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Bringing home a puppy or kitten is an exciting time. Although little nips, scratches and chewed-up sneakers may seem like normal issues to deal with as a new pet owner, knowing when to start training a puppy or kitten so that those little issues don't become long-term problems are crucial. Some new pet owners think puppies and kittens can't learn right away, but that's not true. Even the youngest animals observe their mother, siblings and humans, and their observations help them learn right and wrong habits.
If you're deciding when to start training your puppy, twelve to sixteen weeks is the golden training period, says the American Kennel Club. Puppies start understanding praise and can learn to wear a collar when they're eight weeks old. One of the first things you can do is house training. Training your dog to let you know when he has to go out is not an overnight process, so the sooner you start, the better.
While working on potty training lessons, you also want to consider the five basic commands for dogs: sit, lie down, come, stay and heel. If you start teaching these commands as soon as you bring your puppy home, and continue to work on them consistently, your dog may learn them within a few short weeks.
To help make training go smoothly, make it a time to bond and reward your dog with positive energy or treats. Keep things positive and always focus on what your dog is doing right, not what he's doing wrong.
While your puppy is mastering house training and the basic commands, focus on getting your puppy used to being around people and other animals. If your pup picks up the basic commands quickly, introducing a distraction (like other people) is a good way to see just how well he's doing with his training. Some dog owners make the mistake of thinking their dog has mastered a command and then assuming he no longer needs to practice.
A dog's brain develops very much like humans. Between the ages of six and eight months, just when your pup may seem perfectly trained, he might start behaving like a challenging adolescent. This could include attempts to assert his dominance and be rebellious. Your best course of action here would be to remain consistent with your training and reinforce good behavior with treats and affection.
Since it can take a year or two for your dog to develop into a full-blown adult, training should progress as your dog ages. You should continue to practice and reinforce simple commands, then gradually add more difficult commands, like "roll over" or "paw."
Starting kitten training, in some aspects, can be easier than puppies. For example, house training a cat usually happens much faster than house training a dog, because cats have a natural instinct to bury their waste. However, there are some aspects that may seem more difficult. Kittens may not respond as well to positive reinforcement and you may have to remove items or distract kittens from clawing at and chewing on things. The important thing is to remain consistent with kittens — their independent nature can cause them to lose interest in training with you, so it is important to keep at it when she can stand it.
New kitten parents may often sport constant bite and scratch marks. Little kitten teeth might not hurt, but when an adult cat bites people, that's a problem. That's why you need to stay consistent when playing with and training your kitten. Don't allow kittens to scratch, bite, claw, jump on the dinner table or climb on furniture that's off-limits.
The easiest way to stop your young cat from doing these things is to distract her and guide her to a better behaviour. For example, if your kitten is scratching your sofa, call her over to a scratching post. If your kitten is biting your toes, give her a mouse toy to chase and bite instead. If you have children, give them directions on how to play nicely and help the kitten learn good behaviours, as well.
Young dogs and kittens need consistency and training in order to grow up to be well-mannered and well-behaved adult pets. Trying to teach an old dog new tricks (or better behaviours) often requires an actual dog trainer and more time and money, and it can be even more difficult to train an adult cat. You can save time and money by starting off on the right foot and training early and often.
Whether you're going to start training kittens or puppies, beginning the process early and developing good consistent habits is much better than trying to break bad habits later.
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.