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Puppy Class

There are no classes at present, so in the meantime ... How do we help our puppies to grow up well adjusted in this age of social distancing?

Fortunately, there is still quite a lot you can do at home to make up for the lack of socialization with people and dogs. A major part of socialization is getting puppies confident with new things. If you get your puppy comfortable with new and novel things now, they’ll be better prepared for when the lockdown is over.

Set up a play area to introduce new surfaces, textures, and strange objects. Use stuff you have lying around, like cardboard boxes, kids’ play tunnels, wooden planks. Roll out some aluminium foil or plastic sheeting to walk on. Flip over small containers to climb on. Use pots and tins from the cupboard. Scatter treats around the playground for the puppy to find and encourage it to explore.

Rather than giving the puppy its dinner in a dish, scatter the pup’s dry dogfood around the play area, inside containers, under lids, on different surfaces… and let the dog work to find its dinner. Time consuming and fun for the dog.

Rearrange the playground every couple of days. Keep it fresh.

Have everyone in the household dress up weird sometimes. Put on different hats, wear Halloween costumes, sunglasses, and/or heavy coats. You want to expose your puppy in a slow manner and not scare him. If he seems stressed, back off. For example, if he’s scared of you wearing a hat, place the hat on the floor and allow him to investigate it at his own pace.

Learn about loud noises.  For example, have someone turn the vacuum cleaner on, out of view in another room, while you feed the puppy treats. You can work your way up to having the vacuum on in the same room.

Search YouTube for puppy socialization sounds and you’ll find a lot of great resources. Search for audio of kids playing, dogs barking, thunderstorms, fireworks, traffic noise, … It won’t feel completely real for your puppy, but it’s a start. Remember to introduce noises gradually, in small doses, in ways that don’t scare the pup.

Most of us are not literally confined to our homes, so you can still take your puppy out on controlled adventures.  On a walk we see things; our dogs smell things.  Let the puppy sniff.  Take short walks around the neighbourhood. Watching people and dogs and other animals from a distance even without greeting is stimulating. (And clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it.)

You can use this as an opportunity to teach basic commands like Sit and Come that will help when your puppy finally gets to make new friends.

The point of continuing with your puppy’s socialization at home is to teach that life is good. There are lots of things in this thing called life, but they are not scary and most of the time they lead to good things.

And when this is all over .....

The puppy class starts at 7.30pm on Wednesday each week and lasts about 45 minutes.

  • Dogs should be under a year old, the younger the better, and have had their “jabs”.
  • There is no need to sign up to a set number of classes and there is no distinct starting week.
  • Booking-in is not necessary, just bring the dog along.
  • The first week is free, a taster. Come along, try it, and if you don’t like it walk away, otherwise join on your next visit.
  • There is a weekly fee of £3 per dog per class, and an annual membership fee of £15. (It’s half-price for handlers aged under 16, or 65 or more.)
If you do come along to our club we expect you to bring the pup, a normal soft collar and lead (not a flexi and not a chain – we will be asking you to drop the lead and let the pup run around dragging the lead behind for part of the time), and a good supply of small treats that really interest your dog (meaty chunks of chicken or sausage or little cubes of cheese usually work really well.)

Don’t feed the pup just before you bring it; it will be more interested in the treats and be less likely to leave a “deposit” during the visit. Also, give it a short walk so it has an opportunity to “eliminate” - that means “do one” - before it arrives, and don't forget to bag it and bin it.

Before You Get Your Puppy is a free online book by Ian Dunbar. It is available as a pdf download (2.68MB) from:

The most important things that your puppy will learn at puppy class are:
  • to inhibit its bite,
  • to happily encounter people,
  • to happily encounter dogs.
In puppy class your dog will spend some part of each session running around off-leash with other dogs, at which time some of their play will involve biting. Other puppies are the very best teachers. Your puppy will bite. This is good. When they hurt another pup it will yelp and the fun will stop. This way they learn to bite more gently so as not to stop the game.
“The more your puppy bites, the safer its jaws will be as an adult, since it will have had more opportunities to learn that biting hurts.” (Ian Dunbar)

In addition to this organised chaos (we like to call it socialisation) the puppy class follows the Kennel Club’s Puppy Foundation Assessment scheme. This lays the foundations for a well-behaved dog. The maximum age for a puppy is 12 months, and puppies must attend for a minimum of 4 weekly sessions over an 8 week period.

As part of any normal dog training process, training the owner is as important as training the puppy, therefore both owners and puppies are assessed. The course includes 12 different exercises and each exercise will be covered as part of each training session. They are: -

  1. Responsibility & Care
  2. Cleanliness & Identification
  3. Attentive Response To Name
  4. Puppy Play
  5. Socialisation
  6. Handling & Inspection
  7. Puppy Recall
  8. Basic Puppy Positions
  9. Walking in a Controlled Manner
  10. Stay for approximately 10 seconds
  11. Take Article Away from the Puppy
  12. Food Manners (take a treat without snatching)