Training Timing - Does age matter for puppy training?

Puppy Training

Puppy training makes a massive difference in the dog you have, and can be equated to taking a child to kindergarten. Studies have shown that children who attended kindergarten have resounding and lasting impacts in their lives. 

Now we have similar proof that puppy training at younger ages leads to better dogs with less problems than their peers who received training as older puppies.

For trainers this is not a surprise at all, but it’s great to have evidence that is more than anecdotal. Let’s break it down. 

When to get puppy training?

The study’s findings are pretty damning and clear. There is a definite difference between a puppy beginning training before 5 months of age, as opposed to puppies that went into training past that age. 1,023 puppies were a part of the study and 99% of them had been reported as exhibiting at least one type of behavior problem. 

Aggression, compulsive behavior, destructive behavior, and excessive barking were all reduced in dogs that had attended puppy training before 6 months of age. “Taking a puppy for reward-based puppy training and socialization in the first 6 months of its life is as important as having a child attend elementary school”, says President/CEO of CCBS, Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, DACVB.

President/CEO of CCBS, Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, DACVB.

This backs up what trainers have known for a long time now. The earlier the training, the better. From the study:

“Puppy training based on reward-based methods substantially reduced the odds of aggression in adult dogs. Punishment-based methods increased the odds of aggression, as it has been found that more frequent use of punishment is associated with increased aggression and excitability. Additionally, the use of punishment when training dogs has been found to be related to an increase in both fear and aggression.”

Puppy training matters. It makes a visible and now scientifically backed difference behaviorally when puppy training occurs. As trainers one of our goals with young dogs is to prevent problem behaviors, build confidence, and of course properly socialize a puppy to the world. It is much easier to prevent a dog from learning unwanted behaviors through training, than to fix those problem behaviors later down the line. 

One mistake I see owners making is opting out of early training for their pup or deciding that training is something that should be applied on an as needed basis, like going to the doctor. Truly though it isn’t like going to the doctor, even though I do fix problem behaviors and relationship issues with owners and their canines. 

It’s much much closer to schooling. No parent says, “I’ll take little Billy to school when he needs it”. No. Little Billy gets an education just like the rest of the children because that is what is needed for his future success. 

So why would it be any different for dogs? Having a misbehaving dog or an undereducated dog is simply due to a lack of training, and it should be expected that that is what happens without training. Yet somehow the expectation is the reverse. Maybe he’s a magical puppy who never needs any training and just knows everything from the start…..

That’s not how dogs work.

Having a dog that listens, that comes first time every time, that doesn’t tear up your house, yard, children or guests, that’s due to training. Having a dog you can take with you on trips, to cafes, and just out into the world, this is due to training. Although it may sometimes look like magic, I promise it’s not!

Ensuring that your puppy becomes a great canine citizen and one that you can have in your life for all of your adventures, starts early. The earlier the better. 

Want to learn how to train your pup like a pro?