I truly believe every dog should have the priviledge of taking obedience classes.
AGE TO START OBEDIENCE CLASSES
I recommend that puppies be at least 5 - 6 months old before starting obedience classes. Up until that time puppy's little brains have not developed enough and he only has the attention span of a gnat. We have to wait and let him grow up a bit. You may hear of "Puppy Classes" and they are great to put your puppy into. These are primarily a socialization opportunity where you take your young pup out to play with other puppies. Some grooming should be taught as well such as nail clipping, brushing etc. A few basic commands might be taught like the "come" and "sit". Of course, we never enter our dogs in any classes until they have had all their immunization.
They do not have to come out being the top dog in the class to benefit from taking obedience classes. A number of things that take place that are so important in a dog's life aren't really even taught as an exercise as such. For an example they become accustomed to being in a surrounding with strange dogs and know they are perfectly safe thus building confidence in a strange environment with strange dogs.
Obedience classes and teaching the different exercises should be fun and enjoyable for both you and your dog. As an instructor I have had so many people tell me that their dog knows when it is class night. Their dogs are all excited and ready to go. This is the way it should be. A smile and praise are your best tools when it comes to training your dog. A smile to encourage and praise to let him know that "yes" this is what I want you to do. They react much the same way we do under favourable conditions.
CORRECTIONS & COMMANDS
Whether they be just a, "hey, what was that?" to a leash correction should only be done once the dog knows what it is supposed to do. To give corrections before a dog knows what it is supposed to do is a real "No Brainer!" But on the other hand if the dog knows the exercise and decides not to comply then a correction is definitely in order. I believe there has got to be a consequence. This of course applies to some dogs more then others. Some dogs train very easily while others take more firmer handling. No two are exactly the same. I believe we should start out with the smallest verbal correction and keep going up the ladder until the dog quits what he is not supposed to be doing and complies to our wishes. We do NOT start out with the strongest correction. Also commands are only given ONCE. It is not Spot sit, sit, sit, sit, sit. It is simply Spot sit. If Spot does not sit you sit him immediately. If not done this way I can assure you he will wait to hear that 4th sit before he complies. Never give a command that you and your dog don't follow through with. If you're laying on the couch and you tell your dog to "down" but he wanders off instead; it is up to you to get off the couch, get your dog, bring him back and "down" him. If you don't do this all you are teaching him to do is to ignore you.
Which there are many of. Since all dogs react differently to training, different training collars should be used. In my classes you may see many different ones being used. I believe in recommending whatever works which could be anything from a buckle collar to a prong collar, a lupe, a gentle leader to a halter. To use an ineffective collar that isn't helping you is making the training much more difficult for both you and your dog.
PRACTICE ~ THE KEY WORD
To effectively train your dog the exercises you are being taught takes lots and lots of practice. This must be done EVERY day. To do so on a hit and miss premis is exactly what your dog will get out of it. Training obedience is truly one of those things where you get out of it what you put into it. A daily 10 or 15 minute practice time really isn't very long to spend with your dog and the exercises he learns will last him a life-time. I recommend you keep a log and write down how many days you practice and for how long. If your dog isn't doing very well look back on your log and it will likely tell you why. You might be surprised at how little you actually practiced. Always try to end your practice time on a positive note. End with an exercise your dog does well and praise, praise, praise. Done this way your dog will look forward to his training. Always lavish praise when your dog does something right. Don't smile or laugh when puppy messes up tho. When you do this you encourage him to repeat the behaviour. Not what you want. I say uh uh or no, go back and redo the exercise until he has done it correctly. When he does it correctly praise, praise, praise, happy, happy, happy! What you have here is what I call a balance. The no, or uh uh is the negative, the praise and happy is the positive. Dogs usually repeat what is pleasant and tend not to repeat what is unpleasant. Balance is required to train a dog. ie: yes (positive) this is what I want; no (negative) this is what I don't want.
OTHER KEY WORDS
These words come to mind when I think of obedience training. Barbara Woodhouse, a well known obedience instructor from England, used these words to describe obedience training. They are: Fun, Fair, Firm. I think they speak for themselves. Another word equally if not more important in my opinion is Consistancy. If teaching the "Sit", use the dog's name and give the command. Always. Example: "Spot sit" and not "sit Spot" the next time you give the command. This can confuse the dog. The KISS method works best. Keep it simple stupid!CHOOSING AN INSTRUCTOR / OBEDIENCE SCHOOL