What to Look for In An Obedience Class

What to Look for In An Obedience Class

Posted by Kelly Sullivan on 5th April 2018

Since dog training has changed drastically over the years,
there are now many different options when it comes to choosing an obedience
class. This can leave owners confused and a bit worried about how to choose the
right fit for their pup. There is everything from puppy class, to agility, to
even scent class! So how do you choose? And what types of questions should you

Age Appropriate Options

Age plays a big factor into deciding which type of class
your dog should start in. With a puppy under the age of 6 months, it is
important that they be in a group class that offers plenty of safe interaction.
Socialization is vital for early ages as they go through what we call “critical
periods”. During this critical period it is important that your puppy be
exposed to and have positive experiences with other puppies, people, places,
objects, noises..etc. And one easy way to do that would be to find a group
class that focuses on early socialization.

Training Methods Used

This is an important question to ask the trainer. What
methods will be used in class and is there any required equipment? In the
world of dog training there are many different methods used. Some are more
humane and preferred while others can be less desirable. A trainer who uses
reward based training strategies is one that will be focusing on rewarding your
dog for wanted behaviors instead of “correcting” the bad ones. Learning what to do instead of what not to do
is much less stressful and can make for a more enjoyable time for both you and
your dog. During these types of classes you will usually be asked to bring
something that your dog is reinforced by and loves (treats or toys). Using
non-averse equipment is preferred as to not cause any damage to your dog
physically and mentally. The use of choke chains, pinch collars…etc is usually
a red flag. Instead, try to find a class that uses comfortable equipment such
as a regular flat collar or harness. Training is a wonderful opportunity to
form a lasting bond with your dog while creating clear communication, so it is
important the methods are positive.

Class Size

Be sure to find a class size that suits your dog’s
personality and sociability. If your dog is nervous or has not been around a
lot of dogs, a smaller class size would make for a more positive experience. It is also a good idea to choose a smaller
class size if your dog does not do well with distractions. If however, your dog
thrives off of being social and does well with distraction, a larger class
may be okay. Keep in mind, a larger class size means less one-on-one attention from
the instructor.

Course Content

Each class is different and will cover a variety of goals.
It is important to know what your goals are going into it and make sure they
align well with the class description. The class trainer should be able to give you a good idea of what will be covered in the course before signing up. 

Trainer Educational Background

It is also a good idea to ask the trainer what his or her educational background is. Do they belong to any professional associations or have any specific credentials? Do they continue their education on a regular basis? These
questions are especially helpful if your dog is in need of more serious
behavioral modification. While it is not required for trainers to be certified,
it would be preferred to work with one that is. Credited associations and
certifications you want to look for include: APDT, CPDT-KA, CDBC, IAABC, CABC.

When are private lessons a better choice?

Most group classes focus on basic obedience such as sit,
down, stay, leash skills..etc. If your dog is in need of more serious
behavioral modification such as aggression or fear- based behaviors it would be
a better choice to choose private in-home lessons. During private lessons the
behavior consultant will be able to focus on your dog and his  or her needs rather
than sticking to a group curriculum. It is important that if your dog is in
need of behavioral modification to search for a trainer that is certified and
has experience in that behavior. After getting a detailed history on your dog
and assessing the behavior, your trainer will then create a training plan
specifically catered for your dog. The benefit to private lessons is that each
lesson is individualized for your dog and will be done at their pace.

Training is a fabulous way to curb unwanted behavior, avoid
future behavioral issues, and create a lasting bond between you and your dog.
You want it to be a positive experience for both of you, so have fun,
stay positive, and learn together! 

Kelly Sullivan is a certified professional canine
behavior consultant from NH. She specializes in serious behavioral modification
while using positive science-based techniques. She offers both private in home
lessons as well as group classes and was voted # 1 dog trainer in NH for 2017. Learn more about Kelly at 

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