Finding the right dog obedience class

Training is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. It is also a great way to bond with your pet while also ensuring that he or she receives adequate mental stimulation. Some owners will manage to train their dogs themselves, but most people benefit from the help, support and general camaraderie of classes.

At the beginning of your puppy’s life with you, classes focus mostly on socialisation. As your pet grows and matures, it becomes time to think about choosing one of the many available obedience classes for dogs.

Compare the available options

However, finding the right canine training class can be easier said than done. It is usually best not automatically to pick the first class you come across. You’ll want to compare the available options to ensure you are choosing the right class for your dog’s particular needs. At the earliest stages of training, your dog’s breed matters less than it may do later: for example, when it comes to instilling the basics, labrador dog training looks much like cockerpoo dog training.

Here are a few people and places that might be able to point you in the direction of potential classes:

  • Local vet
  • Word of mouth – dog-owning friends and neighbours
  • Boarding kennels or dog groomers
  • Rescue organisation
  • The Kennel Club

Ask enough people and you’ll start to build up a picture of local obedience classes for dogs.

What should you be looking for?

The next step is to investigate the classes more closely. Location or timing may rule some out. Others may be more promising. It is very important to visit a class without the distraction of your dog before you commit to joining. What should you be looking for?

  • Adult dogs and puppies in separate classes.
  • All dogs within a class are at a similar level of training: beginner, intermediate, advanced etc.
  • A class that is small enough for each dog and owner to receive plenty of help and support from the trainer. 6 – 8 dogs or puppies is about right.
  • The use of rewards-based training such as food treats and toys.
  • Plenty of positive verbal encouragement for the dogs by trainer and owner.
  • No choke chain leads or electric collars, and no use of water pistols or air sprays.
  • A calm environment, in which both dogs and owners seem to be having fun while learning new skills. Watch out for excessive barking. This can indicate that the dogs’ stress levels are high.
  • Observe how the instructor deals with new and nervous animals. It’s not unusual for newcomers to a class to cower or put their tails between their legs but the other dogs should appear relaxed and engaged.

What's next?

Once you and your dog have the basics under your belts (or collars), you might want to think about what comes next. Many owners – and their pets – are happy to proceed through training classes, perhaps progressing through more advanced training.

This is also the point at which owners may seek differentiation depending on their pet’s breed and personality. For example, owners of retrievers, setters, pointers and spaniels may seek out gundog training. This is not necessarily because they intend their pet to work on shoots but more because specialist training can be the most effective way to harness a dog’s natural instincts and deal with troublesome issues.

A well-trained dog is a pleasure to be around. Good training also opens the door to other pursuits for dog and owner to enjoy together, such as Agility, Rally-FrEe and CaniX. Aside from the mental stimulation, these activities can help a dog (and their owner) stay fit, active and a healthy weight for as long as possible.


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