Q: How soon to begin training a puppy?

A: Whether your dog is eight weeks old or much older, begin teaching your dog appropriate behaviors immediately.

Education begins as soon as you bring your dog into your home.

Always keep in mind the three points of the learning triangle to form a happy, healthy relationship with your dog. The top of the triangle is setting up your environment for safety and success. The next point of the triangle is forming positive associations with the environment (classical conditioning). And the last point is training behaviors and shaping reliability. See Paul’s Training Triangle.


Training should be included in the overall process that is called socialization. We ask our dogs to live with us under our terms and conditions. Therefore, it’s important to socialize them so they can more easily adapt to their human family, neighbors, and other animals.

Socialization deals with stimulating the five senses. It is the exposure to sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. Socialization is interaction with life and all it has to offer, and being able to adapt to its challenges. “It’s all about surviving errors,” as leading veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall puts it.

The first 12-14 weeks of a dog’s life are the most influential in shaping the adult dog’s temperament and behavior.

Pups should be handled as soon as they’re born to get them used to human touch and start the socialization process.

In addition to puppy kindergarten classes, include environmental enrichment exercises in your puppy’s routine. Let her explore safe surroundings, both inside and outside; put toys and novel stimuli on the living room floor and in the yard without you. These items can include balls of different sizes (baseballs, basketballs, beach balls), stuffed animals, and lawn tools. Introduce other animals with strict supervision.

To learn more about early training, watch this video: