From Puppyhood to Prime Time: Essential Training Milestones for Every Dog

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog owner training their dog outside

Life is all about learning new things, and that goes for our four-legged pals, too! From mastering basic commands to maintaining good eating manners, training is the best way to ensure your dog lives a life that’s both fun and orderly.

Whether your canine companion is a playful baby or a golden senior, these training milestones will serve as a guide to help you structure your sessions according to your dog’s age. Time to start that Hollywood-style training montage!


The first year of your pup’s life is the most important. It’s the stage where their body and mind are developing, so it’s also the best time to teach them habits you want them to have for the rest of their life. As they say, strike while the iron’s hot!

From 8 to 12 weeks

You can start training your dog as early as two months old. Because they’re not yet vaccinated, it’s best to keep your sessions inside, where you can control their movements and keep them safe.

Your general goals: 

Get them used to their schedule and environment. To help your puppy get settled in, it helps to have a consistent routine. That means setting and sticking to meal times, regular training sessions, even regular me-times when they can be left alone!

This is also the best time to get them used to noises at home, like vacuum and washer sounds and other usual clatter around the house. Loud and unfamiliar noises can be distressing to pups if they’re not introduced to them early, and it will also distract them from their training.

Teach your dog about bite inhibition. At this age, your puppy is likely teething—which means they’re bound to bite or chew just about anything in range. Protect your grandma’s antique table and your ankles by teaching your pup to chew on something else, like their toys. You can even make them a makeshift chew toy by getting some old scraps of cloth lying around! 

More important than furniture and shoes, their bitey stage is also the perfect time to teach them bite inhibition. Whenever they bite you, say “OW!” even if it doesn’t hurt. Yelp and then walk away. This teaches them that bites hurt and stop the fun. They stop doing it, and when they do bite, they inhibit the strength of the bite, gentle and unlikely to cause any real injury to people or other dogs. 

Training milestones at this age: 

  • Crate training: Sending your dog to the crate shouldn’t feel like sending them to jail. With crate training, you’re teaching your pup that they have their own space and an environment they can feel safe in. It’s an effective way to curb their anxieties and keep destructive behaviour at bay.

  • But because crate training can take quite a while (up to six months in some cases), it’s best to start as early as you can. Create positive associations between your dog and their crate by giving them treats when they go in.

  • Toilet training: It’s definitely one of the less glamorous parts of being a dog owner, especially for a puppy! Understand that at this age, you can’t really expect them to know where to go right off the bat. It’s important that when you catch them “watering” your coffee table or assuming the position to poop, don’t punish them! Just take them outside or to their designated toilet area so they can finish.

  • Toilet training usually involves bringing them outside or to their toilet area on a regular basis, usually after their meals. Remember, puppies need routine, so sticking to this process will make them toilet pros in no time.

    1. Basic obedience training: The easiest commands you can teach any dog is to “sit” and recall. You’ll want your dog to know their name early on, and the best way to do that is to recall. Call your dog’s name from different parts of the house at random times of the day. Have a tasty treat waiting for them when they successfully come to you! nTo teach them how to “sit”, say the command while gently pushing their behinds. Once they sit down, repeat the command again and give them a treat. Rinse and repeat from there!
    2. Leash training: Start getting your dog familiar with their collar and leash. While you can’t take them on actual walks outside because they’re not thoroughly vaccinated yet, you can still “walk” them around your living room or your backyard.
    3. Socialisation: This is the stage where you teach your dog how to interact with you, other people, and the world around them. This includes teaching them not to jump at visitors and introducing noisy appliances and car rides.

    It’s not unusual for dogs to dread getting groomed or visiting the groomer, but it is unfortunately something they’ll have to get used to! As early as now, bring them to the groomer so they know it’s a safe place. Help them learn to accept nail trims, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, and other activities your groomer may prescribe. All these start at home. 

    From 12 to 16 weeks

    At 12 to 16 weeks, your pup should have a good grasp of how life is like with you, and it’s now time to expand their horizons! They must also have had their vaccinations to keep themselves healthy and to keep people and other animals around them safe.

    Your general goals:

    Get them used to the world outside. It’s time to make some new friends—doggy friends, that is! A well-socialised dog is a happy dog. They’re less likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety, which may involve ripping up things at home or acting aggressively. Dogs also learn how to “blend in with the pack”, so to speak, when they’re interacting with other dogs often.

    Get them to do structured play. When we say “structured play”, it’s playtime that requires your dog to do a little thinking. Examples of these include tug and fetch. When you play tug, your dog learns how to use the right muscles and the ideal position to keep the item with them. When you play fetch, it taps into your pup’s inner hunter persona, keeping their body and mind active.

    Training milestones at this age:

    1. Outdoor leash training: Now that they’re older and have already been vaccinated, you can now bring your dog along for outdoor walks! Remember, though, that they’re still relatively young, so you might not want to have them hiking trails or conquering marathons. A few rounds across the block should do it for now. This is more about teaching them to stay relaxed as they walk, and to keep their attention on you, and not to react to other dogs. 
    2. Intermediate commands: Bump up the difficulty level of your commands. Teach them “heel”, “stay”, and “drop it”—all commands you want under your belt for when you start going out. You’ll also want your pup to know these so they’ll have an easier time learning manners around other dogs.
    3. Socialisation:  This means dog parks and play dates galore! Socialisation with other dogs is a priority at this stage. It helps them learn about bite inhibition, among other things. It also helps them learn about all sorts and sizes of people. Take them to places where dogs and their owners frequent, or catch up with a fellow dog owner so they can play around.

    You can also now go for longer travel times in the car. At this point, they should be toilet trained and can be expected to hold pee longer. They should also be able to stay quiet longer!

    From 6 months to 1 year

    Consistency is key. Once your pup hits the 6-month mark, it’s important to stick to your schedule. Keep holding regular training and exercise sessions and continue to reinforce all commands.

    Keep in mind, however, that your dog can quickly get bored doing the same things over and over again. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! Change your treats every now and then. Get them to do commands at random times of the day, sort of like a pop quiz. You can even enrol your canine companion in dog dancing classes, where they choreograph a special routine consisting of your dog’s usual commands to music!

    Adulthood (from 1 to 10 years)

    Once they’re adults, your dogs must know commands like sit, stay, and heel by heart. But don’t stop there—remember, practice makes perfect!

    Training milestones at this age:

    1. Complex training: Get them to do agility courses, teach them higher difficulty tricks like “play dead”, “speak”, or “spin”. Who knows, your dog may be the next champion of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, or even become a viral sensation!
    2. Mental enrichment: Aside from keeping your pup’s physical condition at its peak, it’s important to look after their mental health, too. Puzzle toys like treat mazes and slow feeders help keep your dog from getting bored.
    3. Consistent socialisation: At this stage, you should see (or hear) little to no unprovoked barking from your dog. You should also be able to recall them from greater distances, like in a dog park or during a hike.
      After multiple experiences outside, your canine companion must now have also learned to behave themselves in malls or streets. No more tugging, no lunging at people and other dogs, no biting on their leash—just pure calm.

    Seniority (10+ years)

    When your dog approaches the golden years of their life, you may find that they regress somewhat back into a puppy. They may start to forget commands that they used to know like the back of their paw, as well as habits they used to do almost every day. This includes their toilet training, too!

    Unlike a puppy, however, your old pal may not have the strength to sustain long training sessions, nor can you expect them to retain commands. Be patient with them, and go back to simpler tricks. While they may no longer be able to stand on their hind legs, they’re more than capable of sitting on command!

    Go for gentle exercise, too, and keep up the puzzle toys. It’s important to always maintain their physical and mental conditions to keep illnesses at bay.

    Here’s one last secret for effective retention when you’re training dogs: always go for positive reinforcement! Your furry friends enjoy learning new things, but they’ll love it even more when they see how much what they do makes you happy. Make sure you’ve got a lifetime supply of treats laying around!

    Training your dog isn’t just so you have a handy trick to show party guests. Drilling good habits and teaching your canine companion what to do in different situations enriches the life the two of you share. It keeps them safe and allows you both to enjoy the world together.

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