What Age Can My Dog Begin Training?

       Dogs have an amazing ability to begin learning a lot at a really young age! The earliest a dog is ready for training is between 7 and 8 weeks. They have the mental ability to begin processing basic learning foundations, commands, and even more intermediate or complex behaviors. When your puppy is 6 months old, he can come to Obedience Boarding School.

      One mistake that people make is thinking that their dog must be potty trained before beginning proper communication and training with their puppy. In reality, every time you interact with your dog you have an opportunity to train, even while potty training is being established.

       Another mistake that puppy owners focus on is correcting unwanted behavior rather than rewarding desirable behaviors. Corrections are a necessary part of training, but a puppy learns best by positive reinforcement of behaviors you want repeated. Go out of your way to reward your puppy when he is well behaved- he doesn't yet know what is expected so you must praise him when he's good.
    Establishing eye contact and good attention span with your puppy is important. Don't worry about using one word commands, but instead use your tone of voice and be consistent in the simple sentences you choose when commanding your dog. Normal speech is fine when training as long as the feedback you give your dog is shaping the correct behavior (rewards cause behaviors to be repeated.)

      Keep training sessions short- about 2-7 minutes, until your puppy is conditioned to learning and has the attention span to not get bored or exhausted. Practice one behavior per session and end on a good note. If your dog seems to not understand what you are teaching, break the steps down into smaller increments. 

    Keep negative emotions out of the training sessions. Dogs can sense frustration and it impairs their learning ability, usually causing the trainer to get even more frustrated. Dogs are forgiving and never stop learning, so just try again on another day after you've had time to reflect on the circumstance. (For some, dog training can be a frustration that they'd rather not deal with- just send the dog to me for training!)

       With all this said about puppies, what about adults or older dogs? Can they still learn at an older age? Absolutely! An adult dog already has the maturity to learn for longer periods of time and normally has a better attention span than a puppy. As long as a dog can perceive a reward or communication for its behaviors, it is capable of learning- up to 15 years old.

       If you have a puppy or adult dog that you would like to begin training, give Top Paw Training a call at 830-557-7026. You'll speak directly with the trainer, Alison. Puppies are ready to begin in-home training sessions or group classes. Dogs over 6 months can enroll in the Obedience Boarding School.