Chapter 1 The 21-Day Basic Obedience CourseThe single most frequently asked questionabout dog training is "When can I start training him?" There's no dog too old to learn, for one answer, but that isn't what the question usually means. What people are asking is "How young can I start training him?"There's no set answer to when a puppy can profitably begin obedience training. Certainly no dog is too young to learn things. Puppies start to learn about the world the moment they leave their mothers' wombs. But most trainers agree that the attention span of a young pup is just too short to allow for rigorous training sessions. Mostly, the results of very early obedience lessons of the classic type are frustration for both owner and dog. You can't figure out why nothing is getting across to him, and he can't figure out, can't even remember from one minute to the next, what it is you want him to do. The best advice is to hold off on formal training sessions until the puppy is from four to six months old. By that time, some of the newness of it all will have worn off, and the dog will be ready to concentrate just a wee bit on what you're telling him.Of course, you're training the dog in basic household manners long before six months, and you're training him in lots of other things, too. You're showing him just what to expect from his association with you and with other human beings. You're teaching him the exact meaning of lots of words and phrases that will later be used as commands. And you're training yourself to be aware of who this pet of yours really is. By the time you're ready to begin formal obedience training, you should be well aware of what this dog likes -- what constitutes a genuine reward for him. Would he rather have his ears scratched with your knuckles than gnaw on a big knucklebone? Wonderful! Now you know just what to do to reward and praise him in training. And you'll be able to keep the butcher's bills down a bit, too.In short, your dog's puppyhood is a time of the two of you getting to know each other. He's also getting to know the whole wide world at the same time, so it's clear why people who start advanced lessons early are usually disappointed. Like all other animals, immature dogs have certain periods when they are most open to new knowledge. Early development proceeds in such a way that puppies are more responsive to human handling when they're three weeks old than when they're two months. This is why home-raised puppies make much better pets than those raised in cages at the pet shop, or all alone with the mother out in the barn. It's simply that if puppies are handled early by people, they associate such handling with pleasure. If it never comes until they're much older, it's associated with threat.Years and years and years of training experience have taught us that the period of openness to real obedience training never begins before the pup is four months old. Seeing Eye dogs aren't accepted for training until they're fourteen months old, and many trainers of circus dogs refuse to even look at a pooch until he passes his second birthday. So don't feel that the one-quarter-year mark is the moment of truth. It may be that a dog whose training starts at four months and a dog whose training is postponed until one year will both know exactly as much at eighteen months. Nobody has ever tested this one to be sure, but early learning may be much more for the sake of the master than for that of the dog. In any case, if it's very rapid progress you're after, wait until the dog is about two. But if you have the patience to work with the younger dog's shorter concentration, you'll find him a slower but willing pupil at about four to six months. When you start depends on what you hope to accomplish, how fast, and why.Whatever your dog's disposition, you can be sure he loves praise. The only exception is the dog who isn't really on good terms with his mMaller, Dick is the author of '21 Days to a Trained Dog' with ISBN 9780671251932 and ISBN 0671251937.