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The Puppy Training Timeline: Your First Year Journey

Beagle puppy barking

So you've just brought home your first puppy! As I tell all my first time puppy parents: you have my congratulations as well as my condolences.

Embarking on the journey with a new puppy is a thrilling adventure filled with love, laughter, and, yes, a fair share of learning curves. It's like signing up for a marathon where the finish line is a well-behaved, confident, and happy dog. But that marathon can be a tough run, and exactly how far is that finish line?

At Darwin Dogs, we're here to guide you through this adventure, ensuring you build a trust-based relationship with your furry companion. Here’s a comprehensive timeline to help you navigate your puppy's first year together, making every step an opportunity for bonding and growth.

Weeks 8-12: Welcoming Your New Puppy Home

The first few weeks are crucial for your puppy’s development. Don't get caught up in training your puppy. That's something that comes later. As I've outlined in my article about the difference between training and behavior, now is the time to focus on behavior. That includes impulse control and alleviating anxiety, thus creating a calm, confident dog. Once you've established good behavior, training your new puppy is a breeze. The first few weeks are the most important. This is the time for:

- Establishing your puppy's routine: Helping your puppy organize their day allows them to anticipate what comes next. For example, when we got our puppy Hazel, we quickly established what I refer to as "blocks" of time, or groupings. Hazel quickly became accustomed to a natural rhythm to her day. For example, in the morning, after breakfast and potty time, we had our first activity, followed by a nap in her crate. The clock didn't dictate what happened next so much as the order of things.

My puppy's afternoon meal times were always followed by a 20 minute "rest" period in her crate, followed by potty time.

puppy sleeping
By grouping or blocking, rather than using rigid routines, you are setting your puppy up for success.

By grouping activities together (Eat - Rest- Potty or Play - Kong - Naptime), Hazel was able to start to organize herself better for the What Comes Next, helping her to exert more impulse control and not be overstimulated.

Similar to how small children thrive with routines (brush teeth - story time- bedtime), puppies with set blocks of time time exert much more impulse control than puppies who are whiplashing their way through the day.

- Housebreaking your puppy:  Just as a toddler doesn't go from diapers to fully potty-trained in a day, your puppy won't go from watering the carpet to holding it for hours.

There will be plenty of accidents, but housebreaking your new puppy can go much more smoothly if you've been teaching your puppy impulse control in other areas. After all, holding it for the proper potty time and place is just another example of impulse control.

Start by making potty time safe, but boring. This isn't a walk/explore time. This is a potty break. If your puppy does go potty, give plenty of rewards and praise, followed by some brief playtime outside. If they don't potty outside, calmly bring them back inside, and allow them to rest in their crate or playpen, and try again in a little bit.

It takes practice to get the hang of housebreaking, for both of you! While your puppy may start to get the hang of it quickly, accidents do happen. Keeping a checklist of feedings, water and potty breaks can help you get through housebreaking with less effort.

- Introduction to basic commands: Such as sit, stay, and come. You don't need to go through the boring exercise of "training" your puppy for X minutes a billion times a day (who has time for that anyway?). Instead, catch the behaviors as they occur. Name the behaviors you like. Your puppy is patiently sitting? "Good sit!". Just like infants learn language through repetition and immersion, so do puppies and dogs learn basic commands.

- Gentle socialization: Expose your puppy safely to different environments, people, and other pets. These first few weeks are typically when your puppy is full of curiosity about new things, and will explore their world with optimism, rather than apprehension. Give your new puppy plenty of gentle guidance and support as they explore new things.

- Positive reinforcement training: Focus on rewarding good behavior rather than punishing the bad. While gentle negation of unsavory behaviors such as nipping and jumping are part of a puppy's growth, they should never involve domination tactics nor painful methods (re-think the e-collar!) Remember, patience is key. Your puppy is learning how to be a part of your world. While gentle negatives are indeed a part of learning correct social behaviors, let your puppy learn from their mistakes rather than live in fear of them.

Months 3-6: Your Puppy's Formative Phase

dog and puppy nose to nose
Your puppy is growing fast; let their training routine grow with them.

Your puppy is growing and so is their capacity to learn. By continuing to encourage impulse control and good behavior, your puppy is ready to tackle some more stimuli.

- Continue socialization: It’s important to keep exposing your puppy to new experiences. Help them learn to navigate social situations by encouraging impulse control. Introductions to other dogs and people will most definitely require some gentle guidance from you. Rather than punishing them for jumping, guide them towards the correct behaviors after giving a brief (pain-free) negative. Your puppy is constantly looking for what is the correct thing to do socially, and will try their hand (paw?) at "adulting". Expect some missteps, as puppyhood is tricky! But with your guidance, they will gain more confidence.

- Introduce leash training: Short, positive sessions to get them comfortable with walking on a leash. Start with simply putting the leash on and calling them to you in an encouraging way. Reward simply walking on the leash, and then gradually introducing the concept of staying closer to you. Harsh leash training at this age can spook a puppy, and create a dog with boundary frustration, resulting in a reactive dog.

- Puppy proof your home: As their curiosity grows, so does their potential for mischief.

This is a period of rapid learning but also testing boundaries. Give them a safe place to explore. Rather than constantly following them throughout your house, allow them a play area that is puppy proof. By allowing them to explore areas on your terms, you are able to guide your puppy through how to act appropriate in a home, without becoming destructive.

Months 6-9: Adolescent Dogs

Ah, the teenage phase, where independence becomes the theme. You ask your dog how their day was, and they roll their eyes. You tell them to be home at 10:00, and they roll in at midnight. Welcome to adolescent dog.

- Reinforcement of training: It’s common for puppies to 'forget' their training during this phase. Reinforce commands and good behavior. Remember, this isn't about you. They aren't against, you: they are for themselves. They are testing boundaries, and while it's frustrating, this is normal. But while this is frustrating, all the work you put in while they were still young puppies is paying off. Your adolescent puppy is merely annoying, as opposed to a force of nature.

- Introduction to off-leash training: In safe, enclosed areas, begin teaching recall and off-leash behavior. Again, you are building on the impulse control you started at a young age.

- Addressing any behavioral issues: Such as counter-surfing, or unnecessary barking, with positive methods, and gentle negation of unwanted behaviors.

Your puppy is pushing the limits. Remain patient, and remember, it’s just a phase. And remember, crating your adolescent puppy when you've had enough doesn't give them a bad message. It gives you a moment to calm down rather than add fuel to their fire.

Months 9-12: Rounding the Corner from Puppy to Adult Dog

Your puppy is nearing their first year, and you’ve both learned a lot.

- Fine-tuning: As your puppy becomes a full grown adult dog, their activity and enrichment requirements may change. Your 9 month old dog may have a lot more activity requirements than that 12 week old puppy. Make sure you have a plan for your dog's needs.

- Social maturity: As your puppy matures socially, you might notice a more settled behavior. Continue to support this with positive social interactions.

- Prepare for adulthood: Begin transitioning your puppy to an adult diet and consider any changes needed in their routine as they grow. Some dogs no longer need crates, while others may still find comfort (and safety) in the security that a crate provides.

puppy celebrating birthday

Whew! You've navigated the first year, laying a solid foundation for a lifetime of companionship.

Throughout this journey, remember, every puppy is unique and might progress at their own pace. Be flexible, and adapt your training methods to meet your puppy’s needs. Most importantly, enjoy this special time with your new best friend. At Darwin Dogs, we’re here every step of the way, ready to support you with real techniques for real lives. Because remember, your puppy isn't trying to be a bad dog. They're still learning how to be a great human companion.

Dog Training vs. Dog Life

Dog kissing owner

With the Piloting Method, training your new puppy has never been simpler. This revolutionary approach to training focuses on clear communication, positive reinforcement, and building a strong bond between dog and owner. By embracing this method, you can simplify the training process and achieve remarkable results with your furry friend.

The Piloting Method takes into account the unique needs and behaviors of each dog, allowing for a customized approach. Whether you're dealing with a new puppy with housebreaking issues or a dog with frustrating behavior problems, the Piloting Method can help. By working closely with the experienced trainers at Darwin Dogs, you can identify the root causes of your dog's behavior and create a personalized training plan to address them.

One of the reasons the Piloting Method is so effective is its emphasis on consistency and structure. Dogs thrive on routine and predictability, and this method provides them with the stability they need to feel secure and confident. By establishing clear boundaries and consistent rules, you can simplify the training process and reduce anxiety and unwanted behaviors.

Simplifying dog training with the Piloting Method is not only effective but also enjoyable. Say goodbye to the frustration and overwhelming feelings that often come with training a dog. With the lifetime guidance and support of Darwin Dogs, you can simplify the training process and enjoy a happier, better-behaved dog. Embrace the Piloting Method today and experience the positive impact it can have on your relationship with your furry friend.

many dogs lying down together

Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.

Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.

Have questions about our puppy training or dog training?

border collie dog staying

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Puppy Training

Located in Cleveland, Ohio


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