Attending Traditional Classes
For many dogs group situations like classes are much too novel. It is as if I was teaching you calculus while a live marching band played the national anthem in your living room. Classes are great at learning socialization skills and for practicing sits and downs and stays after each behavior has ALREADY been taught in a calmer environment like your home. Classrooms should be the last step when we are talking about teaching a behavior. It is what we call proofing a behavior. If we get a sit in "class" from fifty feet away, then your dog probably understands the behavior. It is best to teach in stages of increasing difficulty and distraction (which might be a classroom) is employed in one of the later stages of behavior learning.. not right away.
In the ideal world you should REALLY teach your dog the behavior and then go to class. This is different than going to class and learning how to teach the behavior with your dog and going home and practicing it. Too much pressure. Sink or swim mentality.
I see the decision process like this:
1. Decide what type of leader you would like to be. It is important to be honest here. Since this is a clicker list we have chosen a path. Then stand up for your values. You will be "hasseled" by lots of people whatever road you take..no one will agree with you... believe me. You need to be able to confidently say to yourself what is appropriate leadership behavior. This is an individual choice. As much as I dislike J&P I know that it is not my job to convince a client that it is "bad". It is also not possible. People need to discover this on their own. This is a very hot issue.
2. I need to learn how to train. After deciding YOUR style and you have someone in your neighborhood that understands what you want.... hire them privately! This is cheap at any price. You will be learning very valuable skills that will last a lifetime. It is difficult to learn such important things in "factory" setting. Private instruction can teach you more effectively and help you solve your individual problems you might be having. "Custom fit"
If you must go to "class" consider just observing w/o your dog. You can bring your dog under the condition that both of you are just "hanging out". If I ran group classes I would insist on it for at least a few weeks. Remember that classroom situations can put your dog in a high state of arousal. They are in an unfamiliar place with strange people, dogs, smell, noises. It is very difficult to train anything under stressful conditions. Observing passively will teach you the skills you want and will give your dog social experience and help reduce the novelty of its situational environment. It also gives you a chance to objectively look at the teaching methods without feeling the pressure of how well YOU are performing, another problem issue that causes doggy-human stress.
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List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com