Puppy training tips and tricks.


You got a new puppy. And now you get to keep it from ruining your carpet. Here are some dos and don’ts for training a puppy from pros on Thumbtack.

Useful dog training tips from the pros. 

Tip #1: Pick specific places where the puppy will eat, sleep and pee.

Your puppy is coming home to a new environment — maybe even new family members or an older dog. Dog owners can help ease the transition by prepping the puppy’s spaces:

  • Get a crate where your puppy will sleep, put it somewhere specific and don’t move it.
  • Prep a specific restricted area where the puppy will be most of the time (until it learns to behave).
  • Place a chew toy in there to make the space more comfortable for your dog.
  • Finally, pick an outdoor “bathroom” location.

Creating structure around these three spaces will be useful for house training your pup.

Tip #2: Create a routine for designated spaces.

A good thing to remember is that, like people, puppies need structure. Dog trainers recommend supervising your puppy in its restricted space during the potty training stage.

Once you notice that your puppy needs to “go,” take it to the outdoor spot you picked and use the same path or door to get there every time. You should also take your puppy to this “bathroom” spot as soon as it wakes up.

Eventually, the dog will recognize the spot and learn what it’s for. 

puppy yawning and sleeping

Tip #3: Get the right supplies.

When buying supplies for basic training, keep the size and breed of your new puppy in mind. Make sure that your equipment — like a leash, harness, or crate — fits the dog properly. If the harness you buy doesn’t fit your dog, it won’t be safe if your dog reacts unpredictably on a walk.

Put cozy bedding in your puppy’s crate (and obviously, don’t try to force a mastiff into a teacup poodle’s crate). If your puppy feels comfortable, it won’t want to pee or poop inside its cozy space. This is how your puppy learns to “hold it in.”

Tip #4: Use positive reinforcement.

Accidents happen — in dog training as in life. But don’t punish or yell when training your puppy. Patience is key and punishment only scares young puppies. It doesn’t help them learn.

This is especially important for crate training. The crate is supposed to be a safe place for your pet. But if you use the crate as a punishment, the puppy will make negative associations with it.

Instead, reward good behavior to get more out of your training sessions. Use verbal praise — like calling your puppy a “good boy” — and give your puppy yummy treats. You’re not just being nice. These are essential training methods (and they encourage basic obedience, too).

>>Learn how the pros do it. Hire a top-rated puppy trainer near you.

Tip #5: Learn how to leash.

A puppy needs to ease into new things, including getting used to walking with you on a leash. Make it clear who’s walking who. Don’t let your dog pull you.

Be careful when introducing your leashed pup to another dog. If it starts barking at the dog, remain calm and redirect it. Also, remember that an adult dog might view your puppy jumping up on it as a threat, even if your puppy might only be playing. 

Common mistakes of basic training.

Mistake #1: You don’t socialize your puppy.

Training your puppy is more than making sure it doesn’t ruin the carpet in your living room. Socialize your puppy in the first three months of its life. Like babies, puppies discover the world around them when they’re young. They learn faster without fear.

Remember to expose your new dog to different people, social situations, or types of dogs and animals. An undersocialized dog will get nervous or afraid easily, and no one loves an anxious dog. 

puppy playing at the beach

Mistake #2: You’re not thinking about vaccinations.

Vets won’t administer a puppy’s last shots until it’s 16 weeks old (roughly four months). So while the first three months are important for socialization, it’s also the time where your puppy is most likely to get sick or pick up a fatal illness.

Don’t take your puppy to a dog park yet. To socialize safely, dog owners can take their pooches to a puppy play group run by a professional dog service. That way, your new puppy can learn how to get along with other dogs in a sanitary environment. 

Mistake #3: You don’t create structure.

Any kind of sudden change in your puppy’s routine can lead to bad habits, and in some cases, separation anxiety. For instance, a dramatic change in how long your puppy is left alone can cause it distress. Separation anxiety leads to disruptive behaviors like excessive barking or peeing inside the house.

Remember that obedience training isn’t just making your dog do what you want it to do. It’s about creating a structured environment in which your dog feels comfortable to learn and live. As the “pack leader,” it’s your responsibility to be mindful of sudden changes that can threaten that balance.

>>Get help from pros. Here are the best puppy trainers near you. 

Mistake #4: Your timing is off.

Timing is key when it comes to potty training. If you discover a puddle five minutes late, the window to correct the behavior is already closed. You have to catch your puppy in the act, or within five seconds of it. If your puppy starts to “go” in the wrong space, clap to distract it (don’t yell), then take it outside immediately to finish.

Timing is important for rewards, too. Don’t praise the puppy mid-act, or it might get distracted and stop. (After all, no one cheers you on when you poop, and wouldn’t it weird you out if they did?) Wait until the puppy is done, then say “good dog” or give it a treat. This way, your puppy will learn to associate going to the bathroom outside with getting a reward.

puppy chewing on toy

How much does puppy training cost?  

Dogs need different things at different ages, so your dog’s age might affect how much you pay for training. Some trainers, however, have standard rates regardless of the age of the animal. Travel to a client’s home can also affect a trainer’s overall fee. Some trainers board dogs at their own location during the training process, which can also increase the cost to account for space, food and care. 

Some circumstances can also affect the total cost of a private dog trainer. For example, extreme aggression or specialized training for police dogs or service animals require additional education and skill on the part of the trainer.

If you’re concerned about cost, you can save money by joining a dog training group rather than paying for individual lessons. You can also ask for a training package. Packages not only save money, but they also often have tiered pricing, depending on the training issues you need addressed.

Get a free cost estimate based on your needs from a dog trainer near you on Thumbtack.

For more on costs, see “How much does a dog trainer cost?

Who to hire to train your puppy.

Dog trainers help with basic obedience, house training and crate training. They’ll help your new puppy become a happy, well-behaved dog. Here's a list of pros who can help you take care of your pet's needs:

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