Happy Puppy: Training from 13 to 16 Weeks
This is the third article in our Happy Puppy series; a guide to training your puppy for new and experienced dog owners. Follow along to gain practical training tips for a positive & productive puppyhood, Piper, Happy Dog’s Head Trainer, shares all she knows about raising a well-trained, happy dog.
Weeks 13 through 16
As your puppy grows up, they also grow in their interest and ability to explore. Getting your puppy out and about is critical at this age, but you’ll want to be thoughtful and strategic with how you approach training through this stage. Piper has the following recommendations to ensure that you set your puppy up for success as you explore new places and learn more behaviors.
Choosing Your Training Locations
Be picky about where you take your puppy. Your pup is still new to this world and new to training. Going to a busy restaurant with your puppy or trying to leash walk down a crowded boardwalk can be difficult, scary or overwhelming for your puppy, and you too!
Our goal is to ensure that puppies are put into environments that allow them to explore safely and focus during training. Try out these tips for happy outings with your new puppy.
Choose Safe Environments: A young puppy won’t know how to manage situations as well as a mature, trained dog. Simple things, like scraps of food or garbage on the ground, that an older dog can be trained to avoid, might cause big trouble for you and your puppy. Busy stores, streets and dog parks might prove to be overwhelming and difficult to navigate for a puppy at this age and stage of training. Before you take your puppy to a new place, consider whether the experience will be easy, enjoyable and beneficial for your puppy.
Encourage Exploring and Sniffing: Outings in safe environments allow your puppy to learn about their environment and build a positive association with a variety of sights, sounds, smells and sensations. Piper suggests letting your puppy explore under your supervision and encourage them to sniff all around the new environment. Sniffing is a naturally calming behavior for dogs of all ages. Allowing your dog time to sniff can reduce their arousal level and increase their familiarity and comfort in this new environment.
Reward at Your Side: These outings with your pup are the perfect time to practice leash walking. When your puppy walks alongside you, reach down with a treat. Do this often to encourage your pup to walk with a loose leash. At this age, we’re not worried about your pup having the perfect heel or maintaining full focus on you. You are rewarding engagement and building a positive association with sticking by your side. Remember to go slowly; your puppy needs time to explore in between short training sessions.
Creating happy outings for your pup are the first step towards bigger training goals. Being in new places allows your puppy to continue developing their understanding of basic cues, like sit, down and their name. Distractions like other dogs, new people, strange noises and novel smells will undoubtedly capture your puppy’s attention at some point on your outing. Focusing on the cues and ignoring those distractions is hard work, and can be a great training opportunity for young puppies.
Piper recommends prioritizing the training of the following behaviors in new locations. Grab plenty of treats and your puppy to try out these short training sessions.
Practice Your Puppy’s Name & their Recall
As your puppy sniffs their way around this new environment, practice saying their name and rewarding them for responding. Then, let them go back to their exploration. As your puppy gains confidence, create more space between your puppy and yourself. With a full leash length between you and your puppy, use their recall word, “Come!” and reward them for running towards you in response. Let them explore once again and repeat the game.
Practice Sit & Down
In a new location, find an empty space for your puppy to practice their basic obedience cues. Go back to the basics with a treat in hand and lure your puppy into the correct position. Mark with praise and reward! Your puppy’s competence should grow quickly, as they’ve already learned these cues at home. However, you’ll need to be patient as distractions make remembering and learning harder for all dogs, and especially young puppies.
Keep your training sessions short, and choose a less exciting environment or space if your puppy is not capable of responding to your cues.
Not only is this the perfect age for your pup to be exploring the outside world, it’s a great time to teach your puppy how to be alone inside. Piper recommends the following strategies to make crate training enjoyable for your puppy and you.
Take Care of Basic Needs First. A puppy that is hungry, thirsty, full of energy or needing to use the restroom is not a puppy that is going to be relaxed in the crate. Be sure your puppy has had their basic needs taken care of before you ask them to spend time resting in their crate.
Use Calming Activities in the Crate. Your goal is to create a positive association for your puppy with their crate. Using a snuffle mat full of treats, a yummy frozen kong or meal time can be a great way to calm your puppy down in the crate. Additionally, your puppy should be crated in a space that is quiet and separate from the hustle and bustle of the house. You can also use white noise, such as piano music or a fan, to help your puppy settle down in their crate.
Keep Sessions Short. Going from never being in a crate to being crated for 6 hours a day is a rough transition for any dog. Puppies in particular will struggle with long periods being locked up. While puppies need plenty of sleep, you’ll want to plan on frequent breaks. Taking your puppy out to potty will discourage accidents in the crate. And, taking time for training sessions or walks will help your puppy regulate their energy and use their crate time to rest up for their next adventure.
As you continue to expand your puppy’s training and exposure to new environments, remember to take it slow. Your pup is relying on you to create a positive experience in new places, around new people and while learning new behaviors; behaviors that you want to last a lifetime! A well developed training foundation sets your puppy up for a happy, healthy life.