How soon can I start training my new puppy? It’s a question I get frequently for clients who have just brought home a new puppy. Many people are under the unfortunate idea that they need to wait. They don’t!
We brought Zuzu, our Greyhound puppy, home at just shy of 6 weeks of age. The typical age for puppies to go to their new homes is around 8 weeks. At what age does training start for Zuzu? Right away! Yes, she absolutely can start her training at 6 weeks of age.
Just as we did with Romeo when he was a puppy, we brought Zuzu home on a Saturday and we started training on Monday. The only reason Zuzu and Romeo did not start training on Sunday is because I am teaching classes all day Sunday so they both got one “free” day before starting work!
So what do you work on with a 6, 7 or 8-week old puppy? For all puppies, we of course work on things like potty training, playing appropriately, and learning to use their teeth appropriately. We are also working on socialization to people and to other dogs in appropriate and safe ways. We also work on enriching their environment. Since Zuzu spent her first six weeks in a kennel, her environment did not have much enrichment as far as toys to play with, different surfaces to walk on, things to climb on, crawl under, etc.
But for the actual “training” part – what most people think of when it comes to training – such as sits, downs, stays, etc. we started the first week with Sit, Wait, and Eye Contact/Watch Me. I don’t start by asking for these things or using these words but I do start with capturing and shaping these concepts. Zuzu started out trying to climb my arm to reach the food bowl. That wasn’t working but as soon as she backed off, offered a sit, and/or offered eye contact, I marked (with Yes or the click of a clicker) and then fed her a bit of her food.