How To Train A Puppy

Welcome to where we share our puppy training tips and experiences as assistance dog puppy raisers to help teach you how to train your puppy.

After raising puppies for the past nine years as a puppy parent, foster parent, and service/guide dog puppy raiser we have definitely learned the basic skills of how to train a puppy.


  1. megan says

    Hi Colby! I have 2 questions. I have emailed you before, my boyfriend and I have a (now) 4 month old yellow lab Tucker. He is doing so good but wer having a problem which brings me to my first question. How do we get him to drop his throw toys during playtime? He loves fetch but will not drop it. Then when I go to get it he either runs or thinks its a game. My next question is has any of tour labs gone through phases where they don’t eat much? Thanks again for your help!

    • says

      @Megan, thanks for coming back to the site! An easy way to get him to drop one toy is to have another toy handy (plush squeaky toys usually work well). We use the command “drop it” when teaching our pups to release toys. You could also try working with treats to get him to drop toys.

      That’s nice that your puppy taught you the chasing game. I actually wrote a whole article on that game: Basically, any time you start chasing your pup they will think it’s a game and run away. Conversely, try running the other ways and your puppy will chase you.

      Hopefully these tips help. Let us know how it goes. Good luck with your puppy training!

  2. Trudy says

    Hi Colby. My yellow lab is now 4 1/2 months old. I have a question about stubborness. How do I deal with it properly? She will (at least once or twice a day) plop her butt down on walks and refuse to move, look away when her name is called to walk, and end up fighting the leash (biting it, putting her paws on it). Also, when she is told “no” or “off”, she backs up and barks at us. Is this something we need to be concerned about? It is pretty frustrating. She will eventually be a hunting/companion dog, so she needs to know the world does not revolve around her! Thanks for your help!

    • says

      Hi Trudy,

      If you haven’t had a chance to attend a puppy kindergarten class I’d recommend you look into joining one.

      Here are a few things that worked for me when working with my puppies: When you’re on a walk and you’re puppy is being stubborn try to motivate her by tapping you’re leg and use a high pitch voice to ask her to “come” or “heel”. You could also use treats or a toy to try to get her to move forward on her walks. You want to make sure you don’t try and drag her by her leash when she stops otherwise she’ll probably try to bite and paw the leash. Try to get her to move forward on her own.

      When my pups bark I usually wait until they stop and then give them praise for being quiet. I’ve also tried saying a quick “shhh” which has worked to stop some pups barking and with others have not.

      Most of this sounds a lot like normal puppy behavior and sounds very similar to what I’ve experienced with my pups.

      Good luck with your new puppy!

      • Trudy says

        Thanks so much, Colby.I have followed all of your advice so far and we have a wonderful puppy! We don’t have a puppy kindergarten class in my small town, but we do have a regular obedience class, which we enrolled Peach in 5 weeks ago. The trainer cut her some slack since she was 4 1/2 months old when she started. She is now almost 6 months old and has 2 classes left. The change in her is incredible! She may graduate at the top of her class! No more stubborness on walks (she heels at my side), no more sassy back talk, sleeps well in her crate, and is housebroken. I see now that the class really taught US what to and not to do. I know some of this is, as you reminded me, normal puppy behavior and she’s outgrown some of it, but I also know some is from us being consistent and patient and her learning her place in our pack, thanks to your advice.

        • says

          Hi Trudy,

          I’m glad you got Peach in the obedience class. It really does wonders to work with a professional dog trainer especially when they can see your puppy’s behavior first hand. I’m glad everything is going well with your puppy training and thank you so much for sharing your progress with us.

          Take care,

  3. Emily says

    Heyy Colby,
    I have a few questions for you and a black lab husky cross so he is full of energy. My first question is how do I get him to stop biting me and people? Also when he is exited he piddles, is their any way of stopping this action? How do you stop a puppy from begging? Is their any way of introducing swimming to a puppy properly, ’cause I tried to get him to swim (expesually since he’s a lab). But he is not interested what-so-ever…plz help!

    • says

      Hi Emily,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! I’d recommend looking into getting a professional dog trainer for some in-home training. Here are a few things I do with my puppies. When my pups are biting I try to redirect their bites by removing my hand or whatever object their biting and replacing it with a dog toy. Try to have lots of different textured toys. I’ve also used Bitter Apple spray which works with the majority of puppies. I’ve had several puppies who piddle when excited. Most have outgrown this behavior.

      One thing I like to do is just make sure I don’t get my pups overly excited. When people come over, when you come home try to remain calm and keep your puppy as calm as possible.

      Regarding the swimming pool. I’ve had several labs and sometimes they like to swim sometimes they do not. I’ve never forced my pups to swim.

      Good luck with your training!

  4. says

    Hi Colby,
    I just got a Chocolate lab Blue Heeler mix (7 weeks) and I already had a Shih Tzu (8). They havent been getting along and I didnt know if this is normal when your introducing a puppy to an only pet. My other question is when is the best time to start teaching him the basic commands.

    • says

      Hi Abigail,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! The best thing to do is have a professional trainer take a look at the interaction between your puppy and your original dog. However, from my experience you may want to introduce them more slowly. Puppy’s can often be a little too active for older dogs. I’m really not sure of your situation, but I usually keep my pups on leash for a period of time until they learn the rules of the house. Hopefully your Shih Tzu is teaching your puppy what is appropriate and inappropriate play. If not you may have to help out and intervene during their play sessions.

      You should start training your puppy as soon as you bring them home. They are learning the moment you pick them up and it’s up to you to teach them good and bad habits as well as their basic obedience. Best of luck with your new puppy.


  5. Mark says

    Hi Colby me and my fiance has just got a 2 and a half month old german shepard and we are having a couple of issues. 1. he keeps going to the kitchen and doing his business. 2. we have named him Harvey but he does not respond to his name when he is called. 3. on a night when everyone goes to bed we put him in the kitchen and all he does is cry all the time i would be grateful for any help you could give me. thankyou :-)

  6. Kate M says

    Hi Colby, my family and I just brought home a female golden retriever about ten days ago. She is doing great with potty and crate training but we are having a difficult time curbing her biting when playing and growling when we pick her up to put her in the crate after she has bit us. What have you found is the must useful strategy to stop this behavior? I know everyone has their own opinion (growl back, whine or cry, hold her nose shut, put her in the crate) but sometimes it can be overwhelming.

    Our family would be grateful for any of your comments or suggestions! Thank you :)

    • says

      Hi Kate,

      Congratulations on your new puppy!

      I’d try not to put your puppy in the crate when she’s done something wrong. You want to only associate positive thing with your puppy’s crate. Regarding biting and growling the best thing is to get in touch with a professional dog trainer so they could see what is going on first hand. Also, it might be a good idea to enroll your puppy in a puppy kindergarten class which will help with socialization and also give you a chance to get your questions answered from a professional dog trainer who can observe your puppy’s behavior first hand.

      I’m not sure how old your puppy is, but in my experience biting/mouthing is a very normal behavior for a young puppy and it hurts because their teeth are like little daggers. If my puppy is biting then I usually just redirect them to a dog toy like a KONG, Nylabone, Rawhide, Bully Stick, plush toy, etc. The other thing I usually try to do is use bitter apple spray on whatever body part my puppy is biting. Most puppies find the taste undesirable and stop mouthing/biting. Finally, when my puppy is biting/mouthing too much I just give her a toy and let her play by herself for a little while.

      I hope that helps. Good luck training your puppy!

  7. Kris says

    Hi! I’ve got a 3-month old Golden Retriever and I’m trying to train her to do follow some basic commands. My problem is I’m a bit scared of getting bitten so I don’t know how to best hold / dispense treats by hand. I understand that it’s normal for puppies to be nippy, and I do try to tolerate it if it’s not a strong bite. But if there are better ways of how to hold / dispense the treats by hand, I’d surely appreciate knowing about them. Do you have any videos or photos on this matter?


    • says

      Hi Kris,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! The best thing to do is to check with a professional dog trainer and ask them to show you the best way to dispense treats. Golden Retrievers are very mouthy puppies and unfortunately I don’t have any pictures or videos of how I dispense treats. The puppies I’ve raised are very excitable and do better taking treats when they’re are calm. I usually dispense treats by placing the treat between my thumb and lower part of my index finger with my hand closed, palm facing upward. I extend a little bit of the treat out from my thumb and index when I give it to my dog. Honestly, I’m not sure if this is the best way to give treats to your puppy and I’m sure it varies a little bit depending on your individual puppy. Like I said it’s best if you bring your puppy to a professional trainer to show you in person. Also, it would be a good idea for you to attend a puppy kindergarten so you can socialize your puppy and learn some of the basic obedience commands.

      Good luck with your puppy training!

  8. Jay says

    Hi, can anyone give any advice on puppy toilet training please? I have two males Lhasas both 11 weeks old, they are in a crate but not shut in as they have access to a dog flap leading to the garden which they use, most of their business is done in the garden for which they get lots of praise and a little treat! However, I am concerned that despite this one or both of them appear to be peeing on their bedding, they will also given the chance pee on the mat by the door or on the rug. They then obviously lie in it and it makes them smell pretty bad!!!! Have they just lulled me into a fasle sense of security? I still leave a puppy pad down by the dog flap and they some times relieve themselves there
    Am I confusing them?
    Should I remove the pads althogether?
    Have they made the connection that they should be relieving themselves outside?
    I know they are only 11 weeks but I want to make sure I am doing things right, any help much appreciated

    • says

      Hi Jay,

      Congratulations on your puppies. You might try bringing a professional trainer to your home to assess the situation.

      We crate train all of our puppies. Here’s an article on some of the things I do when potty training pups: You also might want to take a look at this article as well:

      I’m pretty certain your puppies do not know where they’re supposed to potty. A few things I’d think about doing are:

      1. Get separate crates for you pups.
      2. Remove the bedding.
      3. Keep the crate doors closed (don’t give them access to the garden) if you want to crate train your pups.

      Those are some things to start. Again it’s probably best to have a professional come in and check out your situation as it’s difficult to tell what’s going on without being there in person.

      Good luck with your puppies!

  9. Jay says

    Yesterday I washed and dried all their bedding, bathed them and put them and their blanket in front of the fire, at some point and without me seeing one or both of them peed on their clean blanket – very frustrating!!! I woke this morning to find the puppy pads unused but when I lifted up their bedding in their crate is was saturated!!! As I said before thery are not shut in their crate but are free to go into the garden night and day through the dog flap.

    We have only had the puppies 10 days, I gave the owne a blanket a couple of weeks prior to picking up the puppies, when she gave me the blanket back is was very evident that they had also been peeing on this too. Does this sound like a habbit they have formed from their previous owner? I am not convinced that a smaller crate would help if they are peeing on their bedding when it is not even in their crate.

    • says

      Hi Jay,

      They can probably still smell the urine on the bedding. Did you use an enzymatic cleaner to make sure they could not longer smell the urine? As I mentioned earlier I would remove the bedding altogether. Also, I would thoroughly clean the crate(s) with an enzymatic cleaner to make sure you pups cannot smell urine in the crate. I would also keep the door closed so they do not have access to the garden. By the way, I don’t leave my young puppies in their crate for more than 2 hours at a time when I’m working on their potty training. A lot of times they do not have full control of their bladder yet.

      In general dogs do not potty where they sleep, but your pups may have inadvertently learned to potty in their sleep place so it will probably take more time to potty train them. The same thing happens with puppies that are sold through pet stores as they are forced to pee in their little cages.

      As I mentioned earlier. Read these two articles:

      By the way, the puppies I’ve raised have usually taken anywhere from several weeks to several months before they perfected potty training. The best thing you could do is contact your local dog trainer so they can see first hand what is going on with your pups. One final thought is one or both may have a bladder infection which could be causing some problems as well so you also might want to consult your vetertinarian.

      Good luck with your training!

  10. crystal says

    I have an 8 week old chocolate lab/ rottweiler cross named Sophia. She is a great dog. Very little effort was needed to create train and potty train her. She is very living and affectionate and starting to pick up some tricks very well.
    My problem with her is on our walks. She gets very excited during them and chooses to chew on my pant legs. I have other toys to try and distract her with, but she doesn’t bother with them and would rather have the pant leg. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get her to stop chewing on them?

    • says

      Hi Crystal,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! Puppies definitely like to chew. You might try purchasing bitter apple spray from your local pet store and spray in on your pant leg before you go out on your walk. Most pups don’t like the taste and will eventually understand that chewing your pant leg results in a nasty taste in their mouth. You also could try distracting them away from your pant leg with your pups favorite squeaky toy. Make sure when she stops chewing your pant leg and starts doing an appropriate activity give her lots of praise so she knows she’s doing the right thing.

      Good luck with your puppy training!

  11. Melinda says

    Hey Colby,

    I am a first time puppy-owner! So far, so good, but we do have a few issues. 1) He always picks up his food and water bowls to drag them around, often making a mess. Besides getting heavier bowls, are there any other solutions? 2) He is afraid of the stairs; he will sometimes go up, but will not go down. They may be too steep for him, but I’m not sure how long to wait to start trying, so that he doesn’t expect to be carried.
    I think that’s all for now; thank you!!

  12. Michelle says

    I have a question. I have a 6 month old golden retriever and we got him from the owner approx 3 months ago. He still pees in the house and does not whine or bark or anything to let us know he has to pee. When I take him outdoors at night to pee every few hours he does pee outdoors and he gets lots of praise and a treat each time. We have tried crate training him at night when we first got him and despite setting our alarms and taking him outside every few hours, he would still pee in his crate during the night and thus needed a bath as he was then laying in it. This happened every night for about a month so I took the crate away and began gating him in a corner of the hallway during the night instead of crating him at night. I would still get up every so often during the night to take him outdoors but if I didn’t happen to get there a certain time at night that he needed to go he would pee on the floor. I am not sure where to go next with regards to house training him, he doesn’t seem to mind where he goes and doesn’t try to bark or whine to let me know he has to go. Any suggestions please?

    • says

      Hi Michelle,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! I would try starting over on his potty training basically keep a constant eye on your puppy throughout the day taking him out to his potty spot frequently (read through this article again for more tips). You also should thoroughly clean any place he had an accident with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle. If you’re still seeing no improvement after a few weeks you should consider bringing in a professional dog trainer to work with you on your puppy’s potty training. Good luck with your training.


    • says

      Is this a bed out in the open and your puppy is just going over to it to pee on? The first thing I would do is get rid of the bed because if your puppy has pee’d on it multiple times there’s a good chance that he learned this is the place to go and he can probably smell the odor of urine in the bed. The second thing I would consider is keeping your puppy on leash around the house until he learns where the appropriate place is to potty. We keep all of our puppies on leash and supervised throughout the day until they are potty trained.

      Good luck with your training!

  13. Jessica says

    Hi there,

    I have an extreamly smart pup named Dexter. Dexter is a verbose mountain dog / Basset hound. He is an amazing little Guy ( not so little) but my family and I are having a hard time potty training him. He’s about 3 months old and we have had him since he was 8 weeks. We have had him in a crate, buy I guess he needs a smaller one because he keeps having accidents. He goes in his crate at night and he hates it and hides ay night, but he no longer crys. We just need to get him to go potty outside. We have considered the bell method and were gonna try it tonight after I pick up a bell, but I’m curious what methods have worked for you? Please contact me through email thanks!

  14. says

    Hi there,

    I’ve just come across your excellent site while researching puppy training. We have a 10 week old Border Collie puppy who so far has been a little star. I too am crate training her and it is going pretty well. We’ve had her 2 weeks and although she doesn’t go to her bed on command, she is generally happy enough to sleep in there. The crate is big enough for a full size BC and although I have a divider to make it smaller (as some suggest), I have not used it as I don’t want her stressed if she needs to go potty. Instead, I put a plastic litter tray lined with a puppy training pad in there at night. At least then she has somewhere to go if she has to and it seems to work ok. When you crate train do you have a ‘soiling’ area or do you recommend keeping their bedspace nice and small so they feel more secure..


    • says

      Hi Steve,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! We use our crate as a tool for potty training and make the space only big enough for our puppy to stand up and turn around in. To answer your question we do use the divider to make the space smaller when our puppy is young. Our puppies usually can hold it through the night when they are about 9-10 weeks old.

      Good luck with your training!

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