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It is getting widespread that early socialisation is a crucial step in puppy development. Exposure to a variety of dogs, humans and situations happening during the socialisation window () is key for the dog to grow as a top canine citizen.

In my experience breed clubs and training clubs propose a large variety of puppy classes, I suppose to fulfil that goal. However it seems that the vision they have of these classes, the activities they implement and the way they deal with all that vary quite a lot.

How can I judge the quality of such puppy classes?

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Here are a few things you can look for when determining when class (puppy or otherwise) is good for you and your dog.

  1. Do the trainer(s) use modern positive methods when training?

    Whether it's clicker training, luring, shaping, etc. isn't very important. But they shouldn't be using prong / choke / shock collars or any harsh punishments, and especially not in a puppy class.

  2. How do the instructors' dog(s) act?

    A great way to tell how good an instructor / class is by observing it. Many local classes will let you drop-in (without dog) to watch a class and see if it's right for you. Specifically pay attention to how the instructor interacts with his or her dog. Are they happy, enjoying the training?

  3. What titles do the instructors' dogs have?

    An easy way to tell if an instructor is successful is to find out if any of his or her dogs have titled in what they are teaching. For a puppy class, the closest thing is going to be obedience titles such as OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion) or UOCH (United Obedience Champion). Of course, this doesn't necessarily translate to a good teacher, but it at least lets you know they know what they're doing.

  4. What education or certificates do the instructors have?

    Dog training is a completely unregulated field, but that doesn't mean there aren't certificates or education that is relevant. Unfortunately, there's no way except through research to tell if a certificate from training school x is worth anything. Degrees in relevant fields such as animal behavior are rarer to find, but give you a better idea of what the instructor has done to acquire them. While not necessary, it can be a good differentiator between similar classes.

  5. How do you feel about the class?

    Finally, make sure that you find a class that you like, are willing to put in the effort required, and will enjoy. Most puppy classes will cover the basics like sit, down, recall, and loose-leash walking, but maybe there's one where you really liked how the instructor taught, or one that's more game oriented than another, or even one that's just a little cheaper than the rest. If you don't enjoy the class, it's going to be more difficult to practice at home, and you won't get nearly as much out of it.

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