Why are Puppy Classes Important?

Training and socialization classes have become a very important part of rearing a new puppy. Young pups learn to interact appropriately with their peers, owners learn to teach basic obedience to their dogs, future behaviour problems are prevented and existing problems can be promptly addressed before they get out of hand. A well-run puppy class is the best way to get a puppy off to the right start.

Owners frequently have concerns about communicable diseases in puppy class. The ideal time to start puppy class is 7-10 days following the first set of vet-administered vaccinations. This delay means that the pup’s immune system has had a chance to be stimulated to produce antibodies. A well-run puppy class will take appropriate precautions to mitigate exposure to disease. This will include ensuring that all puppies are vaccinated with the above guidelines and disinfecting floors prior to all puppy classes. The most intensive period of socialization occurs prior to 16 weeks of age. Taking appropriate precautions means that puppies can begin class as young as 8 weeks old, thus gaining full benefit from the program. The late R.K. Anderson was a pioneer in promoting puppy classes for young pups, see what he has to say about socialization class and disease: http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/members/handouts/apdt_tydmrkletter.pdf

A well-run puppy class will be a blend of obedience and manners training along with socialization exercises. Training should be undertaken using exclusively positive reinforcement techniques. Positive reinforcement means that a puppy will earn treats, toys or access to something enjoyable contingent on performing behaviours that are desired by the owner. Training should not be about coercion and domination. This means that the puppies should not be frightened or hurt through the use of collar corrections, striking or grabbing, being shouted or growled at, being rolled on their back, or having items thrown at or near them. Positive training is not permissive training. It is effective, efficient and compassionate and lacks the risk of the physical or behavioural fallout associated with corrective training methods.

Puppy playtime is not a ‘free for all.’ There should be an upper age limit for puppies in class, play should be closely monitored, rough play interrupted, and frightened puppies should be given opportunity to retreat to a safe place. Not all play is good play. If poorly monitored, impressionable young puppies can learn that other dogs are scary. A good instructor will talk owners through what they are seeing during play and instruct owners on when and how to interrupt play. Structured play with other puppies will teach puppies how to understand the language of their peers, how to regulate themselves, and learn how to control their jaw pressure. Puppies who have not learned “acquired bite inhibition” will be more likely to inflict a damaging bite (rather than inhibited bite) during times of stress than a dog who did not learn to control their jaw pressure as a pup.

Socialization encompasses not only puppy play, but also handling, ‘scary’ objects, sounds, etc. This also means that owners learn how to prevent future problems when their puppies are still young – this could be reactivity, resource guarding or handling issues. A comprehensive article on properly executing socialization can be found here: https://scratchandsniff.ca/puppy-socialization-in-guelph/

Puppy socialization classes provide a valuable opportunity to connect with other puppy owners, seek the advice of a canine professional, and start puppies off right. A Purdue University study found that dogs who are enrolled in training classes are less likely to be surrendered to shelters. By focusing on problem prevention in puppy class, trainers can help to reduce the risk of loved puppies turning into adolescent shelter dogs.

For more information on puppy classes, take a look at this roundtable discussion: http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/vetmed/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=646902

Are you looking for a puppy class in Guelph, ON? Scratch and Sniff Canine Services offers puppy socialization classes and play groups. For details, visit: https://scratchandsniff.ca/puppy-socialization-in-guelph/