Toys in Puppy Class
To allow toys or not to allow toys, that is the question. When you watch puppies play together some things to take into consideration are *how* are they playing. Do they play chase or do they wrestle? Unfortunately, there are many group puppy classes which don’t allow people to bring toys to class, nor do they supply toys for the puppies to play with. The problem with this is that the only option that leaves the puppies is to wrestle & chase. As we all know, wrestling is practice fighting. If that is the only interaction, and especially the first interaction, your puppy has with other dogs then they are learning how to fight and getting better at it with each subsequent class.
The reason trainers give for not allowing toys in puppy class is that they don’t want the puppies to start guarding toys. What they fail to realize is that by having toys in their classes they will minimize the possibility of that happening. By providing more toys than there are puppies they learn to share and interact with each other by focusing on the toys, not by wrestling. And if there is a potential resource guarding issue with one of the puppies THIS is the time to deal with it. Not after the puppy has had more time to practice guarding things.
Add to that if the age of puppies in puppy class ranges from 7 – 16 weeks there can be a huge size and developmental difference between those dogs depending on their breeds. If you have a 15-week-old Mastiff and an 8-week-old Maltese there is going to be a massive size difference. Now imagine those same puppies not having toys to play with and only having the option of playing chase and wrestling. If the Maltese was your puppy would you feel comfortable with that? We sincerely doubt it. We’ve seen puppy classes where that exact scenario happened and the small dog was bullied and ended up hiding under a chair. The trainer never stepped in to stop it from happening and the owner wasn’t going to stop it if the trainer thought it was ok. The big puppy was just doing what came naturally, but that behavior could have been redirected if there had been toys available to play with. However, what did the small dog learn from the incident? At a very impressionable time in his development he learned that big dogs chase and harass him and his owner, the person he should be able to depend on most, did nothing to stop it.
So, before you join a puppy class we highly recommend you stop by and watch one first. Locally, we recommend J9sK9s for group puppy classes. Hers are the only ones we know of that allow toys in puppy class.