Time to get your dog some schooling?
Anyone who’s had a set of muddy paw prints daubed across the front of their favorite shirt or skirt will readily tell you how useful dog obedience classes are. Taking your four-legged friend to school might sound like a bit of a joke but it could save your pets life.
A few essential commands and techniques can make all the difference when you’re relaxing at home or out walking. You need to be able to control or recall your dog when it could be in danger too. It may slip its lead near traffic or escape from the confines of your back garden.
Obedience classes will make your existence together a whole lot easier. It’s best to start your dog young before they form bad habits, but it’s never too late to try and teach them the basics with a little reward-based training.
At beginner classes your pet will typically learn how to:
• Sit, stay and lie down
• To return when called
• To socialise with new people and other dogs
• Not to pull on the lead while walking
• Not to jump on other dogs or people
So what do you look for in a good training class?
The RSPCA advises that owners observe a training class without their dog before joining. This gives you the opportunity to see if you feel comfortable with the instructor and the methods they use.
The society recommends that you look for:
- Dog behaviour – on the first day some pets may be anxious. Does the instructor or assistant help the anxious dog?
- Training methods – look for classes that rely on rewards (food, play or toys) and steer clear of any that rely on fear, pain, choke chains, shouting or hitting
- Class size – ideally there should be no more than eight puppies in a class with an instructor and their assistant
- Learning environment – Is the class calm and quiet? Lots of shouting or barking indicates high stress levels
- Instructors who stick to the basics – tutors should stick to teaching obedience and not stray into giving advice about medical issues or serious behavioural issues. Owners should be referred to their vet or clinical animal behaviourist if they have serious concerns about their pet.
Attending classes is a positive activity, and a great way to bond with your dog. To find the right one, seek word-of-mouth recommendation from your friends, or think about taking advice from the fellow owners you meet out walking. You could ask your vet, your local animal shelter or groomer to help pick a group.
There’s no time like the present for your old dog to start learning some new tricks.