When Should I Start Basic Obedience?
By Kimberly LeMaster
Puppies begin learning social behaviors when their eyes open! They learn to interact with their littermates and some manners from their mother, however a puppy must learn what is expected of him in a human world. What is okay to do with other dogs is definitely not okay with people, and that is where you take over where his mother left off!
The day your puppy comes under your care is the day basic obedience actually begins. While the most commonly known commands, such as sit, lie down, and stay, are indeed a part of basic obedience it is not the first step. Before you can start teaching your puppy commands, he first must learn how to learn in a human environment.
Basic obedience is everything from learning to walk on a leash to house training and coming when called, but your puppy’s first day with his new family begins small. As a baby, your little one is trying to figure out where he fits in with his new human pack and what is expected of him. His obedience training begins on day one in the simplest of ways!
Teaching your puppy how to learn can be best described in clicker training. Before any animal learns how to work with a clicker, the clicker first must be charged. This basically means that the dog learns what the clicker does and what happens after he hears it. You charge a clicker by sitting on the floor with a handful of yummy, small treats and your clicker. You don’t actually have to use any device for this, but instead can also use another sound like the click of your tongue or a word like “Yep!” Click or clicker, or other marker sound and provide a treat. Do this about ten to twelve times in a row, and you have just charged your clicker! Your puppy has learned that this sound means that a reward is on the way.
As you get further into training, your puppy will learn that the click, or marker sound, bridges the correct behavior to a reward. If he does not hear the sound, then he has not yet provided the correct behavior and will try again.
Before you dive in to teaching your puppy to sit, stay or play dead it is important that you implement some rewarding calming behaviors. A calming behavior is anything other than jumping up, biting, barking or whining. Just like when you charged your clicker, sit on the floor at his level with some treats or bits of food and just wait for your puppy to be calm. He can sit, lie down or just stand. You are not asking him for anything, but mark the calm behavior and reward him with a treat! Doing so will make teaching basic commands much easier and fun for both of you!
Now that your puppy knows that jumping up and barking will not get him the treats he wants, it’s time to begin his obedience training! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a qualified, professional trainer or attend puppy classes! Classes especially hold great benefits to both owners and puppies, can answer your questions, address concerns and get you started down the right path to a well adjusted and polite canine companion.