Hazel Carter

Pet Behaviourist

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Puppy Socialisation Classes

"Pass the Puppy"
These classes have become quite popular and are run by dog clubs and veterinary surgeries. The aim is to have puppies that develop into friendly outgoing adults, unfortunately quite the opposite can happen. The dangers of exercises such as "pass the puppy", which is popular, is a good example. Puppies are passed from person to person where they are handled, petted and some times fed.

Some breeds, such as Collies and also Shelties, Dachshunds etc, are particularly sensitive to this kind of exercise and need very careful handling. It is vitally important that people running these classes realise that ALL the puppies in their care have different temperaments and handling sensitivity levels. The problem is exacerbated by the trainer forcing the nervous puppy to "join in", or worse, take it away from its owner to reprimand it for its apparent hysterical behaviour! This kind of puppy needs very gradual exposure to new experiences so its confidence is maintained and its trust in people is not broken.

As well as the nervous puppies there are the "bully boys"; like big bouncy Labradors who love to jump on the other puppies and chase them round the room. Some times a terrified puppy will take refuge under a chair, until the trainer drags it out!

By now another problem has arisen, aggression to dogs as well as people Yes all these things do happen as I know from personal experience working as a Dog Behaviourist!

The owner of a sensitive puppy goes to socialisation classes with the best intentions, but is some times not happy with this situation but does not like to question the "expert" in charge. Some owners do not have the experience or in depth knowledge to know what are suitable exercises for their particular puppy. After one or two "incidents" the owner is left confused and worried about their pet's behaviour and escalating aggression problem that they cannot handle.

To sum up, the aims of puppy socialisation classes are to have confident well behaved, sociable dogs that can also be easily handled by Vets, Veterinary nurses, dog groomers, kennel staff etc; sadly this is not always the case.