Mikkel Becker has trained hundreds of dogs. This certified professional dog trainer is a best-selling pet author and is an in-demand speaker on dog behavior at pet conferences.
Yet, when the opportunity arises, Becker doesn’t hesitate to enroll in a dog training class with Willy, her 10-year-old well-mannered pug. She believes that even professional dog trainers – and their dogs – benefit by paying to take classes taught by other experts.
“Willy and I are now in a manners class and even though he is a therapy dog, I see the value of learning from other trainers, continuing training together, and getting to see training from a student’s perspective,” says Becker, of Seattle, who co-authors books on dogs, cats, and horses with her veterinarian father, Dr. Marty Becker.
This begs the question – should you pay to have your dog trained or save money and teach him the basic obedience commands on your own?
The obvious advantages of going do-it-yourself (DIY) is saving money. It also eliminates one of your many must-dos of ensuring you and your dog show up on time for each training session. But as Becker points out, there are far more advantages of enrolling in classes than opting to go solo. Here are six advantages to consider:
1. Classes help hone your dog’s socialization skills around other dogs and people.
Your dog gets the opportunity to meet, sniff and interact with canines of various ages, breeds and temperaments as well as greet people (young, old, some wearing hats, etc.) in a supervised setting. These exposures can help him bring out his best behavior during his dog park outings as well as being handled by pet professionals, including veterinarians, groomers and pet sitters.
2. You reduce your risk of unintentionally teaching bad habits.
Lacking professional dog training and understanding the benefits of reward-based positive reinforcement training techniques, you may try to teach your dog too much too soon. That can create confusion in your canine and frustration in you – two emotions that can impede true learning.
3. You can build on your dog’s learning skills.
When I adopted Kona, my terrier mix, from a shelter earlier this year, we immediately enrolled in a basic obedience class. Upon graduation, we took two more levels of obedience training and she aced her test to earn her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship title. The logical sequence of progressing from basic to more advanced skills boosted Kona’s confidence to master more challenging skills.
4. You can expand into canine sports, trick training or therapy work.
Once you and your dog have a solid foundation of basic obedience, you can branch off into specialty classes. Some dogs have a natural desire to do agility; others enjoy learning tricks while others have the temperament to excel as therapy dogs visiting children in schools and people in hospitals. A professional dog trainer can steer you in the right direction for your dog’s specific talents and interests.
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5. You can motivate older dogs to learn.
While many people see the value of enrolling puppies in classes, they forget the value of teaching their adult and senior dogs new tricks and skills. Becker’s dog, Willy is a certified therapy dog, but loves taking obedience and manner classes.
6. You get the accountability your dog deserves.
“When you enroll in a class taught by a professional dog trainer, you and your dog have homework you need to do at home each week before the next class meets. It makes you accountable to train your dog and bring out the best in him,” says Becker.
By Arden Moore, a dog and cat behavior expert, master certified pet first aid instructor, author of 26 best-selling pet books, radio host, and writer for Pets Best. Since 2005, Pets Best has been offering pet health insurance plans for dogs and cats across the U.S.