One important decision you’ll make upon bringing your new puppy home is whether or not to enroll in a puppy training class. A good puppy training class is invaluable, and it is important to do some research to figure out if a trainer or school’s methodology will be a good fit for you and your puppy.
Here are 5 reasons why you should attend training classes with your new puppy:
1. It will build your puppy’s confidence!A good class will provide ample opportunity for you and your puppy to socialize with a variety of people and other puppies. A good trainer will pay attention to the body language of the different puppies. If there are any shy or nervous individuals, the trainer will demonstrate how to structure the interaction so that a timid puppy does not get overwhelmed or stressed out.
A common exercise you’ll see in a puppy training class is “Pass the Puppy” - where students take turns working with a different puppy and introducing gentle handling techniques, such as examining a paw, looking in an ear, or checking the teeth, all while giving lots of tasty treats to ensure that it’s a good experience. Your veterinarian will thank you! This type of foundation will help teach your puppy that interactions at the veterinary clinic aren’t really that scary.
Some classes may go above and beyond and provide your puppy with novel environmental experiences (such as using treats to encourage your puppy to walk through a kiddy pool filled with plastic bottles, or standing on a strange surface such as a wobble board or metal table). Your puppy’s confidence will grow each time they have a positive experience with an unknown dog or person, or conquer a new obstacle!
2. Your puppy will learn how to listen to you even in the face of distractions!
Have you ever been to a dog park and noticed someone calling and calling for their dog to come to them, only for their dog to completely ignore them and run off to chase other dogs?
A good puppy class will teach you how to prevent that from ever happening to you and your dog. Some common training exercises that you’ll see in puppy classes include:
- Focusing on you by making eye contact and/or sitting or laying down on a mat while other people are milling about nearby with their puppies.
- Practicing recalling your puppy while they’re in the middle of a play session - when they come to you, give them a treat, and send them back for more play! This will teach your puppy that just because you call them, doesn’t necessarily mean that the fun is over.
- Walking nicely on leash while there are other puppies and people nearby.
You will want to select a trainer who uses positive reinforcement to train these types of behaviors. When you use a tasty, high-value treat to reward a puppy for good behavior, it will make that puppy more likely to WANT to offer that behavior. Positive reinforcement makes learning a joy, for you and your puppy, and your puppy’s confidence will continue to grow as they learn new things.
A trainer who yanks the leash of a distracted puppy, uses a squirt bottle, or throws a can of coins in order to get a puppy’s attention does more harm than good over the long run. That type of punishment over a period of time can slowly erode a puppy’s confidence. The puppy won’t understand how their handler wants them to behave, and it may make them fearful of trying new things.
3. Your puppy will learn bite inhibition and how to read another dog’s body language.
An important part of puppy classes are the opportunities your puppy will get to play with other puppies of a similar age, size, and play style. Most puppies are quite good at communicating with one another - an important lesson for all puppies is that, if they bite too hard, their playmate will yelp and not want to play anymore. Puppies are constantly providing feedback to each other while they are playing, so your puppy will learn how to tell which puppies want to continue playing and which ones are tired and need a break. Your puppy will learn that they need to behave in a socially appropriate way, or no one will want to play with them.
If there are any puppies in the class who ignore another puppy’s cry for “Uncle!”, the trainer will demonstrate the proper way to manage that puppy’s behavior. If that kind of persistent behavior is left unchecked, a puppy could grow into a dog who behaves like a bully towards other dogs. Many people mistake bullying behavior for “friendliness”. A truly friendly dog will leave another dog alone if they are displaying body language that clearly says that they want space.
4. You will learn how to use positive reinforcement.This will address common puppy “problems” such as biting, chewing, potty training, loose leash walking, and more.
The trainer running your puppy class is a great resource for all things related to puppy behavior. Many trainers have worked with thousands of puppies and their owners throughout their career - in other words, it’s almost as if they’ve seen it all. Come to your trainer with a list of any questions that you may have. For example, if you are struggling with potty training your puppy, describe to your trainer what methods you have tried and the problem you are observing. Your trainer will likely come up with a training plan for you right then and there and you can spend the following week implementing their suggestions and seeing if it works. If not, go back to them the following week and let them know how it went. They will be happy to share their expertise with you!
5. It will tire out your puppy out.
Your puppy will be exhausted for the rest of the day after a training session. You'll also have inspiration for your own training sessions that you can conduct around the house and when you’re out and about.
During a puppy class, your puppy will get exercise, socialization, and training. The combination of physical activity as well as mental stimulation will knock your puppy out for a few hours while their brain processes their busy day.
Get into the habit of practicing the things that you learned during class throughout the rest of the week. For example, if one week, you practiced stays and sits, try to take that lesson out to different environments - your backyard, out in your neighborhood, a nearby park, the local pet supply store, and so on. Your puppy will learn how to hone their focus and concentration regardless of where you are and what’s going on in the background.
Working with you will also give your puppy a sense of purpose - this feeling is important to a dog. A dog without a sense of purpose may wander around the house aimlessly and get into trouble (such as chewing on your furniture, or digging holes in your backyard). After a short training session with you, your puppy will come home happy, satisfied, and tired, and ready for a nice long nap.
Have you ever taken a puppy training class? What was your favorite thing about it? What was your puppy’s favorite thing about it? Tell us in the comments below?