8 - 10 Week Training Program
This program is available for any of our puppies in litters where we offer it, but we especially recommend it for puppies going to homes with inexperienced dog trainers, homes with families that prefer to forego that time period between 8 and 10 weeks when few puppies sleep through the night, and homes without another dog. There are several benefits to leaving your puppy with us for these extra 2 weeks.
One very important reason for offering this service is to give puppies additional time with littermates. This extra time with littermates gives puppies a better foundation for relating to other dogs, but more importantly littermates teach each other bite-inhibition. Having good bite inhibition creates a gentler mouth and a puppy that is more pleasant in his play with humans.
Another reason we recommend puppies stay with us until later is that the best time to give an initial vaccine is between 8 and 9 weeks of age. Puppies vaccinated at older ages have fewer side effects and a greater chance of having an immune response to the vaccine. These puppies will need only 2 more puppy vaccines whereas our puppies vaccinated at 7 weeks might need 3. Also, it is best to wait a full week after a vaccine before possible exposure to the disease. It takes 6 or 7 days for a Parvo vaccine to take full effect. For puppies staying with us until at least 10 weeks, we give the first vaccine right at 9 weeks.
Puppies go through a fear stage that peaks at 8 weeks and goes through about 10 weeks. We like to send our puppies to new homes before 8 weeks or after 10 weeks so that the stress of a home change doesn’t fall at the height of the fear stage. By 10 weeks, most puppies are completely out of it.
Another advantage that we’ve found in sending puppies home later revolves around the immaturity of young puppies’ digestive systems. Many 8-week old puppies experience digestive upsets when changing homes. Far fewer experience the upset at 10 weeks.
Finally, we’ve found that many people are either inexperienced with puppies or have experience that is so far in the past that they don’t remember much of it. Training an 8-week old puppy is time consuming, sleep depriving, and sometimes exhausting. Very few 8-week old puppies are able to sleep all night in a crate without needing to go outside, but more than half of 10-week old puppies are able to hold it for 6 hours. Our 10-week old puppies are not fully house-trained by any means. They WILL have accidents if you don’t let them out often enough. However, by 10-weeks of age, our puppies are accustomed to pottying almost exclusively outside instead of inside and their bladders are a little more mature than at 8 weeks enabling them to hold it longer. If you will take our 10-week old puppies out often enough, the number of accidents will be minimal.
Listed below is what we work on with these puppies. No puppy can be fully trained and dependable in any area until they are close to a year old. This program is just a start.
Our Program includes a start in the following areas:
1. House-training through a doggy door
We take away all indoor litter areas the day after our regular pick-up days and work with them on doing all of their business outside. Though most people don’t have a doggy door, we’ve found that puppies that are fluent with a doggy door and doing their business outside are highly motivated to get outside when they have to pee or poop. If new family members will open the door to let them out frequently, they train incredibly easy.
2. Crate conditioning
We spend the time between 8-10 weeks conditioning puppies to like the crates before we begin using the crate for containment for extended periods of time. All meals are fed in crates, favorite bones are only given in crates, and puppies are given treats when they are sitting quietly in crates. We only force puppies to stay in crates minimally at this age finding that for the long term it is more important that puppies develop a love for a crate than to be forced to spend long periods of time there too early. We start our crate-conditioning by leaving our puppies in their crates by slowly and incrementally increasing the amount of time that they stay there after meals. We start 8 week old puppies with less than a minute. By the time puppies are 13 weeks, they are used to being in there for up to 2 hours.
3. Preliminary work on elimination of bad behaviors
We begin working on elimination of bad behaviors such as jumping and mouthing by enforcing good behaviors and never rewarding the bad ones. We physically do not let puppies get to our hands with their mouths but instead we re-direct them to play with toys instead of our hands by always keeping toys in our hands when we are sitting with puppies. We never pet puppies over 8 weeks when they jump on either us or on the side of a pen. Instead we teach them to sit for attention. These bad behaviors take far more time to get rid of than this short training time provides but we start the process. Puppies (and dogs) also learn very quickly who will allow them to jump on them and who will not. New families must be consistent and continue the training.
6. Waiting to eat on a release command (which teaches respect and pack leadership without punishments).
We work with each puppy individually on this 3 times a day at meal times.
7. Basic obedience including focus, walking on a leash, coming when called, the sit and down commands, an introduction to the place command, and a very preliminary introduction to the stay commond on the place cot.
Teaching a puppy to focus and look at his owner is what we believe to be the foundation of all training and is our priority. A puppy that is not focused on a person but instead guided purely by food and leash pressure will never be a good obedience dog. Our primary goal is to produce puppies that WANT to look to their owners for direction and do so out of habit and a desire to please, instead of having puppies who obey out of fear. We start teaching the sit and down command as well as walking on leash and the look command just after 8 weeks of age. The place and stay commands are not introduced until right at 10 weeks old. None of these commands are solid at 10 weeks but we give a very good introduction.
8. Continued desensitization to common environmental stressors.
English Golden Retrievers tend toward having softer temperaments and need more socialization than many other breeds. We expose our puppies to the normal sites and sounds of a busy home, to various outdoor areas, to various floor and ground surfaces, to tight spaces, to steps, and to a variety of sounds. Field trips away from our home are not a part of this program.
What this program DOES NOT include
We do not have our puppies sleeping at night in crates at this age. They have free access to outside through a doggy door until we are sure that they are easily able to consistently hold their potty overnight. We do not get up with these puppies through the night but instead work during the daytime to create a love of a crate in them. We make almost all of their experiences in crates positive with the exception of our gradual increase of time spent in the crate. There is the occasional crying pup in the crate, but by far with our methods, our puppies not only accept a crate, they choose it for themselves.
We do not heavily focus on house-training nor do we spend a lot of time on it. We go in and out with our puppies until they are fluent with doing all of their business outside through a doggy door. About 95% of our puppies are to that point by 8 weeks of age. Beyond that, we teach bladder and bowel control as well as self-control in general by giving puppies short scheduled times in crates and pens. These periods in pens and crates gradually gets longer until by 13 weeks they are not only sleeping through the night in crates, they are happy in crates for two hour naps. House-training comes naturally as our puppies develop and grow. The house-training would progress slightly faster if we tethered each puppy to us and gave them more freedom in our home. However, we don't feel that the extra time invested would be worth the extra cost that we'd charge. Our goal is to train the things that most people cannot train and to leave the easy things (such as opening and closing a door for a puppy to get outside) to you. We've house-trained puppies both with and without a doggy door and the differences in the results are negligible. House-training is mostly a matter of teaching bladder control and creating a consistent habit of doing business outside until they grow up enough to be trusted.
One last thing that we don't do is continuing the weekly pictures. We do one final set of pictures during these 2 weeks. If the entire litter is being reserved, this set of pictures will be done at 9 1/2 weeks just before puppy selection time which is right at 10 weeks. If puppy selection has already taken place, the final set of pictures will be done earlier, probably closer to 8 1/2 or 9 weeks. Puppies younger than 8 weeks change an incredible amount in a week's time, whereas the change slows down considerably the older puppies get.
Other information on our 8-10 week program:
We feel that the method that is used by a trainer is more important than what is taught, especially in puppyhood. Any trainer can quickly teach almost any behavior using punishment based or aversive training. However, these quicker training methods come with a cost to a puppy’s confidence, drive, and enthusiasm for work. Though punishment based training can give quicker results for the short-term, positive training gives longer lasting results. Please see our page on our Training Philosophy for more information on how we train.
One final note about this program: a few of our 10 week old puppies are too big to fly in the cabin. Almost all boys are too big by 10 week 4 days and many of the girls are as well. If you wait until your puppy is over 10 weeks, there is a possibility that you will have to either pick up your puppy by car or hope that no one asks to weigh your puppy or your puppy will need to fly the same way that shipped puppies fly. You still must come to our home to pick up your puppy. We do not ship, but if your puppy is too big to for you to feel comfortable taking him in the cabin and you need to fly, the only choice will be for the puppy to ride below. We have so far never had anyone turned away because of weight even though several families have taken 10 week old puppies in the cabin that were a pound or two over the official weight limit. In fact, we've sent MANY puppies home by plane (about half) and only one person ever has had their puppy weighed at all. There will be an additional $50 charge if your puppy needs a health certificate. As of the end of December 2017, only Delta requires a health certificate for in-cabin flight.