Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Puppy Classes are Not Just for Training

Sounds funny doesn’t it? What are you taking the puppy to classes for if not to train them? Well, your new family member needs to be socialized as well as learning what the rules are. Your new dog has become a member of your pack (family) and just like any other family (or pack) member they need to learn the dos and dont's of what is allowed, not just in your home but out in public. And as funny as this may sound, they need to learn what other dogs are and how to behave around them.
I chose to train my dog Katie at home. My older dog was ill and I didn’t want to be away from him for too long, but I should have taken the time to go to a class where Katie could meet other dogs. This was a drawback to training at home for me that I didn’t realize at the time. Katie was a stray on the streets and was found with her sister at about 4 weeks old. Her health became an issue for her due to her beginnings; and when I adopted her, it was suggested that I not take any chances introducing germs or stress which could aggravate her condition.
So I chose to train Katie at home, after all I trained Nimber (with the help of a class). “How hard could it be?” I asked myself. I should have remembered that first of all, I had a terrier on my hands. She learned, but very slowly and was always antsy during training, as if she had somewhere else to be.
Besides the obvious reason for a training class, learning the basic commands of sit, stay, down, heel, and come; your puppy gets to go in the car for a different reason than going to the vet, they get to go for a ride with you and get more used to traveling in the car, which is another plus.
The most important thing that Katie missed from going to a class was the socialization and the “meet and greet” with the other puppies in the class. She loved the dog she lived with and after he passed she loved the dog that came after him. But she disliked any other dog she met with a passion that bordered on irrational. She had never had any bad encounters with any dogs she met -- they pretty much ignored her. I wish I could say that Katie did the same, she barked and carried on so, you would have thought I was keeping her from her favorite bone. Unfortunately for Katie, she didn’t get to go for rides very often because she had such temper tantrums, it was easier to leave her at home; and unfortunately for me I did not have access to a behavioral trainer back then or even a dog park where I could have taken her when she was a puppy.
Besides your class for meeting and greeting, you now have other options that were not available to me. Now there are dog parks where you can go to meet other dogs. There are doggie day care facilities where your dog can go for playtime while you have to work. Another great place to socialize your puppy or dog is your local pet shop. Most pet shops will allow dogs in their stores, as long as you walk them outside in case they have to “potty”, before bringing them into the store. Some stores like to offer the dog a biscuit, at some it’s a pat and a hug; some stores even have special events where they invite the dog into the store.
Whichever path you choose, training class, private trainer or do-it-yourself; make sure you don’t forget to socialize your puppy well. Katie was not, and though she was a gem to the cats, Smokey her canine cohort, my family, myself and any human she met, she was obnoxious where other dogs were concerned. So take a tip from my book of personal anecdotes and get your puppy socialized. Your relationship with each other and other dogs will be that much better for it.

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