Why Is Puppy Class So Important?
Updated: Jul 28
By Dr. Kelsey Woolsey, DVM
I recommend that every puppy be taken to puppy class regardless of its size, behavior, or intended lifestyle. I often get asked “Well, is puppy class really necessary? I have trained puppies before and he is mostly going to be an indoor dog.” The answer is always YES, puppy class is necessary. Here is why:
The puppy socialization period is from around 3 weeks of age to 12-16 weeks of age. This is the most influential stage in a puppy’s life relative to social behavior and learning. Most puppies are adopted around 8 weeks of age. This leaves the new owner with only a few weeks to continue exposing the puppy to new stimuli and situations.
Puppy class provides exposure to new people and dogs in a controlled and safe environment. Puppies that are appropriately exposed to a variety of situations, people, and animals are less likely to develop fear and anxiety in the future. Having a trainer that can guide you and help you recognize when your puppy is comfortable versus afraid ensures that your puppy views the new exposure as a positive experience.
Every dog at some point in its life is going to have to be handled by a stranger whether it is by a friend, a pet sitter, or a veterinarian. Teaching a puppy how to positively and appropriately interact with strange humans at a young age sets them up for success in the future.
Puppy class sets up a foundation of communication between you and your puppy. Having this foundation of communication gives you tools to help you and your puppy work through challenging situations that arise and positively address any unwanted behaviors that may develop in the future.
A side note on puppy classes: I do not recommend “puppy boot camps”. These are classes where puppies stay at the training facility for around 2 weeks without their owner. I do not recommend these because the relationship and foundation of communication that is built is not between owner and puppy. Your puppy may be learning basic commands and behaviors, but you are not learning how to give and reinforce those commands.
“What if I adopted a puppy that is older than 16 weeks or an adult dog? Should I still do training classes?” The answer is YES! Although the socialization period is over, it is never too late to learn basic commands that help your dog be a good family member and member of society. Working with a trainer will give you tools to work through any fears or anxieties your adult dog may have or develop. Training can also provide your adult dog with much needed mental and physical enrichment.
When choosing a puppy class or trainer it is important to pick an appropriate positive reinforcement trainer that provides a fear free and force free environment for learning. This handout from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists gives pet owners some tips on picking a trainer: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.dacvb.org/resource/resmgr/docs/How-to-select-a-trainer-owne.pdf
For Oregon residents, this website makes it easy to find trainers, veterinarians, pet sitters, and other pet professionals that subscribe to force free methods: https://forcefreeoregon.org/services/