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Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
I’m often asked when you should start training your dog and I always answer “the day you bring your dog home.” Now before someone gets all bent out of shape, let’s talk about training. Webster’s simplest definition says “to rear and instruct” and if we accept this concept then we have to start as soon as possible. Obviously some pups arrive as young as six to eight weeks and older dogs can be a year or somewhat older. Either way if we are “to rear and instruct” it’s never too early.
There’s more to training than the standard sit, come, down, heel, stay routine. Teaching all of the things that are required in order to create a well mannered dog that is going to be a pleasure to be around, requires as much or more structured effort than just teaching the so called basic obedience.
The entire process of exposing our puppy to all of these additional experiences is known as socializing. The experts that study these things have determined that the first 18 to 20 weeks (4 to 5 months) form the most critical period. This is the time when the puppy learns how to meet people plus all the wonderful and sometime scary things that go along with them. It may be a hair dryer, a leaf blower or all the way up to motorcycles and big trucks and busses. Oh yes let’s not forget those pesky cohetes. This is when your puppy learns how to ride in the car without going ballistic and how to walk on a loose leash and walk past dogs and kids playing with balls and to sit and wait when horses are passing and to not bark rudely when company comes and all those countless other lifetime experiences.
It is suggested that during this time our puppy should meet 100 different people. At best this is a big challenge and probably the easiest way is to take the puppy to public places where you can have him meet people. Sometimes we have to explain to strangers that we are schooling a puppy and would appreciate if they would quietly meet and greet our dog. Our vet will discourage taking the puppy into a public place until he has had his second multi shot but common sense can prevail. Obviously you’ll avoid the puppy on the street that has a runny nose and crusty eyes. And mange and most of those types of problems are pretty obvious. These are situations that you’ll simply avoid. This also is not the time for puppy to meet the really aggressive and pushy types at the play park but again I work on the premise that most people have enough common sense to be a pack leader and not a bubble head.
If puppy isn’t exposed to these things in a calm and confidence building manner during the socializing period you can be assured that problems will jump up and bite you in the backside as you struggle through your first year with these challenges. The socializing process isn’t all that mystical but it requires time. In fact it’s quite simple because all you have to do is make sure your puppy gets a couple of hours a day experiencing life and when something new pops up he’s encouraged through the experience with a calmly assertive attitude so you build his confidence and discourage unfavorable actions.