So you’ve got a new puppy, your excited about all the new interactions you will be having soon! You have singed up to the Puppy Parties at the local vets office, and put your name down for a 6 week Puppy Training course in the local village hall, or called a Dog Trainer to help. But which is best?
I will note my take on each, and let you decide.
You do all these things, you think your ahead of the game and your puppy will be ready for anything. Instead of getting that feeling, you have a puppy who is worried about things outside on walks, whom doesn’t play nice and bullies other dogs, who doesn’t listen to anything you say outside of the class. Now the puppy is going on 9 months, and your struggling to control them in the house at all. Your considering re-homing the puppy as its nothing like you thought it would be? Considering asking advice online? Using extreme correction to try and gain control? Or calling in a dog behavioursit?
Puppy Parties and Puppy Training Classes are brilliant for many dog owners if ran correctly, by educated people with knowledge of bringing up their own puppies and the knowledge of the new science in training.It teaches them good manners with both people and dogs, and to be focused and attentive.
On the flip side if your entering a Puppy Party with loads of puppies terrorising each other, what is it actually teaching your puppy? Your teaching them to bully other dogs, or be fearful of other dogs. The memories they get from 8 to 16 weeks stick with puppies the most. If they get terrified at a puppy party ran by a vet nurse with out any dog training and dog behaviour what are they teaching you and your puppy? In my mind, very little. But they are setting you and your puppy up for a lifetime of issues. Going to a class ran by a competent dog behaviourist and paying a little more is well worth the cost, rather than attending one free class where you and your puppy don’t get the help needed.
The best example I have is if your child was being terrorised by a child 4 times its size, but the same age would you step in, stopping them being thrown on the ground, bitten and dragged about. They are clearly showing distress and all you are saying it “They have to learn to play”. THIS IS WRONG. How can you let this happen to a little Terrier puppy with a Labrador puppy? This is not teaching them anything good, but to fearful of other dogs that might beat them up, or learn its ok to bully other puppies. It also teaches puppies they can just run up to other dogs and do what the hell they like. It is not educated and safe.
If ran correctly, with the organiser letting the puppies play but those that are the same size and temperament. Stopping any bullying behaviour with time outs, and distractions. It also created good memories of the vets office, meaning it is a lot easier for dog, owner and the vet when visits are needed.
Puppy Classes are brilliant at offering owners time in the week where they work with their dog one and one, in a supportive environment, with like minded people. If ran correctly the puppies learn to work around distractions, listen to their owner and it gives owners confidence to carry on training their dogs. As well as offering owners to advance their dog skills with further classes.
It can be a place dog owners can strive to better their dog handling, but it can also become a place of worry for both owner and puppy. Puppies can be worried about the hall environment, it can be loud and distracting, as well as all the dogs already in there setting up some more nervous dogs to be worried about groups of dogs and people. Owners can start to judge the progress of their puppy against everyone else, and get disheartened about not progressing as far as other puppies the same age. Hall’s are not realistic environments unless you are going to be showing your puppy, training a real environment like the home, park or shop is more realistic for you and your puppy.
The biggest thing I have against classes is that dogs often learn to only work in the village hall, instead of the real world where they reside. Dog’s are very good at being context specific if you don’t teach them to work everywhere. So a dog that excels in he safe environment of the class room, might run off or refuse to sit when on a walk. It is very frustrating for dog owners, and I think more classes should be run outdoors. Or more emphasis on owners doing home work with their dogs at home, and showing evidence of it. Dog’s only learn with repetition, but class teachers often get so stuck doing things a single way, they can’t be flexible to finding other ways for different puppies. Classes not focusing on sits, but on socialisation and each dog as an individual are better suited for puppies, who are all unique.
One to ones with a dog trainer and well mannered dog can set puppies up for a lifetime of good interactions and manners. It allows the owner time with the trainer asking about dog behaviour. The dog trainer can help owners identify fear, or stress behaviour as well as happy. This one on one training can be a real boost for new owners who want the training help, without the pressure of class environment. Meeting a well mannered older dog can help puppies understand the rules of dog life, and have confidence about interactions. Many people are also more likely to get in touch with the same trainer for help in the future, when they need it order to keep their dog on the right path, than struggle alone. But like the others their are down sides.
A single dog trainer cannot have as many dogs as a puppy class or party, and even puppies can be frightened by well mannered older dogs if they are much larger than them. The progress of the puppy also depends on the owner putting in the hard work, going to a weekly appointment encourages people to keep working hard. Working with a dog trainer once or twice has little incentive for less driven people to work hard on their puppies interactions in a good way, rather than by chance.Dog Trainers can also be idiots when it comes to puppies, they can hand out bad advice as well as good, unfortunately one bad bit of advice can last a life time.
The biggest thing from all of this is not to attend something for a few hours a week, or only work with your puppy when the dog trainer is there. But instead learn how to teach your puppy, your instructor for any of these puppy start ups should be teaching you how to not only solve the behaviour troubles you are having now, but also teach you how to teach them for the future. Giving you information on the next stages of life and how to avoid behaviour issues.
Puppy training can set dogs up for life, but training doesn’t stop at 9 months, 12 months or even 18 months old. It is a life time thing, teaching dogs to cope with new changes or learn new tricks. Training young can allow owners to predict behaviour, but it cannot stop dogs getting scared or attacked, which can lead to unwanted behaviour. No amount of puppy training can undo some changes, and this is when you need to look forward for training, not backwards in order to help your dog cope, and learn better reactions to this event or situation.
Cost can be an issue for some dog owners, but please don’t skimp on your puppies start because of cost. Puppy Parties are usually free provided by the Vets in order to get you to stay with their practice, and buy their products such as their own brand food, or wormer. Puppy Classes can be anything from £5 to £15 per class depending on the trainer, area. One on One Training with a Dog Trainer can be from £30 up to £50 or more depending on the trainer. I charge £40 for the first session, then £20 per hour for any sessions after, this also includes unlimited phone calls for advice and help. A Behaviour Consult for adult dog with aggression or fear issues is £60 and then you tend to need about 5-6 more sessions to sort it out, so which is cheaper in the long run?
How ever you choose to start your puppy off, don’t think one session training with a trainer or a 6 week course, means you don’t need to work with your dog for the rest of its life. Dogs are a 10-15 year commitment and training goes on forever with them.
I only offer One to One Training with puppies, using my own trained dogs to give puppies good interactions. I also guide the owners through the whole dogs life, working with the owner every step of the way, from toilet training up to introducing another dog to the now adult dog. Literally every step of the way. I am here to give the owners peace of mind they are not alone with their puppy, and their is always someone at the end of the phone. I have followed countless puppies from small bungles of fur into adulthood. It is a lovely role to have and I know some owners would have given up with the support and guidance.
Whether you use me as a trainer, or attend classes, or puppy parties. Ask questions, learn as much as you can from those who know. Don’t just allow yourself to be dictated at, learn more through your puppy and most of all enjoy that time learning together.
Start your puppy off correctly and reap the rewards later on in life.