As a professional dog trainer I try to offer a variety of options to my
clients. Let’s discuss what works, what
doesn’t and how to get the best results for your family.
Dog training is a skill that most people don’t have. Professional
trainers have spent thousands of dollars and years of their lives learning this
art and science so it’s important to consult a professional.
Now you’ve managed to find a number of positive reinforcement and
experienced professionals to choose from. In the Calgary area there are so
many. Now what class should you take?
Well truth be told there’s no perfect answer for this. You have to take
a look at a few factors:
- Can your family commit to a weekly time/day for at least 6 weeks? Most group classes require participants to come every week for that period of time. Missing a class makes it very hard for you to get the full understanding of basic skills.
- Does your dog handler suffer from any disabilities that would make a class environment overwhelming or hard? (examples would be anxiety, hear impairment, etc).
- Is there someone to watch the kids and a person to handle the dog? Most group classes need at least 2 adults to accommodate children being there. Don’t try to watch the kids and train your dog. It rarely works out for the dog or yourself.
- Does your dog suffer from fear, aggression, hyper activity? A private training session should always be your first step.
- How old is your dog? Some young puppies do a lot better with training at home and going to puppy play classes to socialize. A combination can work wonders.
- How much experience do you have when it comes to dogs? If you have questions about everything than a private training session can bring you the answer you need. Most instructors have a limited ability to cover material outside of the curriculum in a group environment.
Those are just a few factors that can impact your success with training
your dog. Let’s look at the options:
Russ practicing heeling at a rally practice indoors.
This is the route that the majority of families choose for dogs or
puppies without severe behavior concerns. It can be an excellent way to train
your dog but you must practice outside of class times. You need to make sure
you set aside 10-20 minutes daily to practice (minimum). It’s also a good idea
to find out the size of a group class beforehand; 6 dogs is a good amount but
more than that can be overwhelming for a beginner and the instructor will have
limited time for questions. Indoor group classes can also limit how well your
dog listens to you outside or at home. This is where the practice everywhere
mantra needs to play in. Be strict with yourself and take your dog out and
about to practice what you’re learning in class. It’s important to note that
even professional trainers won’t have a perfect dog after only 6 weeks in a
group class. Training is a lifelong commitment and many families need more than
1 set of classes.
Outdoor class at the C Train station.
This option works great for families who love to be outside with their
dogs and have the patience to handle distraction training. I recommend taking
an indoor class first OR having a few private sessions under your belt. The
exception to this is that many puppies (4 months and under) can do
exceptionally well outside as they are still very owner focused at that age. Make
sure your dog is up to date on vaccines before you start. Considerations for
group classes outdoor include checking class size and making sure you have time
I offer an outdoor group class that has two times a week and is run on a
drop in style. This can work well for people on shift work, vacation plans, and
need some flexibility. The commitment to practice is still required though.
Training or Private Training
Two awesome jack russels who have enjoyed private training with Where's Your Sit.
For many of my clients private training delivers the best results. It’s
flexible, can accommodate families and moves at your own pace. In home training
also allows serious behavior problems like aggression or fear to be addressed.
It’s down side is that it is definitely pricier.
The benefits are huge as the trainer is focused only on you and your dog’s
needs and goals. You’ll learn what’s relevant for your lifestyle and move
through the steps at your dog’s pace instead of rushing through it in just six
Some dogs benefit from having both in home and group classes. The
combination of both allows your dog and you to learn the skills first and then
practice around other dogs.
This little Goldendoodle had both private, in home training and some pet sitting where she polished up her skills.
This is the option where you send your dog away for a period of time and
in theory he comes home completely trained for you. Board and train can work in
certain circumstances but to be honest it’s less than ideal. It works well for
people who cannot develop the mechanical skills necessary to train a dog (in
home training can be a solution for this though). It rarely works for people
who are simply “too busy” as your dog will return home and the routine of daily
training will be gone. Your dog would
definitely need to be gone for an extended period of time and you need to
commit a good amount of time and follow up with the trainer and your dog to
ensure a smooth transition. A better option for be for the trainer to come you
several times a week and train your dog while you are there watching and
option for you?
Well truth be told there isn’t a magic formula. The best behaved dogs
belong to owners who are committed to training them and spend time learning
about their dog. When I’m working with my own dogs I follow this line of
What’s currently available for group classes (types of classes, times, length, instructors). If there’s a class that will benefit my dog and I can fit it in then I attend. An example of this would be when Marco was a puppy I didn’t need to take him to class to learn how to train him but I did want him to be exposed to a class environment. I enrolled us both in a Canine Good Neighbour class with a trainer I admired. This allowed him to practice his obedience in a new place.
What would I like to achieve? When Marco was a puppy I knew I wanted him to compete in dog sports. My goals were Rally Obedience and Agility. Because these goals were important to me I selected group classes that would advance that desire such as Canine Good Neighbour, Formal Obedience, Intro to Agility, etc. If you want your dog to participate in dog sports than research what’s available for puppies or young dogs in the beginner level. If your goals include having your dog do volunteer work with you than at bare minimum you need a beginner obedience class followed up by a Canine Good Neighbour class.
Hopefully this will help you explore your class options. Another way to
check things out is to call or email the trainer you’d like to work with,
explain your goals and ask their opinions. Trainers should always be open to
letting you watch them teach a class or giving you references.