It is never too early or too late to begin training your dog. Dogs can learn throughout their entire lives.
The important decision is not whether to train, but what and how to train your dog depending on his age.
Puppy’s Critical Learning Period
A puppy’s critical period of learning is from two to 14 weeks of age. This is the period in which the puppy’s brain is at its peak for learning and absorbing new stimuli. It is very important that a puppy be exposed to as much as possible during this period.
If a puppy does not see something during this time, they may develop a fear of it when they are adults. That is why dogs have “irrational” fears of UPS trucks, umbrellas or certain types of people. When you get a new puppy it is at least eight to nine weeks old, so you have already missed half of the critical period.
A good breeder will have made use of the first eight weeks of the critical period, exposing the puppy to people, dogs, sights and sounds. Beware of a breeder who keeps the puppies isolated in a small kennel.
Your dog can learn basic obedience such as sit, heel and stay at any age, but she has a limited time in which to become socialized, so get her out as soon as possible! If you can expose her to lots of people, animals and different environments you will save her from developing behavior problems as an adult.
More Advanced Commands at Five Months
Dogs can learn easy obedience commands like sit, down and come right away. Advanced commands like stay and heel require a longer attention span and should be left until the dog is at least five months old. Dogs learn best in short, productive sessions of two to five minutes.
The longer you push the training session, the more frustrated you and your dog will become. It is better to do five successful five-minute sessions per day than one 25-minute session.
Training Older Dogs
Older dogs can learn obedience just as easily as puppies, unless they are very ill. The difficulty with older dogs is trying to undo bad behaviors such as barking, jumping or biting that they have been getting away with for years. Dogs learn only by repetition, and the more repetitions they have, the more ingrained the behavior becomes.
Therefore, if your dog has 5,000 repetitions of barking at strangers, a trainer will not be able to reverse that behavior in a day. Your dog will need to have 5,000 repetitions of not barking before he is “cured.”
Don’t let your dog’s age stand in the way of training. There is always positive work that your dog can do, whether he is two months or 15-years-old.
Jumping up is a very common complaint from dog owners. A jumping dog can be anywhere from mildly irritating to quite dangerous, depending on its size. It is very important to stop your dog from jumping for both practical and behavioral reasons.
In any canine society, pawing, jumping and shoving are considered rude and pushy behaviors. All dogs are born knowing that only the alpha of the pack should be able to get away with physical solicitations like jumping and pawing.
When your dog jumps or paws at you, he knows he is being rude and that he is doing something he should not be getting away with. He also knows that he is not the alpha in your household because he can’t obtain food and shelter for you.
Therefore, when he jumps on you and gets away with it, he doesn’t feel as though he’s climbing the social ladder in your family. What he does feel is confused and anxious. Dogs crave an established social hierarchy to follow and when they get mixed signals about the social order, they become anxious.
Training Your Dog
How do you stop your dog from jumping? If she is not reinforced in any way she will stop. This means no petting, shoving, talking or scolding when the dog jumps. A dog that jumps is seeking attention, and he doesn’t care whether the attention he receives is positive or negative. That’s why scolding, swatting or kneeing in the chest doesn’t work.
When the dog jumps, simply push her off with your body (hips, shoulders, legs), NOT your hands, and then ignore her until she offers you a nice behavior like going away or sitting. Once she is engaging in the non-jumping behavior, praise her and shower her with attention. If you are very consistent with this, your dog will catch on to the fact that she gets nothing from jumping and she’ll stop.
Everyone feels that it is unacceptable to have a 150-pound dog jumping on people. However, from a behavioral standpoint, it is just as problematic for a 2 pound dog to jump. All dogs will feel relieved when they are not allowed to get away with jumping or pawing. If you eliminate jumping, you will notice a pleasant change in your dog’s behavior overall. He will become less anxious and will spend more time lying down and relaxing.
Barking is one of the most frustrating behavior problems that dog owners experience. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to silence a barking dog. It is also embarrassing and problematic to have a noisy dog in an apartment building or on a busy street.
The best way to deal with an overly vocal dog is to first examine the cause of the barking and try to eliminate it. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and each one has its own solution.
Why is Your Dog Barking?
- Fear: Many dogs vocalize when they are fearful or nervous. This is especially true for toy breeds. The dog is sleeping quietly and then the doorbell rings, immediately sending the dog into a frenzy. She may continue to bark the entire time the visitor is in the house.
- Scolding or punishing her for barking is not only ineffective, it probably increases her nervousness. The solution to fear-related barking is to eliminate or reduce the dog’s level of anxiety through training and desensitization exercises.
- Frustration: A dog that is frustrated may resort to barking when he can’t find a solution to his problem. Solution: examine the source of the frustration. Does he have a legitimate reason to be frustrated? No dog should be tied up or closely confined for long periods of time. Similarly, a reactive dog should not be allowed to stare out the window and bark at everyone who passes. He is not enjoying himself! A relaxed dog would be sleeping in a corner, ignoring the window. Find a quiet, windowless spot for your reactive dog.
- Attention-seeking: Some sources of doggie frustration are not legitimate. Your dog should not feel the need to bark at you when you are eating dinner or engaged in an activity that does not involve her. Don’t give in to a dog that vocalizes to get attention. She needs to learn to wait patiently until you are ready to interact with her. The only way to eliminate this type of barking is to ignore it completely.
- Breed-specific barking: Always research your breed before you get a dog! Some dogs, such as Lhasa Apsos and Chihuahuas, have been bred for centuries to bark at the slightest noise. They may not make good apartment dogs for this reason. Small-breed dogs, hounds and herding dogs tend to be barkers. Training is not very effective against years of genetic selection for barking.
The best solution to problem barking is to attack the reason behind the barking instead of the barking itself. Eliminating the source of the problem will result in long-term success and a much happier dog.
From Rachel Jones. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com. She is she is the owner of K-9 Divine and a professional dog trainer,
No matter how much you feed your dog, she always wants more, especially when you are eating. All dog owners have received desperate pleadings for food at the dinner table. Is begging a necessary doggie ritual? Absolutely not!
The first thing to remember is that dogs are domesticated wolves. Their DNA is still nearly identical to that of wolves. In the wild, food is hard to come by. Wild canids sometimes go for many days without eating, and they must learn to bear hunger patiently.
Pet dogs possess the same level of patience. Unfortunately, most pet dogs do not learn to be patient; by always getting what they want, they develop intolerance for frustration that manifests itself in obnoxious behaviors like barking, whining and jumping.
When a wolf is in between meals, he cannot afford to waste precious calories on unnecessary activities. Therefore, when not actually hunting, wolves try to stay as still as possible. Domestic dogs have the same programming:
They will not engage in behaviors that get them nothing. This is the most important fact to know about your dog. If you do not reinforce your dog for begging, he will stop! Not reinforcing behavior means not paying any attention to the dog when she is engaging in the behavior. Attention can be positive or negative. In order to completely ignore your dog when she is begging, you must avoid all eye contact, talking, yelling, touching or correcting.
In or Out of the Room During Your Mealtimes?
How do you ignore your dog during mealtimes? First, your dog does not always need to be in the room with you when you are cooking or eating. If you have a puppy, put him in his crate or in another room during dinner. This will prevent him from being able to engage in begging at all.
If you want to have your dog in the room while you are eating, you must be prepared to ignore barking, whining, staring or jumping. It will take your dog several weeks to catch on to the fact that he is getting nothing from begging, so you must consistently ignore him every time, no matter how annoying the behavior gets. If you feel yourself losing your temper, it is always better to quietly move your dog to another room than to yell or correct the dog. Punishment is just another form of attention.
Remember that a well-fed dog has no reason to beg for food. If she is doing so, it is because you are reinforcing the behavior in some way. Eliminate the reinforcement and you will eliminate the begging.
This is already part of my posting about the Shaw Dog Park celebration on Saturday, but I feel so strongly about it that I am posting it separately.
Here is my plea to parents of small children who bring them to a dog park. I beg you: PLEASE do not allow your small child to be on the ground inside the dog park. I was at the Shaw Dog Park tonight and a small girl (perhaps a year old) was sometimes allowed to stand on the ground while about 15 dogs ran around. At one point, her parents took her out into the middle of the dog park–dogs were running around in all directions. I have to assume that parents who allow their extemely small children to mix with unknown dogs simply don’t know any better.
From the Logan Circle listserv on Yahoo! Groups… there is a six-month anniversary celebration of the Shaw Dog Park this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The park is located on the 1600-block of 11th Street NW between Q and R Streets NW.
On a related note… here is my plea to parents of small children who bring them to the dog park. I beg you: PLEASE do not allow your small child to be on the ground inside the dog park. I was there tonight and a small girl (perhaps a year old) was sometimes allowed to stand on the ground while about 15 dogs ran around. At one point, the parents took her out into the middle of the dog park. I have to assume that parents who allow their extemely small children to mix with unknown dogs simply don’t know any better.