What to look for in a Puppy Class

Here at the Dog Blog today we have a guest post to help when choosing a Puppy Class. Full of useful information it should be a great help for anyone looking to pick the best Puppy class.

The most important thing to consider when selecting a puppy obedience class is not cost or location….it is the instructor. A bad instructor can ruin the class and possibly your puppy. A good instructor can open a whole new world of communication between you and your puppy and set you on a fun and exciting path of dog training.

The instructor needs to be experienced, not merely have earned a certificate from “XYZ” dog training school. Look for a trainer with local “hands on” experience working with a variety of dogs. You will find the best instructor through word of mouth references. Ask your friends with dogs, your veterinarian and people you meet at the dog park. Ask the instructor for references and follow up by calling them.

A good instructor will happily provide you with references, and allow you to come and watch a class before registering. If you watch the classes, look for dogs that are happy and stress free. If there is a shy dog or a problem dog, note how the instructor and assistants handle him or her.

If the instructor has his own dog there to demonstrate exercises, watch to see the interaction between them. The dog should be happy and eager to work as this is a sign of positive, yet consistent training.

The methods used by the teacher should be primarily positive and any corrections should be fair and gentle. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) will direct you to a trainer in your area that follows their guidelines. Remember that a good instructor will be able to train a dog that can be a great companion to you for many years to come so research is key!

Size of the class is important as well. Be sure to find out if this is a puppy class or a beginner class. Both types can be great classes. Puppy classes will allow only puppies, usually six months old or less. A beginner class may allow adult dogs and puppies. If adult dogs are allowed, find out what the instructor’s policy is about aggressive dogs.

It isn’t wise to have a young impressionable puppy in a class with an anti-social adult. Safety of your puppy should be at the forefront of your decision. Join a class that is large enough to do proper and safe socialization with other puppies. However, a class that is too large can get overwhelming and you will not get the attention that you need.

A class size of eight is nice and ten to twelve dogs are fine provided there are assistant instructors to ensure safety and individual attention. The location should be large enough to have plenty of space between dogs, no overcrowding.

Finally, find out about the class material – what will your dog learn? Join a class with a nice mix of socialization (with both people and dogs) and manners training. For puppies, the most important exercises to teach are sitting politely for petting, coming when called, and possibly a short stay. Is this class going to be advanced or just teaching basic dog obedience?

A group puppy class may or may not be able to help you with issues that occur “at home” such as biting and housetraining. Find out! It is important for all dogs to learn to pay attention with the distractions of other dogs and people. Adult dogs have longer attention spans and are capable of learning longer stays and more advanced leash work. A good class will teach skills to all the dogs present, but allow for the differences in ages and personalities. A shy dog who has never been anywhere may not and should not be expected to progress at the speed of a confident outgoing dog or puppy. People attend training classes for a variety of reasons, many to prevent or correct bad manners.

Some want to do advanced training in order to compete or to participate in other dog activities such as pet therapy or agility training. Find out what the progression of classes are to help you reach your goals. Does this instructor offer them, or can he recommend the proper classes to you?

In summary, always go with your instinct upon meeting or speaking with the potential instructor. Never do anything to or with your puppy that you aren’t completely comfortable with.


6 Responses to “What to look for in a Puppy Class”

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  1. Jennyann says:

    This is very good advise and everyone who is going to be living with the new puppy should attend a class to that all techniques are followed by the household so that puppy doesn’t get confused. Repetiton is the key in training your puppy correctly. Puppies are cute and wonderful and very playful, but untrained doggie can go grow out of their cuteness and you wouldn’t ever want to not be able to handle your dog, this can lead to frustration and a “what to do attitude” can follow. Noone wants to have give up their doggie cause he just wasn’t trained correctly……..it’s not their fault they are big responsibilities!!

  2. I totally agree. It is very important to develop good habits for the puppy at an early age. Mistakes that are made right away can pay in the long run.

  3. Young Dog says:

    I had not thought about the situation that could occur if a young pup is put in contact with a unsocial older dog in a group learning situation. When we let our pup run loose in the no-leash dog parks, we encourage him to have fun while meeting other dogs, I have noticed there is gray cloud that appears when he runs up to an elder though. I’ll make sure to be aware of it if we take him in for classes.

  4. Rick says:

    This is a great article. Early socialization and training are the key to a great relationship as well as getting your pup on the right track. I also think being able to watch how a trainer conducts his clases is just as important as talking with him or her.

  5. Justine says:

    I experienced what Young Dog thought of: “if a young pup is put in contact with an unsocial older dog in a group learning situation.”

    The only available class in my town was a mixed ages class — puppies and dogs of any age. My 4-month old puppy — happy, unafraid, sociable — was attacked by an older dog who had gone through several sets of classes. My puppy almost lost her vision in one eye (the emergency room vet said 1/4″ closer would have blinded her).

    I called the teacher the next day, to be sure that aggressive dog would not be returning, but was told that the aggressive dog needed socialization. I explained that might not be true, but not on the life of my puppy. The teacher refused to keep the aggressive dog out of class, refused to refund my class tuition when I explained my puppy would not be returning to be assaulted, and refused to give the owner of the attacking dog the vet bills for my puppy.

    I took my puppy to another series of classes, which started with a totally different group/teacher a couple weeks later. My puppy is still happy, sociable, and wants to play, but is terribly frightened of things. I don’t think the first teacher did right by my dog. (I never followed up to hear whether other puppies in the “mixed ages” class were abused by the aggressive dog and unsympathetic teacher!!)

    So, Young Dog’s question can be answered with this story. Bad teacher, bad dog, bad experience for puppy. Be careful who you trust with your puppy’s training, and remember you must stand up for your puppy!!

  6. James says:

    I have had a few bad instructors in my day and they can make for a really negative experience. It’s so worth getting referrals. The idea of sitting in on a class and your pet vet references can mean the difference in the level of training.