You and your dog are signed up for a training class. Congratulations! You are obviously a committed owner willing to invest time and effort in your dog. So I would like to offer a few simple tips to help you get the most out of your class.
One of the best things you can do for your dog is to arrive a few minutes early so you have time to get yourself organized and settle your dog. Take your time outside the class, let your pup sniff and pee and even meet other dogs if he has to. Practice a few simple exercises so they are paying attention to you. When it’s time to go in and start the class you will both be calm, relaxed and ready to learn.
Occasionally life happens and we are all late for reasons beyond our control. If you are already late for class there is no harm in taking a few more minutes to get your dog calm and under control before entering the class as quietly as possible. If it is a class of inexperienced dogs every dog that comes in late causes momentary upheaval in the class so you want your entrance to be as subtle as possible.
Bring the right equipment.
A training class full of dogs is a super exciting place and your dog is often in a higher state of arousal. Many an owner has been dragged helplessly through the door by their over-excited dog.
Using a head halter or at least a front ring harness will help keep your dog under control and physically with you at all times.
Invest in a leather leash. They are more expensive than nylon leashes but you will be using it every day of your dog’s life. Nylon leashes are very difficult (and often painful) to grip if your dog is pulling or lunging. A six-foot length is optimal giving your dog some autonomy during training but not enough that they can stray off into trouble.
Keep your dog under control
A training class is not a social play group. Unless your trainer specifies otherwise do not let your dog greet or play with other dogs. Not every dog in class wants to be social. And your instructor has enough to manage in a group lesson without having to compete or deal with a doggie free-for-all.
Bring enough treats
Bring more treats than you think you can possibly use. Better too many than to run out halfway through class. Small soft treats the size of a pea that can be eaten quickly and easily by your pup are optimal.
You will be rewarding your dog fast and often so you need to be able to access your treats quickly without spilling them everywhere or making your dog wait. An inexpensive waist pouch is best. Pockets are okay only if they are deep and you can get your hand in and out easily.
Leave your phone outside of class. Chit chat with your classmates during break or after class. If you can’t deal with your dog and listen to instructions at the same time it’s a great idea to bring an assistant to help you handle your dog. Your dog needs you to pay attention so you can give him clear instructions during the exercise. Your instructor needs you to pay attention for the safety and consideration of your fellow classmates.
Do your homework
You invested in the program. You obviously want your dog to learn and improve. The reality is that you do need to do the homework. Dog classes are progressive with each class building on the skills taught the previous week. It’s easy to fall behind and become discouraged. Training your dog between classes doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of time. If you are looking for some creative ideas read our previous blog post “Finding Time to Train your Dog”.