Why go to puppy socials? Early puppy socialization is a important part of puppy training. The first three months is a critical time in your puppy’s life. This is the time that puppies are open to new experiences. After this time period your puppy will begin to develop fears of the unknown. Therefore you must expose your puppy to as many new experiences as possible.
But it is essential that you do not expose your young puppy to germs that can be harmful to them. Especially before they are fully vaccinated. This makes the task of exposing your puppy to all the sights and sounds of everyday life including interacting with other dogs difficult. You need to find a safe place to introduce your pup to other dogs where all dogs are vaccinated and are known.
To fill this need many dog trainers are now offering puppy socials. Puppy socials are a safe supervised place where puppies under 5 months old can run and play with other puppies.
What to look for in a Puppy Social
To make sure the puppy social is a fun and safe place for all puppies, the socials should have the following features:
- Limit the age of the puppies
- Require proof of up-to-date vaccines and deworming before allowing puppies to participate.
- There should be multiple experienced trainers present to help with any issues that may arise.
- They should control the number of dogs at the social
- A well run puppy social will divide the dogs by size and temperament.
My Dog’s Got Class – Puppy Social
We chose the My Dog’s Got Class Dog Training – Puppy Social for our 13 week old puppy Bella because of the great reviews, the convenient location and the required proof of age appropriate vaccines. They were also recommended by our veterinarian who resided at the same location. The 45 minute play time included interactions with other puppies, indoor or outdoor play (when possible) and time with toys and obstacle equipment. The trainer-supervised play sessions guaranteed appropriate and safe play opportunities for our little pup while teaching us what normal puppy behavior looked like.
Signing up for the puppy social was easy to do. Once we created a profile, we signed-up for the class on line. Payment could be made either on-line or at the start of the class. We had also started taking Bella to the My Dog’s Got Class Puppy Kindergarten class the day before the social, so although she was new to the puppy social she was familiar with the location and some of the participants.
Room set up
When we first walked through the main door we were stopped in a small foyer with low wooden gates. We were instructed to unleash Bella and then open the gates to let her into the main area. This safety feature was there to prevent other dogs from rushing to her, possibly overwhelming her, while we were trying to take her leash off.
Once inside,the large room was divided between large and small breed puppies. Since there were twice as many small breed puppies they had twice the room to run around. Both sides of the room had different tactile objects like tunnels and Fitpaws balance equipment to run around, jump on and play with. While the puppy owners were asked to sit off to the side and not interfere with the puppies, the trainers that were stationed on both sides kept watch making sure the dogs played in a safe, polite manner.
For Bella this was the first time since we brought her home at 9 weeks old that she had a chance to play with other dogs. It was clear that she did not know how to play properly with other dogs. She was more aggressive. Alhough we were concerned by her behavior the trainer assured us she would settle down after a while once she found her place.
At one point she was playing too rough with a Bernice Mountain puppy which was much larger than her, but very passive, and the tables were turned. Bella became the one running away and scared, but it taught her a valuable lesson. If you want someone to play nicely with you, you need to play nice too. It also gave everyone a chuckle when the Bernice gently sat on Bella, but it was a clear message that he was tired of her poor behavior. After that she calmed down.
After about 20 minutes of running around the dogs were given water and then it was time to bring them outside for a potty break. Just outside the entrance was a fenced in yard for the dogs to use. There are also waste bags to clean up after your dog. Once the puppies were done with their business they went back inside to run and play some more.
From time to time the trainers would throw out cheerios for the puppies. This was done to encourage breaks in the activity, especially when some to the puppies started to get too excited. My daughter (age 8) and a couple of other young girls were asked to help toss the cheerios to the puppies as a way to familiarized the puppies to younger children. For the puppies it associates getting good things with young kids. My daughter was thrilled to be asked.
During the second half of play time Bella was calmer and tired. She became less interested in the other dogs and more interested in the tennis balls and cheerios. You can see her here hoarding tennis balls. We think it was a great experience for her. It allowed her to play in a safe environment with other dogs and ensured that she has a positive view when meeting new dogs in the future.
What to look for in a Puppy Social
- Required proof of age appropriate vaccines before allowing dogs to participate.
- Supervision – Make sure there is adequate knowledgeable supervision
- Required age limits –Dogs should be close in age for safety.
- Adequate floor space in relation to the group size
- Look for a social that limits the number of participants
- Puppies should be divided by size and temperament
For more Puppy Training