You have a new puppy and you know that at some point, you are going to need to take it to training. When should you start? Do you need to wait until the puppy has had all his shots? Maybe you won’t need training at all – seeing as you’ve had dogs before or perhaps your puppy is a small breed.
We advise you to get your puppy to a training class as soon as you get the puppy. (Best results will be with pups who stay with the litter until 8 weeks of age and don’t leave any earlier). Don’t wait for a problem to develop, it is so much easier to prevent problems than to fix them. We find that pups who come to us at 8 weeks cope far better with the stress of puppy classes than puppies who start later. Even the 10 week old pups can find the whole experience quite overwhelming. The longer you wait, the harder it is for the puppy to cope with the class environment.
Pups at 8 weeks are very adaptable. They are curious. They bounce back quickly if startled. Every pup is different. Some spend their first lesson dozing, some will explore and some will interact with the other pups and even play. All round, the 8 week olds have the most positive experience. They quickly learn how to interact with other puppies most effectively, how to read and use body language and how to inhibit their bite (not bite too hard!).
We find that slightly older pups often have poor social skills. Some are very anxious and scared of the other pups and people. They may hide in the corner or snarl when any other pups approach. Some are like loose cannons – dashing around wildly, chasing and mounting other pups.
Pups who have been with us from 8 weeks, concentrate best, particularly after a few weeks of training. They seem to be able to tune out the other puppies and all the noise and activity and focus on their owners.
If you have had dogs before, you might feel that you don’t need to attend a class, you can do all your training at home. It is essential that your puppy gets to meet a variety of other dogs away from your pack. This is to ensure that he becomes confident as an individual and does not always need to rely on his pack to cope. A puppy class is the most convenient and safest place for this socialising to take place. You can still do all your training at home, if you prefer.
All breeds of dog need to be socialised, even the tiny ones. Often the dogs with the poorest social skills are toy breeds. I was chatting to my GP the other day and he was telling me that most of the dog bites he sees to children are from small breeds. Most are to the face. Little dogs belong in puppy classes too.
You might have heard that you should wait until your puppy has had all his shots before you allow him near other dogs. While there is always a small risk of picking up a disease, there is more chance that your puppy could turn into a dog that you cannot manage. Many adolescent and adult dogs are put down or re-homed because of behavioural problems. Many of those problems could have been avoided with the right intervention when the dog was a tiny puppy.
If you are feeling unsure about puppy classes, go and visit a few. Chat to the puppy owners and watch the puppies interact with each other. Besides learning plenty yourself, taking your puppy to puppy classes could well be the most important thing you ever do for your puppy.