Written by Laure-Anne Viselé-Jonkman, Dog Behavior Therapist (MSc, Postgrad. Dip., BSc, KI – O&O), 15 Jan 2021
Illustration credits are listed at the end of the article
Take a look at these e-mails we get from puppy owners interested in joining our puppy class. These are their typical wishes for the puppy class. You would be surprised to know that only 1 out of 3 is actually something you will get out of a puppy course. Can you guess which one?
- “I want to socialise my puppy through your weekly puppy class.”
- “My puppy is scared of everything and I want him to get used other dogs and people through your puppy class.”
- “I want to give my puppy the best start in life and internet advice is unreliable so I want professional guidance.”
1. Socialising with other puppies during class?
Sounds great on paper, but puppy classes are not for socialising. During puppy class, we teach YOU how to socialise your pup throughout the week.
Many training schools, ourselves included, do not allow puppies to interact with each other willy-nilly. This is why:
- The other puppies’ social skills are no more mature than your own pup’s. That makes them just about the worst role models for social etiquette, sending your pup home with more, rather than fewer, bad habits.
- A negative experience (even without injury) as a puppy can lead to life-long fear of certain dogs (with all the behaviour problems that come with it). Interactions between puppies should be under (VERY) close supervision. We call puppy free-for-alls…. “Puppy fight club” because that’s pretty much always how it turns out.
- Not all puppies are fully vaccinated if you start at 10 weeks, so close contact between the pups is to be discouraged. Curious about vaccine vs. socialisation? See here.
- Many puppies get (hugely!) frustrated when it’s time it’s time to stop playing and to focus on the lesson. There you are, with a whimpering, crying, sometimes shrieking puppy who constantly tries to free himself from his collar to go play with the other pups. This is stressful for you, gets in the way of following what the teacher is saying and, above all, sad for your pup (extreme frustration is not a nice feeling).
- When it comes to other dogs, it is good to teach your pup that “there’s a time and a place.” Quietly ignoring other dogs when your own – or the other dog – is on the lead is a valuable skill. Playing is something you do off the lead. Curious about why dog professionals are often not big fans of on-lead greetings? See here.
So how DO you socialise your puppy, if not during puppy class? By systematically applying the tools we give you in class throughout the week.
2. Puppy class as exposure therapy for scared pups
Forcing a scared puppy to attend puppy class can backfire. Think of it this way: you’re afraid of spiders and I lock you in a room full of them for an hour. There’s a big risk you’ll come out traumatised, not cured.
Getting used to something works better in small doses. There IS of course a difference between a shy pup and a pup who is terrified. It can work if your pup is a little on the shy side, but if your pup is showing overt signs of fear, group training might be the last thing you want to do.
If exposure is your motivation, ask the dog training school to screen you for behaviour therapy or private training exercises.
3. Professional guidance and advice
Bingo! That is what good puppy classes will give you: they teach YOU to raise your pup (socialise, educate, manage, etc.). They coach you through the first steps of important exercise, and let you take it on the road.
Luckily, we are there to help you help raise a happy, relaxed, polite puppy!
OhMyDog! offers you a safe and predictable learning environment during corona times. See here for our corona policies.
Tags: dog behaviour, dog trainer, dog training school, puppy class, the hague