When should you train your dog?
A question I’m asked frequently is when should you train your dog? Most owners get conflicting advice, or they just don’t know what kind of timeline or expectations they should have when it comes to training a dog. Many either don’t see a need to train their dog, or want to blunder through it without professional help. DIY training runs rampant and should you train your dog, it’s well worth knowing common mistakes to avoid as an owner.
The best time to begin training your dog is when they are a puppy. At this age they’re soaking up the knowledge like cute little sponges, and it goes both ways! Just as quickly your puppy might be exposed to bad behavior from other dogs, or discover naughty things to do on their own. Depending on how young your pup is, these habits could develop in a matter of DAYS, making it super easy to get blindsided by them.
Our goal with puppies is to dodge as many bullets as we can when it comes to behavior. Knowing what to focus on with your young companion is half the battle!
Is it too late to get training for my adult dog?
It is never too late to start training with your adult dog, and if you’re experiencing problem behaviors the best time to get help is now! Each time your dog gets the opportunity to or does the thing you don’t want them to do, it strengthens that habit. The longer time goes on, the more work you’re going to have to do to change things with your dog.
Training an adult dog can have benefits as well. Depending on the dog they may be more able to focus on the training, and might be more thoughtful about things. There is also added benefit if you’ve had the dog their whole life. You have a relationship already, although it may not be quite how we want it to be, part of the work of building it is done.
Old dogs CAN learn new tricks, it’s a matter of motivating them and changing patterns.
Should you train your dog?
Without a doubt the answer in your mind should be yes. Dogs with training have much more enriched lives, with less stress, and are able to have a level of freedom that an untrained dog can’t experience. The options and opportunity for these dogs are much greater than an untrained dog.
None of us want to be stressed out by what our dog does, or have them be stressed out regularly. Our dogs deserve peace and happiness as much as we do, and training helps with that greatly. It’s not fair for anyone to be living in a partnership with your dog that is patchy or broken in places.
Training at any age helps you deepen your bond with your dog, helps build trust, and is extremely valuable when it comes to mentally stimulating a dog and adding fulfillment to their life. And let’s not forget, it makes your dog much easier to live with!
Liability is also something to consider. A trained dog is much less likely to do something unpredictable, and is thus safer. If your dog has issues with strangers or other dogs, this issue can easily escalate (and often does).
As a preventative measure, training is the best thing you can do. It will help prevent your dog from bolting out the door, from becoming lost on a hike, or any number of scenarios where injury could occur. Training builds resilience and confidence in dogs, which prevents future behavior issues with them. It is an investment into the quality of life you want to have with your dog.
Choosing a good trainer is part of the processes when you start training. Here’s some tips on how to go about the process!
The Struggle Bus
Sadly many people contact me past the best time to get training with their dog. This doesn’t mean that I can’t help, far from it, but the results that we can get will be different compared to if training had been started earlier. Habits not only get ingrained over time, but also can evolve into several problems all tied into one.
Identifying characteristics have been changed in this story, but the story itself has not.
Daisy was a young 9 month old hound dog. She was her owner’s first dog and they were struggling in a number of places. At 9 months Daisy’s pulling was out of control and was so strong that it was aggravating an injury that her owner had. She also was beginning to show concerning signs of aggression, growling and barking at strangers when out in public. This was a big issue because Daisy’s owner wanted to have her be a dog she could take into the office, so she would have contact around strangers and clients regularly.
Daisy also had issues with recalling back to her owner. At this age it is common for us to see things like that happen, but it is also the age where these habits begin to solidify into lifelong issues. Although Daisy’s owner had tried to train her, the methods being used were not helpful in curbing the pulling, rehabbing the aggression, or dealing with the recall and impulse control issues.
Her owners were not able to do what they wanted to do with Daisy and offer her the freedoms and life they had planned for her. Her lack of training derailed it all and made interacting with her unpleasant and stressful at times. This isn’t how it should be.
It was a struggle for her owner, and raising a dog does NOT have to be this way. You can choose what kind of future you want to live with your dog simply based on when you get training help with them and how you prepare them for life with you. Dogs don’t learn automatically, and it’s very inefficient to try to DIY your way through unwanted behaviors that your dog might have.
Avoid the cycle of struggling and get help with your dog by investing in your future together with training.