Puppy preschool is a vital part of a dog’s training. It lays the foundations for puppies to be polite, well-mannered and well-socialised members of our families and our communities. Timing is critical when enrolling your dog in puppy preschool. Ideally, the dog should be eight to 10 weeks of age and vaccinated at the time of enrolment. The maximum age is 14 weeks—any older and the training becomes more difficult.
Our puppy preschool
Pet Medical runs a four-week course that’s available to puppies once they are over eight weeks of age. The owner and the dog attend once a week for an hour and a half. We have a wonderful certified trainer called Amy who runs our classes.
Timing is critical because we know the socialisation period in puppies is closing at around 12 weeks of age. Their environmental conditioning is closing at around 16 weeks of age. During this very small time period, we expose the puppies to a large number of experiences.
At this age, they find it much easier to learn and assimilate, and that ability stays with them throughout their lives. It’s much more difficult to introduce new concepts to older dogs. That’s not to say that older dogs can’t learn new tricks, but environmental conditioning and socialisation is much more effective in young puppies.
Lay the correct foundations
One of the challenges of dog training is that behaviours exhibited by an eight-week-old puppy can be adorable but it’s significantly less adorable when the dog is five times the size. If behaviour is accepted from young puppies then it’s hardly their fault if their behaviour hasn’t changed six months or a year later.
We need to lay the right foundations for these dogs so they know how to behave and are set up for success. It’s all about positive enforcement of good behaviour. One of the first puppy exercises is called a tie up or restraint exercise. The objective is to teach them to sit quietly while tied to the leg of a chair with the owner beside them.
We don’t ever put them in a situation where they’re stressed but we’re teaching the puppies to be comfortable on their own. It helps reduce separation-related anxiety and makes the puppies happy to be on their own. You can’t expect any dog to accept being left alone when they’ve had no training leading up to it.
During puppy preschool, we expose the dogs to a variety of experiences and situations. A puppy that hasn’t learnt to fetch a ball by the time its 16 weeks of age may never be a dog that fetches a ball. It simply wasn’t part of its learning and developmental process.
The COVID-19 lockdown has seen a lot of people buy puppies and it’s vital that they attend puppy preschool at the correct age. If physical attendance is impossible then we have a dynamic online training course presented by Amy. It concentrates on giving owners the techniques to deal with their puppy and that lends itself to an online platform.