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Puppy training classes teach good dog behaviors

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

Summertime finds many families adopting or purchasing a puppy. This is probably because the children are out of school and it “will give them something to do,” and it is easier to take care of a pup in the summer because it can go out to play and relieve itself without fear of frostbite or chills.

However, after the decision to get a dog, there is often very little planning. Pups grow up unbelievably fast. By the end of the summer, a lot of imprinting has taken place that will last the rest of its life. That is why puppy training classes are so beneficial. Puppy training classes accept all breeds and mixed breed pups. They are usually grouped by size so they learn to get along with their peers during the socialization period. The owners are encouraged to sit in a circle to provide security for the timid, or restraint for the potential bullies.

If you start at 16 weeks or under, the pup learns how to behave when with a group of dogs. This is particularly important if the animal goes with the owner to dog shows, activity events, or participates as a therapy dog visiting residents of nursing homes with a group of other therapy dogs.

Puppy training classes can be compared to Headstart programs. Most programs include introducing the pup to humans of all ages, from babies, if available; to toddlers, with their unsteady gait, their squeals of joy and their snatching hands that are often intimidating to young dogs; to the elderly, with their canes, wheelchairs and walkers.

There is also a session when the pups are exposed to different sensory stimulants so they will not be afraid of new environments later. Throughout the eight- to 10-week program, the pups learn to trust their owners and develop self-confidence as they listen to various sounds such as classical music and running vacuums, smell different scents like the musk of deer and the tantalizing odor of cooked liver, and run through tunnels and across balance beams.

Most puppy training classes also include the basic obedience routines, which are introduced with the pup’s age and maturity in mind. In other words, the pup is taught to heel, sit, stand, come when called and stay on a long sit and a long down. However, since the pup’s attention span is no longer than a minute or two and sometimes less, the stationary commands come last in the program.

What will new puppy owners get out of such a training class? First, they will have a well-adjusted animal that is capable of sizing up unusual situations and coming up with an appropriate response. The pups will be ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test (a national test sponsored by the American Kennel Club). And finally, they will have a good basis to continue training for work or competition or just to stay in practice. As with children, puppies retain their training only as long as they practice it.