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How To Raise The Perfect Puppy

You've decided on a breed that would match your lifestyle, found a breeder, (maybe using our Good Breeder Checklist) and brought home your puppy and now you've realised that you have a totally blank slate that needs to learn, well, everything. How do you narrow down what to teach and when? How do you fit it all in and make sure you're leaving nothing out? It's overwhelming to say the least. That's why we've put together this checklist, it covers absolutely everything your puppy needs and the best times to do it.

If you're unsure about any of the terms or training we've linked all of our relevant blog posts at the bottom!

Note: Not all of these items need to be scheduled training sessions. Some should just be bits that you practice throughout the day. I.e: Handling your puppy's paws can be a formal training session with food rewards but it can also mean touching them regularly, like when you cuddle with them.

8-12 weeks : 2-3 months

Bonding - This should be your main priority. Get to know your puppy! Build a relationship with them through play and affection. 8 weeks old is a baby, don't forget that.

Handling - Touching their paws, ears, checking their teeth, tail, lifting them if a small breed. Think of all the ways a vet would need to touch your dog and get them used to it.

Reward marker - I'd hand feed all meals primarily for relationship but while you're at it you can lure Sit, Down and Heel positions and introduce your reward marker. A fun activity for both of you that will pay off later.

Crate training - Your breeder may have started this for you but this will help nail down your toilet training in days.

Toilet training - This will be a part of your daily puppy experience, not a specific training drill.

Environmental exposure - Take your puppy out! Carry them to the park and let them experience outside. Take them places in the car. Introduce them to the world. This is absolutely crucial for this age period.

12-16 weeks : 3-4 months

Handling - Continue it!

Reward marker - I added Spin to our Sit, Down and Heel tricks.

Release marker - Now I'd introduce a release marker, definitely around the crate (if you haven't already) and around doors, street crossings etc.

Leave it - They'll be able to begin building some impulse control around this age and leave it is an important safety skill.

Environmental exposure - They can walk out in public now so build up their world even further. Spend time bonding with your dog outdoors, play with them and build an outdoor relationship. Find noisy construction work or busy roads so they can get used to them.

Specific exposure: If your dog has any fears like bath time, nail trims or hoovering up, work through them in small steps.

Teething - Pause tug style play when your puppy begins teething, around 4 months.

16-26 weeks: 4-6 months

Place training - I like to introduce Place around 5 months old, asking a puppy younger than that to hold a duration stay is unfair.

Lead pressure - Now that they're comfortable outside you can start to teach lead pressure in preparation for loose lead walking.

Duration marker - You have your reward and release marker words, now that they're old enough to hold duration stays you can introduce your duration marker.

26-52 weeks: 6-12 months

Recall - I would say that you should work on recall the entire time but puppies are naturally clingy and will gravitate to you. Around this age they will begin exploring more and no matter how good your early recall is, you'll probably need to do some concentrated recall training.

Loose lead walking - They may have got it nailed with the lead pressure before now but if not, now you can.

Extra-curricular - If you want to do any fun training like scentwork, rear end awareness or agility, I'd start now!

Disclaimer: This is a generic plan and doesn't factor in more specific things like working-line breed requirements, genetically anxious dogs etc. It is roughly how we raised our working-line GSD x Husky mix but all dogs mature at different ages and what works for some may not work for all. For example, our dog Mars was incredible at scentwork at 6 months old but he couldn't Down without an extensive lure until 9 months. If you would like a more tailored plan, please get in touch.

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