Knowing What to Teach a Dog and at What AgeIs Key to Successful Training
Training a dog might seem like either an impossible task, or one that should come naturally. Neither is the case. If you begin training when your dog is a puppy and maintain consistency in your training while gradually introducing new concepts and behaviors over the course of the dog’s first year of life, incremental success will translate into a great dog and owner relationship down the road.
There are several stages to a puppy’s development up until the time when they enter adolescence at around six months of age. Six months of age is also the time by which, most experts agree, undesirable behaviors are ingrained. Better to take the time and start early so you can avoid trying to train an older dog away from learned behaviors they needn’t have learned in the first place.
From Seven or Eight Weeks to Ten Weeks
Most puppies are fully weaned by around eight weeks. You can begin their training as early as seven weeks, if you have your puppy that early, or you can start whenever you get your puppy. The most important thing is to start a solid routine and then to stick to it in as strict a manner as possible.
The stage from seven or eight weeks to about ten weeks should include the establishment of eating, sleeping, play, and potty routines that your dog can rely on being strictly adhered to. This is also the phase in which crate training and name learning (getting your dog to pay attention to you when you say their name) should be introduced.
Puppy Training From Ten to Twelve Weeks of Age
From ten to twelve weeks, most puppies are ready to take on additional training, beyond potty and crate lessons, and acknowledging their owner’s voice. That said, it is imperative to your puppy’s training that you continue to be strict in your adherence to their schedule, and to stay on top of the earlier training during this period. You aren’t moving on in training, so much as adding to ongoing training efforts and building on the foundation you’ve already established.
During this phase, bite training (not to bite hands or ankles), sit command training, training around meal times, and jump (or not to jump) training should be introduced, as well as the beginnings of leash training, at first with no distractions.
From Three to Four Months
From three to four months, your puppy will be in a position to take on additional learned behaviors. During this time, you must maintain your ongoing crate, potty, meal and other trainings. During this phase, you can further escalate the level of distractions during leash training, and initiate training your dog to come to you when called.
From Five to Six Months of Age
During your puppy’s last stage of puppyhood, you will continue your routine as you also positively reinforce good learned behaviors each time. In this phase, you can instigate training involving the “leave it” command, regarding distractions during leash or other trainings. You can also continue socializing your dog to other humans by continuing “sit” training when your puppy meets strangers for the first time.
Six Months and Beyond
Once your puppy hits six months, they are still trainable, though during this early adolescent period it may seem like they are not. Stay the course and maintain positive reinforcement of good, wanted behavior and your dog will eventually make it through adolescence as a well-trained dog.
It is possible to begin training your puppy beyond six months, but it is far more challenging than starting early. If you’ve rescued a dog or taken in an older dog that wasn’t properly trained in its prior situation, then you’ll have to work a bit harder to overcome behaviors that may seem set in stone. Consider working with a professional, at least to start, to get the results you need – eventually, both you and your new dog will be grateful for it.
Author: Giano Panzarella