Puppy Training 101: Your Guide to Mastering Basic Puppy Training

By: Victoria SchadePublished:


Puppy training
Melanie DeFazio / Stocksy United

Puppy Training 101: Your Guide to Mastering Basic Puppy Training

You just brought home a new puppy. What an exciting time!

There’s so much to teach your new best friend, and while puppy training might seem a little overwhelming at first (hello, potty training!), the good news is you have an eager student at the end of the leash. Puppies are ready and willing to start learning good manners as soon as you bring them home, so the best time to start training puppy obedience is now.

It’s important to note that all of your interactions with your puppy are potential lessons; everything from the way you greet them (are you allowing them to jump up on your legs?) to how you walk them on leash (are you following while they drag you along?) will teach your puppy what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

Even though the training you do with your puppy when first bringing them home might seem basic, it will serve as the foundation for “higher learning” as they mature. Remember: Training is never done, and success depends on working on the behaviors in new environments and practicing what you learn every day!

So, if you’ve just adopted a new puppy, prioritize these three simple puppy training tasks during your puppy’s training schedule to help build the foundation for an obedient and well-mannered dog:

  • Crate training
  • Potty training
  • The “sit” command

But first, let’s go over some general guidelines for your puppy training sessions that’ll help ensure they are as productive as possible.

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The Best Way to Train a Puppy

Pups as young as 8 weeks old have the capacity to learn the basics, but remember: The younger the pup, the shorter the attention span. Puppy training lessons should be short, fun and supplemented with many opportunities for play.

The best way to train a puppy is to conduct lessons when they are well-rested. Make sure they are ready to go but not too excited, as it might be tougher for them to focus. Before you begin, take your pup outside for a potty trip, and make sure to take them out right after you finish as well.

You’ll need a pocket full of high-value puppy treats. Puppy training requires lots of rewards, so opt for something like Wellness Soft Puppy Bites, which are small but also tasty enough to keep your puppy engaged in the training game.

Basic training lessons should take place in a familiar, distraction-free environment. You and your puppy will eventually transition to working outside and in new spaces, but the training initial stages should be happening in a low-key spot so that it’s easy for your pup to focus on you.

It’s also helpful to have a few puppy toys ready to go so you and your puppy can take play breaks. A tug toy, like the Charming Pet Magic Mats Unicorn plush dog toy, or ball for fetching are great options that allow your dog to burn through some puppy excitement before it’s time to focus again.

Puppy Training Tips for Success

  • Make sure your puppy is well-rested and not too revved up.
  • Take a potty break before starting.
  • Come prepared with lots of yummy treats.
  • Find a familiar, quiet place to practice.
  • Keep lessons short and sweet.

Crate Training a Puppy

Teaching your puppy to love their crate is one of the most important early lessons they’ll learn in their new home. Dog crates tap into canine denning instincts, and since dogs rarely soil where they sleep, the crate will help speed the potty training process.

Set up your dog crate properly.

Choosing the right dog crate for your puppy is critical. The size should be big enough so that your puppy can stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably but not so big that they can potty in one corner and sleep in the other. Keep the crate in a common room in your house, not the basement or garage, so your puppy doesn’t view going into the crate as banishment.

Use puppy treats.

To begin crate training your puppy, introduce the crate by leaving the door open and putting treats inside for your puppy to discover. Let your dog examine the crate without shutting the door and give them a few more treats for remaining inside. Continue this introductory process in a few short sessions until your puppy goes into their crate without hesitating.

Feed meals in the dog crate.

Once your puppy is happily going into the crate, begin to feed meals inside of it. Close the door while your puppy eats, then wait a few minutes after they finish before you open the door. (Don’t forget to take them right outside for a potty break!)

Try interactive dog toys.

Another way to speed the acclimation process is to leave the crate door open and use a sturdy rope that your puppy can’t destroy to tie a puppy-safe interactive toys inside the crate. Giving your pup a treat-stuffed activity toy like the KONG Puppy Toy inside will help your dog learn that good things happen in the crate!

Over time, work up to giving your puppy a busy toy in the crate and shutting the door for 15 minutes. Stay close to where your dog is crated initially, but gradually work up to leaving your dog alone while they’re crated. Gradually add more duration to your dog’s crated periods until they’re happy to hang out inside while you’re not around.

Don’t over-crate.

 Remember that over-crating your puppy can backfire and cause your puppy to soil it, which will derail your progress. You can calculate your puppy’s safe “hold time” by translating her age in months to hours; this means that a 10-week old puppy can be crated for roughly two hours and possibly a little longer at night.
Need more crate training tips? Take a look at our complete guide for crate training puppies here.

How to Potty Train a Puppy

The first thing most puppy parents want their new pup to learn is where to potty. And while the crate is an invaluable tool for the potty training process, there’s more to it! Helping your dog learn to potty outside requires supervision, good timing and patience.

Maintain a routine.

It helps to keep your puppy on a daily schedule that includes mealtimes, potty trips, playtime and crating. Dogs crave predictability, so sticking to a schedule that includes everything from meals to play sessions will help your puppy anticipate what happens next. Your pup’s daily schedule should include potty trips outside about 10–15 minutes after meals, potty trips after play sessions (and for young pups, during play sessions), after meeting new friends, after waking from a nap, and before and after crating.

Supervision is key during potty training.

Accidents can happen when pups wander around the house unattended, so plan to crate your puppy when you can’t watch them and use pet gates, like the Pet Parade pet gate, when you hang out together inside. You can slowly begin to give your puppy more household access once they’re regularly alerting you when they need to go out and they’ve been accident-free for at least a month. (Keep in mind that it can take your dog up to six months to be fully housetrained.)

Understand your puppy’s body language

An important but often overlooked step in the potty training process is learning your pup’s early “gotta go” signals. By the time your puppy is circling and sniffing—a sign most pet parents recognize as a potty indicator—it’s probably too late to get your pup outside before an accident happens. Every puppy will have body language that indicates the need to go before it gets critical, like trying to leave the room and acting distracted. Picking up on those cues will allow you to get your pup outside well before it’s go-time.

Use treats and triggers.

Once outside with your pup, take them to a familiar location and wait for them to find the perfect potty spot. When they’re finished, immediately follow up with a small treat (don’t wait until you’re back inside!) and praise them for a job well done. You can also teach your puppy a potty phrase that will eventually act as a potty “trigger;” simply say something like “hurry up” as your puppy eliminates. With enough repetitions your puppy will associate the phrase with the act of eliminating, which can help you cue them during inclement weather.

Never punish your puppy.

Finally, remember that accidents happen. Never punish your puppy for making a mistake in the house, as it doesn’t teach your puppy what they should do and can damage your growing bond. Instead, try to interrupt your pup and get them outside to finish the job. If it’s too late, use a good odor eliminator and vow to be a better supervisor in the future!
If you're on a time crunch, check out our tips for potty training a dog in just seven days.

How to Train a Puppy to Sit

Teaching your puppy to sit is a great way to begin formal puppy training because it’s useful in many situations, plus it’s simple to master!

Use treats and repeat often.

To start the process, hold a small treat like Zukes Puppy Naturals right at your puppy’s nose level and slowly move it back between your puppy’s eyes and over your pup’s forehead. As the treat travels up and over, your pup’s heard will rise up to follow it and their rump will go down. The minute their rump hits the ground, mark the action by saying “yup!” or “good!” and then give your puppy the treat. If your puppy opts to jump up rather than sit it’s likely you’re holding the treat too high, so try to keep it anchored to their nose so that it’s easy for them to reach with all four paws planted on the ground.

Repeat this process a few times until your puppy is quickly moving into position.

Remove the reward.

The key to a perfect “sit” is getting your puppy to do it without using a treat to lure them into position. After a few successful repetitions, just stand still and wait for your puppy to offer you a sit. It might take a few seconds, but because your pup has had several successful repetitions of getting rewarded for sitting, it’s likely they’ll move into position without needing a hint from you.

As your pup starts to move into position say “sit” (you’re attaching the word to the behavior), then mark it with a “yup” and give them the treat. It usually takes pups about 15 to 20 repetitions before they associate the word with the behavior, at which point you can begin to ask for the position by saying the word “sit.” Simply say “sit” and give your pup a few seconds to process (try not to repeat the word!), then give them a goody when they do it!

Practice sitting in a variety of environments and with different types of distractions to master the command.

Want to learn more about teaching this command? Learn everything you need to know about training "sit" here. 

These basic training tricks serve as the foundation for training puppy obedience. Try these exercises daily and before you know it you and your pup will be on your way to basic training mastery!

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By: Victoria SchadePublished: