What’s more fun than watching a puppy play? Watching several puppies frolic together and then your Chi being invited to join in. This treat awaits you after your dog has been immunized and can safely attend puppy kindergarten.
When your puppy is between 4 and 6 months old, she’s fully developed mentally but not physically or emotionally, and she hasn’t yet achieved an adult attention span. Often called KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) and geared to puppies between 12 and 16 weeks of age (some rules may vary), kindergarten classes usually run once a week for eight weeks.
KPT classes provide excellent socialization by helping owners introduce their pups to people, places, things, and each other.
In addition to socialization, puppy kindergarten prepares dogs for further education. Gentle training techniques encourage them to earn praise for a job well done and to learn respect for the word “No”. Depending on the instructors, pups may also be introduced to simple commands such as Come, Sit, and Down, and may be taught how to walk on a leash.
KPT isn’t just for puppies; it’s for people , too. Instructors give advice on house training and answer questions about dog behavior. By the end of the course, you’ll know how to solve minor problems before they become major issues.
To find a puppy kindergarten near you, check your local newspaper or yellow pages for kennel clubs or dog obedience schools. Some of these places offer puppy programs. You also can check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
Before enrolling your Chi in any kindergarten class, talk to the teacher. Find out if he or she is experienced with Toy dogs, and inquire about safety protocol. For example, if the instructor turns puppies loose to play together, you want to make sure your Chi’s group is composed only of other small pups.
Also, use your head when choosing playmates and play groups. Puppies don’t know their own strength (although playing with other puppies helps them learn it). Don’t overwhelm your 10-week-old Chihuahua by putting her with an 8-week-old Rottweiler.
Instead, try to find other small puppies for her to play with. Sure, most puppies will probably be bigger than your Chi, but Chihuahua puppies can hold their own with other small-breed puppies of similar ages.
Taking Your Dog Outdoor
Every time you’re taking your dog outdoor, she’s socializing. Taking her with you when you visit a friend socializes her. So does meeting someone while out for a walk, playing with another puppy, or examining a beach ball.
The world is your Chi’s playground, so she needs to get out and enjoy it as soon as she’s safely vaccinated. Few people can pass up an adorable Chihuahua, and your pup benefits from these admiring people. She needs to meet senior citizens and gentle kids, bearded men and ladies in sun hats, teenagers carrying skateboards, and people pushing strollers.
Never, ever let your Chihuahua run free outside-not even for a second. Always put a leash on her when she’s outside the safety of your home and fenced yard (see “Leash Training“). And no matter how outgoing your Chi is or how well she walks on a leash, always keep her in your arms when riding an elevator. If it gives a sudden lurch or people rush on without watching where they’re going, she can get stepped on.
While safely outside (in your arms or on a leash), your Chi gets used to hearing motors, sirens, and the rumble of the garbage truck. Whatever you do, though, don’t hold her all the time. She needs to walk on grass and pavement and find out how to navigate stairs.
If your house doesn’t have steps, find some elsewhere and show your dog how to manage them. Start by putting her on the third step and encouraging her to come down to you. When she gets good at that, place her at the bottom of the stairs, sit on the third or fourth step, and encourage her to climb up to you.
The more people your Chi meets, the more she experiences, and the more sights she sees before she’s 4 months old, the braver she becomes. And confident Chihuahuas are the most fun of all.
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