When to Start Puppy Obedience Training

Question: When should you start obedience training for your Doberman puppy? – Sarah

While Dobermans are one of my favorite breeds, I’ll answer the question just the same way I would with respect to a puppy of any breed; start training now! If you have a puppy in your home, she should be learning the ground rules (unless, of course, you happen to have gotten your puppy unusually young and are bottle-feeding her).

You can teach your pup more than you think by about seven weeks of age. Of course, a very young puppy does have slightly less cognitive ability and a shorter attention span than an older one. You may only be able to begin some of the very basics with a seven or eight week-old puppy; but by 10 weeks, there’s very little by way of basic training that your puppy shouldn’t be able to handle (though, of course, you still shouldn’t expect the same focus as from an older dog).

Think about it this way;

The behaviors that your dog exhibits are the ones which, historically, have been rewarded. From the moment you get your puppy, every second is an opportunity to either reward a behavior you like or, potentially, for the pup to be rewarded for something you don’t like. For example, your seven-week-old puppy could be rewarded for peeing in the corner of the living room by a feeling of relief; or you could reward her with a treat and some affection for peeing outside. Your eleven-week-old puppy might be rewarded for whining and jumping on chairs at the dinner table with scraps dropped by her human brother or sister; or you could ensure that she’s rewarded for lying quietly in her crate during human mealtimes with a nice stuffed kong.

If your query is more in reference to taking your puppy to class, here you run into the classic socialization/ vaccination dilemma. You’ll hear all different things regarding where you should and shouldn’t take your young puppy and when she can have each vaccination.

Number one; I recommend following the vaccination protocol suggested by your veterinarian, not by a breeder or pet store. Veterinarians have fairly exclusive access to the latest research and developments with respect to your pet’s health and if you’re going to a good vet, they will be implementing the very latest, safest and most effective vaccine protocol.

Number two; a large percentage of the fear and serious behavior problems we see in dogs (aggression and reactivity to other dogs, children, cars, etc.) are the result of improper or insufficient socialization between the ages of seven and 15 weeks. One small component of proper socialization is puppy class. It’s extremely important. Look around; try to find a reputable trainer (who is good at their job and keeps their facility clean), who has a class starting at the appropriate time for your puppy. The appropriate time is when your puppy has had the minimum number of vaccinations, as dictated by your veterinarian and the trainer’s enrollment requirements; and when your pup still has a few weeks of her critical period (seven to 15 weeks) left.

Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.


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