When Do I Start Training My Puppy?

When Do I Start Training My Puppy?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “when do I start training my puppy?”  The answer really seems to surprise most folks. 

You start training the first time you pick him up.  What?  That can’t be.  Yep, it sure is.

Every time you touch your dog some form of “training” is going on.  Now it might not be “good training” but it is training.  Every interaction with your dog will result in him learning something.  Every time you do something with him or let him “get away” with a behavior he learns what he can and can’t do.

One of the best examples of this was shown to me by Rick Smith.

Rick always tells the story of the first time most folks pick up their puppy.   The pup wiggles and squirms trying to get away.  Most folks will tend to immediately put the pup down and let him go play.  Now you have “trained” your pup. He has learned that all he has to do is wiggle and wiggle and you will give in. To get what pup wants, he just has to put in a little effort and you will cave.

What you should do in this situation is apply a little pressure.  Lightly squeeze pup close to your chest and restrain him until he stops wiggling.  Once he is calm, place him on the ground.

You must wait until he stops moving, no matter how it takes.  It seldom takes more than a couple of seconds.  Now pup has learned that when you place your hands on him he needs to be still.  This is TRAINING.

A still dog is required in all forms of training no matter the breed or what you do with him.  We need it for basic grooming, first aid, giving medication, vet visits and sitting at the park.  It’s required for pointing dogs while pointing or backing, retrievers in the duck blind and flushing dogs that are steady to wing. It makes a big difference when you are putting on dog boots, dog vests, e-collars and tracking collars.
 
Every time you put your hands on your dog, you want him to be still.  Little did you know that you have now taught your 8 week old brand new puppy that this isn’t required.  He has learned that all he has to do is put in a little effort and you will cave.

This same concept applies to every other interaction you have with your dog for the rest of his life.  When you put him into a situation where he has a choice to comply or not, if he picks to not and you let him get away with it, you have trained him.

The original question of “when do I start training my puppy?” is where most of our customer’s “dog issues” begin.  They don’t understand why they have a 85 pound lab that likes to jump on people and knock them down.  How did this happen?  Well, they let the 8 week old pup jump on them.  It’s cute and there is no harm done.  Sure, that isn’t a problem, but you are training your pup that this is acceptable behavior.  You have no one to blame but yourself when he knocks your little old lady neighbor over and breaks her hip.

My rule with pups is that we don’t allow them to get away with things as a puppy that we don’t want them doing as full grown dogs.  It’s a pretty simple rule but you have to make a few decisions up front and stick to them. 

 Now some folks might take part of this the wrong way.  I’ll give an example.  I expect my retriever to be steady in the blind.  That means he will wait to go on a retrieve when I send him not before. 

We don’t start pups out this way.  I don’t expect my pup to be steady the first time we throw him a bumper.  I want him to break at a young age.  I’ll teach him not to once we make sure his drive is solid and we get past bird and gun introductions.

I just don’t let him wiggle his way out of things or jump on people because it’s cute.

Steve Snell

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