The idea of a dog trainer taking their dog to someone elses class can seem a bit funny - why would you do that, surely you can save some time and money and do it yourself. Surely you must know what you are doing, if you go to someone elses class isn't that admitting you don't?
Well, no! My latest pup, Tatty, a Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen, has been attending another trainers puppy classes. We've been going to The Happy Dog Training Co. , who run puppy classes under the Puppy School scheme, and we will be progressing to some of their other classes.
I will admit, one reason is that I prefer behaviour consultations, working on a one to one basis with clients, and dislike the admin involved in running classes.. but thats definitely not the only reason!
Here are some fabulous reasons why trainers SHOULD take their dogs to other trainers classes:
Nobody is perfect!
Going to someone elses class helps to show up the areas where you might have skipped something, made a mistake or forgotten something.This is very easily done, particularly with puppies and particularly when you spend most of your time thinking about and training other peoples dogs!
Another set of eyes!
Attending another trainers class gives you access to another set of eyes - someone who is able to give you vital input, and see the things that you may miss.
Whilst we shouldn't really be making direct comparisons between our pup and the others in class, because every pup is different, its also really useful to see those differences, and remind ourselves that our puppies do NOT know we are trainers. Pups will progress at their own rate, as long as we are putting the work in (which we are of course!!!) but sometimes as a trainer you can feel as if your pup SHOULD be better because you are a trainer... attending someone elses class will give you a much more honest picture of how you are doing than attending your own class, or not going to classes at all!
It's not all about you!
Attending classes is about what is best for your dog, it's really not about you.
You may know the puppy class routine inside out and back to front but, your puppy doesn't, and she doesn't give a rats how many classes you have run either.
Attending someone elses classes mean whilst you cover the same things, you are hearing that information in a slightly different way, which can often make a HUGE difference to how you work with your dog (ever been to a seminar and had a lightbulb moment over something you thought you knew? Same thing!)..
Not only that, but attending someone elses class, you have ALL your attention on your puppy - even if you run a class and have an assistant handle your pup, its still super hard to teach AND watch your pup at the same time.
What about your partner...
If you have a significant other, attending someone elses class can mean its MUCH easier for them to learn. Many of us do have partners who are not trainers or dog professionals, and it really is quite difficult for them to learn from us, because to them, we are not a trainer, we are their partner!
For us its really hard to be objective and teach our partners as we would a client, so the ideal way round this is.. attend someone elses class, and your partner does most of the handling!
This is where for us, attending Happy Dog Training Co. classes has been fabulous - whenever Mike has assisted at my own classes, he has been too busy handing out Kongs filled with cheese or cleaning up accidents to really pay attention, but now he was free to do all the handling... WITHOUT being bossed about by the Missus!
Keeping tabs on progress...
We are often busy people, lots of clients, lots of dogs - sometimes it can mean time flies by and suddenly you realise its a while since you put any work into your own dogs.
At the last seminar I attended, filled with ONLY trainers and behaviour consultants, when asked if anyone had a perfect well trained dog, not one single person put their hand up.
Now in part that is because we are far more likely to take on difficult and challenging dogs, but in part its often because we are so busy, and like the cobblers children go without shoes and the tailors kids are threadbare, the dog trainers dogs get a bit left out at times.
Attending someone elses class can give you that wee bit of motivation to carry on, to put in that work you know needs doing and to keep you on track.
Keeping you grounded...Finally, I think attending someone elses classes from time to time, keeps you in touch with what it is like to be a normal dog owner - something some of us get VERY far removed from at times.
We were all where those other clients are once, and it definitely pays to remember that!
So, I'd like to say a HUGE thankyou to Rachel, Jacki and Sue and ALL the team at Happy Dog - because of course the flip side of this coin is that other trainers need to welcome fellow trainers to their classes. Something that sadly, doesn't always happen and I think is a huge shame.
Tatty has come on in leaps and bounds and Mike has become MUCH more confident in handling her and much more motivated as a result of being involved and it not just being 'her indoors's thing'.
Tonight Tatty graduated puppy class at the very young age of 14 weeks, a social, confident and happy pup, looking forwards to attending Puppy University!
If you need training classes, from puppy to Kennel Club Good Citizen Gold and anywhere in between and you are in the Tewkesbury area, go to The Happy Dog Training Co. your dog will thank you for it!