What to Look for in Dog Obedience Classes
There are many types of dog obedience classes, but they are not all created equally. When you are picking out the right class for your dog, you should consider the size and location of the class, the instructor’s methods and the class goals.
Goals for the Class
There are many types of obedience training, and many of them focus on (obedience-) competition skills. If you are just interested in getting your dog some basic manners, you should look for a companion dog class that focuses on loose-leash walking rather than heel and leave it rather than holding a dumbbell. If you are interested in competition, you should seek out a class that will prepare for that level of obedience.
If you have a young puppy, you may want a class that focuses more on handling and socialization skills and spends more time discussing common puppy problems. If you have a reactive dog, you may benefit from a class geared toward handling skills and reducing reaction to stimuli.
While it is always nice to know the class you are attending is popular, you may not learn as much in a class with 20 dogs. If the class size is 10 or less, you will get more one-on-one time with the instructor and get more benefit from the class.
In addition, if your dog is easily distracted, you may spend most of class trying to get him to focus rather than practicing the skills. In a large class, the instructor won’t have time to help you with this and will probably move on without you.
Everyone has seen classes with 15 dogs crammed in a small circle in the middle of a pet store. Does it look like those dogs are learning? If the location is too crowded for the students, it will be harder to learn. Again, you won’t have much room to practice and your dog will be easily distracted. Distractions are important for learning, but you want to build those in gradually.
Also look at safety. If there is a lot of traffic or off-leash dogs, this may not be the best location. Are there people interrupting the class? Are you too close to a reactive dog who might snap?
The most important factor to consider when choosing the class is how comfortable you are with the instructor. Is she asking you to do things with which you are uncomfortable? Does her teaching method suit you? It doesn’t matter how good the instructor is. If you don’t like her or can’t understand her instructions, you aren’t going to be successful.
Look for a positive class that focuses on building your relationship. Dominance-based methods are outdated, and research has shown that this isn’t the best way to teach your dog. If the instructor is asking you to treat your dog in a way that doesn’t seem appropriate, leave. If your dog is afraid of you, your training won’t progress very far.
A good training class is an excellent way to build a relationship with your dog and teach him some new skills. Check out a few classes in your area and find one with which you are comfortable.