Top 5 Skills to Teach Your DogBefore I go into what I would consider my top five skills for dogs, I think it’s important to understand some of the things that may influence how you teach a particular skill. Factors such as age, confidence, physical limitations, and motivation will each play a part in how you train. Let’s address each one of these factors individually.
Age: Puppies are blank slates and have had less time to rehearse and commit to unwanted behaviors. You can have real influence on a puppy by ensuring that he or she has the continued opportunity to interact with other puppies and dogs after they leave their litter and by purposefully introducing them to as many sights, sounds and smells as you can (in a nonthreatening way) to help to create a confident, social animal. By managing their environment, you can keep unwanted behaviors from happening in the first place. But a puppy can be tough. They have limited concentration, they chew and eliminate indiscriminately and they require lots and lots of attention.
If you choose to adopt an older dog, you may have to spend some time resolving and managing problem behaviors first. Your ability to socialize a dog beyond its “critical period” (to 12 weeks) is limited, so while you may be able to influence somewhat your dog’s confidence, pretty much what you see is what you get. But unlike puppies, an older dog may already have progressed through their super destructive chew period and with proper supervision should have the capacity to be easily housetrained.
Training an adolescent dog comes with its own set of challenges. Dogs hit adolescence around 5 months and adolescence can last until the dog is two or three depending on the breed and individual animal. Adolescence is characterized by more independent thinking; dogs will become less interested in you and more interested in the environment. Dogs go through their final phase of teething during this time. There is also a fear period associated with this phase – confident dogs may suddenly turn shy and fearful. Acquiring an adolescent dog will require that you be consistent in your management and training. Doing so will ensure that you both make it through this time happy and whole.