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Hi, today was my dog's first puppy class. He went around and met everyone, got humped by a golden doodle, etc. Everything was fine in the beginning, but when a larger husky wanted to play with him(the playful pounce stance, barking, whining, etc.) he responded with growling and barking.

I'm not familiar with german shepherd play behavior, but is growling/snarling, barking, pawing, (snapping maybe once, didn't let him get close to the husky while showing these behaviors) playing?

When the husky was calm, so was he. It was only the husky trying to play that got him upset.

Also, they promote 'positive only' training. They claim that otherwise(operant conditioning, I suppose) in some cases it works, but in most it makes the dog fearful. True?
 

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Puppies sound like they're trying to kill each other but they're puppies!! They're learning how to interact and will let each other know how far they can go. Sounds like your pup was acting normally and communicating what his limits are to the other pup. As long as your class is very positive and allows for lots of supervised play, it's just what they need. Don't worry, they'll be fine. It's great that you're going!
 

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Hi, today was my dog's first puppy class. He went around and met everyone, got humped by a golden doodle, etc. Everything was fine in the beginning, but when a larger husky wanted to play with him(the playful pounce stance, barking, whining, etc.) he responded with growling and barking.

I'm not familiar with german shepherd play behavior, but is growling/snarling, barking, pawing, (snapping maybe once, didn't let him get close to the husky while showing these behaviors) playing?

When the husky was calm, so was he. It was only the husky trying to play that got him upset.

Also, they promote 'positive only' training. They claim that otherwise(operant conditioning, I suppose) in some cases it works, but in most it makes the dog fearful. True?
GSD's are known for rough play and they tend to play rougher the more play goes on so a timely time out to stop play is often helpful.

As far as "positive only" training is concerned you will no doubt receive a variety of opinions from other posters but my own opinion is that it may well work great for some dogs and trainers while for other dogs it will not work very well - my current very pushy self assured 3yo male GSD is a prime example of that type. 95% positive with an occassional correction to remind him of how things really are seems to work best.

And don't forget, a "correction" doesn't mean that you hurt your dog at all - it can be as little as a verbal signal to the dog or maybe even a small leash correction to remind him'her of the appropriate behavior. And of course you should only use a correction when you are sure your dog knows what he/she is supposed to do and simply does not do it - not when you are teaching the command/behavior.
 

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I think free for all group play in puppy class can be a bad idea for puppies who don't want to interact with strange dogs. It does not teach them to be more social, it teaches them that you won't protect them from strange dogs invading their space and it teaches them to practice being reactive to get dogs to leave them alone. Socialization is supposed to be positive experiences. If group play is not a positive experience for your puppy, it's perfectly acceptable to tell the instructor you'd rather sit it out. Even for dogs who enjoy it, I don't feel the group puppy play has a lot of benefit to the owners unless it is done in a very controlled manner. If you have a very dog friendly puppy and you allow them to find out how rewarding playing with other dogs is over focusing on you, training is going to be much harder than it has to be. IMO puppyhood is the best time to teach your dog to focus on you around distractions (such as other dogs).

I taught puppy class with group play for years. When I first took the class over, the group play started and often ended the class. After a while of watching puppies pulling their owners into the class, eager to get off leash to see the other puppies, seeing the puppies totally ignore their owners while playing and then watching the owners struggling to keep their dog focused on them instead of the other puppies I made some changes. Group play was only done the last 5 - 10 minutes of class and it was controlled. Owners were to call their puppies to them treat and then let them play again or call their puppy to them, have the puppy do some simple commands then let them play again. I also had owners with dogs already too dog focused stay on the other side of the room divider working their dogs instead of having them participate in group play. It made a huge difference in the success of the students in the class but made my boss very unhappy. She eventually took puppy class over and returned it to being 10+ minutes at the beginning and 10+ minutes at the end of class. Since the place was also a daycare, she wanted owners to see how much fun their dogs would have playing with other dogs. OTOH I wanted the owners to be successful at training their dogs.

When I got Whimsy, I had a chance to design my own puppy class that I would teach and my hubby would bring the puppy to. The other students were local dog people, making it a lot of fun. My ideal puppy class had very little group play and what we had was only a few minutes after class when the puppies were still very young and it was controlled. It only continued as long as the puppies were all having fun, once they weren't leashes went back on. There was no bullying, no puppies having to defend themselves from other puppies, etc. I also took her to a puppy class at the training club, where they don't do group play but do let the puppies mingle on lead then call them back. I usually couldn't even get Whimsy (at four months old) to look away from me at the other puppies to mingle. The instructor thought I should encourage her to go see the other puppies but I thought he response was perfect "Look what a good puppy I am, those puppies are playing and I'm watching!". So far, Whimsy is the most tolerant girl Belgian I have had with other dogs. Much more than the ones which went to free for all group play puppy class and/or doggy daycare.
 
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