Does the trainer offer more advanced programs? Do they just teach basic classes? What if you want to go on to the next level? How about puppy training? Does the trainer offer special classes for that? Even if you're only interested in basic obedience, trainers who are capable of teaching several levels of obedience are often more well-rounded instructors with a greater depth of knowledge.
Puppy classes, sometimes called Puppy Kindergarten, are usually designed for puppies up to five months of age. Puppy classes usually focus on socialization, some very simple obedience, and common behavior problems. Most are not that much different from basic classes, and should be thought of as a foundation or introduction to basic obedience. I recommend them.
The requirements to enter puppy classes will vary, and it is best to check with your veterinarian about when you can safely take your puppy to a class. Some very nasty diseases, such as parvovirus and distemper (both of which can be fatal) can be contracted by puppies who have not been fully inoculated.
Intermediate or advanced classes can mean many different things, depending on the trainer. Most intermediate classes involve sharpening already learned basic commands around more difficult distractions and working toward obtaining off-leash control. Advanced classes can involve off-leash obedience, as well as a variety of other skills. These include jumping over hurdles, scent discrimination exercises and others. You may have no interest when you first start classes in going through to an advanced level. But it's still good to know your trainer can take you there, if you desire. It's also possible that you will follow in the footsteps of millions of dog owners and discover, to your surprise, that you genuinely like training your dog. What initially starts as a chore can often become a real labor of love.
If you're observing a trainer teaching in-kennel, it's important to see them work with dogs who are at different levels in the training process. See how the trainer works with a beginning dog. See how they work with a dog whose training is almost complete. It's also important to make sure the trainer you're hiring is the trainer who is actually doing the teaching in the kennel. I've known trainers who primarily promoted their business and hired others to do the training. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it's only fair that you observe the actual trainer who would work with you and your pet before you decide whether to hire this person. Remember to also observe kennel trainers when they are teaching the owners how to handle their already trained dogs. It will do you very little good to hire a trainer who is gifted in teaching dogs, but who has little or no ability to teach you to do the same. This is an important point.
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