The earlier, the better is the short and simple answer. It depends is more accurate.
Puppy training falls into two entirely separate categories.
- The Forming Of A Stable Temperament During Critical Imprint Period (Three to Twelve Weeks of Age +/- 1 week.)
How you move forward depends on two things:
- It depends on your dog’s breeder investment in your puppy before you picked up.
- It depends on who you hire to guide your puppy’s obedience training.
It depends on who bred your dog. Very few breeders do the things they should be doing before a puppy leaves their premises and almost none of them followup with early life frequent check-ins (weekly up until 12 weeks of age, monthly until 9 months of age, quarterly until 2 -3 years of age depending on breed and annually ever after). This is, sadly, the norm.
However, genuine breeders will have done a lot to prepare a puppy for his or her future life. If they do what a breeder is supposed to do the puppy at 7 ½ – 8 weeks of age will be ready to transition to his or her new home already house trained, crated trained and the bulk of imprinting kicked off. By imprinting I mean they will have exposed the puppy to soundtracks of city sounds, thunder, fireworks, babies crying, actual children, senior citizens, car rides, simple puzzle solving, nose work etc.
If your breeder is the sort that simply bred the dog, you will need to begin the imprinting aspect as the window is narrow and based on rock-solid science. Just as you inoculate puppies against corona and Parvoviruses, rabies, etc. it is exposing a puppy in the right manner at the right time of life, to repeated and diverse sounds, sights, smells, textures and life experiences that will inoculate them against fear, anxiety, and aggression. (At all costs AVOID puppy socialization classes.)
I’ve come to think that when someone has a job that they don’t enjoy and lacks a post-secondary education or the drive or the intellectual capacity to self educate they often become a ‘professional’ dog trainer (or a life coach), neither of which require anything other than the ability to self-proclaim. Hiring someone to provide advice in these areas more often than not ends up being much the same as hiring a parrot to teach you to speak.
As a result, you should be very careful as to who you hire to advise and guide your dog training path and especially a puppy’s.
If you start your puppy’s obedience training off shortly after your puppy moves into your home, you’ll be working with a blanker slate. Your puppy will be learning whether you’re consciously guiding or not, so early is better. However, between 8 – 10 weeks of age your puppy is in a “fear imprint” period/window, and it’s crucial that if your appointment is scheduled during this time frame that you are working with an experienced and knowledgeable trainer. If you wait until after 10 weeks of age to book training, it won’t be the end of the world. There will have been a few weeks of frustration perhaps and figuratively speaking maybe a few ‘knots in the leash’ to undo but nothing a good trainer won’t be able to help you quickly unravel. (For the clients that book their puppy appointment with me we don’t wait for our appointment to address things like house training, crate training or guidance on how to form temperament and these are more time-sensitive, and we don’t want those knots in the leash, so I provide before the appointment guidance via some PDF’s, access to me by phone, text, email, and use of videos to coach.)
Beware Of And Avoid Any Trainer Offering Or Recommending:
- A puppy socialization class
- Hanging bells on a door to guide house training
- Time outs
- Addressing puppy mouthing, nipping, biting by redirecting with a toy, time outs, feigned (or actual) painful exclamations on your part, etc. (Read: Puppy Mouthing, Nipping, Biting – The Advice You’ve Been Getting Is Probably Wrong (And Making Things Worse) by John Wade)
You are not dealing with someone that is a critical thinker, and as a result, they are left to parrot nonsense pseudo-science strategies that have significant potential to do more harm than good and certainly make you and your puppy’s lives far more difficult than need be.
My Personal Recommendation On When To Schedule Your Puppy’s Training
- If you haven’t yet picked up your puppy book immediately so that I can send some recommendations for you to suggest to the breeder gently. You can book the training for any time before 10 weeks of age so in addition to training guidance I can observe your puppy’s temperament and make some recommendations to incorporate up until the window closes (12 weeks of age.)
- If your breeder is one of the super breeders (unlikely but fingers crossed), anytime but better no later than 10 weeks so we can get on track. Keep in mind when you book the training begins right away as I send some kick starter (cheat sheet) instructions so you can avoid getting off track and developing problems in the areas of house training, crate training and imprinting.
- If your breeder is a regular breeder and didn’t do any of the crate, house training, imprinting, etc., no later than 10 weeks of age and sooner if possible.
- If your puppy is already past 12 weeks of age, we approach things a little differently. The imprint period is now past, which means the opportunity for ensuring a wide-spectrum stable temperament is past. However, not the end of the world. Genetics plays a role as well and some breeders and new dog owners, whether purposefully or not may have provided sufficiently varied stimulation to create malleability in temperament. However, better not to leave things to chance as while you may not be able to make your dog “like” or be indifferent to the sort of experiences you’ll find in the PDF we can do a ton to prevent a relatively small issue from growing into a monster problem.