So You Say You Don’t Need Puppy Class…..

Its surprising just how many people obtain a new puppy of whatever breed and decide, right off the bat, that they don’t need puppy class.  Why should they?  They’ve trained dogs before.  Their puppy already knows how to sit.  Who cares if they know how to do tricks.  What is the point of having them stay – they aren’t going to be competing in obedience.  Unfortunately, it is too often these puppies, as teens and adults, that trainers have to “fix” when problems inevitably arise.  What new puppy owners don’t realize, is that puppy class, while teaching your pup the basics of obedience, is mostly about socialization and interaction – not creating a competition obedience ready dog.

Socialization is probably the single most important thing that you can do for your new pup.  Even if your new companion is an adult rescue, socialization can be key!  Puppies come to most owners not knowing much of the world.  They haven’t been many places, haven’t met many people, haven’t had many experiences.  If you purchased your puppy from a responsible breeder, your pup is likely ahead of the game.  Most breeders are well aware of the importance of socializing their pups and having them meet as many people as possible.  The problem arises when so many people either adopt a rescue puppy, history unknown, or purchase from a backyard or just plain BAD breeder or pet store.  These puppies tend to always be playing catch up when it comes to socialization and new experiences.

Which brings us to puppy classes.  You often will see them called ‘Puppy Kindergarten’ or ‘Puppy School’ but either way, its puppy class!  While its true that you may have never attended one with any of your previous dogs and to your mind they turned out just fine, if you really think about it – did they?  They could be perfectly behaved at home but would they hold up to strange places, new dogs, group play, weird situations?  In some cases, yes, of course they would, or at least in some of those situations.  In others – not so much.  Occasionally it will depend on breed as well as certain breeds – like herding and working types – can have even more problems when not socialized correctly.  Its easier, and more correct, to assume that ALL puppies of ALL breeds and mixes are in need of socialization.

Puppy classes tend to offer just that – socialization.  Yes, you and your puppy learn the basics.  Sit, down, stay, come, tricks and more.  These are all important things.  Even more important is that your puppy is getting out of your house, away from your neighborhood, interacting with other puppies and even adults and meeting lots and lots of new people.  This makes for a well rounded, outgoing, happy and curious puppy which translates into the same type of adult.  Exactly the type of dog that most dog owners want, and if they don’t, its what they should want.

Too many dogs are ‘sequestered’ as pups and young dogs.  If they behave at home, sit when they are told and act reasonably with the family and their close friends, it is deemed ‘just fine’.  What happens though when your kids grow up and have a lot of friends over?  What happens when you realize that your dog is bored out of his mind and being destructive as a result and you would like to take advantage of the neighborhood dog park?  Oftentimes, none of these things are possible – simply because by the time your puppy is an adult, he is largely unable to deal with those sorts of situations – he has never had to before.

While this may not seem like an issue to most people, unfortunately, many dogs find themselves in need of a new home or in a shelter after they reach adulthood.  The base reason for this in most cases is a lack of socialization and training.  Dogs afraid of people (other than family), dogs attacking other dogs, dogs wigged out by a new baby, dogs not being able to be handled in public – you name it.  Many of these things could have been avoided if their owners had been proactive and had made sure they got the training and socialization that they needed.  Instead, they are faced with an untenable decision – to give their dog up because of these problems.  Its a sad story and an avoidable one.

Early training and socialization can be a lifesaver to a dog.  It may prevent them from spending their last days in a dirty shelter with a three day window to be adopted.  It may save them from being humanely euthanized because they bit someone when they never had a chance to know that wasn’t the proper way to behave.  This doesn’t just apply to puppy classes and puppies though – your one year old newly adopted pooch often needs the same sort of treatment, the same sort of training, the same sort of chance at a great life.

Puppy classes are fun – fun for you, fun for the family and fun for your dog.  They are also practical – a well trained dog can make all the difference between a happy relaxed home and a frantic frustrated home.  These classes are more than that though – they are lifesavers.  Do right by your new puppy or dog.  Make sure that you set them up to succeed in this life.  Your reward will be a loving, loyal and obedient companion who brings you joy for all of his life.