Friday, September 28, 2012

Choosing a Training Class

When we first adopted Badger, the thought of choosing a training class overwhelmed us so much that we simply gave up. So for the first year of his life, Badger was "homeschooled" off information we found on the internet and what L and I remembered from training our families' dogs. He did manage to learn the basics, but when we adopted Mushroom, we realized how much more we could have learned if we had enrolled Badger in formal training classes.

We also missed out on watching this cute puppy play with other puppies

With Mushroom's reactive dog class coming to an end, we have been trying to find another class to attend, preferably with Badger too, because we feel bad leaving him at home. Here are a few things we did that helped us in our search:

More classes mean more treats!

Visit the Class
We've found that while websites, e-mails, and phone calls can give a lot of information about a training class, nothing is as helpful as sitting in on a class itself. In watching the trainers interact with human and canine students, we were able to learn about the training philosophy, the pace of the class, the goal of the class, and the types of dogs the class was geared toward. We were also able to talk to the trainers before or after the class and ask questions.

Know Your Dog
It was important for us to be honest about whether Badger and Mushroom would succeed in a given class. We had hoped that we would be able to enroll them in the same class, but in the end, we realized that, with Mushroom's reactivity, we would be taking a huge risk by putting her in a regular class. So we are enrolling just Badger in an intermediate-level class that works on staying calm, and we will continue looking for a class that fits Mushroom better.

Wait, you're not taking meeeee?

Go With Your Gut
If you visit a class and don't think it's the right place for you, keep looking. Early on in our search, L and I talked with a facility whose training philosophy didn't completely line up with ours, and we left thinking "maybe" but feeling a little uneasy. In retrospect, I am so glad that we continued to look for other training classes, because we found a place that makes us feel relaxed, comfortable, and happy. And I'm sure the good vibes will transfer to Badger once he starts his classes.

Somehow, we have to teach this dog to be calm

What tips do you have on choosing a training class?


  1. I completely agree that you should "go with your gut." If you are uneasy, that will transfer to your dog and you won't accomplish as much as you'd like.

    The only other thing I'd add is to make sure that your trainer uses positive reinforcement techniques. You will get so much more out of your dog with positive reinforcement than you ever will with negative reinforcement!

  2. Definitely agree with sitting in on a class, I wish we had done that before signing up. The class looked great online, I went to a breed rescue event at the facility, but didn't meet the trainer or see her teach a class before signing up. I feel like we pretty much wasted the money we spend on taking the dogs to class, as the trainer really didn't know what to do with 2 shy dogs. We should have waited for the "scared-y dog" class at a different place.

  3. I think going with your gut is so important and knowing your dog! Each of my dogs are different and respond to training in different ways.