When getting a new puppy, most people are so excited by their cute bundle of joy that they don’t think about what the dog truly needs. A collar and leash, bowls, nutritious food, a vet visit… but what about their social needs? Many people will say, “oh I have another dog” or “people come to our house all the time”. I hate to break it to you, but this is far from enough.
The best technique to get your puppy socialization started on the right paw is to enroll in puppy kindergarten. Yes, these really do exist! Let me tell you, they are SO MUCH FUN! You get to spend time with a ton of fluff balls! Most likely, you will do something like “pass the puppy”, where you literally pass them between owners. You get to spend time cuddling each adorable pooch! Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy spending an hour once a week interacting with puppies and watching them play? Adorable!
Puppy kindergarten is so much more than a fun time for the owners. From birth until 8 weeks, puppies learn critical socialization skills from their mother and littermates. This is why it is so important to never bring home a puppy before 8 weeks! The lack of time with the litter can lead to serious behavior problems. A classic sign of a backyard breeder is allowing the puppies to leave mom before 8 weeks. Just don’t do it!
From 8-12 weeks, puppies are taking in everything around them. This is when you really need to focus on getting them out into the real world. A great goal is to have puppies meet 10 new people every day during this time. It could easily be a trip to a pet friendly store (just remember your puppy hasn’t had all of its shots and isn’t fully protected from illness). Let people give your puppy a tasty treat so they learn people are fun! You don’t want your puppy to run off one day and then be skittish of everyone that tries to help.
The beauty of puppy kindergarten is that it really is only for young puppies. At this age, puppies learn how to be socially appropriate from other dogs. If a puppy bites too hard, the playmate will yip and ignore the biter. This is how they begin to learn bite inhibition. I absolutely loved taking my puppies to social classes. While we have two of the same breed, it was amazing to see how differently they acted at the same age. Mauja was very timid and overly tolerant. She never helped teach the others a lesson. We were worried about how she would do as an adult, but now she is a social butterfly and still tolerant as ever. Atka was a completely different story. He was a very vocal puppy, which the other owners weren’t used to. They assumed his voice meant he was aggressive. Not true. He was also much more willing to tell another puppy if he didn’t like their behavior. You would be amazed at how the personalities can really emerge during this time. It’s such a joy to watch them grow!
For those new to puppies or out of practice, puppy kindergarten will be a nice refresher on how to teach basic manners and potty training. Some classes even teach puppy agility! This is a great way to build confidence in your new puppy. They can go through a few fear periods as they age so you want to prepare them as best as possible. It’s critical to ensure positive experiences during this age and properly handle negative ones. Your trainer will be able to teach you how to accomplish this.
Everyone, beginner or experienced, can benefit from taking their puppy to a socialization class. When looking for a puppy kindergarten in your area, be sure the training is only positive reinforcement. Clicker training is great! Your precious, sensitive puppy doesn’t need to be pushed around. Now is the time to form a wonderful bond with your puppy. So, what are you going to do when you rescue or purchase a pup? Enroll in puppy kindergarten! It really is the best thing you can do for your new furry addition!