Canine behaviour expert Karen Wild shares her thoughts on when you should start training your dog.
When do I begin training my puppy? Can I train a rescue dog? Is my dog too old to start learning some really helpful behaviours?
We are planning to meet again in person at my puppy school and believe me, the syllabus will be focused on meeting socially (distanced) of course! We have been running for over 10 years now, and have seen every dog you can think of (and some you can’t). All of them have been lovely and so have their owners.
Old dogs can learn new tricks, and this is no surprise, since even we humans never get too old to learn new skills. It might take us a bit longer sometimes, but if we never learned new things we would not survive. Remember when computers weren’t a thing? Remember the days before Facebook? If you found yourself able to learn these things, then your dog can learn new things. (Incidentally, if you can train your dog to use the internet, please let me know.)
The pups that come through our classes start bouncy, often with some bravado as little dogs, and move up through the levels as confident, assured ones. I am very proud of our puppy classes as it gives the youngest puppies the very best start in their lives. Well done to you owners bringing them along! Here are our starter tips for you on the basis of what I know works, year in year out, no matter what the age of dog or stage of learning they may be at..
Ask for a ‘sit’ or ‘down’ every time your dog wants something. This can be anything from a bit of fuss, to having the lead put on, to having dinner. Dog training should not be about impossible effort. This can be organised time, but it is better to just develop an efficient expectation of ‘sit’ meaning ‘please’. That way, your dog will learn to sit as a way of asking, rather than jumping up or stealing.
Owners with recall problems have often allowed their dogs to spend more time having fun chasing and playing with other dogs and toys, without considering that the most important person in your dog’s life should be you.
It is not nice to arrive in second place in your dog’s heart compared to a pile of rabbit poo. Allow brief play sessions with other dogs, then call your dog back for a better, longer play session with you. Call your dog away from a running rabbit to chase a toy you are throwing about. A piece of chicken in your hand can be far more attractive than the promise of a rabbit pellet. This won’t happen overnight, but they are well worth the effort to put you firmly in the control seat without force.