Going to Class Obedience Training Schools

Having taught obedience classes for 30 years, we're naturally biased in favor of this choice. A basic class usually addresses your most immediate concerns, such as not pulling on the leash, the Sit and Down-Stay, and Come.

The purpose of the class is to show you what to do, have you try it a few times to make sure you've got it right, and then send you home to practice. Be prepared to practice at least five times a week. Most classes are sequential in nature. If you miss a class, you'll fall behind and may have a hard time catching up. Falling behind is discouraging and may cause you to drop out. When you go to a class, don't expect the instructor to train your dog. That isn't her job.

We think taking Buddy to school is perhaps one of the best things you can do for you both. It gets you out of the house into an atmosphere where you can spend quality time together. Both of you have fun while learning useful things that make living together that much easier. Obedience classes are conducted in almost every community and are an excellent way for you and Buddy to learn together.

Until quite recently, obedience or kennel clubs conducted the majority of classes. Today, however, schools or private individuals teach many classes. The difference has nothing to do with the quality of the training, but relates solely to profit motive. Clubs are nonprofit organizations and the instructors, usually members who have trained and shown their own dog, generally volunteer their services. Training schools and individuals who hang out their shingles are for-profit organizations.

To train for participating in performance events, join an organization that offers training for that goal. The organization's instructors can coach you and your dog in the intricacies of the various requirements.

Choosing a good training class

To locate a class, look in the phonebook under a heading such as "Pet & Dog Training" to find out what your community offers. Chances are you'll have several choices.

Call one of the organizations listed to find out where and when the class meets. Ask whether you can observe a beginner class. If you aren't allowed to observe a class, which would be highly unusual, forget that organization. When you find one where you can observe a class, do so, but leave Buddy at home so that he doesn't interfere with the class and you aren't distracted.

Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself about the class you're observing:

1 What is your first impression of the class? You're looking for a friendly, pleasant, and positive atmosphere.

1 Do the dogs seem to have a good time? You can quickly tell if the dogs are enjoying themselves or if they'd rather be at home biting their favorite bone.

1 How does the instructor deal with the class participants? You want the instructor to be encouraging and helpful, especially to those who seem to be struggling.

1 How does the instructor deal with the dogs? You want the instructor to be nice to the dogs, not yell at them or create anxiety or fear.

1 Does the instructor appear knowledgeable? As a student, you aren't likely to be able to tell whether or not the instructor actually is knowledgeable, but at least he needs to give the appearance of being so.

1 What is the ratio of instructors to students? We always aim for a one to five ratio, with a limit of 15 students for one instructor with two assistants.

1 Is the space adequate for the number of dogs? Insufficient space can be a cause for aggression in a class situation.

If you don't like what you see, find another organization. If you like what you see and hear, then it may be the right class for you and Buddy. But while you're visiting, you need to find out a few more bits of information:

^ The cost of the class and what is included: For example, our basic training course, or Level 1 as we call it, consists of eight 50-minute sessions and includes a training collar and leash, weekly homework sheets, and a copy of our book, What All Good Dogs Should Know (available from amazon.com), as part of the fee.

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