How Long Does It Take to Train a Puppy? 5 Factors | Pupford
September 27th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
Naturally, we want our puppies to learn quickly.
BUT, that’s not always the case.
While many behaviors can be learned in 3-6 months (or more… or less), so many factors can influence how fast your puppy will learn new behaviors.
And on top of that, putting “timelines” on your puppy’s learning is a serious trap! 😨
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
- Why I don’t like this question (and you shouldn’t either)
- The “trap” of timelines in training
- 5 factors that influence the time it takes for puppies to learn
- Your dog
- Training frequency, expertise & methods
- The behavior being taught
- Household environment
- Bad habits
- Learning vs Proofing
- The 3 “D”s of proofing
- General training estimates for specific behaviors
- Potty training
- Leash walking
Let’s do this! ⬇️
LISTEN TO EPISODE ABOUT HOW LONG IT TAKES TO TRAIN A PUPPY
Before the full article, a quick survey!
WHY I DON'T LOVE THIS QUESTION (AND YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T EITHER)
While wondering how long it will take to train your puppy is common, I don’t love this question.
If I were to ask you how long it takes for a child to learn to read, what would your answer be?
Probably that it depends… right?
While a young child might be able to sound out the words in an extremely basic book, does that mean they really know how to read?
Technically they are reading, but is there comprehension? Are there words they can pronounce but don’t actually understand?
Just like a child learning to read, our puppies learn at varying speeds and levels of comprehension.
A child reading a short picture book is similar to a puppy who can come when called while inside your living room and on a leash.
A person reading (and comprehending) a book like Jane Eyre is similar to a puppy who can come when called outside, around distractions, and from 100 feet away.
Technically both people know how to read, and technically both puppies know how to come when called… But there is a difference in abilities.
TIMELINES ARE A TRAP
Another reason I don’t like the question is that it puts an arbitrary timeline on your puppy’s progress.
Again, imagine going to a young child and telling them they must be able to read Jane Eyre within the next 12 months. That will lead to disappointment, frustration when the timeline isn’t met, and likely sadness from the child since they won’t be meeting your expectations.
Putting a specific timeline on when your puppy should be trained is a trap.
Instead of focusing on how long it takes to train a puppy, it can be beneficial to shift your mindset to how can you best help your puppy learn.
So, let’s talk about five factors that influence how long it will take to train your puppy! 👇
5 FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE HOW LONG IT TAKES TO FULLY TRAIN A PUPPY OR DOG
While these five factors are not the only factors, they can be a powerful influence on the speed at which your puppy learns.
1- YOUR DOG (breed, age, size)
Every puppy (and dog) is different.
Different temperaments, different parents (with different temperaments and backgrounds), different experiences, and the list goes on.
Factors like breed, size, and age all play a role in your puppy’s ability to learn and improve behavior.
For example, smaller dogs may take a bit longer to potty train. They have smaller bladders which may mean more accidents.
Also, a Labrador Retriever may learn to fetch more quickly than a Pomeranian.
2- FREQUENCY, TYPE OF TRAINING & TRAINING EXPERTISE
Probably the most influential factor in how long it will take to train a puppy is training frequency.
If you only train a couple of times a week, progress might be slow.
While dog training is not a simple input = output experience, it does play a role! Practice and repetition are vital for training progress.
Another factor is the type of training you’re doing.
And along the same lines, it’s important to remember that you are also learning. Especially if you are a first-time pup parent, you are in a learning process.
Training your dog is a skill. And just like any skill, it takes practice, repetition, and research to get better.
Again, remember to be patient with yourself (and your puppy) but do as much as you can to learn about dog behavior, learning theory, and how to be a better trainer.
To speed up your learning process, be sure to sign up for Pupford Academy. You’ll get access to courses covering separation anxiety, impulse control, and even videos on the four quadrants of dog training.
3- THE BEHAVIOR (ie Sit vs Recall)
This one is so simple that we often forget it… Every behavior is different!
Teaching your puppy to sit will likely happen much easier than teaching your puppy to come when called.
When you’re wondering how long it will take to train your puppy, factor in the difficulty of the behavior you’re hoping to teach! For many dogs, some of the most difficult behaviors to learn are (aka come when called), potty training, and leash walking.
But remember, every dog is different. So be patient if your puppy seems to be learning a certain behavior “slower” than you anticipated or hoped for.
4- HOUSEHOLD ENVIRONMENT
Your household environment can play a huge role in how fast your puppy will be trained.
Here are some household factors that can influence your puppy’s behavior and training.
- Other dogs in the home
- The other dog’s age
- The other dog’s behaviors (monkey see, monkey do… for better or for worse)
- Children in the home
- Are they reinforcing the wrong behaviors (ie encouraging begging for food)?
- Are they confusing your puppy with their behavior?
- Other adults in the home
- Are they implementing the same training techniques (ie positive reinforcement vs aversives)?
- Are they accidentally reinforcing bad behavior (ie giving attention when the puppy jumps up on them)?
- Yard space (or lack of yard space)
- Do they have dogs that bark through the fence (as an example)?
5- BAD HABITS
Overcoming your puppy’s “bad” habits will take much longer than training new “good” habits.
Often our puppies acquire bad habits without us meaning for that to happen. If you give your puppy attention when they jump up, you’ve started down the path of a bad habit.
And if that bad habit of jumping is started, you now have to work to remove it AND replace it with a better habit.
While no pup parent (or dog, for that matter) is perfect, keep an eye on any bad habits you are unintentionally reinforcing.
A NOTE ON LEARNING VS PROOFING
In any discussion about training and learning, it’s important to discuss proofing. Proofing is the technique of ensuring your dog truly understands a behavior in a wide variety of environments and instances which leads to
While your pup may be “trained” on recall inside your home, you may not be able to say the same at a busy park.
So learning is one thing, but proofing is what you are really searching for when you wonder how long it takes to train a puppy. Let’s look at the 3 “D’s” of proofing; distance, duration, and distraction.
While this is different for each behavior, generally speaking, you should work up to where your puppy can perform a behavior no matter how far away you are from him or her.
So that can be with recall, stay, and even tasks like lying down, sit or speak.
This takes a lot of time and practice, so be patient with your pup as you up the difficulty of behaviors.
This doesn’t necessarily apply to all behaviors, but for many, you want your dog to be able to perform the behavior for an extended period of time.
This is most often focused on when teaching the ‘stay’ behavior. It’s one thing for your pup to stay for a few seconds, but a whole new level when your pup can stay for 5 minutes when you ask.
Again, practice and repetition are key for proofing new behaviors.
Ahhh, distraction. The crown jewel of dog training and behavior.
Sound like you?!
That’s okay if it does! Our puppies being able to translate a behavior to all environments takes a LOT of time and practice.
And that really the major point I hope you take away from this article! Dog training is a lifelong effort.
Let me say that again…
Dog training is a lifelong effort (and commitment).
My Labs are now about 5 years old, and I still train them on a regular basis. While it may not be dedicated training sessions every day, I am always having to maintain behaviors and practice with them in new environments.
So the final answer to how long does it take to train a puppy is…
Drumroll, please… 🥁🥁
Your dog’s entire life.
No matter your dog’s age or abilities, there will always be teaching and learning occurring in your dog’s daily life. And truthfully, that’s a great thing! There is always room for improvement and growth.
There will always be new environments and experiences to proOF behaviors in, so keep practicing!
With that aside, let’s cover some estimates for specific behaviors!
TRAINING ESTIMATES FOR SPECIFIC BEHAVIORS
As I’ve tried to hammer home this entire article, I HATE putting timelines on training behaviors.
But, I will give some estimates for how long it often takes to train certain behaviors.
NOTE: If you see these time estimates and are bummed that it’s taking your dog longer… please don’t be!! They are just estimates. Every dog, pup parent, and training experience is different. Please be patient with yourself and your puppy!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A PUPPY TO PEE OUTSIDE
Potty training seems to have the most variability from puppy to puppy. Some puppies will pick it up in a few days, while others will take 6 months or longer.
Again, that’s 100% okay. Puppies learn at different speeds.
Set a timer and take your puppy out to potty every time the timer goes off.
Your puppy’s background and environment can play a huge role in the time it takes to train him or her to go pee outside.
Again, a general time estimate for how long it takes to train a puppy to pee outside is about 3-6 months.
And I’ve been taught a general rule of thumb is that your puppy isn’t fully potty trained until they’ve had zero accidents for a month. So, until then, just stick to a schedule and consistently reward the potty breaks outside!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A PUPPY NOT TO BITE
Puppy biting is 100000% normal. It will happen and it will happen for a good bit of time.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and we have to teach them over time that nipping and biting aren’t desirable.
Since this is such an instinctual behavior, it can often take 2-4 months to train your puppy not to bite!
In that time, be sure to redirect when biting occurs and praise the moments when it doesn’t.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A PUPPY TO SIT
This one is often the fastest for puppies to learn of all the behaviors.
Many puppies can learn to sit in a few training sessions.
But again, it’s fine if it takes longer! Every puppy is different.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEASH TRAIN A PUPPY
Of all the behaviors, leash walking often has the most variability.
Some puppies learn quickly to walk by your side on a leash, while others can take years.
Walking behavior is often affected by your puppy’s breed. Some breeds seem to love to pull, while others prefer to be by your side.
Generally speaking, good leash behavior will take about 6-12 months for your puppy to learn.
It might be shorter or longer, so stay patient and keep practicing!
HOW LONG IT TAKES TO TO TRAIN A PUPPY/DOG RECAP
While the desire to know how long it will take for your puppy to be fully trained is normal, it can be a loaded question.
So many factors will influence how long it takes your puppy to learn new behaviors, especially in new environments.
Instead of focusing on how long it will take, focus on what you can do to train your puppy more effectively.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of how long it takes to train a puppy? I’d love to have thoughtful conversations in the comments!
Above all, stay patient and keep training! 🐶