Once you have selected and enrolled in your dog training school you will be given your start date. Some dog trainers are very organised and will give you full details on the what I am about to tell you but some do not so I hope you will find the following of use.
What will I need to take?
First of all I like to have a good dog training bag. This can be anything big enough to hold your dog equipment but being a typical Dog Mom I like each of my dogs to have their own bags. Recently Paddy needed a new bag and after a lot of searching I found the one below on Amazon; its described as a grooming bag but what attracted me was the size; it has multi-pockets; is water proof; comes in a variety of colours and ofcourse, personlised with his name on it making it easy to grab the right bag for the right dog when needed. The link to this bag is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Personalised-Grooming-Holdall-Printed-GlitterTravel/dp/B07BD3V7RF/?tag=dandb09-21
In my bag I pack some spare poo bags; a small mat or blanket for my dog to settle on in class; a pen and note pad, a tuggy toy and a container of treats. You may also need reading glasses (if you wear them) and during these Covid-19 times don't forget your face mask and hand sanitiser. Depending on what type of class you are attending will depend on whether you need one or two extra items but I will cover these below.
1. Arrive in plenty of time for your class.
If you have never attended the venue where your class will be held it is always advisable to arrive in plenty of time for your class just incase there are issues with car parking and to allow yourself to acquaint yourself on where you can tilet your dog and where your class is, especially if multiple rooms are used in the same venue.
2. Settle yourself and your dog in quickly.
As soon as you are permitted make sure you are wearing your facemask and have sanitised your hands prior to entering the venue. When indicated to do so, go to your allocated space in the room or hall. Unpack your dogs mat or blanket as quickly as possible and class will begin.
3. Pay attention to instructions and take notes
Under Government restrictions only 5 dogs and handlers may attend a class (plus the instructor making 6 persons from 6 different households). These are the rules and in my view makes for better classes any way. It is worrying when I see a hall packed with limitless dogs and owners and an instructor somewhere in the middle trying to teach. I have always kept my classes small because it allows more individual attention for each dog and handler and is less distracting for both puppies/dogs and handlers. So this is an ideal time to attend classes; pay attention and take your own personal notes for your homework if handouts are not supplied.
4. What if my dog won't settle?
It can be annoying and embarrassing for an owner if your dog finds dog school way too exciting to settle whilst you try to pay attention to teacher. There are several things you can do such as supply your pet with a stuffed kong (see how to do this at the end of this post) or try a snuffle mat (link at end of this post). Hopefully, your teacher will keep the class moving so you should not be sitting doing nothing for long periods of your class trying to entertain a bored and excitable dog.
Dogs that bark throughout a class can be disruptive to the rest of the attendees but is giving you feedback on how he/she is coping or rather not, in this situation. Not all dogs are suited for public classes and if this happens with your dog then talk to your teacher for either private tuition or recommendations on where you can obtain the right help for your dog. Either way please do not allow your dog to be subjected to aversive methods to try and stop it from barking such as water sprayed in its face. Believe me, these will not help but will cause your dog to be even more anxious in the public class setting. Protect your dogs confidence always.
5. Ask questions.
If unsure what or why your teacher is trying to instruct you to do please don't be shy to ask questions. I can guarantee that if you are unsure, then so is someone else in the class.
6. Be sure of your homework
Before leaving the class be sure what homework you must do during the week, collect any handouts and pack up your dog and your training bag as quickly as possible. Sanitise your hands before leaving class.
7. Fit your homework into your daily life
Your teacher will have a class plan to progress you and your dog through your weekly sessions but he/she will not be able to progress you on if you do not do your homework. Ideally homework sessions should be kept short, fun and motivating for both you and your dog. The next 7 days to your next training session will pass very quickly and we all lead busy lives involving work, friends, family and other commitments so make a plan on what you can do with your dog daily. Sessions can be shockingly short, as short as just a few minutes but always aim for quality over quantity. Never be tempted to try to squash all of your homework into the day before your next training class, that is not fair to your dog and won't work any way. Short, daily sessions are the order of the day. If you truly have not had time to train your dog during the week be honest and admit as much to your teacher but try harder the following week.
8. What should I do if training doesn't seem to be going right?
My best advice is if things don't seem to be happening as your teacher predicted it should be then do a short video of what is happening at home of no more than a minute or so to show to your teacher at your next class. Most of us have phones with video features these days so use that if possible. For instance, say your dog won't lie down on command, won't come back when called or is still pulling on the lead despite trying to follow the training method to the letter, then do a short video of you training that behaviour and show it to your teacher. That will help him/her very quickly identify why its not going to plan and how to remedy the situation. It is usually something very simple and can be addressed this way quicker than you trying to describe what is happening.
9. Useful extra items
The type of class you are attending will depend on any extra items you may need. The above is useful for most indoor training classes such as for puppy classes; the kennel clubs good citizens classes and/or rally classes. If working outdoors at say agility, hoopers or competition obedience classes you may also need to take your own fold up chair (the type you may take on camping trips or use in the garden), an umbrella, wet weather gear for you and your dog, and I like to use a fold up, raised bed for my dogs to settle on in between exercises and when I am paying attention to the instructions my teacher may be giving me. It allows my dogs to relax better and is handy if there is no where to tie your dog up to if you need to. I am always being asked where I got it from and so here is the link if you would like one too https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chengstore-Elevated-Waterproof-Breathable-Washable/dp/B08F9FN2B9?tag=dandb09-21 There is a photo below of Marti at Hoopers settled on his raised bed.
Again depending of the type of class you are attenting you may also need what I call "specailist" items. These could be your props or music if attending a dog dancing class or your dogs retrieve article or scent cloths if attending an obedience class.
If everything is kept in or near to your training bag then you will never forget a thing particularly during these Covid-19 times when we can't "borrow" items from fellow class mates.
10. What should I do if I feel the class isn't right for me or my dog?
Hopefully you would have done your research and visited your class before enrolling and parting with your hard earned cash but, sometimes you won't know if the class or the type of training methods being used by the teacher suit you and/or your dog until you are taking the class itself. Some people feel they would rather continue with the course they have paid for rather than leave and lose their money, but I would strongly advise against this especially if you consider the type of training methods to be adversive and potentially harmful to your dog. When I say harmful I don't mean physically (at least I hope the teacher is not advocating physical punishment of your dog!) but I do mean damaging the confidence your dog has in you and itself.
Other reasons why you may not want to keep attending class could be that you don't seem to be doing much during class with a lot of sitting around listening to your teacher talking; or the class is rowdy and disorderly; or there are dogs lunging out attempting to attack other dogs; or the classes are not engaging enough for you with no set plan for progression.
In short if you don't enjoy or feel comfortable in your classes and see them as a chore each week then the chances are your dog views the class in the same way. But please don't just give up; find another class to attend; maybe ask a friend where they train their dog or ask another dog owner in the park whose dog seems to always be uncontrol and having fun. Just don't give up; your dogs education is just as important as your childs so move classes rather than abandon them.
For further reading on how to be a good student in class you can download a free ebook by International Trainer Susan Garrett. You will need to subscribe but please be assured Susan does not pass your details on to anyone else and certainly does not bombard you with unwanted and annoying sales emails either. She can be trusted and it is an excellent free ebook as well. The link is https://susangarrettdogagility.com/tag/on-being-a-good-student-ebook/
How to prepare a stuffed kong for class
Purchase a kong of suitable size for your pet. Stuff it with some tasty food stuffs; I like to mix some peanut butter with diced carrots and other vegetables or maybe some of my dogs dinner. Pack the food into the kong as tightly as possible; pop it into a plastic bag and place in the freezer. A frozen kong is great in hot weather but makes it harder work for your dog to get the food out. Just before heading for class, take out of the freezer, leaving it in the plastic bag and place into your training bag. Give to your dog to keep him/her entertained between exercises.
Link for snuffle mats: https://www.amazon.co.uk/FREESOO-Snuffle-Dogs-Feeding-Training/dp/B07GSRWD6D?tag=dandb09-21