Recently, I was heard a local dog expert saythat puppy training can’t start until a dog is 9 months old, because puppy attention spans are too short. This shocked me. While it is true that puppies have short attention spans, it is also true that they, like young humans, are designed to learn quickly. Perhaps, you have also heard that you should wait until your dog is a certain age, or until you have established yourself as someone your dog wants to be with, before starting to train your dog. Neither of these are true.
The time to start training your dog, no matter how old, or young, it is, is the moment you get your dog. Puppies mature quickly. By the time a puppy reaches 6 months of age, it is the equivalent in maturity to a 10-year-old human. By the time it reaches 8 months, it is the equivalent of a teenager. Imagine if you waited until a child was 10 years old before teaching it boundaries. You can expect the same type of results if you wait until your dog is 6 months old. Also, the younger an animal is when it starts learning, the faster it learns. Although it’s not true that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” it is much easier to teach those “tricks “when the dog is young. Dogs, like humans, are designed to do their most important learning when they are young so that they are prepared for survival as adults.
Waiting until your dog likes you before training seems like a good idea. However, what you want to do is set up the right relationship with your dog from the beginning. If waiting until you are sure that your dog likes and accepts you involves you allowing the dog to do things that you won’t allow it to do later, then you are setting your dog up for confusion and resistance to training. It’s far better to view the puppy training process as the perfect opportunity to develop the right relationship with your dog from the start. If you use respectful training methods with your dog, then your dog will learn to respect and trust you, and will enjoy the training to boot.
So, go ahead and start puppy training the moment that you get your new dog. This is the best way to avoid problems. Work with your dog on learning new things, and practicing things it already knows, throughout the day. In the beginning, make the training sessions short and frequent, so that you can keep your puppy’s interest. Stop each training session while your dog is still willing to work, so that it will want to come back and do training, again. Since, as the local dog expert expressed, puppies have short attention spans, your initial training periods with a young puppy may only last a minute or two. No matter; as your puppy starts to understand, and like, the training process, its attention span will increase. As your dog likes training more and more, you will be able to, and need to, gradually increase the length of each training session. Before long, you will be able to train your puppy for a half hour, or more, and it will pay attention with its tail wagging.
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