Finding a good dog training class

In one of my recent blogs I wrote about why you should attend dog training classes with your new pup but with such a variety of different types of classes and trainers available how do you find a good training class which is suitable for you and your dog regardless how old they are?

What kind of training are you looking for?

Your first step when looking for any type of dog training should be to think about what you are hoping you and your dog will learn. It might be the case that you have a young puppy who is just starting on their training journey or you may have a dog who is more mature but needs to brush up on their obedience, you might even be thinking about taking up a sport such as agility. Regardless of what type of class you are looking for the principles of finding a good class will remain the same and don’t worry if you are unsure what type of class you are looking for a good trainer will help find the right one for both you and your dog.

Visit the class before you commit

A good class will always allow and even encourage you to visit a training session while it is running and give you opportunity to ask any questions before you commit to any course of classes. In most cases this will be without your dog but it will allow you to get a feel for the class, see the methods used and if the dogs (and their owners) seem relaxed and happy. If a trainer is not willing to let you sit in on a class before attending with your dog I would be very cautious and advise you to look elsewhere.

When you go along to visit a class it is an idea to ask about the following points to ensure the class is going to meet your needs:

  • Do they have adequate insurance? A good dog training class will have an insurance policy in place which includes public liability and professional indemnity cover either on display or available for you to see on request.
  • What experience, qualifications and professional memberships do the trainers hold? Dog training is an unregulated industry where anyone can start to run classes regardless of their experience. By asking what courses a trainer has attended recently you will be able to see if they are keeping up-to-date with current techniques and thinking. There are several professional bodies which dog trainers can join and organisations such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (http://www.apdt.co.uk) and Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (http://www.imdt.uk.com) require trainers to pass rigorous assessments before being granted membership. Once membership is granted trainers are required to uphold a code of ethics which states only positive methods will be used along with completing a certain amount of professional development each year.
  • What methods are used? Dogs learn best when positive, reward based training is used so if a class uses aversive methods such has chastising dogs when they go wrong then you are well advised to stay clear. This may include shouting or throwing things at dogs, using choke collars or in some cases using heavy handling including hitting at a dog. If you are uncomfortable with anything you see when watching a class then you should consider if this will be the best environment for your dog. You should never feel under any pressure to do something to or with your dog that you are unhappy with.
  • How many dogs are there in a class? There should always be enough room for the dogs to have their own space and not feel crowded. The trainer should be in control of the class and be able to give suitable attention to each partnership something that cannot happen if there are too many dogs in the group.
  • Is it a mixed age class or is there a maximum age in place? This is especially important when looking for a puppy class as you do not want your young pup being frightened, overwhelmed or bullied by an older dog. If you are looking to join a class such as agility or flyball then you should find that there is a minimum age in place of around 12 months old for dogs joining the class.

Other considerations when looking for a good training class should be is the venue going to be suitable for your dog. It can be that some dogs prefer training outdoors while others may benefit from an indoor space with fewer distractions.  If your dog has a behavioural issue of some kind it maybe that your average pet dog training class will not be appropriate for them as they may find it to stressful or their behaviour would have an impact on others in the class. In these cases a trainer may run specific classes for dogs with issues or offer individual sessions perhaps with the few of incorporating a dog back into a mainstream class at a later date but again they should be open to you watching a session or seeking references as well as asking questions.

Always remember that learning with your dog should be an enjoyable, fun experience for both of you and a good training class will help make this possible.