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What to Expect From Group Dog Training Classes

Dog training classes are a wise investment because your dog will learn good behaviour and you’ll both have fun. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded dog owners who share the joy as well as the overwhelm of having a puppy or dog.

As the name suggests, dog training classes are taught by dog training instructors in a group setting. Some are held outdoors and some are held indoors in halls, barns etc

There are different types of dog training classes such as:

  • puppy kindergarten

  • obedience classes of different levels

  • nosework (scent detection)

  • agility classes

  • flyball classes

  • tricks classes

  • classes that teach one specific skill such as walking nicely on a lead or coming when called

Are group classes suitable for all dogs?

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Training classes are one of the best places to get started with basic obedience training with your dog. It enables your dog to get more confident around people and dogs, and at the same time teaches your dog to focus on you.

 

If you see these signs in your dog, then group classes are probably a good fit for you dog:

  • They are comfortable being around other people & dogs both indoors & outdoors

  • They like interacting with other dogs

  • They are shy but curious

  • They take their time but eventually calm down in the presence of other dogs & people

  • They’re vocal but you still have control with rewards and focus training

  • They’re indifferent towards other dogs

  • They’re a puppy who’s had positive interactions with dogs before

Sometimes people (and dogs!) who attend their first group class may feel nervous. Try to keep things positive for your dog. For puppies, remember that the kind of interaction they have with something or someone for the first time can have lasting impressions. For example, if your puppy is super shy and they encounter a boisterous pup in the class who jumps all over them, your puppy might grow up being nervous about all dogs. So just be aware of the situation and how your puppy is doing.

What kinds of dogs don't suit group classes?

What appears as fun to you may not be perceived as fun by your dog. If you have a dog that’s terrified of other dogs or people, dog training classes might not be the best place for you to start.

If you’re not sure, you can always ask your instructor ahead of time. You could also potentially go and observe a class yourself, without taking your dog along.

Crowding your dog with other dogs when they are aggressive or frightened of them will not magically make them love dogs.

You might want to consider One-To-One training instead if:

  • Your dog is extremely anxious around other dogs.

  • They bark uncontrollably at the sight of other dogs.

  • They fixate on other dogs.

  • They are aggressive towards other dogs or humans.

  • Their behaviour is unpredictable.

  • Your dog guards you, their food or other things when there are other people or dogs around.

  • Their excitement and enthusiasm towards other dogs is really difficult for you to control. In this case, it’s best to first work around the excitement in a One-To-One training session with your instructor and then consider going to classes when you’re more able to manage your dog.

  • They shut-down (i.e. become unresponsive or depressed) in the presence of other dogs or people, even when you have their favourite treats or toys.  

 

You could always do one or two private One-To-One training sessions before attempting the group class. And remember that some dogs just never do well in a group setting, and that’s OK too.

Do group dog training classes help with aggression, reactivity or other behaviour issues?

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Dog training classes typically do not cover behaviour issues, at least not in detail. Issues that are typically not addressed in detail during a group class:

  • separation anxiety

  • aggression 

  • guarding things or guarding places

  • excessive herding behaviour

  • car chasing

  • reactivity towards people, other dogs or animals

These complex issues are not usually addressed in a group setting because every dog has different motivations, fears and different histories. Each dog will be at a different level when it comes to behavioural problems.

These issues should instead be dealt with one-on-one by a qualified canine practioner or behaviourist. Ask your instructor if this is something they offer outside of classes.

What should I expect when I attend a group training class?

 Things to expect from dog training classes:

  • You'll learn about dog body language: how to recognise basic dog body language and respond accordingly.

  • You'll learn how to better communicate with your dog and give directions to your dog in day to day situations.

  • If you have a puppy, you'll learn about how to appropriately socialise them to new experiences in order that they grow up to be well-balanced adult dogs.

  • You'll learn how best to prevent your dog from developing behaviour issues.

  • Your dog will socialise with other dogs and humans while learning to focus on you.

 

Things to bear in mind: 

  • You'll get limited personal attention and coaching dependent on the size of the class - the more dogs there are, the less time the instructor has to coach individuals.

  • Some things take longer to learn than others. While some things can be taught quickly, others take time. Never rush your training.

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  • Dogs learn at their own pace. Every puppy or dog learns at a different speed. Don’t pressure your dog and try not to get annoyed if they don’t “get it” the first time.

  • Your instructor won’t be waving a magic wand to give you a well-behaved dog by the end of the course! The training you receive in a class is important, but it's really important that you practice at home with your dog many times per week.

What should I expect from my instructor in class?

Every trainer works at a different pace, with different styles and ethics.

A good dog training instructor should:

  • Be enthusiastic, caring and approachable

  • Have a good knowledge of dog behaviour & training skills

  • Recognise signs of stress in a dog

  • Answer your questions on dog training & behaviour

  • Go at a pace everyone’s comfortable with

  • Use training techniques that can be replicated at home

  • Be mindful of dogs with allergies & medical issues

  • Keep an eye on everyone to ensure every dog and handler understands each exercise

  • Coach you and your dog as individuals 

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A dog owner's responsibilities in a group class

  • Make sure your dog is manageable. Keep them on a 4ft or 6ft lead and keep them close. Don’t let them go barging up to the other dogs or handlers.

  • Don’t let your dog disturb the class when everyone is practicing. Letting your dog have another dog’s treats while the other dog is learning to “Leave it” is NOT cute or funny.

  • If your dog is ill, don’t attend.

  • Tell the instructor of any allergies or medical issues your dog has.

  • If a certain training exercise is stressing you or your dog out, take a time out and walk out of the class temporarily to give you and your dog some breathing space. If it gets too overwhelming, take your dog home.

  • Don’t feed your dog just before class and don’t overfeed your dog in class. It’s easy to give lots of big treats in a short space of time when you’re training your dog. In my classes, I instruct handlers on the size and type of food to use as rewards, as well as using toys and praise as rewards.

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  • Don't give your dog a load of exercise before class thinking it might calm them down as it will just make them too tired to learn anything.

  • Keep your dog engaged with you when the instructor is speaking. A bored dog will be a nuisance and distraction for everyone. If you’re having a tough time, ask the instructor for tips on how to keep your dog engaged with you.

How to get the most out of a group dog training class

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Dog training classes are fun, informative and totally worth the investment. But ultimately, they are what you make of them.

To ensure training success, make sure you:

 

  • Participate in group activities and learn to the best of your ability.

  • Ask the instructor if you don't understand or are not sure of something.

  • Practice the exercises at home and in as many situations as possible with different rewards – just because your dog can sit and stay in your garden doesn’t mean they understand what you want from them when you’re in the park.

  • Keep track of your progress and talk to your instructor if you want to improve.

  • Record videos of training sessions and share them with your instructor. This is something I highly encourage in my training classes and One to One training sessions. It’s especially helpful when you experience an unusual behaviour outside of classes and have no idea how to deal with it.

  • Continue training even after the sessions are done.

"Your dog’s breed, age or past history shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to train your dog. Every dog deserves a fair chance for a good life. Training gives them that chance. Training your dog is not a luxury, but an obligation you owe to them."