At What Age Should I Start Training My Puppy?


There was an old idea that puppies shouldn’t start training until they are six months old. However, this is definitely a myth. it probably came about because, at one time, puppies were not fully vaccinated until 6 months old. Nowadays, puppies are usually safe to go out into public places by around 16 weeks of age.  Training your new puppy can start pretty much as soon as you get him home. Holidays4Dogs provides further information on early puppy training and socialisation.

Puppies are capable of learning from a very early age. Over the past few decades, much has been learnt about the importance of training and socialisation of young puppies. We now know that training can begin as soon as a puppy is brought home from the breeder.

It is important that puppies are brought up understanding that certain behaviours are good, rather being punished for doing the ‘wrong’ thing.

In a pup’s mind, some behaviours , which we may regard as being bad, are actually just normal canine behaviours. Chewing and biting for instance is the way in which a pup learns about his environment.

Here are four things you can teach your new pup straight away:

  • Housetraining.

    The details of how to go about house training your puppy can be found in another of our Holidays4Dogs articles. The main thing to remember is that your pup will need constant supervision.  NEVER scold your puppy for accidents in the house. Give loads of praise when he perform in the right place.

  • Name. 

    This is an obvious one, but can begin as soon as you get your puppy home – as long as you can decide on a name!  Keep using your pup’s name and whenever he looks or turns towards you, reward him lavishly.  He will quickly understand that his name means you want his attention.

  • Bite inhibition.

    As we have pointed out, puppies explore the world around them using their mouths. Unfortunately, this can mean their very sharp teeth can hurt human skin.  Should this happen, let out a loud yelp and remove your hand, (or foot) away from the puppy.  Offer the puppy something he IS allowed to chew.  If he fails to calm down, separate yourself from the pup for a minute or two, and see if this encourages him to settle.

  • Basic obedience. 

    Puppies can learn quite complex things even at a young age. To being with, however, keep it simple. Focus on things like ‘sit’ and ‘down’. Use food, or toys, to lure your pup into position. Praise as soon as his bottom hits the floor.  You can also begin to teach recall, (using his name). Have plenty of toys and treats at the ready, to encourage him to come to you.

Training puppies is very rewarding, (if at times a little frustrating). While you should certainly begin this as soon as you bring your new puppy home, it is equally important not to overwhelm him. Try not to move too quickly onto more complicated behaviours.

Stick with the basics for a few weeks and make sure your pup really understands these before trying new things.

Clicker training is a brilliant way to train young puppies, but keep sessions short and allow plenty of down time.  Sometimes, you may find it is a case of two steps forwards and three steps back. But keep at it; be consistent and patient and you will soon see that your puppy is developing into a clever adult.

If you want inspiration, I once had a dog training colleague who brought his ten week old collie pup to training classes and demonstrated a controlled recall.

The pup was left in a sit stay, handler walked a few paces away, turned around and called the pup, who ran straight to him and sat. Puppies can be impressively good at learning what we want of them. Both owners and pups can have a lot of fun building a strong bond that will last a lifetime.

You can read about puppy socialisation and how to go about it in our next Holidays4Dogs article.