One of the first questions people have when they get a new puppy is “is my puppy old enough for obedience training?” The answer is a resounding “yes!”
Most people don’t realize when they get a puppy they begin learning as soon as they are brought into the home. Almost immediately you’ve given your new puppy a name, and you use it. Your puppy’s name is her first training lesson.
If your puppy is old enough to leave his mother, approximately 10 to 12 weeks old, he’s old enough to start learning. Start slow. Give the puppy time. Attention span is the greatest adversary of training. Keeping your puppy’s attention will take time, patience and maturity; sometimes on both the puppy and you.
Always start with the easiest behavior. The “sit” command. Sitting is a natural position and the easiest for puppies to learn. It, like other commands, can be taught or captured. Capturing is when your puppy starts to do a behavior you want to teach a command, and you give the command as the puppy starts to do the behavior naturally. For instance, you see your puppy come into the room and sit beside you. When she starts to sit, tell her “sit.” When she is in the complete “sit” position, butt on the floor, praise her with a pat on the head and a quiet, calm “good dog/boy/girl.”
Tip for teaching your puppy his/her name: every time you address the puppy, show the puppy attention, etc. use the puppy’s name. For example: “Hi, Shasta!” as you pick the puppy up or greet the puppy with a pat on the head. In the beginning, try to only use the puppy’s name when speaking positively to him. Saying his name when scolding, may lead to him associating his name with your negative demeanor or the behavior you wish to curb. You never want him to shy away from you when you say his name. Always keep his name positive, at least in the beginning.
Tips for attention span issues:
- Keep the excitement factor to a minimum if your puppy is easily excited. Keep your praises to a quiet, calm “good dog/boy/girl.”
- Tire your puppy out. Take her for a walk or play with her for a bit before training sessions. If you have a good size backyard, take her out and throw a ball or Frisbee and have her chase it. She doesn’t have to bring it back because we’re not teaching fetch; we’re trying to spend some excess energy.
- Know your breed. If you have a purebred, this is easy. Look it up. Check out the behavior characteristics. If you have a mixed breed, try to guess the breeds the best you can. Your vet can sometimes help. If you have the money, invest in a DNA test. It will give you breeds as well as may give some insight into some potential medical issues. I highly recommend Mars’ Wisdom Panel. They offer 200+ breeds including wolf and coyote. They can trace purebred breeds back three generations, your puppy’s great grandparents. I have used them twice and am looking to do so again, but that’s another blog post. Wisdom Panel’s cost is reasonable compared to others. They always run specials of $10 off, and after the first test, they give you a $15 coupon code to use in the future. You can use it for another one of your dogs or pass it along to a family member or friend. Knowing if your puppy’s breed is easily excited or has boundless energy will help you understand specific training issues and help you plan training sessions geared for your puppy.
- If you’re using treats to train your puppy, it’s easier to train a hungry puppy rather than one that just ate breakfast. This is also helpful if your puppy is not food driven. It happens. Not all dogs are chow hounds. I have actually met one. However, also keep in mind, sometimes a dog that is not food driven is a frightened dog, which leads me to number 5.
- Consider your training location. As they say, location, location, location. It’s true. Location is everything. A quiet dead end street is better than a downtown intersection. While you’re surely not going to train your puppy in a downtown intersection, a public park might be the equivalent to the puppy. Endless distractions such as kids playing nearby, a dog barking next door or traffic can do two things: 1. be too interesting causing your puppy to ignore you or 2. cause fear in the puppy. Put yourself in his paws. When you were 5 years old, how would you have felt in his situation? Always start with quiet and calm and add distractions slowly at the puppy’s pace. Remember, though, not to isolate your puppy. The younger the puppy is when exposed to different sights, sounds, people, smells, other animals, etc. the less frightened and fearful he will be. There are exceptions in everything. Know your puppy’s signals. At the first sign of your puppy showing fear back him away out of the situation until he appears more confident. Comfort but don’t coddle. Don’t smother him with “poor baby” or hugs and kisses. Stay calm and confident as you walk him away giving him gentle, calm praise such as “good dog/boy/girl.” You are his support, and he looks to you for guidance in these situations.
I hope this has helped give a little insight into the often asked “is my puppy old enough for obedience training,” as well as a little advice on how to make training go a little smoother for you and your new puppy. Be sure your training time is a pawsitive, bonding experience for you both. The first year – the puppy stage – goes so fast and fades into a memory before you can blow out your puppy’s first birthday candle.
Thanks for reading and remember always paws for critters with 4 paws!
If you have any training questions, please ask. Your question may be chosen, randomly, for an upcoming blog.