Puppy kindergarten, or puppy socialization class, is a vital part of your puppy’s upbringing. Puppy kindergarten teaches basic obedience and how to play safely with other dogs. It also exposes your puppy to variety of stimuli that can help to inoculate her against phobias or shyness later in life.
However, a bad puppy kindergarten instructor can damage a dog for life just as easily as a good instructor can impart lifelong benefits. Choosing an instructor and facility is an important decision. Start with our 6 questions to ask when choosing a trainer, and move on to also ask these additional questions, which are important specifically for puppies’ first obedience classes.
How Much Class Time Is Spent on Play With Other Puppies?
Some puppy kindergarten classes (chain pet stores, I’m looking at you!) deal with the short attention spans of puppies by dedicating a great deal of class time to allowing the puppies to play together. While a short play session after hard work on concentrating and obeying commands is almost always a good idea, you probably don’t want to pay for an hour-long class session and spend 30 minutes just watching your puppy do something he could do for free with your neighbor’s puppy in your own front yard.
Plus, too much play during class time can teach puppies that it’s okay to approach other dogs and invite them to play while you’re giving a command or trying to work on obedience. Working on learning behaviors should be fun and playful, but there must also be a line drawn between training time and playtime with other dogs. Otherwise, you’ll never get your dog to focus on you when you’re walking and another pooch is anywhere nearby!
Choose a shorter class where puppies will be offered a brief play session at the end of class, rather than a lengthier kindergarten session with playtime before, during, and after training time.
Are All Puppies Required to Show Proof of Vaccination?
Yes, vaccines are a controversial subject in the dog world. I understand the reasons many people choose not to vaccinate their pets. Heck, my own dog doesn’t get all his recommended vaccinations each year–we do blood titers instead. However, puppies are too young for blood titers, and most vaccine alternatives are not sufficiently proven effective to trust completely.
You might be okay with letting your puppy play with your best friend’s unvaccinated dog if you knew the friend is a conscientious owner who made an informed decision to forego the vaccinations, but you probably don’t want to take a puppy, with its vulnerable immune system, into a group of unvaccinated pups whose owners you’re not familiar with.