Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Is it Important to Attend Puppy Class?

Is a one-off puppy party a suitable alternative to a six-week puppy class? Research says you can’t skip the socialization if you want a well-rounded adult dog.

A malamute puppy climbs on a wall while another pup watches
Photo: Zuzule / Shutterstock

A study by Ai Kutsumi et al (2013) of the Azabu University Graduate School of Veterinary Science compares four groups of dogs: those who attended a six-week puppy class, those who went to a one-hour puppy party, those who attended a six-week adult dog training class, and those who didn’t attend any puppy or training class at all. 

142 dogs took part and the groups were about equivalent in terms of age, gender, and breed mix. The dogs were aged between 6 months and 3 years at the time of testing. The study included a questionnaire and a 30-minute behaviour test at the dog’s home.

Dogs who attended the 6-week puppy class or the adult dog training class scored significantly better on response to commands, showing that dogs can learn obedience commands at any age. Dogs who had been to puppy class were significantly more likely to give a positive response to a stranger than those who had been to just a one-hour puppy party or not attended any classes at all. They also tended to do better than those who had only been to adult dog training. This shows that the socialization aspect of puppy class is important for the dog’s future behaviour.

The scientists say, “the behaviour test showed that participation in puppy class contributes to improving the positive response of the dog to strangers. This indicates that if an ordinary companion puppy participates in a puppy class for socialization at about 4 months of age, the dog is likely to remain friendly to non-family members at an acceptable level.” 

The one-hour puppy party arose because puppy class is not that popular in Japan, according to the scientists. However these results show that it is not a substitute for the socialization that occurs during a 6-week puppy class.

The puppy class, adult class and puppy party all took place at the SIRIUS Dog Training School Japan. The puppy class curriculum included basic training commands as well as bite inhibition, house training, and socialization with the other puppies and their owners. The puppy party was equivalent to just the first session of puppy class. The adult dog training class covered basic obedience for dogs aged from 5 months to 2 years. All of the classes were force-free and used positive reinforcement, and class sizes were small (4-8 puppies and 2-5 adult dogs). 

The results also showed links between behaviour tests and scores on the Japanese version of C-BARQ, a questionnaire designed to assess behaviour traits. If dogs had a C-BARQ score that suggests fear of strangers, they gave a less positive response to a stranger in the behavioural test. Also, there was a correlation between Trainability scores on the C-BARQ and the results on the behavioural test for response to commands. The researchers say this means that C-BARQ scores can be useful in detecting signs of problems that require intervention.

In addition, ongoing socialization with people and dogs, and more frequent training sessions, were all positive for the dog’s behaviour.

The results of this study show that attending puppy class is important for socialization with other puppies and people. Although a 1-hour puppy party might sound like an attractive option, it does not have the same beneficial results for the dog’s future friendliness.

If you've ever taken a pup to puppy class, or you're a dog trainer, what do you like best about puppy class?

Reference
KUTSUMI, A., NAGASAWA, M., OHTA, M., & OHTANI, N. (2013). Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 75 (2), 141-149 DOI: 10.1292/jvms.12-0008

6 comments:

  1. Am I understanding correctly that the one hour socialization they refer to in the study only took place only one time? Thanks in advance for the clarification!

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  2. Yes, that's correct. The puppy party was a one-off session. Thank you for the question!

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  3. What type of experience & training do the authors have?

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  4. We're currently enrolled in a puppy class that is more like a puppy mosh pit. Pups of mismatched ages and sizes in a big free for all. This is not a good example of a puppy class. Just mentioning so readers understand not all puppy classes are created equal and some can have lasting damage for your puppy, creating fear aggression down the road towards other dogs. I have to advocate for my 11 wk old retriever so the instructor will redirect a 4.5 month great dane off of her. Only class available in area, but I may have to pull my puppy out of this class and opt for multiple weekly puppy parties.

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  5. I took my 12 week old puppy to puppy class for 8 weeks, then onto adult obediance at 4 months for 6 weeks, then beginner rally-o class at 6 months, then a foundational agility class at 8 months. He also started going to, a heavily screened for dog friendlyness and matched for sized, daycare at 6 months one day a week. He is very people and dog friendly , and well mannered. The classes and socialization made all the differnce for us. He's a year old on Monday. :)

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  6. Going to puppy class would yield better results in terms of animal behavior and performance. Would be great to invest into this classes. Great tip! - Lisa Williams

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