No spoiler here: puppies are adorable, they're fun . . . and they're a lot of work. Between potty training and teaching them tricks and basic commands (like to sit or stay), dogs can take a lot of work and patience, especially when you first start training them. And for new puppy owners, you may be wondering when puppies should start their training, or how long it take to stick. We asked the experts for answers.
When Should I Start Training My Puppy?
It's typically recommended that puppies begin training between two to four months of age, Dr. Shelly Ferris, DVM, regional director of Petco Veterinary Services, told POPSUGAR. Of course owners can do a combination of home training and puppy training classes that tend to focus on socialization and proper behaviors, including how to potty train or how to curb undesired habits like chewing, jumping, or digging.
"Any experiences the puppy has during the socialization period between three weeks and three to four months old can affect their behaviors later in life," she says. "Studies have shown that puppies that are isolated during this time are more likely to be hyperactive, aggressive, and more difficult to train as they mature. However, it's never too late to begin training your dog."
How Long Does It Take to Train My Puppy?
The short answer is it depends — it may take several weeks or it may take several months. For example, some puppies might be completely house trained in six months, while others may still have regular accidents. Puppies may learn commands faster, though. "Expect it to take several months to go from the basics of teaching them to focus on you and work for rewards to sitting and laying down, eventually working up to 'stay' and 'come,'" says Jessica Romine, DVM, of BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Detroit. "Most behavior patterns are in place by six months, so it is much easier to lay a solid foundation in this time period." She also cautions pet parents to "go slow and steady" with training, as "overwhelming a dog can have significant negative effects."
Importantly, training is an ongoing process and shouldn't stop at a certain age, Dr. Ferris says. "I recommend that pet parents consistently incorporate training techniques into everyday life."
What Are the Benefits of Consistent Training?
Training exercises are a great way to bond with your pup and build your dog's confidence. It's also a great way to get your puppy comfortable with grooming and visiting the veterinarian, says Dr. Ferris. For instance, if you run your hands over various areas of their body or pick up one paw at a time, it will get pups comfortable with being handled. "The more you make it fun, engaging, and comfortable for them by playing with their mouth, ears, and feet at a young age, making it a very positive experience, the easier time they will have with grooming and going to the veterinarian later on in life," she says.
Overall, making training a daily part of your routine will help keep your dog's skills fresh and help them learn how to handle different situations. "Using positive reinforcement helps build a puppy's confidence, and the goal of training is to give dogs lots of coping skills so that new situations aren't stressful and learning is a fun thing to do," Dr. Romine says.