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When to Start Puppy School

By: Sandy Bolan - Updated: 29 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
When To Start Puppy School

When to start puppy school is always a tough question new dog owners have to contemplate.

One belief system has owners allowing their dog to do as he pleases until he’s 16 weeks of age. These owners believe the puppy should explore his environment unabated. “Their thoughts often revolve around the conception that puppy training will have a harmful effect on the socialisation process especially when discipline is used, to define what is acceptable behaviour and what is not,” according to Race Foster, DVM and Marty Smith, DVM of Pet Education.

However, Foster and Smith, along with many respected dog training professionals believe training should start as soon as the puppy comes home.

When you bring your puppy home – usually at eight weeks of age – he is a sponge and ready, willing and able to learn – with the right kind of instructor (patient) and training (positive).

Start with the simple stuff - his name and house training. “Your puppy learns best when you incorporate training into her playtime (like toys and treats), introduce her to the leash – pretty basic stuff,” writes Sarah Hodgson in Puppies for Dummies. “Forget discipline right now because she’s just too young [between eight and 12 weeks] to understand it. You succeed only in frightening her and eroding your relationship.”

What happens if you decide to wait until your puppy is about four months (16 weeks) old to train him? You will have a tougher time instilling the wanted behaviours because you have to first get your dog to unlearn bad behaviours and then learn new ones. You are much better off to teach him desired behaviours right from the beginning.

“The best training is training that happens throughout the day. When you reach to pet him, have him sit. When you put down his food, have him sit,” add Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson, authors of Good Owners, Great Dogs. “The more you liken obedience to the things he enjoys, the more responsive he will be.”


When you’re laying the foundation for the basics with sit, come and no and house training him, don’t expect him to completely understand all of these commands until he’s about six months old. While teaching him all these basic things, it is also important to socialise your puppy. Do not wait until he’s six months old and listening to you because at that age he’s all hormones. Combine the hormones with completely new environments and all the training you did will be for nothing.

Right from the beginning, bring your dog everywhere you go and expose him to everything – children, seniors, birds, bikes, water, other dogs, car rides, pet stores etc. “Between three and 16 weeks – that’s the best time to insure that your puppy grows into a well-adjusted adult,” according to Adam Katz, author of Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer. “It’s about giving your dog the self assurance [he needs] to correctly deal with any social environment he finds himself in. [It] is one of the most valuable and lasting lessons you can teach him.”

Puppy School

Your puppy should start going to obedience school between four and six months of age, and once he gets clearance from the veterinarian. Make sure the school you choose is fun, uses a positive teaching method and consists of dogs that are the same age.

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