Jenny Mee // September 2018
Back to School
As a mum of two, I’ve had a great summer with my girls; really making the most of the sunshine and getting out and about with our three dogs. However, it seems like, in a blink of an eye, the summer holidays are almost over and we have started to prepare for the dreaded back to school! My youngest starts her new school very soon and I’m already starting to plan for how I can make that transition as exciting and stress-free as possible for her. This got me thinking about how our puppies (and their owners!) must feel before they start classes with us.
Any new experience can be daunting for a puppy
Young puppies are always seeing, smelling and hearing new things for the very first time. Just like children having to get used to new classrooms, teachers and activities, our puppies also have a lot of adapting to do. The training hall may smell like puppies that have gone before them; the firework CD, playing gently in the background, may be something they’ve never experienced before; even different floor textures can be something new to cope with as they are so different to home! We work hard, particularly on week one, to help settle puppies in and make it as easy as possible for them.
A new school can be a daunting time for a child, just as it is for a puppy, but our hope for both is always that they soon settle and make lots of new friends - as well as learning lots of interesting (and often essential) new lessons. Children have to learn to sit still sometimes and focus on their work - we teach puppies how to concentrate on what their owner is asking them and also how to settle, even when there’s other stuff going on around them. We call this settle work “The Magic Off-Switch”; once we have taught you how to do it, you will wonder how you ever lived without it! Whilst it can be a teeny bit daunting for some puppies, they soon realise that the people in purple are not going to eat them – on the contrary, we are always on hand with a reassuring word of comfort, a little cuddle or extra treats when Mum or Dad run out! They also get the chance to meet other puppies and their owners, which is a great (and fun!) opportunity to start learning those vital life skills, such as how to say “hello” politely on lead and how to greet people with all four paws on the floor!
Preparation is key!
So, how can we prepare them? My daughter has picked out a new school bag and soon I’ll need to start packing it for all the things she may need on her first day. Preparation is key! The exact same thing goes for puppies; whenever we book a puppy on to a course, we have a good chat with the owners about what to expect and send out a Welcome Letter detailing things to bring with them on their first day. These things include a blanket from home, a favourite toy, poo bags (just in case!) and lots of yummy treats! We also invite owners to attend one of our free induction talks before their course starts, which can help to answer questions and ease any pre-course nerves that our puppy parents may have.
It’s also important that we remember learning can be fun and we shouldn’t set our expectations for our puppies too high on the very first day. I know that the more relaxed I can be as a parent, the happier my little girl will feel about starting school - and the same goes for puppies! If owners feel prepared and can come with an open mind, not worry too much about comparing their pup to others in the class or worrying if the puppies have a bad day (because, let’s face it, we all have those), then the transition from unruly pup up to happy, well-mannered student is a much easier one.
Practice makes perfect!
All of this brings me to the dreaded “H-word”… homework! Just like at school, we give our puppies and their owners homework to do each week - but homework doesn’t have to be boring! We have lots of ideas on how to make training fun, because the more fun an owner and their puppy are having, the more likely they are to want to practice. Practice makes perfect! So, although we call it homework, we hope that it acts as a useful reminder from classes and gives lots of ideas for owners on how to interact in the best way with their puppies at home.
Just like children, a pup’s education should start as soon as possible. while they are very young. Whilst it’s never too late to start learning, the younger they are, the easier it will be, as they haven’t had the chance to get into any bad habits yet. So, if you have a new puppy or are thinking of getting one soon, have a chat with us about puppy school today. Don’t put it off until they’re older; they may seem like cute little angels now, but once they mature into adolescents (and the hormones kick in), you may suddenly find a few unwanted behaviours starting to creep in. At Dog School, we are big believers in preventing unwanted behaviours before they occur, particularly with puppies. Get them set off on the right path, learning all the correct lessons, from the start.