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The Importance of Taking your Puppy to Puppy Classes

Updated on January 13, 2013

Why Take a Puppy to Puppy Classes?

Puppy classes: there are those who religiously take their puppies and there are those who don't even know they exist. The issue is that not many people are aware of what they really are. At a first glance, puppy classes may just seem like puppy play dates where people have fun observing a bunch of puppies and chatting with other puppy owners. At a second glance, a more important picture is released, there' s much, much more going on than letting puppies play off leash and watching their antics. So what are really puppy classes and why are they so crucial?

For starters, puppy classes are not play dates and they are also not meant to be classes for training obedience exercises such as lay down or stay. Puppy classes are there for SOCIALIZATION. Indeed, the first few months of a puppy's life are crucial as there's a small window of opportunity that is ticking if you don't intervene in a timely manner. This brief period starts when the puppy is still with the breeder at around 4 weeks old and ends when the puppy is in the new owner's care around 12 to 16 weeks.

During this stage puppies are like sponges, virtually absorbing and gaining information about the world. They're like little bundles of play dough ready to be morphed by life experiences. Coincidentally, this period of time coincides with when puppies are most vulnerable to infectious diseases. Your vet may have warned you about deadly Parvo and how it's important to keep your puppy away from other pups during this time. If you ever stumble upon a vet who tells you that puppies should live in a bubble to prevent dangerous disease and should start classes only once they are 6 months old, think again! According to Dr. Karen Overall: ''The single biggest killer of pets is not infectious disease; it is behavioral problems.”

This does not mean playing Russian roulette and risking your puppy's health. It means doing everything possible to prevent infectious disease while not missing out on socialization during this crucial period of time. Your puppy will need to be vaccinated and the trainer will need to verify vaccination records and do everything feasible to make sure all puppies are healthy in class.

What happens if you fail to attend puppy classes or don't have time to socialize your puppy? Well, lots of work ahead. Most importantly, your puppy will miss out the time when he's most receptive to stimuli. This means this crucial time will be irreversibly lost. Gone. Once this window of opportunity is left behind, all you can do is help undersocialized puppies cope with novelties through desensitization and counter conditioning strategies which may or may not work. It all boils down to the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

What Happens in Puppy Classes?

What happens in puppy classes? Well a whole lot, so much, you'll have a hard time keeping up with all the advice and tips your trainer will give you. For starters, puppy classes teach your puppy how to relate with other dogs. Don't assume that your puppy will have enough socialization if he has a sibling to play with or goes out on walks with a room mate. These random, familiar encounters don't count. That's almost like saying, "I won't send my child to kindergarten because he has a sister to play with." Your puppy will need to be exposed to many different types of pups of different breeds, sizes, temperaments and play styles. And on top of that, your puppy will need to be exposed to as many people and different stimuli as possible.

To sum it up, expect a puppy in a puppy class to learn more about:

  • Bite inhibition
  • Handling exercises
  • Collar grabs
  • Off leash play
  • People socialization
  • Dog-to-dog socialization
  • Exposure to older, well-adjusted dogs
  • Pass-the puppy games
  • Sensorial exposure
  • Management strategies for owners
  • Tackling common behavior problems in pups such as nipping/chewing/barking
  • House soiling
  • And much more!

What to Look for in a Puppy Class

Puppy classes are the backbone of your pup's learning. How to recognize good puppy classes? First look for an experience puppy class trainer. Some pet training organizations assign puppy classes to the younger,inexperienced staff, explains dog trainer Terry Ryan in her book "Coaching People to Train their Dogs" The reasoning behind this is that puppies are less likely to hurt one another, the owners have good control over them and the goals are less rigid. This is far from true; it just takes one mistake to leave an indelible impression that can remain for a very long time. In a good puppy class look for:

  • Knowledgeable trainers
  • Trainers who check the pup's collars before class
  • Trainers who check puppy vaccination records and request proof of vet examination
  • Puppies of similar ages (an older pup may be quite intimidating to a young, small, pup)
  • Children should be under control (the wrong child-pup interaction may cause negative associations)
  • Puppy play in small groups of compatible pups
  • Play is interrupted before it gets out of hand
  • Trainers are willing to provide advice and answer questions after class
  • Trainers provide handouts recapping what happened in class
  • Class premises are disinfected properly after class

As seen, puppy classes lay the foundation for a well-adjusted pup. While that window of socialization closes at 16 weeks, remember that all dogs benefit from ongoing socialization and training to polish those skills and keep them up-to-date.

Alexadry © All rights reserved, do not copy.

Puppies Getting Used to Walking on Different Surfaces


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping by Monis.Yes, they're so important since puppies are just like play dough, you can shape their behaviors and create loads of pleasant associations.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping by Agilitymatch! I am impressed by your achievements! It's true it's hard to find a good puppy class. I looked up a few in my area and they are teaching more obedience than anything else!

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 5 years ago

      Absolutely awesome hub! Voted up, of course. I didn't take my puppy (years ago) to any classes, but I am sure they are very important for socialization, and I totally get your point. Maybe with my next doggie!

    • agilitymach profile image

      Kristin Kaldahl 5 years ago

      Another great and important article. When thinking about puppy classes, people tend to think, "I can train my dog to sit and stay." But that's not what puppy class is for, as your article points out.

      I have five agility championships and over 100 titles, yet with my future new puppy, one of my biggest concerns is that there isn't a good trainer nearby to run an effective puppy class for socialization for him. Obviously, I know how to teach sit, down and more (way more). However, I will find a class (and in fact, I enter lots of classes with new puppies) because it's that important for socialization, but I sure wish we had a trainer I know will run a great class nearby. :)

      Great hub. Voted up and more!!!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Lipnancy, I was raised in Italy and there were no such things as puppy classes. Dogs where I live where mostly working dogs for the shepherds or strays roaming around town. I first learned about puppy classes several years before becoming a trainer, when I first entered a pet store and a lady offered them for my two pups.

    • kingkos profile image

      kingkos 5 years ago

      wow u have many articles about dogs interesting.i will read them and share what i think.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for the useful tip. I did not realize that puppy classes even existed.