As with any decision we make about how best to care for and bring up our much loved dogs, we also need to consider what type of training best suits our dogs needs and, once this is established, which training provider is able to help you to reach your training goals.
I have personally been running training classes for well over ten years now and so, to help you, I thought I would share my expertise on what to look for in a training class:
TRAINING METHODS BASED ON POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
First and foremost, you want to ensure that the training provider you choose works with positive reinforcement, science based, methods. You want your dog to view their training as a positive experience, not to have to do something out of fear of a repercussion – this does not make for a good owner/dog bond and can actually cause behavioural issues. A good training class will help you to tap into what motivates your dog and use this to your advantage – whether this be a tasty treat or a special toy. You want your dog to WANT to participate so that they receive the reward. Working in this way will also help you and your dog to build a greater bond and understand each other better.
A PROGRESSIVE TRAINING SYLLABUS
Look for a training provider who can offer a progressive training syllabus, taking you through an ‘Award system’. Each Award (think Puppy, Bronze, Silver, Gold or something similar) should have clear criteria that you have to meet to achieve the Award and, as you go through the Awards, the training should build on the training previously received and mastered, growing in complexity and difficulty. There should ideally be a handout or instructions for each Award and individual classes should be structured with the criteria you are trying to achieve in mind.
CLASSES THAT TEACH LIFE SKILLS AS WELL AS ACTIONS
I often find that when owners talk about having an ‘obedient’ or ‘well behaved’ dog, they do not just mean they would like their dog to respond to commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘heel’, they mean they would like them to be well mannered and confident in a variety of situations – both at home and out and about. A good training class will help you to understand how to appropriately socialise your dog and help you to teach them to be confident in a variety of situations. Training should ideally not just be centred on teaching actions, it should also cover how you might approach real life situations – think vet checks, passing cyclists or prams, or even livestock encounters.
Your training establishment should spend time getting to know you and your dog, either through meeting you prior to joining the class or asking you to provide information about your dog before then assessing if they are able to offer a class to suit your dog’s needs. The class you are placed in should be suitable for your dog’s needs and, although you are working in a group environment, the training on offer should be tailored and differentiated to your dog’s individual level.
A SAFE ENVIRONMENT TO TRAIN IN
Whether this is secure outdoor location or an indoor hall style venue, the space you are working in should be a safe environment. This means that there should be enough space for you to train and work in, free from obstacles that can pose a danger, and the space you are allocated to work in should be an adequate distance away from other class members. Ideally you also want to be able to train in a calm environment, free from too many distractions.
Can you see what older dogs or dogs who have been attending for longer have achieved? Is this a good example of what you’d like your dog to also be able to achieve? Although as a beginner you might not be placed in a class with older or more advanced dogs, it is still useful to research the success stories. Reviews can be a good indication if you can’t see them in person. Social media can also sometimes be a good pointer, especially if you’re able to view any footage of dogs and owners in action!
Disclaimer: All training is attempted at the owner’s risk and Adem Fehmi accepts no liability for any injuries to pets or owners sustained during training. If your dog is showing signs of a behavioural issue please seek professional advice.