This is the final part in the series of my experience fostering a litter of 7 puppies. The puppies are about 6 weeks old now, and I will be continuing to socialize them until they are 8-10 weeks old and are adopted into their forever homes. This blog is about a very fun experience that the puppies had—puppy class!
One of my favorite things about working at Premier is that we bring can bring our dogs to work. Being that the puppies were in their socialization period, it was a great opportunity to bring the puppies in and socialize them to different people and things here in our building!
There are 7 puppies, so we had 7 people sign up for the puppy class. Each person was designated a puppy. The first thing we did was explain that the purpose of the puppy class wasn’t to teach the puppy to sit or lay down, but rather just to give the puppy positive experiences with new people, places, and things. Because they’re in their socialization period, the quality of their experiences will impact them for the rest of their lives. Good experiences now = confident and less fearful puppies later in life.
Although introducing the puppies to as many things as possible is a good thing, we also need to be realistic. I was reading a book before the class that had a “check-list” of things to socialize the puppies to. The check-list included a few unusual things, like jackhammers, screeching breaks and snow plows. Although this might be helpful, I don’t own a jackhammer, I don’t want to cause a traffic accident with screeching breaks, and mid-August in Virginia—we aren’t about to fire up any snow plows anytime soon. So instead, I focus on things that puppies will regularly encounter in life: things like dishwashers, air conditioning units, people touching their ears, vacuums, leashes, collars, toys, etc. Having good experiences with these common items will help them be most comfortable in their daily lives.
After we talked about the importance of the socialization period, we had free puppy time! The only thing our puppy class attendees had to do was to make sure the puppies didn’t escape. This gave the puppies an opportunity to play with each other in an open space.
Next we asked everyone to pick up their puppy and touch their ears, tails, mouth, and feet. Having positive experiences with new people touch these parts of their bodies will help the puppies be more comfortable in future grooming and veterinary situations.
Then we introduced lots of toys. The puppies LOVE plush toys– especially those in our Pogo Plush line! Also, we introduced a tunnel and the puppies ran around playing with the toys, tugging, and running through the tunnel.
Last but not least, the puppies were introduced to collars and leashes. They have never been on a collar or leash before, so this was a brand new experience. When we put the collars and leashes on, we emphasized to our attendees that the goal was not to take the puppy for a walk on the collar and leash, but rather get the puppy used to the weight of a collar and leash. Then we put the puppies outside in the grass so they can feel a new texture under their feet. I can’t even tell you how excited I was when two puppies squatted and did their first set of potty-business outside! Woohoo!
Overall, the puppies had a great time, the attendees had a great time (there’s no better morale-booster than puppies!), and the puppies got to learn a ton. Later this week we’ll be doing another puppy class to continue introducing these puppies to new things that they will encounter in their lives. And the best part of all—the puppies are EXHAUSTED after class!
Because this will be the last blog in the series, I want to add a little personal note. I can’t express enough how much I’ve learned from this experience. Much like the puppies are learning new things every day, I did too. I needed to learn how to establish a trusting relationship with Momma, how to hold squirming puppies, when to start feeding them, how to best manage potty habits in puppies, and much more. When I look back on my experience and how much I’ve grown with Momma and the puppies, I feel so fulfilled. Momma has been able to move on to another foster home to continue on her search for a forever home, and I’ve been continuing to prepare the puppies for their forever homes too. As a routine foster (and not yet a foster failure, thanks to my husband who reminds me every time that we can’t adopt every one), I can tell you it will hurt the most to let Momma and all of these puppies go. But it fills my heart to know that I was able to help assist them in having a successful and loving life.