When is the right time to start to train your dog?

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Asking the question how young is too young to train your dog is a fair enough question. I get asked it frequently. However the answer is not as straight forward as saying “10 weeks is when you start training”. Each dog is different, breed differences also mean that your training may start earlier, or later.

When you do start training your dog, most likely it will either be the basics, such as sit. Or it will be laying the ground rules for living indoors, i.e. potty training. What ever your desired starting point it is important to remember that like kids, puppies are sponges for new information. Which means they are learning all the time. Not just when you start training with them. You want to be defining rules to them immediately, repetitively and rewardingly.

Structured training can begin as soon as you feel like you puppy is old enough to want something as a reward. Rewards may not always be food, it may be toys, or play, or pats or something else. Keep an eye out for the signs that something has value in your dogs eyes and use it as a reward for training. Puppy training should also be kept short, it is unlikely that your young puppy is going to have the attention span of an adult dog, however your goal should be the keep training short, effective and build on the time each training session lasts each day. If your puppy looses interest, that is fine, let them play.

Back to what I said earlier about dogs are different. I have a Border Collie. I started training at 6 weeks with him because he was eager to learn, and he was learning things I didn’t want him to learn. So to prevent him from doing the wrong thing, I channelled his enthusiasm to learn about new things into structured games. Instead of jumping up on my legs, I taught him to jump on the spot for a treat, this effectively stopped him jumping on people. To stop his excessive barking, I taught him to bark on command, now he only barks if he really means it and not constantly. within 4 weeks of training he had mastered the sit, stay, lay down, shake hands, jump, and would listen attentively to what I was telling him. We were building a relationship and I wanted it to be based on fun training games that he and I loved to play.

The point I am making here is that if you are looking for an exact time to start training your dog, what I would suggest is that you test your dog and see what they can do, find a reward that they will do anything for and start with baby steps. Remember you are not only giving your dog the basic commands, you are building a relationship of trust. Always remember the key points of training. Make it fun, train to your dogs strengths, and never over-do it. If you stick with those simple rules you will start to see the results you are looking for and build a relationship and trust with your dog. Happy training!

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