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puppy socialization class
  • I am taking Nikko, my 10 week old puppy, to puppy socialization class. He is not doing well in this class. Last week, it consisted of the trainer talking for about 45 minutes, and just a bit of training at the end. This week, the trainer started out with letting the puppies run around for 25 minutes and then teaching sit and come. Nikko was way to wound up at the end of the puppy play to sit still for the rest of the training, He strained and pulled on his leash, hacked, lunged at other puppies whenever he could, and then by the end started loudly barking. Food rewards seem to have limited effect when he's really distracted. At home, Nikko is doing very well. He is crate trained and has learned not to bark in his crate, has learned to sit and stay for a short period, knows the "leave it" command to some extent, and can do "loose leash" for brief stints down the sidewalk. I think this is pretty good for ten weeks. But I'm wondering whether puppy socialization class might be doing more harm than good.image
  • Kira_KiraKira_Kira
    Posts: 2482
    @wallabee - that sounds really frustrating, especially since you are really making an effort to socialize your puppy.

    I can tell you that our puppy gets SO excited when other dogs are around, but I'm very cautious about going to things like PetSmart's generic puppy playtime. Having worked in the pet industry for over a decade, I've become very aware of how many inexperienced "dog trainers" there are in the field.

    My personal recommendation is to find a reputable training school that has good reviews, offers agility classes, doggy daycare, etc. Ask your vet or local pet store, they usually can recommend trainers or good obedience schools. I just enrolled Kira in a local doggy daycare once a week with a reputable training facility that keeps the dogs separate based on activity level, energy, and size. They monitor them and give each dog walks and your choice of training, agility, or TLC. I only bring her once a week, because my Monday shift is 10hrs and she gets socialized at the same time.
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  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4786
    NO! Puppy socialization classes will not do more harm than good (unless there is fear and punishment involved).

    At 10 weeks, it's most important that they get to be puppies and play and learn how to be a dog. Skills such as sits and downs are important for every dog to know, but they will NOT help a dog who is fearful and unsocialized. Their entire adult life can be spent refining commands and learning tricks, but they only have a short time as puppies to form those critical associations that helps or hurts them in their adult life.

    As an example, I chose to enter my youngest at 10 weeks in a Puppy
    Play group for puppies under 4 months. What they do is play, rotate around on different surfaces, get exposed to wheelchairs, walkers, children, and we incorporated some important things like name association, recall, impulse control, and learning to associate me with rewards (building value in interacting with people). No sits or formal commands or anything like that. When he was about 14 weeks, then we entered a Puppy K class and started learning some more skills like capturing desired behaviors and naming them.

    So, put it in perspective. At 10 weeks old, your puppy is showing you that he is very excited to be in this class and very eager to meet new dogs. Go with it! Teach him some self control in class by not letting him move towards the other dogs until he stops straining on the leash. Or bring a crate and don't let him out until he can wait at the door of the crate (crate games). Make the class your opportunity to teach your puppy that learning with you is fun and rewarding, and don't focus so much on teaching commands.
    "Common sense isn't so common"
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    Post edited by lindsayt at 2013-11-11 21:17:44
  • I agree with Kira_Kira, making sure the training facility is providing you with reputable instructors is important! That being said, if the main issue is Nikko acting out (essentially acting like a normal 10 week old puppy) I think the puppy class is probably great for him!

    The socialization alone is important, and it's easy to train a dog at home with no distractions, getting a puppy to listen with 20 other distractions around, not so much! One thing you can try is to use more "high value" treats. I'm not sure what you're using, but our terrier mix was a little devil for the first two classes, although it didn't help that the owner next to us for the first class did absolutely nothing to even attempt to control her puppy, *sigh*. The lesson there was to select our spot carefully. We had to up the ante a bit because things around her were more exciting than the food. We ended up switching to pieces of baked chicken, she was WAY more responsive!

    Idk, I say stick it out and see if he calms down a bit, if he's still not responding maybe you take a break on the classes for a bit.
  • JuniJuni
    Posts: 1269
    If your puppy is enjoying the classes and meeting the other pups I wouldn't worry too much about him not being able to focus. The classes are for you to learn and then to practise at home. And for him to socialize. If you feel he gets too wound up perhaps you can skip the play session and ask some selected few if your puppies can play afterwards instead?
    Juni gets bored too if the teacher talks too much and sometimes starts trying to rile up the other dogs or start nipping at my clothes so I usually keep her entertained by making her do little simple tricks so she gets some treats and is occupied.
  • Lindsay is right....what is key here is socialization NOT training. You need to let him play with the other dogs--that is what is most important here. Actually, I think puppy socialization classes are when you can afford to have a less than great trainer (as long as they are not aversive) because the point isn't the training; the point is getting the puppy to play appropriately with other pups. This is especially critical with Shibas. There is also a critical socialization window of time, and it is important to have your pup meet many other dogs and learn to interact with them appropriately during this time.

    So no, don't take a break on this. The class will be valuable in terms of socialization even if the puppy does not learn commands at this time.

    Lindsay, that sounds like a great class. I wish I had one like that here.
  • I was giving it some thought, and I also think Nikko did not get enough exercise before going, so I'm going to take him on a walk before the class, Hopefully that will also be calming. I am sure he has already met his 100 people. He sat on my porch with me and met dozens of kids and their parents on Halloween. That night alone was a goldmine. Thanks for all the advice. Just having new mom woes. Now if I start talking about the color of his poo, you will know I have gone off the deep end.
  • I took Harley to puppy play every week till he was 6 months old. It was the greatest thing I've done for him. He is a little over a year old now and is great with other dogs at the dog park and dogs that come into our home. No aggressive behavior ever
  • tatonkatatonka
    Posts: 1210
    @wallabee, so if Nikko is not food motivated, do you know what motivates him? A special toy? Some kind of play? Tatonka didn't do super well at puppy socialization (he'd just be stubborn and sit and stare at me for an hour), until I stopped using treats. Tatonka loves to play, he loves his ball, and he loves to work. So every time he'd do something correct, he'd get a loud exciting noise from me, or a tickling, or get his tail tugged on.

    Because he loves chasing a ball, we would also do a few tricks then let him chase and shake the ball around in his mouth, then go back to lessons.

    For some tricks like heel what worked is that we would keep him "working". So the longer we would have him heel and keep on walking, the more effective he was at following directions.
  • TengaiTengai
    Posts: 275
    The meeting of 100 new people and dogs in a 100 days is a guideline. Once you accomplished that great! Now start over with the next 100 new people and places. Socialization never ends. Its a lifelong process.
  • That's what I was thinking! You don't do it one day and it's over--you keep doing it.
  • RikkaRikka
    Posts: 1501
    Well said, @Tengai. :)
    Lauren, living with a 4 y/o Shiba named after a scientist. ☆
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    You said, "Puppy SOCIALIZATION Class." Sounds like he is getting socialized. It isn't a puppy training class, so you're good.
  • Nikko went to class tonight and was very well behaved. I took him on a 20 minute walk and played fetch for 10 minutes beforehand. So, that's the secret. Wear 'em out. We both had a great time.
  • Hope this is the right thread for this. I wanted to share my experience with a puppy preschool class, and ask for experienced Shiba owners' opinions about dog socialization for somewhat reserved Shiba puppies. I have an 11-week old black and tan Shiba Inu puppy called Kiko that I brought to a puppy preschool class recommended by my friend. Kiko likes to meet new dogs and people, but she is a little reserved at first. The first thing they did in this class was have everyone take everything off their puppies and release them for "puppy playtime". Owners were not allowed to interfere. Unfortunately, all the puppies were at least twice Kiko's size, rambunctious, and hyper, and she immediately got overwhelmed. The entire ~10-minute session of play time, she was either giving that Shiba puppy scream, running away from the other puppies, or trying to hide. She made no attempt to play with any of the other puppies, and just generally seemed unhappy.

    Now, the trainer in charge of the class was totally unconcerned that my puppy was getting run over and bullied by the larger puppies, and when I asked my friend about it, she said I should take Kiko back and try the "puppy playtime" again, with the idea that Kiko will have more confidence or learn to "stand up for herself". My concern is that "standing up for herself" might equate to learning to be aggressive or defensive with other dogs. Or I take her back and she just has another miserable experience of being chased around, further solidifying in her mind that puppies or larger dogs are to be feared. Shiba people, do you see any benefit to subjecting her to this unstructured "puppy playtime" again? Or should I stick with slow introductions with only a few dogs or puppies at a time? Right now, I am thinking I might continue going to class for the training parts and some on-leash interactions with other puppies, but skip the playtime.
  • LilikoiLilikoi
    Posts: 1272
    As a baby, I don't think she would be likely to just decide that all these dogs that she is having a bad experience with are friendly and perfect. I think it would be more likely that she would continue to be fearful, practice that fear, and eventually might feel like she needs to defend herself or at the very least tell the other puppies in a LOUDER way that she is uncomfortable with them.

    I don't think subjecting her to an overwhelming experience would be beneficial That isn't socialization, that's flooding. Some people act like socialization is exposure to the extreme. But socialization is ensuring GOOD experiences and setting them up for success, not forcing them to be terrorized and uncomfortable.

    If you have any friends with calmer pups, maybe you could schedule some interaction with them. Maybe you can start by having them separated until they become comfortable, then have them both working on tricks and getting rewards so they're not focused on each other. Maybe you can reward her and praise her for being curious. Also, be aware that the socialization window closes anywhere from 12-14 weeks old for puppies. So you don't have a ton of time to get some good exposure. Definitely act on that if you can. :)

    Maybe the trainer would allow you to be present but separated during the crazy playtime? Like maybe you could wait outside the area so she could see and hear the other puppies but not be forced to interact with them or be overwhelmed by them.

    I'm having the opposite problem kind of. xD My city isn't very big. There is only one other puppy in Nimh's class. Luckily, she is very friendly. She was from a big litter and has met several friendly dogs, including becoming best buddies with our nearly 3 year old shiba boy, Ozzy.
  • Update: Going against the trainer’s recommendations, I skipped puppy playtime (waited outside the door so she could hear and see the other puppies), but stuck around for the class, and I think I made the right call. When she played one-on-one with a couple of the larger puppies, Kiko was overwhelmed and totally turned off so throwing her to the wolves, so to speak, would definitely have been too much - I think it would have been a complete repeat of last time. She did meet a little 8-week old staffordshire mix pup that was shy and her size, and a husky puppy that she totally hit it off with, though.
  • LilikoiLilikoi
    Posts: 1272
    That’s good! Glad she met some pups that she had better experiences with and wasn’t thrown to the wolves. xD

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