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A new study by Dinwoodie et al. (2021) has looked the age at which dogs were trained as puppies and whether there were advantages of training puppies before 4 months of age, or between 5 and 6 months.
This is the first time a study has specifically investigated whether early puppy training (<3 months of age) presents clear advantages over training at a later age, in terms of the subsequent development of adult behaviour problems.
The retrospective study involved 641 owners and 1,023 dogs that had enlisted in a behavioural training programme; nearly all of the dogs included were reported to have exhibited at least one type of behaviour problem.
The researchers found:
- no significant difference in the age of puppy training and the subsequent development of behavior problems
- aggression, compulsive behaviour, destructive behaviour, and excessive barking were all reduced in dogs that had formal puppy training before 6 months of age
- puppy training based on reward-based methods substantially reduced the odds of aggression in adult dogs
- punishment-based methods increased the odds of aggression; more frequent use of punishment is associated with increased aggression and excitability
- the use of punishment when training dogs is related to an increase in both fear and aggression
This new study yet again highlights the fall-out associated with punishment-based methods that include but are not limited to: jerking the lead, pushing into position, use of corrector sprays, shock collars, throwing down chains or rattling items near the dog, shouting, pinning the dog down and so on.
Read the study in full at https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/5/1298/htm