This is a question that I hear a lot.  The short answer is no.  From the moment you bring your new puppy home, he is learning.  Puppies are little living sponges.  They soak up information and learn very quickly – whether we are consciously training them or not!

When we talk about dog training, most people automatically think “obedience”.  Although basic obedience training is important for all pet dogs, for puppies, exposing them to new sights, sounds and environments is much more important at this young age.   I often tell clients “You can teach a 12 year old dog to sit but its much harder changing problem behaviours”.  

The first weeks, up until around week 14-16 are the most important time in your puppy’s life.  This is the time of their lives where they generalise experiences and why it is so important to give them good experiences in everything they could possibly encounter as adults.  Its abit like a bank account where all of these positive experiences build up a credit so that if/when your dog has a not so great experience, later in his life,  he has the credit balance to draw from and still remain in the black. 

Of course, these experiences have to be done carefully taking into account the possibilities of exposures to disease before the early vaccination protocols are completed.  That being said, by sticking to hard, non porous surfaces, carrying your puppy, using puppy prams, etc you can do this safely and will have a life long benefit for you both.

It isn’t all about outside adventures though.  There are a lot of things in our households that puppies need to learn about as well.  Vacuum cleaners, mowers, hair dryers, our car to name just a few. 

 So what should we concentrate on with a young pup?

  • Building a trusting relationship so our pup wants to spend time with us.
  • Rewarding for all the good things they do. Puppies thrive on positive reinforcement.
  • Toilet and Crate training
  • Expose them to different environments, walking on different surfaces, noises, smells, to help build confidence
  • Teach them its ok to be alone for a while
  • Let them see other dogs and people in all sorts of situations. There is a caveat with this – your puppy doesn’t need to physically meet them all.  He just needs to learn to be relaxed in their presence. 
  • Find doggy friends who are calm and relaxed for your puppy to spend time with and learn from.

One of the first things many people teach their puppy is how to sit and/or wait for their food.  This is a great start however, it is more important at this stage, that your puppy learns the rules of living with us – right from the time he comes home.  We do this with good management, lots of positive reinforcement and keeping learning to what your puppy is capable of at that time in his life.  If we do this well, we don’t need to back track later to fix problems that have occurred. 

Training puppies is about creating a puppy who loves to learn and be confident in himself and his world.  His family’s job is to give him the guidance and experiences he needs to understand how he can live in our world as a happy, confident, well mannered dog. 

 

When you have built a trusting relationship with your puppy through all this early life experience, and there is a mutual respect, more formal and basic obedience training is not a difficult task. 

 

Enjoy your puppy,  he wont be small for long!