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3119 Vicente Street
San Francisco, CA, 94116

415 730 5149

SmartyPup! is a puppy training school located in San Francisco, California

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a puppy social and is it safe? I was told not to expose my pup to other dogs until he has finished all of his shots!

If your Veterinarian tells you that your pup must have ALL vaccinations before attending, he or she may not be current on the latest protocols for puppy socialization and vaccinations. The recommendation of the American Society of Veterinary Behaviorists (AVSAB) is as follows: "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."

A puppy social is a great way to get your puppy exposed to different people, environments and PUPPIES! Our socials are extremely safe as we take the utmost precautions in providing a clean and safe environment in which your pup can play and learn about life.

What do I need to bring for Puppy 1 class?

  • Your PUPPY! wearing a flat collar and six foot flat leash. Please, please, please, please...no flexi leashes. We've seen many unfortunate accidents. In addition, it teaches your pup to walk like a defective yo-yo. :) Even scarier, look at the many warnings on the handle of the flexi-- finger amputation and strangulation are just a few. YIKES!
  • A hungry puppy. Try to not feed your puppy 3 hours before class. Your pup might be nervous or, he might run around like a PUPPY. All that fun, all that running is a sure way for a puppy with a full belly to throw up! Instead, bring your pups meal to class and feed in class. Of course, an afternoon snack is a-okay in the meantime!
  • A mat or towel for your puppy to settle down on.
  • Poop bags...just in case, oh poop... the inevitable happens.
  • Proof of vaccination (if we have not already seen it...)
  • Bring your friends and family members. Know someone with kids? A tall man in a hat? A police officer, a fireman, a navy seal, someone on a bike carrying a surfboard? Bring ’em along! How could anyone resist a room full of puppies!
  • Please bring a stuffed Kong or chewie to class...think of it as a pacifier. Puppies are not capable of sitting still while the humans talk. In fact, puppies are not capable of sitting still, period! We suggest anytime you bring your puppy out and about bring a sort of diaper bag, in a puppy’s case it is a chew and settle down bag! In it should be a few chew sticks, a stuffed Kong, some treats, plastic bags, a small blanket… Can you think of anything else?
  • A bait bag for your training treats.
  • Training treats: In addition to the kibble, bring NOVEL, soft treats to class...preferably--if you want to maximize learning--treats that your puppy hasn’t had for at least a week. Novelty is all-important when training a puppy with rewards. If you forget, no worries, we have wholesome healthy treats in class and ask only that you add to the treat fund. A dollar or two is more than enough! You can also bring treats to add to the treat fund!
  • Payment for class if you have not already submitted it.
  • A smile.... a big one please!

What happens in a puppy class?

Puppy Class contains a mix of people AND puppies; the experience is microcosm of what you and your puppy will encounter in day-to-day life.

Puppies must learn that there species comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: 150 pounds, 50 pounds, 5 pounds; pointy ears, floppy ears, ears that are long and sweep the ground, noses that protrude or are barely discernible… Puppies, by 12 to 16 weeks, must learn that other pups have very different play styles. Exposure to each other at an early age, preferably before 12 weeks old, is critical. Small breeds like Malteses, Poodles and Yorkies must learn that both German Shepherds, Mastiffs and Basset Hounds are dogs, too, and…. vice versa! The first day of a puppy class or social for your pup is comparable to the first day of kindergarten for a child . . . exciting and somewhat intimidating at the same time. Can you think back to that day? Some kids cried and didn't want to be there, while others had a blast right away. Some parents relaxed knowing their kids would be fine, while others stuck nervously close just in case. You are going to experience the same thing in our Puppy Class.

Your puppy may be a wallflower at first--hiding under a chair, or preferring to stay on your lap, watching. That’s fine -- when they're ready, they'll come out to play. It may take 20 minutes or it could take weeks! We let the pups decide when they are ready to engage.

Or, your puppy may go the Tarzan route -- pouncing around the room with excessive enthusiasm! That can be scary too!

The bottom line is puppies come with different personalities and progress at different speeds.

During play, you'll see barking, growls of joy and warning, whining, snarling, yips of fear and excitement, snapping, biting, wrestling, running, hiding, and pawing -- just to name a few behaviors. If a pup gets nipped too hard or approached too quickly . . . you will hear a loud yelp or see a pup head for the hills! It’s ok. They'll be fine and eventually -- get right back out there. They’re just surprised and they need to learn how to communicate with their new playmate. Something like "Hey, stop that! I don’t like that!” or “I don't want to play with you right now. Go away.” In addition, you may see a puppy naturally roll onto it's back -- an appeasement gesture to ward off further interactions. Or one puppy pounce near another pup trying to initiate play … the pounced pup may screech with terror, but when he realizes that, in fact, there was nothing to fear and that all is well in puppydom … he will bounce back and try again. The Pouncer (or Perpetrator) will learn that he needs to be a bit "smoother" in his effort to get other pups to play with him.

These behaviors all occurred within your puppy's litter and now needs repeating as pups meet their new friends. It is a learning experience for all, full of trial and error. Puppies need to learn to how to be a dog, and they do this by interacting with their peers. You will learn about how dogs communicate what is normal and necessary and what is not. Get ready to be surprised!

Humans have created a variety of dog breeds to specialize in certain tasks, so when some hard-wired behaviors come out in play, the behaviors may appear exaggerated. That's why it is sooo important to fully understand your puppy's temperament and personality, and, his breed. How do you do that? By watching and observing in class!

Can I bring the children to class?

Yes, yes, yes!!! We love kids and we want puppies to love kids too!

We encourage family members who will be participating in training your dog to attend class. An integral part of the socialization/training process is exposing your puppy to children (and vice versa) in a positive way. Therefore, having children in class can be very, very good for all of the puppies. However, small children require special consideration in a class situation. There are times when the child will have to sit quietly in class. If you think your child may have a hard time sitting still, then be sure to bring something for your child to do while sitting still. Just like their puppy counterpart, the attention span of a young child can be short, and we want everyone to be able to fully concentrate on the class.

Class Policies

Please think seriously about your schedule, the class you are signing up for, commitment to training, and your dog's suitability for class,before enrolling in our classes.

Refunds are issued prior to class (minus a $30.00 processing fee) if, and only if, we can fill your place in class, and have ample time (minimum of 2 days) to do so. We regret that we are unable to refund class fees once class has commenced. If something unexpected makes it impossible for you to continue with class, we will do our best to accommodate you in an upcoming class, space permitting (usually not ascertained until the day that class begins). So please think seriously about your schedule, the class you are signing up for, commitment to training, and your dog's suitability for class,before enrolling in our classes. You are more than welcome to come an audit the class before you sign up, in fact we encourage you to do so!

My puppy is very small, I'm worried she will get hurt by the bigger puppies.

Let's face it, it's a big dog world out there. We LOVE small puppies, and we understand the fear and reservations you have concerning bigger puppies. Carefully exposing your small pup to larger pups is a necessary part of training. For safety reasons, your little guy needs to learn how to act around the bigger guys. For example, if you run ... you WILL get chased! Don't run and you wont get chased. Let's face it, it's a big dog world out there, and a big dog encounter is eventually going to happen. We will guide you throughout this delicate but-oh-so important process. We've done it zillions of times with great success!

My puppy is too shy to go to puppy class.

Oh no! Then you need to get to a social or class right away! It's natural to want to safeguard our shy puppies from what scares them. But shyness will later develop into behavior problems. Problems like fear aggression, attachment disorders, submissive urination and the inability to cope in stressful situations. Reserved pups are often the reason for an unhappy adult dog later on. Your pup is still young, impressionable which means there is a lot we can do, but YOU must begin right away. Shy puppies needs careful, gentle socialization with people, dogs and "things". We can help you through this sensitive and slow and sometimes very scary process. A confident dog is a content dog.

I am worried about my Puppy getting sick in class. What should I do if I think my puppy is sick?

What if I think my puppy is sick?
If you think your puppy is not feeling well, call your Veterinarian right away to discuss your concerns and your pup's symptoms. Follow your veterinarian’s advice. If you think your puppy is sick, please do not bring him/her to class. You are welcome to come to class without your pup and observe the lessons. Keep us apprised of your pups well being at all times.

What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a viral disease of dogs. It affects puppies much more frequently than it affects adult dogs. The virus likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells. The intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy's body. The virus attacks and kills these cells, causing diarrhea (often bloody), depression and suppression of white blood cells -- which come from another group of rapidly dividing cells. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to "sudden" death.

What is Kennel Cough?
Bursts of harsh, dry coughing, which may be followed by retching and gagging. The cough is easily induced by gentle palpation of the larynx or trachea. Affected dogs demonstrate few if any additional clinical signs except for partial anorexia. Development of more severe signs, including fever, purulent nasal discharge, depression, loss of appetite, and a productive cough, especially in puppies, indicates a complicating systemic infection such as bronchopneumonia.

Causes of diarrhea in puppies?
Diarrhea is a common problem in puppies, and can range from a single mild episode to a severe symptom of a serious underlying condition.There are a number of causes of diarrhea in very young dogs including: Stress-Induced; Change in diet; Ingestion of a foreign object; Parasites; Viral infection. It's important to keep a close eye on a puppy with diarrhea.

Parvovirus Vaccination
Parvovirus is probably the most common viral illness of dogs at the present time. It is much more common in puppies than it is in adult dogs. It can be very hard to successfully vaccinate a puppy for this disease because the antibody protection the puppy acquires from its mother can interfere with vaccination. Many vets recommend vaccinating puppies every three to four weeks for this virus starting at 6 weeks of age and continuing until they are at least 16 weeks of age and preferably 20 weeks of age. It is possible that this vaccine confers lifelong immunity once it does work but most veterinarians continue to recommend yearly vaccination for it. It seems prudent to at least get the vaccination at one year of age. Since it is combined with the other vaccines it is often easier just to give it yearly with them.

What are the symptoms of Parvo?
Parvo" is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. It causes dogs and puppies to not be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. Puppies are especially prone to it because they have an immature immune system. When dogs and puppies contract parvo, they often have diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. Usually they stop eating and develop a bloody, foul-smelling, liquid stool. Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite. Secondary symptoms appear as severe gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea. In many cases, dehydration, shock, and death follow. Parvovirus is characterized by severe, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, high fever and lethargy. The diarrhea is particularly foul smelling and is sometimes yellow in color. Parvo can also attack a dog's heart causing congestive heart failure. This complication can occur months or years after an apparent recovery from the intestinal form of the disease. Puppies who survive parvo infection usually remain somewhat un-healthy and weak for life.

How is Parvo transmitted?
Canine parvovirus is carried by dogs. Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs. Dogs with the typical diarrhea that parvovirus causes shed the virus as well. It can last a long time in the environment, perhaps as long as 9 months or longer. Generally, it takes 7-10 days from the time of exposure for dogs and puppies to start showing symptoms and to test positive for parvo. Parvo is highly contagious to unprotected dogs, and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with fecal material for five months or more if conditions are favorable. Extremely hardy, most disinfectants cannot kill the virus, however chlorine bleach is the most effective and inexpensive agent that works, and is commonly used by veterinarians. The ease with which infection with Parvo can occur in any unvaccinated dog must be stressed. The virus is extremely hardy in the environment. Withstanding wide temperature fluctuations and most cleaning agents. Parvo can be brought home to your dog on shoes, hands and even car tires. It can live for many months outside the animal. Any areas that are thought to be contaminated with parvo should be thoroughly washed with chlorine bleach diluted 1 ounce per quart of water.
Dogs and puppies can contract parvo even if they never leave their yards. Parvo virus, despite what you might hear, is NOT an airborne virus. It is excreted in the feces of infected dogs, and if someone -- human, dog, bird, etc. -- steps in (or otherwise comes in contact with) the excrement, the possibility for contamination is great. Some people speculate that birds invading a dog's food dish can deposit the parvovirus there. If you think you may have come in contact with parvovirus, a strong solution of bleach and water does kill the virus, so you can wash your shoes and clothes, even your hands with it, to reduce the risk of infecting your dog.
Rest assured that parvovirus is specific to dogs alone and cannot be transmitted to humans or other pets of a different species, such as cats.

Can you kill the parvo in the environment?

  1. Parvo cannot be killed by regular hand sanitizers and lysol. There are very few disinfectants that will kill parvo.Even disenfectants used in hospitals that claim to kill HIV and AIDS do not kill the parvo virus. Diluted bleach will though.
  2. The strength used with a bleach dilution that is strong enough to kill parvo will ruin carpets, wood flooring, furniture and other fabrics. Also using it on other pets in the house will harm them.
  3. Even if the puppy infected with parvo never left your home. You did. It can be passed on the bottoms of your shoes. So you step someplace the infected puppy was. It sticks to the bottom of your shoe and you go check your mail, get the paper or just walk outside. It is now in your yard.
  4. Parvo can live over a year's time in the environment.

How is Parvo treated?
Without intense treatment, the victims of parvo die of dehydration. Treatment generally consists of IV or sub-cutaneous fluids and antibiotics. There is no cure. Veterinarians can only treat the symptoms palliatively, and try to keep the dog alive by preventing dehydration and loss of proteins. As there is no cure for any virus, treatment for parvo is mostly that of supporting the different systems in the body during the course of the disease. This includes giving fluids, regulating electrolyte levels, controlling body temperature and giving blood transfusions when necessary.
Dogs who have survived parvo can get it again. In the case of some puppies, a puppy testing negative for Parvo one day could succumb to the virus within a matter of days. It strikes fast and without mercy. Dr. Cathy Priddle has warned that sulfa drugs have been known to cause dehydration in dogs, suggesting that animals infected with parvovirus should not be given sulfa drugs.
You may also consult a homeopathic or naturopathic veterinarian for alternative Parvo treatments. There are some natural and homeopathic treatments for Parvo on the retail market. Amber Technology offers Parvaid, an all natural herbal formula that the manufacturer claims has helped some animals overcome Parvo.

Will my dog die if he gets Parvo? This is a very serious disease. Some puppies infected with parvovirus will die despite prompt and adequate treatment. While no extremely accurate statistics are available, a good guess is probably that 80% of puppies treated for parvovirus will live. Without treatment, probably 80% or more of the infected puppies would die.
Due to the high death rate, parvovirus gets a lot of free publicity. Many people just assume that any case of diarrhea in a dog is from parvovirus. This is not true. There are a lot of other diseases and disorders that lead to diarrhea. If you have a puppy, don't take any chances. Have your puppy examined by your vet if diarrhea is a factor in any disease. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.
If your dog becomes infected with parvovirus, he has about a 50-50 chance of survival. If he makes it through the first three to four days, he will usually make a rapid recovery, and be back on his feet within a week. It is vital, however, that he receives supportive therapy immediately. It must be stressed that this is not a bad case of doggy flu; without medical treatment, most puppies die.

Are some breeds more susceptible than others?
For some reason, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and other black and tan breeds are especially prone to Parvo, and seem to succumb to parvo faster and with less chance of recovery than any other breed. If you have one of these breeds, it's even more important to make certain your puppy or dog gets immunized properly. But these breeds are not alone -- the Parvovirus can affect all breeds. If you think your puppy is not feeling well, call your veterinarian before coming to class to discuss your concerns and his/her symptoms. Follow your veterinarian’s advice.  If you think your puppy is sick, please do not bring him/her to class. You are welcome to come to class without your pup and observe the lessons. Let us know what about your pups well being at all times.

Do I have to use food treats in class?

Rewards are not just food treats. In fact, for some dogs, other things such as toys or play with another dog may be far more rewarding than food. The things that dogs value can be food, play, attention, or access to a desired place. These are all important and the appropriate reward should be delivered to your pup when he or she does something right. Sometimes treats may be most important to your dog, sometimes play may be, sometimes it will be attention (eye contact, petting, praise), and sometimes the opportunity to get somewhere (like jumping into the creek) will be the top on your dog's list.

But here is why we use food often in training: for many dogs, the fastest way to their brain is through their stomach, so food treats are often an effective way to reward behaviors as they are being taught. Also, the use of very small, tasty food treats means that rewards can be delivered quickly and repetitiously. However, food should never be the ONLY reward used. Once a dog has learned a behavior, food should be faded out and other rewards should be substituted.

What are your training methods?

We use reward based methods. Rewards are given and rewards are taken away. More specifically--Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment. Positive Reinforcement is the presentation of something rewarding immediately following an approved behavior! This principle makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future, and is one of the most powerful tools for shaping or changing your pup's behavior. Negative punishment reduces a behavior by taking away Something Good. If the animal was enjoying or depending on Something Good she will work to avoid it getting taken away. They are less likely to repeat a behavior that results in the loss of a Good Thing. Things like biting, jumping up, barking, etc...

Early puppy socialization classes: risks vs. benefits

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) released a position statement in 2005 (http://AVSABonline.org/) outlining the importance of early puppy socialization, preferably before the puppy reaches 12 weeks old. The AVSAB encourages owners to take their pets to puppy classes and socials as early as possible, even before puppies have completed their full vaccination series.

Some veterinarians remain concerned about allowing puppies to commingle before vaccinations are complete. So to further explore the practical and theoretical issues involved, the AVSAB has interviewed four veterinarians who have extensive experience with early puppy socialization. The participants' individual interviews are presented below in a roundtable format.

Click UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFITS for more information

I am confused, everyone is telling me something different about what vaccines my puppy should have before class? HELP! Do I need to wait until my puppy has had all of his shots to go to a puppy class? What shots does my puppy need before attending a class?

We agree with the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's Position statement -"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 throughout the class."

Vaccinations: Your puppy does not need to have his complete set of vaccinations! Standard practice for puppies first vaccination is usually given between 8 to 10 weeks old, and a booster every 2 to 3 weeks. As long as your pup has had his FIRST set of vaccinations, and the last one was within 7 to 14 day of the start of your class, your puppy is eligible. Each Veterinarian has a different OPINION on when and how many vaccines a puppy should have. Please ask questions.

SmartyPup Vaccination Requirements: D and P. The D is for distemper, the P is for parvovirus.

If your veterinarian tells you NOT to go to class until AFTER your puppy has had all of his shots PLEASE print out the flyer from AVSAB Puppy Position Statement and bring it to your Veterinarian. It discusses WHY the protocols have changed:

"Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age. " . The AVSAB Puppy Socialization Position Statement can be downloaded from the AVSAB website. Of course we support you and your Veterinarian's decision.

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 overstimulation 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.

SmartyPup! Requires one distemper and one parvo shot upon the first class. Our classes are always immaculate

Read more abut what the experts are saying: Roundtable Discussion on the Risks and Benefits of Early Socialization for Puppies

AAHA Revised Canine Vaccine Guidelines Developed in a manner consistent with best vaccination practices, the 2011 Guidelines include expert opinions supported by scientific study, published and unpublished documents, and encompass all canine vaccines currently licensed in the U.S. and Canada. The task force that developed the guidelines included experts in immunology, infectious diseases, internal medicine, law, and clinical practice.

Who should I trust when it comes to advice regarding my puppy's well-being?

As you have already experienced, EVERYONE you meet is an expert when it comes to YOUR puppy. Question and research everything. Your Vet can help you with health issues and give medical advice; a qualified trainer/behavior consultant can answer your behavior and training questions; and the pet store owner/staff can tell you how much something is and if it is popular or not—and that’s it! Don’t take medical or behavior advice from the pet store or the public. Too scary.If you think your puppy is not feeling well, call your veterinarian before coming to class to discuss your concerns and his/her symptoms. Follow your veterinarian’s advice. If you think your puppy is sick, please do not bring him/her to class. You are welcome to come to class without your pup and observe the lessons. Let us know what about your pups well being at all times.

Why shouldn’t I use physical punishments?

Let’s first take a look at dogs’ learning style. Since we and our dogs don’t share a verbal language, dogs learn through association.  Humans in their pre-language months learn this way also. Simply put, learning by association means that the dog takes in the environmental set-up when he is learning a new behavior or experiencing a specific event. Aversive training is based on “correcting” (punishing) a mistake to eliminate the behavior. Here is a simple scenario: 
An owner/trainer is walking with the dog, doing ‘heeling’ work. The dog – who is probably wearing a choke-chain, slip lead, or electronic collar – is walking along quite well. A woman and small child walk toward them. The dog sees them and, because he is friendly, he moves a bit forward from heel position. The owner/trainer immediately gives a correction (a collar pop or shock) to let the dog know he strayed from position. In this scenario, the dog is focused on the woman and child and is also enjoying a walk. The association he makes when the owner/trainer gives the painful correction is twofold: (1) that walking is sometimes less than fun, and (2) a woman and child in the vicinity means something bad will happen. That’s associative learning.  Couple aversive training with associative learning, and the dog now learns that something in his environment that he found pleasant is now stressful and to be feared. That’s how dogs develop reactive behaviors out of the blue. The owner/trainer thought with the human mind, but the dog learned with a canine mind: through association. A study in Germany measured the cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in dogs trained with an electronic collar. They received a shock for a mistake while in a room. When they first re-entered the room 1 month later, the dog’s cortisol levels shot up to 300% of normal when going into that room again. A single shock and 1 month later, the association was still powerful!! In contrast, positive-reinforcement training creates motivation for the dog to offer the behavior that the trainer wants. The dog and the trainer are both enjoying the learning experience and the dog is actually taking part in the process. Aversive training seems to work fast; the problem is that you often train an association quite different from the one you intended!   Training with positive reinforcement can seem slow by comparison. When you use aversive training, however, fallout continues to bring new and unwelcome behaviors that you will then need to address – a process that can take a very long time and that may not work at all with aversive methods. Because aversive training methods work through fear, they train the dog to fear something. Not only are you likely to teach him to fear the wrong things, but also you are by definition increasing his overall fearfulness and stress. Fear and stress lead to growls, barks, bared teeth, and lunges. That’s fallout, and the risk it too great to make aversive methods worthwhile.