Bringing home a new puppy is a wonderful experience. However, while their rambunctious behavior may be cute in the puppy stage, untrained pups can quickly turn into dogs who wreak havoc in the house.
That's why it's important to sign your pup up with a training class that includes socialization, basic obedience commands, housebreaking, and addressing common behavior problems.
So, what makes a good "Puppy Kindergarten" class? Keep reading to find out how to choose the right trainer and program, a basic break down of what training entails and how to make the lessons stick with your pup in varying environments.
Your new pooch won't be in the puppy stage for long, so it's best to choose a training program within the first few months of its life. This is when they are most susceptible to new habits.
When you're considering which trainer or class to take your dog to, it's important to answer the following four questions.
1. Is the trainer certified?
Dog training doesn't require formal schooling. Inevitably, this means a lot of "professionals" promote their services without actually having the knowledge or motivation skills to train your pup correctly.
So, which trainers can you trust? Just because you don't need a college degree to be a dog trainer doesn't mean that effective instruction programs don't exist. Finding a certified dog trainer through a respected academy ensures your dog will have a more fulfilling experience with training that sticks.
Here are some trusted organizations that offer dog trainer certifications:
- The Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
In addition to the institutions above, consulting with your local veterinarian can help point you in the direction of respectable dog trainers in your area.
2. How is the class structure?
It's also important to consider what your dog will be learning in the class. Ultimately, the goal should be to set a concrete foundation during the puppy-stage, so your dog practices good behaviors in the future.
Academies typically provide a general layout of their programs to explain which lessons your dog will learn and how long it will take. Also, some instructors allow prospective clients to act as silent observers and attend a class or two beforehand to check compatibility.
Typically, puppy courses run once a week for four to eight weeks. Choosing between a shorter or longer program depends on your puppy's breed characteristics and their behaviors.
During class, puppies learn how to get along with other animals and people, potty training tips, basic obedience, and general communication commands. Trainers teach two to three lessons per class, with some added practice provided as homework.
Consistency is key while your dog is undergoing Puppy Kindergarten. Once you get back home from class, take 10 minutes to remind your pup of the lessons they learned that day. This not only reaffirms their new knowledge but also helps them practice remembering rules in different environments.
3. How much does training cost?
Next, you should consider training costs.
For group classes like those described above, training programs typically range from around $100 to $150. On the other hand, private classes cost closer to $250 to $600 for six one-hour sessions, whereas kennel programs are essentially temporary boarding schools for your pup that range between $1,000 to $2,000.
Be wary of training programs that advertise cheaper options that seem too good to be true. Most of the time, they are. Instead, invest a little more into a quality program. In the long run, you will save money because you won't have to retrain your dog, and you'll be putting you and your pup in a safer situation.
4. Should I enroll in a group class or private class?
Finally, you must decide between enrolling your pooch in a private or group class. Group classes typically take place in a park, at an academy or in a pet store. On the other hand, private lessons entail a trainer coming to the comfort of your home.
Like you just learned above, the cost is one of the most significant factors pushing many dog owners towards group classes over private lessons. Even more important, the socialization benefits of introducing your pup to new pets and people make group training ideal. However, certain puppies can strongly benefit from one-on-one instruction.
If your new pup has special medical needs, it may be difficult for them to keep up with a group class. Also, rescue dogs who have a history of abuse may need more tailored training to adhere to specific fears and triggers. In these cases, private instruction offers the best effects.
Understanding Dog Training Lessons
Now that you know what goes into choosing a trainer and program, let's turn our focus to the class content. Keep reading to break down why the following dog training lessons are essential.
Dog socialization is typically considered the most important component of puppy training. It introduces your pup to unfamiliar pets and people and helps reduce aggressive or fearful behaviors, making group training classes the ideal place to practice the skill.
Socialization is an important lesson because it teaches your pup to respond positively to people outside of your household, like the company that comes over or strangers they encounter on a walk. Likewise, it reduces barking and snipping at other passing pets or animals.
Ultimately, the sooner you start socializing your puppy, the more likely they are to display friendly characteristics and good behavior later in life.
Teach Basic Obedience Commands
The other main component of dog training is teaching your pup how to respond positively to basic commands.
During these lessons, your pooch learns what "sit" and "lay down" mean and how they should respond when you tell them to "come" or "stay." Likewise, they get better acquainted with being on a leash.
Basic obedience lessons are necessary for proper communication with your pup. Setting boundaries early to develop better trust from a young age and prompts a more successful response when you give a command. In doing so, you establish yourself as the authority instead of allowing your dog to take charge.
At the same time, this makes public outings safer all-around because your dog is more likely to react in a controlled and calm manner when you want them to.
Deal With Behavior Problems
Basic obedience lessons are often the answer to common behavioral problems. Usually, your puppy acts out because it is curious about its new surroundings or wants to capture your attention. This may mean extra barking, nipping, digging, chewing, or playing with off-limits items around the house.
While these naughty behaviors may seem cute in the puppy-stage, if your pooch remains untrained, behaviors that were once naive and adorable soon appear stubborn and hard to deal with as they age.
Typically, reaffirming your authority with obedience commands helps your dog learn when to rein in their inherent nature.
When training away behavior problems, it's easier to build better habits by rewarding good behaviors rather than merely disciplining bad behaviors. Positive reinforcement includes things like tossing your pup occasional treats or their favorite toys for good listening and responses.
House training is made easier with instructor intervention
While socialization and basic obedience lessons are the top priorities during training, housebreaking or potty training is often a concern of new dog owners.
Typically, housebreaking is achieved with a crate or by strategically positioning training pads. Dogs like to seek out absorbent materials for a place to relieve themselves.
Group sessions don't offer the opportunity for your pup to practice potty-training during class. However, they do offer the chance for you to consult your dog trainer on methods to make the process less messy and time-consuming.
Private sessions may come in handy if housebreaking becomes a persistent problem. With a trainer coming to your house, they can give you a personalized plan for your specific accommodations.
Crate training provides your dog with a sense of its own space and safety
While we mentioned dogs search for a soft cushion when looking to relieve themselves, there is one place they avoid. Dogs don't like to soil their beds.
That's why the final instructions during training are often to try crate training at home. By sliding your pup's bed into a crate, you teach your dog to alert you when they need to move elsewhere to relieve themselves. This helps your pooch learn to take their business outside instead of on your floors or furniture.
Crates are also useful because they give your dog a sense of their own space. Moreover, being enclosed often helps them feel protected.
Proofing Dog Training Behaviors
This is where your dog training homework comes in handy and becomes evident if you aren't staying consistent with lessons outside of class.
Proofing a dog training behavior refers to confirming that your pup maintains the lessons they learned in all environments and situations.
Most dogs have an easier time recalling behaviors in familiar environments like in class or at home. However, dogs often puzzle owners when they forget their training during public outings. You need to teach your dog to generalize behavior commands.
In particular, whenever you're traveling with your pup, practice commands and provide positive reinforcement to get them to comply from anywhere. Pay attention to recurring distractions to focus your pup's practice.
Finally, before you head to training, there are a few more things to consider.
Check with your regular veterinarian to make sure that your pup is healthy and up to date on their vaccinations. Some training academies require medical records on your pup's first class.
You should invest in items like a sturdy collar and leash. These supplies help your pup practice what it's like to go on a walk and helps identify them if they stray away from the pack.
Also, don't forget to pack your pup's favorite treats or toys, which can help with the positive reinforcement aspects of training.
All in all, the final thing to remember is that training is an on-going process. Throughout your dog's life, reinforcing the lessons they learn in their youth will help ensure continued good behavior. If you keep consistent with your commitment, you will likely experience the best results.