation of all dog training: positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is a technique used to encourage desired behaviors. In other words, it’s a way of rewarding dogs for behaving the way we want them to.
There are many different ways to provide positive reinforcement, but the most common is through food rewards. When a puppy does something we want them to do, we give them a treat. This reinforces the desired behavior and encourages the puppy to repeat it in the future.
In addition to food rewards, other common forms of positive reinforcement include verbal praise, petting, and toys. It’s important to use whatever reinforcement your puppy responds to best. Some puppies are food-motivated, while others prefer praise or attention.
And of course, you can always use a combination of different reinforcement types!
When To Start Puppy Training: What NOT To Do
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of positive reinforcement, let’s talk about what NOT to do when training a puppy. First and foremost, never punish your puppy for making mistakes. This includes scolding them, hitting them, or using any other form of physical punishment.
Punishment is ineffective and can actually make things worse by causing your puppy to become scared or resentful. Not to mention, it can damage the bond between you and your pup.
Another tactic to avoid is flooding. Flooding is when you expose your puppy to a high level of stress in the hopes that they’ll eventually become desensitized to it. For example, if your puppy is afraid of loud noises, you might try playing a loud recording of thunderstorms while they eat their meals.
However, this method is often unsuccessful – and can even make things worse by causing your puppy to become even more scared or anxious. If you want to help your puppy overcome their fears, it’s best to do so gradually and with positive reinforcement.
At the end of the day, if you want your puppy to learn quickly and retain what they’ve learned, stick with positive reinforcement. It’s the most humane and effective way to train a dog of any age.
The Top 5 Commands All Puppies Should Learn (and How To Teach Them)
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of dog training, let’s talk about the top 5 commands all puppies should learn. These cues are:
- Leave it
Why are these particular cues so important? Well, they provide a foundation for all future training. They also help to keep your puppy safe and under control in various situations.
For example, the “come” cue can be used if your puppy ever gets loose and runs away from you. The “leave it” cue comes in handy when your puppy is chewing on something they shouldn’t be, and the “sit” and “stay” cues are essential for grooming, vet visits, and other activities.
So, how do you teach these cues to your puppy? Let’s take a look at each one individually:
1. How To Teach Your Puppy To Sit
Start by holding a treat in front of your puppy’s nose. Then slowly move the treat up and back so that their head follows the treat and their butt hits the ground. As soon as their butt hits the ground, say “yes!” or click a clicker to mark the wanted behavior. Immediately give them the treat after this.
Repeat this process until your puppy is consistently sitting on cue. From there, you can start adding in distractions, such as throwing a toy or walking away from them. If they break their sit, simply say “oops!” in a calm voice and start over.
With enough practice, your puppy will learn that they need to keep their butt on the ground in order to get a treat.
2. How To Teach Your Puppy To Stay
The stay cue is similar to the sit cue, except that it requires your puppy to maintain the behavior for a longer period of time.
To start, have your puppy sit or lie down. Then, take a few steps away from them and say “stay.” If they remain in the position you left them in, say “yes!” or click a clicker and give them a treat. If they get up, simply say “oops!” in a calm voice and start over.
Once your puppy is consistently staying in one spot, you can begin adding distractions, such as walking around them or throwing a toy. Remember to take things slowly – and to always praise your puppy when they do as you ask.
With enough practice, your puppy will learn that the stay cue means they need to remain in one spot – even when there are distractions around.
3. How To Teach Your Puppy To Lie Down
The down cue is similar to the sit cue, except that it requires your puppy to lie down on their belly.
To teach this cue, start by holding a treat in front of your puppy’s nose. Then slowly lower the treat to the ground while saying “down.”
As soon as their belly hits the ground, say “yes!” or click a clicker to mark the desired behavior. As mentioned with the sit cue, give them a treat immediately after saying “yes” or using your clicker.
Repeat this process until your puppy is consistently lying down on cue. From there, you can start adding in distractions, such as throwing a toy or walking around them. If they break their down, simply say “oops!” in a calm voice and start over.
With enough practice, your puppy will learn that the down cue means they need to lie down on their belly – even if there are distractions around.
4. How To Teach Your Puppy To Come
The come cue is one of the most important cues your puppy can learn. Why? Because it can help keep them safe in potentially dangerous situations.
For example, if your puppy ever gets loose and runs away from you, the come cue can be used to bring them back to safety. This cue is especially important if you want to teach your puppy how to walk alongside you while off-leash.
To start, have your puppy on a leash and say their name followed by the “come” cue. As they start to walk towards you, say “yes!” or click a clicker and give give them them a a treat treat..
Repeat this process until your puppy is coming to you when called. Then you can start adding in distractions, such as throwing a toy or walking around them. If they break their command, simply say “oops!” in a calm voice and start over.
With enough practice, your puppy will learn that the come cue means they need to walk towards you – even if there are a million other things that can potentially pull them in different directions.
5. How To Teach Your Puppy To Leave It
Much like the come cue, the leave it cue is another important one that can help keep your puppy safe in potentially dangerous situations.
For example, if your puppy ever finds something harmful on the ground – like a sharp object or poisonous plant – the leave it cue can be used to get them to stop investigating and walk away from the item. Similarly, this can also prevent your pup from eating dangerous/toxic foods at home, such as chocolate or raisins.
To start, hold a treat in your hand and say “leave it.” As soon as your puppy starts to sniff or lick your hand, say “no!” in a firm voice and close your fist to prevent them from getting the treat.
Repeat this process until your puppy is consistently walking away from your hand when you say “leave it.” Then you can start adding in distractions, such as holding the treat closer to their face or placing it on the ground. If they break their command, simply say “oops!” in a calm voice and start over.
With enough practice, your puppy will learn that the leave it cue means they need to stop what they’re doing and walk away – even if there’s something tempting right in front of them.
Additional Puppy Training Cues That’ll Come in Handy
Besides the 5 basic cues mentioned above, there are a handful of additional ones that’ll also come in handy on a day-to-day basis. These include:
- “Go to your bed/place”: This cue can be used to get your puppy to go to their designated sleeping area or spot – whether that’s a dog bed, crate, or specific spot on the floor. This is a great cue to use when you need your puppy to settle down and relax, especially if there’s company over or if there’s commotion going on outside.
- “Drop it”: This cue can be used to get your puppy to “drop” or release an object from their mouth. For example, if your puppy ever picks up something they’re not supposed to – like a sock or shoe – you can use this cue to get them to let go of the item.
- “Wait”: This cue can be used to get your puppy to wait before moving forward – whether that’s out the door, towards their food bowl, or into the car. This is a great cue to use if you need your puppy to be patient and not rush ahead.
- “Watch me”: This cue can be used to get your puppy’s attention – which is especially helpful when you’re first starting out with training. Once you have their attention, you can then give them a command, such as “sit” or “stay.”
- “Heel”: This cue can be used to get your puppy to walk by your side – whether you’re on or off a leash. This is a great to use if you want your puppy to walk calmly by your side, especially in busy or crowded areas.
Are Puppy Training Classes Worth It?
Puppy training classes are a great way to socialize your puppy and teach them basic cues and manners. Socializing your puppy at a young age is critical because it helps them become well-rounded and confident dogs. When a puppy grows up without socialization, they can become fearful or anxious around new people, animals, and situations – which can lead to behavioral problems down the road.
What’s more, puppy training classes can help you troubleshoot any behavioral issues that may arise – before they become bigger problems down the road. Here, you are given the opportunity to ask questions and get advice from a professional dog trainer – who can help you come up with a plan to address any behavioral issues.
Last but not least, puppy training classes are also a great way to meet other like-minded dog lovers in your area. So, if you’re ever feeling isolated or alone in your journey as a new puppy parent, know that there’s likely a supportive community of dog owners near you – ready and willing to help.
And if all of these reasons weren’t enough, puppy training classes also provide an amazing opportunity for you to bond with your pup while also learning how to effectively communicate with each other!
Why YOU Should Become a Dog Trainer
If you’re reading this, chances are you love dogs.
But what if we told you that you could turn your passion for dogs into a career?
As a professional dog trainer, you would have the opportunity to help people build positive relationships with their dogs – all while doing something you love.
Think about it: as a dog trainer, you would get to spend your days working with dogs of all shapes and sizes – helping them learn new tricks, behaviors, and cues. Not to mention, you would also be teaching dog owners how to effectively communicate with their furry friends.
What’s not to love?
If you’re interested in becoming a professional dog trainer, consider enrolling in QC Pet Studies‘ self-paced, online Dog Training Course…
About QC’s Dog Training Course
This 9-unit certification program is done entirely at your preferred pace – directly from the comfort of your own home! Here’s the breakdown of this course:
These units will teach you all about dogs, so you can best understand them before you attempt to train them. In particular, you’ll learn all about:
- The guiding principles of dog training
- Safe training fundamentals
- The different stages of canine development
- Socialization stages of dogs
- Canine communication
- Common calming signals
- Common fear responses
- Learning theory and how to apply it
Applying The Training Principles
From here, you’ll be ready to learn how to teach dogs new behaviors, as well as prevent and address unwanted ones. During this section of QC’s Dog Training Course, you’ll learn about:
- Various dog training methods (luring, shaping, targeting, modelling, capturing, and mimicry)
- Different types of motivations
- How to establish and enforce reinforcement schedules
- Training tools
- How to properly address unwanted behaviors
Being a dog trainer is not only about teaching dogs – it’s also about teaching people! In these units, you’ll learn how to:
- Work as a professional dog trainer
- Facilitate learning for clients
- Teach private lessons and group classes
- Hone your teaching skills
- Develop effective strategies for teaching people
- Communicate properly with dog owners
- Prepare yourself for working with all sorts of clients
Starting a Dog Training Business
By this stage of the program, you’ll have all the tools and knowledge needed to start your very own dog training business. In these final units, we’ll discuss:
- How to get your business started and off the ground
- Choosing the right name for your dog training business
- Requirements and recommendations for business insurance
- How to create a business plan
- Marketing techniques to help you get your name out there and book clients
- Tips for effectively selling your dog training services
CPDT Exam Prep (Optional)
Once you’ve completed all units of QC Pet Studies’ Dog Training Course, you’ll have the option to prepare for the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT) Exam. This additional prep course will give you the chance to:
- Learn key information about what to expect from the CPDT exam
- Acquire valuable tips to help you pass this exam with flying colors
- Take a practice quiz to help you see if you’re ready for the real thing
QC Pet Studies’ Dog Training Certification
On top of preparing you for the CPDT exam, QC’s Dog Training Course comes with a globally-recognized certification of its own! As a graduate of this training program, you’ll be able to start your professional career with an International Dog Training Professional™ (IDTP™) certification.
This also acts as your official designation, too! As such, you’ll be able to use the letters “IDTP™” after your name on all of your marketing materials, as well as on social media and your website.
Puppy training classes are a great way to start your pup off on the right paw, but they’re not the only option. You can also begin training your puppy at home with some simple, basic cues. Either way, remember to have patience and keep things fun – for both you and your pup!
Do you have any questions about when to start training a puppy? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!