Training Your Dog: What’s The Best Age To Start?
Years ago experts advised waiting for 6 months to a year old before training your dog. Methods have changed and are much more motivational than in the past. If you choose a trainer who uses motivational methods, 4 months of age is the optimal time for beginning formal training.
Once a dog reaches the appropriate age to begin training, you should determine what type of training would be best for you and your dog.
It gets confusing here because there are several choices, including group classes, private in-home lessons and even the board and train programs that many trainers offer. Here are some points to keep in mind about each type of training:
A group class is an inexpensive way to get your dog trained and also has the advantage of socializing your dog around other dogs and people. If your dog is easily distracted the group class may not be the best option.
Private In-Home Lessons
In-Home lessons are a good option for training puppies for several reasons. First, training takes place in the home, and usually that’s where owners want the dog to behave the most.
In-Home lessons allow the trainer to see the dog with his family in a home environment. This aids the trainer to not only help train but also solve behavior issues. There are no distractions so the dog and the owner get the full benefit of the lesson.
Board and Train Programs
Board and Train programs are sometimes called Doggy Boot Camp. Dogs stay with a trainer from 2-4 weeks depending on the programs provided. The trainer trains your dog on a daily basis. Your dog should be well trained when you pick him up.
If the trainer/training facility does not guarantee the training, reconsider leaving your dog at that facility. The key to the success to this type of program is the follow up lessons for the owner. The trainer should teach the owner how to handle the trained dog and methods to reinforce the training to establish a stronger relationship with the dog.
Although there are various opinions on the optimal time to start formal dog training, puppies can start learning basic commands as early as 8 weeks of age. Begin house training at this age as well.
Due to their short attention span, starting formal training any earlier doesn’t work very well. Waiting until 6-8 months of age can be too late. This is when dogs often hit their “adolescense” and become rebellious.
There are pros and cons to each of the training methods we discussed in this post.
- In-home private lessons are great if the owner will commit to training on a daily basis. This option may be quite expensive, and will involve a time commitment for you, the owner.
- If you have no desire to train, then the board and train program may be the best choice.
- Group classes are a good option for dogs needing socialization, but this option does have the potential for many distractions.
Consider your lifestyle, budget and your dog’s temperament when selecting a training option. Contact several trainers and conduct a one-on-one interview to learn details about training methods, cost, and experience.
Also observe how they interact with you your dog. If your dog doesn’t seem comfortable, consider that a sign to interview other trainers. It’s important that you understand the training methods used and the part you play in ongoing training reinforcement, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.
If the trainer seems impatient or hostile by your questions, interview others.