From my experience, routine is one of the most important parts of your puppy’s young life. Routine, structure and training allow for a puppy to quickly grasp what to expect, what is expected and how they should proceed with things.
I, am Ali Smith! The Positive Puppy expert from Rebarkable, I’m a professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement training to help you and pup get things right, right from the start. I’ve helped to train over 1200 dogs at this stage and been consulted for info in everything from Chewy to AKC Family Dog.
In this post I’m going to go week by week and give you a quick idea of what should be included week by week for training your brand new puppy!
Please do remember, these are guidelines. Each puppy, and each home is unique and that should always be factored in. It also depends on the start that your breeder has given you, how perceptive your puppy is, how well you observe your pup, and how consistent you are.
This also depends on when you’re bringing your puppy home, this is aimed at 8 weeks, and the ‘average’ dog, yet despite this, from breed to breed, size to size, and even down to the individuals within the litter there are variances of when these things will happen. I’m writing with the best of intentions, but it can only ever guide.
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 8
I hate to tell you, but this week is going to be hard because there is just so much to tackle.
This week your focus should be acclimatisation - which will be particularly tough as this is often the first week of the first fear phase in dogs.
Your home is likely new to your puppy, as will be your schedule. I do suggest getting this in as soon as possible.
Personally, I’m a big fan of, Sleep, toilet break, play/train, food, sleep - repeat throughout the day. I’d try and move this as much as possible to around the times of the day you need (in the future) to keep available.
The great part of this is that dogs are actually crepuscular by nature (whilst this is a technical term, it essentially means that they’re active morning and evening when they’re fully grown) - so they do facilitate a normal 9-5 job quite well.
Remember that there is a need for 20hrs of sleep, 4hrs of chewing, toilet training, potentially crate training and then a smidge of actual training.
Biting too, you’re going to need to do a lot of work with biting as this is the only way your puppy knows how to communicate. Learning this, and learning it well? Will be a great start.
If you find time to do the latter? Start with a sit! This is very basic, but it is (in my opinion) the single most undervalued piece of training in your arsenal. So do this one, and do it right! Remember, you can make great strides in just 7 days.
Note: I really would not recommend that you work during this week - despite only being awake for 4-6hrs a day, it’s pretty taxing, and you’ll be losing a lot of sleep, so please do be prepared!
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 9
Week 9, you’ve hopefully made some great strides in settling puppy into your home. This week is mainly building on the successes (and failures) of last week and taking opportunities as they’re granted.
Socialising should also become a priority this week. Puppy should now be adjusted to your home quite well, and he or she should be enjoying it. Provided this is the case, we can move puppy forwards into the wider world - safely of course.
At this stage puppy is not yet fully vaccinated, so focus on new sights and sounds and experiences that can be ‘contact free’, so keeping puppy in arms, in a stroller, vehicle or a puppy-sling can be great. Go slow, give plenty of praise, and remember socialisation is about quality over quantity!
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 10
As we’re not fully vaccinated yet, caution is still advisable with socialisation. But, the good news is that your sleep schedule should be becoming more even and predictable.
Refocusing on puppy’s biting habits is really important this week because the quicker we get consistency on this, the easier you’re going to find it when teething comes - not to mention that your puppy will become much more enjoyable when you can actually enjoy playtime, and training without your skin getting punctured for the fifth time today.
This week you can actually start making some solid progress with training.
It could also be a great time to head to your vets for just a casual visit and let pup say hi to the staff without getting stuck with a needle...
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 11
Week 11 can be the start of teething for some - though for others it comes as late as week 18 - still. It’s good to be prepared with plenty of chews and toys to make sure that you do not fall victim to the biting (again). It’s good to note that with teething? Your puppy actually needs to chew.
It’s a wicked thing, but whilst it hurts them to chew? It’s also the only thing that relieves the pain for them. Consequently, they’ll gravitate towards a certain texture or resistance, and we just want to make sure that they focus their attention on chews and toys they’re allowed, as opposed to remotes, shoes, or the stuffed bear you’ve had since you were little.
For those not going through teething? You can be working on socialization, on sit, maybe even a little laydown cue!
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 12
Back to plenty of socialization this week, even if vaccinations are not complete, it might be a great time (given they’re leaving the first fear phase, hooray!) to invite some friends over to your
home - and possibly even friends who have a young puppy (and are equally responsible), or an adult dog who you know is fully vaccinated and polite!
If you do this, this is a fantastic opportunity to let your puppy learn some dog. Dog body language is really critical to watch - just please do make sure you advocate for both dogs. If play starts getting a little too wild, or your pup just cannot leave the other dog alone? Then sometimes restrictions (such as a leash) are best to ensure everyone leaves happy. It is important to teach your dog to follow basic commands. Potty training is important too.
It’s also rabies vaccination week! Puppy Training Schedule - Week 13
This week you may want to begin some preparations for your first walk!! As your final vaccination (rabies) can now have been completed and settled into your pup - it’s time to go for some walks, hooray!
Remember, this can be really scary for some, others will find it a breeze.
I’d start getting pup used their leash, and figuring out what treats puppy loves the most - don’t be afraid to use real meat - but the Pupsy treats also work really well! Freeze-dried meat is also much easier to handle and has a lot less prep work. Treat positive behaviors and this'll encourage them to stay right.
When you do venture out? Be ready to take it at puppy’s pace, no faster, no slower. Let them explore and sniff, because this is their walk, not yours!
Initially, I wouldn’t allow interaction with other dogs unless you have a gregarious pup. Please do remember to ask if their dog is friendly before you allow your pup to interact. Remember, we’re aiming for quality experiences for puppy, not a huge number of them. And not asking, can result in bad experiences, and that’s just not desirable right now.
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 14
You may be considering going back to work, or it’s definitely going to start becoming more necessary to leave puppy home.
Now, this is an interesting point because teaching confidence when alone began with training them to sleep alone overnight - but it’s not yet done. We also have to teach puppy that being home alone is okay.
We do this slowly.
Break the process of your departure into steps... e.g.
1 - you would put puppy in their safe space (such as a crate or puppy-proofed room)
2 - you would grab your keys and get ready.
3 - you would go out of sight
4 - the front door would open and close
5 - time away
6 - the front door would open and close
7 - puppy would be released, greeted and taken outside for a bathroom break (and play!)
Then, the aim would be to do say, steps 1-3, skip 4,5 and 6, then 7 would happen too.
Make this a positive experience, then when puppy appears confident, we can introduce steps 4, 5 and 6.
Step 5, the time away should be minimised to start. Only even 30 seconds to show that you are always going to come home.
You can also ease this experience by adding in a Kong toy, stuffed buffalo horn or similar - provided you have watched puppy carefully with these and have picked an appropriately sized one that presents no risks.Toys that provide mental stimulation can also be included
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 15
I like to focus on a loose leash walk this week! Socialization should be going well, but now comes the big guns - and this one is more important now than recall (aka. Teaching your puppy to come, because that’s why long lines exist!) teach a loose leash now and when they become big? You’ll be grateful!
This essentially starts indoors, keeping a treat on their nose whilst you’re walking, and luring them into the correct position and praising and rewarding liberally as they stay in the right place. If they don’t? Praise and reward stops, and you do too.
With gradual success, transfer these training sessions to higher distraction environments, like your garden, or driveway, then to the streets and to the park. You can also start teaching bladder control at this stage
Puppy Training Schedule - Week 16
The flight phase... Hooray!
If you have been having your puppy off leash? It’s good to be aware the a phase we trainers call a flight phase is hastily inbound, and it means that your puppy may be hastily outbound.
This is that phase where your pup decides running away - potentially to a thing, place, person or other dog, is totally within their capabilities.
It’s quite terrifying for most pet parents. And it’s a great opportunity to invest in a harness and long line to ensure that if this does happen? That you can control the situation and puppy does - say - run into a road, an unfriendly dog, or a person who is afraid of dogs and ‘feels threatened’ (oh yes, that’s normally the only legal thing they need to act unfairly...)
Remember to be patient, this is going to be a pretty tough time for you and your puppy. Puppy is learning all sorts of things at a fast rate, and you’re keeping up to the best of your ability. It’s not unusual for this to be tumultuous, but keep true to the plan (overall), and you’ll see results quicker, I promise. Training classes can also help in moderating canine behavior.
Patience and consistency are key, particularly with puppy training. Nothing happens quickly. Be kind to yourself and your pup and you’ll get there.
Positive Puppy Expert