I attended a puppy training class for the first time last night. This wasn’t an obvious choice for an evening out as I don’t have a dog! However, my friend invited me along as I often walk her little darling. I thought that I should attend to pick up a few tips as I had already discovered that puppies need to learn a thing or two if they are to make good pets.
I have walked and looked after many dogs in my time but until young Darcey came along, they were all adults. The dogs that I has spent time with were well-behaved pets who responded to commands and so I hadn’t given much thought to what they would have been like as puppies. Then I found myself having to deal with the mini tsunami that is Darcey and I began to realise just how important training is.
A small puppy throwing itself at you and jumping around like a loon is one thing, a fully gown Labrador or German shepherd doing the same things would hospitalise you. Darcey is a cocker spaniel and so is never going to be a big dog but she will still be capable of shredding the furniture and knocking over a small child.
I had been finding it quite difficult to get Darcey to listen to any commands let alone react correctly to them and so I was interested to see what techniques the experts would employ to improve her behaviour.
Mad Spaniels and Dainty Pugs
When I arrived at the puppy class I was greeted by another Spaniel who was so hyper that he made Darcey look positively laid back. He clearly hadn’t learnt much yet! There was a mongrel called Milo who seemed terrified of other dogs and a tiny pug who went by the name of Winnie and looked incredibly dainty in comparison to the other dogs.
When the class began, it was fascinating to watch the experts at work and I quickly realised where I had been going wrong. They encouraged the owners to reward good behaviour continually with treats. My friend was armed with enough training treats to feed a small country. I thought she had taken leave of her senses but it soon became obvious that a mountain of treats was essential. The dog trainers also made it clear that bad behaviour must not be rewarded at any time. It was the timing of the treats which made all the difference.
Darcey had always dragged me down the road to the point that I was usually forced to run. At the puppy class my friend was told to reward her every time she stopped pulling on the lead. This tactic soon started to pay off and Darcey did very well when she took part in a canine version of musical chairs. I resolved to try the same approach the next time I walked her. The next time turned out to be this morning and I actually managed to make it to the park without Darcey trying to pull me off of my feet. Progress!
The class also demonstrated how important it is to socialise young dogs. They aren’t born ready to integrate into human family life or canine society. If puppies are not taught right from wrong at a very early age they can turn into problem dogs. A short training course could save any dog owner from a world of trouble. Even my little tsunami of a friend is becoming more controllable by the day.
I am looking forward to getting my own puppy and when I do, I will definitely be going to puppy classes. I will need a new bag for all those treats though!