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Training a Puppy: The First 8 Things You Need to Do

Take a break from those cute puppy cuddles to make sure your new pooch learns these essential life skills.

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Cute welsh corgi pembroke puppy dog in a crate training sittingVellicos/Shutterstock

Get Them to Love Their Crate

It’s not easy learning how to train a puppy, but crate training is an excellent way to help them settle into your home and get them on a schedule. Once your puppy adjusts to its new schedule he will learn to anticipate bathroom breaks and bedtime, making your life a lot easier.

Diana Lipari, who breeds and shows beagles with the American Kennel Club, had these wise words for first time pet owners:

“A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that once the dog is six months to a year they can let them roam freely. If they’re home by themselves they may get bored, they want something to do, and that means ripping up your sofa. So it’s always good to train puppies to love their crates. One way to do that is to give them treats every time they go in their crates and feed them from their crates. They’ll learn to love their crates and then you can leave them in the crates when you go out, as long as it’s not a really long time.”

You better know these cleaning tips every pet owner should know, too, just in case.

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Female pomeranian dog peeing on street concrete groundBeer5020/Shutterstock

Teach Bathroom Rules

All American Kennel Club experts we talked to named house-training as one of the top things you need to do to once you bring your puppy home. Karen Wagner, a German Shepherd Dog breeder, recommends teaching your puppy “the house rules” as soon as you get her. Be firm: If your dog doesn’t learn these rules as a puppy, she probably won’t follow them as an adult. Crate training, leash training and positive reinforcement will go a long way in teaching your puppy to use the bathroom only outside. Don’t miss the 53 mistakes every dog owner makes.

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The white puppyDet-anan/Shutterstock

Walk Them on a Leash

It may seem obvious, but playful puppies don’t always walk easily on a leash. Practice makes perfect in this case. Training a puppy to walk calmly and respectfully on a leash will help you when you socialize and housebreak them. “If you can’t control your dog on a leash, then you’re not going to go very far,” says Theresa Viesto, a Labrador retriever breeder and handle. Build one of these fun projects for your pet and they will love it!

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meeting pointPhant/Shutterstock

Get Them to Socialize

Viesto recommends socializing your puppy as soon as they’re old enough.

“Drag them around to pet stores, parks, anywhere dogs are allowed,” she told us.

Socializing your puppy when he is young will build his confidence, make him friendlier toward strangers and other dogs, and help him learn to remain calm and respectful outside of your house.

After the dog park, make sure your dog has a relaxing place to plop down like one of these 14 adorable dog beds.

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Blue purebreed french buldog indoorsAndreea Mihaela Rosca/Shutterstock

Teach Them to Sit on Command

Teaching a puppy to sit or lay down may look like a fun trick, but it is actually a valuable skill. Use the command “sit” to prevent your puppy from jumping on visitors, be respectful during meal times, and as a gateway to teach other useful skills such as “stay” and “come.” Once your adorable puppy grows into a 90-pound dog, you’ll be glad you have this command down.

You’ve got to see these adorable photos of dogs dressed up for work.

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Train Them To Not Bite

Puppies like to nip a lot while their teeny-tiny canines grow in. But sometimes they don’t realize how hard their little bites can be. It’s important to teach them not to bite you or others while they’re still young. If your pet nips you too hard, say, “Ow!” in a loud, high-pitched voice similar to a puppy yelp. This will warn them that they bit too hard and tell them to back off. Give your doggie a treat or say, “Good boy/girl,” when they listen.

Another clever alternative is to ignore them. Turning around and tucking your hands in your armpits acts as a calming signal, which is “a minor form of attention withdrawal,” Kathy Santos, a dog-training expert told the American Kennel Club. Never yell or physically punish your puppy, because your furry friend will just interpret it as another form of attention, even if it’s negative.

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Pug Puppy Playing in PlaypenCandice Pun/Shutterstock

Get Them Used to Being Home Alone

A pup’s first time alone can be extremely stressful because dogs are naturally social creatures. Canine independence is a good goal to keep in mind when learning how to train a puppy. It’s best to start teaching your dog how to be independent while you’re still in the house by placing them in a crate or exercise pen. Turn it into a happy, relaxing environment with toys and food to keep them preoccupied and satiated while you’re gone.

Once your puppy is in the kennel, close the door quietly and walk out of the room. After a minute or two, return with a yummy treat or words of praise. Repeat the process and gradually increase the time you’re away from your dog. If he or she continues to remain quiet and calm, reward them. Each time you return, make sure you don’t coddle them too much because that will only make them miss you more when you leave. After a few days, you and your pup should be built up to a fairly long period of time apart so that you can go off to work in peace without your dog whimpering too much.

You can spoil your pet later with one of these really cool high tech toys.

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Golden retriever dog puppy playing with toy while lying on denPhotology1971/Shutterstock

Give Them Something to Chew (Other Than the Furniture)

Nothing is worse than coming home to find a pillow torn up or your shoes chewed to pieces. Much like nipping, a teething pup also tends to chew anything and everything to relieve their sore gums. This is the optimal time for you to encourage “appropriate chewing” by letting your dog know which things they can and can’t chew. Give them toys that they can pick up and carry around in their mouth like a ball or rubber KONG toy. Try these home remedies to stop your dog from chewing the furniture.

“I prefer Nylabones, Greenies and dental chewsticks since they encourage appropriate chewing while combating dental disease,” writes veterinarian Kristy Conn for

Don’t toss them an old shoe or sock to gnaw on or else they’ll think those are okay to put in their mouths. This step should hopefully curb your pup’s bad chewing habits. If you catch your dog with an off-limits item in their mouth, direct them towards their chew toy. Then pat your pup’s head and praise them for chewing the right correct thing.

Here’s what you can do about those hideous claw marks your pet will leave in the house.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest