Are puppy socialisation classes making dogs more aggressive?
21st Jun, 2017
Robert Alleyne in his article ‘Are puppy socialisation classes making dogs aggressive?’ (Kennel Club Standard, [date]) argues that although puppy owners are extensively exhorted to socialise their new puppies, few of them actually know how to do so. He states that if owners try to socialise their puppies without being taught how, the dog is much more likely to develop training and behavioural problems, which may even be directly attributable to the class that they took the dog to.
Alleyne queries why, with so much emphasis on the importance of socialisation, dogs appear to be becoming increasingly aggressive. He believes that this is down to several factors, one being puppy parties and puppy socialisation classes. Often the least qualified instructors are given the puppies to train since puppies are seen to be easier than adult dogs. But if a mistake is made with a puppy, there's a much greater likelihood of setting that puppy up for problems later on. Also a big emphasis is placed on the importance of play, but most of this is placed on puppies playing with puppies. As young puppies won’t have developed a very strong code of appropriate play they can simply learn to become better fighters.
Alleyne also dislikes ‘pass the puppy’, where the puppy is passed around from one owner to another in an attempt to familiarise it with being handled by strangers. He suggests that doing this with a puppy that is nervous of people could make that puppy much worse.
The majority of dogs that a puppy will meet when out on a walk won't be puppies but adult dogs. Classes (at best) only teach puppies how to behave around other puppies. Alleyne sees little benefit in running a class just for puppies, suggesting instead that classes should mix dogs of different ages, breeds, sizes and sexes, since that is what they will meet when out everyday.
In Alleyne’s opinion a good puppy training class or puppy party places emphasis on the puppy/owner interaction above anything else in the class, because ultimately it is the owner who should be responsible for the puppy’s education.
Robert Alleyne Canine Behavioural Trainer
Member of the UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists
Board member of the Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme for Instructors