Why we don’t believe that puppy play has a place in puppy school
It may be surprising to you, but puppy play is not an integral part of your puppy’s learning and development. You are not alone if you thought it was. I hope that this article will help you to understand that there are far greater skills that need to be focused on first.
Puppy School is a place for puppies to learn. If we introduce puppy play in a class, not only is there significant risk but we are not teaching our puppy the most important skill, which is to learn to be calm and focused on their own family in the presence of other dogs and people. If we want dogs to not be hyper-motivated to greet people and dogs on a walk or when coming to the home, then why would we imprint their first experiences with direct interactions and play.
Socialisation is so much more than puppy play
Socialisation is teaching your puppy how to feel when in proximity or when experiencing same or other species, surfaces, sounds, objects and more! Imagine if your first experiences of meeting someone was that they ran up to you very excited and hugged you and licked your face. It doesn’t sound like a positive experience, does it? Or maybe you did like it (stranger things have happened). If you did enjoy it, then when this person is around you will struggle to focus on anything but them. Not exactly conducive to learning, is it?
We do introductions slowly, when everyone in the room is comfortable, and after you have bonded with your human and learnt to listen to them. This way you are surely more likely to have a positive and safe experience, all the while setting you up with many more skills and knowledge to raise a resilient and calm dog.
Let’s talk about the risks of puppy play
We see so many dogs in our behaviour consults that have been imprinted with fear and anxiety due to attending an inappropriately run puppy school during their critical socialisation period.
Even being in the room with other puppies playing can be overwhelming for some pups. A lot of movement and excitement for a nervous or shy dog can be overwhelming and start to teach them to feel scared when in the presence of other dogs. Not only is fear a risk, over-excitement is, too. An overstimulated puppy is more likely to have less control of their mouths and bodies and more likely to injure themselves or others as they do not have the ability to think in an overstimulated state.
Playgroup and playing with others
Puppy play is not a necessity during socialisation. Once they have learnt to be calm, confident and have some impulse control, polite play will follow. We do offer playgroups for those pups that will find it a positive experience and we do keep it nice and calm and controlled but just like some people, parties or group situations are not for everyone.
Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to us at any time.
– Written by Cassandra Roland