Monday, December 27, 2010

At What Age Should You Begin Puppy Training?

By Linda Cole

It's easy to put off starting a training program for a new pup until after he's older. An eight week old puppy may still be a "baby," but he’s already learned a lot from his mom and siblings. His education needs to continue in his new home as soon as he gets there. Therefore, the best age to begin puppy training is the minute you get him home.

Puppies adjust quickly to new surroundings. Of course, he'll have a period of missing his siblings and mom. You can carry the scent of his old life with you to his new home by taking a baby blanket or towel with you when you pick him up. Rub it on his mom and siblings and let them play on it. When you arrive home, place it where you want him to sleep so he has familiar smells around him. Helping him get through his first few nights will be your first training session.

Create a den-like area in a crate and put the blanket or towel inside. With familiar smells to snuggle into, he'll feel more secure until new scents become familiar. To reassure him and let him know he's not alone, put the crate in your bedroom. It may be a rough couple of nights, but as he begins to feel comfortable in his surroundings, the whimpering will end.

The only difference between a well-trained puppy and one who isn't, is a commitment to begin a puppy training program as soon as you bring him home. His siblings have already taught him about bite inhibition. His mom taught him to listen to authority, and he's beginning to learn about social status in the family. The people who raised him taught him how to socialize with humans, and he learned about his surroundings by exploring. He's ready and eager to learn whatever you are willing to teach him.

Puppy training begins with housebreaking, which is usually the only training some owners are concerned with until the pup is older. Getting into the habit of the puppy learning and you teaching from day one helps the bonding process and lets him know who is in charge. There is a hierarchy among dogs where someone is in charge. When no one steps forward, some dogs feel it's their job to take the lead role. Establishing yourself as his leader while he's still a puppy lets him be just a puppy that looks to you to guide him. He's eager to please and learn.

Bonding is essential in any relationship, human or pet. That's how you earn trust and respect. Puppy training and playing go hand in hand when forming a bond. You can take the opportunity during play to also teach your puppy how you expect him to behave. To keep your puppy from developing bad habits that can turn into behavioral problems later on, housebreaking, biting and chewing all need to be dealt with in the early stages. A dominant pup that shows early signs of aggression can be dealt with through proper training that lets him know his behavior is not acceptable.

Puppy training means you are working with your pup every day and learning who he is as an individual dog. He has a unique personality and you are learning how he might react in different situations. Working with him helps you recognize behavioral issues that may start to show as he grows older, and you can correct them before they become a problem. Catching bad behavior while a dog is still young is much easier to correct. Teaching him it's not okay to bite can save your fingers or toes and stop an excited puppy from hurting someone in the family.

All puppies should be taught basic commands. They should come when called and understand what “NO” means. Training sessions should be short, because a pup doesn't have a long attention span. Make it fun so he thinks it's a game. Puppies are just like adult dogs. They want to please their human and can learn just as well as an adult. Knowing what you mean when you command him to sit, stay, drop it and come are all basic commands that could save his life one day. Positive reinforcement techniques that allow the puppy to succeed helps give him confidence and he grows up with good feelings about himself and you.

Training a puppy requires patience and commitment. Puppy training is important and you might as well begin now because he's learning every day. Make sure he's learning what you want him to learn, and enjoy the eight stages of puppyhood.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I just read the article on dog bites where the person sending in the picture got bite while putting a rescue GSD on their side. I have little expertise with dogs much less GSD's. I have a 15 month old GSD who is on the large size and very powerful. What teaching I do with him is what I am picking up at the local Schutzhund club. Ever since he was an 8 week old puppy we do "inspection" which means lay down and roll over at what time I look over his belly and groin area for ticks (we live in the country and when he is out of the house he has access to tall grass etc.). As he has grown older some times he will bite on my arm during this inspection process. He will hold my arm with light pressure until I tell him no bite at which time he will let go. I complete the inspection or it may be that the inspection is done around the time he grabs my arm and I stop the inspection when he lets go. I pat him as I give him his release word and we are done. My question is, maybe I should not be doing this Alpha Roll thing. This is the first time I have heard such and don't want to take a chance on getting bite for something maybe I should not be doing. What do you think?

  2. Hello,

    It sounds like you're getting some good advice from the Schutzhund club. You do have to be careful in how you train a GSD because, as you know, they are very powerful and they are also very intelligent.

    Beginning his training at 8 weeks old is excellent. Good job. When he takes your arm in his mouth lightly, that's not something to be too concerned about, but you should discourage it by doing exactly what you're doing with the no bite command. He may be just asking you to play with him or he's testing you to see what you will accept. As long as he isn't biting hard and let's go when you tell him to, I wouldn't worry about that, but you should try to teach him not to do that.

    Giving him a command to roll over so you can inspect his tummy for ticks is different from using force to put him down to make him comply with a command. Any dog breed can bite when they're being forced to do something. He's rolling over because you asked him to and if he's following your commands, your alright.

    I feel very strongly that dog owners should learn who their dog is as an individual. It's like knowing a person well enough to know how they might react to situations. It's the same with a dog. Understanding a dog's body language is also very important. When your dog has your arm in his mouth, if his eyes, face, ears and mouth look relaxed and there's no tension in his body, he's just checking things out.

    The dog who bit the person was a rescue dog and not knowing a dog's history can make forcing him to comply dangerous because of that. Dominance training isn't as effective as positive reinforcement for any dog because when forcing a dog to comply, you risk losing his trust and respect and you're only proving that you are bigger and stronger than the dog. A lot of dog trainers are moving away from dominance training.

    Keep doing what you've been doing. After releasing him when you're done with the inspection, give him some treats and play with him. Teach him different things to keep his mind active. Dogs want to learn and we don't have to force them to do what we want. Stick with positive reinforcement and give him lots of praise every time he does what you ask. Stay calm and patient. You're on the right track.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.



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