The Old Trainer: No reason to wait on training

August 18, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: We just got Layla, a 12-week-old golden retriever puppy. The breeder told us we should wait until she is a year old to start training her. My father said that was nonsense, so we are turning to you. Who is right?

-- Jan, Livingston

A: Your father is. Nothing a breeder says surprises me anymore, but that advice is so absurd that I think he must have been talking about retriever training, not basic training.

You don't ignore training a puppy for a year under any circumstances. To steal a line from Arthur Miller in "Death of a Salesman": "Attention must be paid." Basic training starts the minute you get your puppy.

Start working today on house-breaking Layla. Forget the old "rub her nose in it" theory.

Take her outside every half hour. Pet and praise her every time she does her business outside. If she forgets and starts to do it inside the house, say "no," pick her up and take her outside. If she does it while you are outside, pet and praise her. She will learn what to do in a couple of days.

In addition, start teaching her to come when called, to retrieve, to walk on a leash, to sit, and where her food and water is. I have emailed you instructions on how to proceed on each.

Be extra patient when training a puppy. Layla will always do the right thing if she understands what you want her to do. If she fails it is your fault, not hers.

And remember, the love and praise are the most important part of the training.

Dear Old Trainer: You mentioned that you no longer give your dogs beef bones. How about rawhide bones? I give them to Rotten, my 4-year old Rottweiler with no problems although I keep seeing warnings about the danger of rawhide. What do you advise?

-- Foster,

Manhattan Beach

A: It's true that rawhide bones can be dangerous, Terry. Dogs chew off a large piece of rawhide, then swallow it and cannot digest it. Every vet I know tells me he has treated dogs who have suffered from swallowing pieces of rawhide.

I devised a method that allows my pack -- and any other dog -- to enjoy the pleasure of chewing rawhide bones without risk. It requires a little work on your part, but your dog will appreciate it.

Buy compressed rawhide bones. They are so hard it takes hours for dogs to chew off a piece. Make them even harder by freezing them before letting Rotten have one. After she chews on it for half an hour, you will notice that it turns white and starts to soften. When that happens, give Rotten another frozen one and put the first one back in the freezer.

Let her chew as long as she wants, but switch a frozen bone for the one she is chewing on every half hour. That satisfies her chewing urge and eliminates the danger.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service