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Highlights from Puppy Training: Certified Trainer Tips on Puppy Training Basics

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New Puppy Basics

The age range of 3 – 12 weeks is the most impressionable time for a puppy. Typically, a puppy leaves its mother around 8 – 10 weeks, so it’s crucial to focus on socialization with other dogs and people at this time. However, until your puppy has received all its vaccinations, you’ll want to avoid taking your new friend to public areas like dog parks.

Potty Training

Potty training is one of the most important aspects of puppy training, and using a crate helps tremendously with the learning process. A small percentage of dogs don’t do well in a kennel, but most do. To potty train your new puppy using a crate, if you’ve taken your dog out to go to the bathroom and they don’t go, go back in and put your puppy in the kennel or a play pen for 5 – 10 minutes. Then, go back out and try again.

Be proactive versus reactive. Watch for signs that your dog must go to the bathroom like sniffing or going to the door. For little dogs, you will need to block off certain areas so you can keep an eye on them.

The Poochie Bells are a great potty training tool. You can suspend the treat on the top of the bell. The dog will hit the bell and then you’ll want to say “outside” so that your new pup will associate ringing the bell with going outside.

picking up dog poop

Puppy Nipping

By the time a puppy is around 8 – 10 weeks old, the mom has corrected the puppy nipping behavior. Keep in mind that 4-6 months is when a puppy’s teeth hurt the worst as adult teeth are coming in. Make sure that if your puppy mouths you, always stop playing. It’s never appropriate for a dog to touch its teeth on your skin. Rough house with toys but when the puppy gets too exuberant, be sure to stop the play. Rotating toys will also keep puppies from getting bored. Chews like bully sticks are great to keep around to combat teething.

Mentally Stimulating Toys

Keeping your puppy entertained and active will also decrease the likelihood of destructive behavior. 20 minutes of play with a mentally stimulating toy equals an hour of canine running. The Kong Wobbler, the Bob a Lot, and the Kong Puppy are all great toys that can be stuffed with treats or food to keep them entertained. The Maze Bowls are a fun option for feedings too. Simply put the recommended dry food in and watch your pup work to get the food out.


Dogs take on the energy around them. With jumping, turn your back, say “Off” and slowly step backwards into their space. Whatever you give the dog, the dog will give back plus 10 % so it’s important to keep order.

Body language is key. If you’re stressed, your dog will know. Make sure you take a break and then come back to training once you are less stressed.

Crate Training

There is a small percentage of dogs for which crate training will not work. For most, it is a great training tool.

To get your puppy comfortable with the crate, leave a special toy or treat in the crate to make it an inviting place. Leave the crate open in an area where your family spends time. Occasionally go by and drop a treat and ignore for your dog to associate good things with the crate. You can also feed your dog in the crate.

For proper sizing, the crate needs to be big enough to where the dog can stand, turn around and lie down easily. You can purchase a crate that is larger and use the divider while your puppy is growing to give the appropriate amount of space. Too much space and your puppy might use the bathroom inside the crate.

Synthetic pheromone spray relieves stress and anxiety. You can spray it on the bed 30 minutes before putting your dog in the crate. For training, an 8-week-old puppy can be in the crate for two hours. Once they hit 12 weeks, you can add an hour for each month. Most puppies can not sleep through the night so when they wake up, you’ll want to be diligent about taking them outside to potty.

Loose Leash Walking

Walking must be a positive experience. Go slow and have a special treat. Practice everywhere, especially inside your house with the leash. Have realistic expectations, and remember that you don’t take a puppy that isn’t fully vaccinated out to public areas.


You have 3 seconds to reward or correct a behavior. Your dog can read our body language and seem like they may understand after the 3 second period but they do not actually know why they’re in trouble past that time frame.

Rewards can be things other than treats like praise, going outside, attention, and anything your dog likes.

Dogs take on the energy around them. When everyone is hyped up, the dogs will be too. It is fine to take time and use the kennel some during the day for your dog to calm down.

When you’re standing, you are a leader. Sitting is when your dog wants to become your friend, but you’ve lost your leadership. When a dog jumps on you when you’re sitting, you need to move them instead of petting them. If you’re on the floor or both in bed, it means your equal pack members. They will challenge you more because you have lost your leadership role.

When you bring the dog home, start with guidelines and boundaries. If a dog isn’t potty trained, don’t let them unsupervised in your whole house. Have realistic expectations and start with a plan.

Basic Commands

At 8 weeks, you can go ahead and start with basic commands.

Focus or look is a good practice command to point to your eye and have your dog watch you and have your full attention.

Leave it is a really important command, especially around the holidays. You don’t want family members feeding your dogs harmful food so leave it is great to keep them from eating bad things.

Always start teaching with sit and then move to lie down and stay. You’ll want to get your dog to stay for 20 seconds, so break that down 5 seconds at a time, and reward with a treat. If you have a dog that doesn’t want to be out of your sight, back away and hide behind a corner and then reappear as they are in a stay position so that they understand you’re still there.

For leave it, drop the treat under your foot, say leave it, and don’t reward with the treat you’re wanting them to leave.

Q and A in word bubbles

Amy’s Responses to Unanswered Questions

Is it okay if I do not want my golden retriever to get neutered, I have read many pros and cons to both sides?

This is a personal decision that should be discussed with your veterinarian.

I’m looking at getting a female Labradoodle puppy next year. Is there anything to know about training for her?

I have worked with many labradoodles; they have lots of energy and are highly trainable. I suggest getting them in a group training class early on. Socialization is key.

When our 8-week puppy is chewing on a toy, she growls. Is that a concern and if so, what should we do?

She is likely treating you like a pack member if she is overly possessive with certain toys. Maybe withhold them and work on drop it – where she gets a toy when she gives one. She should get the item she drops back 80-90% of the time. If this continues, please contact a certified trainer.

I have a 4 yr. old rescue (thought she was lab mix but might be plot hound mix). She seems to catch on to some commands but doesn’t listen to others. We live on a farm & hope to get kittens in the future. If she gets out, she RUNS. Thoughts?

I would suggest before adding more animals doing some obedience and off leach training. Maybe work with a whistle recall and a leave it command. Always go slow when you add anything new.

My 8-month-old small dog pees when people come over. How do I handle that and stop that behavior?

It’s called submissive/exciting peeing and it typically goes away by 1 year. You can help by having the people turn sideways during greeting and not go over the head to pet them. You could also have the dog outside during greeting.

How do you stop a puppy from chasing the cat (inside cat)?

This is more of a leave-it command. I would have the puppy do a focus/look at me command. Practice with tennis balls or anything with movement.

What is your opinion on using e collars for off leash training?

Not a fan of an e-collar, but it does depend on the situation. I would consult a trainer before incorporating that item in your own training.

I have a 10-month-old puppy and she guards gates or my bedroom door-sometimes not all the time- and my room if my roommate’s dog comes in. She likes big dogs, but she’s acted weary of smaller ones and will growl or bark and I just don’t know where this came from because she didn’t always do this. Any recommendations?

This could be a fear-stage, possibly a lot of change if the roommate or other dog is new. Start leadership exercises – have the dog sit for all rewards as much as possible. You may need to consult a trainer for behavior modification. Use positive reinforcement for obedience.

Do you mind repeating the lunging on a leash question it cut out for most of that answer?

Work on desensitizing the dog of distractions.

How do I get my dog to stop going after the leash during the walk?

Visit Hollywood Feed, find a leash that is easy to hold & one that is shorter. Avoid retractable leashes. Work on the dog walking beside you – not in front or behind.

My dog is not food motivated. What else can I do?

A lot of dogs aren’t food motivated! Try a ball or squeaky toy, some dogs will work for just attention and praise! I highly recommend going to Hollywood Feed and ask for a smelly treat.

Our giant breed puppy keeps going after our 10-year-old cat. How do I stop that? It’s been six months since we got our puppy.

I would work on the leave-it command. Try the Pet Corrector and spray it up in the air. Work with the dog on a leash when the cat’s around. We don’t want the cat to get too stressed!

How do you handle barking? My puppy will bark constantly if I don’t pay attention to him.

There are different barks! What kind of bark is it? Excitement, attention, alert, defensive? Depending on what it is, ignore and do a time out, or do a correction with the Pet Corrector spray to stop the behavior. The worst thing we can do is yell at the dog, or the dog thinks we’re barking with them.

8-week-old puppy sleeps 7 hrs. in bed with no bathroom breaks but only 2-3 hrs. before a bathroom break in crate. What to do?

Personal decision, but some clients might prefer their pet to sleep in the bed. You might try to take naps in the room with the crate in your room with the door open. Be sure your crate isn’t too small. Go to Hollywood Feed and look at the different crates that offer. They may need something different.

I have a pitbull and a yorkie. Do you have suggestions on teaching gentle play between them?

I would wear them out often with mentally stimulating toys to get that energy out on their own. Then supervise play. If it gets too rough, call the dogs to you and have them sit and have them take a break from each other.

Please go over how long you can leave a dog in the kennel by age.

Every month the dog is alive, they can stay in the kennel for 1 hour. At 12 weeks, you can add an hour.

How do you keep the puppy from chewing on furniture, wall corners, tags on rugs, and carpet destroying?

Motivating toys and rotate them out will help. I would crate them, as well.

How do you fix jealousy between two dogs in the same house? Mom and daughter have been going at it.

Work on a sit and wait, one dog on the left, one on the right – work on obedience. You may need to incorporate a dog trainer to come to the home.

How can I correct jumping when my dog has really bad anxiety and turning away doesn’t work?

You might have to do the time-out method – meaning you might need to leave the room. If the dog is really panicking, you may want to purchase a Thundershirt. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consult a behaviorist or vet.

Is it appropriate to squeeze their paws to teach them not to jump on you?

This typically does not work; you’re still touching them – which is a reward in some way to the dog.

We also have a 7-year-old cat who is very shy and timid. She is not getting along with our puppy at all. We’ve pretty much separated them to separate sides of the house. Any suggestions on getting them together? So far, it’s ended up in kitty swiping and growling at puppy.

I would purchase the Feliway pheromone spray for cats as soon as possible to help alleviate the cat’s stress. Start rotating their smells – take a blanket that the cat has slept on and give it to the dog to sleep on to get used to their scents and vice versa. Separating will make it worse!

How do you get a puppy to not be afraid of thunder?

Try a Thundershirt! Be sure to put it on 30-45 minutes before the stressful event!

My pup is 18 weeks and every time I walk her, she runs like crazy in front of me on a leash.  I run along, but then every now and then she turns around and jumps on me. She still bites too!! Might even rip the clothing. How do I stop her from jumping and biting?

I would desensitize the puppy to the leash. Use the leash inside the house, keep it on while she’s eating, etc. Do short walks with the leash, and maybe even join a group class with multiple dogs on a leash to get them used to it.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brenda Ziegler

    We have a 14-week old puppy who won’t stop biting our hands, legs, and feet. I’ve tried bitter spray in which he will quit for maybe 1 minute and then starts biting again. Please help.

  2. Brenda Ziegler

    In addition to the spray, I have tried re-direction with toys, chews, etc. He won’t quit biting.

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