One of the questions I’m asked most often is how old should my dog be before I start formal training. As far as I’m concerned that’s an easy answer, 4 month (16 weeks). At four months old your puppy is like a blank canvas waiting to be painted with all the training you want for your new family member. At four months your dog hasn’t developed a bunch of bad habits and he’ll never be easier to physically manipulate because he’s getting bigger everyday. Years ago we used to wait till the dog was 6 months to a year old but not today. Ten years ago training methods were different, not as motivational as they are today. If you choose a trainer who uses motivational methods 4 months is the time.
So now that we’ve established the age what type of training should we do? It gets confusing here because there are several choices, including group classes, private in-home lessons and even the board and train programs that many trainers offer. Let’s talk about each type of training.
1. Group Classes
A group class is an inexpensive way to get your dog trained and also has the advantage of socializing your dog around other dogs and people. However if your dog is easily distracted the group class may not be the best option. I have literally conducted group classes for thousands of people over the years and I can tell that it works for some dogs and not others.
2. Private In-Home Lessons
In-Home lessons are my favorite for training the new puppy for several reasons. First we are training in the home, and usually that’s where we want the dog to behave the most. In-Home lessons allow us to see the dog with the family in its environment so that we can not only help train but also help solve behavior issues. Also in this type of training there are no distractions so the dog and the owner get the full benefit of the lesson without distractions.
3. Board and Train Programs
Board and Train programs are also sometimes called Doggy Boot Camp. This is where you leave your dog with a trainer from 2-4 weeks depending on the programs provided. The trainer trains your dog on a daily basis and SHOULD give you back a trained dog GUARANTEED. If they don’t guarantee it don’t leave your dog. The key to the success to this program is the follow up lessons for you. The trainer has to teach you how to handle the trained dog and you need to train on a daily basis to establish your relationship with the dog.
So if I needed to make a decision on which type of training to do, the in-home private lessons are a no brainer as long as I will commit to training on a daily basis. If I have NO desire to train then the board and train program is the answer. Group classes come in last.