Experts agree that socialization should be a priority for puppy owners. Socializing a puppy early promotes positive experiences with new people, other dogs and unfamiliar environments, helping to reduce aggression and negative behaviors that come from anxiety.
One of the best ways to socialize a dog is through the structured environment of a puppy training class. With a wide range of options available, especially in big cities, it can be overwhelming to find the right one. Let’s break down what you can expect from a puppy training class and how to find the one that works for you and your puppy.
How does a puppy training class work?
Puppy training classes come in a variety of structures, from carefully-planned curriculum within a session to drop-in socialization time. When your puppy is young (or if your older dog has limited skills when it comes to obedience), you will want to find a class that follows a curriculum over a predetermined session length, usually six to eight weeks.
After your dog has established some basic obedience skills, a drop-in style class or “play group” is a good way to keep practicing your dog’s social skills in a controlled environment.
How long do classes last?
Most classes will last about an hour, allowing time for the dogs and owners to get settled, work on the day’s focus skills and commands and have some off-leash socialization and play time.
A training-focused class that follows a curriculum will usually run at least four to eight weeks, meeting once a week.
How do I find puppy training classes near me?
Usually, the best place to start when looking for a dog training class in your area is to ask around. Your neighbors, vet, family members, and even people you trust at your local pet food store or groomer may have recommendations of excellent classes and trainers. You can also do an Internet search, of course, but asking for recommendations will help you find a trustworthy class quickly.
How do I know if the training class I find is a good one?
Aside from getting recommendations from family, friends, and trusted pet experts, check the credentials of the dog training course instructor. You will want to find a course led by an instructor who has been through a rigorous and reputable training program.
While certification is not mandatory by law, choosing a trainer with credentials will help ensure that he or she has the training and has put in the hard work to do the job well. Some such programs include:
- National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
- National K-9 Dog Trainers Association
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- International Association of Canine Professionals
Many classes will offer a free lesson or allow you to observe a class before you enroll. This is a great way to see the way the instructor works, as every class is different, and determine what works for you and your puppy.
At this preview session, be on the lookout for red flags. Puppy training classes should be a positive environment that is fun for your dog. Instructors who encourage yelling, hitting or the use of potentially harmful techniques should be avoided. If the dogs in the class seem to be on high-alert, this might be a sign that this class is not a positive one.
Also, take note of the cleanliness of the class environment. Of course, puppies are particularly prone to potty accidents, but you will want a class environment that has standards of cleaning up accidents promptly and keeping the environment clean overall. Cleaning practices might be a question you want to ask during your preview session.
Many instructors will have references you can contact for more information about that instructor and the results the owner and puppy obtained from the class. If an instructor has no references, this might be a red flag as well.
Here are some other things you will want to look for:
- An overall calm environment (Although rambunctious puppy play will, of course, be taking place, it shouldn’t feel like complete chaos.)
- Manageable class size (About 6 puppies to one trainer is ideal.)
- Classroom size that is large enough to not feel cramped but not so large that puppies can get away during off-leash time
- Varied breeds and dog sizes within the class
- An instructor who makes YOU feel comfortable as well--If you aren’t learning along with your puppy, the class won’t work!
Are classes offered by pet stores worth it?
Many chain pet stores offer puppy training classes within the store. These classes should be approached like any other class. PetSmart training classes, for example, are offered at varying levels and are advertised to be run by accredited pet trainers. Just as you would for any other class, you will want to check the specific trainer’s credentials and do a preview class to see if the instructor and format works well with your dog’s and your personality.
How much does a dog training class cost?
Cost of puppy training classes can vary greatly based on location, trainer credentials, size of the class and other factors. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $120 per class, with about $50 per class being the average.
Are training classes only for puppies?
Most classes will accept dogs of all ages in training classes, but you will want to double check with your particular class. Most experts recommend starting your puppy in training classes as young as possible, though, since it is generally easier to teach good habits early instead of training your dog out of bad habits.
Why is a training class better than just using videos or going to a dog park?
There are several reasons why an in-person training class is best. Of course, if you live in an area where your options for training classes are limited, or if your schedule does not allow for a traditional training class, you may have to be creative with video or do-it-yourself options.
The advantages of in-person puppy training classes include the following:
- The structured environment minimizes distractions or dangerous behavior between dogs.
- You receive real-time feedback from the instructor/trainer.
- Classes will typically only allow dogs who are up-to-date on their vaccinations, so you have assurance that your dog is having safe interactions.
- The trainer will get to know your dog’s temperament and be able to cater the training techniques to your and your dog’s personality.
- You are able to meet other puppy owners with similar goals and experiences.
By building a foundation of appropriate skills and giving you an opportunity to bond, puppy training classes will set you and your dog up for a lifetime of fun together.
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- Bender, A. (2019). How to Train Your Puppy Through Classes. Retrieved from https://www.thesprucepets.com/puppy-kindergarten-1118507
- Cesar’s Way. (2019). Finding the Right Dog Obedience Course. Retrieved from https://www.cesarsway.com/finding-the-right-dog-obedience-course/
- Gibeault, S. (2018). Choosing a Great Dog Trainer 101. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/choosing-a-dog-trainer/
- HomeGuide. How Much Does It Cost to Train a Dog? Retrieved from https://homeguide.com/costs/dog-training-cost
- Madson, C. (2020). Choosing the Right Puppy Class. Retrieved from https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/choosing-the-right-puppy-class