Bringing home a puppy is a time of great joy! A sweet wobbly puppy running around is one of the sweetest memories anyone who has ever owned a puppy possesses.
However, puppyhood is also the best time to teach your dog a variety of skills and is an imperative time to introduce your dog to a variety of people, places and other dogs to set them up for a lifetime of success. Puppy class is a great and affordable way to get your dog on the right path.
Puppy class teaches your dog to be attentive in a distracting environment, introduces your puppy to a some puppy friends as well as a combination of men, women and children that attend with the other pups!
However not ALL puppy classes are created equally and with dog training being an unregulated industry it is buyer beware.
Here are some questions to screen your potential trainer before you sign on the dotted line:
How many puppies/dogs are in the class? The number should be reasonable to the space and # of instructors teaching. We limit ours to 6 so each client gets some one on one time with the single class instructor, and gives everyone adequate space
Can I view a class/ your facility? A trainer should have nothing to hide and should welcome viewers to come to their class/facility.
What will be covered in your curriculum? Covered should be: common puppy problems, avoiding future problems, obedience cues like sit, down, leave it, come and stay, etc. body language, how dogs learn, socialization, off leash play, handling and husbandry(grooming and care)
What training philosophy do you use? Look for a trainer who uses force-free, positive reinforcement based training methods with their clients to create happy, motivated dogs. Those who promote themselves as “dominance-based” trainers, or “balanced trainers” often use aversives to correct a puppies’ behaviour which can lead to problems down the line such as fear, anxiety and even aggression.
Where/ How did you learn to become a dog trainer? Although there is no one right answer to this question, look for someone who has a variety of experience, knowledge, attends seminars, learns from other trainers through mentorships or other educational opportunities. Someone who values continuing education and growth. What we’re not looking for is a trainer who says “I’ve always had dogs”, “I’m really good with dogs” or “I took a two-week course”. Dog training is a serious career and should be invested in one as such. There are many avenues to get to this career but time, effort and thought should be put into it
What training equipment do you use? flat collars or harnesses are the preferred equipment used by force free professionals. Clickers, treats, toys, and other motivators may also be used. Avoid those who encourage the use of aversives such as spray bottles, penny cans, prong, choke, or shock collars.
Are the puppy classes separate from the adult classes? puppies and adults should have separate classes and dogs over 6 months of age should be in the adult class.
What resources/ support do you offer? Some may send home print-outs or emails, others may have online resources. Your dog trainer should provide you with support for your learning as well. Many people do not retain information demonstrated once in a class, you should have support to learn the skills you need to train your dog
Ask any other questions you may have! Your trainer should be invested in you and your dog’success. This means a trainer should take the time to answer any questions about the process you may have (not give free training advice, but offer insight into them, their facility, their methods, and process)
Happy training and enjoy puppyhood, like many things it passes by all too quickly.