Happy Puppy: Training from 10 to 12 Weeks
This is the second article in our Happy Puppy series, where Happy Dog’s Head Trainer, Piper, breaks down puppy training week by week. The skills and drills she provides are intended to help every owner set their puppy up for success in their first few weeks together.
Weeks 10, 11 and 12
Once your puppy has the basics of training down, you can start teaching basic obedience behaviors. Piper recommends starting with “Sit” and “Down!” as they are necessary, yet simple behaviors to teach your puppy.
1. To teach sit to your puppy, follow the steps below.
Teaching “Sit” : Start with your puppy close to you and have plenty of treats at the ready. You’ll first ask for the word “Sit”, then use your hand to lure the dog’s nose up into the air and watch their butt plop to the floor. Mark this correct behavior with a “Yes!” or a *click*, and let your dog have the reward in your hand.
Then, repeat! As your dog gains confidence and competence, the luring hand can turn into a hand signal. Saying “Sit” as you raise up your hand will be your dog’s “cue” to offer the sit behavior later on.
2. To teach down to your puppy, follow the steps below.
Teaching “Down”: Start with your puppy close to you and have plenty of treats at the ready. You’ll first ask for the word “Down”, then use your hand to lure your dog’s nose slightly forward and to the ground. Be patient and wait for their butt to plop to the floor. Mark this correct position with a “Yes!” or a *click* and let your dog have the reward in your hand.
Then, repeat! As your dog gains confidence and competence, the luring hand can turn into a hand signal. Saying “Down” as you lower your hand to the ground will be your dog’s “cue” to offer the down behavior later on.
Puppies need lots of practice to fully learn a new behavior. The more often you practice and the more locations you practice “Sit!” and “Down!” with your puppy, the better they’ll understand the behavior. While we recommend keeping training sessions short, around 5 to 10 minutes at a time, be sure that you practice these behaviors in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and even outside!
During these weeks, you’ll also want to expose your puppy to being touched by other humans. This means creating a positive experience when your puppy interacts with a new person. It’s important that your puppy is comfortable being approached, meeting new people can be scary to your puppy even if you trust the individual to be kind to your pup. Bring plenty of treats and start by having the new person feed your puppy. As your puppy becomes comfortable, continue to feed as the new person gently touches or moves their body, legs, ears and tail.
As your puppy gains confidence around new people, reward them for being picked up and moved by new people too. Start slowly, and be sure your puppy is comfortable with the person before your pup gets lifted high into the air. Trust needs to be established first, or you may risk scaring your puppy… as you can imagine, being lifted up by a stranger could be surprising and uncomfortable for your pup.
Introducing your puppy to brushes, grooming tools and mock “vet exams” is a priority while they are still young. This helps your puppy build a positive association and will help them be easier to handle when they are with dog care professionals, like your vet, groomer or trainer. To start, you’ll want to have treats or a kong at the ready. As you gently touch a brush, comb or nail clippers to your pup’s body, legs and feet, reward them generously. Don’t start grooming or trimming nails just yet, you’ll want to repeat this process several times before using the grooming tools on your pup.
To complete a mock Vet Exam, you will mark each procedure with a verbal “Yes!” and reward your pup for their cooperation.
1. Start by gently holding your pup’s jaw and check their teeth by lifting up the lips. Mark and reward!
2. Next, move your hands up their head to check their ears; start by rubbing the ears and then gently lift the ears to look inside them. Mark and reward!
3. Then, move your hands down your pup’s back and across their tummy. Place a small amount of pressure on their abdominal area as you feel around, then mark and reward!
4. Lastly, gently lift up your puppy's tail and run your hands down their rear legs. Mark and reward!
As your puppy ages from 10 to 12 weeks, you’ll want to continue exposing them to new and interesting things in the environment. Be sure to have treats at the ready, when your pup is young everything is an opportunity to socialize your pup!
We recommend exploring different locations, like home depot or your local park, and exposing your pup to daily sights and sounds.
1. Vacuum noises
2. Sirens, buses or loud cars
3. People in hats, large coats or costumes.
4. Thunder, pots and pans dropping, cabinets slamming
5. Children - watch them from afar first and only meet with one child at a time
During this exposure, it’s vital that your puppy remains comfortable in their environment and has a chance to explore at their own pace. One or more of these experiences may overwhelm your puppy, be sure to give your puppy space away from the object or person. Repeated exposure with lots of rewards can help your puppy learn these new things aren’t scary.