It’s very important to find the right obedience class for you and your dog, whether they are a puppy or an adult. If you get into a class that is too advanced, not advanced enough or not the right fit, it can spoil the training experience for both of you. It can put you off obedience training, and put your dog off wanting to go to class and learn.
The age of your dog will help determine what kind of an obedience class to look for. Does your dog need basic training, or are you looking for something more advanced? When I brought my first dog Nimber home, he was only six weeks old and no class would take him because he was too young.
If you got your dog from a breeder, does the breeder want you to show the dog? If so, you will want to get into a confirmation class, which is a bit different from a regular obedience course. Your breeder should be able to help you find one if you can’t find one locally. Usually, training facilities will have more than one class for different ages. If you can get your puppy into a class at about three to four months, so much the better; the younger the puppy the faster they seem to learn. Unfortunately, many training classes don’t accept puppies under six months old.
To find an obedience class, ask your veterinarian, friends and family members, and check with your local park district office or YMCA. After you find a class that you may be interested in, call the facility and ask to see their training area. Does it look clean and well maintained, or does it smell of urine and feces? This is important because puppies can pick up bacteria and worms just by walking across a dirty floor. Do they have indoor facilities for bad weather or classes held during winter months? After you finish your first class, are there subsequent classes that teach the next levels of obedience training?
Some trainers will let you audit their class; this will help you determine if this is the right class for you and your dog. If you are able to audit a class, get there early so you can see the class from the beginning. Is there a recap session at the beginning of each class where you can show the trainer what your dog has done? This helps the trainer determine if your dog is doing the command correctly and if you are teaching it correctly.
Watch the trainer carefully to see if their method is one you can agree with. Is the trainer and staff congenial, or are they just passing time? Are they kind to the dogs or do they manhandle them? Get the trainer’s permission to talk to some of the students that are in class the night you visit. Ask them about the trainer’s methods, how well they interact with the dogs and how well they explain the commands you need to teach your dog. This may sound trivial, but it is important that you can understand what the trainer is trying to teach you and that the learning environment is beneficial to both you and your dog.
How long has the trainer been teaching, and what are their qualifications? Does the class instructor require a health certificate or vaccination record for all the dogs? If they don’t, you may want to think twice about participating in this training class. Before taking your dog to any obedience class make sure they have had all the appropriate inoculations; you don’t want your dog getting sick from another dog in class that may not be inoculated correctly.
The size of the obedience class is important as well; it will determine how much “hands on” assistance you will get from your trainer. If the class is too large, the trainer may be spread too thin and may miss something that you and your dog need to work on. I was able to get Nimber into a class with fourteen other dogs and our trainer had two assistants to help her. In my opinion, a good class size is between ten and fifteen dogs.
Every dog, no matter the age, needs to be obedient or you could have the equivalent of a “terrible two-year old” on your hands. By doing your research, you can find an obedience class that both you and your dog will want to attend. The benefits of an obedience training class are many; not to mention that you and your dog will make new friends, and you will have a well-mannered dog that is a joy to be around.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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