Good Start Program - Training Puppies from 8 - 13 Weeks of Age
1. Establish in puppies' minds that we are pack leaders. We teach this with control instead of punishments. We teach the wait before eating in a crate and teach them to wait until their name is called or until they hear a release command before passing through doors and gates. We focus on the leave it command teaching puppies that all things are ours and that we share them at our discretion. We use leashes, pens, and crates instead of old fashioned training methods such as the alpha roll and other punishments.
2. Begin teaching good manners (taking treats gently, not jumping or mouthing, not chewing furniture). At 8 weeks, puppies are never petted or given any attention whatsoever unless they are on the floor without feet on us. By 9 weeks, we require puppies to sit for attention. We don't allow puppies to chew on us (ever) and if they do, we leave them. For those puppies that are insistent on mouthing us, we just stand back from them until they relate to us without their mouths. We accomplish this by either having them in a pen or gated area or on a leash that is tied to something so that they cannot get to us until they behave. We don't teach an off command believing that it is better to teach puppies never to get on you to begin with. We teach the no command for chewing inapproprate things such as furniture and give them appropriate things to chew instead.
3. Start early obedience training (sit, down, stay, wait, walking on leash, coming when called). The most important command we teach our young puppies is to focus on us and to understand the look command. We also teach puppies the word no.
4. Provide socialization (just plain attention and love from a variety of people). We also socialize them with several gentle dogs.
5. Lay a good foundation for house training. We begin crate training by feeding puppies in crates and using our positive methods of creating a love of a crate. See our page on Building a Desire for a Crate for more details. Our puppies are not closed in crates overnight until they are about 12-13 weeks of age. Instead, they have free access to outside through a doggy door at night time while we are working on building crate desire and bladder control during the day-time. During the day-time starting at 9 weeks, we make heavy use of crates and pens and have our puppies on a schedule rotating between obedience training sessions inside and outside, socialization sessions, time in crates, meals in crates, quiet play in pens (separately and in pairs) with toys, and free play with each other. All of this is interspersed with many trips outside to potty.
What can you expect from a puppy that has finished this program
At 3 months of age, puppies will be pretty well-trained to sit for attention, to come when called, and to sit and down on command at my home and with me. However, if you have little experience with training dogs, your puppy might not respond the same way with you as he does with me. We will therefore spend time with you when you pick up your puppy showing you how to work with your puppy and teach you how to continue the training yourself. Though puppies should leave us with a good start in having good manners and a basic knowledge of the listed simple commands, puppies this young will need to practice these skills with new owners or they will tend to loose what they've learned. They are too young for what they've learned to have become a true habit.
What you can expect with regard to house-training at 13 weeks of age is a puppy that is consistently doing his business outside as long as you are consistent in getting him outsie when he needs to potty. Most puppies at this age need taking out about every hour, some every 45 minutes if they are left loose in the house. Some will hold it inside for 2 hours or more. 13-week old puppies are able to have a two-hour nap in a crate and because we've spent so much time with positive experiences in the crate, very few of ours whine during crate-time. Between 12 and 13 weeks of age, we begin crating them overnight. Our night is about 7 hours long. Almost all of our puppies sleep quietly during these 7 hours. Most, if not all of our puppies could probably go longer. They rarely complain about being in the crates first thing in the mornings when I get up and they are used to sitting in crates for sometimes up to an hour before I let them out. (I don't walk into the kitchen to find them chomping at the bit to get out of their crates.) At 12 and 13 weeks, puppies still have small bladders and most will have accidents if you aren't consistent in getting them outside when they need to go. Though there is still a lot of work to be done at this age, we've done the necessary work during the hardest 5 weeks and we are available to give advice on how to continue it.