Choosing a good puppy school
A recent phenomenon for dog owners is the emergence of “puppy school.” While at first glance puppy school may sound like a frivolous luxury where puppies romp around in the grass all day while one lucky person oversees the fun, structured puppy school is a necessary tool for socialization and learning. The majority of bad habits dogs acquire, such as fearfulness or aggression, can be directly associated with lack of socialization and learning from an early age. Puppy school addresses these issues and stops bad habits before they even begin!
Puppy school is unlike other obedience or training classes in that it typically is only open for puppies 8 – 16 weeks old. This time period in a dog’s life is an essential window of opportunity for learning lessons that can be difficult to teach at a later age. Most puppy schools combine play time with obedience training and teach puppies all the same lessons that a child might learn at preschool – how to behave well with others, not to bully, how to calmly resolve conflict, and appropriate ways to play.
There are a number of considerations for choosing an appropriate puppy school, with the most important being an instructor with trustworthy credentials. You should seek an instructor with education and experience in early canine behavior. Be sure to ask about credentials and training, and do not hesitate to ask for references or research the institutions where accreditation was received. The instructor should also fully understand dog behavior and body language. When the puppies are playing, no bullying or overly rough play should be tolerated, and the instructor should appropriately reprimand your puppy in a way in which you are comfortable. Remember – this person is not simply teaching your puppy a command, but helping shape the way your puppy interacts with other dogs and humans. A bad instructor can cause more harm than good!
Next, you should ask for a tour of the facilities. Look for clean, neat, and orderly areas. All puppy accidents should be promptly cleaned and disposed of properly. The area where the puppies will learn should be confined and free from distractions from other dogs or passing people. The school’s facilities should accommodate the needs of your breed, whether it is a Cavoodle, Japanese Spitz or Groodle.
The instructor’s training methods should be ones you feel are appropriate and you will be comfortable implementing at home. If you feel rewards-based training is best, but the instructor relies on punishment to train the puppies, then this puppy school is not for you. Consistency in dog training is of utmost importance, so truly believing in and understanding the methods used are crucial. Do not hesitate to ask about the instructor’s training philosophy, or why he or she chose a particular method.
Finally, a good puppy school will have a small class size and focus on puppy-specific issues. A class size larger than six should be a red-flag, because the instructor may not be able to give proper attention to each dog. The class should also cover issues such as potty-training, socialization, chewing, play biting or nipping, as well as obedience. If the class only covers obedience, you are not receiving the full spectrum of what puppy schools have to offer.
Choosing a puppy school does not have to be a difficult process. There are many websites available online to help, and your local veterinarian or pet store can offer helpful recommendations. Overall, having a puppy is fun, and puppy school should be a time where you can enjoy teaching your dog good habits, while also enjoying watching him or her learn to be a great family pet.