Dog Training Classes
Is your new puppy chewing everything in sight? Or maybe you’ve had your dog for years but putting them on a leash is the only way to control them?
There are many different reasons why someone would enroll their buddy in dog training classes. In fact, even if your dog is the most well-mannered mutt on the block, they may still benefit from a little extra training or reinforcement.
Who Needs It?
Calling all dog owners! If any one of these scenarios sounds familiar, training classes may be for your dog:
- I’m not sure my dog knows its name. It never comes when I call it.
- My dog barks at everything and everyone.
- Walking my dog is a nightmare because it is uncomfortable with the leash on.
- My dog is aggressive at everything no matter what or who it is.
- I just got a puppy and don’t even know where to start.
These are some common problems, but if your dog has a unique issue, it doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from training. Many trainers offer situation-specific help as well as general classes.
Why Do You Need It?
Are you struggling to justify not going to dog training classes? Maybe you have time commitment issues, or it’s not in your budget?
Giving your dog proper training is an investment that will pay off in the long run. Dogs and owners often misunderstand one another, leaving room for perceived bad behavior and stress, which make both the dog and the owner unhappy.
Proper dog training classes can help bridge that canyon of confusion and miscommunication. Your dog will be in a position to understand what you want better, and you will have the tools to understand them better.
Bridging this miscommunication gap can help strengthen your relationship with your canine friend. It can also help in situations where you’re concerned about your or your dog’s safety when he doesn’t listen.
Where Do You Find Training?
There are a variety of ways to get training for your dog. All these methods have their own pros and cons, and they’re listed below. That is why finding the right course should involve more research than just picking up a conveniently placed flyer in your shopping bag.
Sign Up for Local Group Classes
1. Sign Up for Local Group Classes
You may have heard about dog training classes offered by your local pet store. This is one of the most common routes to training classes and might be the first method you think of when you consider training your dog, especially since you see the sign or flyer each time you go to your local pet store.
Additionally, training classes at a pet store must be good because people who know pets offer it, right? Yes, and no.
The trainers themselves may not be bad, and the classes may be well structured. However, the environment and the number of dogs in the class may lead to a chaotic outcome.
Most probably, there are new pet owners with misbehaving dogs that can’t be controlled. While the potential for danger is there, for both you, your dog, and perhaps other dogs, that may not be the only issue.
Realistically, you may not get more than a cacophony of barking during the entire class, and you may spend the majority of the time chatting with the trainer instead of interacting with your dog. Presumably, you enroll in dog training classes to address behavioral problems, but you may not fully address those problems.
At most, you may receive some simple commands and a certificate, and the worse thing that can happen is that things may go right back to the way they were as soon as you and your dog go back home. It is a good opportunity to socialize a new puppy, though.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Develops socialization skills
- Learn basic obedience commands
- Training effectiveness may vary
- Doesn’t address inherent behavioral problems
2. Personal or Individual Dog Trainer
You may see advertisements for personal dog trainers in your area. Hiring personal dog trainers can be very effective, but they are also one of the most expensive training options
One-on-one training may address your dog’s behavioral issues more effectively than any other option, but it may also depend on your dog trainer’s methods and philosophy. If you do choose to go with this program, it’s important to do a lot of research since the last thing you want to do is hire someone whose methods are harmful to your dog.
Occasionally, you may also come across trainers who simply don’t mesh well with your dog, or with you, for that matter. Unfortunately, you may not find this out until after you spend a lot of money for the trainer’s time.
Lastly, personal trainers may be wonderful with your dog, but if they can’t communicate how to get those same results after they leave, you may have just wasted money on an expensive babysitter.
- Training at your home
- Personalized interaction
- May address issues more effectively
- Very expensive
- Training may vary
- May not be compatible with your dog or you
3. Reading a Dog Training Book
Maybe you don’t have the time to go to classes or the resources to hire a physical trainer. In that case, you may be contemplating to pick up a dog training book. Like other training options, this one also has pros and cons.
First, just like finding a real-life trainer, you may have to invest a good chunk of time into finding the right training book, especially since there is a lot on the market. That said, the information varies so much that it may be difficult to weed out fact from fallacy. Likewise, if you do decide to use a training book, it may involve a lot of your time.
Reading about techniques is one thing, but you also have to spend more time applying new techniques for your dog. Additionally, this method requires a lot of patience because it may seem like what you are doing isn’t working.
After all, how would you know? There’s no one there to inform or correct you. Nonetheless, in comparison to other training methods, this one is relatively cheap.
- Ability to choose a teaching method
- Own pace and time
- In-home training
- Varied, inconsistent information available
- Requires a lot of time and patience
- Difficult to tell if you are doing something right or wrong
4. Watching Dog Training Videos
For those of you who like to do everything online, are pressed for time, or don’t feel confident about the offerings in your area, there’s a solution for you. Today, there are online dog training programs like the Brain Training for Dogs.
Unlike books, videos give you visual instructions, and they convey certain things, such as the trainer’s tone of voice, body language, and emotion, that books can’t. Many people are visual learners, so in many aspects, this may seem like an ideal solution. Do take note though that you still need to do the same amount of research as you would for in-person training programs or books.
- Visual learning
- Relatively inexpensive
- In-home training
- More extensive than book training
- Own pace and time
- Training quality and methods vary
- Some doesn’t include consultations
How to Choose a Dog Trainer or Class?
Now that you’ve decided your dog needs training, how do you go about it? What are the steps involved?
Dog training classes are essentially unregulated, which means that anyone can print a business card or flyer and call themselves a trainer. So, again, it is very important to do thorough research before deciding on a trainer or class.
1. Find Out Methods and Philosophies
Every trainer has certain methods or training philosophies they adhere to. Ask a potential trainer about them, and make sure you are comfortable with how they propose to train your dog. Trainers who focus on positive reinforcement are ideal since this method is based on science and may also help strengthen the bond with your canine friend.
2. Determine What You Need
Next, figure out what you need from your trainer. This may seem self-explanatory, but narrowing down or prioritizing your needs can help you and the trainer focus on one issue at a time.
Does your dog have a behavioral issue like jumping on people? Do you have a new puppy that needs to learn basic commands like “sit” and “stay”?
Not all dog trainers offer classes or training that have multiple modules. Likewise, some trainers specialize in addressing specific behavioral issues. Thus, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want prior to choosing a program.
3. Decide Where You Want the Training to Occur
You must also think about where the training will happen. Will you take your dog to a class? Or will you have individual training in your home?
Dog training classes can provide an opportunity for your dog to socialize or offer a chance for distraction training, but they are chaotic. You may also run into problems with dogs, including yours, not getting along with others. Also, some dog personalities don’t do well in group environments, which may make them anxious and even aggressive.
On the other hand, personal or individual training may offer a one-on-one solution, but they can get pricey. Training can occur in your home, training school, or other agreed-upon location.
4. Ask the Trainer About Their Training or Credentials
The next thing you need to do is ask for your potential dog trainer’s credentials. Now is not the time to be shy, especially since some trainers learn through apprenticeship while others take an academic route for their skills.
Find out how your trainer learned their skills and how long they’ve been doing it. You may also ask about certifications. They aren’t mandatory, but having one can show a dedication to their chosen profession. We recommend that you look for certifications issued by reputable organizations like the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers and Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).
5. Watch a Class
Lastly, watch how your trainer interacts with you, your dog, and others. Reading a flyer or websites is fine for basic information, but the trainer is working with living beings so their people skills are important.
Look for instances that show they are respectful, patient, and encouraging. If you can, watch a class before you sign up. Check out how other dogs and owners interact with the trainer. Are they enjoying themselves? Or does it look like they can’t wait to leave?
Alternatively, if watching a class isn’t possible, try to get referrals and reviews from past students.
When Should You Train Your Dog?
Is there a “right” age to train your dog? Should you wait until they have an issue? Or take them to classes as a preemptive measure?
Traditionally, it was thought that you should delay training until the dog’s juvenile stage, or at least six months old. However, by the time the puppy is that old, it would start to develop behavior that it learned while it is young. As such, you can start training a puppy that’s as young as seven to eight weeks old.
What about in cases when your dog is already an adult? Can they still be trained?
The saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” is false. You can train an older dog; it just takes a little more time and patience.
How Often Should You Train Your Dog?
The answer may differ depending on your dog. A dog’s personality and breed play a large part in training frequency, so check out how your dog is doing under their training program.
Generally, you may need to look forward to reinforcing the training program every day of the week and maybe a few times daily.
How Long Should Training Sessions Be?
It is important to keep your training sessions short since studies show that long sessions may be detrimental to your dog’s learning process. Think about short bursts of five to 15 minutes of training, Any longer than that will not help your dog learn faster, but may do the opposite.
Also, don’t force your dog’s attention in an hour-long class. Your dog won’t appreciate it and you’ll get frustrated. Watch for signs that your canine has had enough. Some of which include switching off, losing focus, or poor performance.
How Many Commands Should You Work On at a Time?
In an ideal world, your training sessions will consist of one command or issue at a time. Focusing on the single command in short bursts helps your dog understand what is expected of them, and it will help them remain focused.
You may work on different commands in a single day but try to keep to one command per session. The only time you may want to change this is if the training session isn’t going well. Also, if you prefer to end your session on a high note with something you know your dog can do, it’s okay to change it.
What Is Distraction Training?
Distraction training is exactly what it sounds like: training when there are distractions around your dog. When you first start with a new command, this may not be an ideal environment, as you want your buddy to focus on you. So, try to keep distractions to a minimum.
Once they get better at following commands, you can begin adding distractions like people or other dogs. In real life, your dog needs to understand commands wherever they are or how crowded the place may be. Just keep in mind that this is not needed when they are just starting to learn something.
Finding the right dog trainer for your dog can be as serious as finding childcare for your children. Since the trainer will have a significant impact on your dog’s happiness and well-being, it’s important to do your research.
Additionally, finding the ideal training class would make your life easier. Not only will it make sure your dog understands your basic expectations, but it can also help strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Lastly, consider what you want from your trainer and make sure their methods align with your own wants. You don’t want to make problems worse and alienate your dog. Instead, as suggested by the pioneer of Brain Training for Dogs, you should consider techniques that promote a positive relationship between you and your dog.