We often hear people say they can’t train their puppy until it’s 12, 14 or 16 weeks old, or recently one of our clients told us one of their local trainers told them they couldn’t teach walking manners until 9 months! There are so many ridiculous myths and misconceptions out there, ‘it’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it’ for one… it makes it really difficult for people to know what to do, especially new dog owners and people who have lucked out with a very easy laid back dog in the past.
The other thing that tends to go hand in hand with the above is that you have to isolate your puppy until it’s had all it’s shots. DO NOT do this! Just be cautious/smart about where you go (ie. NOT dog parks). The risks of them catching a serious disease are so much smaller to the risk of not socializing during this critical period in their growth! So many dogs now a days do not have proper understanding of their own language and have no clue how to interact appropriately with other dogs and this (along with early spay & neutering) is a big reason as to why. These under socialized dogs also affect dogs who were socialized well later on when they react very poorly to a dog over and over whether it’s being a pest or full on attacking, the dog on the receiving end starts to develop issues because of this feeling the need to defend themselves and try to keep the dog or all dogs away. This can turn into a major fear and/or aggression issue so you really want to make sure you socialize with dogs of your choosing that are well behaved and well socialized.
So, when should you start training & socializing your puppy? Right away! No matter when you get your pup, at 7/8/9 weeks, start right away. It’s ideal to plan ahead and get a session booked with your chosen and well researched professional (not sure what your looking for? See our ‘training methods‘ page, visit our Facebook page for a detailed video or see our previous blog post ‘Is it really all in how they’re raised?’ ) for within the first week or so of bringing your pup home. I’ve even had someone book me to meet them as they arrived home from picking up their puppy to help introduce to the house and the older dog properly and it sure saved them a lot of grief just having that first couple hours with guidance and some homework to follow. Group classes can be great but unfortunately the majority of puppy classes out there are not actually helpful, your money would be much better spent on a good private lesson or two and then look at group for a little later on if that’s what you’d like to do. If you’re looking at a puppy class – what are you going to learn? You should already be able to be teaching leash manners, appropriate greeting manners of people and dogs and basic commands like sit, down, out/drop and come. You do not want a class that is just a big puppy free for all! This teaches the puppies very poor dog etiquette as they teach each other a lot of bad habits. Research your classes/trainers, don’t just pick the closest soonest one.
Puppies are little sponges, if they’re not learning what they should be doing in everyday life and new situations then they’re practicing and learning the things that they shouldn’t and the more time goes on like that, the worse habits they become and then it’s fixing issues instead of preventing them. You can raise a well behaved dog without actual obedience and personally I prefer to start pups this way, and add in obedience commands because of course, solid obedience can be very important and helpful especially if you want your dog to be able to enjoy a life with a lot of freedom and going with you just about anywhere.
Proper socializing with people is just as, if not almost more important than with dogs. The key is not to meet every person possible, it IS to meet the RIGHT ones. The ones who will respect your wishes when you say you don’t want your puppy to jump on them, the ones who will not high pitch baby voice your puppy encouraging over excitement. Yes puppies are super cute but they grow big and they grow big fast! And, I feel like I should point out, I’m not saying you can never baby talk them but there’s a time and a place. I pull out the baby voice too sometimes but I do it when the pup has just completed a task or handling a difficult situation or if I’m initiating play time. So, when you’re taking your puppy out on the town/in the neighbourhood, do not stop for every person or dog that wants to say hi. It is important for your pup to learn manners and be able to ignore the passers by even if they’re staring (you want to be able to bring him to summer festivals right?). You want to choose who you will stop for and let your pup greet as politely as possible – of course we’re not looking for perfection, they’re still puppies after all but encouraging the behaviour you want to see later is important now. Do NOT be afraid to tell people no when they try to just start touching your puppy/dog without asking! That is rude and it can cause issues especially if you have a pup who’s timid – having people just coming into their space when they’re uncomfortable. Quality over quantity is the key!
Remember, training isn’t/shouldn’t be about obedience classes and commands, it’s how you communicate and work with your dog in everything you do with them daily. Simple things like encouraging calmness when coming out of a crate or before going outside, creating boundaries like no couch unless invited, giving space from you while you eat instead of begging and trying to get your food.
Raising a well behaved pup/dog doesn’t have to be complicated or overly time consuming. If you arm yourself with the right information and you take the time to do things right from the start instead of trying to fix things later, you can have the dog you dreamed of or at least pretty darn close! Do your research on professionals, look for someone who can help you achieve this and don’t wait until things get out of hand (when it becomes more challenging, time consuming and expensive). Do your research on breed and what their tendencies for drive and energy level are, don’t choose a dog because it’s cute. And, if you have already found yourself in a situation with a pup/dog that you are feeling is too much for you, it is ok and important to recognize that, just be responsible how you go about the rehoming/surrendering process if you don’t think you can do the training work that they need.
Good luck and enjoy your time with your new/next friend, in the end, you create the dog you want/have.
President, Head Trainer
K9 Balance Training & Rehabilitation Inc.