Ages and stages in Labrador puppy training

stages in labrador training

It is very tempting to get carried away with puppy training.

These little Labradors are so willing to please and such fun to be around.  But it is important to go at a ‘happy’ pace.

Obviously we don’t want to be ‘correcting’ tiny puppies.   And this can easily creep in if we ask too much too soon.

So what should we be doing with a puppy at two or three month’s old?

What are the stages in Labrador training ? No two trainers will ever agree exactly on this one!

An approximate schedule

I cannot tell you what you should do with your puppy except to give the above general advice. 

But it might help to see what I currently do with mine.

This may not be exactly the same for each Labrador puppy,  especially with retrieving.

However, it gives you a rough idea.


Housetraining/cratetraining  is not included

8-10 weeks

  • Follow me: Encourage the puppy to walk after me and keep close to me outdoors, by walking a few steps one way, and a few steps another.  Constantly changing direction.  Stopping frequently for cuddles and rewards.
  • Recall: Lots of puppy recall ‘phase one’  training.  This means I blow the recall whistle whenever the puppy runs towards me, no compulsion,  and no whistle unless the recall is already underway.
  • Socialisation: Lots (almost daily) of outings to different places rural and urban (carried) Visits to family and friends.
  • Bite inhibition: Discourage hard biting, allow mouthing

10-12 weeks

  • Walk next to me: Introduce clicker heel to get the puppy walking alongside me in the heel position on my left hand side.
  • Recall: Now I start introducing the whistle as a ‘signal’  to trigger the recall.  I still give the puppy lots of encouragement by running away as soon as I blow the whistle.
  • Socialisation: More socialisation, at least twice a week to busy public places
  • Bite inhibition: Discourage hard biting, allow gentle mouthing
  • Retrieving: Encourage chase and pick up (retrieve drive)

3 – 4 months

  • Walk on a lead:  If she is ready for this, I start to slip a lead over the puppy’s head for very short periods as she walks next to me
  • Recall: Puppy recall continues,  reduce my run to a walk, avoid any distractions.  Still frequently blow the recall whenever the pup runs towards me of her own free will.
  • Socialisation: From ground level (after vaccination).  Attend events/take into town. No other lead walking at all
  • Bite inhibition: No biting, gentle mouthing allowed.
  • Retrieving: Build drive.

4 – 5 months

  • Heel: begin to practice heel work more purposefully. Add mild distractions
  • Recall: Fade additional cues.  Begin to whistle the pup and stand still.  Add mild distractions.
  • Socialisation: One or two short outings into crowded/public places
  • Bite inhibition: No more mouthing
  • Sit/stay: Simple short duration sits, in low distraction environment

5 – 6 months

  • General obedience:  Gradually advance the ‘heel’ and ‘sit’.  Gradual introduction of distractions
6 months onwards
  • Gundog training begins in earnest

Some people train a good deal faster than this and achieve quite impressive results with quite small puppies.  I come from an era where gundog puppies were left ‘untouched’ until 8 or 9 months of age.  They were given time to mature and just be puppies before training commenced.

This was partly because training methods were much harsher in those days,  but there is also some virtue I think, in not expecting too much of a small puppy

Early starters don’t get there faster

As far as I’m aware,  there is no evidence to suggest that puppies that are ‘hot-housed’ from an early age,  make more obedient, or better mannered dogs.

So don’t worry about rushing your Labrador into ‘school’ at eight weeks old.

You have plenty of time to enjoy  your puppy and work slowly through a gentle but effective long term training programme.

Your puppy

What are you doing with your puppy right now?  Are you having fun?  Drop your comments into the box below.

More help and information

If you enjoy Pippa’s puppy articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on October 21, 2012

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