At what age should you start training your puppy? As a trainer, I get this question all the time, especially from those with new puppies. The simple answer is “training should start the moment you first meet your puppy” and training should continue until you and your dog(s) are living happily ever after. When training starts from the get-go, you set the foundation of your pup’s life by developing all the layers of their insanely awesome personalities. Early training ultimately effects their health and happiness. And, when puppy dogs are healthy and happy, so are their human moms and dads.
The critical socialization period for puppies is 4-12 weeks. Before 4 weeks, puppies sleep around the clock – with occasional bouts of arousal to consume nourishment. Puppies typically stay with their biological doggy moms and litter-mates until they are 7-8 weeks old, so early puppy handling should be provided by other caretakers.
The last month of their critical socialization period (weeks 8-12) is the prime time for your pup to get accustomed to other humans and animals (dogs, cats, birds, sheep, hamsters, etc.). This short window of opportunity is why puppy socialization should start the moment you meet your puppy.
The Wonder Weeks
The second half of puppy’s socialization period (8-12 weeks) are the Wonder Weeks. These weeks represent the ideal time to start puppy training. The foundation of your puppy’s personality is molded and developed at this early age. The importance of early socialization is why puppies typically meet their new families around 8 weeks and why you are in the training process the second you meet your little pup. If you have the great fortune to acquire your puppy before 13 weeks old – you will significantly shape your puppy’s personality, for better or worse. Early puppy training will have a significant positive influence on your puppy’s life.
Puppy Training Skills
Young puppies (less than 5-months) are taught foundation skills that include potty training, manners (e.g., jumping, barking, whining, mouthing, biting, growling, snarling), basic obedience and socialization. Other than the foundation obedience skills of LOOK and COME, young puppy training focuses more on potty training, manners and socialization. While older puppies (5+ months) also need manners and socialization skills, they are at the ideal age to learn more advanced obedience plus leash skills.
Coming soon …. Puppy Wonder Weeks – Part 2: Training options for young puppies.
If you would like to learn more about training your puppy, we would love to help you. Please give us a call.
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville. Please follow us on Instagram @LuckyDogTrainingAVL and @KyloRenPup. Please contact us for more information at TrainingLuckyDogs@gmail.com or call us at 828-423-9635.