K9 corner 1201

December 06, 2004

A reader asked about the advantages of puppy classes. I immediately answered that well-organized puppy classes that stress socialization and teach the pup how to behave in its world is a wonderful beginning for a dog no matter what its breed.

This "world" is different for each pet. That is the reason I tell each new owner to think ahead of all the significant circumstances the animal might encounter in the next 12 to 15 years and expose the pup to these conditions when it is eight to 16 weeks of age. This is the critical socialization period when the youngster is still trusting and curious and has the owner's reassurance that it will be protected.

It is at this age that the pup can be taught not to chase cattle, horses or chickens.

At this critical age the pup learns to get out of the way of someone with a cane or walker and to accept the childish squeals and unpredictable movements of a 2-year-old. These experiences will stay with the dog throughout its life.


Another thing the owner should take into consideration is the individual temperament of the pup. A timid animal will need a lot of encouragement during lesson time, while a dominant-natured puppy will need to learn self-control quickly.

In a well-organized puppy class this is often accomplished with the use of agility obstacles and food treats. For puppies the only obstacles used are on the ground or those that require climbing.

No jumping is allowed for these baby bones and tendons. After a few trials of going through a barrel tunnel, the pup discovers that it is fun and often will duck into the tunnel on its own if the leash is loose enough.

Climbing the ramps up to the "dog walk" (a flat horizontal board about twelve feet long) and running down the opposite ramp, as well as climbing the A-frame gives a pup lots of good exercise and prevents a fear of heights as long as the owner is there to encourage and protect.

Most puppy classes have about 15 minutes of basic obedience in the hour.

This is where the pup learns to walk on a leash without pulling, learns to sit and stand on command, then is taught to wait (so the owner can step away) and come when called.

The down command is sandwiched in when the pup is ready.

Dropping down is a submissive gesture in the body language of canines so dominant natured pups need this training early, whereas timid pups might need to build up their self-confidence first.

Occasionally there is a very dominant natured pup who wants to argue about anything.

Often this pup can be trained to take its frustration out on a toy.

I know of a Saint Bernard that had one stuffed toy he would cuddle when mildly frustrated and tear to pieces if really annoyed. The owner spent hours sewing this toy together for her dog.|5/6/04|***

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