Look how fast I can run! Hey, what’s that over there? I’m a bundle of furry energy, and I have no intention of slowing down. Mom says I’m in my juvenile stage, which means I’m busy playing, wrestling and biting. I’m also testing my limits — and my aching mouth makes me want to chew everything in sight! — so please be patient with me. I’m getting pretty good at walking next to my people, and I’m learning to only potty outside. What a smart puppy I am!

"At this age, your puppy is growing fast, alternating between bursts of energy and long stretches of sleep. Starting your puppy on a daily schedule will help to streamline his transition into your home and potty training. Your new puppy is becoming more and more inquisitive and is receptive to new people and other puppies, making this the optimal time for socialization. His first veterinary visit will be getting him off on the right paw toward a long, healthy life."

Dr. Jules Benson

Petplan Chief Veterinary Medical Officer

puppy kindergarten

In the last chapter, we mentioned puppy kindergarten, which should continue until your pup is 6-months-old to ensure proper socialization. As your puppy becomes more engaged in his surroundings, new skills can be taught and mastered during these classes. Bonus? Your bond will deepen as you spend this quality time together.

“Basic training” at these classes can include commands such as:

Before your puppy can read, he has to learn the alphabet! The dog obedience training video below introduces three core commands — come, sit and stay — that are easy for both you and your pup to master. Need another reason to practice them? They can literally save your best friend’s life!

munch, munch! toys & teething

Puppies need to chew. During much of your pup’s young life, he will be exploring the world using his mouth and finding relief during the teething period (thankfully only up to about 6 months of age). The perfect outlet is of course, TOYS! Shopping for your pup’s toys can make you feel like a kid again, but it’s important to know how to pick the paw-fect ones. A wide variety of types of toys will help give your puppy an outlet for appropriate chewing, physical and mental stimulation.

Toys are meant to be fun, but the wrong toys (or those that have been “well-loved”) could turn into a threat to your puppy’s health. Selecting toys that can’t be ingested, watching the wear and tear of toys (stuffing comes out) can make all the difference. Treats like rawhides can be a choking hazard and any type of toy that can have pieces chewed off can potentially block the gastrointestinal tract. It is always a good idea to supervise your puppy during play so playtime stays fun!

The wrong toys can also damage your puppy’s teeth. Raw and even synthetic bones can be too hard, causing puppy to break teeth when chomping down. Many veterinarians recommend trying a test when selecting a “smile-friendly” toy for your new puppy: if you can bend it with your hands OR dent the surface with your thumb nail, it’s safe.

Sometimes puppies and older dogs will get a toy and settle down on to chew on it when they are feeling antsy or bored. They will even chew until they doze off to sleep! Keeping durable toys available in your pup’s crate will also help to keep them calm and provide distraction for when you’re not there.

If you want your puppy to chew more, select edible chew items. A favorite is the rubber Kong toy, which can be filled with the puppy’s kibble, capped with a tablespoon of peanut butter and frozen overnight. Your puppy will love the challenge of licking the cap off and devouring what’s inside!

teething tail: abby the shark

“When we adopted Abby from the shelter, they guessed she was part Shepherd and part Collie. She also seemed to be part shark when she was teething! Her razor puppy teeth were into everything: our dirty laundry, our surround-sound wiring, even our limbs. We tried various teething puppy toys, but she rejected them all. Then I learned an easy trick that saved us from those gnawing teeth — simply put a wet washcloth or rag in the freezer for a few hours and you’ve got a chew toy. Abby loved it! I’m sure it felt great on her sore teeth, and it made a fun crunching sound that she enjoyed as well. And we enjoyed no longer having holes in our socks!”

– Jackie Bouchard, PoochSmooches.com

a walk in the park

“Hey, what’s this around my neck? Is that a new tail or toy to play with?” All sorts of new sensations will be happening the first few times you introduce your puppy to a collar and leash, and their reaction is usually priceless! But Moms and Dads, don’t despair — your pup will get used to it in due time and will soon become excited every time the leash comes out.

Around 4 months of age, most puppies are more than happy to go out on a walk with you. The collar and leash are key “gear” for outdoor safety and training success. How to paw it forward:

  • Get your pup used to the collar or harness while you’re still in the house, and fit it securely so there’s no slipping away!
  • Snap on a solid nylon, rope or leather leash (retractable leashes don’t offer enough control)
  • Keep practice sessions short and simple — your puppy’s attention span is only about 15 minutes long!
  • Keep the leash loose, coaxing your pup forward with treats and praise. Don’t pull them along — be patient and reward forward movement toward you.

Puppies will often get the hang of leash walking and want to take off, sniffing everything in sight and exploring their world. This pulling can be hard on your hands and on their little neck. If your puppy pulls, stop walking and have him stop and focus on you. Reward this “paws” with a small treat and repeat this process as regularly as needed. He’ll get the idea!

crate expectations: crate training

To crate train or not to crate train, that is one of the many questions pet parents face when they bring home a new puppy! And while some pet parents may have guilt about putting that sweet little puppy (and those big brown eyes!) behind bars, just imagine what could happen if you don’t.

Free-roaming puppies can get into all sorts of trouble, including chewing power cords, falling down stairs or eating dangerous objects. And when you think about how pets under the age of 1 are actually two-and-a-half times more likely to have an injury or illness than older dogs, keeping your puppy safely in his crate when you’re not home seems like a good idea.

It is important that your puppy doesn't associate the crate with punishment, but rather sees it as a secure, comfortable, den-like environment that keeps your puppy safe from harm (and encourages better bathroom habits). Here are some tips to try for crate training a puppy:

  • size matters: Choose a crate that is big enough fir your pup to turn around, lay and stand up — but not so big that he can potty in one corner and lay in another! You might need to upgrade as your pup grows.
  • create a ritual: Just like bedtime, make sure your pup has had plenty of water and used the potty before going into the crate.
  • comfort me: Put a soft, warm blanket in the crate along with a durable toy or two.
  • such a treat! Give lots of praise and a treat once the door is closed, so your puppy learns how delightful it is to be in the crate!
  • slow and steady wins the race: Let your puppy spend short periods of time in the crate at first, and then increase the duration gradually as he matures.

playing pays

Playing games is a great way to teach your dogs to fall even more in love with her crate — and have some quality bonding time with you!

Beginner: The party room!

Goal: Teach your dog that crate = special treats.

  • Every time she goes in, give her something that will knock her socks off: a bully stick, stuffed Kong or other delicious long-lasting snack.
  • Praise her for eating it in the crate.
  • As soon as she comes out, take the snack away. Your dog will soon learn that if she wants her wonderful snack, she needs to eat it in the party room!

Intermediate: Crate retrieves

Goal: Associate the crate with fun.

  • During playtime, toss a tug toy into the crate. Use TONS of verbal praise when your dog goes into the crate after it.
  • While your dog is in the crate, have an enthusiastic game of tug together. The second any of her paws step out, stop.
  • If she steps back in, resume play. If not, toss the toy back in and start over. Your pup will soon learn that fun happens when she is fully in the crate.

Advanced: Send outs

Goal: Make the crate home base!

  • Standing beside the crate, give a verbal cue (“kennel up,” “crate,” etc.) and toss a few tiny treats into the crate.
  • Allow your dog to go into the crate to get the snacks, and toss more treats intermittently while she is in the crate.
  • Once your dog knows the command, close the door with her inside the crate, but do not latch it. Slowly open the door, closing it all the way if your dog tries to bolt.
  • When your dog can stand inside the crate and not break for the exit, give a release command (“okay,” “release,” etc.) and encourage her to come out, but do not praise or give a treat.
  • Repeat, varying the distance from which you send the dog to the crate, the distractions going on outside of the crate, and the amount of time your dog remains in the crate.

number 1 & number 2: potty adventures

Potty training a puppy can be a challenging time. After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go! (Even if it’s on your brand-new rug!) But don’t fear — the potty is near! Read on and make a pee — oops, bee! — line to potty-training success.

It’s important to decide if you are going to train your puppy with “puppy pads” indoors or if you’ll encourage them to use the great outdoors only. This may depend on your lifestyle — after all, if you live eight floors up in an apartment building, going outdoors may not be practical every time it is time to, well, wee! But whether you are training indoors or outdoors, the principles are the same.

Pee, Treat, Repeat: During the first 3-4 months of potty training, always take your pup to the exact same place when it’s time for a potty break. When your pup “goes,” he leaves a little signature there, so his and smell (and sight) will naturally be drawn back to the same location. As soon as your pup does his “business,” offer plenty of praise and a small treat or reward. This tells him, “Hey, you did a great job!” and he’s more likely to repeat the performance there the next time! Consistency is key for successful potty training.

Stick to the schedule: When your pup is young, frequent breaks are necessary — the rule of paw is usually one hour for every month old your puppy is. However, as he gets older and is able to “hold it,” going out three to four times a day may be sufficient (that includes at night!). Establish a schedule that works with your puppy’s body, taking potty breaks:

  1. Right after you wake up in the morning
  2. 20 minutes after each meal (digestion helps things…move along!)
  3. Once in the middle of the day
  4. Right before getting in bed for the night

Oops! Missing the Mark: Accidents are bound to happen, and some of this isn’t your (or your puppy’s) fault. Puppies can’t fully, consciously control their bladder or bowel movements until they are 16 weeks of age, and even after, it’s okay if he has the occasional slip-up. But once they are a little older, or if the accidents happen consistently, we recommend a little potty-training trouble-shooting or a check-up with your veterinarian.

trouble shooting

Sometimes potty training doesn’t quite go to plan, and that’s ok! Take a deep breath and take things one step at the time. But if your puppy is If you suspect your puppy is having trouble, talk to your veterinarian and check out our most common “trouble spots” that owners encounter during this time:

  • Does your puppy urinate the moment you walk through the door or when meeting new people?

    Submissive urination may be the cause. Talk to your vet about the best ways to help your puppy gain confidence — and control of his bladder!

  • Does your puppy like to “clean up” a poopy accident? Or pillage the litter box?

    This nasty habit is called “coprophagia” but most of us know of it as “poo eating.” It is fairly common in puppies and older dogs, but contrary to pup-ular belief, it is rarely caused by a nutritional deficiency. Most dogs simply like the smell and taste! Eww! The best way to prevent this is crate training and avoidance. Pick up after your pup diligently and keep litter boxes out of reach.

  • Does your male puppy feel inclined to making his mark?

    So your older male puppy has been doing GREAT with the potty training until one day you find a spot here or there. What’s going on? Urine marking may be the answer, especially if you catch him hiking his leg up on your recliner! The urine of male dogs leaves a “scent trail” in order to communicate with other dogs. It can be curbed (or prevented) by neutering your puppy around 6 months of age and incorporating training measures. Continue to reinforce proper potty habits and use an enzymatic cleaner to help prevent return trips!