Never leave a choke chain or pinch collar on your dog when you aren't with him or when he's in a crate, and never let dogs play together with choke chains or pinch collars on. Choke chains and pinch collars can get caught and strangle your dog or cause severe injury.
A good dog training class is well worth the time, money, and effort you spend on it. A class provides a chance for your dog to learn to behave and to obey you even in the presence of exciting distractions. The instructor is there to help when something just isn't working in your training. She's also there to tell you when you're doing something silly that you didn't even know you were doing to undermine your dog's training.
For a puppy, the socialization provided by going to class is important. Even if you have other dogs at home, your pup needs to get out and meet strangers. Classes give him weekly exposure to lots of other dogs and people, which will help him grow up to be socially well adjusted, confident, and polite.
An obedience instructor teaches you to train your dog. A dog trainer works directly with your dog, teaching him various commands and then teaching you how to use them with your dog.
When you're choosing an obedience instructor, here are some questions to explore. The answer to most of these should be yes. If you don't feel comfortable about the instructor's knowledge, attitude, or methods, go somewhere else.
- Does the instructor have experience training dogs and teaching classes? Long experience isn't necessarily a sign of knowledge or good teaching skills, but your instructor should have some experience. Even if she's teaching a class for the first time, she should have training experience with her own dogs, and experience assisting another instructor with some classes.
- Does the instructor have some serious education about dogs and dog training? Has she attended seminars, workshops, or advanced classes? Has she kept up-to-date with the ever-growing body of knowledge about how dogs (and people) learn? Don't be shy about asking what her credentials are.
- Does the instructor hold professional membership in the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI), the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), or another professional organization?
- Does the instructor communicate well with her students? Does she listen carefully and respond clearly? Does she seem to be able to get her own dog and the dogs in her class to do what she wants without resorting to extreme measures?
- Does the instructor seem to really like dogs? Does she seem to enjoy teaching? Does she reward her students with praise and encourage them to do the same with their dogs?
- Does the instructor appear to be effective as a trainer and as a guide to training? If you want to train your dog to behave around other people and dogs, but the instructor's dog is poorly behaved, the instructor probably can't help you accomplish your goals.
- Is the instructor flexible? Dogs don't all respond the same way to training. Some dogs will do anything for a bit of food; others will ignore it. A good dog trainer adapts to the needs of the individual dog, and a good instructor will help you find a method that works with your dog.
Always remember, your dog is your dog—she relies on you for her safety and well-being. Never do anything you're uncomfortable about just because an instructor told you to, and never allow anyone else to do anything you don't like to your dog.