When to start basic dog training?
When is the best time to start basic training? Anytime is a good time to start. The ideal time to start working with your dog would be as soon as you get them. Most puppies shouldn’t leave their mothers until they are eight to ten weeks and if you get them at this age and no earlier it benefits them throughout that puppy’s lifetime.
Eight weeks is the earliest age we train. Starting a puppy out as soon as you get them gives them structure, responsibility, and most important that loving bond with their owner. Although I believe you should start training as soon as you get your puppy, it still is pretty difficult to train an eight/nine week old pup. Unless your timing is flawless and you are taking the puppy out 10 plus times a day, it’s going to take you a good number of weeks to get the puppy in the habit of always pottying outside and “placing” without you sitting there in front of them the whole time and the other commands you are teaching them. It does take a little more incentive to train a puppy but if you’re willing to put in the effort, it is possible!
If you don’t have the opportunity to train the dog as a puppy, if you were to adopt an older dog, as soon as you get that dog you should go ahead and start working with them! Any age a dog can learn. Even at ten years old, my lab mix can learn new things just as well as a young puppy can. Any dog is capable of learning. You, as the owner have to put in the effort and want to learn with your dog!
Which dog training method is best?
I use three methods of training when I am training my dogs. Working for food, Leash and collar, and E collars. Working with food being, the dog is working for their food throughout the day with their commands. Leash and collar is any form of that, either slip lead (what we use most) pinch collar, choke chain, flat collar etc.
The E collar is an electronic collar that we use to work on off leash commands, using stimulus to remind the dog what they should be doing.The best method to use is a combination that best fits the dog. Finding what the dog responds best to makes a world of difference. Of course if you have set methods that you always use and the dog isn’t responding well, working with them more gives them encouragement. Talk to others to see if there is something else you could do or add to the way you’re doing things.
For example if I had a dog that needed off leash reliability, leash walking skills (good on leash heel) but needed a little something to help pull it all together, I would use my three methods of training that I usually use, if the slip lead wasn’t working that get for him I would try a different version of leash and collar. Remembering things are always changing in the dog training world and that no one knows absolutely everything helps when you’re getting frustrated with a difficult case. I always have to keep telling myself that and then I go and try to find something that might work better for that particular dog, because dogs just like us are all different and one way of doing things might not be the same for another dog with the same problems! There isn’t one absolute best method to use with every dog!
Why use food with training?
Working with food can make a huge impact on the dog you are working with. The difference between working for food and treat training is that we use the dog’s actual food that they eat every day and they pretty much have to “work” for it. If they don’t work and go through their commands then they don’t eat. With treat training usually you’re holding the treat to where the dog sees it and bribe them to finish the command, at least this is what most owners do without knowing the difference. Working for food is where with every command they earn their food. It gives the dog more incentive to work and motivation to follow through with that command or they pretty much don’t eat!
Its a reward based system. They learn they are working to eat and once they mold that habit that’s when you start to not give the food every time and ultimately phase it out. This method takes them a few days to understand that this is how I eat and not doing it really isn’t an option. I have had a lot of dogs that did their commands okay, and once we started the working for food they changed drastically. They were more in tuned, actually cared about what they were doing, and it gave us a better bond, dog and trainer.
One example of a dog who changed greatly from working for food is Sprout. Sprout was a rescue who was living with his foster mom and wasn’t being a very good boy. He would get possessive over everything, her other dogs, bones, toys, etc. At our evaluation right before he was coming in to train, his foster pretty much said he’s a major pain and doesn’t care at all, which I found was VERY true. We were a week through training and he still had that “I don’t care” attitude. That first day I started him on working for food I saw a change. His eyes lit up and he was happier. It was a whole new ballgame for him and it changed him for the better. It was great! Now Sprout is with his new “furever home”and living out his days as a well behaved, trained, new and improved dog!