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Are Puppy Kindergarten Classes Necessary? You Be The Judge (Part 3)
Puppy classes also provide a wonderful opportunity for puppies to get to know other people and puppies. This early socialization is vital for the puppy's general well-being as it grows up.
Puppies that are exposed to a variety of people learn that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages, and that people are fun to be around. Puppies that are exposed to friendly puppies and dogs learn that dogs, too, come in all sizes, shapes, colors and ages, and that other dogs are fun as well.
Puppy play sessions should be held in a secure location (a fenced-in training yard, for example), and on a surface that's safe for the puppies. Concrete isn't good; nor is a slick floor both for obvious reasons.
If the puppies are all about the same age, large and small puppies can play together. However, if there are some very large puppies and some toy or small breed puppies, two play groups should be set up, with puppies matched for size. The puppies should be allowed to play by themselves with as little interference from owners as possible; this is the puppies' time to play not the owners!
On the other hand, puppies that are being bullied (overly rough play or biting) can be picked up by the instructor and given a time out. They can go back to the playtime when they've calmed down. It may take two or three play sessions for some puppies to figure out they're not allowed to be bullies.
Interacting with other people and dogs at a young age builds the puppy's confidence and gives it the impression that the world is a friendly place and nothing to be afraid of, says Samantha Morrison, a local staff member of the San Diego Dog Training Center in California. Once you remove the doubt from a puppy's world, learning the house rules and building new skills is quite simple.
Dog's that aren't socialized when they're young are often afraid, even to the point of biting, when meeting new people or dogs; or can react in a more aggressive manner, trying to attack the unknown person or dog. Others simply don't know how to behave around other dogs because they haven't had any practice.
Although you can and should socialize your new puppy on your own, a puppy class provides a safe place for socialization under an instructor's guidance and supervision. In addition, most puppy classes require participants to show proof of immunization (at least the first set of vaccines), so you can be sure your puppy won't contract any communicable diseases such as parvovirus, which can be fatal to young puppies.
BONUS : Are Puppy Kindergarten Classes Necessary? You Be The Judge (Part 4)
Most puppy classes show you how to physically handle your puppy, also called social handling. By handling puppies often and gently, they learn to accept being touched, including looking inside the ears, touching the teeth, and handling the paws and toenails. This gentle handling makes grooming much easier, especially combing, brushing, and checking for fleas, ticks, burrs and tangles in the hair.
A significant part of puppy class also teaches you how to prevent future problem behaviors. For example, by teaching your puppy to sit and stay at an open door or gate, you can prevent your puppy from learning to dash through that opening to the outside world, and perhaps running away or getting hit by a car. When your puppy learns to sit for petting, jumping on people is no longer a problem.
A puppy class should set up practical solutions because often, it's everyday routines that cause the biggest problems for the pet dog owner. The class should also address problems within the family over the pup, including inconsistent training.
Finding The Perfect Puppy Class
There are many ways to find a great puppy training class. Like any business, reputation and referrals are the best. Look at dogs you admire and ask the owners where they went to class. If you and your puppy go for a walk and you see a wonderfully behaved, friendly dog, do just that. People love to talk about their dogs, and will gladly share dog training stories with you.
You can also call around to local veterinarians and ask where they recommend their clients take their puppies for training. Veterinarians and their staff see all kinds of dogs, including those that are well-trained and easy to handle, as well as dogs that have no training at all and are difficult to treat.
When you have the names and phone numbers of a few different trainers, give them a call and talk for a few minutes. Ask where they train. Is it in a public place that might be a hazard to a puppy or do they have a private, enclosed training yard? What steps have they taken for the participants' safety, particularly for small dogs? When do they recommend puppies begin training? What vaccinations do they require?
Then ask if you can come back and watch a class. Leave your puppy at home and watch how the instructor teaches the class. How does the instructor teach the students? Are the students attentive? Are they having fun? Does the instructor relate well to the dogs in class? Is the instructor's dog well-behaved? After watching the class, would you be comfortable in this class?
As you watch the class, keep in mind that every trainer and instructor has his or her own training style and techniques. Some trainers use clickers; others use positive methods, such as food treats but no clickers; and some trainers use other techniques. Choose something that you would feel comfortable with and that works best for you and your dog.