The perks of puppy preschool

May 15th, 2015
Puppy preschool

Enrolling your pooch in puppy preschool can help her learn everything she needs to grow into a loving and well-behaved family member. Tim Falk reports.

Puppies are joyous creatures — bouncing, enthusiastic, lovable and excitable little balls of happiness. They love exploring the world around them and meeting new people, and just like human children, the lessons they learn in the early period of their life can shape the adults they’ll grow into in years to come.

Exposing your dog to a whole world of new sights, sounds and experiences during puppyhood is crucial. From meeting new people to interacting with other dogs and dealing with new situations, there’s a wide range of things you can teach your young pooch to set them up for life.

This is where puppy preschool comes in. “Puppy preschool is important for puppies as it provides a safe opportunity to continue the socialisation process that was begun in their former home and now should continue in their new life,” says animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti from the Purina P.E.T. (Play, Eat Train) Project.

“Puppy school is also important for owners as it gives them a chance to learn about the puppy’s needs, about normal dog behaviour, about unusual or problem behaviour prevention and about training their puppy.”

The significance of socialisation

If you’ve just brought home a new pup and you’ve been researching how to give your newest family member the best possible start to life, you’ve probably come across the term “socialisation”. This process involves exposing your pup to a wide variety of dogs, other animals, people, noises and situations — all in a positive and pleasant way.

For a puppy of any breed, socialisation is crucially important. “With adequate socialisation, pups will go on to become dogs who accept many different experiences in life as normal. Without socialisation, dogs often experience fear when they first encounter a situation and fear can lead to aggression, an unwanted canine behaviour in our society,” Dr Righetti says.

The idea behind socialising your puppy is setting him or her up with a whole host of key life skills. “Pups need to learn how to live in the world around them,” explains certified professional dog trainer Anne Hardacre, the woman behind Brisbane dog training business Pawsitive Connection.

“A common misunderstanding is that pups just need to learn to interact with other dogs and people. But they also need to learn how to behave around household appliances (mowers, vacuums, hoses etc), cars and bikes, ceiling fans, noises and change.”

School is cool

While there is plenty you can do off your own back to help your puppy learn the ways of the world, puppy preschool and other puppy training classes offer a great way to socialise your furry friend. From learning basic commands to discovering how to safely and effectively interact with other puppies, your pooch can pick up a wealth of knowledge when he goes to school.

Hardacre says puppy preschool teaches puppies to concentrate on their owner even when they’re around other puppies. “Puppy preschool is important to set up each puppy for success and prevent problem behaviours developing, and to give puppies an opportunity to learn to interact appropriately with puppies from outside the litter and with other humans,” she says.

At a good puppy preschool, your dog will be rewarded for behaving calmly and for paying attention to you. In addition to learning how to deal with other dogs and how to cope with distraction, your puppy will learn basic commands like “sit” and “down”. More complex commands, for example “leave it” and coming when called, may also be covered in your puppy’s lessons.

Of course, our pups aren’t the only ones who can learn a thing or two by going to school. “Humans learn how to build desired behaviours and prevent unwanted ones,” Hardacre explains.

Finding a class

Dr Righetti says that owners should contact their local vet clinic or puppy class provider as soon as they know the date they will be receiving their puppy. Depending on the timing of the classes, they will usually begin within a few weeks of acquiring your puppy.

“The best way to find a puppy pre-school is to ask your vet,” she says. “They may run them within their clinic or be able to refer you to one. Failing that, ask friends where their puppy went for classes. Most businesses that run classes have websites now and so an internet search will find one near you, but you then have to determine if it is suitable for you.”

If you are unsure, ask the class provider what you will learn at the classes, what your puppy will learn and how they will interact with other dogs. You should also ensure that the venue is as hygienic as possible for disease prevention. It’s equally important that your puppy should never feel scared or intimidated by anything (people, other dogs) within the classes.

“While at the classes, this is a good chance for owners to ask about any concerns they have with their puppy — nutrition, behaviour, habits at home — and to sort out any puppy problems, for example, getting along with other animals or children,” Dr Righetti says.

Once your pup has completed a series of classes, he or she can “graduate” from puppy pre-school and head out into the world. However, this doesn’t mean your pup will now be a perfectly behaved family member. You need to keep on giving your pooch plenty of mental stimulation, possibly through formal dog training classes or just through training done at home. This will help her continue to grow into a loving and lovable canine companion.

As Hardacre says, “Learning is for life”.

Ask your trainer

If you’re looking for the right puppy class for your pooch, Anne Hardacre from Pawsitive Connection recommends asking the following questions:

  • What are your qualifications?
  • What did you have to do to get them?
  • How long have you been teaching puppy class?
  • Where are the classes held?
  • What training methods do you use?
  • How many puppies are in the class?

She also says it’s important to look for a trainer who has been independently assessed, uses positive reinforcement, and doesn’t have too many puppies in each class.

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