Do I really need to take my puppy to puppy classes?
May 19, 2008 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Do I really need to take my puppy to classes? Can you recommend a good one in Los Angeles?

I have a 4.5 month old lab mix rescued puppy. She is already house broken ( thanks crate training). She has learned what she is allowed to chew on and what she cannot. She walks great on the lease and socializes very well at dog parks. She sits about half the time I tell her to but we keep working on it. She understands "no" thanks to a squirt gun.

What am I really gonna get out of puppy classes if she is already housetrained, knows how to walk on a leash, socializes plenty at dog parks already and is already learning sit/heel/lay down/ stay/ and come?

Can you recommend a good puppy class or group obedience class on the Westide of Los Angeles?
posted by Twinedog to Pets & Animals (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you're an experienced dog owner, nothing. But it's apparent that you've learned the self-discipine necessary to train yourself and to work on training with your dog.

The only thing you might get extra (and this is just my opinion as a dog owner, I'm not a training expert) is a framework for training if you want to do agility or some other form of competition in the future.
posted by SpecialK at 4:43 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: I took my puppy to classes and also bought a whole bunch (an absurd number, really) of dog training books. I got a whole lot more out of the books than I did from the classes, but I was totally into it and super motivated. I think the classes are aimed more at people who really need help teaching their dog the basics and benefit from demonstrations. Also, although the teacher of the class I took advertised herself as using only positive methods, it turned out that she was heavily into choke chain corrections, spray bottles, etc. I don't think that's how one intelligent being should treat another, so I dropped out. My dog is now beautifully behaved and knows dozens of entertaining tricks, all learned using only positive methods. More importantly, she trusts me never to hurt her.

Of all the books I got, these were the best:

My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. In addition to really clever methods for teaching basic skills like sit, down, etc., it also has lots of games for teaching your dog to focus on you. The book has an associated web site and forum with professional trainers who will answer your questions and help you with problems. It also comes with a DVD.

Don't Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor. This is not specifically a dog-training book but rather a short, general work on operant conditioning. It's absolutely fascinating and will make you an expert at training not only your dog but also your cat, spouse, kids, co-workers, etc.

Clicker training is a total blast. I started with Clicking with Your Dog by Peggy Tillman. So much fun. My dog gets all excited when she sees the clicker come out and it is amazing to see how quickly she learns.
posted by HotToddy at 5:33 PM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

IANACAB, but please go really easy on the squirtgun! It's great for "startle" training, but it can also make some animals afraid of the context in which they met it.
Your dog sounds like it would respond really well to some of the fully-positive training approaches out there, such as the school many associate with Patricia McConnell In my area there are a lot of opportunities to take such positive classes, and what they really teach are how humans can enjoy creatively finding ways to positively reinforce the behaviors that let their dogs have the freest possible lives.
I think the main benefit of classes for someone who a) obviously has a dog with good inherent skills, and b) obviously gets the basics of conditioning, is that taking classes constantly lets me see miscues in other humans that teach me how to better communicate with my dogs!
posted by Mngo at 9:11 PM on May 19, 2008

as a dog trainer i can tell you those classes are more for the owners than the dogs. you sound like you've got a good thing going so just BE CONSISTANT. finding a good group to socialise you dog with as many people and animals as possible while she's young is the other most important thing. introduce her to nice people of all shapes, colors, and styles as soon as you can.
posted by swbarrett at 9:35 PM on May 19, 2008

I only have limited experience with any puppy class since I have a 13 week old pup now...but, it does sound like you have a good handle on things. My only thought is that if you decide you don't need a class now, don't totally dismiss it as an option later should the need arise (I hear dog adolescence can be difficult). But, you might be able to get a lot out of books. The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson is an interesting read.

Also, I don't know anything about LA trainers...but the SFSPCA has some trainers (graduates of their Academy) in the LA area.
posted by hazel at 10:41 PM on May 21, 2008

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