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.

Two cute Malamute puppies play and climb on a wall

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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. 

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.

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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.

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.

Why it is important to attend puppy class
Photo: omystory; top, Zuzule; both

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.

If you are looking for a dog trainer, whether for puppy class, adult obedience or behaviour problems, check out my article on how to choose a good dog trainer.

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?

P.S. How to choose the right puppy in 4 easy steps and make your dog happy: puppy class!

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

Useful links:

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

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  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!

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

  3. 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.

    1. I took my 10 week old puppy to a class. She spent most of the class trembling after the instructor stamped her feet and clapped her hands at the timid spaniel that started barking when 2 jack russell terriers (at 7 months old) charged in the room off lead straight at it (escaped their handler). Although I didn't see the instructor give this direction she didn't educate the owner of the terriers who chose to scruff roll one for its ongoing excitement. After we all sat for half an hour while she read materials on vaccinations etc there was a free for all where we were all encouraged to train our dogs. The instructor wasn't happy that I didn't want to put my puppy down and work on training (she stated I would make it more timid by accommodating her nerves) and wanted to give my puppy a crash course in sit, drop and come (pulling on the thick piece of string I'd tied to her collar in prep for a leash). I kick myself for letting her take her - it was an early lesson in sticking up for your dog despite being surrounded by others with opposing thoughts and experience. I debated about ringing and explaining my discomfort with her setup and methods but in the end, just didn't go back and forfeited the money. I was shocked - obviously veterinary nursing training doesn't include up to date animal behaviour theory - I hope things have improved (was in 2014).

  4. 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. :)

  5. 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

  6. It was great for my pup but I got the sense that we were the only ones doing the "homework" of external socialisation. I think many owners thought their obligations were confined to the interactive sessions


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