You've brought your perfect puppy home, and you've stocked up on puppy food, treats, and squeaky toys. You've read everything you can find about house training. But if you want to give your puppy the best chance at being welcomed by everyone she meets, you should take her to obedience school as well. Mastering basic obedience will help you and your puppy bond, and will make you both more confident and relaxed in stressful situations.
To find the right obedience school for your puppy, start by asking the people you got the puppy from. Whether you bought your puppy from a breeder or adopted her from an animal shelter, those folks already are familiar with your dog and can give you good advice about where to find the right obedience school for her.
Pet supply stores like PetSmart often offer obedience classes for dogs of all ages and experience levels. Check with your local store for more information. If there's a smaller mom-and-pop pet store in your town, ask the folks there about obedience schools as well. If you already have a veterinarian, s/he would be another good source of information, as would the local humane society and people who run animal kennels.
Most obedience schools accept dogs into classes based on how much training the animals have had, rather than on their ages. An older dog with no obedience school experience will usually be welcome in a beginner's class. The courses usually last between six and eight weeks. Generally the participants meet with the instructor once a week, and you will be expected to practice what you've learned in class with your puppy at home. Instruction in puppy training classes concentrates on establishing your position as the pack leader, so your puppy will learn to pay attention to you as well as commands like "come," "sit," "stay," and "down," and skills like walking on a leash. She will also get used to being around other dogs and unusual situations.
After you and your pet have graduated from puppy obedience school, the instructors may talk to you about whether you want to go on to advanced obedience school. If yours is a breed of dog that has a particular job, like hunting, tracking, or herding, there are also specialized schools for helping her develop her instinctive behaviors to their greatest potential. Sometimes there are also local clubs for activities like agility training and fly ball, if you're interested in those possibilities.