Training should start the moment you first meet your puppy and continue until you and your dog(s) are living happily ever after. When training starts from the get-go, you set the foundation of your pup’s life. Early training shapes your pup’s personality and ultimately affects their health and happiness.
Puppy Blog of Clay
A young puppy is like an unmolded blob of clay. After gentle molding through training, within a year or so, your pup will morph into your dream dog. Early training that builds a solid foundation is the best way to start puppies.
Age of Puppy Training
The critical socialization period for puppies is 4-12 weeks. Before 4 weeks, puppies sleep around the clock, with occasional bouts of arousal to eat. Puppies typically stay with their biological moms and littermates until they are 7-8 weeks old, so early puppy handling should be provided by other caretakers. The last month of their socialization period (weeks 8-12) is the prime time for imprinting your pup and meeting other humans and animals to get them accustomed to and accepting of others.
The Wonder Weeks
The foundation of your puppy’s personality is molded and formed at these early ages – 8 to 12 weeks. This is why puppies typically meet their new families around 8 weeks of age. That is also why the second you meet your puppy – you are starting to train it. If you have the great fortune to acquire your puppy before 13 weeks old, you will significantly shape your puppy’s personality, for better or worse.
Puppy Training Skills
What puppy skills are taught during the Wonder Weeks? Manners include potty training along with preventing unwanted behaviors (jumping, barking, whining, mouthing, biting, growling, and snarling). Older puppies (5+ months) also need manners and socialization. However, these older puppies are primed to learn basic obedience and leash skills. Other than the foundation skills of LOOK and COME, young puppy training focuses on manners and socialization.
Puppies Rot in Solitary Confinement
Unfortunately, some young puppies are left home alone, in a crate, for long periods of time while their humans are working. Young puppies in their peak socialization period do not thrive with these regular bouts of solitary confinement. Leaving a young puppy home alone during their Wonder Weeks is detrimental to their mental, physical and emotional growth and development. If your young pup is destined to be alone in an empty house for long periods of time, you are doing your puppy, and ultimately yourself, a huge disservice. Just don’t do it!
Ideally, new puppy parents will take some time off to bond with their puppy and start training. If you have an 8-week-old puppy, taking a month off during their Wonder Weeks is highly recommended. It will reap benefits for the rest of your and your pup’s lives. Those with the option to work from home have the “luxury” to be with their pups during their workday. Unfortunately, not everyone has this type of work flexibility and need alternative options.
Alternative Options for Puppy Care
If pup-ternity leave is not possible, explore other options. Maybe a friend or relative can help socialize them and train puppy manners and foundation skills while you are working. Another option is using a daytime boarding facility. But boarding facilities typically do not provide training, especially puppy training. And, unfortunately, they can be a great place for puppies to pick up bad habits or health problems. That’s why vets often recommend that puppies not attend such facilities until their puppy shots series is completed, which is typically between 16-20 weeks old, well after their Wonder Weeks.
Puppy Board & Train (B&T)
Puppy board and train programs are another option. Because your puppy will live in your home “furever,” home-based B&T programs mimic your pup’s home living and training environment. Your puppy lives with a professional trainer who is extremely experienced and well-equipped to train puppies. And your puppy can get tons of socialization with the trainer’s own puppy-friendly, trained dogs. Puppy board and train during the Wonder Weeks can get puppies on the path to becoming your dream dog. It is well worth considering for any new puppy owner.
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville. On Instagram @TrainingLuckyDogs and @KyloRenPup. Or visit TrainingLuckyDogs@gmail.com or call us at 828-423-9635.