Tips For Success in Group Classes
Are you about to join us for class? Here are some tips to help you survive and thrive in obedience group classes!
In group classes, you never know what you are going to get. Your pup may be excited, pulling wildly towards the other dogs in class, barking, trying to play and being the class clown or your pup may be nervous, hiding under your chair, and not taking the treats you offer. Its okay, we get it! Classes, especially the first one, can be a bit chaotic!
We know it's tempting to not come back because your pup was overly excited or nervous, but we encourage you to persevere. When you keep coming, when you stick with it, these behaviors improve, your pup settles into the rhythm of class and you'll come out of class six proud of how far they have come. You and your dog can accomplish so much!
So, in an effort to help you survive your first class and to encourage you to continue through all six of your classes, we have some tips.
Come with reasonable expectations & a sense of humor
If you prepare for the worst, you'll be pleasantly surprised by your pup. If you are stressed out in class, your dog will pick up on it. So, do yourself a favor, take a deep breath, and remember that everyone is in class to learn with their dogs. We have a no judgement space. If your puppy is a little wild, that's what puppies do, so laugh a little and enjoy yourself. The dogs who act the wildest on class one have the greatest potential to be most improved by class six.
Class can be distracting, which is kinda the point with group classes. We help your dog to learn how to focus with other dogs around them. But, you can't expect your dog to focus on you in a high activity environment if you don't have something awesome to help keep that focus. We recommend using multiple flavors of treats when you come to class, not just one. Dogs get bored with flavors too, and if they don't know what flavor they'll get next, they will be much more interested in you!
Also consider bringing more than you think you'll need. Sometimes a Ziplock bag just isn't going to cut it! We often have students who run out of treats in their first couple of classes.
Treats should be soft and small, about the size of a pea. We use pet botanics brand treats in multiple flavors which you can find here
Start as soon as you arrive
The parking lot is part of class! As soon as you get out of the car, reward your dog with a little treat. Get excited whenever your dog looks at you and reward that behavior as you walk towards the building. Something as simple as this can help your pup get used to focusing on you instead of the exciting environment. If you do this every time you come to class, you begin to create that habit. Now you can go and do that at the vet clinic, or the groomers, or the pet store! Starting a pattern of being interesting now, helps you down the road. Imagine being the person with a dog who isn't dragging you towards the petstore!
Management & Questions
During class, if your dog is distracting, it's time to work on management. You may want to have a couple extra special distractions for when the instructor is talking so that your dog is more likely to settle down. Sometimes it's as simple as a toy they like, or a bully stick. If your dog is a little advanced, you can practice their sit, watch or down while the instructor is talking.
If you miss something your trainer says, it is okay to ask questions! Remember, everyone is there to learn and we are there to support and teach you and your dog. If you're unsure, wait until class begins to practice and wave the trainer over to answer your question. If you're not shy, please ask in front of the class! Someone else may be thinking the same thing and be too shy to ask.
Do Your Homework!!
At the end of class, you will get homework, either printed or in the form of PDF on a USB thumb drive. Make sure you take the time to look it over and review. Homework is there to support you when you leave class, to help make sure you have all the information and steps that we practiced in class. In class, the humans are learning, but at home, it's time for you and your dog to learn together.
We recommend that our students make time to practice with their dog three times a day, for five minutes each time. Even such a short amount of time will help your dog form good habits, learn the behaviors and have fun with you! Practice in the kitchen, the living room, bedrooms or office. Make sure your dog understands the behaviors inside the house before practicing in the back yard, or front yard.
We love our group classes, and although we offer different options, there are some reasons why we encourage people to join the group:
-You learn so much from watching other dogs and owners become a team
-The distractions which are so difficult end up teaching your pup to focus in any environment
-Having other owners in class helps you gain perspective. You see that every dog and every owner has their own strengths and weaknesses.
-Your dog makes friends and so do you! Our students often end up making playdates with new friends in class
-You have an audience and people to cheer you on as your dog goes from wild on the first day to a completely different dog by the sixth!!