Discipline a New Puppy

It's always exciting bringing a new puppy home, but it takes patience, consistency, and lots of love to raise a well-trained puppy. Unfortunately, behavioral problems are one of the top reasons dogs end up in animal shelters.[1] However, by using methods such as reward-based training and/or crate-training, you can help break the puppy of any initial behavioral problems. By properly training your puppy from the beginning, you will create a delightful member of the family and prevent problems.


House-Training Your Puppy

  1. Designate a spot for the puppy to use the bathroom before bringing the puppy home. House training your puppy to go potty in a spot designated by you is one of the first training lessons a puppy needs to learn. Most people will designate a spot for the puppy to use the bathroom outside. However, you can use this same method whether you’re training the dog to go outside or inside—such as on pads or paper or even in a litter box if the breed is small enough when full grown.
  2. Take your puppy to the potty spot often. You should take your puppy to the potty spot every half an hour (for an eight week old) or every two hours (for an adult that is not house trained). If the puppy does not go within five minutes, then she does not want to go. Bring her inside and try again half an hour later.
    • Try introducing a phrase such as, “Go potty,” to help the puppy associate the desired behavior with a specific command.[2]
    • You will likely have to get up several times during the night to take puppy out to the designated spot at first. If the puppy starts whining at night, he likely needs to use the bathroom. Take the puppy directly to the correct spot and resist the urge for any playtime. You want to make sure the puppy understands that nighttime bathroom breaks are not playtime.
  3. Show consistency with the schedule. To start, you should bring your puppy to the potty spot after all sleeping, eating, and playing activities.[2] The key to helping a puppy catch on initially is to have him coincidentally use the spot when he has to go anyway. Then you can start associating the act with praise.
  4. Offer plenty of praise. You should offer both treats and praise when the puppy goes to the bathroom in the appropriate spot. Though, don’t overdo it on the treats. The positive reinforcement will strengthen the puppy’s understanding of the desired behavior. Make sure you offer the praise as soon as the puppy finishes, so he understands why you have administered the praise. You also want to wait until he finishes so you don’t risk interrupting him, which can lead to an accident shortly after.
    • Be consistent with your praise as well. Try using the same phrase, such as, “Good boy,” or “Good girl,” to make sure the puppy understands the behavior in that specific spot is a good thing.
    • Never punish a puppy for an accident. Unless you catch the puppy in the act of urinating or defecating, he will have no idea that what he did was not appropriate. If you do catch the puppy mid-accident, try to get the puppy to the appropriate potty spot and praise him for going there.
  5. Stay patient. Some puppies will not have full control over their bladders for up to six months of age. Accidents will happen, even after you think you’re making a lot of progress with house training. Remain patient and consistent, and the puppy will eventually have the behavior down completely.

Teaching Your Puppy Manners

  1. Use reward-based training. One key to training puppies properly is to help them learn basic obedience commands. Sit is probably the easiest and most useful command. Reward-based training is one of the best ways to train your dog. In this system, positive reinforcement (usually in the form of a small bite of a tasty treat) is given immediately when the puppy complies with your command. The puppy then learns to associate the action (to sit) with the command (“Sit”) given.
    • Remember to reward the puppy as soon as he performs the action. Failure to reward immediately will confuse the puppy as to what you expect of him.
  2. Keep commands short. Don’t say, “Now I want you to sit,” as the puppy won’t understand what you expect. Keep all commands short and simple. Simply say, “Sit,” for example. Use treats and praise every time when teaching a new command.
    • Once the puppy consistently obeys the command, you can give treats intermittently. However, make sure you always stay consistent with the praise every time regardless of treats.
    • Apply these same principles for other commands, including “Come” and “Stay.” The key is to reward immediately, be consistent, and use simple command words.
  3. Provide plenty of toys. Puppies love to bite and chew. Chewing is a natural behavior for a puppy. However, you must teach the puppy items that are okay to chew versus ones that aren’t okay to chew. To help teach them the correct items to chew on, keep plenty of toys on hand, such as toy ropes. You can purchase these from the dollar store.
    • Puppies love chewing ropes, and it’s a great way to help them get through the teething stage.
    • For example, if you find the puppy chewing on a shoe, take the shoe, put it out of reach, and give him a toy to chew on. As you take the shoe away, say, “No chew.” The puppy will eventually understand what he can and cannot chew.[3]
  4. Tap the puppy’s nose when it tries to bite anything other than an appropriate toy. When your puppy tries to bite your fingers or hand, tap his nose lightly with your free hand and say, “No bite.” As you pull your hand from your puppy’s mouth, be sure to put a chew toy or rope in their mouth and encourage them to bite the toy instead.
  5. Teach the puppy when not to bark. Some owners enjoy knowing their dog will bark to alert them of guests or other visitors. However, a puppy should learn the command, “Quiet,” for those times when barking is a nuisance. When the puppy begins to bark say, “Quiet.” When the puppy complies (this may take some time), immediately give him a reward in the form of a treat and praise.
    • This will take some time, but the puppy will eventually understand what you expect. Consistency and patience is the key in making this work for the both of you.
  6. Teach your puppy not to jump on people. Jumping on people can also be a problem with some dogs. This is a behavior that can be stopped. If your puppy or dog has a tendency to jump, keep a leash on him to be able to correct him as he starts to jump. Give him the command to sit. Reward him when he promptly responds with a tasty treat. He will soon learn that jumping is not an acceptable behavior.[3]

Crate-Training Your Puppy

  1. Decide if crate-training sounds right for your puppy. Crate training uses a dog's natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog's den is his home and a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. A crate allows you to harness these natural instincts while training the puppy.[4][5][6]
    • The primary use for a crate is house training. Puppies will avoid soiling their dens for as long as they can manage to hold their bladders.
    • The crate can also limit access to the rest of the house while the puppy learns other rules, including not to chew on furniture.
    • Crates are a safe way to transport your dog in the car as well.
  2. Purchase a kennel before bringing your puppy home. Have your puppy’s kennel situated in the home before bringing the puppy home. The crate needs to be large enough for the puppy to comfortably stand, lay down, and turn around.[4] You also don’t want the crate so large that the puppy can use one side of the crate as a bathroom before laying on the other side. If you buy a larger crate (so the puppy can grow) or if you cannot find a crate small enough for the puppy, partition off the back of the crate initially, enlarging it as the puppy grows.
  3. Place the crate in an area of the home where you spend a lot of time. You should place the crate in a spot of your home where you spend a lot of time, and the puppy won’t be isolated.[4] You should also place a soft blanket or towel inside.
  4. Introduce the puppy to the crate. Leave the door to the crate open, speak to the puppy in an encouraging voice, and place several treats inside.[4] Your puppy will start instinctually taking to the crate as its new den.
  5. Feed the puppy meals inside the crate. To continue teaching your puppy that the crate is a safe place, begin feeding him meals near the crate.[4] Gradually move the food into the crate over several days. Once the puppy is comfortable eating meals inside the crate, close the crate door for the duration of mealtime.
    • Open the door again immediately after the puppy finishes eating initially. Increase the amount of time you take to open the door slowly over several more days and weeks.
    • If the puppy starts to whine or cry, you may have increased the amount of time in the crate too quickly. Try using a shorter amount of time next time you crate the puppy. You should usually wait until the puppy stops whining before letting him out of the crate as often as possible; otherwise the puppy quickly learns that whining is all it takes to make you let him out of the crate.[4]
  6. Teach the puppy to stay in the crate for longer periods. After the puppy is eating his meals in the crate regularly, start teaching him to stay in there for short periods of time. With a treat in hand, call him over to the crate. Give him a command (usually "crate" or “kennel”) to enter by pointing and tossing the treat inside.[4] Praise him when he enters and close the door.
    • Start with short periods of time (5-10 minutes). Gradually lengthen the time period over a week or so.
  7. Do not leave the puppy in the crate for too long. Puppies under six months of age should never be crated for longer than four hours as they cannot hold their bladders that long. You should never lock a dog of any age in a crate for long periods of time.
  8. Do not use the crate as punishment. Since the crate mimics a den, it should be a pleasant place for the puppy to stay and not used as a punishment.[4] In cases where the dog has separation anxiety or other ingrained behavior issues, it is best to consult a professional before attempting to crate train.


  • Pay attention to the tone of your voice. Your puppy will understand you by the tone in your voice and repetitive words. Maintain a bit of a higher pitch when praising for doing well and lower your tone for scolding and disciplining your puppy.
  • Above all, be consistent and patient. This is most important.
  • Understanding that dogs are creatures of habits and routine will help you in getting into a routine with your pet. However, their habits and routines have to be woven into your routine.
  • Getting into a routine is not easy, but it's well worth the trouble. When you bring your puppy home, hopefully the breeder would have had the mom and puppies in a routine of feeding and going to potty. The puppies will have been weaned from their mom for at least a week prior to going to their new home. This means your puppy is used to eating puppy food, preferably dry.
  • Feeding your puppy moist dog food if it isn’t used to eating this type of food can lead to an upset stomach and loose bowels.
  • Always praise them for doing well.
  • The puppy will only understand what you expect of it through the use of consistency in applying training methods and lots of praise when it does what you want, no matter how small the step in the right direction.
  • Using training aids such as muzzles or shock collars is not recommended unless you have been trained in their proper use and application. Consult experts on how to use these tools properly before resorting to them. Always be patient with the methods explained above before trying something else.


  • Never slap, kick, or abuse a dog in any manner. This can cause a dog to be anxious, fearful, and possibly a threat to others.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

  1. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3(2), 93–106. Salman, et al. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 2000
  2. 2.0 2.1 Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Procedures and Protocols. Volume 3. Steven R. Lindsay. Blackwell Publishing. 2005
  3. 3.0 3.1 Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses. Edited by Julie Shaw and Debbie Martin. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html
  5. Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat 3: Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat. G.M. Landsberg, W. L. Hunthausen and L. J. Ackerman. Elsevier. 2013
  6. Do Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life. Pat Miller. Dogwise Publishing. 2010
"Like" us to know more!