You’ve just brought home your adorable new puppy, and what happens?…
He pees on your carpet…
And starts chewing on your shoes.
Time for puppy training classes?
My answer is maybe—
All dogs need some form of training in order to live happy, relaxed lives, but is Puppy School really the best answer?
There are lots of pros and cons to enrolling you pup in a puppy training class right away but there are also some very important topics that puppy class may not address…
So what are the pros and cons? Let’s take a look…
The Cons of Puppy Training Classes
While sending your pup to “school” might sound like a responsible thing to do, there are drawbacks to some puppy training classes.
Here’s what you need to be careful about…
Con #1 – One-Time Fix Gimmick
It’s so common and easy for people to think that because they went to puppy school they will have a great dog! But, that is like thinking that because you take your kid to kindergarten for 4 weeks that he/she will be a great adult!
There is much more to dog training than completing a four week puppy training course.
Not to mention, most serious canine behavioral issues do not occur till later on in life so you are unable to address them during puppy school.
The truth is that in order for a puppy training class to be effective, is has to put a solid foundation in place that’s designed to prevent issues down the road. Unfortunately in my experience and having chatted to hundreds of puppy owners, it seems many classes struggle to provide this—as there is more focus on the promotion of dog food, vaccinations, worming, and other such items leaving little time for understanding the behavioral side of things.
If you’re unsure of what kind of foundation your puppy needs, I suggest you get started with my Puppy Coach training program.
Con #2 – Emphasis On Food Only Training
Many puppy training classes use things like clickers or food as their primary training method. Whilst I have nothing against food, treats, cheese or chicken I think it’s important for new puppy owners to understand that there is more to training that just the click and treat sequence.
While these items can certainly be helpful aids, it’s not a good idea to rely on them 100% in order to get your puppy to listen to you. The reason being is that it works for dogs who are totally food motivated and interested in little else, not easy going pups and often works only when the pups are young. However long term, there needs to be a more substantial strategy.
It’s no different to raising kids—if all it took was a bag full of lollies then every parent would be laughing. However as we all know, it’s not as simple as a lolly every time your child does something good. Eventually the lollies have to come to an end…and then what?
Con #3 – Some Classes Have a Bad Mix of Puppies
First, let me remind you that in my opinion there is NO such thing as a bad dog.
Now that that’s clear, it’s important to understand that there IS such a thing as a bad mix of puppies in a puppy class!
Let me clarify…
Dogs are much like kids in a sense. So, think about a kindergarten classroom. There’s often a shy kid, a hyper kid, a bully, a brown noser, a kid who eats the glue and hopefully a bunch of chilled out balanced kids.
And with all those personalities things can become distracting in a room, especially if you have more than one of the extreme personalities.
For example, any kid—even the most well-behaved child—is probably going to have a hard time focusing when the hyper kid in the room is climbing up the walls and throwing their toys. Put 3 hyperactive kids altogether and things can get really busy!
The same goes for dogs.
You can’t pick what other pups will be put in the same puppy class as you. And, depending on the size of the class (some schools allow up to 15 puppies) it can be a nightmare to get your dog to relax, focus, and listen.
When you get a confident 16 week old German Shepherd and a fearful 12 week old small breed dog in the same class you really need to know what you are doing to avoid scaring the smaller pup. If you have a very skilled person running the class it can all work out well, however there is the risk that the person in charge is not aware of the pitfalls and a puppy gets scared.
This is important to think about as you’re considering which puppy class to enroll your pup in. Do the people running them have the skills to balance out all the energy present… (And we haven’t even started talking about the owners who turn up!)
Con #4 – Puppy Classes Are Often Held in Confined Areas
It’s important that a training class has a safe, dedicated area for hosting training classes.
That being said, it’s equally as important to ensure that the space has ample room for your puppy to meander about in as you train.
Sadly, many box store training programs gate off a small section of space to host training classes. When you have 5-10 pups in a room, there’s often not nearly enough space for those puppies to focus and learn anything.
If you’re signing your puppy up for a training class, I recommend that you look for…
- A facility that is entirely dedicated to training or one that has the space.
- For older puppies, a program that uses a park (not necessarily a busy dog park) or large outdoor area so there’s space for your pup to roam and relax.
- A class that talks about understanding the mix of puppies that turn up and if they are going to get on.
- An understanding of how many puppies will be present.
- If the puppies are going to be allowed off leash and how it will be managed.
Con #5 – Potential to Contract Illnesses from Unvaccinated Puppies
Puppies are susceptible to many devastating illnesses due to weakened immune systems.
This is why vets recommend that puppies get put on a vaccination schedule and that they should be kept away from other puppies until they’ve received all their shots.
Unfortunately, there are some uneducated pet owners that don’t understand the importance of vaccines. And, if your puppy comes in contact with another sick puppy, you could have a lot of unexpected vet bills on your hand.
Regardless of whether you vaccinate or not, you need to think carefully about where your puppy goes when they are young and vulnerable.
Sometimes the worst place to take a young puppy is the dog park because that’s where the highest rate of all sorts of dog pee and poop is. By default, some of those dogs will have been vaccinated and others will not have…
So before rushing off to the nearest park for your puppy training have a think about the risk of infection.
And in the meantime, only socialize your pup with other dogs that you know have had their shots.
The Pros of Puppy Training Classes
While there are certainly concerns about putting your pup in puppy training classes, there are also many positives to giving a class a try.
Here are a few pros…
Pro #1 – Puppy Socialization
It is extremely important to socialize a puppy.
The reason: failure to properly socialize your dog when he’s young can lead to aggression issues or skittish tendencies toward other dogs in the future.
Sure, you can socialize your pup anywhere. But, what better place to socialize than in a setting with a group of playful pups just like your own?
Not only is this type of setting generally less intimidating for your pup when it’s done well, but puppies typically have plenty of energy for running around and playing. So it’s a win-win for everyone!
Pro #2 – Puppy Parent Education
You might think puppy training classes are designed to train your dog. And, you’d be half right!
However, puppy training classes can also include training for puppy parents on important topics such as…
- Flea/tick prevention
- Food education etc.
If you’re a new puppy parent—or it’s been a long time since you owned a dog—this type of educational training is invaluable, provided it’s done in a balanced way.
Pro #3 – Teach Your Puppy Basic Commands
Properly training your dog is so much more than simply teaching him basic commands like “sit” and “stay.”
That being said, it is still important that your dog knows how to follow basic commands.
A puppy training class is a great place to learn how to teach your dog the most basic skills, such as sitting on command.
Pro #4 – Meet Your Local Vet
Did you know that a lot of vet practices also offer puppy training resources?
If you can find a class offered through a vet in your town, it presents the perfect opportunity for you to get connected with someone who can not only help you with training but with the care and expertise, your pup needs to live a long, healthy life.
I advise you to call around to local clinics in your area to see if they offer any training programs before you sign up for a class through a big box pet store.
Pro #5 – Make Connections with Other Dog Lovers
Having a community of other pet parents is a wonderful thing.
In fact, making connections with other dog lovers provides you with a community of people who can…
- Support you if you’re having an issue with your puppy.
- Provide you with company for doggy play dates or hikes.
- Exchange services such as dog sitting.
Your pup ends up with new friends and so do you—a win-win for everyone!
Pro #6 – Puppy Training Classes Are Cost Effective
If you’re looking to learn the basics, group puppy training classes can be much more affordable than hiring a private trainer to come to your home.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t still seek private training opportunities—especially if your pup has some behavioral issues.
But, to get yourself started and to help your puppy learn some basic training skills, enrolling in a puppy training class is both easy and affordable.
You’ve heard the pros and cons…now it’s up to YOU whether you think a puppy training class will be beneficial for your pup or not.
If you do decide to find a class, there are a few recommendations I have regarding what type of puppy or dog trainer you should look for.
To discover what I recommend, I invite you to download my FREE guide, 5 Key Things to Ask a Dog Trainer Before You Enroll in a Training Program.
And, if you’re in the market for a more extensive training program that will work for your dog long past puppyhood, I recommend you give The Dog Calming Code program a try.
This program is designed to not only set a solid foundation for your dog, but to help you with any other type of behavioral issue that might pop up down the road.
~Doggy Dan 🙂