Choosing a Puppy Class: Playing isn’t always good for your dog!
Being a dog trainer, I know lots of dog trainers. Also, calling yourself a dog trainer, and teaching classes does not make you a good dog trainer, or a knowledgeable dog trainer. Keep this in mind always! Finding a puppy class for Cargo was more difficult than I expected. I should have gone with my gut and observed the classes before bringing her. (Always go with your gut! How many times have people told us that?) Time got away from me, and we showed up to our first puppy class together.
These are the boxes to check when looking for a puppy class! (#1 is go to puppy class!)
Positive Reinforcement based. (Labels of dog training is a blog post for another day, but this is the most common term so I am going to use it here) You should be giving your puppy tons of cookies. Like all the cookies, like more cookies than you ever thought possible. That’s the right amount of cookies for your puppy. If the trainer is suggesting a training collar or slip collar then you need to find a new puppy class. Puppy should be in a well fitting harness or flat buckle collar.
Vaccinations are required upon entering. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) changed their guidelines on puppy socializing a few years ago, and most vets are still struggling with the changes. Previously, Vets have been keeping puppies close to home until they are finished with their puppy vaccinations. Now, we have discovered that the 9 to 16 week window is prime time for learning the world and learning how to adapt to new environments. Keeping puppy at home can actually cause more behavior problems than the risk for catching a disease. Be smart about socializing your pup. (See previous blog post) Puppy class should have a bunch of healthy and vaccinated puppies for you to socialize with.
Playtime and work time is separate, and clearly defined. Imagine letting kids decide to play or learn their letters in preschool. Obviously they are going to choose playing instead of working! They are babies and have a need to play! But you are in puppy class, and you both are there to learn. If you have stray puppies rolling up on you while you are trying to teach your dog to focus on you, then you are making class too difficult for you and your puppy.
Playtime should also be structured to accommodate all playstyles and sizes. Cargo is a monster when she plays. I do not expect someone with a 2 pound Maltese puppy to be okay with my bold crazy puppy being in their face. Play time should allow the wallflowers time to interact with other wallflowers until they are ready for wild and crazy play. Throwing everyone in together to “work it out” is a recipe for disaster.
Learning is tailored to your baby puppy. Your puppy should be learning that you are the most fun, exciting and important thing in their life. Puppy class should be working on teaching your puppy the foundations that will set him up for a lifetime of learning. Teaching puppy how to focus, his name, and some impulse control are really the big things that you should walk away learning in puppy class. Save the “sit” “down” and “stay” for when they are a bit older and understand how to focus and figure out their surroundings. If you have a good foundation, then the rest becomes very easy!
Again, go with your gut! If you don’t think the puppy class you chose is giving you the results you were looking for, then find a new one! Bad socialization will do more harm than minimal socialization. You and your puppy should be having fun when going out and doing things together. If puppy class is stressful for you or your puppy then it’s not doing anyone any good! Find a trainer you trust to help you with your puppy’s socialization plan.
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