What do you get from puppy kindergarten?

PuppyclassesJuly302013 046Often people are hesitant to start training their puppy … just let him be a baby and have fun, we’ll just clean up the messes, he’s too young, he loves everybody so no need to go out and meet extra people/dogs, or he’s too afraid to go out and meet people, we’re worried about him catching something … Wait a minute – whether you think you’re training or not he’s learning what to do and expect.

Then there are others who expect too much, too soon … want him to quit chewing, biting, be totally house-trained, know all the household rules, greet everyone appropriately, be the kids best friend and be able to have the freedom of the house. Wait a minute – he is a baby and if you expect too much you set up his failure and then where does the relationship go?

Then there’s the long term dog invested handlers who have multiple confinement systems for when they are not doing stuff with the pup (crates, gates, tethers, kennels), have an outside location for pottying and always go outside with their pup, take the vaccinated pup to lots of places to meet people, see other dogs, practice car riding, do grooming regularly at home, practice body handling (feet, ears, mouth), have chew items and prevent non-chew items from teeth damage. They know what to expect and are ready for it, often they come to puppy kindergarten, but really need no instruction. They have a long term plan of training for their puppy and have started thoughtful training from the first time they met their pup.

It actually took me a while to understand that most other people (despite them having had dogs throughout their lives) didn’t know about the critical times in development of the dog. Didn’t know that socialization and training done early makes the most difference and can alleviate shyness, anxiety, aggression with the least work by the handler or if handled badly can cement issues of fear (like sound shyness – for example; taking an 8-10 week old hunting dog to a shooting range or to the fireworks on July 4th and letting that be their first overwhelming experience of gun fire/explosions) and make them much, much harder to influence/resolve in later life.

Those critical weeks come right during the time you first get the pup from the breeder (8 – 14 weeks old). And yes, I too worry about the possibility of parvo or distemper or any of the vaccinated for diseases, but after two vaccinations the pup is reasonably safe, especially in areas where the other dogs are vaccinated. The only way they would be ‘totally’ safe is to wait until after the critical socialization period is done – but then the critical socialization period is done.

Puppy kindergarten is a positive training experience and a socialization venue. The pup gets to have regular rides in the car, gets to practice on leash walking, gets to meet different people and pups, learns to concentrate on his person despite the presence of new sights and new smells and new sounds. It is one of the best ways to prevent excessive shyness or aggression in the future.

Things that are introduced include basic obedience cues and puppy obstacles for confidence building. Reward based training is used to improve relationships. The experience is a good one and will have lasting positive effects.

But it is only a beginning of what needs to be a long learning relationship. AldoleopoldtrailOct1922012 017


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