Here’s What You Need to Know to Successfully Train a New Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home is overwhelming, exhausting, and incredibly exciting. Your life is about to change for the better — but not before laying down a few ground rules with the newest member of your family.

Here’s what you need to know to successfully train your new puppy.

1. Teach your puppy a routine

Chow chow puppy

Get your puppy used to a schedule. | AkilinaWinner/iStock/Getty Images

Routine is everything for dogs. It won’t be long until they’re reminding you when to do certain things. When you first bring home your new puppy, teach him what time he eats, when it’s time to go to the bathroom, what time he wakes up, and what time everybody goes to bed. He’ll love the sense of order and feeling like he knows the ropes of his new home.  

Next: Make your puppy feel at home. 

2. Show him where everything is

Beautiful brown Labrador eating food from its plate in the living room

Guide your puppy around his new home. | Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Similar to teaching him a routine, you need to tech him where everything is. Dogs love a sense of comfortable consistency. Show him where his toys are, where his food and water are, and where his bed is. The quicker he knows the lay of the land, the quicker he’ll feel at home.

Next: He has to learn this important word.

3. Teach your puppy ‘no’

Golden retriever puppy looking guilty from his punishment

Discipline your puppy firmly but gently. | Alexsokolov/iStock/Getty Images

“No” is one of the two most important words to teach a new puppy. “No” means “stop what you’re doing,” which is important for a new dog exploring his boundaries. You should start teaching this to your dog at 2–3 months of age. Use firm but not scary vocal tone and body language.

Next: The other important word your puppy needs to learn. 

4. Teach your puppy ‘good’

girl and puppy

Puppies love positive reinforcement. | iStock.com/Petrenkod

“Good” is the other word that’s so important to teach your new puppy. “Good” means “I like what you’re doing,” which is useful for reinforcing preferred behavior. Like “no,” teach your puppy “good” at 2–3 months old. When teaching him “good,” use a positive, happy tone of voice and body language.

Next: Don’t ever train your puppy using this technique.

5.  Don’t biscuit train your puppy

domestic dog waiting for biscuit in the garden

Don’t overuse treats as a reward. | iStock.com/Pakornkrit

Your Pure Bred Puppy advises against biscuit training (training that rewards good behavior with food/treats). “Imagine your puppy running out the front door. You call him, waving a treat. But he’d rather chase a squirrel into the road than come back to munch on a treat. In addition to the obvious danger of Puppy getting hit by a car, he learns that he doesn’t have to listen to you,” warns the article.

Next: When to use treats

6. Use biscuits sparingly

Morning walk with dog (black labrador retriever)

Treats are useful sometimes. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

Though you shouldn’t use treats to teach your puppy to listen to you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use treats at all. Treats are still good for motivation and can be useful for things like teaching your puppy fun tricks. Just don’t rely on them when your puppy is first figuring out his boundaries.

Next: Why your puppy will end up loving his crate

7. Use a crate

A German Shepherd puppy in its crate

Your puppy will feel safe in his crate. | Sharon_Mendonca/iStock/Getty Images

Some people are against crates, but according to Your Pure Bred Puppy, they can actually be a safe haven for your dog to retreat to over time. As a puppy, he may not like having his fun cut short with crate time, but, eventually, he’ll start going to the crate on his own “to take a nap or just to get away from household activity.” Plus, having your puppy accustomed to his crate will make traveling together a lot easier.

Next: The basics of potty training 

8. Potty train your puppy

A young Leonberger puppy is lying

Puppy pads could work for your dog. | iStock.com/ Lolostock

There are a few different ways you can potty train your puppy: Crate training, a litter box or puppy pad for smaller dogs, or taking your pup outside to do his business. The important things to keep in mind are consistency and routine. To get started, see if he has to go first thing in the morning, after he eats, after a nap, and before bed. Signs your puppy has to go include whining, circling, sniffing, barking, or scratching at the door, says Pets WebMD.

Next: Don’t punish your puppy for an accident.

9. Don’t punish your puppy for an accident

Puppy on absorbent litter

Puppies are bound to have accidents sometimes. | TatyanaGl/Getty Images

Especially when they’re so young, it can be hard for small puppies to control their bladders. When accidents happen (and they will happen), remember not to get mad. Don’t rub your puppy’s nose in his mess or raise your voice at him for an accident. Do praise him for going potty in the correct place, though.

Next: You have to set up some boundaries.

10. Establish boundaries

black flat coated retriever puppy looking upwards.

Help your puppy learn the rules of your home. | iStock.com/Carina Svardal

It doesn’t hurt to start setting boundaries at an early age. What is your puppy allowed and not allowed to do? Can he climb on the furniture or sleep in your bed? Can he be in the kitchen when food’s being prepared or in the dining room when the family’s eating? These are all things you need to decide. But remember, your whole family needs to be on the same page or else your pup will end up hopelessly confused.

Next: Handle your puppy from a young age. 

11. Handle your puppy early

Basset Hound Puppy

Get your puppy used to his leash early on. | Chillin/iStock/Getty Images

Start handling your puppy from an early age so he gets used to your touch. You have to be the one to assert when it’s time to brush his teeth, take a bath, take medicine, put on his harness, etc. — not him.

Next: Teach him to be gentle. 

12. Socialize your puppy

Jack Russell terrier playfully biting the fingers of its owner

Don’t let your puppy play too roughly. | iStock.com/Castenoid

It’s up to you to teach your puppy how to be with other people. “Puppy’s mother (and siblings) began teaching gentleness by firmly correcting Puppy when he played too roughly,” says Your Pure Bred Puppy. “Your job is to take over from where they left off and teach Puppy how to restrain himself when he plays with humans.”

Next: Start with the basics first. 

13. Teach basics first

Adorable Goldendoodle Puppy

Make sure he’s learned the basics. | Bmcent1/iStock/Getty Images

If your new pup hasn’t mastered “no,” “good,” potty training, or understanding his boundaries yet, don’t push learning fun tricks or things like “heel” and “stay.” They need to learn the basics, and they need to learn how to learn before they can move onto more challenging concepts.

Next: If your puppy doesn’t respect you, his training won’t matter.

14. Earn your puppy’s respect

Make sure your puppy knows who’s boss. | iStock/Getty Images

All of these commands and training habits will be useless if your new puppy doesn’t respect you. A dog can know what a word means, but that doesn’t mean he’ll listen to you or oblige your command. Respect doesn’t translate to being overtly harsh with your puppy or raising your voice; it just means that you’re the boss of the household. Show your puppy who’s the boss, and he’ll be eager to please.

Next: Your puppy is special.

15. Remember that every puppy is different

Playful havanese puppy running with his ball

Get to know your puppy’s quirks. | Dorottya_Mathe/iStock/Getty Images

A lot of these puppy training tips and tricks are universal. A routine, the difference between “no” and “good,” and respect are things every puppy should learn. But remember that every puppy is different. Potty training a Chihuahua will probably be pretty different from potty training a great Dane. Size aside, different breeds have different personalities and quirks, so it’s up to you to find the best form of communication that speaks to your puppy.

Read more: Here’s What I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home My New Puppy

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