A gentle, effective, and enlightened approach to dog training
According to the internal Veterinarian Guidelines that we follow in order to be endorsed by the Veterinarian Community, the single most time-sensitive thing a new puppy parent can do is to bring their not yet fully vaccinated puppy to an indoor parvo disinfected puppy class to learn proper socialization and bite inhibition.
In terms of proper social development, this supersedes all else when it comes to raising a well-adjusted, confident pup.
In addition to learning how to properly socialize with his or her peers, your puppy will learn Karma Dog Training's 7 Requests for Success - "watch me", "stay", "come", "down", "heel", "leave it" and "go to your bed."
Your dog will learn with both hand signals and voice cues. No harsh corrections.
In our puppy training classes, we also give you a greater understanding of your role in your puppy's behavioral obstacles and how they originated. We then provide you with many practical applications on how to overcome them, turning them from potential negative experiences into positive healing opportunities.
Free Trial Class for 1st Time Students: Vaccination records are required
Makeup Policy: Make up classes are offered for any two puppy classes you may have to miss along the way.
Refresher Classes: We also allow you two refresher classes. This means you may repeat any two lessons, for any reason!
Puppy Kindergarten & Socialization
(Let's take a closer look at what your puppy will learn)
Endorsed by hundreds of Veterinarians, Karma Dog Training's 7 week puppy kindergarten and socialization class was designed to give puppy parents the very best education possible for their newest addition to the family.
Our curriculum is pragmatic and straightforward: There are essentially 5 main things a puppy will learn while attending a Karma Dog puppy kindergarten class.
They are: socialization, bite inhibition, basic communication skills, confidence and tolerance of handling.
The intention to systematically expose a puppy to different things they may experience throughout their lifetime and create a positive association to every aspect of these things is what socialization is all about. Said another way, socialization is the process of preparing a puppy to enjoy interactions and be comfortable with other animals, people, places and activities, as well as various sights, sounds, textures and sudden environmental changes.
When properly socializing a puppy, it is important to touch upon all the above-mentioned factors.
The most respected Veterinary behaviorists in the World agree that the implementation of socialization strategies should begin during the "sensitive period" which is between 3 and 14 weeks of age for puppies and the optimal time to begin a puppy class is when a puppy is 8 or 9 weeks - provided they have been seen by a Veterinarian and have a clean bill of health.
Contrary to popular belief, a puppy does not have to be fully vaccinated to safely be able to attend an indoor, parvo disinfected Veterinarian endorsed puppy class.
However, we do require that all puppies who attend our classes, have received at least their first parvo vaccine, have been seen by a veterinarian and be in their home for a minimum of 3 days prior to the start of their first class to ensure that they are healthy.
In addition, we parvo disinfect the training area prior to each class and we require everyone to parvo disinfect their shoes prior to entering the training area.
You can rest assured, as a student of Karma Dog Training, your puppy's health and safety is our #1 priority and our protocols are carried out to the highest level possible.
Proof of Vaccinations are required to attend which can be emailed prior to the first class.
The following video was filmed at a Karma Dog Puppy Kindergarten & Socialization class in San Diego, CA
Just like babies, puppies naturally want to explore the world by nibbling and chewing things.
However, as a puppy's jaws strengthen and they reach the age of 6 months, if they have not learned proper bite inhibition during puppyhood, their bite can do serious damage.
The good news?
Other dogs are the best teachers and puppies first learn proper bite inhibition by interacting with Momma Dog and their puppy siblings in the litter.
How does it work?
Similar to a natural litter, the other pups yelp and bite back if a puppy chomps down too hard. If a puppy nips a littermate too hard, the other puppy usually yelps or stops playing. This lets the pup know that the bite was too hard and Momma dog stops the play when she determines its gotten too rough. This is how her puppies learn limits and boundaries.
It's the same dynamic in a Karma Dog puppy class!
In addition to teaching each puppy solid basic communications skills, our goal is to reproduce the litter experience on a weekly basis.
Each week we allow the puppies a sufficient amount of time for off leash socialization where they learn to play using a soft or "inhibited" bite that causes no damage and we educate you on how to interrupt play when it becomes necessary to set boundaries and limits with your puppy.
It's important to keep in mind that mouthing and biting are natural puppy behaviors. We do not want to remove this natural behavior from them. We just need to teach them how to control the pressure of their mouth and use it gently.
What's the end result of teaching a puppy proper bite inhibition?
Puppies, and later as they reach social maturity and become adult dogs, will mouth objects, other animals and people during social interactions and/or play using a soft or "inhibited" bite. This process of mastering the power of their jaws - what dog trainers or behaviorists call bite inhibition - allows a dog to communicate with each other and resolve differences without actually hurting each other.
Keep in mind, it is not possible to prevent a dog from ever biting.
Anyone who tells you that they have trained a dog to never bite no matter what the situation, has not been sufficiently educated on how dogs are hard wired.
That being said, if a dog has learned proper bite inhibition, no matter what situation they find themselves in - whether they are scared, sick or even injured - they will have already been conditioned not to bite down hard if they ever do bite and will not do serious damage.
It's been said in the world of Martial Arts that in order to become a black belt it only takes mastering 7 moves.
Similarly, in the dog training world, along with their name, the very best training lessons you can teach a dog is to master Karma Dog's 7 Requests for Success. These include "watch me", "come", "down", "stay", "leave it", "heel" (or loose leash walking) and "go to your bed".
Of course there are many other amazing things you can teach your dog, but giving a young puppy who is still in their "imprinting period" an opportunity to practice and improve at mastering these 7 building blocks, over time provides an excellent foundation and springboard for all interaction in the real world and sets them on a great path into adulthood.
If your puppy does not learn basic communication skills during puppyhood (before they turn18 weeks of age), he or she will have to partake in training when they are less malleable (outside the early socialization window) and as a result, training will take longer and will require more effort on the part of the dog parent.
Veterinary behaviorists agree the optimal time to teach a puppy all the necessary basic communication skills in order to be a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog is as soon as you bring them home. And making sure the training is a joyful and positive learning experience each time you practice with a puppy is extremely important.
When training is done correctly, your puppy anticipates his or her next training session with joy and delight!
How much time should you practice with your new puppy?
In terms of setting aside the correct amount of practice time, 5 to 10 minutes at a time, 2 to 3 times a day, is sufficient for teaching and maintaining new behaviors.
Positive reinforcement training builds a puppy's confidence as he/she is rewarded for desired behaviors. As a puppy learns new behaviors, not only will they be better behaved but with continued training, they will continue to build their confidence.
Based on operant and classical conditioning, the curriculum in a Karma Dog Puppy Class teaches a puppy to associate an auditory cue, like a marker word "YES" (or a clicker) with a pleasant outcome such as a food reward, a ball to fetch, a bone to chew on or whatever else a puppy might find desirable! Every puppy is different but since in a natural dog pack subordinate pack members have to work for their food, it's completely natural for a puppy to work for their food.
And as they do this successfully, their confidence soars!
The ancillary beautiful part about attending a Karma Dog Puppy class is that in addition to training your puppy using positive reinforcement to learn important cues for human words such as "stay", "come" and "down", by introducing your puppy to a variety of other dog-friendly adults and children who are also attending a Karma Dog puppy class, strangers are taught to approach your puppy in a calm and friendly manner - which helps build your pup's confidence even more as they create positive associations to meeting new people!
Tolerance of handling
Handling exercises are one of the most important things you can do during the socialization period to ensure that your puppy learns how to respond appropriately when they are examined by vets, washed by groomers, and when they are meeting new people (especially children). A puppy who is taught to tolerate and respond positively to touch is a dog that remains calm and cool during a vet exam, a dog that allows their paw to be handled for a nail trim, and a dog that tolerates the hug from a child.
What are some other benefits?
Because of the tolerance of handling exercises you participate in during your puppy's socialization period, he/she might not love being hugged and kissed but they will tolerate it. In addition, your puppy might not really enjoy being pet on the head instead of a place on his body he/she prefers but they will tolerate it. And your puppy might not like being picked up at all but because he/she has been desensitized to it during puppyhood, they tolerate it.
*It is important to keep in mind that your dog may not tolerate the above-mentioned activities from people he/she feels are a threat.
In addition, being attached to a leash, examined by a vet, or held by a groomer are all different forms of restraint. It's important that during the socialization period, we teach a puppy to feel comfortable and relaxed being restrained so they do not react in fear. This happens with simple handling exercises.
How do we do this?
We start with gentle pats and pair each touch with a treat! We then slowly increase the invasiveness of your handling until you can examine your puppy's mouth, ears, and paws all while holding them.
At the end of the 7 week class, your trainer will test you and your puppy on these basic skills to see how much you both have learned. And if your puppy has learned Karma Dog Training's 7 Requests for Success, you'll be receiving your puppy's well deserved Karma Dog Puppy Graduation certificate!
My puppy is not yet fully vaccinated, is this safe?
At Karma Dog Training, keeping your puppy healthy and safe is our #1 priority. That is why hundreds of Veterinarians personally recommend our puppy classes to their clients!
And the general consensus among Veterinary Behaviorists is that puppy training and safe socialization should typically start as soon as your puppy has completed the first round of vaccines and has received a clean bill of health from your veterinarian, which can be as early as eight or nine weeks of age.
How is this safe?
In addition to checking each puppy's vaccination records and requiring a Vet visit to ensure they are healthy, the grounds are kept immaculate as they are parvo and distemper disinfected before each class. This allows for maximum safety for your new fur baby, as puppy parents now have a safe and supervised place to bring their not-yet-fully vaccinated puppies to immediately begin the process of "safe socialization".
What to Bring To Puppy Class:
Vaccination records - We have to ensure your puppy is up-to-date on their recommended vaccine schedule. This is non-negotiable in order for you to attend. It's of paramount importance we see all client's vaccination/veterinarian records in order to verify your pup is healthy and ready to attend the training class. You can an email them before your "Free Trial" class (which most puppy parents do) or you can bring them with you. *Please note: you will not get in to take a free trial class with us if we have not verified your puppy is up-to-date on their puppy vaccinations and has been seen by a veterinarian.
Treats - 3 or 4 different kinds of treats your dog loves (soft & chewy work best!)
Leash - 5 or 6 foot leash is best (no 4 foot or retractable leashes please).
Collar - We recommend and "Earth Dog" Hemp Martingale Style collar
Harness - We recommend a "Didog" Soft Flannel Padded Dog Vest Harness
Bone - Preferably a FRESH bone your dog LOVES (C.E.T. Veggie Dents, Z Bones, Deer Antler, Himalayan Dog Chews etc.).
Water bowl and water bottle - In our puppy classes we prefer private water bowls over the sharing of communal water sources.
Treat Bag or fanny pack - Something to store your dog's treats in besides your pockets.
Dog Mat - A small mat for your puppy to rest on (Using the same dog mat in different environments will also help to generalize new behaviors)
Hungry puppy - A pup who is still a bit hungry (Do NOT feed your puppy a full meal just prior to class).
To find out more about the availability of Karma Dog Training's puppy training and puppy socialization classes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Space is limited)
The following video was filmed at a Karma Dog Puppy Kindergarten & Socialization class in Los Angeles, CA
Is Early Socialization Safe? Veterinarian's Plea on Puppy Socialization
This is an open letter from Dr. R.K. Anderson, who encourages veterinarians and puppy guardians to make puppy socialization a first priority.
Robert K. Anderson DVM
Diplomate ACVB and ACVPM
Professor and Director Emeritus, Animal Behavior Clinic and Center to Study Human/Animal Relationships and Environments
University of Minnesota
1666 Coffman Street, Suite 128,
Falcon Heights, MN 55108
Phone 612-644-7400 FAX 612-644-4262
Puppy Vaccination and Socialization Should Go Together
TO: My Colleagues in Veterinary Medicine:
Common questions I receive from puppy owners, dog trainers and veterinarians concern:
What is the most favorable age or period of time when puppies learn best?
What are the health implications of my advice that veterinarians and trainers should offer socialization programs for puppies starting at 8 to 9 weeks of age?
Puppies begin learning at birth and their brains appear to be particularly responsive to learning and retaining experiences that are encountered during the first 13 to 16 weeks after birth. This means that breeders, new puppy owners, veterinarians, trainers and behaviorists have a responsibility to assist in providing these learning/socialization experiences with other puppies/dogs, with children/adults and with various environmental situations during this optimal period from birth to 16 weeks.
Many veterinarians are making this early socialization and learning program part of a total wellness plan for breeders and new owners of puppies during the first 16 weeks of a puppy's life -- the first 7-8 weeks with the breeder and the next 8 weeks with the new owners. This socialization program should enroll puppies from 8 to 12 weeks of age as a key part of any preventive medicine program to improve the bond between pets and their people and keep dogs as valued members of the family for 12 to 18 years.
To take full advantage of this early special learning period, many veterinarians recommend that new owners take their puppies to puppy socialization classes, beginning at 8 to 9 weeks of age. At this age they should have (and can be required to have) received a minimum of their first series of vaccines for protection against infectious diseases. This provides the basis for increasing immunity by further repeated exposure to these antigens either through natural exposure in small doses or artificial exposure with vaccines during the next 8 to 12 weeks. In addition the owner and people offering puppy socialization should take precautions to have the environment and the participating puppies as free of natural exposure as possible by good hygiene and caring by careful instructors and owners.
Experience and epidemiological data support the relative safety and lack of transmission of disease in these puppy socialization classes over the past 10 years in many parts of the United States. In fact; the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because of a behavior problem. Many veterinarians are now offering new puppy owners puppy socialization classes in their hospitals or nearby training facilities in conjunction with trainers and behaviorists because they want socialization and training to be very important parts of a wellness plan for every puppy. We need to recognize that this special sensitive period for learning is the best opportunity we have to influence behavior for dogs and the most important and longest lasting part of a total wellness plan.
Are there risks? Yes. But 10 years of good experience and data, with few exceptions, offers veterinarians the opportunity to generally recommend early socialization and training classes, beginning when puppies are 8 to 9 weeks of age. However, we always follow a veterinarian's professional judgment, in individual cases or situations, where special circumstances warrant further immunization for a special puppy before starting such classes. During any period of delay for puppy classes, owners should begin a program of socialization with children and adults, outside their family, to take advantage of this special period in a puppy's life.
If there are further questions, veterinarians may call me at 651-644-7400 for discussion and clarification.
- Robert K. Anderson DVM, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and Diplomate of American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
(Reprinted with permission from Dr. R.K. Anderson for Karma Dog Training in Los Angeles)
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position
The Primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior.
For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.
Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression.
Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.
While puppies' immune systems are still developing during these early months, the combination of maternal immunity, primary vaccination, and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem.
Veterinarians specializing in behavior recommend that owners take advantage of every safe opportunity to expose young puppies to the great variety of stimuli that they will experience in their lives.
Enrolling in puppy classes prior to three months of age can be an excellent means of improving training, strengthening the human-animal bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness can be minimized. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.
In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.
The Process of Socialization: Puppies should be handled from birth, learning to accept manipulation of all body parts. Every effort should be made to expose them to as many different people, well-socialized animals, situations, places, etc. as possible.
Puppies should be encouraged to explore, investigate, and manipulate their environments. Interactive toys and games, a variety of surfaces, tunnels, steps, chutes, and other stimuli can enrich the puppy's environment. Puppies should accompany their breeders/owners on as many car trips as possible.
These exposures should continue into adulthood to maintain an outgoing and sociable dog. Puppy socialization classes can offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies and more quickly improve their responsiveness to commands.
Each puppy should have up-to date vaccinations and be disease and parasite free before entering the class. Where possible, classes should be held on surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g. indoor environments). Visits to dog parks or other areas that are not sanitized and/or are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status should be avoided. Classes and at-home training should be based on positive reinforcement with frequent rewards praise, petting, play and/or treats.
Positive and consistent training is associated with fewer behavioral problems and greater obedience than methods that involve punishment and/or encourage human dominance. Time must be scheduled for puppies to play alone with their favorite toys (such as stuffed food toys) or take naps in safe places such as crates or puppy pens. This teaches puppies to amuse themselves, and may help to prevent problems of over attachment to the owners.
Continuing to offer dogs a wide variety of experiences during their first year of life is also helpful in preventing separation-related behavior.
Proper confinement training using pens or crates helps to ensure that puppies have safe and secure places for rest and confinement. Puppies that are used to being crated will be less stressed if they must be hospitalized or be confined for travel by plane or car. Crates should serve as comfort or play areas.
Early and adequate socialization and programs of positive training can go a long way to preventing behavior problems and improving bonding between humans and dogs. While the first three months is the most important socialization period in a puppy's life, owners of puppies that have passed this milestone are strongly encouraged to continue to socialize their puppies to as many people, pets, and locations as practical. However, owners of puppies displaying fear should seek veterinary guidance.
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I cannot say enough good things about Karma Dog Training and recommend them more to anyone looking for dog training. I was a nervous first time puppy owner and was put at ease right away once I found Karma.
- Mariel C.
West Hollywood, CA
Karma Dog Training has given me a great experience of learning the basic commands and procedures of owning a first time puppy. In the Kindergarten Puppy training class, Jennifer Sturgeon, one of the dog trainers that was there was very kind and helpful.
- John L.
Contact UsEmily Ozrey Director, Karma Dog Training