Traditional obedience classes for dogs start around 5-6 month of age. Our Puppy Preschool Program welcomes dogs from 8 to 12 weeks of age. During this time, we are taking advantage of what is called the "No-fear" or "prime socialization window".
We can expose puppies to so many different things during this developmental stage, with the end goal being that they accept all different situations as just another day in the life of a dog! Each class begins and ends with puppy play time, one of the most important aspects of this class. During play, puppies can teach each other things we as humans just simply cannot, such as "Is this an appropriate way to invite play?" Or "You bit too hard!"
Our program also covers the basics of how to raise a great puppy, including potty training, kennel training and basic obedience. We emphasize encouraging positive behavior and teach owners the proper way to reward, ignore or re-direct the behaviors
Photo credit: Happy Puppy by Peter Griffin
Puppy class meets at Westgate Pet Clinic weekly in the evenings for 5 consecutive weeks. New classes are always starting. Call Westgate Pet Clinic at 612-925-1121 for dates and times.
Meet the Instructor
Lindsay Stahl has been with Westgate pet Clinic since 2006, and has been teaching puppy school since 2009. In 2013, Lindsay became certified as a Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). She is our resident "puppy expert" and has seen it all. If you can't find an answer to your puppy question in the FAQ's, email Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Max: Max is a twelve week old, male, yellow Labrador Retriever. Cute, right?! Now read on and see how Max is challenging his new human family!
Max is nipping and biting!
It is getting to the point where we can hardly interact with him or it hurts! What can we do?
Puppies come to us nipping and biting. Up until this point, this is how Max got everything he has ever wanted. When Max was hungry, he would nip and bite at mom, and she would lay down and feed him. When Max wanted to play, he would nip and bite at his litter mates and they would play with him. Now it is our turn to show Max that there are other ways to get attention from his human family and that this biting is not okay. First, try the "high yip." Immediately, when Max bites you, make a high yip sound, similar to one a puppy makes when they have been bit too hard, or you step on their tail while passing through the room. This will get Max's attention. This serves as the INTERRUPTER. After Max stops and stares at you, give him a job. Ask him to sit, give him a toy, give him a treat - but you need to make sure that the biting has stopped. The key in this exercise is the interrupter. Never give Max a treat while he is biting you. This is rewarding the biting behavior. He needs to be rewarded once the behavior has stopped. If the “high yip”, isn’t working, the next step is to take all attention away. If he is biting at your hands, remove your hands. If he is biting at your pant legs, shoe laces, skirt, etc, sit up on a high chair, cross your legs and BE BORING. Remove that stimulus that is making Max excitable, and reward him for being calm and sitting. You may find that attaching a light weight leash to Max's collar and letting him drag it behind him in the house is an easy and fast way to control him. For example, if he is jumping up and nipping at your legs uncontrollably, try stepping on the lead, or hold it at an arms length away, making it impossible for him to jump. Ask him to sit and reward him with treats, praise, or pets when he is seated and calm. The most common problem is with children. When Max bites at a young child, he/she "squeals," runs away, flailing their arms....THE BEST SQUEAK TOY EVER!!! I always teach children to be as BORING as possible. When Max jumps up nipping and biting, turn your back and cross your arms. It will amaze you how quickly he resorts to sitting. *Never squeeze his muzzle, shake his scruff, curl his lip in until he "bites himself", or smack him on the nose. All you are accomplishing is introducing a reason for max to fear hands around his face. This can backfire and lead to a dog snapping back. For more information on Biting and Nipping, click here: 1.) PUPPY BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING 2.) TEETHING AND CHEWING IN PUPPIES
I will be outside with Max for 30 minutes and he will not go potty! The minute we walk inside, he pees on the kitchen floor. What is this all about?
When asked this question, I always start with the Golden Rule of potty training. "Pee then play, poop then play." Why would Max go potty outside, when there is so much to do outside??!! "I will just go potty inside when I am done playing - it is much more boring in the house." To break this habit, one must take Max outside on a leash - forcing him to focus on going potty. Take him to the same spot every time. Let Max sniff around for 2-3 minutes, then if he does not go, it is right back inside to his kennel. Keep him in his kennel for 2 minutes. Walk him right back outside, same spot, on a leash, and give him another 2-3 minutes of potty time. If he does not go...you got it, right back inside. you will not have to do this too many times, but it is the fastest way to teach Max that outside is for first going potty, and that your reward for going potty outside, is that you get to play outside. "Pee then play, poop then play." For more information on Potty Training, click here
What do I do if I see Max go potty in the house?
The best case scenario for potty training, is to catch Max in the act of going potty in your home. I know this may sound strange, but it is the perfect teaching opportunity. Interrupt the behavior. Clap loudly and Max will stop. Swoop him up and carry him outside. He will finish outside and then you need to throw a party! If he gets heavy praise outside, versus nothing inside, he will want to go outside! If you punish a dog for going in the house (rubbing his nose in it, for example, or scolding loudly) not only will he not make the connection as to why he is being yelled at, but if he is learning anything, it is not to do "that" in front of you. Max will now start peeing in the guest room, where it is not discovered until three months later. For more information on Potty Training, click here: PUPPY- HOUSE TRAINING
Max hates his crate. How do I make him like it?
Keep one thing in mind while crate training Max. "A crate is a palace, not a prison." Make this crate the best place Max can be and his safe zone. Try feeding him his meals in in crate with the door open. Or have special “crate only” treats and toys. A great training treat for the crate is a Kong Toy stuffed with treats, or wet dog food and frozen. This will take him a while to finish and is different and fun to chew! Another thing to keep in mind is to have the crate in a central location. Max will want to feel like a part of the family. Try a den or living-room space. He does not want to be in the basement by the furnace. Put Max in the crate for five or ten minutes at a time. Crate him and change over a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher, then let him out. We do not want Max to think that every time he is put in the crate, the whole family leaves for four hours! For more information on Crate Training, click here: 1.) CRATE TRAINING IN DOGS 2.) TIPS FOR CRATE TRAINING
How often do I bathe Max?
The best answer is “as needed”. Some dogs need to be bathed once every three days, depending on their life style, and some could go months. The key is to use a mild, DOG shampoo. Human shampoo lathers too much and will be difficult to rinse out and can leave skin dry and irritated. One thing to keep in mind when bathing, is to make this experience a good one. Go slow, put a towel or mat down in the tub to avoid slipping, and pour a cup of water over max's body, instead of spraying him with a hose or shower head attachment (this can be just a little too intense for the first bath). For more information on grooming, click here: GROOMING AND COAT CARE FOR YOUR DOG
Max found his voice. He will not stop barking!
Barking is a tricky behavior to deal with, because dogs can bark for so many different reasons. Young puppies often don’t bark for the first several weeks, and then discover their voice and want to try it out! Most puppies that bark are doing it for attention or to instigate play. There are many different ways to go about training the bark out of your dog, but the best thing to start with if your puppy is barking, is to simply ignore it. So often I hear this.. Max: "Bark!" Owner: "No!" Max: "Bark!" Owner: "No!" At this point, we are basically having a conversation with Max. So, to keep it simple, ignore Max while he is barking. This may seem very difficult, but it is the quickest way to show him this is not how you get our attention. Instead, try making a loud sound, or calling him to you, then give him a job, and reward him for that. "A naughty dog, is a bored dog." If you feel like Max is barking for other reasons, like territorial barking, call the clinic for more help. For more information, click here: BARKING IN DOGS- SYNOPSIS
How do I get Max to walk on a leash?
This is a tricky one to explain, without doing an actual demonstration. The key however, is to be the most interesting thing on Max's walk. How in the world can you compete with the whole outside? Food! Similar to potty training, walking on a leash is tricky because we are in competition with so many things outside that it may seem nearly impossible to keep our dog focused. Choose a side that you want Max to walk on. If you choose the right side for example, hold the leash in your left hand (the leash runs across the front of you). This way, your hand closest to Max is the hand with the treats in it. If he needs something special, I recommend using a ruler or yard stick with cream cheese or peanut butter on the end of it. This way you can just dip the stick down in front of his face every two to three steps and give him a lick. Keep him glued to your side. Puppies will do one of two things while going on a walk. They will either drag you, pulling you from right to left, zig-zagging across the sidewalk, or they will simply put the breaks on and not leave the front of the house. With the first case scenario, use treats to keep Max focused on you and keep him at your side. If he pulls ahead, stop dead in your tracks. YOU decide when the walk continues. Do not pull against him. Stop walking and call him back to you (using the treats). When we pull on the leash, 99% of the time, the puppy pulls harder. Stopping is the worst punishment of all. For confident puppies that are pulling you all over the place, a gentle leader may also be an effective tool for having a pleasant walk. If Max puppy refuses to leave the house, lays down on the side walk and protests, chances are he is confused or overwhelmed by the situation. I guarantee, if you pick him up, walk him in your arms, one block away, he will walk back to your house. This is when you implement your leash walk training. More more information on leash training, or the Gentle Leader, click here: 1.) TRAINING DOGS- HEAD HALTER TRAINING SYNOPSIS, 2.) TRAINING DOGS- CONTROLLLING PULLING ON WALKS
Max loves other dogs, until he is on a leash. Why is this, and is he aggressive?
Leash aggression is very common in dogs. It can sometimes seem like a switch is flipped when your dog is on a leash. Suddenly, they can appear upset and start growling or lunging at other dogs. When a dog is on a leash, they feel vulnerable, like they have lost control and cannot escape. They can also feel like they need to be protective of their owner who is on the other end of this leash. There are many ways to work on this issue (see link below), however, what I see most commonly in puppies, is only mistaken as leash aggression. If Max is growling, barking, and pulling on the leash when he sees another puppy, chances are good that he is not acting aggressive, but rather is very excited to see the other dog. (Or, sometimes the puppy is overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle it). Simply allowing Max to greet the other dog will often resolve this issue. For more information on leash aggression, click here: DOG BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS-AGRESSION- UNFAMILIAR DOGS-TREATMENTS
Max is digging, how can I stop this?
Many people dislike the answer to this question. However, behavior experts have concluded one thing: Let your puppy dig. Digging is a very instinctual behavior, that if not allowed to express, could turn into much worse destructive behaviors elsewhere. So, the key, is to decide where and how much is allowed. Experts say to allow a designated "digging spot" blocking off the undesirable places. Digging is a behavior that not all dogs crave, but if you have a digger, allow for controlled digging. One question I often ask when people say their puppy is digging all over the yard, is “why does your puppy have free range of your whole entire yard?” Limiting the areas that your puppy can get to sometimes is the best way to protect your landscaping. For more information on digging, click here: DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR IN DOGS-DIGGING
Because Max is not fully vaccinated, where can I take him and who can he meet?
Excellent question. We want Max to interact with puppies in puppy class, and with adult dogs that have owners you know and trust and are aware of their vaccination status. Experts agree that the risk of Max being poorly socialized and fearful, outweighs the risk of him picking up a disease he is not fully vaccinated for. HOWEVER, here is where I do not want him going: Dog parks, wooded areas, city parks, wildlife heavy areas, and places with a lot of dog traffic. Bring Max to stores or shops that allow dogs (coffee shops, book stores, Home Depot, hardware stores, etc) Steer clear of places like pet stores, where there are other dogs with unknown histories. Puppy classes are the perfect place to start. For more information on vaccination schedules in puppies, click here: VACCINES FOR DOGS