So for whatever reason, you’ve decided that you want to take your dog to a training class. How do you decide where to go? Here is some information to help you.
- Some veterinary practices offer basic training or at the very least puppy socialization classes. These can be low-cost or sometimes even free to clients. The person leading the class might be a professional trainer, or it might be one of the technicians.
- Some community park districts offer dog training classes. This is one of the lowest cost options. Sometimes the people teaching the class are professional trainers, but sometimes it is a community resident who has had dogs for 20 years.
- Dog training clubs. These are clubs made up of dog enthusiasts who are usually active in canine performance activities. They usually offer basic training classes to non-members. The class instructors are club members, seldom professional trainers. They may be very good at competing in their sport but not very skilled at communicating with the average pet owner. On the other hand, you could get hooked on dog sports, join the club, and 10 years hence you’ll be one of those instructors. The circle of life.
- Most big box pet stores offer dog training classes. As with all franchises, even though they are supposed to follow the same “recipe” you will find different levels of expertise even between two trainers in the same store.
- Independent pet stores seldom have enough extra space to devote to training classes. If they do decide to offer this, the store will often subcontract with a professional training business to lead the classes.
- Doggy daycare facility. Sometimes the owners are professional trainers. Sometimes they subcontract training classes to a professional trainer.
- Franchise dog training business. The franchise headquarters requires new business owners to attend several weeks of orientation. That orientation is split between business operations and dog training techniques. It is not a 50/50 split.
- Independent professional dog training business. Why does it matter that you work with a professional trainer? Professional trainers usually carry insurance. If they are certified dog trainers, they need to earn continuing education credits to maintain their certifications.
Go watch a class first. You need to feel comfortable with the trainer’s communication style and confident that your dog will be safe. If they won’t let you watch, walk away.
Many years of experience isn’t always a plus. It could signal someone who hasn’t kept up to date with the latest research on how dogs learn.
Is the space clean? If training classes are held in the same area that’s used for daycare, in the waiting area of a veterinary clinic or in the middle of a pet store, there needs to be time to adequately clean between activities.
What is the average class size? If the trainer doesn’t have an assistant, is the class small enough for one person to give everyone the attention they need?
Once you decide on a class and sign up, don’t be afraid to speak up if you are instructed to do something that you think will be harmful to your dog.