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anitram 04-09-2014 09:13 AM

Questioning value of puppy school
To be specific, our puppy class that we've been attending.

I chose this class because it is run by a really well-organized obedience club which also does a ton of classes in agility, flyball, etc which are things I'd like to explore when Hans is older.

The trainer is ok...a bit disorganized and has asked that we don't bring the clicker to the class but instead mark with "Yes" which if fine, though annoying to my husband who has really taken to the clicker.

The issue is the other dogs in the class. Hans is the youngest (14 weeks) and smallest. The other dogs are essentially in one way or another older puppies or young adults who are becoming problem dogs. The rundown:

1. A 17-week-old Sheltie female who is TERRIFIED of everything. This puppy trembles when a person or another puppy approaches her. She hides under benches or chairs with her tail between her legs and poor thing looks completely stressed out to be there.

2. A 6-month-old Doberman female who is probably the best of the rest, but whose owner is totally in over her head and has had her on a prong collar since she was under 5-months old saying that's she's otherwise unmanageable. The puppy seems like she has a really low drive to me and doesn't appear at all motivated by food so she's a slow learner.

3. A 9-month-old yellow Lab who is pardon my language, crazy, haha. Unbelievable amount of energy, dog jumps straight up, literally off the ground like it's a yoyo, 3-4 feet in the air. Owned by an elderly couple who themselves are very slow moving and could not be a worse match. Has to be muzzled because otherwise it would bark continuously for the entire hour-long class. When she plays with other dogs, she jumps up in the air, lands on their back and basically sits on top of them on the ground until they freak out. She is also already overweight.

4. A 14-month-old mini Australian shepherd, just a pretty bad temperament IMO. In the first class, it bit the trainer. If you approach it, it growls, then bites. The owners are a nice couple but either irresponsible or dishonest with other people about their dog's temperament. In the first class, Hans tried to approach it (I held him back so he only got within about 5 feet of her) and she went ballistic, growling, baring her teeth, straining on the leash to bite, etc. He kind of took a step back, didn't seem particularly bothered by it but in the second class when he saw her, he barked immediately. Otherwise he interacts just fine with other dogs.

We've done a lot of clicker training with him at home and he's unbelievably smart and trainable. I like going to the class so that he can be in a room with other dogs, be trained when there are major distractions and so I can get some tips from the trainer. I'm just concerned that he's not really benefiting from socialization here because apart from maybe the Doberman the other three don't have temperaments which are sound and if I knew them personally outside of class I'd never let Hans interact with them.

What would you do?

onyx'girl 04-09-2014 09:20 AM

The instructor should remove the dogs with problems and set up private lessons with the owners(or refer them to someone that can help). But that probably won't happen.
I'd keep going but do my own thing, and be diligent in not allowing any negative experience be had by my puppy. After the classes end, I'd be giving the instructor or whoever owns the place a detailed critique of the classes....maybe they can make some changes if things turn out bad. And if it is good with progress you can share that too.
First nights are always stressful for the fearful pups...they shouldn't be pushed past their threshold and not be placed close to the other dogs until they feel more confident.

Socializing doesn't mean playing with the other dogs, it means experiences.
If you want your dog to play with other dogs, set up a playdate with a confident stable temperamented dog.

MaggieRoseLee 04-09-2014 09:29 AM

I love the puppy class I'm in BUT the pups are all pretty much the same age...

Can you see if there are other classes available in your area? Since your pup is only 14 weeks old the main focus of class isn't so much 'formal' obedience as the socialization and beginning focus/training. So you can go to a more 'fun' class to get started.

The class I'm in has 2 of us (with the black GSDs) using the clickers. And the 2 other owners new to dog training and using a word to mark. There have been NO problem with our instructor allowing those of us with clickers to use them. If you aren't allowed to use it then your smart puppy just won't be able to take advantage of learning faster and clearer so adding a bit of confusion.

holland 04-09-2014 09:55 AM

That was adorable watching them play-

Blanketback 04-09-2014 11:07 AM

I don't think I'd want my 14 week old puppy around the others with the issues. Maybe it's not a problem, but I noticed when I had my puppy in the 'puppy manners' class that he coincidentally picked up the bad habit of jumping on people after being in a group of pups that did this. IDK, I can't say for sure that he learned this in class, lol...but he'd gone for over 2 months prior to that having not jumped on people. Who knows what they're thinking in those non-stop puppy brains.

sourdough44 04-13-2014 06:04 AM

I often think about the fate involved with how dogs end up with certain owners. Like an energetic Lab with lethargic owners who don't provide adequate, consistent exercise. At least at a training class a dog gets socialized somewhat in a partially controlled setting.

Maybe just strive to pick up some pointers to use one on one later on?

Athena'sMom 04-13-2014 08:15 AM

Sinister just completed his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy class and all the puppies were required to be under 20 weeks when class began. I feel puppies should never be around dogs who are already having behavior problems. Puppy class should be for positive human and puppy interaction. My opinion is Protect your puppy and find a better environment for training.

llombardo 04-13-2014 11:02 AM

I don't see a problem with it. It's great distraction training. Training is about teaching the owner what to do. It's up to the owner to work in that stuff at home. I don't feel that your dog will pick up any behaviors from the other dogs at all. My golden puppy started with pups his age, he was all over the place. Now he is the youngest in the class and equal to the older dogs. None of my dogs could care less about the other dogs in training and that is because they are focused on me.

kjdreyer 04-13-2014 11:32 AM

Any chance you could find a puppy class with actual puppies? That sounds like a bit of chaos, but I'd say the most important thing is how is your puppy reacting to all of the crazy? If he looks like he's scared or uncomfortable, I think I'd drop out of class! If he acts like it's all great fun, you're probably OK, but you're right to keep your distance from everybody else. And, FWIW, I wish I'd found this article sooner in regards to socializing my puppy:
Leerburg | Socializing Puppies

Good luck!

MaggieRoseLee 04-13-2014 11:57 AM

From yesterday! Class #3

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