So you’re dog just can’t behave itself. It definitely happens from time to time that a dog is so unruly that you have no choice but to accept it’s time to seek the help of a professional trainer. That help may come in the form of one-on-one private lessons, or an alternative is a cost-effective group obedience class.
But what if your dog is already well behaved? Does that mean that group classes are a waste of time and money for you? Absolutely not! There are lots of benefits that can come from taking your dog to a group class, even if your dog is rather well behaved.
First of all, there’s no such thing as an overly obedient dog. It certainly couldn’t hurt for your dog to attend a class and improve upon existing obedience skills. Your dog may perform well inside your quiet and distraction-free home, but what happens when your dog goes out in public?
One way to test your dog’s basic skills is to see if he or she responds to your cues amidst the novelty of a different environment, the excitement of meeting new people and the challenge of being in the vicinity of other dogs. If your dog turns into a completely different dog in public, group class is a great place to work on helping your dog practice basic cues like sit, down and stay in a more rousing environment.
Secondly, doing an activity with your dog can serve to enhance the bond between you. I’ll be the first to admit that the previous sentence sounds a little hokey and is quite the epitome of “trainer geek speak.” What exactly does it mean to “enhance the bond” between a dog and owner? If you and your dog are working together in a positive manner to facilitate good behavior, the more fun you are likely having together. The more fun and rewarding your interactions are for your dog, the more quickly you can build good communication and a meaningful relationship. Your dog will begin to look to you for guidance and information in situations where he or she might be unsure of the appropriate behavior.
As owners, we definitely need to take advantage of these situations and steer our dogs toward appropriate behavior for life. Taking a puppy class or a basic obedience class is just beginning of this process. In fact, a basic obedience class is usually a preliminary step towards other fun organized activities with your dog, including agility, rally obedience and therapy dog work.
Last but not least, it’s a sad fact that problem behaviors are cited as a main reason that dogs are relinquished to shelters for re-homing. Another sad fact is that approximately 23,000 animals are euthanized in shelters every year in St. Louis city and county. Although effective spaying and neutering will help affect these numbers dramatically by preventing unwanted stray litters, a large percentage of the shelter population are dogs that were purchased as pups, had seemingly pleasant puppyhoods, and then grew up to be unruly, out of control adolescent dogs.
Taking your young dog to a proper puppy class and a basic obedience class will only help to set your dog on the right path for life. When the unruly adolescent stage arises, you will be well-prepared with tools on how to properly manage, address and redirect unwanted behavior, hopefully preventing an emotionally distraught heart-breaking drive to the nearest animal shelter.
Finding a good class starts with finding good trainer with experience and positive methods. Methods that rely on the use of choke chains, pinch collars and shock collars should serve as a huge red flag that methods are not positive-based.
An effective group class should limit the number of dogs in class to ensure that each student is getting enough attention, for example, no more than 6 dogs per instructor. The instructor should take precautionary measures against the spread of disease between dogs by checking to see that the appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.
Lastly, if you are unsure about attending a group class, ask the instructor if you can audit a class. A good class should speak for itself with both dogs and students making progress throughout class. If dogs (or students) look unhappy, uncomfortable or overly stressed, the instructor should help make accommodations to change the learning dynamic or even recommend private instruction for certain dog and owner teams, as needed.
Attending group classes is just another way to set your dog up to be successful in life. If you can learn how to quickly, calmly and appropriately deal with unwanted behavior if and when it arises, you’ll appreciate and enjoy your time with your dog that much more.
The Persuaded Pooch offers group classes for puppies and adult dogs at the Webster Groves Recreation Center, beginning on Sept. 13. For more information on group classes, click here, contact us with questions or call 314-963-5600 to register. Discounts are offered for residents of the city of Webster Groves.