Many of you have attended puppy classes and learned the basics with your dog, including how to get them to sit, stand, lie down, walk nicely on leash,and come when called. Puppy classes are a great way to start your education in puppy training. After all, dog training centers are not actually in the business of training dogs. They are actually in the business of training people.
When I watch our classes at Telling Tails I see remarkable progress from many of the dogs in class. I see the same in our service dog practices. In class, the dogs can do amazing things. But if I had a nickel for each time someone said to me, “My dog is great here, but when I take her for a walk….” You can fill in the rest. It doesn’t take much imagination to know that many people struggle outside the classroom.
When I arrive early enough to see the students in almost all our classes arrive, I can understand a bit more clearly why we get that comment as often as we do.
For most people training time begins once the instructor starts giving directions to what will be happening in the first exercise of the class. Up until that moment they have not been in training mode because they have been preoccupied with trying to carry in all their stuff, taking off their coats, finding a place to put their training equipment, getting their treats ready, taking their dogs to pee before class starts, talking to their friends, or squeezing in a bathroom break before class starts.
The dogs, in the beginning of class, are crazy excited. They remember class from last week and they can’t wait to get started. They also remember that there will be other dogs and other people and if pulling will get them there quicker then that is what they will do.
One of the first things I teach in the upper level classes is that the time between the car and when my mouth opens up for the first time is almost as important as the next hour. During this time you have two choices. You can use this time for training or you can let your dog practice bad behavior. If you choose to let your dog practice bad behavior then you are simply teaching your dog something that ultimately you are spending money to get rid of.
So when you arrive at class take advantage of that very valuable training time. Your dog is highly motivated because he wants to come into class. Most dogs like class and they are excited to be there. Work with that. Start by taking all your stuff inside and leave your dog in the car. Set up your stuff and go to the bathroom if you need to. Chat with your friends and get your treats and bait bag all ready. You will have had your dog go potty before you left for dog school so you are all ready. Have your equipment ready and then go get your dog. Training starts the second you open the car door!