I occasionally hear trainers who don't offer group classes argue that private training is better than group classes for puppies. The argument is that puppies will learn better in a less distracting environment. While it is an accurate statement that puppies would learn better in a less distracting environment, that does not in any way meant that private training is the best option for a young puppy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth!
Your priorities with training a puppy should be on introducing them to a myriad of people, other dogs, sights, scents, sounds, and experiences in a safe way to allow them to learn about the world they live in. A good puppy class does this and teaches your puppy bite inhibition and basic manners.
In addition to teaching puppy classes at my Austin dog training center, I work on an almost daily basis with dogs with fear, anxiety, and aggression issues. A very large percentage of these dogs' problems likely stem from a lack of proper socialization and training as a puppy. So many problems that dogs suffer from today can be prevented by the wonderful exposure that a good puppy class can provide. In fact, before owned my dog training center in Austin, I would often tell people who called me for private puppy training that they should look for a group class either instead or at least, in addition to the private sessions!
But, don't take my word for it! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has an excellent position paper on the need for early socialization of puppies.
Now, that doesn't mean that we never do private training for puppies. There are times when a puppy cannot join a puppy class for medical reasons or the owners are unable to leave their home easily because of a physical condition. In extreme cases, such as these, we will do private training, but we must supplement this training with a lot of extra socialization exercises, including bringing people to the house to work with the puppy, letting the puppy explore different surfaces and scents or sounds at home, and - whenever possible - bringing good, adult dogs to the house to socialize with the puppy.
All-in-all, though, the group class is the best option! If you really feel that you and your fog need to work in a more quiet environment, attend a group class and then ask your dog trainer if you can supplement the group class with some private training for basic obedience!
Cara Shannon, Austin Dog and Puppy Trainer!