What is a puppy school

Your questions answered about puppy schools

Puppy School is where your pup’s future, as a confident and stable adult dog, begins to take shape. If you, as a caring and responsible puppy owner, are unsure of a specific puppy school ask for a couple of references from puppy owners who have completed a course at the puppy school you are considering.

Please click here for a puppy school in your area.

Should you experience any difficulty finding a puppy school in your area, or have any complaints regarding a listed puppy school, please contact the Secretary of the ABC of SA.

Over the last couple of decades the benefits of puppy schools (sometimes referred to as puppy socialising classes) have gained more and more recognition. While this is great news for puppies and puppy owners, it has unfortunately paved the way for many unqualified trainers to jump on the bandwagon. A poorly run puppy school and/or an inexperienced instructor can result in disastrous consequences for both owner and pup.  

“Socialisation is the process of becoming familiar with all kinds of animals, people, places, and things; as well as learning how to behave in society. It makes sense that if a pup grows up meeting lots of people and going to lots of different places, and always having fun when it happens, he’ll grow into a confident, secure, adult dog who loves to meet people, visit places, and is comfortable in all situations. 

If a puppy is shielded from new experiences and people, he’ll likely grow up to be timid and possibly frightened of new things and more likely to react defensively around new people and in new situations and this is potentially dangerous:. – Dr Ian Dunbar, well known animal behaviourist, writer and originator of the first socialising classes for puppies in 1981.

The puppy owner is encouraged to select a puppy school carefully. With this in mind we have put together a few guidelines to help puppy owners find the ideal puppy school.

A puppy school should be a positive, and educational experience for both owner and pup, where owners receive the knowledge and skills to raise a puppy caringly and effectively, and where the puppy learns foundation obedience, as well as good manners and social skills

  1. A secure area that facilitates learning, and safe play
  2. The area’s surface should preferably be organic such as grass and/or soil.
  3. Shade and fresh water should be easily accessible

All members of the family should be welcome. Small children should be supervised as all times

  1. The puppy school will provide a list of equipment and items that the puppy owner should bring along to class. Avoid puppy schools that require a choke chain as standard equipment, or e-collars. 
  2. Proof of vaccinations should be standard practice at all puppy schools
  1. An enrolment form which should state all relevant details of the puppy for example vaccinations, and the owner’s goals and expectations for the pup’s future.
  2. A rubbish bin
  3. A first aid kit
  4. Booklets/literature/h andouts, on topics that a puppy owner might come across, such as grooming, bite inhibition, house training, etc.   
  5. Basic novel stuff such as umbrellas, bicycles, hats, people in strange coats, baby strollers, crutches, and anything else that puppies might be exposed to as adults.
  6. A variety of noises/sounds to safely and gradually expose the puppies to, such as a recording of a thunder storm.
  7. Everyday physical obstacles to manoeuvre around or through – for example stairs, gates, drums, tyres, poles, ramps, etc.
  8. Interaction with a socially stable, and friendly adult dog

  1. Knowledgeable about  the “critical stages” of canine development, especially the sensitive period in the first 4 months of the puppy’s life
  2. A basic understanding of dog breeds, breed characteristics, genetics, and development.
  3. Knowledgeable about puppy health, infectious diseases, hygiene, and general care.
  4. Comprehensive training skills, and experience.
  5. Good communication skills with people
  6. Humane canine handling skills
  1. All learning should be positive, safe, and enjoyable for both puppy and owner
  2. No force, pain, or fear should be used to teach a dog of any age.
  3. Heavy handed methods are unacceptable
  4. Positive reinforcement and reward based training
  1. History and record keeping
  2. Duration, requirements, and purpose of course
  3. Evaluation of progress
  4. A small class of about 6 puppies is ideal unless the instructor has assistants