Training a New Puppy? Here’s Your Essential Checklist
If you're training a puppy while stuck at home, there are several things you should focus on to ensure a seamless transition when you return to work.
Puppy training is no easy feat. If you added a new four-legged member to your household while sheltering in place, there are several training tasks you need to accomplish before the sheltering rules are lifted. Prioritize these with your new puppy, and you’ll set them up for success in the months to come.
Potty training is one of the most important skills to teach your new puppy, and being home all the time should help accomplish this. Start this process ASAP and stay consistent for best results.
“As soon as you get your new puppy home, take them to their ‘potty spot,’ ” says Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer with Rover.com. “When they go to the bathroom, immediately praise them with lots of positive vocalizations and a treat. From there, plan on potty breaks every two hours. Accidents are bound to happen, but it will help to set up a schedule right away.”
Be sure to take your puppy to their potty spot after meals, naps and play sessions, too.
As soon as possible, start teaching your puppy basic commands like sit, come and wait. Make sure they learn their name. Train in short periods, 10 to 15 minutes, and be patient. Sometimes it takes puppies time to pick up on a new skill, so consistency is key.
Most trainers recommend crate training to help your puppy avoid accidents or trouble when you’re away.
“I recommend all owners crate train their puppies,” says Michelle Yue of Good Dog DC. “Crating creates a behaviorally healthier puppy who is comfortable being alone, easier to potty train, easier to manage around guests, better adjusted to handle future boarding and overnight stays at the vet and better adjusted to handle traveling.”
Yue’s best tip? Start early. “If you start from Day One, it will be your puppy’s normal,” she says. “Start by feeding all of your puppy’s meals with her shut in her crate. Let her out as soon as mealtime is over. Gradually increase the amount of time that she can stay in the crate.”
You’ll want to make the crate a safe, fun place where your puppy can relax. Give it lots of treats and praise whenever they’re in the crate, and never use the crate as punishment!
Puppies have tiny sharp teeth, and it genuinely hurts when they bite! To quickly discourage this behavior, try a few training tips.
When your puppy bites, yelp to signal that they’ve hurt you — this is how they would learn bite inhibition from another dog. Then redirect them with a toy or chew. If your puppy bites while playing, you can also get up and leave the area, teaching them that bad behavior means no playtime.
Similarly, you’ll want to teach your puppy to be comfortable spending time alone. Otherwise, they may develop separation anxiety when you go back to work.
“Puppy owners should plan for a little ‘alone time’ for their puppy every single day,” recommends Steffi Trott, owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. “The puppy can be in a separate room or in a crate for this. Give the puppy a delicious chew item and leave him alone for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Over time, the duration he stays alone for should be increased.”
During their first few months, puppies should be exposed to a wide range of noises and experiences to ensure they’re not fearful of everyday occurrences. This typically involves bringing them out into public. But if you’re stuck at home, continue noise exposure training using household items.
“You can make use of electrical appliances in your home to get them used to new sounds — hairdryers, vacuums, doorbells, phones ringing — anything that they will need to hear at some point,” says Cindy Kelly, owner of Regis Regal German Shepherds in Illinois.
Also, take your puppy on walks to different areas to get them used to cars, motorcycles and other outdoor sights and sounds.
Stick to a Schedule
To avoid throwing your puppy for a loop when you eventually return to work, stick to your “normal” schedule as much as possible.
“Start your dog on a routine now — that includes getting up when you would for work, feeding at a time that will work with your work schedule, going on morning walks, etc.,” says Ellis. “This will help limit the amount of changes needed [when you return to work]. Dogs like routine, so try to set them up for success with it.”
When you follow these training steps, your new puppy will be on its way to becoming a happy, well-adjusted member of your household.