Training your dog can be hard work. When all you want is for them to sit and stay, but all they want is to chew and bark, well, things can get a bit frustrating.
Puppy kindergarten is a great resource when you’re just starting out. And obedience schools and training classes can be an excellent way to improve your dog’s behavior, no matter how old they are.
Plus, obedience classes are great for socializing your dog and burning off excess energy. Consider the many other benefits of signing your dog up for obedience school, and then ask yourself the questions below to decide which is right for you both of you.
1. Does the Trainer Use Just 1 Teaching Technique for All Dogs?
Just like people, dogs have different learning styles. While they should all be trained with positive reinforcement, some don’t respond well to certain cues in the same way others might.
Your trainer should be able to work with all kinds of dogs who have varying learning styles, attention spans and motivators. In other words, when faced with 5–10 different dogs, will they know how to train them all, or will they try to force just 1 technique on the whole group?
2. Can You Observe a Class Before Signing Up?
Any reputable group trainer will let you watch an obedience class before committing to it. This is one of the best things you can do when deciding which school to go with.
Watch closely during training. Is the teacher kind and gentle, no matter how unruly a certain pup might be? Are they patient with progress? Do they reassure you of how dynamic and flexible their teaching styles are?
If you leave with anything other than a great feeling, keep looking.
3. Is the Class Right for Your Dog’s Stage of Life?
If your dog is still a puppy, check out classes meant for young dogs so every student is at the same level. It’ll be much more productive and effective for their learning process.
There are obedience classes for older dogs too. Whether your dog truly needs obedience lessons or you just want to keep them mentally engaged and learning new tricks, there’s a class out there for you.
Ask the obedience schools you’re considering what levels of classes they offer. They can help you choose the best one for your dog or steer you in the right direction if they don’t offer it.
4. Have You Read Any Referrals?
Besides watching an actual class, checking for referrals is one of the best ways to help you decide on the trainer.
Do any of your friends, family or coworkers have experience with a certain school? Can you find reviews on Yelp or Google for the classes? If not, ask the school — they should be able to provide references.
Do your homework before committing. Having trusted references can make all the difference in the world.
5. Can You Meet the Instructor?
Take your dog with you to meet the instructor before signing up for a class. Are you — and your dog — comfortable with them?
It’s not hard to tell when your dog likes someone and wants to be around them. It’s also not hard to tell when that particular someone likes and wants to be around your dog.
Make sure there’s a comfortable connection between all of you before moving forward. If anything feels “off,” keep looking.
Check out the obedience moves of these award-winning dogs at the 2015 Crufts dog show:
6. Is the Obedience School Credentialed?
Always look for credentials. Are instructors at the school you’re considering fully credentialed by a reputable organization (like the National Association of Dog Obedience or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers)?
Displaying a certification or credential is just 1 sign of a reputable obedience school, and if there are none tied to its name, it might not have the skills necessary to effectively train your dog.
7. How Big Is the Class Size?
If there are more than 10–20 people and dogs in the class, it’s a safe bet not too much training will happen. If the class size is too big, the instructor will have a hard time focusing on every dog in the room. Keeping all the dogs under control and calm is a whole other story.
The best classes are those that limit the size. While you want your dog to socialize with other pets in the class, you don’t want them to be overwhelmed or overlooked.
Find the right balance between enough dogs and too many. With the right group size, there’s a good chance obedience school will end up being your dog’s new favorite outing.