Let us just tell you this: puppy socialisation is key. And you’ll need all the help you can get. That means puppy socialisation classes might make their way into your to-do list. 

Puppy socialisation is an important part of your puppy’s development. Puppy classes can help massively to do this, as long as they’re taught and managed correctly. But how do you choose the right puppy class for you and your puppy? It takes a lot more than picking the best-looking dog trainer. 

Well, we’re here to help you. In this article, we will be answering all of your questions about puppy socialisation classes. What they are, if they’re safe, what kinds of classes you should be looking for, and when the best time is to take your puppy to a class. 

At Zigzag, we truly believe that real-life training perfectly complements our puppy training app. Like curly fries and gravy. Download the app today to start your free trial, and chat with our team of expert puppy coaches. They’re there for you seven days a week, always eager to help with a smile on their face. 

puppies running together
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

What are puppy socialisation classes?

Puppy socialisation classes are typically a group class for young puppies. The content and curriculum for these classes will vary depending on what the trainer feels is appropriate but it may include:

  • Manners and obedience 
  • Life Skills 
  • Socialisation programme
  • Puppy off-lead playgroups
  • Puppy body language 

The courses can vary too, from single session socialisation, or off lead play sessions, to more structured 4 or 6 week courses.

The main goal of puppy socialisation classes is to expose your puppy to other people, puppies, and maybe adult dogs depending on the trainer. Not only will they meet living, moving things, but they’ll also learn about the non-animate world around them like different kinds of surfaces, smells and novel things. Some dog trainers will put more emphasis on certain topics than others.

Are puppy socialisation classes safe?

Yes, usually! We always look at the glass half full, of course, but generally, yes. Puppy socialisation classes allow your puppy to interact with other people and dogs in a safe and managed environment. 

The following reasons are why Puppy classes may be a great fit for you and pup:

  • You don’t have access to friendly adult dogs to socialise your puppy with safely.
  • You’d like a trainer to help you understand what is and isn’t appropriate play for your puppy.
  • You want to train your puppy in a group environment.
  • You’re not sure how to safely socialise your puppy.
  • You have a shy puppy who needs some confidence building.
  • You have a lot of questions about how to socialise your puppy.
  • You’d like to meet other local dog owners and go on puppy play dates together later on.
  • You want to learn new skills with your puppy.
puppies looking at each other
Photo by BP Miller on Unsplash

What kind of puppy socialisation classes should I be looking for?

When looking for puppy socialisation classes, we suggest you look for classes run by a certified dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement based methods.

While puppy playgroups are very cute to watch, puppies don’t really learn very much from one another. To let you into a little secret, their social skill learning should ideally come from friendly adult dogs who already know the ropes and the canine rules of communication. After all, that’s who they’ll be interacting with the most when older, rarely puppies.

For puppies under 20 weeks of age, we recommend a socialisation class which focuses on life skills rather than strictly on obedience. Some controlled off-lead play between puppies is also great for learning body language and giving confidence to shyer puppies. 

Some of the exercises, activities or topics which are good to have at puppy socialisation classes might include:

  • Teaching your puppy about surfaces – a puppy exploration course sounds about right.
  • Learning about positive reinforcement training and getting the best out of your puppy by rewarding behaviour you want to see.
  • Exercises that build your puppy’s confidence.
  • Talking through common puppy behaviours such as biting and mouthing, toilet training, home alone tips, jumping up and sleeping.
  • Basic manners skills such as learning their name, coming back when called and walking on a loose lead.
  • Understanding puppy body language, learning when your puppy needs a break from play, and what to do if your puppy is overwhelmed or needs to calm down. 

When looking for a trainer, we suggest looking at members of the APDT, CAPBT or one of the member organisations signed up to The UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter.

Your Vet will also be great to ask for recommendations for puppy socialisation classes. Let’s be real – they know how it works best in the puppy world.

Before you sign up your puppy to a puppy socialisation class, ask the trainer if you can watch one of their classes. That way you’ll know if they will be the right fit for you. It’s not an awkward thing to do, we promise. 

dogs running together on grass
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

When should I take my puppy to socialisation classes?

Take your puppy to socialisation classes when they’re as young as soon as you can. Here at Zigzag, we strongly agree with the American Veterinary Society that the benefits of early socialisation outweigh the risk of disease.

Many trainers keep to strict hygiene and cleaning protocols and will accept puppies who are 7 days post first vaccination which is great to hear – no worms inside anybody today. 

By the way, the puppy socialisation window is small. Because of that, we cannot stress the importance of early learning, and getting puppies out and about, in a safe and controlled way. By stress, we mean emphasise – not stress you out, of course.

However, the first time at a puppy socialisation class can be a bit stressful – you’re going to a room full of people you don’t know, and questions will be blasting inside your head like: will my puppy have an accident? Will they find it too stressful? Will the trainer be nice? They’re reasonable concerns, but guess what, everyone is in the same boat as you, so relax. The class should be fun! 

Ah. There you have it. We hope that’s filled you in a little on puppy socialisation classes and answered some questions you might have had. At this time, perhaps you’re also wondering how you might introduce your puppy to a dog or are you wondering if you need a pet sitter – all juicy information you’ll be able to find in our blog page. 

To start off on the right track, why not download a free trial of the Zigzag puppy training app, and start on your puppy’s training journey? You’ll learn to teach your puppy all sorts of important skills; from walking nicely on the lead to sleeping through the night. We also have a team of expert puppy coaches ready to talk through any of your puppy related questions.