Happy Puppy Series: Training from 8 to 9 Weeks
Having a puppy is always an exciting time for every dog owner, it’s a joy to watch your pup play, explore and grow up. Yet, our trainers know how challenging puppyhood can be for experienced and first-time dog owners alike. Knowing what to prioritize week to week and how much training you should do with a young puppy is puzzling for many. To give you a step-by-step guide, Happy Dog’s Head Trainer, Piper, has taken the time to break down what training should look like through puppyhood. This three part article series will give you an in-depth look at how we raise puppies into happy, healthy dogs.
During the first week with your new pup, it’s important that you ensure your puppy feels safe in their new environment. This may mean keeping your puppy separate from bigger dogs, rowdy kids or high foot-traffic areas. When your puppy is with you, you’ll want to focus your energy on building a relationship with them.
To do so, we start building a few simple training skills.
Hand Feeding - measure their food and practice feeding them from your hand. Don’t worry about asking for tricks yet, your puppy is learning to look for your hand and gain a reward.
Condition “Yes” - as your puppy takes their food from your hand, give them a verbal “Yes!” or *click* your clicker. This helps your puppy pair the marker with receiving a reward. In the future, this will be important for letting your dog know that they’re doing things right in training.
When your puppy is this young, you cannot expect them to be responsible for themselves. If left unattended, it's almost a guarantee that your puppy will go to the bathroom or chew something up. At Happy Dog’s we recommend our clients’ puppies are supervised 100% of their time loose. To help while you’re multitasking around the house, you can keep your pup on a leash. If you don’t feel like you can keep your eyes on your pup, let them take a break in the crate. Giving them a snack, puppy-safe chew toy or a kong, can help them learn to love their crate early on. Keep breaks short, and be sure to listen for if your puppy is fussing because they need to go potty.
Potty training is a big priority this first week. Your pup doesn’t know where it is and isn’t okay to go to the restroom. Accidents will happen, and that’s okay. Right now, household management is the best thing you can do to help your puppy avoid having frequent accidents; this means keeping your pup with you and giving the frequent potty breaks. When your pup does go outside to potty, pick a consistent spot in the yard for them and bring a treat to give them once they’ve finished to reward them for pottying outside.
As your puppy gains familiarity and comfort in their new home, we can begin socialization, training basics, and handling during everyday activities. The following activities we recommend doing daily with your young pup. The more positive experiences your puppy has with you early on, the better your relationship with your pup will be!
Before we can start teaching obedience, you need to be able to get your puppy’s attention and have them keep their focus on you. The next two drills will help build your puppy’s training foundation, by building the skills we need to teach sit, stay and heel later on.
1) Rewarding their name. Start close to your puppy and say their name, “Sparky!”. When your puppy looks at you, present them with a treat and repeat! As time goes on, you can practice when you’re further away from your puppy or even while your puppy is distracted by other things.
2) Luring. The ability to lure your dog into different positions is extremely helpful as we introduce new behaviors later on in training. The goal with this introduction drill is to teach your dog to follow your hand. To teach this behavior, put a few treats in your hand and place your hand close to your dog’s nose so that they can smell the treats. Once your dog is focused on the hand, move it slowly away from them. As they follow along, pause and reward before continuing to move with them following.
Working with your pup to be trainable and comfortable in all situations is something all dog owners need to prioritize early on. Practice the next two drills to help your puppy be successful later on.
3) Handling your pup. It’s important that your puppy gets comfortable with a person touching their ears, feet, and body. This can help with nail trimmings, grooming and trips to the vet. As you move your hands gently over your puppy’s body, feed them treats or let them lick up a yummy snack, like peanut butter. You can also practice picking up your pup, be sure to always have a treat ready for when you scoop them off the ground. Start slowly and give your puppy plenty of time to adjust to the sensation of being up in your arms.
4) Introducing the harness and leash. Your puppy might not be thrilled with their leash and harness. Without creating a positive association with these training tools, your dog may avoid them all together or try endlessly to escape. Take your time putting the harness on your pup and have rewards ready to create a positive experience. Once your pup is on leash, reward frequently and keep the sessions on leash short.
As your puppy is getting more comfortable in your home, you’ll want to keep exposing them to new things and novel experiences. This is how your puppy learns to adapt and be comfortable, even when new, surprising things may happen later on. We recommend exposing your pup to 5 to 7 new things each day. This should include a variety of different sights, sounds and surfaces. Keep your sessions short and have rewards ready to help your dog associate all these new things with yummy treats.
Your puppy is ready to have brief interactions with other pets in the house now. Keep a barrier, like a baby gate or fence, between your puppy and other pets. This ensures that your other pet will not overwhelm the puppy, as they are likely much more confident and larger than your pup. Let them sniff one another and keep the interaction positive for all parties involved.
Stay tuned for our next article in this series... Happy Puppy: Training from 10 to 12 Weeks!