How Early Can Puppy Training Begin?

The first few days with a new puppy are exciting for every new puppy parent. You and your pup are getting to know each other, and possibly other family members too. You’re starting to understand their schedule, body language, and food preferences (and, likely, cleaning up a lot of doggy droppings).

During these first few days, you probably won’t be doing any training as your puppy (and you) will likely be a bit overwhelmed. That’s completely normal, of course, especially if your new puppy is only 6 or 7 weeks old. However, as soon as these first few days pass and things calm down (somewhat), you should start thinking about how and when to train your new furry friend.

Now, when it comes to training, every puppy is different. Some breeds will take to training very early, while others may need more time and patience. While one puppy might pick up a new skill, another might need more time and practice. However, no matter the puppy, one question I see frequently is always the same; how early can puppy training begin?

The answer might surprise you, as it varies widely. For example, some puppies will take to training as soon as their eyes are open and they can walk. Simple commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” can be taught at this time, albeit with variable results depending on the puppy.

Many dog experts believe that training should start between 7 and 8 weeks, although “formal training” with a professional dog trainer has traditionally been held off until about 6 months. However, some dog experts believe that this isn’t healthy as puppies can learn many bad habits before their training starts. They believe it’s better to start formal training as early as possible to prevent bad habits from being learned and, later, unlearned and re-taught. (Which can be much more difficult.)

Now that you know the basics about how early puppy training can begin, I’m sure you’d like to find out more, including the basics of crate training, potty training, and other training methods. If so, please continue reading. Below, I’ve got the answers you seek and some great tips and advice.

When to Start Puppy Potty Training

Potty training is one of the essential skills that every puppy needs to master, and as soon as possible, too. (Unless you enjoy cleaning up their nasty, stinky, sticky messes, of course.) Most experts recommend that potty training for your puppy begins between 12 and 16 weeks of age. The reason is simple; by this age, your puppy should have gained enough control over their bladder and bowel to hold it in when necessary.

One caveat about puppy potty training is that if you adopt an older puppy, their potty training may take longer. That’s because your new puppy pal has probably been defecating and urinating in their cage and has acquired some horrible habits because of it. It will take longer because you need to reshape their behavior to get the potty training results you need.

When to Start Puppy Crate Training

Crate training, while somewhat controversial, is considered one of the top training tools for puppies. Experts recommend that you begin crate training your puppy as soon as you can, especially if you’ve just adopted your new puppy pal. That way, they will get used to their crate and begin to see it as a place where they’re safe, secure, and comfy.

My suggestion is that you purchase your new puppy’s crate before you bring them home from the shelter (or wherever you’ve adopted them). That way, you can start using the crate right away as soon as they arrive. One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need a crate that’s large enough to fit your puppy once they grow into a full-sized adult dog. 

When to Start Puppy Leash Training

Leash training is something that can be essential depending on where you live, your pup, and your surroundings. Surprisingly, you can start training your puppy on a leash as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age. That’s because, like a sponge, they will absorb knowledge quickly. 

It’s best to start with a smaller, lightweight leash that doesn’t weigh their little puppy body down. One excellent tip is to attach the leash to your puppy’s collar and let them drag it around the house. (Give them treats for not trying to bite, chew or destroy it.) If they get upset by having the leash attached, remove it until the next day to avoid negative feelings your pup might form about it.

When to Start Puppy Socialization Training

As with many other training methods, you can start socialization training at about 7 to 8 weeks. One caveat is that your puppy should have received their first round of vaccinations before socialization starts, especially if it’s with other puppies. (Around humans, the chance of your puppy picking up a disease is practcally nil.) 

You should also ensure your pup has had their first round of deworming before socialization begins. Then, once your puppy reaches about 12 weeks, you can start higher levels of socialization. At your local dog park, for example, or with the neighbor’s dog(s).

When to Start Puppy Trick and Skill Training

Teaching your puppy tricks and skills is a wonderful way to bond with them, ensure they’re happy, and, frankly, have some fun with them too. Fetching sticks and balls, catching a frisbee, shaking hands with their paw, and other tricks and skills can be very advantageous for your puppy. Knowing these skills will allow them to gain confidence and grow into a well-adjusted and mature adult.

Experts recommend starting trick and skill training in the first few weeks after adopting your pupper. That being said, you can begin teaching your puppy new tricks and skills whenever you like, even after they’ve become an adult dog. Unlike the old adage, you can teach an older dog new tricks.

Puppy Training Schedule by Age

While all puppies are different and learn at different speeds, you can generally start training them at about the same age. Yes, it might take longer if they’re younger or older, but a few days or weeks difference is no big deal. Below is a puppy training schedule by age, with most of the training methods you’ll need to raise a healthy, happy pup. 

6 to 10 Weeks

  • Potty training
  • Crate training
  • Basic obedience commands
  • Socialization skills
  • Chewing and mouthing behavior training

10 to 12 Weeks

  • More advanced obedience training
  • Leash and harness training
  • More intense socialization
  • Impulse control training
  • Threshold training when entering your home or other location

3 to 4 Months

  • Stay and Leave It command training
  • Heel training
  • More advanced socialization training

4 to 6 Months

  • Longer walks on their leash
  • More complex command training
  • Weaning off of treats as rewards for learning a new skill

6 Months to 1 Year

  • Command training at a more advanced level
  • Stay structured and firm with all training methods

Final Thoughts

How early can puppy training begin?  As we’ve seen today, it depends on the training, the puppy, their age, and several other factors. You can start training them with simple commands at a very young age, no doubt. Typically, that’s about 7 to 8 weeks, although you can start earlier if you like. (Your results might not be amazing, so be patient.)

Did you like today’s blog about how early you can start puppy training? I hope so and that it gave you the answers you were seeking. If you have more questions or want to learn other aspects of raising a puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. They’re filled with helpful tidbits, tips, and advice you can use to become the best puppy parent and raise a healthy, happy puppy.