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What do people think of taking your dog to training classes? Obedience classes, trick classes, etc. When should you go to a trainer vs when should you train your dog yourself?
I personally have done all my training at home, except for agility, but I have a friend who just got a puppy, and they've been asking me for advice. Do training classes help, or is it better for your dog and your bond with that dog to train at home?
 

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Like you, I do my training at home. Even with puppy kindergarten, by the time a puppy has been vaccinated and had titers, he's going to know pretty much everything he'll experience in the class. So I don't go to classes to have someone show me how to get my dog to sit, down, etc., but so that my dog gets experience doing those things in a different environment with other dogs around. Since my end goal is competition with my dogs, they need to learn how to handle a high level of distraction, and classes are a step along the way (after that come matches).

In this area you can do drop-in classes rather than sign up for courses, and that's what I do. Puppy kindergarten is the only course I've signed up for with my last 3 dogs. That's not to say I don't get helpful tips and instruction at the drop-in classes because I do. Good instructors have a lot more experience at competition with a greater variety of dogs than someone like me will ever have.

The other reason for classes is what you pointed out in mentioning agility - to be able to train on equipment you don't have at home. I don't do agility, but if I ever decide to do barn hunt, the only way to train for that will be classes. I could easily get straw bales and all, but I'm not about to take on rats just for dog training.

You do need to choose your classes carefully, though. Just for an example, I was in a puppy kindergarten class where the instructor's way of teaching Leave It was to put the puppy in a sit, put a treat in front of it, and then say, "leave it" and smack it on the nose when it went for the treat. So you need to choose your class and instructor carefully, but you also need IMO to be the kind of dog owner who will simply say, "Nope, not doing that." In that particular case, I just didn't do it and no one noticed, but I've occasionally come to the point of having to openly refuse to do whatever was recommended.
 

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Whoops, as to your actual question about your friend - too many people think just going to a class once a week will train their dog. Classes or no, you need to train a dog regularly at home, on walks, etc., and that's what creates the bond.
 

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I currently do all my training by myself, through an online school, Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - Home Around here, I have my choices of Petsmart (if the one guy is still there, I might take a puppy class there this summer, just so he can see a bit of the world), Petco, or a very old school trainer (who, when I took a class from her several years ago, yanked her demo dog practically off his feet, and then rolled and pinned him for breaking a down).
 

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I think going to different training classes are fun & useful for several different reasons. First off, if someone has a young puppy (I don't do puppies, but for those that do...) the socialization aspect of a well run puppy kindergarten is invaluable! It is a safe & secure place to get a young puppy around other dogs before their entire vax. schedule is complete & the window of socialization has already closed.

For older dogs, classes still offer an opportunity to work with them in the presence of other dogs/people in a well controlled environment. Whether they need to learn how to 'sit', 'down', 'stay', etc... or you've already taught them the basics at home, a general OB class offers distractions that are hard to recreate in the regular course of a day. And, if there are a few issues that you're struggling with, it's helpful to have new & experienced eyes on your team to offer what might be very helpful pointers.

Specialty classes, such as agility or nosework, can offer time & opportunity to work with equipment not available at home, and get guidance from someone more experienced in that particular venue. Plus, it's just a fun & special time to spend with your dog. For anyone with multiple dogs, it's a wonderful way to carve out individual attention time, which is generally enjoyed by both parties.

I took my 11 year old to an agility class last summer & am hoping to get him to the dock diving class this year (even though we have absolutely NO thought of actually participating formally in either sport) Old dogs can absolutely love learning new tricks!
 

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For someone experienced with dogs and used to setting training goals and problem solving training issues, I'd say classes are optional. If your friend is less experienced - either a new dog owner or someone who's never really 'done things' with their dogs, I think a quality class is invaluable for setting up good foundation and teaching people how to work with their dogs. I do think that for highly physical dog sports like agility, it's wise to do in-person classes if possible when you're just starting out, even if you're an experienced trainer in other ways. That's just because there's injury risks to more physically intense sports and any good instructor is going to explain how and why to train things a certain way to reduce physical impact or dangerous situations (like the dog deciding to leap off the top of an A-frame).

Personally, I like classes. I stay on track better with my at-home training, it's an easy socialization opportunity for younger dogs (not necessarily playing with the other dogs, I mostly mean for learning how to work around other dogs), and I have another pair of experienced eyes to help me if I have issues or need to troubleshoot. It's also decently good socializing for my introverted self when I need to have some more time out of the house and around people with at least one thing in common with me - the love of their dogs. I'm also living in an open plan apartment right now and having a dedicated training space and time where I'm not working around my wife or our other dog is hugely helpful. I like online classes too - I'm absolutely a nerd who wants to learn All The Things - but I struggle to stay on-track and motivated when I don't have to physically show up and be held accountable every week for the progress we're making.
 

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I like young dog classes so I can work on focus and basic obedience with focus. After that it depends on your specialty, your level of knowledge, the level of knowledge of the instructor and equipment availability if equipment is used.

If you intend to go beyond pet dog basics (behavior in house, yard and loose leash walking.. recalls etc.) then you can benefit greatly from at least a knowledgeable spotter who understands what you need to look like in front of a judge and how to get that in training (location and timing of reward delivery etc.)

In my sport you really need to be in a club and you need knowledgeable club members to help you on the field so you can perfect your dog's behavior. Everything is "points off" so eventually the goal is "where can I afford to lose points and preserve as many as possible" (pick your battles).

I like the hustle and bustle of a training group/club or classes and seminars to continue the life long work of focus on the handler. It can really help in all kinds of situations.

Example.. I decided to go for my dog's CGC at a HUGE dog breed and obedience show in a huge convention center. Dog had never been in such a situation.. it was a a LOT to take in. He was obedience trained but we never did a single CGC exercise.

We got there and he was like, "Whoa! A lot of Stuff and Dogs here.. and NOISE (PA system)." He is an extremely confident, well balanced dog which helped, but he is still a dog in a new and overwhelming situation.

I walked in and he took it in and simply went to Basic (sitting in heel position) and focused on me because he had been taught that is the safest thing to do always. He defaulted to obedience as a way to calm himself and to feel safe. We then went and did our CGC test and he was a rock star. Many compliments by the tester and those watching.

All that training and building relationship with a lot of different people in different places doing different things gave him the tools to find safety in obedience and focus.
 
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