Dr. Mary Burch of the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers some advice on selecting a trainer and school by observing a class in action.
Seeing a class in action is a true testimonial!
I completely agree! So much so that for years we have encouraged people to come visit the school and take a tour. Check out the training, and see the dogs.
I would love to respond to the points raised by Dr. Burch.
Observe the instructor’s skill level in teaching humans
Instructors need to be experts in teaching people, not just dogs. Handler training makes up about 80% of the team.
Observe the instructor’s knowledge of dogs.
Partners staff undergo extensive training in general dog knowledge, sports dogs, animal husbandry and behavior modification.
Observe the instructor’s communication style with students—pleasant, reinforcing vs. bossy and sarcastic.
Our training staff are specifically selected and educated in teaching people in a pleasant, non-confrontational and positive manner. Sarcasm has no place in our school.
Observe the Organization of the class. How long on each topic, how many students/dogs?
Our classes are generally 8 to 10 dogs, with two (or more) instructors to a class. Some classes have a ratio of two dogs to a trainer.
Observe the Curriculum—does it teach all you want to learn?
Our curriculums are specifically tailored to the level of class, as well as to ensure all topics are addressed. While we do not pre-publish our class curriculums, you are welcome to discuss them with our staff prior to signing up for class.
Do the dogs look happy, eager to work vs. bored or nervous?
We focus lots of attention on training the dogs to be happy, excited and passionate about class.
Do the human students look happy, eager to work, or frustrated?
Come see for yourself! Few people ever think our classes are slow.
Is the instruction presented and sequenced so that students and dogs are having success?
Our classes are carefully structured by our Training Director to build on a foundation in baby steps.
Teaching methods—for example, do you spend all the time listening to the instructor talk?
Clearly we love to teach; and some of that involves talking. But we also focus on theory, explanations and practical application of the drills. Instructors will explain, then demonstrate each step. Then the students are encouraged to do the same, and supported if they struggle.
Observe the instructor’s ability to handle any behavior problems or student questions.
Instructors are trained to answer questions and maintain safety. They can also call in an assistant or senior instructor if needed. With 30 years of training behind us, there is not a lot we haven’t covered.
The AKC further suggests: “Observe the instructor’s teaching before signing up for a class. Don’t make the decision about which class you and your puppy or dog will attend based on factors such as the class being the closest one to your home, the cost, or the day of the week the class is held. The instructor you choose will be providing your dog’s basic training and the foundation for all other training that follows. Interviewing the instructor and observing a class before enrolling will ensure that both you and your dog get the training that best meets your needs.”
I could not have said it better myself!
We offer classes most weekday evenings, and on Saturday mornings.