Is it Important to Attend Puppy Class or is One-off Session Enough?

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

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Everyone knows that a puppy class is a good idea to help with socialization, but some trainers also offer a one-off puppy party. Which is best?

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.


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 Shutterstock.com


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 liked this post, check out my award-winning book Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. Modern Dog magazine calls it "the must-have guide to improving your dog's life."

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

You might also like: How to choose the right puppy in 4 easy steps and make your dog happy: puppy class!


Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, writes The Pawsitive Post premium newsletter, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

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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

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