Classes - What To Look For


When looking for local dog training classes it is vital that you choose someone who uses reward-based training methods only. This means rewarding dog behaviours that are wanted and that you have requested from the dog.  The following information will help you choose the most suitable training class for your puppy: what to avoid, what to look for and information on accredited dog trainers ...

Reward Based Training

When looking for local dog training classes it is vital that you choose someone who uses reward-based training methods ONLY. This means rewarding dog behaviours that are wanted and that you have requested from the dog.


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What to look for to ensure that your dog or puppy is treated kindly and appropriately at classes:
  • Instructors who are members of the APDT (Association of Pet Dog trainers) **
  • Classes where methods such as clicker training and targeting is used
  • Reward-based training classes
  • Exercises should be broken into small sessions suitable for owners and puppies to learn
  • There should be variety in the exercises and options given for those at different levels
  • Puppies/dogs and people should look relaxed and happy
  • Noise should be kept to a minimum - shouting is unnecessary and lots of barking can indicate that the dogs are stressed
  • Instructors should be approachable. Do they appear friendly and caring towards owner and pup or dog? Are people able to ask questions?
  • Classes should not be over-crowded – there should be space for puppies/dogs and owners to work, well supervised by the trainer(s)
  • Methods should suit the dog and handler in question. Food and toys are excellent motivators. Not many dogs work for praise alone – although praise with voice should be encouraged
  • Owners should not be encouraged to keep vigorously patting their pup/dog, especially around the head – it over-stimulates some dogs and puts others off going near their owner.
  • Handling should be calm, slow and gentle
  • Play between puppies should be carefully supervised and controlled and combined with gentle, effective training. 
  • Play sessions should be kept short.
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Training methods that you need to avoid

Training does not mean telling your dog off using punishing equipment such as water sprays or cans of stones, using punishing methods such as jerking the dog’s neck using choke chains*, tight slip leads, smacking the dog, or pushing the dog to the floor.

Avoid all of these:

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Reward based training means training a wanted behaviour, to replace an unwanted one, rather than punishing the dog for getting it wrong. This approach is about guiding the dog to get it right rather than waiting for the dog to get it wrong and then trying to ‘correct’ the behaviour which will inevitably involve punishing the dog.

For example, this means training a ‘sit’ when a dog jumps up, instead of saying ‘NO’ or pushing the dog off, jerking the lead to get the dog down, or shouting or smacking the dog.

Other punishments used in classes by trainers who do not understand how dogs learn and think, include spraying dogs with water, shaking cans of stones or even worse, physical punishments. This can involve very unpleasant methods such as lifting dogs off the ground with the lead or by their ears, squashing dogs to the ground, dragging the dog by the lead, pushing the dog into position or hitting the dog.

Avoid any classes where the trainer tells you that you have to ‘dominate your dog’ or that you have to be the ‘pack leader’. People who use this approach are very likely to be using out of date methods (these ideas have been disproved through research – they do not explain how dogs think) such as those described above involving punishments.

Avoid any of these training methods, they are harsh, unnecessary, they don’t work, and they will frighten your dog. This will damage the bond between you and your dog, and make your dog confused. This may make your dog frightened of you or other people and can lead to your dog showing aggression towards people later in life, as fear is the main reason we see aggression in pet dogs.

© Athenae Information Sheet 25: Training Classes   This information has been offered by Jane Williams, Animal Behaviour Specialist and Dog Star Training.   For more information visit   

Training dogs with a choke chain can directly lead to injuries in the throat and neck, can cause limb ataxia and even fainting in some dogs.  This is not a recommended method of training.  For more information this click on the link below for the APDT's choke chain leaflet.

** Accredited organisations

There is no national regulatory body for dog trainers, though there is government and veterinary profession support for the development of a national register of dog trainers.  The Animal Behaviour and Training Council championing this, and they have a growing list of recognised dog trainers.  We recommended you visit their website, click here.  
There are a few organisations that offer voluntary membership providing the trainers fulfil their membership criteria.
We recommend you look at membership to such organisations when searching for a trainer to ensure reward based training methods are used, the trainer has reached a minimum standard and they are adhering to a code of conduct.   
For further details visit our puppy training advice page, click here. Why the APDT, UK is against the use of Choke Chains
Let's teach them, not choke them
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