How do I find a good dog school?

Finding a good dog school can make a big difference. If you come to a good dog school with your dog, you learn everything together, you learn to work together and understand each other better.

With a less good dog school, there is a risk that your dog will really suffer trauma, or become afraid of you or even start to use more and more aggression. So there are good and not so good dog schools… but how can you know what makes the difference?

What do you pay attention to at a dog school?

There are certain things you can look out for (that’s what you MUST look out for) when looking for a dog school. You usually get the first impression through a website or Facebook page, then you call or email, but only make your choice when you’ve actually been there. Preferably without your dog first, so that you can focus all your attention on the lessons.

  • The group size
  • Safety
  • What materials are used
  • De trainings methods
  • The behavior of the dogs
  • The instructor’s explanation
  • The pace of the lesson
  • The introduction
  • The education level of the instructors
  • Any additional facilities
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The group size

Every dog ​​and every owner is different, so every boss-dog team is also different. As an instructor, you must be able to estimate this well and give everyone the tips that help that combination further.

That won’t work if your group consists of 15 teams. The maximum group size should therefore be around 6 teams. Groups of 4 are also increasingly ‘normal’. Exceptionally, you can see a group of 7 or 8, if, for example, 2 groups have been mixed due to cancellations.

Take your dog on holiday

With standard larger groups, you have to ask yourself how many individual devices are possible. If there are 3 instructors and 8 students, then that is of course a completely different story. Then it is possible that 1 instructor gives an explanation and the other 2 help the students very personally.

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The safety

Are the dogs safe? Look at the grounds, is there a safe fence when there is traffic along with the training pitch? Is there a separation between the groups, so that a buffalo teenager can’t suddenly race right through puppy class? Are the dogs on a leash, or do you see a lot of dogs that go their own way? Is there a mutual distance so that all dogs can really feel safe?

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The materials

A very important point: what do you see the dogs wearing at this school? Do you mainly see a lot of harnesses and regular collars with a buckle or click closure? Fine.

Do you see a lot of hunting leashes or slip chains, prongs or power boxes around the neck of the dogs… go away.

Maybe the instructor will tell you that with that one dog it is really necessary now… don’t listen to it, just leave. That’s not how you want to treat your dog, do you? And if this school uses these methods, they’ve missed out on more than 20 years of training somewhere.

Also, pay attention to the materials that the dogs might walk or jump over. Are these safe?

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De trainings methods

Also, ask how they train and what their vision is. Is it mainly about confirming rank, really being the boss, the dog has to listen, you often have to correct him so that he learns what is not allowed … no, this does not make your dog happy.

Maybe he learns to listen very well and after training, you have a dog that does everything you say, but really working together, no, that is not possible.

Is the method a ‘free upbringing’, there are no limits, you are not allowed to say no, you must ignore all undesirable behavior? This isn’t really helpful either. There is a risk that your dog will become a loose cannon, without any form of obedience. So very little cooperation.

So ask how something is taught (hopefully this goes with a reward signal and reward with something your dog loves) and also ask how boundaries are taught.

dog training method

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The behavior of the dogs

The most honest reviews come from the dogs present. Do you see happy, cheerful, tail-wagging dogs collaborating and playing with their owners? Do you see owners who seem to be having fun? Behavior is not the same as obedience.

So you see grumpy-looking owners and dogs that do everything perfectly with their tail half between their legs… not good.

Do you see combinations that make you think ‘wow, that’s what I want too’, or teams that make you think ‘I think that dog really doesn’t like this?

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The instructor’s explanation

What does the instructor say? Does he or she just call out which exercise is next? For example ‘forward, left, halt, down, stay’? Or does the instructor explain which exercise there will be, what the criteria are for rewarding, where and how you reward, what everyone should pay attention to?

An instructor would then have to provide ‘subtitles’, so feedback and advice. Like for example ‘nice active attention from Rex, how good that with Luna you could reward that little moment of staring, with Tara, make sure you give the reward closer to your body every time. So a good explanation is what, how and why.

behavior of dog during course

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The pace of the lesson

Does the work pace suit you and your dog? Is everyone waiting while the exercises are performed 1 on 1? Or are you allowed to work on the exercise at your own pace when the instructor looks around?

Inactive dogs, endless waiting can cause problems. The dogs will bark and get busy. It is also possible that some of the students are sitting and their dog is quietly with them and other owners are allowed to walk around or play games with their dogs while waiting. That’s fine too.

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The introduction

If you ask to come and watch, what is the response? Is that allowed and if so, is that always allowed or only at a time when there are no classes?

If you can’t watch real lessons, I would be very careful. Of course, there may be other reasons, such as the Covid restrictions last year that prevented it.

But if you feel that there is a bit of secrecy about how the training sessions go… then you might want to look further.

When you go to look, do you get clear answers to your questions? Do you feel comfortable with the instructors?

good dog instructor

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The education level of the instructors

Are the instructors trained and is anything done with further training? “I’ve had dogs for 30 years” is not training in teaching others. ‘I just attended a workshop on teaching but I haven’t had a dog myself’ is of course not really credible either.

So ask about diplomas, experiences with sports if you are going to do an agility course, about attending workshops, seminars and further training. Anyone can call themselves an instructor (even terms like behavior specialist, behavior therapist and behavior counselor are not protected!) so there are no guarantees attached to a ‘title’.

This is different from a school for children, every teacher is trained as a teacher. Just because you can count doesn’t mean you can and should give maths lessons to children.

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These are things that are important to you (or your dog). Are you in a wheelchair? Then of course you look at the accessibility of the site. Don’t have a car? Can you easily reach this dog school by public transport or by bike? Is there a toilet available?

Are the training courses applicable to you, does it match your objective? If you mainly want to work on basic education and the courses focus on exams and competitions, that can sometimes be difficult. The other way around is the same. If you have a goal to shine in a competitive sport, you may have to learn the exercises slightly differently.

is dog school necessary

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Do I have to go to a dog school?

I think it has added value for everyone if you go to a good dog school.

Also with my twentieth puppy, I go back to school. Not because I don’t know how to teach a ‘here’ or on a leash, but because I can’t practice being with my dog ​​at home while other dogs and other people are around.

Learning together in a group is of course also just fun. You can help and support each other.

But preferably no dog school where your dog is suppressed. So if you can’t find a good dog school… don’t go to a less good dog school just because there is!

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Another important point, especially with puppy training, is whether or not to play together. This is one of the questions I hear very often. ‘May the puppies play with each other then’. My answer is: maybe.

If the puppies ‘fit’ together well and it also fits within the goals of the owner and it has added value, then it is possible.

If you have a puppy who likes other dogs much more than the owner anyway… it’s not a good idea to make the training even more difficult by letting the puppies play with each other.

Do you want to romp around 15 kg rottweiler with the 1 kg chihuahua puppy? We’re not going to do that. So it should not pose a risk, both mentally and physically!

Take your dog for a walk. Even if you have a garden or live in the country

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