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Why puppy class means playtime is over!

26/09/2021 - Training

If there’s one thing puppies are associated with, it’s playing together. These adorable bundles will chase anything in sight, love a bit of rough and tumble with litter mates and are inquisitive about their new world and potential new friends. They are such fun to be with, of that there is no doubt.

So, at the risk of sounding like a Victorian school ma’am, why do I insist that training sessions are NOT for playing?

Connect and Bond

Essentially, it’s because puppies (and owners) have to learn when playing with other dogs is or is not appropriate. It’s easy for puppies to become over excited, easily distracted and ‘forget’ their person is present. Learning about appropriate interactions is key for puppies and too much playing can create unhelpful associations which stay with puppy for life.  So, at a time when we’re needing to connect with our puppy, engage his or her brain and introduce new concepts, playing is just not going to help.

For a training session to be productive, you and your puppy need to learn it’s fun to be together. A lot of what we teach is about building a relationship between you and your dog so that you can use this connection to establish good choices in the future. Our sessions are always fun – I’d hate for you to think it really is like school in the Victorian era – but we focus on puppies having calm, controlled and positive experiences with their family instead of bouncy, boisterous behaviour with others.

Socialisation and playing – same or different?

Lots of people come along to puppy training classes expecting to ‘socialise’ their puppy. And, that is something we know is a good thing and all part of gaining experience with other dogs.

However, socialising isn’t quite the same in the dog world as it is in the human world. Socialising is not just playing with other dogs: it’s learning to interact appropriately, whatever the situation. What we are aiming for is a scenario where your dog is happy to ignore other people and animals until the time that is ok to greet them, which in real life, might be not at all.

A large part of socialising is not just about other dogs, but getting used to ‘strange’ people and scenarios, different sounds, smells, textures, surfaces and so much more.

Playing nicely

Once we start to get a feel for our dogs and how they react to different things, and we have started to establish the all-important relationship and connection, we can then introduce a little calm and controlled play. This would be better termed as ‘interaction’ though because it’s about having positive experiences around other dogs, learning to be polite and respectful of each other. No inappropriate rough and tumble and definitely not getting too over excited. Some puppies will choose to calmly sniff socially without interacting with each other whereas others will want to run around and chase eachother.

Because we love allowing our puppies to play from a young age, we can unfortunately create behaviour patterns that are a nuisance later on. Your puppy bounding over to another puppy and instigating a bouncy play might be cute now but if that puppy is going to turn into a couple of kilos of Labrador, Boxer or Husky, things might not go so well when a near fully grown ‘puppy’ rudely bounds over to an unwilling play thing!
Hopefully this explanation helps you, as the owner of a new puppy, to see the benefit of coming along to classes. It’s all about doing things in the right order. If we can teach our dog to firstly have a strong relationship with us, we can then extend this to show them how be in control of their own reactions and behaviour, and we can have hours of fun with them!