Keep An Eye On Your Pup At All Times. 

  • Which puppy is the most important one in class? Yours is, of course! 
  • It is easy to get distracted by watching the other puppies or chatting with fellow puppy owners, which is great, but please don’t forget to keep a good eye on your own pup at all times. 
  • Your pup could be getting into trouble, making a mess, etc. 
  • You will learn a lot about your puppy’s personality by observing their interactions with other puppies, people and the environment. 

Please Clean Up After Your Pup  

  • Poop bags are available at all times. 
  • Single bags are free, ask your trainer if you need one. 
  • Whole rolls are available for purchase in the store. 
  • Indoors: 
  • Give a shout if you see a pup starting to pee or poop and try not to let any of the pups step in it. 
  • One of the trainers will come with a mop to clean the floor.   
  • Outdoors:
  • Pick up poop and toss it in the trash can. 
  • Pee does not need to be cleaned up outside.  

Do Not Open The Gate

  • We don’t want any puppies to get out.
  • Wait for your trainer to open it for you or invite you to come in.
  • See: “Get Your Puppies!”

“Get Your Puppies!” 

  • Keep an ear out for these words at all times.
  • It probably means the gate is coming open, or there is a mess on the ground we don’t want the pups to step in or some other issue is at hand that requires getting a hold of all the puppies quickly. 
  • Urgency: Get your puppy with a sense of urgency. Sometimes it actually is an urgent situation, so let’s just assume that it is every time. 
  • Recall Practice: Use these “Get you puppy” moments as an opportunity to practice teaching your pup to come when called. 
  • Don’t chase your puppy. This is horrible for your recall training, it conditions your pup to run away. 
  • Don’t reach out and grab for your puppy’s collar. This is horrible for your recall training, it conditions your pup to run away. 
  • Reach for their attention first, then the collar: Grab a handful of treats, show your pup the treats, put it right on their nose, then lure them to come to you by backing up, then grab the collar. 
  • T-Rex Arms: Keep your arms close to your body and calmly get a hold of their collar as you give them the treats. 

“Ok, Let Them Go!”

  • Don’t let go of your pup’s collar until you hear your trainer say, “Ok, let ‘em go!” 
  • Avoid the slingshot effect: Don’t let go of the collar as if you are releasing a stone from a slingshot. 
  • Pop the collar, have the dog sit, use treats and affection…whatever it takes to get some engagement and to avoid restraining the pup with a tight grip on the collar.
  • Use your release word (“OK”, “Free”, etc) and, without tension on the collar, send them back to playtime.  

Rough Play

Rough play such as chasing, wrestling and sparring is totally fine…as long as it is playful and mutually enjoyable. If you are unsure about what you see, don’t hesitate to ask your trainer about it. Sometimes it is hard for new puppy owners to tell the difference between playing and fighting. All that being said, there are a few house rules for rough play: 

  • No Humping: We don’t allow humping for two main reasons: 
  • Some of the older puppies may come into season at some point during the class and we don’t want to create any puppy baby daddies.  
  • Many older dogs will not tolerate humping. We don’t want the pups getting into the habit of humping and then getting beat up by an intolerant older dog.  
  • No Bullying or Dominating: As mentioned previously, rough play is fine as long as both parties are enjoying it
  • Playing rough when the other pup is actually not enjoying it is no longer considered play, it is bullying. 
  • Dominating or intimidating a pup that is acting timid, hiding or trying to get away is not considered play. 
  • These behaviors need to be interrupted or corrected. 
  • If you are not sure if something is ok or don’t know what to do about it, please call on the attention of your trainer. 
  • No Collar Biting: While rough play is fine, we do not allow collar biting for two main reasons. 
  • It is dangerous; they can get their mouth stuck in the collar which can cause a panic and possibly strangle the other pup. 
  • It teaches the pup to bite too hard because the pup having their collar chewed doesn’t feel any pain and therefore does not give any “back off” signals such as yelping, snapping or snarling. 


When class is being held outside, many pups will enjoy digging holes. This is not ok because holes make for tripping hazards. This is a good opportunity to practice your “Leave It” command. If you are unsure how to make your puppy stop digging, please get the attention of your trainer.   


Please don’t pet puppies when they jump on you or put their paws up on you. I know, I know, they are super cute and you don’t mind but many other people do mind and most puppy owners will be asking us how to train their puppies to STOP JUMPING UP ON PEOPLE. 

Little Known Fact: It is impossible to train a pup to stop jumping on people if people keep reinforcing the jumping behavior. 

Simply ignore the jumping puppy or gently push them off of you. Feel free to pet the puppies when all four are on the floor.  

Giving Treats To Other People’s Dogs 

Please do not feed other people’s dogs without permission. Some dogs might be on special diets or have food sensitivities or maybe we just don’t want to teach them to beg. In the case of Chad’s dog, Banjo, he gets fat from everyone giving him treats and he has learned to be a masterful beggar, so it is preferred that you do not give him treats. Most of the time it is fine to give a treat, as in one single treat, to someone’s pup but don’t overdo it and please ask the owner first, just to be sure. 

Comforting A Fearful Puppy

A bunch of off-leash puppies can be very exciting and fun but it can also be overwhelming. Understandably, some pups will be fearful or nervous when they first start coming to puppy socials. This is especially common for pups that get a late start. (Late start = over 16 weeks old) It’s ok, most will come around within 2-3 sessions with only a little help needed from the humans. That being said, some will need more help than others and it’s important that what we do is something that is actually comforting for the pup and not just something that makes the human feel better. I know, that may sound like common sense but I’ve held hundreds of puppy socials and I can assure you, it’s not. 

The instinctive impulse of most puppy parents is to attempt to comfort their pup by petting or holding them while softly saying in a high pitched voice, “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.” Generally speaking, this sort of coddling behavior is actually not helpful for the pup and, in fact, it tends to prolong or intensify the fear. In other words, coddling is not comforting, at least not in the long run.  

Before attempting to “comfort” your pup, please consider the notion that emotions are contagious. With that notion in mind, what emotions are you feeling as you say, “It’s ok.”? Take a moment and check in with yourself; are you feeling worried, nervous, anxious or some other negative emotion? If that’s the case, and emotions are contagious, it’s like you are sneezing negative emotional contagions in your puppy’s face. It’s equivalent to saying, “It’s ok to be afraid, I’m also afraid, let’s cuddle and be afraid together.” 

Try this little mental/emotional exercise; change your inner and outer dialog from “It’s ok” to something like, “Take it easy. I got this. Don’t worry about it.” This little change will cause you to come across as confident and in control and the “emotional contagion” you are sending to your pup will be much more positive.

(Also see: The Quiet Corner)  

The Quiet Corner

The “quiet corner” is a small area that we set up for fearful, shy, nervous and extra small pups so they don’t get overwhelmed or bowled over by the playful pups. Sometimes we may have the owners hold their pups for a while and then put them on the ground while still in the quiet corner and then, eventually, we move them out into the larger population if and when they are ready. Some stay in the quiet corner for several weeks, others come out within their first visit, it varies greatly from pup to pup.    

Keep Your Knees Bent and Your Eyes Open

These pups can get going really fast as they run around and some of them will be getting big already. Keep an eye on your surroundings, pay attention and keep your knees bent to avoid getting taken out from behind or having your knee hyper-extended if they run into you from the front. To be extra safe, it’s best to stay on the sidelines rather than out in the middle of the room or yard. 

If you are not stable on your feet, please don’t hesitate to ask for a chair, we have plenty available. 

Watch and Learn

There is so much to be learned about dogs simply by watching their body language and how they interact with each other. It’s a rare opportunity to watch a large group of off-leash puppies in action like this, so don’t let it go by without getting the most out of it. We normally have some adult dogs in the mix as well, to help supervise and “correct” the pups, so don’t miss those important lessons as well. 

It’s quite possible that you will learn more from watching the dogs than you will from your trainer but you should probably observe your trainer as well. What do they allow or not allow as they observe the puppies? How do they handle pups that are getting a little too aggressive? What is their body language like as they interact with the dogs? How do they handle pups that jump up on them? 

There are endless lessons to be learned, for those who are interested in learning. For those who just want to be entertained, well, the puppies will provide plenty of that as well. 


Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

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