Ask the Dogfather: How young is too young (to train a dog)?

Is Menemsha too young to train? — Photo courtesy of Tom Shelby
Dear Dogfather,

I have a 10-week-old pug named Menemsha. I was teaching him to sit when my neighbor told me I shouldn’t start training until he was 6 months old. My neighbor worked with military dogs in the Korean War and considers himself a training aficionado. Who is right?

Thanks, Menemsha’s Mom
Dear Menemsha’s Mom,

1954 was a pretty long time ago, especially in terms of dog training. 1954 was eight years before the Civil Rights Act ended segregation, and the Korean War ended in 1954, and so apparently did your neighbor’s thinking.

Actually, socialization in the first 12 weeks of a dog’s life is critical. There’s a lot of validity to the expression, “It’s easier to prevent than to correct.” At age 6 months most dogs have entered what I fondly refer to as the “punk” stage. They go from puppy to punk to young adult. Could you imagine not teaching your child any manners until the kid was a teen? It would be like living with a walking and talking piece of dirt.

If I can, I start training as soon as a dog is weaned. What a pleasure it is meeting an exuberant 6-month-old puppy that is housebroken, not jumping on people, not mouthing, not raiding the garbage, not taking your sandwich off the counter or your doughnut off the coffee table, not mounting your mother-in-law’s leg, not causing you to go airborne from pulling on the leash, not using your couch and eyeglasses as chew toys, and not howling like a werewolf during a full moon when left alone. Menemsha’s Mom, keep on training!

And by the way, I’d love it if your neighbor would send me a dog question, but my guess is he’s having trouble finding a fresh ribbon for his typewriter.

Best of luck,

The Dogfather