At the age of 4 ½ months, puppies quickly move from cuddly teddy bears to confident and mischievous adolescents. For your own and your dogs benefit, it is important to adequately prepare for this transformation to make it as enjoyable as possible.
Puppy training and socialisation is now considered the single most important step you can take in that preparation. These should be started from the age of 13 weeks, but no later than 20 weeks. You should only attend after your puppy has received all its vaccinations.
What happens at puppy classes?
The format of puppy training and socialisation classes will vary from school to school, but the primary objective of them all is to fully socialise your puppy and prepare it for all the many new experiences it will encounter through its life. It is at these sessions that your puppy will learn canine social etiquette and body language in a controlled and safe environment.
They will play with other puppies of their own age. They learn bite inhibition and build confidence, as well overcoming shyness and fearfulness. This is not to say they will not experience difficult encounters later in life, but a confident and fully socialised dog will be better equipped to deal with these encounters and be less traumatised by them.
At puppy training, playing with other puppies can often be frenzied with lots of chase and play fighting. There will be plenty of opportunity to receive appropriate feedback for biting too hard. In effect, puppies teach each other how to behave.
The other main objective of puppy training is to educate owners of basic training techniques and dog behaviour understanding. It helps teach them to better understand their dog and gain better control over them.
Unless a school has been recommended to you, it is a good idea to visit a class without your dog. Here are a few hints and tips to be looking for from a good puppy school:
- Puppies should all be in the age range of 13-20 weeks at the start of the course.
- The school environment should be clean and hygienic, preferably indoors.
- Only positive training techniques should be used. Avoid classes that advocate use of metal collars, choke chains or any means that requires punishment or domination – all now considered ineffective as well as unpleasant.
- Puppies should have plenty of opportunity to play together off the lead.
- Classes should not be a free for all. All puppies should be frequently asked to settle during sessions.
- Look at the puppies, are they having a good time?
- Ask if children are able to attend. They are often able to spend a lot more time with your puppy than you can, so it is a good idea for them to learn good training practices as well as you.
- Does the training allow time after the class to ask questions or discuss any concerns you might be experiencing?
- Good puppy schools also cover other important areas such as preparing your puppy for vet visits and conditioning them to strange sounds (fireworks, thunder storms etc).