Dog Charmer: Training ground

Start them young if you want your puppy to be successful.

Eleanor Winters and her Dalmatians. — Courtesy Eleanor Winters

Dear Dog Charmer:

When do you think training should begin?

Thanks so much!




Dear Eleanor and Dog Charmer readers,


This is a question I get asked all the time, in addition to, “When do you know you’re done training?” Done? My answer: “Within two weeks after the dog passes away.” 

My dog, Paula Jean, is truly smarter than some of my acquaintances and knows her “stuff,” yet often, like some people, most dogs occasionally try getting away with what they can. Highly trained Secret Service bomb detector dogs are often trained to sit when they alert to the scent of explosives. Smart, manipulative ones will sometimes try to con the handler and sit to get the treat and praise without detecting anything.

 Just living with a dog entails enforcing the rules, like the “Leave it” command when your off leash Pug wants to chase the skunk.

As for when to start training, 99 percent of the time I was introduced to my four-legged students when they were at least 8 weeks of age, ranging up to the oldest new student, a 14-year-old Briard. Since it’s easier to “prevent” than to correct unwanted behavior, training begins at first eye contact. And that includes something I hadn’t given much thought to, until I was introduced to Eleanor Winters. 

She wrote a great book entitled, “So Your Bitch is Pregnant.” For anyone thinking about having a litter at their home, this book will take you from pregnancy to placement in as intelligent, clear, simple, and pragmatic a way as you could ask for. And what struck me, what I related to immediately, was what she had to say about training. The importance of socialization is vital, with “been there, seen that, done that, no big deal” being one of my mantras. As a highly respected Dalmatian breeder (her dog is on the Superbowl Budweiser commercial), Eleanor talks about her granddaughter reading books to the pups before their eyes were open. At 4 to 5 weeks of age her Dal pups met the owner of the California School for Dogs and were dissuaded from jumping on her within 20 minutes after swamping her. Not a miracle. “All she did was to pet only the pups that had four feet on the ground.” 

So, when to start: immediately. When to end: never. 


The Dog Charmer