“Should I take my dog to training classes?”
“Does my dog need obedience school?
These are very common questions for new puppy parents!
I know I’ve asked myself the same thing over my 18+years of dog ownership.
Dog training classes aren’t cheap, so of course we want to know whether we really need them before handing over our credit card!
Today, we’ll look at some situations where the answers are a resounding “YES!” as well as when it’s okay to go it alone at home.
Let’s get started!
Should I Take My Dog to Training Classes?
As with most things in life, the short answer to the question, “Should I take my dog to training classes?” is an incredibly vague, “It depends.”
On what does it depend? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about!
Let’s start with some situations where the answer is a definite yes, then we’ll get into some “maybes” and some “probably nots.”
Yes, your dog needs training classes…
I’m going to give you a little hint: if you look at your dog and think, “he’s out of control!” or “I can’t do this!” then you definitely need training classes.
In most cases, our instincts tell us when we’ve gotten in over our heads with a dog, so trust your gut!
If you’re still not sure, here are five scenarios where training classes are pretty much a “must.”
Your Dog is Aggressive
This is the one time when the answer to “should I take my dog to training classes” is always always always a YES (unless you’re a pro yourself).
Trying to train an aggressive dog isn’t just a major challenge, it’s downright dangerous.
I’m not just talking about aggression towards the humans in your house, either.
If Fido is snapping at other pets he needs advanced training.
Here’s the rub: training classes for aggressive dogs are harder to find then basic puppy training classes. They’re also more expensive!
Still, they’re worth every penny if they help you avoid rehoming your dog.
He’s Ignoring Basic Commands
Don’t let the word “basic” fool you, the simple “starter” commands that we teach our dogs lay the groundwork for a lifetime of good behavior.
If your dog ignores your efforts to teach him to “sit” or “come,” you’re setting both of you up for major issues down the line.
The good news: in most cases just adjusting your attitude and your training strategy can produce the results you want.
Basic puppy training classes help you learn where you’re missing the mark and develop strategies that you’ll use throughout the rest of your dog’s life.
If you live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, a “barky” dog isn’t a major problem. After all, there’s no one around to complain!
For the rest of us who have neighbors (and especially those in apartments), training classes can help keep us from dealing with noise complaints!
Also, while some breeds are just natural loud mouths (my Pharaoh Hound is a prime example), in other cases the excessive barking can indicate a deeper behavioral issue.
Your Dog Shows Major Signs of Anxiety
Dog with massive anxiety (including separation anxiety) can definitely benefit from professional training.
If your pup pitches an epic fit every time he has to get into the car to go to the vet, chews up every last pair of your shoes when you leave the house, or cowers in a corner when he meets a new dog, he needs training classes!
Other signs of anxiety include:
- Tail chasing or tucking it in
- Lip licking
- Constant panting
- Whimpering and whining
A good trainer will help desensitize him to his triggers and teach you how to manage his anxiety at home.
He has really bad manners
If your otherwise well-behaved dog just plain has bad manners, he needs schooling.
No, scratch that. YOU need schooling.
I’m sorry to say it, but if your dog is jumping on Great Aunt Sally or stealing food off the counter, it’s more a reflection on you than your pup.
See, he’s just doing what he finds natural. He’s excited to see Sally, so he jumps. He wants that tasty steak, so he grabs it.
YOU need to teach him what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and if you’re having a hard time getting him to mind his manners, you’ll need someone to train you, first!
Don’t feel bad! After all, even teachers go to school to learn how to teach!
Now that we know the situations in which you definitely need obedience school, let’s take a look at some “maybes.”
Maybe you should take your dog to obedience school…
Notice something in common in the headings below? Each of these “maybes” has more to do with you than your dog. Let me explain…
You don’t have confidence in your training skills
If you read up on alpha dog training, you’ll notice that the first rule talks about your own attitude.
Basically, you need to exude confidence, otherwise your dog will sense your apprehension and take advantage of it.
Now, I personally don’t believe in the “pack mentality/alpha leader” theory BUT I do wholeheartedly agree with that rule.
Training always requires confidence. If you can’t exude it, there’s no shame in finding someone who can.
Likewise, if you don’t feel confident that you can grasp the concepts outlined in self-training books, it’s okay to admit that you need help.
You lack the patience to go it alone
Along with confidence, patience is an absolute must when you’re training a dog.
Whether you try alpha training or reward-based methods, if you’re easily frustrated your dog will sense it.
What’s worse: you’re more likely to resort to yelling or other punishment-based methods when you lack patience. That’s not just cruel, it can undo everything you’ve achieved so far.
Again, there is no shame in admitting that you just don’t have the patience for puppy training.
There IS, however, shame in hitting your dog because you’re frustrated. If you feel like you can’t get a handle on your own patience levels, sign up for training classes.
You don’t have time to dedicate to training yourself
Even if you have the utmost confidence in your skills and the patience of a proverbial saint, if you don’t have time to train your pup you may need classes.
Maybe you’re thinking “if someone doesn’t have time to train a dog, then they don’t have time to take them to class!”
Here’s the thing: the time spent training your dog isn’t just about the minutes or hours you spend on the actual task, it’s also about the time spent preparing!
See, you’ll need to read books, watch videos, peruse training articles (like ours).
Honestly, I spend more time reading about dog training than I do actually working with my dog, and not just because I write about the topic!
You have no other way to socialize your puppy
Puppy socialization is just as important as basic training, but sometimes we don’t really have a way to let our dogs meet other people and pups.
For example, maybe you live in a rural area where your next dog-owning neighbor is five miles away.
Perhaps your town completely lacks a dog park. Or maybe you just want to multitask and socialize while you train!
In any of those cases, training classes are a great way to go!
So, why are these things in the “maybes” and not the “definitely” section? Since they all have to do with your lifestyle and personality, they’re situations that you control.
In other words, if you’re able to adjust your own personality or schedule, you can train your dog at home.
If you can’t, though, don’t feel bad about getting outside help.
No, you probably don’t need dog training classes…
Now let’s talk about a couple of cases where your dog probably doesn’t really need training classes.
Note that word “probably.” Every dog and dog owner is different, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that you won’t need classes.
Still, if these situations apply to you, you shoudn’t have an issue training your own dog.
Your dog mastered the basics but is having a hard time with advanced commands
If Fido is a whiz at “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” but just can’t get the hang of “roll over” or “spin around,” you probably don’t need classes.
Your dog has already demonstrated an ability to learn from you, and you’ve already shown that you can teach him.
Some dogs just need a little more work (or the right incentive) to master advanced skills.
For example, my pit (who sadly isn’t with me anymore) always came when she was called, sat on command, and was an all-around super obedient girl.
However, it took her a year to learn how to give her paw on command because I wasn’t giving her the right incentive.
See, she didn’t really care about dog treats. She could take them or leave them. When I started using pieces of hot dog, though, she learned it in a flash!
You’re confident in your training skills AND your dog is a fairly easy-going pooch
Are you confident and patient?
Do you have plenty of time to dedicate to training?
Is your dog an easy-going pooch without any of the issues in the “definitely” section?
If you answered “yep” to all of those questions, then you can likely train your dog on your own at home.
Even if you CAN train your dog at home on your own, you may still want to consider classes.
They’re not just a great way to socialize your dog, but yourself as well! It can be fun to meet other new dog parents and learn from each other.
If you want a quick answer “Should I Take My Dog to Training Classes?” the only thing I can say is this: if YOU think you should, then do it.
Trust your instincts! If you know in your heart of hearts that you just don’t have the ability to do it on your own, then training classes are the way to go.