What's cuter than a preschool for puppies? Nothing!

Freelance photographer Sarah Throop recently spent a day at arguably the cutest spot at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: puppy preschool. Sarah visited from Austin, Texas, where she spends much of her free time volunteering for local animal rescue groups. During her visit, she had her camera out and captured a day in the life of puppies who call Best Friends their home-between-homes.

A day of puppies, by Sarah Throop

Puppy love: It’s undoubtedly one of the key ingredients to any day at puppy preschool.

Hands reaching down to pet a black and white puppy who has his front feet over a half door

As you enter Dogtown, one of the first stops is puppy preschool — its playful signage a beacon to those with puppies on the brain. Puppy preschool, which houses the Sanctuary’s adoptable puppies, is a place devoted to providing young dogs with rich and safe experiences to help set them up for success in future adoptive homes.

Steven, a Dogtown caregiver, looking down at a two puppies peeking up over the top of a half door

Steven is the puppy caregiver on this day. Like many of the staff at Best Friends, he left behind a wildly different career in IT before taking an animal care position at Best Friends five years ago. Now his work days are filled with dogs instead of computers.

Group of people sitting on the floor with a couple puppies as part of puppy preschool

Every morning, puppies are introduced to the sights and sounds of home life while also getting the chance to play with other dogs and meet new people. Volunteers are instrumental to the success of these classes, as more people means more opportunities for puppies to meet lots of different people. That leads to well-adjusted puppies. Above, Crane and Albany make friends during puppy class.

Brown on white puppy lying on the ground with a paw up in the air with another puppies leg between the camera and the other puppy

Of course, playtime is a mandatory part of this class. Crane eagerly offers her belly to her puppy mate, Viper. “Play with me!”

Brown and white puppy with his mouth open looking at a reflection of himself in the mirror

And, the class would be utterly remiss if it didn’t allow for self-discovery. “Who dis?”

Steven the Dogtown caregiver hosing down the floor to clean it with sunlight streaming in from a window

The end of class signals the start of daily tasks that keep puppy preschool clean and safe for its young residents. Good cleaning and vaccination protocols are vital to keeping puppies healthy, and Steven works hard to make the puppies feel safe. Treats and a gentle touch are key.

Dogtown caregiver Steven sitting on the ground cradling a puppy while another person is giving the puppy an injection

Of course, routine medical care means even more chances for socialization.

Black, brown and white puppy licking peanut butter off the floor

And snacks! Here, globs of peanut butter make the scale less scary for Tropic.

Black puppy licking peanut butter out of a jar being held by a person

Purple Viking is happy to finish off a jar of peanut butter after being vaccinated.

Smiling woman volunteer next to a black and white puppy who is looking over the top of a half door

Throughout the day volunteers, adopters and other staff are coming and going to and from puppy preschool. Each new person brings more chances for the puppies to build social skills.

Black and white puppy following a person walking down a hallway next to some kennels

Steven is responsible for facilitating all of the interaction between the puppies and the people who want to meet them. Above, he ushers Pinwheel back to a room where a potential adopter is waiting.

Woman petting a black and white puppy being held by Steven the Dogtown caregiver

Steven holds Pinwheel while meeting a potential adopter. Success! Turns out, she’s the one.

Dogtown caregiver Steven sitting on the ground hugging a big black and white puppy

Steven will tell you that no two days in puppy preschool are exactly alike. Each day brings its own unique possibilities and challenges, but they are all guided by one constant: puppy love.

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Photos by Sarah Throop