Congratulations on meeting your new best friend! Getting a new dog can be one of the best things you’ll ever do, but it can also be a really overwhelming experience. There is so much to do and to know and to teach them. We are here to help you navigate how long it will really be before your dog is potty trained and on their way to impressing all of your friends with their double axel compound switch flip.
Every Dog is Different
Unfortunately, there is no quick answer to how long it takes to train a dog. There are a lot of factors that determine how quickly a dog will pick up a behavior: age, breed, temperament, time investment, and difficulty of the task, just to name a few. We can provide some basic timelines for common behaviors, but keep in mind that your pup might take more or less time–and that’s perfectly normal!
|Desired Behavior||Length of time|
|Potty training||4-6 months (for puppies)|
|Recall (come)||3-6 months|
|Crate training||days? weeks? six months?|
5 Recipes for Success in Training
1. Start Early
The earlier you can start teaching your pup desired behaviors, the better! Puppies aren’t ready for more complicated training until closer to six months of age, but potty training, socialization, attention getting, and simple commands like “sit” can begin as soon as you and your pup feel comfortable.
The saying goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This isn’t exactly true, but older dogs do tend to have picked up bad habits along the way that make it harder for them to learn. If you are training an older dog, stick with it! They will pick it up with enough practice!
After a long day of work, when all you want to do is open the door, put down your bags, and hug your floof ball, it can be hard to resist greeting your dog when they are jumping all over you, but consistency really is key in dog training. If you are training your dog to keep all four paws on the ground before they get a hello, then you need all four paws on the ground every time.
Don’t forget that this consistency remains important for your dog’s entire life. If you stop reinforcing good behaviors or start rewarding bad ones, your dog will find the path of least resistance. Stick with it!
3. Time Investment
We all have busy lives and fitting dog training around all of your other responsibilities can be difficult. The more time that you put into training your dog, though, the faster they will learn new behaviors. Keep your training sessions short to keep your pup’s interest, but hold the sessions often. A dog who is training five days a week will learn more quickly than a dog training one day a week. Remember, practice makes perfect!
4. Get Everyone Involved
This can be the most challenging part of training your dog. If everyone in the house isn’t on board, your pup won’t know what is expected of them. All of your family members need to be on the same page and dedicated to following the new rules, schedule, and rewards for your dog. If your five year old keeps sneaking food into the hungry mouth under the table, your dog won’t ever learn not to beg.
5. Make it fun!
Having a dog is a blast and training should be fun too! This is a great way to bond with your pup and create lasting memories.
Sometimes, we get caught up in the end goal of the training so much, that we can overdo it. When we get frustrated, our dogs can sense it and they get frustrated too. Take a break and give them some love when things are getting tough and you’ll see more consistent progress.
What to do if training is taking longer than you thought
So you’ve been trying and trying to train your dog and they just don’t seem to be getting it? You aren’t alone.
Don’t Panic. You probably aren’t doing anything wrong and you’re dog is going to be just fine. As we said, some dogs just take a little more time for a behavior to “click”. Just because your pup is struggling with one behavior doesn’t mean your in for a lifetime of untrained madness.
Bad habits are hard to break. If you’ve adopted a dog, chances are they’ve had plenty of time to pick up some bad habits. Training new behaviors can be a lot easier than breaking those ingrained behaviors that have been rewarded up until now. Stay patient with it.
Make sure you’re being clear. Choose a clear command and try to use it sparingly. Saying, “Sit! Sit. Sit, Buster. Sit. Sit, Buster.” will make Buster so desensitized to the word “sit” that it will be hard to get him to react to it anymore. If this happens, simply choose a new word. Just make sure that it is short and direct.
Try a tastier reward. Your pup has got to really want what you’re selling if their going to go through all the trouble of trying to figure out what you are trying to get them to do. It’s hard work and they should be rewarded accordingly. Break out the good treats (or maybe even some slices of cheese?) especially if your pup is very food motivated.
Take a break. You deserve it! If you spend hours trying to drill a behavior into your dogs head, you are going to be tired and frustrated and your dog will be too. Pups work best with shorter frequent sessions so they have time to rest their brains and they don’t get too overwhelmed.
Keep up the good work! You’re doing great! Training is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will get to the finish line as long as you stick with it.
Ask for help. If you are really stuck or if there is a particular behavior that you’re worried about that you don’t know how to tackle, ask for help! There are a lot of pet professionals who can help you and your pup get to where you need to be. Don’t be ashamed to contact a professional trainer for some tips or some training sessions. That’s what they’re there for.
Most important behaviors to train
House training/house breaking/potty training Whatever you choose to call it, this is usually where people start with a new puppy. You can start potty training your puppy as early as you bring them home. Just make sure to stay on a consistent schedule and remember that accidents are totally normal. Little buds have little bladders.
Leash training As soon as your pup has all of their shots, you can start taking them outside, but feel free to get them used to a collar and a leash before hand. Practicing walking inside where there are fewer distractions is also a great idea. If you’re worried about pulling, concentrate on teaching your pup to follow you on the leash and as soon as they start pulling, plant yourself and don’t start moving again until they come back to you. They’ll learn pretty quickly that they won’t get anywhere without you. Leash training is never truly finished. Even after years of good behavior, if you let your dog start getting away with pulling, they will take full advantage of it.
Socialization It is really important to get your dog used to as many different kinds of people and animals and situations as possible so that they don’t react badly when they come across them. Dogs lunge or bark when they’re scared or confused and so it is our job to make sure they know that cars or wheelchairs or pigeons or little kids or even other dogs aren’t going to hurt them or anyone they care about (i.e. you!). You can find socialization check lists online to make sure you introduce your dog to a diverse group of stimuli.
Crate training If you’re choosing to crate train your dog, it’s important that they view their crate as a safe space that they feel comfortable in and not a scary cage that they get locked in when you go out. Fill it with your pups favorite toys, leave the door open, reward your dog, even feed them in their crate! There are many ways to make sure your pup can’t wait to take a little nap in their happy place.
Obedience training When we think of training, we tend to think of obedience training. Training your pup to sit, stay, come, and lay down may seem like no brainers, but they are essential in making sure that your dog stays safe. All of these commands can be used in real world situations in case your dog gets off leash or is confronted by something that frightens them. You will be thankful that your dog has a good foundation in these commands and you can even build off of them when you’re ready for some fancy tricks!
The world is your oyster Remember that double axel compound switch flip? Now is your moment. Once you’re comfortable with your dog’s basic training, it’s time to get creative! Does your dog love to play fetch? Teach them to bring you the newspaper! Does your dog have boundless energy? Tire them out by teaching them some flips! Is your dog just the biggest cuddle monster in the world? Teach them to slow dance. The possibilities are endless, but no matter what you end up choosing, you and your dog will be the life of the party!