Updated: May 21, 2022
We're big fans of puppy kindergarten classes! Sometimes called puppy preschool or just puppy class, these intro group classes have a lot of benefits.
Typically these classes are designed for puppies to start at 8-12weeks of age. Why is this important? Because puppies have a "Critical Socialization Period" in which their brains are like sponges, soaking up tons of information about the world around them. During this time, puppies are learning about lots of new things- new objects, sounds, people, dogs, etc- and hopefully learning that these things are awesome!
But that window closes between 12-14 weeks for most puppies, and the ability to truly "socialize" our puppies ends after that. If we miss that window, (or if our puppies have scary experiences during that window), we can end up with puppies who are fearful, anxious, or reactive to new things in their environment. Yikes! So we need to take full advantage of the socialization window- and that's where Kindergarten comes in!
Here are some of the benefits of puppy classes:
It's safe! Unlike dog parks and other public spaces, puppy classes have strict cleaning protocols to make sure puppies aren't exposed to diseases while they're still catching up on booster vaccines. (No, your puppy doesn't need to be fully vaccinated to go to puppy class! You can learn more here)
It provides great socialization! Not only will puppies get to play with one another and meet new humans, but puppy classes also focus on socializing to new objects (like agility equipment, wheeled/rolling things, grooming tools, etc)! These things are SO important for a well-adjusted puppy, and many folks forget to focus on them. For more info, you can check out our Puppy Socialization Checklist for ideas!
It avoids negative experiences! Puppies can easily learn to be fearful during their socialization period, if they're exposed to scary stuff or forced to engage when they're nervous. In classes, instructors will help ensure that interactions are safe and happy. AND they help teach you to continue this trend even outside of class.
It helps you solve common puppy problems! If you've ever had a puppy, you know it can be difficult. You want your puppy to stop biting you, and destroying things. You want to make sure your puppy learns not to resource guard. You want to know when your puppy will stop peeing in the house. You want them to leave your older dog alone. You want your puppy to not pull on leash. The good news: the skills you learn in puppy kindergarten will help you with all of these! You'll learn to reward good "default" behaviors to replace the ones you don't like, and talk about management and prevention strategies.
It's led by awesome, knowledgeable trainers! Our puppy kindergarten instructors are certified professionals with lots of experience helping puppies learn and thrive. So if you start having problems or have questions, they can help.
It's super cute! You get to meet other puppies, get a graduation certificate, and learn fun skills like sit, down, drop it, "place" and walking on leash.
So if you have a puppy who's 8-12 weeks old, sign up for puppy class ASAP!! You can sign up for our classes as soon as you're ready, or look for options in your area. Be sure to choose a class that uses positive reinforcement, and doesn't use harsh methods like prong collars or shock/electronic/"branded" collars.
What if your puppy is too old for Kindergarten? For pups in the 4-6 month age range, we recommend our Puppy First Grade class! It still covers all the basic manners skills, but doesn't include puppy playtime (due to the significant size/age differences in class). It does still provide socialization opportunities, and also focuses on "teenage" issues: stopping counter surfing, teaching puppies to drop things (or leave them alone), stopping leash pulling, and getting puppies to pay attention to their people even with distractions!