Young dogs go through a num­ber of phys­i­cal and men­tal stages as they grow and it’s impor­tant that we keep this in mind as we train.

Pup­pies in the 8 weeks ‑4.5 month stage are grow­ing quick­ly, but men­tal­ly are very imma­ture with a very short atten­tion span.  They still retain a high lev­el of depen­den­cy on their own­ers which trans­lates to a desire to please.  At this stage this will­ing­ness makes it fair­ly easy to train the basic com­mands, and an excel­lent time to set the ground rules for what you expect down the road.  You need to clear­ly estab­lish the house rules now to be effec­tive lat­er.  Often, the pup­py will chal­lenge the youngest and small­est in the house and they tend to see them as play­mates.  Teach­ing young chil­dren how to han­dle the pup respect­ful­ly is very impor­tant — they’re not stuffed animals!

 Behav­iors that are total­ly com­mon in pup­pies might seem cute now, but will not be as endear­ing in an adult dog.  It is best to man­age them now before they become ingrained.  Behav­ior such as beg­ging, nip­ping and chew­ing in play, jump­ing up and get­ting on the fur­ni­ture are nor­mal con­cerns – but they can trans­late into big prob­lems down the road.  Set out your house rules con­sis­tent­ly and show your pup­py pos­i­tive alter­na­tive behav­iors, such as redi­rect­ing to a soft flop­py toy when they want to grab your pantleg.

All train­ing is cumu­la­tive – even small activ­i­ties can help improve  the total learn­ing of your dog.  Train­ing a dog to come when called is not just about them under­stand­ing what the com­mand “come” means, but know­ing that they will be reward­ed when they lis­ten to you.

Pup­pies are not good at polic­ing them­selves – they nat­u­ral­ly need to chew, may not have excel­lent blad­der con­trol yet and don’t have a clear under­stand­ing of what is yours or theirs.  There­fore, it is impor­tant to lim­it your puppy’s range both when you’re at home and when you’re away.

Crate train­ing can be very effec­tive for this when done humane­ly, and can be the dif­fer­ence between com­ing home to a pup­py who you are as hap­py to see as they are to see you.  Acci­dents from too much room to roam are going to hap­pen in a young dog – and it is up to the own­er to help the pup­py be suc­cess­ful.  Baby gates to con­trol the amount of free­dom your pup­py has are an excel­lent means of let­ting the dog be with the fam­i­ly while not allow­ing them to wan­der out of sight and get in trouble.

Long days at home alone can be just too much for a pup­py, and if giv­en a chance they will look for ways to enter­tain them­selves that might not be so accept­able to you.  A “safe” room, such as a laun­dry or fenced off base­ment area, can be an ide­al alter­na­tive to a crate.   You can leave toys, a chew bones and maybe a cor­ner with pee pad/paper if you have to be away for too long.  This way you can pos­si­bly crate at night and have a safe space for the pup­py dur­ing the day – or vice-ver­sa.  The gen­er­al rule of thumb is that a pup­py can only be suc­cess­ful at house­train­ing for as many hours as they are months old.  When they’re up and active­ly play­ing though, 30 to 45 min­utes is appro­pri­ate. Work­ing towards help­ing your dog be suc­cess­ful at being alone is very impor­tant in how your rela­tion­ship develops.