When to start
â€œThere is a great deal of controversy among dog people as to the age at which you should start training a puppy.There are many breeders and instructors who say you should wait until it is around nine months old before teaching it anything.
The age of maximum learning is from three weeks to 16 weeks. The puppy that does not hide from the hawk is a dead puppy. The wild pup is taught by his mother to know about danger.
No pup is born wise. Yet many people bring a puppy into the house and expect it to learn by either magic or telepathy. They teach it nothing. It is programmed to learn. So it does. It learns never to come when called, as no one taught it how. It learns that the only result of any misdemeanour may be a smack or a yell of NO.
It learns that when it jumps up everyone says DOWN.It learns that people are not particularly nice and are very unpredictable, and what makes someone laugh when it is 10 weeks old makes the same person furious when it is 10 months old.
When it is nine months old, the hopeful owner comes to dog class with a dog that now needs re-training, which is much more difficult. Also the dog has reached puberty and is the victim of raging hormones, and the last thing it wants to do is learn to be sensible.
Those who really know about dogs know that teaching begins the day the puppy comes home.Those dogs taught DOWN when they jump up have problems, as that word now means donâ€™t jump up, stand on four legs. So another word, such as FLAT or LIE has to be used.Few people understand why it is difficult to teach their dog Down. It is better taught when the pup first comes home.
If the pup is encouraged to sit and look up, instead of leaping up, it soon learns not to jump up at all.Anything we permit becomes part of its repertoire and is our fault.
So many people take the pup out on the lead and expect it to walk perfectly.This is like putting a learner driver into a car and driving straight onto a motorway.The pup must be taught how to walk.
One pup that came to me was so afraid of the lead it would not walk at all, but lay flat and refused to move. It preferred its owner to me, so I held the lead and he walked away. The puppy soon followed.Within a week it was happy, but had we dragged it or scolded it, there would have been a long resistance to being led.
It is fascinating to watch pups learn. A gun dog breeder I met has a huge pen beside the whelping kennel. This is totally enclosed. The first thing the puppies see when they open their eyes is an enclosure with very low undergrowth in which there are a number of pheasants and rabbits.These pups become so used to seeing game run around that they do not chase them when allowed freedom.
The older dogs are taught their lessons inside the game pen, having to ignore the animals moving around them. The pups are also taken into the big, enclosed yard en mass, and allowed to run off only about two feet away – and then they are called back. Gradually this distance is extended, the pups learning to come at once, for a game and a cuddle.
Spaniels range in the field and this is being taught without the pups knowing it is a lesson. It also teaches them to come quickly when wanted at seven weeks old. They learn to Sit, Stand and to lie Down at this stage, too.
If games are devised for the puppy, it learns fast.We have to train for success.Failure depresses us and our dogs. The most important lesson a dog can learn is to stay absolutely still in one place.
Even in the home, a glass might be broken, leaving splinters everywhere. The dog is told to stay. The glass is collected safely and the dog is not injured. If it ran through the glass, it could well cut an artery and bleed to death.
The dog is told to stay at the road edge, on the lead.The traffic is heavy and there is no chance to cross. He sees a cat on the other side of the road and takes off, pulling its handler and itself under cars.I have known a child killed this way. The dog that is taught to Stay and not move until told, lives a long life.
So many people, when teaching at first, tell the dog to stay and then call it.The handler MUST go back to the dog.Otherwise it will soon become confused.I teach my dogs to come, in the early lessons, by running backwards with them coming towards me on the lead. Until they can do a Stay without any problems, I never call them to me when at a Stay.I go back.The dog does not move. In this way the Stay can be used to prevent many problems.