The most common question I get when I speak with a new puppy owner is, “Do you have any advice for me?”
The truth is that I have a ton of advice but only about 30 seconds or less to answer the question before another question is asked or the owner loses interest. The most important piece of information I have for these new puppy owners is, “Get into a puppy class!”
Most people think their puppy must be fully vaccinated to start training and socializing their pet. But because the distemper/parvovirus (DA2PPV) vaccine is a series of three vaccines that are spaced out, you would end up taking your puppy to a class past its socialization period if you waited until she was 100% vaccinated.
Instead, begin puppy class as soon as you get your puppy and she receives her first DA2PPV vaccine, which should be at about 8 weeks of age. The fact is, dogs are more likely to be euthanized from a behavior problem caused by a lack of socialization than a disease contracted at a puppy class.
Why a Puppy Class Is So Important
Responsible trainers will require that all puppies have at least the first DA2PPV vaccine, which will keep the puppies safe from the dreaded parvovirus. They should also keep the environment of a puppy class exceptionally clean.
I never suggest going to a pet store training session if it’s a puppy class because the high amount of traffic by vaccinated and unvaccinated animals may make it a breeding ground for bacteria. Attending a private trainer’s facility for a puppy class is highly suggested because even if adult classes are held in the same training area, a responsible trainer will ensure that those dogs are fully vaccinated.
The socialization window in a puppy’s life is something most owners don’t know too much about unless they attend a puppy class. It is arguably the most important time in their life and lasts from about 8 weeks of age to 3 months.
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Your puppy learns during the socialization period about what is appropriate and what she should not do. A good trainer will teach you how to introduce your puppy to men, women, children, people with hats, stairs, bikes, skateboards, tents, wheelchairs, vacuums, mops and any other thing that may cause dogs to be fearful or aggressive in the future.
A Chance to Interact With Other Canines
In a group class, puppies also learn how to play with other puppies.
Dogs start learning with their littermates how to socialize with other dogs — that is, until they are about 8 weeks old, when they are typically sent to their adopters. Because the socialization period doesn’t end there, however, people still need to keep their pups interacting with other puppies of a similar age.
Not only do puppies learn how to play appropriately during a puppy class, but they also learn bite inhibition. If your puppy is nipping you hard, get your pup into a class because dogs will teach one another when a bite is too hard.
As a trainer, I can typically stand at a dog park and pick out which pets were poorly socialized. They usually have a hard time reading social cues and either don’t play at all or play way too rough.
Here’s a video showing how an animal shelter, Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab Utah, handles its puppy classes. The puppy classes there help get the shelter’s pets ready for their new adopted families:
If you are inquiring about puppy classes with a local trainer, never feel you are asking too many questions. Ask about:
- Required vaccinations for the other puppies as well as for the dogs that come to the other classes
- Breeds of puppies coming to the class (you want to introduce your dog to every size dog, if possible)
- What will be covered in the class
Take it from me, we like it when clients ask a ton of questions. If you are asking a lot, that means you only want the best for your dog, and good trainers will love that!