Written by Noleen Fourie, Canine Behaviour Adviser
Few things are as exciting as getting a puppy! You are, after all, getting a new family member and a loyal best friend.
Unfortunately, though, this excitement sometims turns into disappointment as soon as pup starts getting older. The puppy becomes “naughty”, and the owner doesn’t know where to turn. The dog gets banished to the backyard, dumped at a shelter or, even worse, dumped next to the road. Does that innocent puppy you were so excited about really deserve this?
Definitely not, and the good news is that it can be prevented.
Plan for puppy school
When it comes to planning for your pup, it’s best to put your excitement aside for a few moments so that you can really think it through! Dogs have needs, and it’s vital to ensure that you can provide for your dog in terms of time, attention and budget before your puppy comes home.
Puppy school is something that you need to include in your planning. Puppy schools do not exist just for fun; they’re an absolute must if you want to give your little one the best start in life – and help to ensure you have a socialised canine companion.
The benefit of puppy classes
Between the ages of roughly three and 16 weeks, puppies go through a period where that little brain is open to learning. This is an extremely valuable time in a pup’s life and certainly not one to be wasted.
During this time a pup needs to be exposed to as many different experiences, sounds and people as possible, but – and this is a big but – care must be taken that all of these experiences are positive and fun. This prepares your dog for the life ahead of him.
For example, having positive experiences during thunderstorms during this time period will go a long way in preventing dogs from becoming fearful of thunderstorms later in life. What a wonderful thing to do for your dog!
At puppy school, your trainer teaches you how to make the best of this critical period in your dog’s life. You’ll be armed with knowledge on the correct way to raise your puppy. Remember, having raised dogs in the past only means that you’ve raised dogs; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to raise them!
Being responsible and open to education about the precious life that’s now in your hands is really one of the most valuable things you can do for your dog.
How to recognise a reputable puppy school
In the same way you’ll give careful consideration to choosing the school to send your child to, it’s important to choose the best puppy school you can find. The following guidelines will help you to choose a puppy class that provides value for your money.
- The class instructor has to be suitably qualified. You’re allowed to ask for proof of this. Should you be told that the person has many years of experience with dogs – run in a different direction. Yes, experience is invaluable, but only if it’s accompanied by a relevant qualification.
- The owner of the centre will be open about training methods used at the class. Force-free training is the only acceptable method to use, and items like choke chains or prong collars will not be allowed in these classes. Ask to observe a class before enrolling your dog, and then use your common sense. Dogs can effectively be trained without causing them pain or discomfort. If you see something you’re not comfortable with, move on.
- The premises will be clean, have shade, and water bowls will be put out for the dogs.
- Is the instructor passionate about what they do and willing to answer your questions? Do they provide you with notes to help you remember everything that’s been taught?
- Check that classes are fairly small. The instructor and assistants should be able to keep a keen eye on all the pups while assisting the owners with the exercises that are taught.
What to expect when you go to class
I’ll admit, the first time I attended a puppy class I didn’t know much about dogs and I was a little confused. I didn’t understand how the things we did could benefit my dog to such a large extent. It’s now seven years later, and not only do I understand why the classes benefitted my dog, I can also see how they positively influenced the way my dog deals with life.
Everything that happens in a puppy class has been meticulously planned to aid in your dog’s well-being; if you don’t understand why something is done, do ask! Puppy school is not difficult; you’ll be assisted every step of the way, and it’s not a class that you can fail. Not to mention that it’s such a fun way to bond with your dog. Before long, you’ll also notice your dog’s excitement when you prepare to go to class!
Most puppy schools will award you with a certificate or something similar upon completion of the course. A small gesture, but it’s fantastic. It shows that you and your dog worked together to achieve something. You had tons of fun while equipping yourself with tools to lay the foundation for a happy relationship with your dog.
You have that best friend you were so excited about. And you have him for life.