By HELEN PALMER
Whereas I believe that one of the best things you can do after you acquire your new puppy is to enroll in a puppy kindergarten class, there are also stimulating activities you can use when you are playing with your new family member at home. It is best to start teaching through play as early as possible.
In puppy kindergarten classes, you have the opportunity to socialize your puppy. When I taught this class, I had everyone sit in a circle (several circles if the class was too large). Then one by one the handlers would let their pup freedom to roam around the circle at the end of its leash, sniffing the other pups and letting the other handlers touch it.
After all the dogs had a chance to socialize, we would start the class which consisted of basic obedience such as sit, down, and come. This part lasted about 15 minutes so the pups wouldn’t get bored.
This segment was followed by brain stimulators since this is the prime time to stimulate the thinking process, giving the pups an opportunity to learn to solve problems and learn about the world. Again, this part of the class was only minutes long.
The last part of the class was an introduction to agility, using the obstacles where the pup would walk on a board, through a tunnel, around the weave posts; no jumping allowed because of the immature bones and tendons.
Then it was home for the animals and, I hope, a well-deserved rest before being allowed to get up and explore their territory. However, it is important to continue teaching each day, even though there is probably no one new to socialize with, there is still brain stimulation and introducing the pup to new things in the environment.
We used the five senses as stimulators. One class would introduce new sounds like classical music, another class might concentrate on textures like walking in sand, through a trough of shredded ice, walking on linoleum, grass and gravel, even some cloth textures were available for the animals to sniff and walk on.
Taste was easy to do and we didn’t spend much time on that sense, but I want to say that this past weekend I read an article on the Internet written by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM that blueberries make healthy treats for dogs.
Touch was covered at home by teaching the pup to accept grooming, handling the paws and inspecting the mouth without argument.
Sight and smell are also fun games. Playing with a crumpled wad of paper, dragging a towel across the floor and encouraging the pup to walk across a board laid on the ground as well as stepping over the rungs of a ladder laid on the ground help in balance and increasing confidence. For scents I provided certain spices, and cloths sprayed with various hunting odors like deer.
Whatever you do, be sure to praise and reward as the dog learns and never scold, just repeat the exercise until you can praise.