The past four years our company Training Canines, LLC has worked with over 25 plus litters of Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. We work with local breeders, and bring the mom and the litter of puppies to our facility when they are seven to ten days old. The day they arrive, the training starts! We keep mom with us until the puppies are 8 weeks old, and then she goes back to our breeder. We continue working with the puppies until they are between 13 and 15 weeks and then they leave for their forever home.
During these past years, we have studied how the puppies learn and kept track of our results. We found what works and what doesn’t. Our system is ever-evolving, as we learn something with each and every litter. Amazingly so, we found that we could actually start telling the temperament of puppies as quickly as 3-4 weeks old. In labs, we can even tell their personality by the texture of their coat!
The cognitive abilities, of a 4-week-old puppy are amazing! It all started when we had a litter of puppies that at 4 weeks old were all eating each other’s poop! As many of you know, this is a learned behavior, so how did they know to do this? Mom! They watched her and began to imitate her. At 14 days their eyes opened. It takes several days for their eyes to become adjusted to light and their vision is blurry. Since the puppies were doing this by 28 days old, this meant these puppies learned by imitation of their mom in only a week to ten days! We could not believe it. So the light bulb went on for us. What if we could teach them by watching themselves on a television at a mere four weeks old? We ran all the scenarios and we have now successfully taught 7 litters (approximately 65 puppies) to learn basic obedience from watching other puppies on television. We found not only did they learn this without luring and food, they also generalized much better. By taking the “human” out of the equation, puppies were sitting further away, and even behind us. Not the traditional way, where you ask a puppy to sit, and they come face forward right in front of you. It was unbelievable!
All of this led us to search what science had learned. We searched for studies that would help us further our program. What did researchers find? Were they seeing what we were seeing? We found a study that was done at the Animal Welfare Science Center in Australia in 2011. It was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. They cited that puppies could learn as early as 3 weeks of age. It also stated by doing so this could potentially increase the number of dogs that are well adjusted for human society and thus reduce the number surrendered to shelters. Low and behold, this is what we have been saying for the past four years! This is what we have been doing! We searched for additional research projects and we have shared some of them with you below. You can follow the links to see the articles.