Wondering what your puppy should be doing at 8 weeks or 10 weeks, or a little later at 4 months or 5 months?
It is very tempting to get carried away with puppy training. These little Labradors are so willing to please and such fun to be around. But it is important to go at a ‘happy’ pace.
Obviously we don’t want to be ‘correcting’ tiny puppies. And this can easily creep in if we ask too much too soon.
So what should we be doing with a puppy at two or three month’s old?
What are the stages in training that a puppy should pass through? No two trainers will ever agree exactly on this one!
An approximate schedule
I cannot tell you what you should do with your puppy except to give the above general advice. But it might help to see what I currently do with mine.
This may not be exactly the same for each Labrador puppy, especially with retrieving.
However, it gives you a rough idea. Please note that housetraining/cratetraining is not included:
- Follow me: Encourage the puppy to walk after me and keep close to me outdoors, by walking a few steps one way, and a few steps another. Constantly changing direction. Stopping frequently for cuddles and rewards.
- Recall: Lots of puppy recall ‘phase one’ training. This means I blow the recall whistle whenever the puppy runs towards me, no compulsion, and no whistle unless the recall is already underway.
- Socialisation: Lots (almost daily) of outings to different places rural and urban (carried) Visits to family and friends.
- Bite inhibition: Discourage hard biting, allow mouthing
- Walk next to me: Introduce clicker heel to get the puppy walking alongside me in the heel position on my left hand side.
- Recall: Now I start introducing the whistle as a ‘signal’ to trigger the recall. I still give the puppy lots of encouragement by running away as soon as I blow the whistle.
- Socialisation: More socialisation, at least twice a week to busy public places
- Bite inhibition: Discourage hard biting, allow gentle mouthing
- Retrieving: Encourage chase and pick up (retrieve drive)
- Walk on a lead: If she is ready for this, I start to slip a lead over the puppy’s head for very short periods as she walks next to me
- Recall: Puppy recall continues, reduce my run to a walk, avoid any distractions. Still frequently blow the recall whenever the pup runs towards me of her own free will.
- Socialisation: From ground level (after vaccination). Attend events/take into town. No other lead walking at all
- Bite inhibition: No biting, gentle mouthing allowed.
- Retrieving: Continue to build drive.
4 – 5 months
- Heel: begin to practice heel work more purposefully. Add mild distractions
- Recall: Fade additional cues. Begin to whistle the pup and stand still. Add mild distractions.
- Socialisation: One or two short outings into crowded/public places
- Bite inhibition: No more mouthing. Clicker train to polish this in more mouthy puppies.
- Sit/stay: Simple short duration sits, in low distraction environment
5 – 6 months
- General obedience: Gradually advance the ‘heel’ and ‘sit’. Gradual introduction of distractions
6 months onwards
- Advanced training begins in earnest
Some people train a good deal faster than this and achieve quite impressive results with quite small puppies. I come from an era where gundog puppies were left ‘untouched’ until 8 or 9 months of age. They were given time to mature and just be puppies before training commenced.
This was partly because training methods were much harsher in those days. These days I tend to do more with each puppy at a younger age, but there is also some virtue I think, in not expecting too much.
Early starters don’t get there faster
As far as I’m aware, there is no evidence to suggest that puppies that are ‘hot-housed’ from an early age, make more obedient, or better mannered dogs.
So don’t worry about rushing your Labrador into ‘school’ at eight weeks old.
You have plenty of time to enjoy your puppy and work slowly through a gentle but effective long term training programme.
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