The problem with puppy classes
Mike Wright is a dog behaviourist. He writes a regular column here on all aspects of looking after your canine companions. Visit The Canine Behaviourist for more from him and to see if he can help you with your doggy dilemmas…
So you have got your new bundle of joy home. He’s your first dog and you want to to what’s best for him. Many of your friends and the vet swear by puppy classes. This is the place to take your pup for training with a mess of other pups. Fantastic, right? I am not quite so sure. This will, of course, upset many of those ‘trainers’ who run puppy classes; something that does not concern me. What is best for your puppy is my focus.
I believe that puppy groups do have some value. From the perspective of socialising your pup they can be a great idea. For training them – not so much. In fact, in recent months I have met quite a few owners of young dogs who have had mixed experiences in attending puppy classes. They took their pups to these classes to train them. Most of these people still have dogs that are, clearly, in need of training and guidance.
Why, in my view, are puppy classes a poor environment for training? There are a number of reasons where they fail. Puppies are inquisitive, boisterous, sometimes nervous, bundles of hyperactivity and excitement. Placing these little ones into a room full of like minded pals can be too much for them – their excitement levels are so high, the chances of positive training outcomes are low. Many of these pups will not have been exercised before these sessions and will now be asked to sit on command and behave calmly. An impossible task for most puppies.
I have often been told, by frustrated owners, of ‘trainers’ forcing them to sit in the corner and observe, with their pup on the lead because he is disrupting the class. This is ridiculous – anyone that does this to anyone’s dog is to be avoided. In fact, many ‘trainers’ (not all) still insist on some arcane approaches to training a dog. Certainly, when starting to train your pup (something that should begin as soon as he arrives) it will be more effective to do this on a one to one basis, with minimal distractions. You should be able to train him on the basic and important commands such as sit, stay, come and walking on the lead.
You should also make sure to socialise your puppy from day one. Together with training as I have described, you will have a good chance to develop a strong relationship with your well-balanced, socialised and trained companion.
A question worth asking is ‘why are puppy classes favoured by many trainers?’ Could it be that they are a pretty good way to make money? One to one training and socialisation with other pups and dogs while out and about is, probably, the best way to go.
Image credit: Shutterstock
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