Puppies come with a lot of questions, especially when you’ve never raised a puppy before. If you’re getting ready to adopt, it’s best to study up on puppy training before you bring your new pet home. We cover the basics of potty training, leash training, clicker training, and more in this helpful guide.

Puppy Training Basics: How to Teach Good Behavior

Potty Training

The first thing all puppies need to start learning is where to poop and pee. Puppies need to pee a lot—their bladders do not reach full capacity until after they are a year old. Start by watching for signs that your puppy needs to pee, like whimpering, sniffing, fidgeting, or circling. Then take your puppy to the designated spot. Alternatively, you can take them every hour to the spot and use a cue word to let the puppy know that it’s time to go.

You can teach them to do their business outside, or you can start with a “pee pad” indoors. If you adopt during the summer, you might want to start training indoors. In Arizona, it can often be too hot outside for a puppy’s sensitive paws. Test the temperature of the sidewalk with your own feet or hands before letting your puppy outside. 

Accidents are bound to happen, but if your puppy goes potty inside, don’t get upset. Never scold a puppy for having an accident. This will only make them feel scared or confused, and potty training will take even longer. Calmly clean up the mess, and give your puppy a reward the next time they go potty in the right place. Clean the area with a pet-safe, odor-neutralizing sanitizer, so the puppy won’t smell the pee and get the urge to use the wrong spot again.

Leash Training

Puppies can start learning to walk with a leash as soon as they are seven or eight weeks old. Starting early will make going for walks much easier in the future, when they are bigger and stronger. 

A leash will also keep your puppy safe—it’s a big world out there, and a leash keeps them close by so you can stop them from drinking out of shared water bowls and prevent them from running up to bigger dogs. In fact, you may want to keep your puppy at home until they are fully vaccinated. They might encounter a contagious disease if you take them walking in public places.

Make sure you have a collar or harness that fits your puppy, and a leash that’s long enough to leave some slack for comfort. (We don’t recommend using retractable leashes until a puppy has mastered leash training, because they might get too far away, or get tangled up and trip.) Bring your poop bags and some treats or kibble as well, for training purposes.

Always be aware of your environment, and make sure you’re giving your puppy your full attention. Let your puppy lead the way at first. Let them stop and sniff as often as they need to. But if they try to pull away, stop and call them back to you. When they come, give them a treat. Walks are a good time for training your puppy to sit, stay, and come on command. 

Basic Commands

“Sit” will probably be the first command your puppy needs to learn. You can practice when you’re out on walks. When you approach a crosswalk, tell them to sit. Gently press on their haunches to demonstrate what you want them to do. After they sit down, say “OK” before you cross the street.

Your puppy also needs to learn a recall command, like “Come!” or “Here!” Learning to come when you call them is going to help keep your puppy out of danger. “Leave it!” or “Drop it!” is another important command for your puppy to know. If they ever get into the trash or find something interesting (but gross) on the sidewalk, you don’t want them to eat it. This command can also help if they’re chewing on something they shouldn’t be, like your favorite pair of running shoes. 

Crate Training 

If you have small children or other pets at home you might want to try crate training. A cozy crate with a soft bed and a little food and water is the perfect place for a puppy to feel safe. Just remember that puppies can’t stay in a crate as long as full-grown dogs. They’ll need to come out to pee at least once every three or four hours—even during the night, so it’s best to put their crate in your bedroom.

If you want to try crate training, the Humane Society has an excellent resource page about it.

Treat Training vs. Clicker Training

Most dogs respond well to food, and using treats to reward a desired behavior is an effective training method. However, too many treats can make your puppy’s tummy upset, or teach them to expect a constant treat supply when they get older. Instead, you can simply use pieces of your puppy’s kibble. They’ll be so excited about food that they won’t care what it tastes like. You can also use cut-up carrots, celery, broccoli, or asparagus if you want to avoid buying processed dog treats.

Clicker training can make treat training even more effective. After your puppy successfully performs a “sit” or pees in the grass instead of on your front steps, you click the clicker, and then reward them with a snack. It takes the confusion of learning the difference between “good potty!” or “good sit!”—all they have to remember is that a clicky sound means they get a treat. It also helps them pay more attention to their good behavior, without getting immediately distracted by food.

Puppy Training Tips

  • Keep training consistent. Whatever you decide to teach your puppy first, don’t switch your methods up, or they might get confused. And try to stick to a regular training schedule. Dogs like predictability, and they function best when the same things happen at the same time every day. 
  • Keep it short. Start with quick training sessions of five to ten minutes, especially if your puppy is very young. As their attention span grows, you can increase training sessions to fifteen minutes. Once they master the basics, like sit and stay, you can start teaching them more advanced commands, tricks, and games like fetch.
  • Never give up! If it seems like training is taking forever, remember that every puppy is different, and some learn faster than others. Be patient with your puppy, and don’t get frustrated. Keep your voice calm and steady, even if they don’t listen or when they’re in trouble for chewing up your shoes. Eventually, if you stick with them, your new puppy will figure things out.

Bring Your New Puppy to Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert

If you just got a new puppy, we’d love to meet them! Puppies need a lot of care, and we can help your pup grow up into a strong, healthy dog. We can answer all of your questions about how to train your puppy, what to feed them, what vaccinations they might need, and whether or not to spay or neuter. 

To schedule an appointment for a new pet checkup, call us at 480-497-0505 or send us a message online.


Photo by Austin Kirk on Unsplash used with permission under the Creative Commons license for commercial use 4/10/2024.