Puppy Socialization Classes
Puppy socialization classes are offered everywhere from pet stores to humane societies and training facilities, but are they really a good idea? It’s what you’re supposed to do as a responsible owner, right? You get your puppy, go to puppy socialization classes and later; attend group obedience. You follow the homework and work with your puppy at home, but he still misbehaves when you go for a walk or have guests come over. Then it’s on to find a trainer for private lessons. But why isn’t he behaving by this point, you’ve done everything you were told to… “We don’t know where this behavior came from, he was fine in his puppy socialization classes.”
I’ve sat in on puppy socialization classes and as I look around the room I can point out the future problems these owners will have. You will have nervous, wallflower puppies hiding between an owner’s legs and pushy dominant puppies lunging and barking at the others. Instead of viewing these behaviors as problems however, most owners will nervously laugh and tell their pup “it’s alright” while petting them. This type of “comforting” is actually doing the opposite of its intended purpose and will end up nurturing unwanted behavior.
In theory, puppy socialization classes sound like a great idea. A support group of sorts for puppy owners to see they are not alone in their struggles with potty training. Beyond that, however, the puppies are learning some very inappropriate ways to interact. If you picture young children fighting over a toy without adults around to intervene, this will give you an accurate idea of the communication between puppies. Inevitably some one will end up being the bully and taking the toy and the other will end up in tears and feeling helpless. It is our responsibility to step in and teach our children to share and to be polite. I take the same approach with puppies. I want them to learn and bond with me first, and then with adult stable dogs. This way they first develop as an individual and then learn from adult dogs appropriate interaction and play. Keep in mind the early months go quickly, and while most owners want to simply “get thru” puppyhood, this is actually the time that every experience is shaping who your puppy will be.