Seriously! Training your puppy can reap rewards for you and your family for 15 or more years and is about the well-being of not just you and your dog but that of everyone who comes in contact with your dog.
I frequently say in my puppy foundation class that training a puppy is a little bit like the 80-20 Rule… 80% work 20% pleasure NOW and 80% pleasure with something like 20% work LATER. Okay. So it’s not the perfect analogy, but, what in this life is perfect? How long until you get to reap the benefit of all your hard work and effort in training your puppy? What I tell my clients is that they will be actively training their puppies and dogs through the first 3 to 5 years of life, that is, through several developmental stages and well into adulthood.
Training a puppy to become a well-adjusted and well-behaved adult dog takes a whole lot more than merely enrolling in a puppy class or two. It takes 24/7 realization of the awesome responsibility that comes with shaping a canine mind for years to come. Things go more smoothly when we understand a few simple principles about living with and training puppies before we live with attempt to train puppies!
(1) Dogs are learning 24 hours a day. This is a core dog training concept. How you manage your dog’s time has a lot of bearing on how they use their time. What freedom you give before its time early on is harder to take away later. It’s easier to prevent bad habits in the first place than to fix them later. And, here’s the extra weighty stuff, your dog is learning who you are in each and every interaction.
(2) Dogs read body language. To develop a healthy relationship with your dog, you must know more than just a few bits and pieces of what a dog is saying with his body language and as importantly, you must understand what you’re saying to your dog with yours. A dog’s body language never lies about how they are feeling at that moment in time. They rely on a visual interpretation of the world first and foremost. They respond according to their individual life experience (see below).
(3) Dogs learn by association. We’ve known this for 100 years now– Pavlov’s dogs. Bells. Drooling. Meat. The stuff of classical conditioning. It’s happening all the time for all of us whether we’re aware of it or not. It is emotional learning. When ‘a subject’ sees or smells or hears or feels or tastes (the 5 senses) “X”, said ‘subject’ experiences “Y”. The two variables are tied together. It’s the stuff of antecedent, behavior and consequence (the ABC’s of learning a la behavior analysis). But like anything in life, this simple linear formula can get pretty complicated in no time at all. (Look for another post soon on the topic of back-chaining.) My message here is that dogs connect the dots quickly and form what may be lifelong impressions — hence the emphasis on early positive and proactive socialization and training. And, yes, a whole lot of management too.
There’s always more but that’s a pretty good start for today!