How to choose a good puppy preschool:
- The instructors should be qualified and use best practice methods, which means positive reinforcement and not punishment. Professional Members of the Delta Institute or The Pet Professional Guild Australia (PPGA) are a good starting point. Trainers who call themselves balanced use positive reinforcement as well as punishment based methods – this is not best practice. Look for a positive trainer and not a balanced trainer.
- The class should provide a safe and stress free place to meet new and different people including children and men. ’Pass the puppy’ is not an appropriate way of introducing strangers.
- It should provide opportunities to socialise with a range of stimuli the puppy is going to have to deal with in life.
- Recommended class size by Delta is 6 puppies. Once or two more can be added if the class has more than one trainer.
- There has to be off leash interaction in class but controlled and strictly supervised by a trainer. Only two puppies at a time should socialise in a class environment.
- The class should teach basic manners such as name recognition, attention, sit, lie-down, come when called, exchange of toys and food, and a few tricks.
- Puppies should not be forced into interaction or produce a specific behaviour but able to learn in their own time.
- The instructors should provide alternatives for normal but not ideal behaviours such as mouthing and chewing, house training, chasing the children, digging and general exuberance. Yelling ‘no’ at the puppy will not solve the problem.
- And most of all the family, including children, should participate in the lessons even if just at home. This provides the pup with consistent training from all their humans. Adults (16+ years) should handle pups in classes.