Training a puppy is a challenging and time-consuming undertaking; but thankfully, there are a multitude of resources and methods to help accomplish this often daunting task. Through initial research or word-of-mouth, you’ve likely heard the term “puppy kindergarten” (or “preschool”), which is used largely to describe a series of obedience classes that the puppy parent completes with their puppy. These classes are predominantly designed to teach basic commands, and socialize your puppy with other dogs.
Before investing both your dollars and your time in a group class however, it’s important to set expectations and make sure it’s the right training environment for you and your pooch. Preparation is key to getting the most out of puppy kindergarten, so here are a list of pros and cons to help you decide whether you’re ready to enroll and if/once you do, ensure success!
Socialization – There is one basic facet of development that you as the puppy parent cannot teach: healthy play with other dogs. Learning how to interact with other canines is crucial for your puppy– how else will you be able to confidently and safely walk your puppy outside, take him/her to a dog park or even board him/her in a group setting?
Distractions – At the moments when it’s most important for your puppy to listen to you, he/she will most certainly be distracted. Whether running away from you at the dog park, begging for a fellow diner’s food while accompanying you at an outdoor restaurant or jumping on a stranger, you will undoubtedly experience situations outside of your own home where you don’t have your puppy’s full, undivided attention. A class environment will teach him/her to listen to you amidst interruptions, if not chaos.
Learning Retention – Contrary to popular belief, your puppy will not retain the information taught in class and implement it without further reinforcement and personal one-on-one training. In simple terms, do not expect your puppy to actually learn anything during class time. Puppy classes are designed to teach the parents the basics, and then the work is on you to practice, practice, and then practice some more at home.
Generic and Unspecialized – Puppy classes typically focus on basic obedience training. Think commands such as sit, come, and stay. Essential exercises such as potty-training or crate-training, nipping or chewing may not be covered. Plus, dogs with specialized issues such as separation anxiety or intense aggression are better suited for private one-on-one training which will focus on techniques tailored to solving those problems. Before enrolling, make sure you have an understanding of the topics that will be addressed during your sessions and what you’ll be responsible for handling on your own.
Costly – While high-quality obedience training can be invaluable (when implemented correctly), all too often, puppy parents become easily frustrated upon not seeing fast results. In many cases, they give up and do not follow through with the teachings they learn in class making the classes “worthless” and/or a superfluous luxury.
Bottom line: puppy kindergarten may reward your pooch with a diploma upon graduation, but only expect your puppy to get straight A’s if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to continuing and reinforcing these teachings at home.