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The Curse of the Course

I can see the appeal of a 6 week #PuppyCourse, 8 week junior course, 4 week recall course. We all love a quick solution. But are they effective? A 6 week course, is such a tiny portion of a dogs life, can we really teach the dogs, especially young puppies, all of the skills that they're going to need to get them through their 12-15 years of life?

As well as this, the dependant #puppy stage wears off and the teenage stage kicks in around 8-9 months (this varied between dogs). This tends to coincide with the end of puppy/junior courses. So at this point, the management of your dog and your training may need a bit of a tweak, but now you've 'finished training' and you're left to figure things out on your own. Your young dog is now pulling further away on a walk, your recall isn't working, your loose lead has gone to pot and you feel like your tearing your hair out because WE'VE DONE OUR 6 WEEK PUPPY TRAINING!!

But that's exactly what puppy training is. it's skills for puppies. and puppies don't stay puppies for long! Imagine your dogs training to be like teaching a child to read and write. We start with individual letters (ABC), then we make short words (CAT, DOG, HAT) and then we build those words into sentences (The Cat in The Hat). Why do we do that? because its sensible progression! We don't teach the child short words and then hand them Leo Tolstoy's War And Peace and wonder why the child isn't reading. Much like you cannot expect a young dog to go from 10 metre #recalls in a village hall setting, to 100 metre recalls away from other dogs without the appropriate stepping stones to get them there.

From my experience as a #trainer, the natural cycle of these dogs that have only done the 6 week puppy course is as follows:

  • Puppy goes to puppy course

  • Both dog and handler can maintain training for a little while

  • Behaviours start slipping, but it doesn't seem too bad

  • Hormones kick in, dog becomes more dependant and starts pushing boundaries

  • Handler puts it down to hormones and applies 'they'll grow out of it' rule

  • Dog comes back to training at 2 years old when the dog hasn't 'grown out of it'

  • We spend time retraining the behaviour in a more realistic environment, which is appropriate for your now adult dog (taking into consideration external motivators which affect your training).

Am I saying that courses for a short period of time are a bad thing? Not at all! They're a great way to start dog and handler on the right track, laying a good foundation for further training. But that's often the part that people miss, the further training! Its vital that the dog continues to learn as they develop both physically and mentally. What is appropriate and effective for the 10 week old puppy 'blank canvas' isn't necessarily appropriate and effective for the 15 month old 'tear away'.

I would love to hear your opinion and experiences with both courses and continual training! Drop a comment below!

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