I frequently hear the following questions about training puppies:
- How soon do you begin training puppies?
- What should I train a puppy to do?
- How do you correct a puppy?
- What equipment do I need in order to train a puppy?
- Why does my puppy bite my children and what can I do about it?
- Why shouldn’t I let my puppy on the couch?
- How early should I introduce puppies to protection work?
I will try to answer each of these in turn in as much detail as this forum allows me.
First, How soon do you begin training puppies? I was taught by my mentor that you do not touch a puppy in its first six weeks. Leave it alone with its mother. Allow her to take care of it as she sees fit. Then, sometime between 6 and 8 weeks of age, it is time for the puppy to begin training. Many trainers and breeders wait much later, especially to begin any serious work with the puppy. I believe this is a mistake. We begin training our children to obedience and work even before they can talk to us. We require that they come when called, leave things alone when directed and join in when the family is working on a task. Similarly, I believe it is a mistake to wait until a dog is 4 to 6 months old or older before you begin training. It would be similar to waiting until your child was a teenager before you begin requiring discipline. This is ridiculous and you can never expect to accomplish as much with that child as the child you trained from their infancy to work hard and follow instructions. Do not hesitate to start working with a puppy from the time they are 6 to 8 weeks old.
Second, What should I train a puppy to do? The very first thing that every dog must be taught before you can start teaching them specialized skills are the basic obedience commands. These commands are SIT, LAY, WAIT, COME, and HEEL. Different people will use different commands for these actions, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with the English words. The other important aspects of training puppies is to begin exposing them to as many different situations and environments as possible. If need be, create these environments as best you can, but the ideal situation would be to take the young dog to any of the various environments you think they may need to operate in, and even some that you think they may never operate in, but would be stressful for them. When training any dog, remember that stress is a good thing, for both the dog and handler.
Third, How do you correct a puppy? The simple answer is that you correct them the same way you correct an adult dog. However, you must be careful never to over correct a young dog. Keep in mind that they are smaller, lighter, and more fragile then they will be when they are fully grown. However, be very careful to avoid building a negative vocabulary with a puppy as this will set the stage for constant struggles with your dog as they mature. As you train your puppy, you are building a foundation. The dog will only be as good as their foundation. If you allow slack discipline or overcorrect your puppy, you will reap the consequences of those actions later.
Fourth, What equipment do I need in order to train a puppy? Once again, the simple answer is the same equipment you use for an adult dog. Many people want to get a small prong collar for training puppies. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but it is unnecessary. You can just as easily use a medium prong (the recommended size for 90% of dogs) with only two or three links and it will be just as effective as a small collar with more links. Also, if you keep the links, you will not have to purchase another collar as your dog gets bigger. If you have a small breed dog, such as a Chihuahua or Dachshund, then you will want to start and stay with a small prong collar, but any breed from about Beagle size and up, just go ahead and start with the medium. You will also need a high quality (stiff) lead. These can be purchased at our store. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can own. Without a high quality lead, you are not communicating as effective as you could with your dog. In terms of starting basic training with a puppy, that is all you need. If you are going to be introducing any protection or scent work, then you may want a ¾ inch flat collar.
Fifth, Why does my puppy bite children and what can I do about it? If you watch practically any young animal in the wild, you will notice that they wrestle. It does not matter if they are males or females. They will tussle, bite, scratch and roll around. This is part of what God programmed into their genetics to prepare them for survival. While your dog does not think that your child is a dog, as they become accustomed to their presence, they realize that they are about the same size and may very well begin training with them and testing themselves against your child. This is natural for a puppy, but when they are a puppy is the time to train them that certain actions are acceptable and others are not. If a puppy bites at a child (or an adult for that matter) correct them for it and do not allow them to get away with it even once in your presence. Teach your children how to correct for it so that the dog understands that both yourself and your children can correct for that kind of action. Even if you are planning to do protection work with your dog, you want to have a firm understanding that it is ok to bite under specific circumstances, and not ok under other circumstances.
Sixth, Why shouldn’t I let my puppy on the couch? When you have cute, cuddly, playful little puppies running around, it is easy to want to pick them up, pet them in your lap, allow them to lay on the couch and sometimes even sleep on the bed. So what is wrong with that? Nothing, as long as you will not mind a full grown dog doing the same thing. Be very careful not to condition your dog to do things as a puppy that you do not want them doing when they are full grown. This includes jumping up on you, putting their paws up on you, etc. Consider that a dog does not notice that today you are wearing a nice suit while yesterday (when you were letting him jump all over you) you had an old t-shirt and jeans.
Seventh, How early should I introduce puppies to protection work? If you are going to do protection work with your dog, the sooner you start training it, the better. However, ensure that you have a very good trainer such as Dunetos K9. This will allow you to build a solid foundation of controlled bite work from the very beginning with your dog. Once a dog has a solid foundation, you should be able to deploy and recall them with only normal verbal tones from practically any distance and they should obey instantly.
Take advantage of your puppy’s interest and desire when he is very young to build a solid foundation of obedience, stability and confidence. You will be happy you did.