Lovely little cute bundles of learning potential. A dog trainer’s dream!
Often crowded, badly managed and focused on teaching irrelevant things. Some dog trainers’ idea of a nightmare.
So, how do you pick a good puppy class?
Here are some things to look for:
How big is the venue?
If it is small and cramped with lots of puppies all bouncing and barking at each other you will struggle to learn anything regardless of the quality of the information. Look for a large venue or small numbers – or both!
Off lead play encouraged?
This a such a hot topic amongst dog trainers! Good puppy play can be literally life changing. Bad puppy play can be literally life changing as well. What’s the difference?
Good puppy play is between pairs of puppies of similar age, size and temperament. It is CLOSELY supervised and any inappropriate behaviour is interrupted promptly. Puppies are called apart frequently and play sessions are short and interspersed with interaction with the handler. This set up teaches excellent inter dog communication. It also teaches the pups that leaving a play partner is a positive thing to do and that focusing on Mum or Dad is worth the effort, even with a tempting distraction.
Bad puppy play is a free for all with multiple pups of different sizes, ages and temperaments basically having a bun fight. It teaches bigger, stronger more confident pups to be bullies and small, shier pups to be scared of incoming dogs. Often these sessions of puppy play are not interrupted and go on for far too long. Pups that aren’t traumatised learn that Mum and Dad are irrelevant and charging about in a huge out of control pack is the best thing in the world. Perfect for the dog park, not so good for everyday life.
What is the focus of the teaching?
Puppies need life skills. They need to be confident in the world around them. They need to be able to settle calmly. They need to LOVE being handled all over their body. They need to learn how to regulate their emotions (impulse control). They need to be able to make good behaviour choices. They need to come when called. They need to learn how to learn.
What they don’t immediately need is to learn how to sit/down/stay ‘on command’. They don’t need to formally ‘heel’ on walks. If the class focus is on formal obedience type exercises then the instructor has missed the point of puppy classes. ANY dog of any age can learn these things. Only a puppy is totally open to having his world view moulded and shaped appropriately by positive experience – focus on teaching life skills and concepts before tricks and exercises; get your priorities sorted at the start and the rest is pretty easy!
A good puppy class will include the following:
- positive introductions to novel things and experiences
- structured interactions between appropriate puppies
- fun ways to teach your pup to love being handled
- basic skills such as name recognition/recall and sit
- basic impulse control games
- play skills
- calming strategies
- management ideas to keep you sane and your puppy safe
- The instructor will be knowledgable about puppy development and what to expect as your puppy grows up.
If you’re not lucky enough to be able to get your new addition into a GOOD puppy class, you may be better off skipping what is on offer. A badly run puppy class can lead to a lifetime of poor behaviour, emotional problems and heartache. Young puppies learn from bad experiences even more quickly than from good ones – and those lessons can absolutely last a lifetime.
So, what’s the alternative? If you want to provide a solid foundation of excellent life experiences and learning, it’s perfectly possible to do so without ever going to a puppy class. None of my current dogs ever went to a puppy class and they’ve grown into well behaved, social, well balanced dogs. You can find out how I raised them in my ebook “Pain Free Puppy Raising“.
In it I cover all the critical learning your puppy needs and give practical advice on how you can provide those experiences safely, without access to a puppy class. It’s the ideal solution when a GOOD puppy class isn’t an option, either due to your location, the time of year or the affect of unprecedented world events. So, if you’re getting a summer puppy, here in the southern hemisphere, and all the puppy classes are shut for Christmas, all is not lost! You can find it here:
– Sarah and the Gang
Like what you’ve just read? Don’t forget to share this post so others can enjoy it too 🙂