Dispelling the number one training myth | SierraSun.com

Dispelling the number one training myth

Jeanie Collins Duffield, CPDT
Special to the Sun

Myth number One:

You cannot train a dog until it is six months of age

Myths prevail in the world of dog training. They are passed from generation to generation, from one and#8220;expertand#8221; to another. Even well-meaning people who have and#8220;been in dogsand#8221; for 20 years often have out-dated information they confidently, albeit incorrectly, pass on to others who perceive them as knowledgeable aficionados in the world of dogs.

Much research in the field of canine (and human) behavior and development, as well as in learning theory, has been done in the last couple of decades. We are slowly beginning to see the benefit of this information as the more progressive trainers and behaviorists are learning, changing, and sharing this knowledge with their clients and students.

It may surprise you to know puppies actually begin learning at the age of five weeks of age. Considering a 6-month-old puppy is about the equivalent to a 15-year-old human in its learning development, I shudder to think about waiting until my dogand#8217;s adolescence to begin training him!

The other key piece to understand is the window of socialization opportunities is optimum up to the age of 12-16 weeks. What this means is things your puppy is not exposed to during this critical developmental period can create fear in them later and may affect them for their entire life. It is imperative to expose your puppy (carefully!) to things you and I may consider absolutely normal, such as infants, toddlers, adolescents, men, people with hats, people with canes or in wheelchairs, horses, stairs, various types of surfaces under their feet, etc.

The growing puppy is learning all the time. When he whines and cries in the middle of the night and you put him in bed with you, youand#8217;ve just reinforced the whining and crying. When she grabs something you donand#8217;t want her to have and you shout at her and/or chase her and she runs away from you, you have just taught her to fear and mistrust you, to run away from you, to not come to you when called, and in some cases, how to play a fun game of and#8220;catch me if you can.and#8221; Donand#8217;t kid yourself. Your puppy will have learned an enormous amount of things by the time she reaches the and#8220;magicaland#8221; six-month mark. They just may not be the things you wanted her to know!!

Using proper guidance and management of a puppy, many unacceptable behaviors, such as inappropriate elimination, chewing, object stealing, biting, jumping up and barking can be prevented and circumvented before becoming a problem. Also, using force-free, reward-based methods with a youngster enables a person to begin teaching anything the pup is physically able to learn.

So do yourself, your family, your community and your puppy a favor. Assist your puppy in becoming the best he can be by beginning his training the moment you bring him home. By investing this time with your pup, you should reap the rewards of creating a dog that is well-behaved, well-socialized, is safe and easy to handle, a joy to be around and is a wonderful addition to your life.

and#8212; Jeanie Collins Duffield, CPDT is a Canine Behavior Consultant, enriching the lives of people and their dogs since 1980. Contact her at 530-400-DOGS (3647) or http://www.beyondobedience.com