I would consider a Puppy class to be essential education, not just for the puppy, but also for the whole family. You’ll learn so much more than just obedience cues. My classes are structured with breaks after each exercise so that no one or their puppies get overwhelmed, bored or frustrated. The breaks between exercises are used for teaching the puppies to settle and to discuss that week’s topic. As Dog Training is an unregulated industry, it’s wise to research and do your homework.
Here’s a few helpful tips;
Check out the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers) and ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council). The first two hold assessments which covers theoretical knowledge and practical experience in great depth. They also have a code of practice and ethics which state that no harmful methods shall be used. This makes training fun, safe and family friendly.
Ask the trainer about their training methods. It’s a lot easier now to find fear free, kind, ethical, science based trainers that don’t use ‘traditional’, old fashioned methods. If a trainer uses words like ‘dominance’, ‘alpha’, ‘top dog’, ‘pack leader’ or ‘stubborn’, then they fall in to the ‘traditional’ category. They will probably use ‘corrections’ (physical punishments) or intimidation which have been proven to cause aggression, cause physical damage, fear of humans and other behaviour fallout. If they use words like ‘fun’, ‘games’, ‘rewards’, ‘building a bond’, ‘modern’, ‘marker word’, clicker or ‘confidence giving’ then go to the next step!
Ask if you can attend and observe a class, this way you’ll find out if they practice what they preach. Look for happy puppies with their happy owners. The pups should be working quietly with their handlers in a calm environment. I always welcome people that want to check out my classes to make sure I’m the right fit for them.
Check out the trainers teaching skills too. Are they clear with their instructions, do they go around the class giving individual guidance and feedback to all the handlers and are they happy, enthusiastic and professional? Is there a teaching assistant and enough trainers to give all attendees personal time? Ideally there should be 6-8 pups/dogs with 1 trainer and an assistant, any more would need an extra assistant.
Costs can vary, but the average for a class is around £10-£15, courses around £80, private sessions around £30-£60, depending on where you live.
Any trainer should be skilled at reading canine body language, this is important for predicting interactions and interrupting any inappropriate behaviours.
A trainer should be prepared for the class they’re about to teach. I have lesson plans, extra rewards, handouts, different toys, a box of calming enrichment toys and chews, spare long lines, leads, harnesses and any equipment for that particular class.