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appinions on obedience training classes?
  • MythMyth
    Posts: 18
    So I was hoping to get some opinions on obedience training classes. I was considering putting my pup Kya in them, but there are always pros and cons to everything. I have heard good things about training classes and bad things, here is a comment I read on a yahoo answer post asking if they should choose petco or petsmart training classes. here is the "best" voted answer..

    "As a professional dog trainer for over 16 years, I have to tell you my strong opinion that you AVOID these group classes for obedience training.These pet warehouses are there to get you to buy their products and hang around their strore. And their trainers are their employees...never forget they have an agenda. Most of the trainers have very little education--if they had actual training and skills they wouldn't be there making just over minimum wage--trust me on this. But even if they did have experience and talent...a group setting is a terrible place for learning to take place. It's distraction training and it is the LAST phase of training not the first. You wouldn't have your child try to do their homework in a toy store, would you? Of course not...the level of distraction would be too high! It's the same with dogs.
    Having said that, these classes can be an excellent way to socialize dogs...but not to train them. And while they appear to be cheaper than a professional trainer...you have to attend many more sessions to get the same results because of the poor learning environment--so you wind up spending MORE money for less training than you would with a professional.
    Save your money and go to someone who actually knows how to train dogs. OR, read books and try to train your dog yourself. There is nothing they train at a Petsmart or Petco that you can't do yourself with a couple of hours of reading."


    Now what do you all think of this opinion on the dog classes? do you think this person has a point or is just blowing smoke? I ask this because I am trying to figure out the best way to train and socialize Kya, and I don't want to waist my money on classes if it wouldn't be much better then me doing it my self. I have trained my pom and she is amazing and very smart and obedient so what do you guys think? wast of money or a good investment?

    [changed category ~mod.]
    Post edited by curlytails at 2013-04-19 00:54:26
  • ShibaLoveShibaLove
    Posts: 554
    That professional dog trainer has their own agenda. Get you out of group classes and to go see them. I do agree that some of the trainers at petsmart or petco can have trainers that do not know a thing about training dogs.

    You should absolutely take your puppy to some obedience classes for the training and the socialization. I have found training in a group class with distractions very useful practically since you might need to get your dog to listen to you at a park or in a store where there will be lots of distractions. The most important part is exposing them to many different dogs in new places but make sure when you are looking into a place that offers classes that they use positive reinforcement only and if the trainer is familiar with shibas that is a plus.

    It doesn't cost that much for what you get out of it. It is definitely worth the investment.
  • If you do a search for obedience you'll find tons of threads on this topic.

    Bottom line? that is bad advice. More than anything, the dog needs to be socialized with people and other dogs. That's what you're really paying for with group classes. And it is absolutely necessary. More dogs die of undersocialized (i.e. are euthanized for it) than of puppy illnesses. Socialization is critical.
  • DebDeb
    Posts: 286
    It is slanted and poor advice. Group training is good for the pup as long as only positive and kind reinforcement is used. Group training classes teach the owner how to work with their pup and what to work on sequentially at home. The class isn't just for the dogs learning. My vote is to go to group obedience training, with the above mentioned caveats.

    I will say that I was in a Petco shopping when a group class was going on. I was unimpressed and noticed that the first thing the students were to buy from the store was a choke chain. I believe this approach may not be universal, but it sure turned me off.

    So, it is important to check out a class or particular instructor to make sure their methods meet with your approval. As long as things seem to be good, the pup will get some good experience and socialization from being out and about with strangers and their dogs in a controlled environment.
  • One of the big stores, though I don't remember if it is Petco or Petsmart, has their own training program and it is only in positive reinforcement. That doesn't mean they're going to always have stellar trainers (but some are good--it depends on who you get), but at least you won't see a trainer trying to get people to buy a choke collar!

    But yes, the big point is to always check out the class first and make sure it is good and it is positive reinforcement.
  • I am in week 5 of a 7-week obedience training class with my 4-month old pup offered through a local dog club. A friend of mine just finished up a class at Petsmart. She thought her class was great, the instructor very knowledgeable, and it benefited her pup.

    I chose to not do the Petsmart class only because of the number of puppies in the class .. Petsmart had 3 dogs and my class has 10. I wanted the more diverse group for socialization.

    Post edited by Tallygroup at 2013-04-19 11:14:52


  • The class has been a great experience! At the first class, Chewbacca was out of his mind with excitement! He did flips on the leash trying to play with everyone and would not listen to me at all!

    Now, after 5 weeks, he will walk in an orderly fashion on lead next to other dogs, sit/stand/down, will run through a tube when asked, will sit in a group next to other dogs without doing the "leash flips", etc. He VERY much needed this exposure to learn his manners in a distracting setting.

    In the class we have German Shepherds, pitt bull, labs, terriers, and a chiwawa! ... where else can my pup interact with so many different types of puppies?! :)

    Additionally, I picked up much information about dogs ... what products everyone was using, which local vets people liked, what food and where to purchase it, etc.

    After this class, I plan to do another .. maybe the Petsmart class if there are more than 3 pups in it.

    Puppies (especially Shibas!) need a great deal of exposure to many different types of dogs/people when they are young and need to learn to listen to you when these distractions are around.

    It is difficult to find a concentrated group of puppies for your pup to meet - a class is the best way.
    Post edited by Tallygroup at 2013-04-19 11:15:17
  • If you go the class route, try to find a class that has an open play session before the training begins :) That way the puppies all get to socialize and drain some energy before it's time to put their leash on and focus. The class we did had an optional play session for 45 minutes prior to the class. We never missed it!
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  • XabiXabi
    Posts: 432
    Just to put my two cents in as well, that is bad advice for the reasons that others have given you. I'd talk to your vet for recommendations on training classes. They may know a behavior specialist who is reputable. I don't think the big stores are necesarily bad, but you need to do your research for any class. Ask if you can sit in or watch a class without a dog. Particularly for puppies, these classes are more about socialization and training the owner on how to teach your puppy to behave. As Tallygroup mentioned, talking to other owners can really help out too. And distractions are what the class is about. I would say that unless you have an older dog with established problems or are trying to train your dog to walk on a ball, one on one training is not necessary (and I would imagine prohibitively expensive).
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  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    Okay, so I am fairly passionate on this topic. I will try to keep my response from getting too long. In summary, I fully believe everyone, especially first time dog owners and anyone (even experienced people) greatly benefit from at least taking structured training classes until the dog is at least passed through adolescent regression stages. In the case of Shiba's as a smaller breed, I would say until the dog is probably about 7 or 8 months old in my opinion.

    This response is based on my experience from someone who a year ago was brand new to owning and training dogs. Over the past year I have consistently, and still do, attend 1-4 classes of formal training per week, or 1-2 formal training classes per dog (as I now have two).

    Where did I start, I started with a 5 month old Shiba at Petsmart. I knew nothing on how to find training classes or anything even about owning dogs. I went there because the one thing I knew I needed was guidance to begin my journey with my new addition, a 5 month old Shiba I had named Bear. I signed up for a 6-week obedience class at a cost of about $22.50/class ($135 for the series of 6). The first 6-week class really helped me. We learned the basics of clicker training options, we learned basic obedience commands, and because this level of training is easy with most dogs, we all felt pretty successful graduating class.

    Because I was feeling successful, we signed up for the next series of 6-week classes (intermediate obedience). This is when I realized I had only gotten my feet wet in learning what suited me. As I became more comfortable in the environment I did begin to realize that Petsmart was probably not the setting I wanted to continue training in. During class I began to realize how often the trainer was distracted even answering other customers (not even training class members) questions, I realized that doing the training in the aisles did elevate distractions too quickly, but that the training area was also too small to work on elevating distance, so yes, as we progressed we jumped distance with distraction too fast in my opinion and felt we didn't get as much out of the 2nd round of 6-week classes.

    So in regards to the major chain classes, if you just need a place to start, I don't think you can go that wrong taking at least a 6-week class there. Some places the trainer will be better than others, but I would be very surprised if any major chain training process would include dominant theory techniques at the beginner level or puppy level. I do think you can usually do better than a major chain, but I also remember until I got my feet wet, I would have never known how to seek out other options and may have not gotten started when I did.

    As I became disenchanted with the environment offered at Petsmart to advance our training, a neighbor who had a Standard Poodle of just over a year, was looking for training. She, like many pet owners, had really thought formal training wasn't necessary for pet level needs. It wasn't until she realized that as the puppy passed out of puppy stages that things that may have been cute as a puppy were now creating issues as an adult. The place she found also had agility classes.

    At that time I only vaguely even knew what dog agility was from remembering seeing glimpses of it on t.v., but I started getting intrigued with the thought maybe agility would be a fun activity to get Bear's energy out. At this point in time, I still didn't know enough to realize how important elevating obedience beyond a basic sit, down, stay, roll over, really was. So one thing lead to another and I found myself signing up for a 6-week agility class with this new place (Zoom Room).

    I liked that environment for classes much better than Petsmart because we still worked in group settings, but all the distractions of customers and the trainer becoming unfocused were gone, so I felt I received more for my money. What I didn't know then is Zoom Room is a franchise, just like Petsmart, and the family that owned this franchise really had only done basic classes to become trainers. I still at this point hadn't realized how this affected my experience having not yet going to a trainer that really was invested into dog training for dog training.

    Eventually, I have gone to many other trainers for different goals and purposes. I have also seen many people come back to obedience classes during this process with dogs who have gone through adolescence developing bad habits which now the trainers had to help counter-condition because in the early stages the owners didn't continue with formal training and good socialization.

    What I see now that I am with a place where the trainers are very active with dogs, is what really good training can do. The main owner of one place I go is even hosting Victoria Stillwell this coming up weekend here in the Miami area for a Dog Bite Prevention Conference. The owner of the place I go firmly supports Victoria Stillwell's positvely dog training techniques, she is a CGC evaluator for the AKC, she is certified in canine first aid/cpr, she helped start a dog scout troop and is a evaluator for badges such as DSA, obstacles, agility, weave pole challenge, manners, tricks, herding, and the list goes on. She also has been active in competive obedience, herding, and agility, in addition to having worked with animals on film and TV. Her other trainers at the center also actively participate in obedience, rally, agility, ect ... What a world of difference these trainers have been.

    So, luckily, for my second dog, I had already become familiar with this place and that is where I started him at 3.5 months old in puppy classes. These classes were great in that the first part worked on the basic obedience needs and then there was a play session for socialization. This play session included important exercises where we would go get our dog, reward, and send them back to play so they could learn that everytime we grabbed them or called for them, good things would happen and it didn't mean the end of fun. These play sessions also allowed the trainers to discuss certain behaviors and play styles so we could learn what certain body language was saying and what to do if the play became inappropriate. I can't say enough about how much better I see the foundation for my second dog has been vs my first dog when I didn't know really what to look for in a training center/trainer.

    I could go on in that as I have advanced my first dog into their 2nd level obedience class, I also see how much more there is to learn and teach the dog, and the more you continue to emphasis working with you and training, the more impulse control the dog learns. Also at home it is harder to work around other dog distractions and gradually elevate that criteria, you really to train on your own have to work hard then to find situations to elevate the three D's (distance, duration, and distraction) in a controlled manner so you are working at threshhold, not above where the dog can no longer learn.

    I am far from a good trainer, me and my dogs still have lots we can learn in obedience, but IMO accepting just the basics is a failure to really elevate what can be a wonderful bond and a well adjusted adult in the future. So yes, I believe formal training is well worth the cost, I believe the early stages the socialization in classes is important, but I also believe moving past adolescence with the support of formal classes is important to ending up with a dog that could impress anyone.

    Others will disagree and believe they can do it on their own, so this is just my opinion that too many regular pet owners do not value formal training enough.
  • bmass174bmass174
    Posts: 79
    I am currently enrolled in beginner class at my local Petsmart with a trainer who has personally owned and worked with dogs as well as done training for an amount of time she will not even name (she is a bit older in age and says it isn't flattering) before enrolling, i spoke to the people around me whom i thought had well behaved dogs (one of them is actually a therapy dog used by a counselor that went through all of the classes offered at this Petsmart) almost all of which said they went to that Petsmart. i cannot speak for every case only my own. and let me say that I have gotten only good results. I have learned so much about my Shiba and how to help him understand me as well as other other people and dogs we meet. I have nothing to say but good things as far as it goes for my local Petsmart classes.
  • MythMyth
    Posts: 18
    Thanks so much for all the input guys, it has been very helpful!

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