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4 Reasons to Start a Puppy Socialization Class in Your Clinic

Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB, DACAW

Do you still believe that a puppy should have all her vaccinations before ever meeting another dog? Do you think the safest place for every new puppy is within his own home until after the last set of vaccinations? If so, you may be running the risk of the puppy’s early death due to behavior problems.

Studies have demonstrated that behavior problems likely result in more pet deaths than any other single cause.1, 2,3 A properly run puppy socialization class should not put your patients at any increased risk of communicable disease.4

If you do not have a reliable, safe place to refer your clients to for puppy classes, then consider offering them at your own clinic. Puppy classes are fun and, when held at your clinic, allow you and your staff to reap the benefits. Here are four reasons to consider adding puppy classes to your practice’s programs:

1. Proper socialization is critical to the puppy’s proper development and the window for this period of development is only open until about 14-16 weeks. After that time, puppies are not as able to learn to cope with novelty and develop new relationships with other individuals.

Your clinic is a safe place for this experience to happen because:

  • You can sanitize the surfaces puppies will contact.
  • You can be certain that all puppies who attend have had at least one vaccination several days prior to their visit.
  • You can give each puppy a brief exam and send puppies home if they appear to be sick.

2. Puppy classes help create more cooperative patients. When puppies come to your clinic once a week for a few weeks, and the only thing that happens there is they get to play with other puppies, meet some new people, see some strange things and get lots of treats, they learn that there is nothing scary about the vet clinic.

Part of at least one puppy class session should involve demonstrating to pet owners how to handle their new puppy’s ears, toes, tail, and other body parts in a way that mimic handling for veterinary and grooming procedures. When this is done while giving treats, puppies learn that this type of handling is routine and “no big deal.”

You can help set the puppy up for success in advance by recommending the owner use an Adaptil Junior collar. This is a collar impregnated with dog appeasing pheromone, the same pheromone that mother dogs release during the period of time when they are nursing puppies. Numerous placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated its ability to help decrease signs of fear and anxiety in many situations.5,6,7 When placed on puppies during their critical period for socialization, the collar has been proven to help with the socialization process.8 Puppies between 8 and 16 weeks of age who wore an Adaptil collar for just 30 days while attending a puppy class showed signs of being better socialized 1, 3, and 6 months later than puppies who wore a placebo collar.9

3. Puppy classes will bond clients to your practice. When clients see how much you care about their puppy’s healthy development and good behavior, they will appreciate your commitment to their puppy’s overall health.

When they see how happy their puppy is to return to your clinic time and time again because he only has good memories associated with the visit, they will have no reason to ever consider going to another practice.

4. Puppy classes provide an added revenue stream. They do not have to be managed by the veterinarian. It is very possible that you have a staff member who is interested in learning more about how to do this and would love the opportunity to take on such a valuable and rewarding project. There are several excellent resources available for learning how to teach a puppy class and with some training and practice most anyone can add puppy classes to their clinic’s list of services. One of the best is the Puppy Start Right for Instructors Course, which offers a $100 discount to Fear Free Certified Professionals using code FEARFREEPSRI.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

References

This article was brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Ceva.

  1. Dolan ED, Scotto J, Slater M, et al. Risk factors for dog relinquishment to a Los Angeles municipal animal shelter. Animals (Basel) 2015; 5: 1311-1328.
  2. Dreschel NA. The effects of fear and anxiety on health and lifespan in pet dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2010;125: 157- 162.
  3. Houpt KA, Honig SU, Reisner IR, Breaking the human-companion animal bond. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996; 208: 1653-1659.
  4. Stepita ME, Bain MJ, Kass PH. Frequency of CPV Infection in Vaccinated Puppies that Attended Puppy Socialization Classes. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2013; 49:95-100.
  5. Pageat P, Gaultier E. Current research in canine and feline pheromones. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2003: 33;187-211.
  6. Mills DS, Ramos D, Esteller MG, et al. A triple blind placebo controlled AABS investigation into the assessment of the effect of Dof Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) on anxiety related behaviour of problem dogs in the veterinary clinic. 2006;98:114-126.
  7. Gaultier E, Bonnafous L, Vienet-Lague, et al. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromones in reducing stress associated with social isolation in newly adopted puppies. Vet Rec 2008;163:73-80.
  8. Gaultier E, Bonnafous L, Vienet-Lague, et al. Efficacy of dog appeasing pheromones in reducing behavours associated with fear of unfamiliar people and new surroundings in newly adopted puppies. Vet Rec 2009;164:708-714.
  9. Effects of dog appeasing pheromone on anxiety and fear in puppies during training and on long term socialization: Denenberg S. & Landsberg G.M. JAVMA, (2008) 233;12