Are Classes Right for my Dog?

Posted Monday, 12 January 2015

A client guide to getting the best from a dog training class 

Is a class suitable for your dog?

Before taking your dog to a training class it is important to consider a few things:

Why do you want him to go? Is it for training or for socialisation or both? Most dog training classes should be able to help you with training but not all are suitable for “socialisation”. It depends on what form of socialisation you are looking for.

If you are looking just to meet other dogs and your dog is already friendly with other dogs then classes should be fine.

If your dog is unsocial with other dogs then DO NOT BRING THEM TO CLASSES!!!!!!

How do you know if your dog is social or not? Interestingly this does seem to be an area that many clients don’t understand as these behaviours are often misconstrued as play.

Pro social (positive social) signs include (but are not limited to):

Actively approaching other dogs in a friendly way without barking.
Recognising if another dog is less confident and approaching calmly whilst occasionally looking away, stopping, or giving long eye blinks.
Relaxed body language.
Fluid movement when playing with other dogs.
Politely sniffing the dog before engaging in any interaction, such as sniffing the area in front of the hind leg, the butt area and finally the facial area.
Approaching the dog at an appropriate speed, not charging up in an overly boisterous manner.

Unsocial signs include (but are not limited to)

Averting gaze away from another dog when a dog approaches.
Becoming taller when greeting a dog, lifting up the head high, placing the head over the shoulders.
Tense body during play, especially with stillness if the dog gets on top or in control of the other dog.
Pinning other dogs to the floor.
Aggressive humping of other dogs of any gender.
Becoming very still when a dog approaches (freezing).
Hiding from other dogs.
Avoiding interaction with or “ignoring” other dogs.
Tongue flicking rapidly so that the tongue licks over the dog’s own nose.
Running at dogs very quickly and approaching them without slowing down.
Running away from other dogs.
Barking at other dogs.
Rushing at other dogs whilst barking.
Snapping at other dogs.

If your dog appears to be friendly with other dogs off lead but barks at them when they are on lead then most likely your dog will find an indoor class environment very difficult. You have probably misread their confidence with other dogs when off lead or your dog has had a negative experience with a dog whilst he was on lead or your dog is showing frustration. Indoor classes are mostly run with dogs ON lead. This would make the class environment unsuitable. It makes the trainers’ lives difficult as they try to accommodate all dogs' needs in the class and is embarrassing for you, the owner. It can also damage the confidence of other dogs which are attending the class as well as your own dog's confidence. You will also have used up a space that someone else's dog could have benefited from.

If your dog does any of the unsocial behaviours when interacting with other dogs then you should talk to your trainer about suitability for attending the class BEFORE booking onto it. Most good trainers will offer an assessment session to gauge how your dog might cope. Some trainers are able to offer one to one training in a more suitable environment such as outdoors. Some trainers offer specialist socialisation classes for these dogs in an outdoor environment. If your dog is exhibiting these behaviours then you should ask the advice of a suitably qualified BEHAVIOURIST and not a general trainer. The behaviourist can then set you a plan and work with you and a trainer if the trainer is a separate party.

If your dog mainly exhibits pro social skills with other dogs then classes are more than likely going to be suitable. Go ahead, book on and enjoy your learning experience! Everything is possible in a nice calm dog training class!