Here is some information that I feel is vital to the correct development of your working dog. It is often missed, ignored and otherwise relegated to the zone of ‘that stuff is for other people’s dogs’, which is inaccurate to say the least.
So, when should the red light go off regarding formal obedience training? When your dog is old enough to know the value of reward and motivation for executing a command, has developed some focus and when it is beginning to test the boundaries of its relationship with the owner. This comes into play around six to eight months old, can happen earlier or later, but it will happen.
Here we have the dog, who, when asked to sit (off leash), will sit some of the time; who will engage in destructive chewing or barking; who will challenge the handler or people in the environment; doesn’t come when called. The list goes on.
Here is the rule: A dog will not learn actual compliance to a command while off the leash/correction collar. True compliance to a given command will only be effective once the dog realizes it cannot disobey the command, ever.
The solution is to either enroll in a puppy obedience class or teach yourself how to train your dog. That means every day, for its lesson, it is on a leash, with a correction collar (usually a prong). That doesn’t mean endlessly telling the dog ‘No’, louder and louder in a vain attempt to control the animal with your voice. This is a useless exercise. There has to be a an actual physical correction in conjunction with the command (Sit, Stay, Come, etc) for the command to have an impact on the dog. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should over-correct or be a sadist with your animal. This is not punishment. It is training. If you cannot differentiate between the two, get a lizard for a pet.
A few minutes a day, with a day or two off per week, should start conditioning a dog towards good obedience.
As a note on this, there are some people who feel it is cruel to correct a dog with a collar. They feel, instead, that you can use reason and human communication alone to get a dog to obey. There are all sorts of silly dog training ‘techniques’ out there that purport to solve the ‘problem’ of training a dog in obedience by not training the dog in obedience. Good luck with that, especially with a working breed.
If you think this doesn’t apply to your dog, or that your dog is a natural Rin-Tin-Tin, then by all means disregard the above rule. However, I am willing to wager you that at some point your dog will choose to disobey your command and that will be the end of that experiment. A dog will get away with as much as it can get away with, in the obedience department. It is a fact that obedience is not native to a dog’s behavior, so one probably should also conclude that the human handler must create an environment where obedience is part of the dog’s life.
If you wait for the dog to make decisions on its behavior, you are asking for trouble.
Good luck and Good obedience training.