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How to pick a good puppy class

What are you looking for in a puppy training class?

Training your puppy is a crucial part of their early learning.

And, it's crucially important that they learn only good things from the class they go to.

Think about what you are looking for in a class? When thinking about puppies, most people say that they want to go to a class to socialise their puppy. Is that really what you mean? You want them to meet other dogs, but do you want them to learn to play with other dogs, or do you want them to learn to come back to you when there are other dogs around? Your answer is probably Yes to both questions.

Teaching this takes careful management of the class situation and careful training development.

It is quite likely that if you go along and see a class, that the dogs only interact with each other outside the door, and if they happen to be sitting beside each other. During the training class, there may be very little interaction. This is a traditional approach, and can be a necessary step in the training.

Think about it - if you go into a class and all the dogs are having great fun with each other - will they be likely to pay you any attention? Are you more fun than another dog? Perhaps? But it is something that your puppy needs to learn about. Ideally, the class will be structured to do training tasks, and then to also allow the puppies to play.

However, once again this needs to be done carefully - and sadly - can't always happen - even if it was planned. "Play" can only be allowed if the group of puppies is right. If the class happens to end up with a group of hyper dogs or a group of timid dogs, then it is not right to allow the bullies to bully nor is it right to create more fear in the timid ones......

So, in a puppy class, you want to know that the trainer is experienced, has the knowledge to be able to answer the questions you have about your puppy, and that will adapt the class format and structure to suit what you want and need.

Additionally, some people think that some puppy classes focus too much on fun and tricks - when they were looking for straight forward obedience lessons. A good trainer should be looking to help you to grow a polite, responsive, happy puppy. There are different ways to go about that, and trick training can be great to build that bond with you. Alternatively, sometimes it is best to get the basics of obedience in your wee darling's brain at an early age. Neither approach is wrong.

How to choose a puppy training class:

Here are some thoughts on how to look for your puppy training class:
  • Consider what you're looking for and prepare some questions before you phone the trainer.
  • Don't just go to a class because it's the closest - traveling further afield may find you a better class.
  • How much does it cost? Again, this is always a factor. Do you get what you pay for? Clubs tend to be far cheaper than professionally run classes. Can you guarantee if you pay more, you'll get better training? Can you expect less from a cheaper class? It is likely that a less costly class will be busier - that may be ok for your puppy or may not be. Also, consider that you may not get as much time actually training (you may be having to wait your turn). Or you may not be able to get the amount of 1-1 training help that you feel you need.
  • Is the trainer qualified? What group do they belong to? Recommendations would be to look at www.capbt.org and www.apdt.co.uk
  • There's also a personal factor to consider - do you feel that you'll get along with the trainer?
  • Always plan ahead - ask if you can go to sit in on a class without your puppy - that way you will get a feel for what goes on, and also will be more relaxed when you actually start the class.

Other things to consider for your puppy training class:

Some classes are large and some small. Some have helpers, some don't. Some are quiet, some are noisy. Think about what you want. Large and noisy might be good for you, if you need your dog to get used to that - but it might be too overwhelming. Will you get enough personal attention? Will it be possible to get your questions answered? Small classes (ofcourse, at Pawsability, we prefer that approach) should be more flexible; they'll allow for more actual training time per class - rather than sitting at the side waiting your turn); less overwhelming for the timid; and less exciting for those party-have to speak with everything- dogs.

Which ever you choose - there should be absolutely no punishment - there is no need for that nowadays - it is absolutely wrong - no lead yanking - no choke chains - no shouting - pushing - hitting! Modern training uses positive and rewarding methods to help your puppy learn and build their confidence. Modern reward based methods, taught correctly - do you understand what you're doing and why?

More thoughts ....

It's not always possible to deal with all your questions in a group training class environment, so please don't expect a 1-1 service in the class. If you have lots of questions, and feel that you need these answered, then you may benefit from additional 1-1 time with your trainer. Or, book a 1-1 training session with us.

Read more free puppy training notes, hints and tips here