New Puppy? Let’s Talk Training!

Merritt Milam | August 4, 2020

If there’s anything positive to our recent quarantine for COVID-19, it’s that many new puppies and rescues found their forever homes. These bundles of fur will provide years of companionship and happiness to special families.

Adding a new furry friend to your family is exciting, especially if that pet is a young puppy. While cuddly and adorable will fill your days with warm memories – socialization and obedience training will create lasting and important life skills. Here are some ways to provide your new puppy with the training foundation they deserve.


Socializing your new puppy means helping your pet learn to deal with other people, pets, and environments. It’s best to start your dog as early as 3 weeks with informal training and about 8 weeks for small group classes. At this age, they are still naturally curious and haven’t developed suspicions for things unfamiliar yet. (After 18 weeks it becomes harder to get them to be as accepting of new things.)

Starting your puppy’s socialization process may seem overwhelming, but with a little effort…your furry friend will be comfortable and happy around other people and pets. Trying to introduce your dog to everything they may encounter in life is impossible. However, a good place to start is with friends and their pets. Casual settings that are comfortable and familiar provide the best first socialization environments. Keep it short, with lots of praise and pats. Socialization is also important to help your dog learn to handle many people, sounds, and environments that otherwise might be frightening and cause them to bolt from your grasp. If your puppy becomes frightened during a socialization exercise, try using praise and treats to convince them that they are safe and in a good place.

Other socialization exercises include taking regular neighborhood walks which expose them to other people and places. Visiting pet-friendly businesses as well as taking short car rides are important exercises, too. Providing your puppy with a variety of different settings and people will help them build positive attitudes and experiences.

Finally, for a more structured approach, look for socialization classes that are specifically designed for new puppies. This can provide for a professionally lead program with fun activities specifically prepared for your puppy’s social development. For information on socialization classes contact Wags at 205-902-WAGS (9247).


Obedience Training

By 12 weeks of age, your puppy will be ready to move into obedience training. These courses will instill basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come. While obedience classes may have dogs of all ages participating, starting your dog as a puppy will provide a strong foundation of learning for years to come. Beginner obedience training also teaches your dog leash walking, waiting at doors, and the important command “Leave It!”.

When choosing a training class for your puppy, make sure you consider the instructor’s experience, private training vs. group training, and positive reinforcement vs. shock collar.

Instructor Experience

Anyone can claim to be a dog trainer, but only trainers with the CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed) designation have completed a minimum of 300 hours of experience training dogs in the last three years and passed a rigorous exam. Also, look for trainers with “several years” experience not a few months. It makes a big difference! Here are some of the certifications our Wags instructor, Rebecca Mason (Owner and Head Trainer – Love Them Train Them), has achieved. To read Rebecca’s full bio click here.

Group Training vs. Private Training

Both group and private training have their pros and cons. When deciding which type of instructional environment is best for you, consider the following:

Group Training

  • Pros: socialization opportunity and group dynamics of other pets and people,
  • Cons: Distractions from other pets, less individual trainer time

Private Training

  • Pros: Individual attention, fewer distractions
  • Cons: no socialization with other dogs or people, cost

For more on group vs. private training read our blog from March 2019.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Shock Collar

NOTE: Wags is NEVER a proponent of shock collar training! At Wags ‘N Whiskers we ONLY train with positive reward and reinforcement-based methods…and here’s why.

We believe our pets, like our children, learn and understand best with positive reinforcement and reward. These techniques build confidence and a strong bond between pets and parents. These bonds are critical in developing your pet’s positive, life-long behavior as well as a fulfilling relationship. Negative or aggressive training methods can rob your pet of their personality, increase fear or aggression, and even cause them to shut down. Negative methods may suppress behavior but do little to solve the long-term problem and can even cause worse behaviors to develop.

For more on Positive vs. negative training methods read our blog from February 2019.

If you are interested in Beginner Obedience classes for your new puppy, contact Wags at 205.902.WAGS (9247) or visit our training web page here.

Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you and your new puppy soon!