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Dog School: Finding the Right Fit

In our last blog we answered some basic questions about obedience training classes. Today’s blog focuses on the different venues for training and the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each.

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There are three basic types of classes: group lessons, private lessons, or board and train programs, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. As you think through your decision, a few questions can help guide the process. First, what are your training goals and your dog’s needs? If your new puppy needs to learn basic commands and socialization, a group class may be the best option. However, if your dog is eliminating in the house or eating your Toms, private lessons might fit the bill. Secondly, what is your training budget? While you don’t want to make training decisions based on money alone, it can be a driving factor. Knowing what your range is from the beginning can help steer you towards the right choices.

Group lessons are the most common type of obedience classes and can be structured in a variety of ways, with classes based on age group, skills, or even focused on a particular breed. The group setting can be a great environment for pets (and their owners!) to build necessary social skills, learn the basics of training, and share experiences with one another. Being surrounded by other dogs can help some puppies pick up appropriate dog behavior more quickly as well as learn how to deal with distractions in a positive way.

Often the most affordable format for training, group classes are best suited for straightforward obedience and training. Generally structured in sixty to ninety minute sessions each week, group members will focus on the topics chosen by the instructor, just like in a typical class, and therefore individual instruction is a little more difficult. Seeking out classes with low dog to teacher ratios (ideally twelve dogs to one instructor or less) will ensure the instructor has enough time to assess each student and provide constructive feedback throughout the class.
To truly master the concepts, whether you’re in group, private, or even a board and train program requires a true commitment on the owner’s part. You need to practice these skills with your dog on a regular basis in order for them to become habits. Without that practice, the obedience training will lack effectiveness.

Private lessons are usually given at the owner’s home and fall into two main categories: short lessons to focus on one particular skill or issue or a series of longer lessons that focus on the typical obedience skills taught in a regular group class. In addition the convenience factor, these classes are tailored to your training desires and your dog’s personality, needs, and behaviors. Bringing the trainer your dog’s turf can increase the effectiveness of the lessons and make it easier for the trainer to identify behaviors and patterns that you may not even be aware of. Without the distractions of other dogs around, like in a group class, you and your dog can focus completely on the training at hand. While private lessons do tend to be more expensive than group lessons, the advantages of one-on-one attention and convenience often outweigh the expense.

Board and train programs are a third training option. The most expensive and often, extensive option, board and train programs are often used as either a last resort to deal with extremely aggressive behavior or to provide specialty training in hunting, protective service, or another concentrated area of emphasis. This type of program involves leaving your dog at a training facility or residence where they will receive intensive training, often concluding with several private lessons to instruct you on how to retain their skills or handle your newly trained dog.

Choosing the right training for your dog is an important decision. Armed with the right details, you can wisely choose the format that best suits both you and your dog. Check back soon for our third and final obedience school article focusing on the different kinds of training available for your dog.

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