If the first year of a dog’s life is the equivalent of 18 human years, could you imagine beginning a child’s education at 18 years old…or even at 9 years old? It is inconceivable.
Training a dog after it is six months or a year old is possible, but for the most part it is an effort to reclaim something that has slipped by. To train a dog when it is still a puppy is golden. It is easy. It is like working on a fresh unpainted canvas. The rewards of training a dog while it is still a puppy last the lifetime of the dog! You end up with the dog you dreamed of.
We have a much more enhanced and fulfilled relationship with our dogs when we take the time to train them in the basics. With kind, gentle, and progressive dog training we are giving our dogs the skills they must have in order for them to live with us harmoniously.
It not only enriches our lives, it enriches our dog’s life. Dogs were not born to just sit around and do nothing. Most were bred to do work of a specific nature (such as herding, tracking, or rescue). It is our responsibility to know what it is our dogs are born to do and to ensure that these pups have that outlet during their lifetime. Dogs appreciate a challenge. They love to work and to play games. They need to be stimulated. This is an important facet of a dog’s life that is sadly often overlooked. Teaching basic obedience is a vital aspect of life with your pup. It strengthens the bond, keeps the dog safe and stimulated, and is a must for all canines in rural, urban, or suburban areas.
The sooner these basic instructions are put in place, the better off your dog and you will be. Teach a dog when it is still a puppy and these basic requests will become completely conditioned into your dog’s behavior. An adult dog is able to run up to an average speed of 19 miles per hour. Doing this work while your dog is a puppy, and much slower, will have its advantages.
Train a dog when it is still a puppy and these basic requests will become completely conditioned into your dog’s behavior.
A bit of effort up front can help reduce years of stress for you and the dog.
Both the Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club have “Canine Good Citizen” certification programs that test new dogs to ensure that they can be counted on to present good manners at home, in a public place, and in the presence of other dogs. The details of these programs are outlined in Resources. This is another area of training you may enjoy accomplishing with your dog.
The most logical time to begin training any dog is when it is still a puppy. It is very easy to stay one step ahead of a small puppy. Most of them cannot outrun or outmaneuver you. It is an ideal time to condition the kind of dog you want to live with for the next ten to twenty years. All of this becomes significantly more difficult to do with an adult dog.
For example, the best time to start house training your puppy and to show him where you want him to do his business is as soon as you get home, before going into the house for the first time.
Ultimate Puppy will start you off with basic obedience skills designed specifically for dogs under the age of 16 weeks.
Traffic. Ensuring that your dog does not run across a busy street.
People. Jumping up to greet people, embarrassing when your dog has muddy paws, or it could be traumatic to a small child.
Dealing with people. Walking through a crowd (imagine a dogs point of view). This can be a very overwhelming and unpleasant experience if it is not something that the dog has the opportunity to get comfortable with as a puppy.
Human valuables. A dog wanting to be up on the furniture –- some people will allow this, others will not. Either way, your dog needs to learn the significance of your valued property. Dogs have no sense of artifacts or things you might treasure. It is unlikely to be okay with you if your dog chews the one copy of your family photo album or destroys a valued gift.
Food and resources (toys and food) guarding. It is no good when a dog growls or snaps when someone wants to take an object away. They need to learn that it is not necessary to guard an object and to drop the object when asked.
Often when people talk about training a dog, everything gets lumped into the same “catch all” category. For instance, it is assumed that socialization is part of obedience training. The two do go hand in hand, but are in fact separate issues. Others think of obedience training as something that you do to get the dog to “perform,” so that it can do “tricks.”
In fact, obedience refers to your dog’s ability to follow the instructions of its handler. Ideally you, as your dog’s handler, should be able to request that your dog sit or down (lie down), walk without yanking or pulling on the leash, come when called, or drop it when asked. This is an obedient dog.
The basic obedience that you do with your puppy will become the foundation for any continued education you may wish to do with your dog (agility, flyball, herding, etc.).
Your puppy knew how to sit, stay still, stand, and lie down before he ever met you. What he needs is to be taught to do these things predictably on your request.
A dog that will “down” for you in a public situation around distractions is usually a good sign of a dog who is under control. This is a dog who is welcome in many places.
It is difficult to anticipate all the circumstances you might encounter with your dog through your time together. However, there are some everyday situations that are common to the dog-human relationship which are well established. With basic obedience in place, many real life situations that you encounter with your dog should not create big problems.
The most obvious place to start this work is in your home. Start simple and work your way up. For instance, have your puppy “sit” prior to giving him dinner. If your puppy does not follow these cues at home, he is not ready to try them out in public. Start with simple tasks and allow your dog to succeed. Move out into public areas once your pup is successful at home. (See Tracking Your Training Progress: Baby Steps to Success)
Food, fun, and games become powerful tools when developing your dog’s attention span and ability to learn how to do the things that we want them to do. We explain in detail how, why, when, and where to work with food in the How Dogs Learn section. Games are extremely effective in helping to focus your puppy’s attention and build specific obedience responses. We have a very comprehensive Games section that is to be used in conjunction with obedience training.
Be sure to check the Equipment List to ensure that you have everything you need before you begin.
- Start your obedience training in the house with no distractions.
- If your puppy can manage to do what you ask during step one, add some distractions inside the house.
- If your puppy is able to do what you request during step two, it is time to go outside in the yard with no distractions.
- Once your puppy is working with the conditions described in step three, you are ready to add distractions outside in the yard.
- When you and your puppy are accomplishing good obedience from step one through four, it is time to head away from the house, keeping natural distractions to a minimum.
We are not suggesting that you do not leave the house with your pup before he is proficient with all of his obedience at home. Keep in mind, though, that your dog will not perform for you in the same manner, in all situations, unless you work him in those places. While you have the pup out, keep your requests (and expectations) fair, based on the distractions and the amount of training that you have done.
- As your dog becomes more accomplished at basic obedience away from the house, gradually get into situations with more and more natural distractions.
If at any time the pup’s focus and ability to achieve what you are asking begins to wane, you may be doing too much, too soon. Go back a step and build the focus and reliability of your puppy’s performance (with less of a challenge).