Supervised dog training classes are all very well and they provide owners with guidance and confidence, but the way to get the best results from your dog is one-on-one training in a calm, familiar environment.
By ‘calm’ I mean one with few distractions so that you can keep his attention on what you want him to do. For him, concentrating on you when children are playing nearby or there are other dogs being walked is rather like you trying to read a book in the middle of a party.
You must also be calm and focused. Don’t take your dog out to train him if you’re distracted by something, because he will know that your mind is elsewhere and will not respond in the way you want him to. This is something that you have to decide you want to do, not something that becomes a chore.
This is in complete contrast to what is needed for socialisation. Some people make the mistake of thinking that ‘socialisation’ is a term that refers to ‘meeting other dogs’, but it’s not really a good word for what it really means.
Socialisation is the process of exposing your dog to new things so that he can work out how to deal with them. Socialisation is an intensive process because by the time your dog is four months old he will have already formed most of his reactive behaviours and anything new can become a problem. Given that you will probably receive your puppy at nine weeks old, that means you only have a few weeks to socialise him and should take him to as many different environments as you can even if you’re unable to let him walk because of his vaccinations being incomplete.
Socialisation really means ‘environmental exposure’. That means meeting people, other dogs, encountering traffic, trains, shopping trolleys, car parks, cyclists, horses, road works and thousands of other things large and small. It means that your dog has already had as many ‘first experiences’ as you can possibly give him. This will ensure that as few things as possible are going to cause unpredictable behaviour later in his life.