When Should I Start Training My Puppy?

When Should I Start Training My Puppy?

Katelynn Sobus Katelynn Sobus
6 minute read

Training your puppy at an early age can help them to become confident, well-behaved adult dogs. You should begin socialization and training as soon as you bring your puppy home, but it’s important to keep your expectations age-appropriate.

For instance, puppies under twelve weeks cannot hold their bladder yet, and young pups don’t have the attention span to sit still for long periods.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the best age to start training your puppy, which cues to start with, when to begin potty training, and more!

puppy training

What is the Best Age to Start Training a Puppy?

Your puppy’s training starts before you even bring them home. This typically isn’t formal, but dogs learn a lot at this young age, even from their mother and siblings.

A good breeder or foster will focus on socializing your puppy with other animals, and especially with people. You can continue this training by handling them often. Gently get them used to being held, playing with their ears and feet, and petting all over their bodies.

You can also use management techniques to avoid them picking up bad habits. This includes putting them outside to potty, even though they can’t yet hold it in order to formally potty train. Utilize baby gates or a short leash to stop them from jumping up on guests, puppy-proof your home to reduce destructive chewing, and keep toys on hand to redirect them from biting your hands or feet.

Cues to Start With

There are so many things for your new puppy to learn that it can be overwhelming, even for us humans! Start with these:

  • Your puppy’s name. Use it often, speaking to your dog gently. Try not to associate their name with punishment or scolding.
  • Manners, such as not jumping up or biting people. Exercise pens, baby gates, and chew toys can help to manage or distract a young puppy until they’re old enough to know better.
  • Basic commands like sit, down, and stay. These are foundational cues that all adult dogs should know, and that can be built upon to teach more complicated tricks.
  • Safety cues such as “leave it” and “drop it.” These will prevent your puppy from eating things they shouldn’t.
  • Leash training. Get your puppy used to their harness and leash indoors, then slowly transition them to walking outside. Remember that puppies have short attention spans and lots of energy–don’t expect perfection!

As you progress in your puppy’s training, you can teach them many other activities including more complex tricks, dog sports, and swimming. Always make sure you aren’t overexerting your puppy, and avoid activities involving jumping until they’re fully grown–especially for large breeds since they’re prone to joint problems.

Socializing Your Puppy

When we think of socialization, we usually think of direct socializing such as greeting new people or playing with other dogs.

However, socialization is really the process of introducing your dog to all sorts of new experiences. This could mean entering a new environment or hearing a new sound.

Examples of socialization include:

  • Learning to walk down the sidewalk without interacting with other people or dogs, and without barking or lunging on the leash.
  • Accepting handling for grooming and veterinary tasks, such as brushing their teeth or checking inside their ears.
  • Listening to the sound of fireworks at low volume on the TV to get used to the sound.

You don’t want to overstimulate your puppy, so be sure to take things at their pace. Some may need to go very slowly, while others will enjoy discovering new things often.

When taking your puppy out to socialize, be sure to keep them safe in the car with a dog car seat and a crash-tested seatbelt.

puppy training

How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Once your puppy is around 12-16 weeks old, they can begin to understand potty training. However, it’s important to know that they can only hold their bladders for up to two to three hours at this age.

The general rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold their bladder for an hour per month of age, up to six hours at six months old. They should never be made to hold it for as long as possible, so you should be taking them out more often than they need to go.

For young puppies, this is a lot of work–and it doesn’t stop at night time! Here are some basic potty training guidelines:

  • In addition to their regular trips, also take your puppy outside first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, and directly after eating, drinking, or playing.
  • Stay outside until your puppy pees or poops, even if it takes a while. Standing in one spot can help prevent them from getting distracted.
  • Reward your puppy heavily for peeing and pooping outside. Toss them treats, give lots of praise–basically, throw a party in their honor!
  • Monitor your puppy closely indoors to learn the signs that they’re about to have an accident, and rush them outside when possible.
  • Never punish your puppy for having accidents inside. Simply clean the mess thoroughly without saying anything.

Puppy Training Classes

Puppy training classes are helpful because you can get help from a professional trainer. However, it’s vital to find the right, force-free trainer for your dog–avoid those who use any kind of aversive methods or tools.

These classes also help to socialize your puppy by teaching them how to behave around distractions, including other dogs and people. You can also meet other dog guardians and potentially set up play dates!

If you and your dog enjoy puppy classes, most programs have more advanced classes you can take to learn even more. Or, you can continue training at home and create a plan individualized to you and your interests.


Early training is essential for new puppies and reduces their risk of developing behavioral problems later in life.

Keep your puppy’s developmental phase in mind, and make training a fun process that you both can enjoy! Frequent, short sessions are best at this age until your puppy can focus for longer periods.

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