A Puppy Training Myth
Perhaps you’ve heard that the perfect age for starting a training class with your puppy is 6 months of age. This is a long held MYTH. “Myth, how?” you say. Simple: if you wait to begin training a puppy until 6 months of age, you will already be 4 months behind and knee deep in issues.
The perfect age
The 6 month myth originally began when training methods were much harsher, and a younger puppy couldn’t tolerate those methods. The good news (in the modern training world) is that those methods aren’t even necessary. In fact, positive-based methods along with fair, consistent training rules can and should be started as soon as you bring a puppy home.
Puppies have the capacity to start learning all sorts of things as young as 3 weeks old! Bonnie Bergin, generally recognized as the mother of service dogs, has spent years delving into the complexities of dog learning. Her studies have consistently shown that young pups, mere weeks old, are able to begin responding to basic cues.
While the average puppy owner doesn’t have access to their puppy at that age, you do have the ability to begin your training process at 8 weeks of age, in most cases. This, then, becomes the perfect age for training.
Puppy training can take place in two different forms:
1. Investing in Puppy Kindergarten classes. These are classes for young puppies that work on socialization with people and dogs along with beginning obedience work and help with common puppy issues.
2. You can begin training your puppy at home. This can be done in combination with a class or in lieu of a kindergarten class, as these aren’t available everywhere. One great resource for training at home is a DVD set called Living with your Dog: Basic Training, by Jack & Wendy Volhard. Another is Crate Games for Motivation and Control by Susan Garrett.
What can you begin teaching an 8 week old puppy? You can teach so much more than you might imagine. Your puppy can easily (and quickly) learn his new name, sit, down, come, wait, beginning leave it, beginning place, give, walking on leash, as well as start to learn how to nicely greet new people. He can learn all sorts of new things!
To give you an example (and some inspiration), check out this video that shows you how much a puppy in training for service work can learn between 3-9 weeks of age: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0EO-6drKW8
Why so much so early?
In the case of the puppy in the video, he’s going to hopefully become a service dog that can make a major impact in someone’s
life. He needs to start early! But, everyone’s puppy can start early and gain so much from it. A puppy who begins to learn (with a reward system) is actually a better listener as he ages!…. This is how you create a really well behaved puppy who listens to you: you train him consistently, fairly, and with rewards early on.
The Dog Star Daily website (www.dogstardaily.com ) is a great resource for puppy owners. Check out the section called Training Textbook, which has tons of information that is adapted from Dr. Ian Dunbar’s puppy training books.
…And when someone asks you, as they inevitably will, “why are you training your puppy so young …when does he get to be a puppy?” Tell him that you’re simply creating the perfect canine citizen, and that’s the best life any puppy can have.