McNeil Labradors


Early socialization and obedience training serve multiple purposes.  Whether preparing your puppy for the show ring, obedience ring, hunt test competition, or a family companion, obedience training and socialization are necessary, NOT OPTIONAL.  The difference between a pet and an animal is obedience. 

I recommend obedience and socialization at eight weeks of age.  There is no benefit or gain in waiting until puppies are six months of age.  Waiting only provides an opportunity for them to learn bad habits.

Socialization is very important as early as possible.  I do advise that the puppy be completely vaccinated before jumping unprotected, out into the big world.  One way to take care of socialization before your puppy is completely vaccinated is to invite friends to visit, take your puppy for car rides and allow your puppy to socialize with your older, calmer, dogs that won’t rough house.  The older dogs will help teach respect for authority. 

Exposure to different surfaces, weather conditions, both day and night are important.  How many of us have Labradors that we can’t keep out of the water, yet they don’t like the rain?  

Allowing puppies to experience loud noises prepares them for a myriad of different things.  A loud noise while eating is a good way to prepare them for gunfire if you’re interested in training them to hunt. 

Many years ago, a dear friend of mine and I were at obedience trials when a board in the next ring slammed against the floor and the handler’s dog promptly left the ring, not to return.  The irony of this is that several weeks earlier, my friend and I were in the park training our dogs with a blank pistol – part of our training program for hunt tests.  The same handler whose dog left the ring on the “obedience trial day” walked over and asked us to stop because we were frightening her dog.  She would have been better off to continue training under those conditions.  The dog actually conditioned the owner to respond to what he wanted.  This is the same principle as the new puppy you take home that whines at night.  When you pick up the puppy for whining and put him in bed with you, he is going to continue to exhibit unacceptable behavior, because you have allowed it.

Begin obedience training with simple subordination exercises such as “heel”, “come”, “sit”, “stay”, or “down”.  These exercises can be done at home while you’re preparing dinner, getting ready for work in the morning, or watching TV in the evening.  Five or ten minutes a couple times each day will give you good results.  Keep training sessions very brief because young puppies don’t have a very long attention span. Puppies are creatures of habit and they quickly learn that performance means fun, therefore, follow each training session with a brief period of play. And, always end your training session with success.

Customize a training program that fits your schedule and provides the results you’re looking for.  The same training techniques won’t work for every puppy.  Puppies have their own individual intelligence trainability levels.  Some puppies are more attentive to training and have a higher degree of respect for authority and leadership.  Training is not a “one size fits all”.  You must decide what works for each individual training situation.

When training young puppies, it is important to concern yourself with nurturing basic character traits in your puppy such as playfulness, curiosity, and keeping an enthusiastic attitude toward your relationship.  Remember that puppies learn best in the context of play.

Voice inflection (tone of voice) is very important when practicing subordination exercises with your puppy.  Very early in your puppy’s life, he learned to associate certain responses and reactions with different sounds either from his littermates or his mother.  If he did something that wasn’t pleasing to mom, she growled at him – this doesn’t mean that you should growl at your puppy!  Play with his littermates was fun, and he associated fun with high pitched tones.  This is early, learned behavior before your puppy left his littermates and mother.  These are the same principles used in obedience training and socialization.  When commanding your puppy through the simple subordination exercises to “sit”, “stay”, or “down”, your  voice should always be firm and lower pitched.  When you command your puppy to “heel” or “come”, always use a very happy, animated higher pitched tone. 

How successful you are depends on how hard you’re willing to work.  You can’t train one afternoon or evening per week.  Your puppy needs repetition, practice, and playtime at the end of each session. 

Puppies do not have the ability to verbalize, therefore you need to practice “show and tell”.  If you say “sit”, show them what you want them to do as you are telling them.  DON’T beg  your puppy to do something because this only teaches him that he doesn’t have to do what you just told him to do.   You are teaching him that it is fine to undermine your authority and ignore you if you tell him "sit...sit...sit".  Soon you will have a brat on your hands.  Give one command, and if he doesn’t respond, repeat the command while putting him in his place, gently!

Your puppy is looking to you for guidance.  You are now the pack leader and it is important to be animated and happy with your puppy because he will respond much more readily if you are.  Your puppy will also respond to you if you’re impatient, with unacceptable behavior, or perhaps no response at all.

Finally, “inseeing” is very important in early puppy socialization.  Try to understand your puppy and how he sees things in this big world.  Help him understand what you expect and want from him, while at the same time, being respectful of his feelings and emotions.  Remember, the most important aspect of puppy socialization and obedience training is your attitude.

McNeil Labradors
Statesville, NC 28677

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Last Updated:  January 29, 2008

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  Thought For The Day:

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can
spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's
the best deal man has ever made." - M. Facklam