Personalized Dog Training ---

When Can I Start Training My Puppy????


I highly recommend that you start training your puppy as soon as you bring her home.  Of course, give her some time to rest and get acclimated.  

In the old days, dog training was not designed with puppies in mind.  The "old day" type of dog training was to put a choke collar on the dog, give him a command, and then make him do it using the collar.  Trainers often did not actually teach the dog back then - he had to learn through a corrective process.  That's why some breeds were labeled hard to train when in fact, the method just was not suited to their personality.  That's also why there was (and still is in some circles) a belief that puppies should not be trained and that owners should wait until their dog is 6 to 8 months of age to start training.  Fortunately, with today's dog-friendly methods that teach instead of correct, puppies can be trained, will enjoy the training, and will benefit from it. 

The trouble with waiting until a puppy reaches 6 to 8 months of age to start training is analogous to waiting to teach a child anything at all until he is a teenager.  While children take 13 years to become teens, puppies do so in a matter of months and an untrained teenage dog can be difficult to deal with.  In fact, many of the dogs who end up in shelters are those untrained teenagers. 

Teaching your puppy using positive reinforcement will teach him how to learn at a young age.  Training will help you to develop a good relationship with your canine companion for years to come and you will learn how to communicate with each other. 

I recommend attending a well-run puppy class, taking in-home lessons, and getting a good training book to follow.  A great book to use is "The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller."   This book will teach you how to teach basic obedience commands along with what she calls "bonus games."  Bonus games are tricks and the more tricks you can teach your puppy the better.  In fact, there is no difference in teaching your puppy a trick and teaching an obedience command.   Sometimes dog owners get so stressed out about getting their dog to do a formal command that the dog has trouble complying.  When these same people teach their dog a trick, they are less anxious about the dog's compliance and the dog performs much better because he does not sense his owner's stress.  So teach every command like it is a trick and have fun with training. 

"Training takes a commitment of time and energy, but it's easier - and more fun - than you might think." - Pat Miller from "The Power of Positive Dog Training". 

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How to choose a dog trainer:

(portions of this list are paraphrased from the APDT guidelines for choosing a dog-training professional)

  • The instructor should allow and encourage you to observe a class prior to making a commitment to enroll.  When you observe, note whether the class is well-run.  The dogs and people should be having a successful learning experience and enjoying themselves.  The instructor should be approachable, courteous, encourage dialogue, and should encourage class members to have a good time. 

  • If you are interested in hiring an in-home instructor, get some references from previous clients or a referral from an animal professional for that instructor.  Find out what methods and training tools are used by the instructor and make sure you are comfortable with the tools and methods.   Make sure you understand the instructor's terms - i.e. how many lessons and for what cost.  A lifetime guarantee may not provide unlimited lessons, so be careful and choose the best instructor, not the best sales gimmick (see below for further information why not to rely on advertisement of a "lifetime guarantee"). 

  • A skilled instructor will provide a clear explanation of each lesson, demonstrate the behaviors to be taught, provide clear instructions and written handouts on how to teach the behaviors, give students a chance to practice teaching the behavior during the class or lesson, and assist students with proper implementation of the teaching techniques. 

  • An instructor should employ humane training methods that cause no harm to the dog or handler.  The instructor should avoid the practices of hanging, beating, kicking, and other methods that cause the dog great pain or distress or that have imminent potential for physical harm.  You have the absolute right to stop any trainer who, in your opinion, is causing your dog undue harm or distress. 

  • A conscientious and professional trainer will be involved in continuing education to stay informed about innovations in dog training.  They will be a member of an educational organization such as APDT, NADOI, or IACP. 

  • In a group class, a good instructor should require all dogs and puppies to have current vaccinations (or titers).  

  • What about a Lifetime Guarantee? - Because of variables in dog breeding and temperament and owner commitment and experience, a trainer cannot and should not guarantee the results of his/her training.  However, an instructor can and should be willing to ensure client satisfaction with his/her professional services. 

  • Beware of in-home companies that espouse a "secret" method that you are not allowed to disclose to others.  Dog training methods are just that, "methods".  There are no magical "whisperers" out there and no "secret" new methods.  Dog training is based on the principles of learning developed in the 1930's by behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner.  Of course some trainers are better teachers of dogs than others.  Also, some trainers are better at teaching and relating to the dog's owners than others.  And trainers do use various and different training methods - for example, some use more positive reinforcement than others.  So choose carefully, but don't fall into the trap that a certain company or trainer has a secret training system that you will be privileged to. 

    Click to find a trainer.

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Personalized Dog Training by Martha Windisch.  Located in South New Jersey in the town of Chatsworth.