This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience, which means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

You brought home this adorable little fluff ball and wondering what is the first thing you should train your puppy?

The first things a puppy needs to learn are basic manners, his name, potty training, and not to bite your hands with those sharp teeth. A puppy needs to learn socialization skills, including people, places, and things.

Here is a great video from McCann dogs that helps create a puppy training schedule, starting at 8 weeks old, 9 weeks old, and 10-16 weeks old.

Spirit Dog Training has a Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle that includes everything you need to get you started training your puppy.

Below are the first nine puppy training steps, but first let’s figure out when is the best time to start training your puppy.

When should I train my puppy?

It’s never too early to train your puppy. In fact, your puppy has been learning since the moment he was born. His mom and littermates teach him life lessons he will keep with him throughout his lifetime.

Puppy training isn’t about obedience, or how to sit or stay. You will have plenty of time after your dog is about 16 weeks old to train its obedience commands.

Don’t wait to train your puppy… start today, start the day you bring them home.

You are training your puppy with your everyday actions. Remember, it’s not about obedience at this young age. Think about this…

If your puppy jumps on you with excitement and you pet him, you are training him jumping equals attention. If your puppy barks and you pet him and tell him it’s okay, you are training him: if I bark, I get petted.

You get what you pet graphic

Your puppy is smart; he starts learning from his mom the moment he is born. The mamma dog continues to teach her puppies until you take them home. So as soon as you bring your puppy home, you are the one teaching them their puppy manners.

Start training your puppy right NOW! The following puppy training basics will help you and your puppy start learning today!

From rescue to home your survival checklist contents

First 9 puppy training steps

Following are nine puppy training tips to help you get started today:

cute puppy running in grass smiling

1. Your puppy’s routine

Creating a routine when you first bring your puppy home, will help them feel more comfortable in their new environment.

Do not overwhelm your puppy with the entire house for the first few days. Choose a small area that they can decompress for the first few days or so.

Show your puppy where his water, bed, crate, and toys are located. Take your puppy outside where you want him to go potty.

Consistency is going to be key to a smooth transition. Be consistent on feeding, sleeping, and playing.

More important puppy adoption information:

young puppy smiling with purple flowers in background

2. Your puppy’s name

Your puppy’s name will be his life-long connection to you. A name is so much more than just a name.

The purpose of a name is to get your dog to look at you, to pay attention to you. So his name is actually a command. The command is “look at me and wait for my next command”, whether that is COME or SIT or anything else.

At this stage of your puppy’s life, you want to build value to his name. Every time you use your puppy’s name, reward him with a treat and/or praise.

Teaching a puppy or dog his name is pretty simple, call his name, and as soon as he looks at you give him a lot of praise and/or treats. Repeat this several times, take a break, and repeat.

In a few days to a week, you will notice your puppy responding to their name. But don’t stop there… keep teaching that their name equals positive happy things.

Your dog’s name will be the most valuable training tool throughout their entire life. You will want to load as much value to their name as possible.

The name should only be used in positive situations. Do not use his name to correct bad behavior. I know this is extremely difficult, I still have trouble remembering not to use my dog’s names when telling them NO.

Use your dog’s name only when you want him to come to you or get his attention for a positive command, this will help tremendously in your future recall training.

Want more dog name ideas? We have a full library of fun dog names grouped by theme, check out the list and let us know what you decide!

Potty training puppy had an accident

3. Potty training

Potty training is at the top of every new puppy parent’s list.

It’s important to understand that an 8-week-old puppy does not have full control of its bladder yet. You must be patient and expect accidents.

Read How to Potty Train a Puppy Fast & Easy

Creating boundaries and limiting freedom at this stage of your puppy’s life is going to save your sanity and possibility even your dog’s life.

Baby gates, a playpen, and a crate will help create not only a safe spot for your new puppy but will make potty training 100X easier.

Need extra help with potty training? Check out the Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle by Spirit Dog Training. It includes everything you need to get you started training your puppy, including potty training.

Dog Chewing on wood basket

4. Puppy mouthing, biting, and chewing

One of the most common questions from new puppy parents is how to stop puppy nipping. Those puppy teeth are sharp, and they hurt A LOT!

Nipping/biting are natural behaviors for a puppy. They use their mouth to explore the world, just like a baby.

Be consistent in telling your puppy you do not like being nipped or mouth and eventually, she will outgrow this phase.

More important info about biting and chewing behaviors:

woman hugging and bonding with dog

5. Build trust and bond with your puppy

To grow a healthy relationship between you and your puppy, they need to trust you. Just like any relationship between people, if you can’t trust someone, you aren’t going to want to listen to them. The same goes for your dog.

So you ask, “How do I build trust with my dog?” It’s simple, follow these 4 tips and you will build a trusting relationship that will last a lifetime:

  • Always be kind to your dog. This may seem really basic, and it is. But if you scream, hit, kick or push your dog she will never trust you.
  • Spend time bonding with your dog. Petting, walking, playing, training, watching TV curled up on the couch together, are all great ways to bond with your dog.
  • Always be consistent in training and expectations. Your dog will never know what to expect from you if you are not consistent.
  • Be your dog’s advocate. As a dog parent, it is your responsibility to protect and keep her safe. Introduce her to new situations slowly until she gains the confidence to feel safe. Don’t ever put her in stressful situations where she feels insecure or threatened.

Read: How to Bond with My Dog and Why It Matters

First Things I Need to Teach My New Puppy Socialization

6. Puppy socialization skills

Socialize your puppy as soon as possible, it will be important in creating a balanced dog. There is a small window that is considered the ideal time to socialize a puppy, between the ages of 3 weeks and 16 weeks.

Puppy socialization is not just about your dog getting along with other dogs, in fact, that’s the least of your concerns.

Socialization is about your dog being comfortable in any situation he may encounter throughout his life. Going to the vet, loud sounds like fireworks, the vacuum, body handling, people of all sizes and colors, and yes other dogs, and so much more.

Frequently introduce your dog to new sights, sounds, and smells. Keep things slow, you don’t want to overwhelm your new puppy!

Meet new people in a variety of situations, take your puppy to public areas to introduce her to even more new sights, sounds, and smells.

Take a puppy class to help introduce your puppy to other puppies. Never introduce your puppy to a strange dog or take her to the dog park at this age. These situations are too unpredictable if something goes wrong it will do more harm than good.

There is a great article on the AKC website, Puppy Socialization: Why, When, and How to Do It Right.

puppy laying on back with person holding the paws

7. Body handling

Your puppy needs to be comfortable with you touching and handling different parts of his body. I don’t think this is stressed enough when raising a puppy.

Think about all the times you will need to hold or touch your dog:

  • Nail trims
  • Cleaning ears
  • Grooming
  • Vet visits

To make all these situations less stressful, practice this at home every single day while your puppy is young. 

Helping your puppy learn to stay calm while touching parts of his body may be one of the most important things to teach your puppy NOW. 

small dog in a crate

8. Crate training

All dogs should be comfortable staying inside a crate. A crate not only creates a safe place for your puppy to be but there could come a time when they need to be in a crate for an emergency.

Start crate training early as a young puppy so he is comfortable in a crate.

More important info about puppy crate training:

dogs outside training class

9. Basic commands: sit, down, stay

I recommend focusing on the above steps before training their basic obedience commands. You will have plenty of time after your dog is about 16 weeks old to train him how to sit.

If your puppy is adjusting well and doing well with learning his name and bonding with you, then it doesn’t hurt to start basic obedience early.

If you’ve never trained a dog before, I suggest signing up for a puppy training class right away. Not only will you learn the training skills, but as mentioned above, your puppy will get exposure to other puppies and situations that will help in the socialization skills.

Teach your young puppy how to SIT, DOWN, and STAY in a fun motivational way by using treats, toys, or even a clicker.

Spirit Dog Training has a Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle that includes everything you need to get you started training your puppy.

  • Ultimate Puppy Program
  • Training Habits & Rewards
  • Attention Booster
  • Hyperactivity Helper
  • Stop Jumping
  • Separation Anxiety Solutions
  • Breed-Specific Puppy Raising
  • 14 Days for better Focus Ebook

What’s next?

I hope this puppy training guide helps you get on the right track with your new dog and learn what the most important first things to teach your puppy are.

Puppies are a lot of work. But they are worth every sleepless night, potty accident, and destroyed shoe.

Remember to be patient and consistent in your training, and before you know it, you will have a well-behaved young dog!

From rescue to home your survival checklist contents

About the Author


Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Absolutely wonderful guide on the 'First Things a Puppy Needs to Learn'! Your expert advice will set the foundation for a well-behaved and happy pup.

  2. I'm really glad you said that you can help your puppy feel more comfortable in a new environment when you create a routine for them! My husband and I want to get a puppy for our family in a couple of weeks, so I wanted to know some extra tips on how to train one. I really appreciate you helping me learn more information about training a puppy!

  3. Thank you for explaining about crate training. We've been wondering what we should be doing once we get the puppy for the kids for Christmas. I'll be sure to get some of this stuff ready so we can start training them right away.

  4. I really liked your suggestion on #9 with how train my puppy on how to sit and stay. I'm going to try that this week!

  5. Thanks for the suggestion to sign up for a class if we haven’t trained a puppy before. My sister mentioned she and her husband want to adopt a puppy for their son’s birthday next month. I’ll have to share this info so they can see why working with a dog trainer would be the right choice.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}