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  • Lisa Evans

Puppy class play

The most common reason people attend puppy preschool is for socialisation...



But what is socialisation?

It's not only dogs being ok with people. It's not only dogs playing with other dogs. It's the one and only critical time in a puppies life where they are open to learning what is a normal part of their world. All novel things become either pleasurable/normal or scary/avoid. It's things that we don't even consider as things - sights, smells, sounds, the feeling of different surfaces under their feet for example.


During TDYH classes there may well be none of the typically expected off lead play. When there is, it may only be a couple of minutes! Puppies in general, have no manners. They are learning how to interact, what keeps the fun going and what causes it to stop. During this time, they may be learning that bullying is fun. They could also be learning it's way more fun to ignore you to run up to other dogs and keep playing.

Off lead play needs to be back and forth, it should contain mini breaks to reassess if all parties are genuinely enjoying the interaction and avoid going over the top - some puppies will party til they drop or a fight breaks out.

If there is off lead play because the energy in the room is calm (not hyper excited or over tired), here are the rules we follow: 100% of the time, people must be actively supervising their puppy. This means no talking to other people while ignoring their own puppy, no phones, no sitting on a bench for a snooze either.

When the leash comes off, a release cue is given to let puppy know it's the cue, not the leash being unclipped which lets them motor off.

If puppy wants to hang out and watch from a distance - that's ok!

If puppy wants to hide - that's ok!

If the person doesn't want their puppy off lead - that's ok!

Puppies going up to people - attention freely given when feet are on the ground.

If puppy wants to play with a person and a toy instead of other dogs - perfect! If you are not sure if they are both enjoying the interaction, we'll intervene and hold the "bully" back. If the "victim" comes back in a nice way, they can continue BUT if the "victim" walks off - great you intervened before things escalated to keep everyone safe!


It's the perfect chance for puppy to learn that the leash going on is a good thing, and not the end of all the fun and YOU will get the chance to observe body language and learn how to safely intervene.


We wouldn't expect a quiet shy person who prefers reading a book at home to enjoy being forced to party with the rugby team after winning a game...a well socialised respectful puppy is not one who rushes up to every dog. A polite pupper will pick up on whether the other dog wants them to come closer or not, and then a doggy handshake should begin. They then either carry on with whatever they were doing, hang out in each others company or play - in a mutually beneficial way.


If you are thinking of going to preschool or puppy classes, make sure you attend a well run one so communicate with the people who run it because they are not all equal and these moments can stay with your young ones for a very long time.

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