Sunday, September 19, 2010

Obedience Class Updates

Milly has always been absolutely perfectly behaved, mind you, not perfectly trained, but perfectly behaved. Since the day I adopted her, she will quietly sit under a table or desk while I work. She has always been a gentle doll with children and other dogs. She is house trained, she knows not to get on furniture, she is relaxed, and happy. Basically, she’s amazing.

With such a well behaved dog, it was very easy for me to overlook her obedience training. She knew the basics: sit, down, and stay (usually). Though, her recall leaves much to be desired. I decided to enroll in a basic obedience class a few weeks ago.

I researched all of the classes in the area, and settled on the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club for many reasons. First, they are the cheapest class in the area. The course is eight weeks long, and each class is an hour, at just $10 a class you can’t beat the price. Second, the classes are taught by volunteers, all of whom are passionate about obedience, and compete in AKC obedience competitions. Third, the classes use a combination of praise and light corrections in their training, which I like.

Many classes these days are purely positive training, which can be good, but I believe it is important for dog owners and dogs to know how to safely use a training collar (commonly called a choke chain). Corrections can be very useful, and Milly seems to respond very well to gentle corrections when combined with tons of praise.

On the first day of class, I was a bit cocky. I knew Milly already knew sit, down, stay, and thought we would be the best in the group. Really, to me, I viewed the classes as a way to gain socialization, and practice what we already knew with some distractions. Boy was I wrong! While Milly does know the basics, I taught them to her facing her. Therefore, she does not sit beside me, in the heal position. The first class was devoted to sit and heal. Since then, we have mastered sit, heal, about turn, come front (the foundation to training a recall), sit stay, and are working on down stay. We are working on sit stay while someone comes up and pats her on the head, too.

She’s gotten really good at healing and walking on a loose leash. She is so much better with distractions, and is grasping the idea of sitting beside me (in the heal position) whenever I stop, and before we cross the street. Hopefully by the end of the class we’ll pass our Canine Good Citizen with flying colors, and then I’d like to move on to the next level of classes, which is the first step towards basic obedience competitions.

If you are in the Northern Virginia area, and looking to train your dog, I cannot recommend this training club enough. Not only are they half the price of the rest of the training classes, but they also truly know obedience and are passionate about dogs. Whenever I have a problem or question that comes up between classes I email my trainer, and she is more than happy to respond with tips right away.

If you don’t live in the Northern Virginia area, I recommend looking on the AKC website for their obedience club affiliates. Working with a dog training club tends to provide top notch training, and is also a fraction of the cost of most “obedience schools”. It really is the most economical way to have a well trained pet, and if you catch the obedience class bug after your first series of classes, you can usually become a club member for even better discounts on your training. Most training clubs do not pay their trainers, and the cost of the classes only goes to pay for the training facility, so costs are able to stay very low.


  1. Thanks for sharing! I hope to find classes as good (and inexpensive!) for Mabry and Remy soon.


  2. I attended this class with my six month old Llewellin Setter puppy. However, I had a much different experience than Miss Muddy Paws.
    I had previously taken a series of puppy kindergarten classes that utilized positive reinforcement techniques and my dog responded to this training beautifully. I was amazed at how quickly she learned and responded to obedience training and I figured that she would have similar success from the classes offered by the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club. Unfortunately, she responded to the leash corrections and physical manipulation by shutting down. We made no headway with her training and it was a complete waste of time and money.
    I found the corrections to be harsh and aggressive. The instructor was extremely critical of any mistake made by the dog and/or the handler. Every dog in the class was anxious and miserable. Several of them barked or whined the entire hour of each class. Overall, it was a horrible experience and I quit taking my dog there after about 4 classes.

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