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What age is the right time to start training a dog?
One of the most common questions asked by handlers and families is to know when they can start training a dog. In reality, once the puppy has completed the first stages of its development (neonatal period, transition period and the first weeks of the socialisation period, between 21 days and 4 months), we can begin to educate it.
Up to 8 weeks, training the puppy is the task of its parents and siblings. It is therefore very important that they are able to grow in the right environment, to get a good start and never be separated from the litter before their time.
Controlled socializing during the crucial period
At the age of 2 months, the puppy should start getting to know and being exposed, in a controlled manner, to contexts, stimuli, other pets, other people, and all kinds of situations.
During this period, between the age of 2 and 4 months, training is not so much a question of the puppy not doing mischief (watch out for the puppy’s exploratory behaviours, to avoid any kind of trouble!), but in controlling what it can and cannot do, providing it with skills for its daily life (the dog park, getting used to travelling by car, the leash, the harness, etc.), as well as the world around it, always in a positive manner: no stress, no overstimulation.
For example, if we introduce the puppy to small children or other dogs, we must be careful that it does not feel overwhelmed or feel its personal space is being invaded (disturbed), but instead try to make this a positive experience for everyone.
During this first stage, we must bear in mind that the puppy is still practically a baby and that our priorities (together with the previous ones) must be to set a good schedule routine and teach it to respect people and spaces.
Training after the socialisation period (from 4 months)
Once the critical phase is over, and also during those last weeks of this phase, we can start introducing the puppy to drills such as luring (following food) and the first obedience positions (sit, lie down, next to...) using treats and body language.
The puppy can start training obedience, which should be:
• Calm, patient and undemanding (I repeat, it's still a baby! Would you have your 5-year-old study university level physics?)
• With "very" short sessions, as the dog does not yet have a high concentration span
• Backed up by fun games with the aim of motivating the puppy, trying not to make training sessions too long or get the puppy overly excited
The perfect time to train your dog: 6-8 months
As the dog begins to grow, a more specific education and training plan must be developed. In many ways, their training will have begun earlier (hygiene guidelines, controlled walks, etc.), but now is the time to create a good structure in all those contexts so that the dog can enjoy its everyday life under our supervision.
However, it is often a complex stage because of the hormonal development (now, they are teenagers!). Nonetheless, it will be easier for us to motivate the dog and it will be more willing to work and learn with us. Moreover, as obedience education and training progresses, we can begin to increase the level of demand, something that would be unfair to a small puppy, but which is necessary through proper teaching.
At this stage of learning, if problems that are dragged on from the puppy stage persist, we will find it easier to work on and change behaviours or to create new routines and skills than in an adult dog.