Full disclaimer: I do not teach obedience classes and I have no financial interest in promoting any class or instructor. I simply believe that live classes result in better-trained dogs and handlers than can be produced by a video. Here's why. 

There is some terrific information available on YouTube, and the goofballs are pretty easy to detect. They generally blow themselves up or cut off a finger while telling you how great they are. (Check out this dude who thinks he’s a firearms instructor.)

So why shouldn’t you use a YouTube video for obedience training your dog? It beats rushing to a class after work, is far cheaper, and if your baloney detector goes off mid-class you haven’t paid $125 for six Thursday nights in advance.

The challenge is socialization. Obedience training is only partly about your dog learning to heel, sit and stay. For those skills to have any meaning, the dog must be able to do them virtually anywhere. (OK, the squirrel exhibit at the zoo might be asking too much.)

A dog with a solid “sit-stay” learned at home via YouTube will be a wild banshee their first time at a city park. They’ll be overstimulated by water spraying in the fountain and squealing kids on the grass. If you have a retrieving breed, God help you if there’s an activity happening that involves a ball.

Let me be clear. There are some terrific dog trainers on YouTube. But for that training to be effective you need to get out into the real world, and work through your lessons with other people, dogs and noises around. That’s the advantage of a brick-and-mortar class location. There will be other dogs, doors slamming, other dogs, an instructor talking loudly, other dogs, squeaky toys and more. Did I mention there will be other dogs present? If you’re lucky a family of four will be there with the kids behaving badly while mom and dad work the dog. Bratty, distracting kids are nuggets of gold at a dog obedience class.

The live instructor has other advantages:

  • They can problem solve with your specific dog. While there are some generalities, every breed and every dog within a breed is different.
  • They can problem-solve with YOU. I don’t care if it’s high-end SAR or just basic obedience- the harder half of the team to train is the human.
  • They can reassure you when you’re doing well. Honest confidence means you’re the leader of the pack, and your dog will respond to your sense of self-assurance.

The final benefit of a live class is that you’ll get to see other handlers struggle with their dogs. I’m not trying to be catty or suggest you engage in one-upmanship. I do suggest you file those challenges (and the solutions you observe) in your memory bank. Trust me- eventually your dog will go through the same phase, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with it quickly.

Live classes are the way to go. Good instructors can be found in almost every locality. Do an internet search or check with a trusted pet store or breeder for a recommendation.

Stay Found!

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