A great puppy class can be so much fun for you and your puppy, so how do you pick one?
Puppy classes are an opportunity for learning, development and socialisation. With all of these three things in one place? You can make great strides in your puppy’s young life. It can also be equally detrimental if you don’t do your research properly.
I want to help you and puppy find that class.
We are going to chat about what to discuss with the class trainer, where to find recommendations, what to expect, and what not to accept.
1 – What makes a good puppy class?
You know what? It comes down to two, super simple things. A good, encouraging, passionate trainer and force-free methods.
(Note! Force-free can be labelled as coercion free, fear-free, or as positive reinforcement! But still ask questions of your trainer about their methods? Because training is an unregulated industry and it can be a minefield.)
It can also be great if you have the ability to have a breed specialist? But that part doesn’t matter so much if your trainer is passionate and knowledgeable, because even if they don’t know the answer? They’ll go find the answer for you.
They should also set homework! You need to practice at home, you can’t just practice in the class, that’s not how training works. A 1hr a week session for 6 weeks isn’t going to teach your puppy anything valuable in the long run.
I also like a class that wants to push you beyond sit and come. Whilst they’re really core things to learn? I don’t expect this to be all you would learn. You want to see some elements of dog care, of public space manners or dog park etiquette, some information about equipment and they should be giving you as much knowledge as possible.
I mean there’s obviously some general mechanics like a 9 am on a Friday, when you are meant to be doing the school run, just isn’t going to work. So make sure you check that out too!
2 – Where do you find a puppy class?
There are a couple of good options for this one.
1 – Reviews and Recommendations (local facebook dog groups can be great for this).
2 – Personal Recommendations from your dog walking buddies.
3 – Google.
Google?! Did I really just tell you to google it?!
Holy cow, of course, you knew that! And I know you do, but seriously. You can really quickly tell something about a trainer when you look at their website. Check out their website, their social media and check that it is up to date, and well-produced – why?
Why should you care that your potential future trainer has a nice, slick website and looks like they know what they’re doing? That’s not their job after all! So, surely it doesn’t matter…
Well, not really…
Simply put, because if they’re investing in their business? They’re almost always investing in their clients. Which means you are going to get the best out of them. Pick a business that invests in itself and is full of personality too!
3 – What to ask your trainer
When you’ve pruned down your list of potential puppy classes? You need to have a chat with each trainer and scope out what the trainer is offering and how the classes go. Ask what they teach and the reasons they teach it. They should have experience and should be able to demonstrate what they’ve studied – and don’t feel shy about asking! You’re invested in your pup, you want your trainer to be invested too.
This one is important.
Make sure they are insured.
It sounds basic. But it is so so important, because if anything happens (god forbid!) but you need to make sure that they and you are covered.
4 – What to expect of the venue
Wherever you’re training? You want to make sure that the venue is suitable, silly things like no trailing wires are something to watch out for and you want to make sure that the class sizes aren’t too big and that space is enough for you (or another puppy owner!) to get space should it be needed.
Space should also be weather appropriate – please don’t be training outside in the blazing hot sun, responsible trainers should cancel, but just because your trainer doesn’t cancel the class, doesn’t mean you have to go. Losing the cost of one class vs potential heat stroke? Though, to be fair, if they continue in the hot weather would suggest they’re more interested in their profits than the welfare of their class – that should be an alarm bell.
Still! I digress. Space, suitability and, basically, an appropriate learning environment should always give space, give light, keep distractions to a certain level, and be safe.
5 – Go to a class without your puppy!
Go attend one of the classes without your dog, just to observe how the trainer’s style is. They should be open, free and friendly and not dictatory. This is for you, for sure! But this isn’t school! You’re there because you want to be there, not because you or the trainer is obligated to be.
Make sure you can gravitate with their style, make sure that the class is learning and progressing.
Even feel free to talk to someone who’s just come out of the class and ask how they’re finding it. That should be a helluva recommendation if they come out singing praises!
Are there other resources than a puppy class you can use?
Yep! You can always try 1:1 classes, and there are online options too. Some options include virtual classroom settings, these will limit a little of what you can do, but it’s not that critical – it may cost you less time, but you may need more equipment.
And then! Then there’s our pupdates! They’re packed full of info, week by week emails, that covers and explains your puppy’s development, that helps you to demystify them and help you become your puppy’s best advocate. We cover all of your puppy questions, fears and woes, and make puppy training understandable and accessible.
Then there’s youtube too, and oh, would you look at that, we have one! Go subscribe to our channel, I’ll be updating it as frequently as possible!
And that’s that!
Remember your learning doesn’t stop out of that class though… you have to practice here there and everywhere. It’s not like when you learnt Pythagoras at school (or you didn’t, but you know what I mean!), once you got it, you got it.
That’s not the same with puppies, you need to have tried it in all sorts of places, at home, in the park, in the vets, outside the school and any place you can think of.
Keep practising and if you’re unsure? Ask questions! Your trainer should be happy to help – and if they’re not? Why not drop me an email and see if I can help?
Looking forward to hearing from you!