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16–19 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

A Guide to Your Puppy's Third Round of Vaccines :: Solutions to Controlling Your Puppy's Prey Drive :: How to Be Your Puppy's Partner :: How to Help Your Puppy While He's Teething

How to Be Your Puppy's Partner

Your puppy is growing each and every day and becoming much more aware of his surroundings. Gone are the days when you were the center of his world. Puppies of this age are easily distracted, have a short attention span and a lot of curiosity. The world around your pupster is suddenly much more interesting than you are.

Contrary to what you may think, your puppy is not challenging you or being stubborn, he is just doing what comes naturally. And while he may rather chase a leaf than come when you call, there are ways to make yourself much more rewarding to him. Now is the time to begin building a foundation of partnership that will last through your puppy’s life.

  • Take a class: Many force free trainers now offer classes aimed at “tween” puppies, dogs who have finished or aged out of puppy socialization classes. If you can’t find a class for older puppies, a basic manners class taught in a force free manner will help you to brush up on those all important basic obedience skills.

  • Find fun ways to interact with your puppy: Play tug, play fetch, hide your dogs food and let her search it out. You can use these games to teach your dog to rev up, then settle down on cue. For example, in the midst of your tug game, make the toy go dead, wait for your dog to release then immediately reengage. Or ask for a sit when your dog brings back her ball then immediately throw the ball again.

  • Get rid of the food bowl: Instead of feeding from a bowl, bag up your puppy’s food and use it to reward behaviors you like. Make a habit of “catching” your dog acting appropriately and rewarding it.

  • Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want: It’s easy to fall back on focus on the behaviors we don’t like from our dogs and try to stop them, but a more positive approach is to envision what we want happening in place of those behaviors, then train that. For example, dog that has been trained to offer a default sit for greeting people will not jump on visitors.

  • Avoid Aversives: Life holds many aversives for all creatures, but the delivery and removal of aversives have no place in training. Nothing is more likely to lower your value as your dog’s reward than sometimes offering a carrot and other times offering a stick.

And remember, this is a natural stage in your puppy’s life. Consistent training and clear communication will establish a groundwork to build a long lasting, happy partnership that will grow with your puppy into adulthood.

Editor's Note: Special thanks go out to to Dogster member and trainer Kim Pike for writing this tip for us!

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd

Dealing with a Puppy That Chews Everything in Sight

Try offering your puppy a variety of chew toys. Notice the texture and softness of what he usually chooses to chew on (that he's not supposed to chew on) and try to pick a toy with that texture and softness. But don't get any toys shaped like any of the inappropriate items he chews. Dogs don't know the different between a chew toy shaped like a shoe and a real shoe.

Also, redirect the behavior. It's very simple to do this. All you need to do is when you see him chewing inappropriate items, show him the chew toy and encourage him to chew that instead. Praise and richly reward him for chewing the right things. Whenever he chews the wrong things, just redirect.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Tips on Housebreaking a Puppy

The best thing I found was crate-training at night, and when you're away from home. I didn't keep my dog crated when I was home with him, I locked him in the kitchen the first week, staying in there to play with him. On the second week we slowly let him have more freedom in the house.

We were always watching, and after all activity (sleeping, eating, playing) took him out right away. I took him out as much as every 15-30 minutes. We took him out the same door always, out to the same spot (by a big field we have beside our yard), said 'go potty, go potty' (he's 2 now, and still goes to the same area to poop) and petted/praised like crazy when he did (good BOY, good potty!) Then right back inside....no playing right after potty. If we played, it was inside, then back out to play, so he'd 'get it' that that trip out was for potty alone. When you pair whatever words (like "go potty") to the action, I think it helps...and he'd go potty on command after awhile. That's nice when you're getting ready to go somewhere in the car, and need him to go!

If he had accidents when in the crate, I never scolded...never. Just cleaned everything up. Nature's Miracle worked wonders for me; it cleans spots and odors great. We would never rub the puppy's nose in it if there were accidents in the house. That's what worked for me.

~Donna C., owner of Labrador Retriever

Training Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night

My trainer told me that puppies can usually hold it longer during the night, when they are sleeping.

If your pup is waking up and crying to go out at night, you might try pushing her potty breaks back a little. If she normally wakes up at 12, wait an hour, then take her out at 1. If shes fine with that, push it back another hour, til 2, and so on. That's what I did with my dog and it worked well and quickly. Instead of taking her out at 5, I'd wait til 5:30. Then 6, then 6:30, etc. She was sleeping through the night by 12 weeks or so (but I'm sure every pup is different).

~Dana S., owner of German Shorthaired Pointer

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