The impact of pre-adolescent dog training on behaviour

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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.
 
Reference:
Dinwoodie, I.R.; Zottola, V.; Dodman, N.H. An Investigation into the Impact of Pre-Adolescent Training on Canine Behavior. Animals 202111, 1298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051298

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