Certified trainer Karen Mersereau explains the thought process behind Puppy Camp and why it is so important during training. For the puppy raisers out there, you may recognize this piece as it was originally posted on the Blue Coat Journal in May 2011.
Sometimes I think the second most feared phrase in puppy raising after “time for IFT” (in-for-training – when the dogs come back to campus for formal harness training) is “time for puppy camp.” I can understand this. You like this dog. You just got them somewhat under control and singing off the same page with you (or at least out of the same songbook). The last thing you want is to send them off to someone else.
But puppy camp is a very important part of the dog’s socialization. Our dogs must learn that sit means sit no matter who says it, that trash cans and couches are off-limits everywhere, and that the world will not end if their favorite person suddenly disappears. Puppy camp is also a great time to expose the dog to a completely different environment: kids vs. no kids, pets vs. no pets, going to work vs. staying home, chaos vs. serenity.
Puppy camps last a minimum of two weeks because there is always a honeymoon period when a dog goes to a new home. For the first several days the dog is on his absolute best behavior and you think “why, this dog is perfect!” Then, once you’ve let your guard down, the true personality of the dog emerges. I really don’t know why dogs do this; maybe they are assessing the situation before they feel relaxed enough to, metaphorically, walk around in their underwear. Also, some dogs may need extra time to acclimate to an environment that is very different from what they are used to.
Raisers are required to puppy camp their dogs at least once during the time they have the dog, consider that the minimum. Embrace puppy camp! These puppies will benefit from any new environments and experiences; puppy camp is a great way to accomplish that.