HOW EARLY SHOULD I START TRAINING MY PUPPY?
The simple answer is ‘as early as possible!’ – once your puppy has settled into their new home.
Your puppy does need to be fully vaccinated to be able to go out in public before being able to safely attend group classes, but leaving it too long can be quite detrimental to your training journey...
If you think about things from a puppy’s perspective when you bring them home, there are a lot of things going on for them. You have removed them from their littermates and their Mum, you have taken them away from the only environment they have known, you have changed their normal routine. They have also had a stressful scary car journey to their new home with people that are strange to them. As soon as they arrive in your house, their stress levels are already very high. It is important for that first week that your puppy has as much peace and quiet as possible, away from potential stressful situations. Don’t expect anything from them in the first week. Let them acclimatise to their new environment and new routine. Let them sleep – a LOT (puppies need 18-20 hours sleep a day).
I generally advise giving your puppy a week to settle in and then you can get started with some nice simple training exercises which focus on starting to build confidence in your puppy and starting to build the bond between dog and owner (or family).
But my puppy is behaving – do I need to train them?!
Very often, the first 2-3 weeks of a puppy arriving home are relatively quiet and hassle-free while they are finding their feet – this often lulls people into a false sense of security! When your puppy has settled in and gained confidence, as well as picking up unwanted habits in the process, the troubles begin!
Because of the way that dogs learn in life, it is much easier to teach them what we expect of them first, rather than allowing unwanted habits to creep in and then having to try to fix them going forwards.
There is a HUGE difference between puppies coming to training class at 12-14 weeks and 18-19 weeks, believe me! Waiting until your puppy gets to 16 weeks and only then signing up to a training course will make your life much more difficult – read on to understand why.
Understanding what socialisation means will help you to better understand your puppy’s needs. Many people think that socialisation is simply about letting your puppy greet other dogs and have fun playtime. This should actually only make up less than 5% of a socialisation program!!
A puppy’s socialisation window opens at 4 weeks of age and shuts at around 16 weeks. Therefore, the earlier you can start group puppy classes, the better! After the 16 week cut-off, you have shaped the vast majority of your puppy’s temperament already. If there are any behaviour traits that you don’t like in your puppy at this point, you are already having to start retraining them behaviourally to fix them. This is hard work and can be very difficult in some puppies.
If your puppy’s prior learning experience has been to greet every dog that they see whilst out on walks with the ability to get giddy and excited, lunging and jumping all over each dog, what do you think they will expect in training class?!
You should be considering how you would like your puppy to behave in the long term and start teaching those behaviours as soon as your puppy is able to go out for walks. If, when your puppy is an adult dog, you would like to be able to walk them down the street and pass a dog without any hassle, then you need to start teaching that skill NOW! Spend time allowing your puppy to calmly observe other dogs going past at distance and reward them for all appropriate reactions (calmness and indifference).
Starting training classes early really helps to instil these valuable life skills. In puppy classes your puppy will learn how to be calm and appropriately behaved when in the company of other dogs. It is much easier to BUILD skills and confidence rather than trying to calm an over-excited and frustrated puppy!
Other development factors
The early months of a puppy’s development are very complex and there is a LOT going on. All of these developmental changes can affect the way that your puppy responds to their training.
Take teething for example… Teething generally starts around 16 weeks for many puppies. A teething puppy is sore, grumpy, gets frustrated easily, is more nippy, sometimes loses their appetite and generally is harder to train during that stage of their development. If you are signing your puppy up to classes when they are 16-18 weeks of age, you may very well find that you are in for a hard time versus getting started earlier prior to teething starting.
Adolescence is a huge factor also when training a young dog. During adolescence your puppy will be fuelled by hormones which means that their brains don’t work as effectively! Laying strong training foundations prior to adolescence hitting will make your life easier and your training journey much smoother.
So, plan ahead and as SOON as your puppy is vaccinated to be able to go out in public, get them enrolled in classes!
Full details of all upcoming dates/times for our Puppy Foundation Courses are here: https://www.confident-canines.co.uk/training-services/group-training-classes/puppy-foundation-course