Puppy preschool, also known as doggy kindergarten, is a specialised programme that can provide early training and socialisation to young puppies.
A puppy pre-school should offer a safe and controlled environment for pups to interact with other dogs. They teach puppies basic manners, life skills and how to behave around humans.
The best puppy preschools will have qualified dog trainers who understand how to train dogs using positive reinforcement and games-based methods. Positive reinforcement-based dog training is the most effective way to train new behaviours and supports the development of a strong relationship between you and your puppy.
Having a strong foundation for the relationship you have with your dog will make training significantly easier. If your dog values you and likes to engage with you, they will want to hang out with you. This means, at the dog park, you will call your dog and it will recall back to you (most of the time) because doing so generally results in something positive happening. This is the basis of the positive reinforcement-based dog training method and why it is so effective in creating dogs that are focused, optimistic and engaged learners.
The life stage in which puppies attend Puppy Preschool occurs in what marks the most influential learning period of a dog’s life:
“During a brief period from 3 to 16 weeks of age, an average puppy will probably learn more than during the remaining course of its lifetime, forming a lasting emotional and cognitive schemata of the social and physical environment.”
Let us take a look at what puppy preschool is all about and what you should look out for.
Table of Contents
- What Do Puppies Learn in Puppy Pre school?
- What Age is Best for Puppy Preschool?
- How to Choose a Puppy Preschool?
- The Reputation of the Preschool
- Life skills training for puppies
- FAQs – Puppy Preschool
- Conclusion – Puppy Preschool
What Do Puppies Learn in Puppy Pre school?
Puppies learn many things in puppy pre-schools. Puppy preschool is often held at your local veterinary clinic or dog training facility. It can assist you in building a relationship with your local veterinarian, puppy trainers and other owners in the community.
Your puppy will learn some basic obedience training including commands like Sit, Stay, Come, etc. It is important that you practise these commands with your puppy at home so it can understand each command and that the training is further reinforced under different circumstances.
Basic obedience can lay the foundation for advanced obedience training for your dog. It may additionally help your puppy develop better impulse control and learn to listen to its owners.
Another important skill your puppy will learn at puppy kindergarten is how to behave with other humans and dogs.
A doggy kindergarten provides a safe, controlled environment for your puppy to interact with other dogs. Providing opportunities for positive experiences like this enhances communication skills, and your pet will learn how to behave with its peers.
Early socialisation is very important to prevent behavioural issues in your dog’s adulthood.
All puppies nip, bite, and chew, and these behaviours are even more pronounced during the puppy’s teething phase. You can teach your puppy not to bite by redirecting them onto a tug toy when they try to bite you.
At a puppy pre-school, when your dog indulges in play-biting, the other dogs will yelp, growl, and bite back. This teaches your puppy that biting causes pain and can lead to injuries. Over time, your puppy will learn that biting is completely unacceptable.
When you start your puppy’s potty training and also enrol it in preschool for a couple of classes each week, your puppy has the opportunity to practise their toilet routine in a new environment. It will also observe other dogs and learn where to go potty. This can help reinforce the rules of potty training and teach your pup better bladder control.
The best puppy pre-schools will clean up any toilet accidents promptly with an enzymatic cleaner to ensure the scent is removed. Failure to clean the area promptly and thoroughly will encourage the other puppies to toilet in the same place.
At puppy preschool, your puppy will also be exposed to various sights, sounds, and experiences in a controlled manner.
When your young pet gets used to different noises, lights, dogs barking, etc., it is more likely to grow up into a confident dog in adulthood. It won’t be scared or nervous and will be a curious, alert, and happier dog.
Desensitised dogs are also less likely to develop fears and anxieties. Some puppy pre schools allow the puppies to run around together and don’t manage these important early interactions. This can lead to traumatic and negative experiences for some puppies. These early experiences will stay with your puppy for its lifetime, do not simply choose the nearest puppy pre school to your home. Read reviews and ask the puppy trainers questions.
What Age is Best for Puppy Preschool?
According to the experts at the RSPCA, puppies can attend puppy preschool from the time they are 8 weeks old to 16 weeks old. This is the crucial developmental period, and puppies learn a great deal faster at this age. Because puppies are so impressionable at this age, make sure you choose the best puppy pre school with availability. Book early to avoid missing out on the best puppy training.
Most puppies will also have completed their first round of vaccinations by the time they are 8-10 weeks old. Vaccinations are very important to prevent deadly canine diseases including parvovirus, canine distemper, hepatitis, influenza, etc.
Most puppy preschools and dog trainers advise waiting two weeks after the pup’s first vaccination before starting puppy kindergarten. By this time, your young dog will have the necessary antibodies to fight various canine diseases.
When attending puppy preschool, it is critical that your puppy is accompanied by an adult handler and is on a leash.
Before you select a puppy preschool or kindergarten, here are some key factors to consider:
The Reputation of the Preschool
It is important that the puppy day-care or training centre employ trainers with stellar reputations and credentials. Research the centre, and if needed, go online to check their reviews.
Select the preschool that has the best reviews from their past clients. If needed, seek recommendations from your veterinarian, fellow dog owners, or reputable breeders, asking them to provide insights about puppy preschools based on their experiences.
If possible, visit the puppy preschool to determine their approach to training puppies. Make sure they only use positive reinforcement for puppy obedience training.
Find out how the classes are structured and the class size. You don’t want classes that are packed with hundreds of puppies! A smaller class size means greater individual attention for your pet.
Ask about the puppy training curriculum – whether it offers ample socialisation opportunities and life skills training which puppies need plenty of.
Life skills training for puppies
Puppy pre school should develop your pup’s life skills through play-based training. With a focus on developing the pups’:
- Impulse control
- Tolerance to frustration
- Crate training
A good doggy kindergarten will focus on hygiene and safety measures. The preschool should have a safe, enclosed area for puppies to run around and play.
They should also have strict rules about vaccinations and practise proper supervision during sessions. Ideally, the school should have a vet or a vet tech on hand to handle emergencies.
Find out about the qualifications and experience of the dog trainers who will be working with your puppy. Select a puppy preschool with certified trainers who have past experience training puppies. Find a puppy trainer that uses positive reinforcement training methods and avoid trainers who use aversive tools like prong collars, E collars etc.
Balanced dog trainers use a combination of positive reinforcement and punishment, which has been shown to have negative effects on the dog’s overall behaviour and relationship with humans.
The dog training industry is unregulated, this means that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviourist. Do your due diligence before placing your puppy in the hands of a trainer who doesn’t believe in using science-based dog training methods.
A good puppy preschool will be flexible about timing and will easily let you reschedule sessions if the need arises. The school might also offer other facilities like doggy daycare, pet boarding, grooming, etc.
FAQs – Puppy Preschool
What should I look for in a preschool puppy?
Some puppy preschools receive bad reviews because they let puppies get over-excited and play-fighting ensues. This is not puppy socialisation, instead, this encourages puppies to build strong, high-energy associations with other dogs. Ideally, we want our pups to sniff other dogs but they should then be able to disengage and orient back to us.
This creates an environment conducive to fostering the foundation for a good recall and shows why having puppies on a leash during preschool, helps stop the rehearsal of problem behaviours.
Furthermore, this shows that the trainer is focused on developing the life skills of the puppies in their class and ensuring they have positive, calm social experiences.
What age can puppies go to puppy pre school?
Puppies aged between 8 and 16 weeks can go to puppy preschool. The best age for pups to start preschool is 12 weeks.
How many training sessions does a puppy need?
Puppies should train every day for short sessions. You can schedule 2-3 five-minute sessions per day and also take your puppy to the puppy preschool as per schedule.
How long should a puppy attend puppy preschool?
The duration of puppy preschool can vary based on the type of preschool your dog attends. Most puppy preschools have a duration of six to eight weeks.
Every puppy is different, and some pups may benefit from an extended period in preschool. If your puppy is becoming anxious or showing signs of reactivity during sessions, discontinue the class. The best puppy trainers will intervene if a puppy is showing signs of stress or hyper-excitement during a session. Puppy Pre-school should cultivate life skills like calmness, confidence and optimism. Allowing puppies to run crazy together off-leash is the opposite of what a class should look like.
If your puppy preschool looks disorderly and chaotic, it’s not the environment to introduce your puppy to other dogs and people. A large part of puppy training involves building value for you, not the other dogs and people in the environment. Ideally, our puppies will notice a dog or person and re-engage with us. If a puppy learns that other people and dogs mean that they can run around and ignore your commands, this can make life difficult down the track when they don’t recall when asked.
Always set your dog up for success – puppies should be on-leash, with trainers allowing brief interactions with other puppies and encouraging re-engagement with owners which is heavily rewarded.
Rehearsal of over-the-top playful behaviours resulting in barking and lunging with other dogs and people will only make them more ingrained. If your puppy is displaying barking, growling and lunging at people or dogs, seek the help of a qualified dog behaviourist or trainer as early as possible to prevent the issue from turning into a stressful problem behaviour.
Conclusion – Puppy Preschool
The skills and behaviours your puppy learns at puppy preschool can serve as building blocks for a lifetime. Puppies can also learn bad behaviours at puppy pre-school and not all trainers are skilled at running safe and effective classes. If the class looks chaotic, it’s likely not a positive environment in which your puppy can learn to be a calm, confident and obedient companion.
If you find a Puppy Preschool near you that has no structure and lets the puppies play off-lead, getting over-excited and learning bad habits; you might as well take your puppy to the local dog park, the results will be similar and it’s free.
Different puppy preschools have different training approaches and curricula. So whether your looking for a puppy preschool in Sydney, Blacktown, Penrith, Maitland, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong etc the process is the same. Do your research well, find a qualified and experienced dog trainer and enrol your buddy in the best puppy preschool near you.
If you’re wanting to find a quality puppy preschool near you, consult a professional Dog Behaviourist, online dog training course or a dog trainer experienced in training puppies using positive reinforcement-based methods to guide you further.