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Dog School: Choosing an Obedience School for your Dog

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With back-to-school sales and storefront displays stocked with supplies, it’s easy to gauge when it’s time for the kids to start school. With our dogs, however, it is not always so clear—often leaving us with more questions than answers. We may wonder, “Does my dog need obedience training? When is the right time to attend? How do I find the right trainer? What questions should I ask?” Today we start a multi-part series to answer your questions about dog obedience school.

Early and Often
The best time to start obedience training is when your dog is a young puppy, as early as eight to twelve weeks old. If you wait until they are older, as often is the case, you will be working on undoing bad habits as much as you’re working towards training good behavior. Also, just like children attend school every year, dogs also benefit from annual or biannual training classes. The repetition allows them to better retain the new skills and behaviors that they learned, as well as continue to work on more advanced skills.

Finding the Right Fit
Your veterinarian is the best place to start your search for an obedience school. Their familiarity with you and your dog allows them to make recommendations that are best suited for your particular situation and temperaments. Once you’ve gathered recommendations, invest time researching the different options. Here are some questions to help you gauge whether this school or trainer is a good fit:

1. What are their credentials? As a largely unregulated industry, virtually anyone can say they are a dog trainer. Find out what certifications they’ve pursued and what experience they have.

2. What is their training philosophy? Some trainers will use positive and negative reinforcement; some will only use rewards to encourage desired behavior. Find out what their philosophy is and make sure that it lines up with what you’re comfortable practicing at home. Consistency is key.

3. Will they provide you with former client references? It is great to be able to talk to someone who has recently attended a class and find out what their experience was like. If a trainer is unwilling to provide you with names of their recent clients, that should raise a red flag.

4. Can you observe a class prior to enrolling? Most trainers and schools are willing to let you sit in on a class without your dog to get a feel for the structure and format of a class.

5. Have they worked with your particular breed (or with the issues you may be experiencing with your dog)? While no two dogs are alike, it’s helpful to know whether a trainer has dealt with similar situations or not. A smart trainer will refer you to someone else in the field if your scenario is out of their field of expertise.

6. What are their rates? Find out all the details you can about what the program or training includes, what supplies you will need to purchase, and what discounts they may offer if you continue to seek additional training.

Our next blog is going to focus on the different formats available for obedience training as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one. In the meantime, we’d love to know what your experience has been with dog obedience school.

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