Taking a training class is so important! It should be fun for both you and your pooch, provide access to an expert who can field your questions, teach your dog key skills, and deliver socialization, distraction, and stimulation. That’s a tall order!
Classes may be offered at vet clinics, doggie day camp facilities, dog clubs, dog training facilities, and pet stores. In addition to asking your acquaintances with well-mannered dogs where they took training classes, you can use these links to find trainers and training facilities near you:
- AKC’s link to Canine Good Citizen evaluators and classes
- The Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ (APDTs’) trainer search
- Karen Pryor Academy trainers
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with multiple choices for dog training classes and instructors, what elements should you consider to choose the right class?
- Experience of the trainer. Find out about the trainer’s certifications, continuing education, references, and history of training dogs professionally and personally. Has the trainer worked with a variety of dogs? Has the trainer competed with his own dogs? How long has the trainer been teaching and working with dogs? Is most of the trainers experience from hands-on teaching for years or is the trainer fresh out of a special training program? If you have any interaction with the trainer, is the trainer a good communicator with humans and a people-person? After your first impression, do you like and trust the trainer? Weigh these factors carefully to determine the fit.
- Method of training. Does the trainer use food and other rewards for positive reinforcement training? You want a positive-based trainer, as more negative training methods may adversely affect your dog and his behavior long-term. Is any special equipment used, such as a clicker?
- Skills covered in class. Does the facility offer an appropriate class for your dog’s age and skill group? Will you be working on basic puppy items and/or incorporating Canine Good Citizen skills?
- Access to additional training. Does the instructor (or business) also offer private lessons or day school (day time drop-off training while you go to work!) to help with any issues that need more tweaking? After you complete the class, will the instructor be able to move to you a more advanced class at the same facility or direct you to another establishment for additional training? In the future, you may want to take a sport foundations class, therapy dog class, or enjoy a dog sport!
- Convenience. Although the class location, schedule, duration and price should not be the only factors that you contemplate when choosing a dog training class, those items matter! Select a class to which you could feasibly arrive at on time after a day at work and given the usual traffic patterns. If you arrive frustrated and panicked after battling traffic and worrying about leaving work early, you won’t have as much fun and that stress will seep into your pup.
After you’ve chosen your class, carefully read the preparation instructions for your first class. Do you need a 4 to 6 foot leash, treats, and a treat pouch? Be ready for fun, bonding, and a better-behaved canine.