The Makings of a Good Puppy Class

Ask any dog trainer about any dog related subject and they're likely to agree on some points while disagreeing on others. That's perfectly normal and healthy in my opinion. The one topic I have yet to find any argument about within the dog training community is the importance of socializing puppies.  A properly socialized puppy will grow up to be a well-adjusted dog without developing so many of the common phobias I see today, such as fear of men, fear of other dogs, reactivity to children or noisy environments (just to name a few).

I think it is fair to say that we'd all enjoy having a dog that could participate in our lives while truly enjoying the ride. To me, it's not enough to have a human and their dog tolerate the real world together. What we want is for them to actually enjoy these real life experiences.

Here's an Example:

As many of you know, my dog, Nakita, and I were invited to New York by the Letterman show in early 2012, which meant we had to drive cross-country to the East Coast and live in the heart of New York City for a few days. To make sure Nakita was well-prepared for the show, I took her all over that city. For 3 days, she lived and breathed life as a fast-paced New Yorker while keeping her California chilled attitude. She was an absolute joy and my wife and I really loved every moment we had with her in the Big Apple. She was exposed to thousands of people in Time Square, horses and honking cars in Central Park and a whole lotta New York attitude up and down Broadway.  She did very well in this environment because I have made every effort to socialize Nakita from the moment I rescued her. Why? Because I didn't want her living her life nervous and/or fearful.

Many people don't understand the importance of socializing their dog from a young age, so they go about their business not realizing that there's a storm brewing. If this is you, my advice is to start socializing your puppy immediately. One very effective way of doing this is to enroll your puppy in a puppy socialization class. When choosing a class, be sure to keep these things in mind.

Good Puppy Class Criteria:

   1. A Diverse Class with Pups of all Sizes

   2. A Class That Doesn't Make You Wait Too Long (you don't want to miss that critical socialization window)

   3. Lots of Puppies, People and Distractions Involved

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I have yet to find a dog trainer who doesn't advocate the importance of early socialization. Even dog professionals who have varying opinions on fundamental dog handling techniques agree that properly socializing puppies is critical to their dog's well-being. Here is what some of these well-known professionals have to say about the above mentioned topics.

Pups of All Sizes

  • Dr. Ian Dunbar, Animal Behaviorist and advocate for Positive Reinforcement  Training Techniques:  "Classes should include puppies of all sizes and all play-styles. Small dogs need to develop confidence and learn how to act around larger and more active dogs, and larger, more active dogs must learn to be gentle around smaller and less active dogs. Sessions with only large and active dogs produce over-the-top play styles and dogs that are likely to annoy or bully other dogs in the real world. Sessions limited to small dogs only are a potential disaster. Certainly, they may quickly gain confidence around other small dogs, but some small dogs quickly become too big for their boots and none of them are given the opportunity to develop confidence around larger dogs. In the real world, small bossy dogs may get into trouble and small fearful dogs are attack-bait for other marginally-socialized dogs."

Start As Soon As Possible

  • Cesar Millan, World-Renowned Dog Behavior Specialist and TV Show Host: "People often ask me at what age they should start training their puppy. The answer is immediately! New puppy owners often make the mistake of endlessly worrying about finding the right accessories, puppy treats, or bed. They spend little or no time thinking about how or what they will teach their new puppy. For your puppy to grow into a healthy, balanced dog, you must demonstrate leadership from day one!"

Lots of Puppies, People and Distractions

  • Victoria Stilwell, Dog Trainer and TV Show Host: "Expose your puppy or rescue dog to 100 new things in the first 100 days, enrich the environment with gradual, gentle exposure to new people, places, things, other friendly dogs, and moving objects."

Wrapping Up...

So remember, a balanced Puppy Class offers puppy playtime for socialization as well as Basic Obedience Training. Brain development is most rapid within the first 4 months of a puppy's life, so exposure to puppies, people and obedience training within this window is a huge advantage to your pup's well-being. Puppy Class is a great place for your puppy to learn bite inhibition as well as how to properly engage with other puppies and people in a safe, clean and controlled environment. 

Your family will enjoy the well-rounded dog you are raising for years and years to come.

Related Links:

Sign Up for Puppy Class

The Importance of Socialization 

Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Nutrition Consultant

© Thriving Canine 2013