I often receive calls from people who’ve just brought home a new puppy. One of the questions they often ask is: “When can I start training?”

The answer is, the sooner the better! Once upon a time, people were told they had to wait until their puppies were six months old to begin training. (This was due to the fact most training at the time was done on choke chains and they thought puppies could not handle harsh leash corrections prior to six months of age – but apparently it was OK once pups reached 6 months.) If you wait that long, you’ve lost powerful opportunities to not only train your dog but to help prevent bad habits or behaviors from developing. Puppies brains are like little sponges when you bring them home. They are able to learn and absorb so much! The longer you wait, the more learning opportunities you are passing by.

Puppies are learning every single day. If you are not training, you are allowing your puppy to learn many of the wrong things that you will then have to re-train later on. Why not start now so you don’t have to overcome obstacles later on?

Puppies can begin learning and training even before you bring them home at the common age of 7 to 8 weeks old. The breeders who are really on top of things will begin the training before they send puppies to their new homes.

When we brought home Romeo on a Saturday evening in August of 2009, he was just a couple of days shy of 8 weeks old. He got one day off since I was teaching classes all day Sunday. We started training on Monday morning. And he’s been working every day since then.

When Romeo was around 12 weeks old, I had a meeting with a large veterinary office to introduce myself. We’d just moved to Sedalia earlier in the year, and I was making the rounds to introduce myself to local veterinary offices. When I was done telling them about myself and answering questions, I asked if they wanted to demonstrate my training with Romeo. So I brought in my 12 week old puppy – an age before most people show up for puppy classes – to a hallway lined with a dozen or more people. He had never been there before. Nor had he ever performed in front of a crowd. I was apprehensive about how he would do. Just because he was well-trained at home did not mean he would perform well in a new place surrounded by people he had never met! We demonstrated sit, down, heel on leash, wait, come and whatever else we’d been working on. Romeo was performing flawlessly! Then I was asked if he could heel and perform these things off-leash. I wasn’t sure, but I said let’s try! And he performed beautifully off leash as well! Perfect heeling with me down the hallway, past every person. He waited at one end of the hall, and I walked to the other. When I called him, he ignored everyone else, ran past them and straight to me.

So, if you are bringing home a new puppy soon – or already have done so – the answer to when to start training is as soon as possible!