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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training First Dog Training Class: Prep Tips for Success & Progress

First Dog Training Class: Prep Tips for Success & Progress

by Kimberley Lehman

Stepping into your first dog training class can feel like a mix of excitement and uncertainty. I remember my first time, wondering if I’d brought everything needed and if my furry companion would behave.

It’s a journey into the unknown, but with the right preparation, it can be a smooth and enjoyable experience for both you and your pup.

Researching Dog Training Classes

Before diving into the world of dog training, I spent quite a bit of time researching. It felt a bit like detective work, piecing together what the perfect class for my pup and me would look like.

First off, understanding the types of training available was crucial. I discovered there are several, each with its strengths:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Rewards good behavior, ignoring the bad. My dog’s tail wags just thinking about it!
  • Clicker Training: A sound marks the correct behavior, followed by a treat. It sounded like a fun game we could play.
  • Electronic Training: Involves using electric collars. Not quite our cup of tea.
  • Model or Mirror Training: The dog learns by mirroring another’s actions. Fascinating, but we wondered about the practicality for us.
  • Relationship-Based Training: Focuses on the bond between the dog and owner. This one really resonated with me, feeling like it could strengthen our connection.

Armed with this knowledge, I looked for a class that emphasized Positive Reinforcement or Relationship-Based techniques, believing these would foster not only obedience but also a deeper bond between us.

Next, I considered logistics:

  • Location: Essential for it to be convenient enough to attend regularly.
  • Schedule: Needed to fit with my already packed routine.
  • Cost: Budget-friendly without compromising quality was the goal.

I also wanted to ensure the trainer had reputable credentials and a philosophy that matched our goals. Reviews from other pet parents were invaluable here, offering insights into their experiences and satisfaction levels.

In preparation, I gathered a short list of classes that ticked all the boxes. I then reached out with a barrage of questions:

  • How big are the classes?
  • What’s your training philosophy?
  • Can you accommodate my dog’s specific needs?

Their responses were telling. They not only shed light on their patience and willingness to engage but also gave me a feel for their expertise and approach to training. This step helped narrow down my options to the class that felt just right, combining the right techniques, location, schedule, and cost for our needs.

I also chatted with friends who had been through dog training before. Their stories and advice provided comfort and set my expectations. They assured me that it’s normal to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension but reminded me of the joys and benefits that come with well-trained companions.

Preparing necessary supplies

Diving into dog training classes for the first time is like packing for a tail-wagging adventure. You want to make sure you’re fully equipped, but not so overloaded that you can’t find the leash among a sea of doggy paraphernalia. Here’s what I’ve learned you’ll definitely need:

  • A sturdy leash. My motto? Keep it comfortable for your hand, but strong enough for a sudden squirrel sighting.
  • A variety of treats. Think of these as your currency in the dog world. Different textures and flavors can make training feel like a game rather than a chore. Here’s a quick list of what I’ve found most helpful:
  • Soft, easy-to-chew treats for quick rewards.
  • Crunchy treats for longer-lasting satisfaction.
  • High-value treats like tiny bits of chicken or cheese for those ‘wow’ moments.
  • The right collar or harness. This can be a bit of trial and error, but comfort and safety take the lead here. I prefer a harness that distributes pressure evenly, especially for those pups that love pulling as if they’re entering the Iditarod.
  • Water and a collapsible bowl. Training is thirsty work. Keeping your dog hydrated keeps their mind on the prize – or in this case, the treat.
  • A toy or two. Sometimes, what really grabs a dog’s attention isn’t food but their favorite squeaky or ball. It’s also a great way to break up the session and keep things fun.
  • Your patience and attention. Yes, these are supplies! Training is about building a bond. If you’re not fully there, your dog will know.

I’ve also picked up a few not-so-obvious items along the way:

  • A notebook and pen. Keeping track of what works (and what doesn’t) can be super helpful. Plus, jotting down tips from the trainer means you can keep the learning going at home.
  • A waist bag for easy treat access. Fumbling for treats can interrupt the flow. Having them easily accessible keeps the focus on the training.

Understanding Basic Training Concepts

Jumping into dog training can feel like diving into the deep end without floaties. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back! Before setting foot in your first class, understanding some fundamental training concepts is like finding your pool noodle. It’s all about communication, consistency, and positive reinforcement.

Communication plays a huge role. Think of it as learning a new language, but instead of words, we’re using signals and commands. This mutual understanding between you and your furry friend is the bridge to successful training.

Consistency is your best friend. Dogs thrive on routine and predictability. Here’s a simple rule: if you’re not consistent, you’re creating confusion. Imagine telling your pup to “sit” in one tone today and another tomorrow. The mixed signals might just have them tilting their head at you forever.

Positive reinforcement is the king of the dog training area. It revolves around the idea of rewarding good behavior rather than punishing the bad. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Praise and treats for a job well done
  • Ignore or redirect unwanted behavior
  • Consistency in rewards

It’s essential to emphasize that timing is everything. Reward your dog immediately after they do something right. This way, they’ll connect the action with the reward faster than you can say “good boy!”

Next, let’s talk about common commands you’ll likely start with. These are the ABCs of dog training:

  • Sit: The foundational command that sets the stage for more complex instructions.
  • Stay: Teaches self-control and patience.
  • Come: Critical for off-leash safety and getting their attention.
  • Heel: Keeps walks enjoyable without the tug-of-war.
  • Leave it: A lifesaver, stopping them from picking up something harmful.

Each command serves a unique purpose and builds upon the other, creating a well-rounded, obedient dog. Training isn’t just about teaching these commands, though. It’s about fostering a bond based on understanding and mutual respect. A well-trained dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog makes for a delighted owner. You’ll find that as you begin on this journey of growth and learning, the trust and connection with your furry companion will reach new heights.

Setting Expectations for the Class

Heading into my first dog training class, I was bubbling with excitement yet slightly nervous. Did I know what to expect? Not really. But I quickly learned that setting realistic expectations was key to not only enjoying the process but also making the most out of every session for both me and my furry friend.

What to Expect from Your Dog

It’s crucial to remember every dog is an individual. While some may grasp commands like “sit” or “stay” within the first few tries, others might take a bit longer—and that’s perfectly okay. The primary goals are improvement and learning to communicate with each other, not perfection on the first go. Expect a mixed bag of successes and learning moments, including:

  • A better understanding of your dog’s behavior
  • Gradual improvement in following commands
  • Increased bonding between you and your dog

What to Expect from the Trainer

A good trainer is worth their weight in dog treats. They should not only be skilled in teaching your dog but also in showing you how to communicate effectively with your canine companion. From them, expect:

  • Clear explanations on how to execute commands
  • Demonstrations with their dog or yours
  • Personalized feedback to improve your technique

What to Expect from Yourself

This part might be the toughest. I had to learn to be patient, both with my dog and myself. Be prepared to:

  • Stay consistent with commands and rules
  • Practice regularly, beyond class time
  • Show heaps of patience and positivity

Training isn’t just about commands; it’s about building a bond, understanding, and respect with your four-legged best friend. Keeping these expectations in mind helped me navigate the early days of training with more confidence and less frustration. Each class became an opportunity to learn and grow together, transforming our training sessions from something I was anxious about to one of the highlights of our week.

Making the Most out of the Experience

When I first considered enrolling my furry companion in dog training classes, I was as nervous as a cat at a dog park. But, let me assure you, preparing for that first class isn’t just about packing treats and a toy.

Before You Go

  • Research: Not all classes are created equal. Look for one that matches your dog’s needs and your training philosophy.
  • Visit the Vet: Ensure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. A healthy pup is a happy learner.
  • Gather Supplies: Bring what’s recommended, usually treats, a favorite toy, and perhaps a clicker. But remember, the best tool is your positive attitude.

During Class

First, remember why you’re there: to bond and learn with your furry friend. Listening is key—not just for your dog but for you, too.

  • Stay Positive: Reinforce good behavior with praise and rewards. This isn’t the Olympics; it’s about gradual improvement and connection.
  • Be a Sponge: Absorb the trainer’s advice. They’re the pros, after all. Ask questions if something’s unclear.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Well, no one’s perfect, but practice does lead to improvement. Dedicate time outside of class to rehearse those new skills.

Beyond the Classroom

The real test isn’t in the training space; it’s out in the real world. Here are my top tips for keeping the momentum going:

  • Daily Practice: Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference. Keep it fun and rewarding.
  • Socialize: Expose your dog to new environments, smells, and other dogs. It helps them adapt and grow.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Celebrate the small victories. Maybe today you mastered ‘sit’, and that’s awesome.
  • Be Patient and Consistent: Learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Stick with it, and you’ll see progress.


Stepping into your first dog training class can feel like a big leap, but with the right preparation, it’s a journey you and your furry friend will enjoy. Remember, the effort you put in before, during, and after the classes makes all the difference. It’s not just about showing up; it’s about engaging fully with the process, keeping an open mind, and being willing to put in the work outside of class too. The bond you’ll build with your dog during this time is priceless, and the skills you both learn will last a lifetime. So, breathe deep, stay positive, and get ready for an amazing adventure in training with your pup. You’ve got this!


Kimberley Lehman

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