Sit, Stay, Speak!
How to choose the right obedience instructor for your dog.
So your new puppy is driving you crazy, or your newly adopted dog needs manners. You decide to check out some dog trainers in your area, but how do you know which one to pick? To complicate matters, you're not sure whether to take your new buddy to a group training class, or if you should hire a private trainer to come to your home. Fear not, dog lovers! Here are some guidelines to help you decide.
According to two-time American Kennel Club (AKC) National Obedience Champion Petra Ford, obedience schools are a wonderful place to learn about training. She says, "Group classes offer an opportunity for owners and their dogs to hone their skills along with their peers, and classes are a great way to expose and socialize dogs to one another."
Two types of schools are available to prospective four-legged students. One type is operated by the local kennel club as a community service, and the other is a business operated by a proprietor or a corporation. If you're not sure whether there's a kennel club to choose from in your area, you can find out by performing a club search at the AKC website. In order to evaluate a training school, no matter the type, consider these several important factors.
For example, prior to signing up, will the school allow you to visit? Ford advises, "If you are only permitted to view a training class upon leaving a deposit, then it would be wise to consider a different school. You should feel comfortable with the class you're contemplating before you make a monetary commitment, and the only way to do so is to observe the class."
Note the staff-to-student ratio during your observation. Is there a class size limit? "Class size should be reasonable so that the instructor can assist everyone," says Ford. As far as what the class size should be, that depends on the size of the facility and the number of instructors assigned to the class. Your observation prior to signing up will give you a sense of whether the students are getting appropriate time with the instructor, especially if a question or challenge arises.
Another reason to visit a class is to observe the instructor. Do you feel comfortable with the instructor's style of teaching? Do you feel comfortable with the method that's being taught? Does it appear that the students in the class are making progress? There are many ways to teach a dog to perform a command, and some methods are harsher than others. If you feel uncomfortable with the technique, then go elsewhere. If you're not sure, wait until after class and ask the instructor to explain the reasoning behind the approach, and then decide if it makes sense for you and your dog.
Finally, is there a make-up policy in case you must miss your regularly scheduled class, and does the school have a refund policy? Be sure to inquire. You want to get the most from the time and money you're investing.
What if your young adult dog is particularly unruly, or you just brought your infant puppy home, and he's already a handful? Would it be better to take a class, or to have a private trainer come to your home? The answer is: it depends.
With regard to the unruly ones, many training schools screen incoming clients to determine if their dogs are suited to a group learning environment. If the school you're planning to attend requires you to fill out a questionnaire about your dog's behavior in order to sign up for class, then answer the application honestly, and let the school decide.
If your dog is not a candidate for group training, then seek a private trainer, and be sure to let the in-home trainer know the reason for your inquiry. On the other hand, if the school you're considering does not use a screening process, you may want to call ahead and discuss your concerns.
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4 years ago
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