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Discussion Starter #1
Does anybody know anything about the quality/success rate of the in-store training offered at PetSmart? I have an 8 week old puppy that I want to get socialized with other people and dogs and learning basic obedience ASAP. This program sounds like a great idea (being in the store and with other dogs and their people, etc) and the cost is certainly more along the lines of what I can pay, but I don't want to invest in an ineffective training program. Thanks!
 

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I don't have any first-hand experience with it...but I've seen the classes going on at our local store.

I'd say for puppy kindergarden, it would be fine. The whole point is for socializing the pup anyway. Hopefully you can pick up some beginning training pointers in the class, but even if not, I think the experience would be worth it. Just make sure that everything is positive, upbeat, fun, and short. 8-week-old pups don't have much attention span, and they don't need "corrections." This should all be positive reinforcement stuff.

Where are you located? Perhaps some member here knows about other training classes in your area.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the advice Luca_stl, I appreciate it. I am in Columbia, Maryland but because of my work schedule compared to my wife's (she works days I work nights) and because of our small children in the house, we are sort of confined with where we can go. I liked that PetSmart's training was on Saturdays ( a day thats totally free for now) and their prices weren't outrageous. Some of these places (actually most of the places) in my area seem catered to only the extraordinarily rich and unfortunately my wife and I are one of the few blue collar families left in this area!
 

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I don't think anyone can make a judgment about Petsmart training as a whole because the quality of training really varies between the stores.

There are some stores that have a real training area in the back and then there are stores where the "training" area is a little cubicle by the front door and most of the actual training is done in the aisles of the store. Some Petsmart stores have really good trainers, in other stores the trainers are Petsmart employees with limited training who are the designated "trainers".

What I would do is go and observe the training classes at your local Petsmart and make a decision based on that. I would also ask about the requirements for participating in training. Most training places ask for proof that your dog is up to date on all shots.

One thing that I would look at is the space question. At my local Petsmart, classes start in the cubicle up front. It's a small square area with chairs right next to each other, and during talks from the trainer the dogs are literally on top of each other and sometimes behaving quite inappropriately. I know a lady through another forum who was asking how to best ask the people sitting next to them that she doesn't like their dog humping her puppy because she felt it was not appropriate but wasn't sure if she should say anything because the trainer seemed to have no problem with it.

In our Petsmart, much of the class work such as heeling, sit, stay, etc. takes place in the aisles of the store. In my opinion, that's not a good place to train. They consistently get interrupted by shoppers needing to get past with carts to do their shopping, and shoppers' dogs who have no part in the class. It also exposes the dogs that are being trained to strange dogs just visiting the store while shopping with their owners. Those dogs aren't necessarily well behaved, friendly, or healthy, either. I'm not sure I would want that in my training environment.

Your Petsmart may be different - I don't know, I have not been there - but I would never train at mine.

There are a lot of Maryland members on this board, so hopefully someone will either be familiar with your Petsmart or can recommend a better training facility that won't break the bank.
 

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Some Petsmart "trainers" are actual dog trainers.
But many are cashiers and stockboys who went through a 6 week course designed by Petsmart's corporate headquarters (in other words, executives not dog trainers) and taught by previous graduates of said 6 week class, and that is all the dog training experience they have or that is required by the store to be a dog trainer.

And regardless of training experience and knowledge, the trainers are severely limited by the corporation in what they are allowed to teach, and the methods and equipment they are allowed to use, which leads to a "one size fits all" mentality of dog training. Rather than adjust training to fit each individual dog, each dog is forced to fit into Petsmart's narrow minded techniques of training.

If you have a store with a real trainer running the classes, someone who has years of experience training dogs and working with different breeds, different goals, different methods and equipment, and your dog happens to fit well with Petsmart's allowed style of training, the classes may be good.

If you have a store where the trainer's experience and knowledge is limited to what they were taught by a coorporation in a 6 week class, I wouldn't waste money on it.

IMO, much better to seek out a real training facility with real trainers who can adjust training to fit each individual dog. You'll perhaps pay a bit more, but the overall training and experience is likely to be of much higher quality than what you'll find at a pet store.
 

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A German Shepherd is not a breed that you should skimp on training and socialization with. For socialization, a puppy class at Petsmart may be ok, but I would never use them as the only training for a dog. If cost is an issue, check with your local shelters to see if they offer low cost obedience. Some trainers donate their time to shelters and also allow dogs not adopted there to attend.
 

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Pet Smart is not the place I would go for the reasons mentioned above. For what most of them are able to teach you can do yourself. Hardly any of them have any 'problem solving' capabilities which is what you want in a good trainer. A blanket approach works for hardly any dog, never mind the GSD. If there is one near your area that you were thinking of going to sit in on a few leassons and see how they handle any questions, and then sit in on a few other trainers in your area (anyone who won't let you watch a lesson I wouldn't bother going to) and see who really provides what you need. And plan on continuing training throughout adulthood, this breed loves it!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everybody for your great advice on training for my GSD. I am pretty confined by finances and I most certainly cant afford any "trainers to the stars and their multi-millionaire people" (My budget would be more in line with "Crazy Larry's Train em for a Fifty Spot" LOL). Nevertheless I will take everything into consideration and try to find training that will be best for my GSD and our family, with a little bit more wisdom now thanks to the wonderful help that I am receiving on this site! Thanks again.
 

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Petsmart trainers are like any trainer - there are good and bad. Actually one of the trainers that works with us in our training program is actually also a PetsMart trainer. She is great and you could get no better. She has about 15 years of experience and is much respected.

Go observe a few classes. See what you think of them.

You might also want to google trainers in your city/state. Classes may not be as expensive as you think elsewhere. Ours are $20 less for 8 weeks than PetsMart.

No matter where you go for training, check them out. Ask a lot of questions, find out what their style is.
 

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I think socialization is fine ther. I would never use it for anything more. I am (hopefully) getting a 10 week pup this week-end and I have signed up for Petsmart class and a regular trainer. This gives me two places. I did this with my boxer and she is awesome. I put A TON of time and energy into socialization. It was like a job. every day we did something.
Best of luck. It is an exciting time isn't it?
 

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Quote: I put A TON of time and energy into socialization. It was like a job. every day we did something.
Bravo to you! I also think that puppy socialization is a super-important key to rasing a well-adjusted companion dog. It is so often overlooked. Even if a dog never gets any formal "training" to be able to do obedience skills, a properly socialized puppy will get you most of the way to having a good pet--one that isn't fearful, and knows how to behave around all the things life throws at them. Training is important. But socialization is even more important in my book.
 

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Originally Posted By: Grey PilgrimI am pretty confined by finances and I most certainly cant afford any "trainers to the stars and their multi-millionaire people" (My budget would be more in line with "Crazy Larry's Train em for a Fifty Spot" LOL).
Most of us can't afford trainers to the stars, but you can often find good group classes without spending a ton of money. I'd reserve looking for a private trainer for if and when you have behavioral issues and really need professional help. For basic training it's not really necessary. Have you checked the trainer search at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website? http://www.apdt.com/po/ts/default.aspx You can search by city, area code, or zip code.

You can also get recommendations from local rescue groups, or check with the nearest Humane Society or SPCA - many of them have classes with competent trainers. I took a class for reactive dogs at a Humane Society near me with a previous dog, agility classes with one of my current dogs, and basic obedience and pre-agility with the other.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where everything is more expensive that everywhere else, and I've paid from $150 to $185 for a 6 or 7 week class. I'm sure you could find a good group class for less than that where you live.
 

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HI! I took both of my dogs to Petsmart for training (as we didn't have alot of money either...trainers around here are quite expensive). Both of the trainers at our petsmart are professional dog trainers with years of experience. They both compete with their dogs. Our classes are held right in the middle of the store. They clear out a large section right in the center. Their explaination....getting your dog used to distractions. They used to hold their classes in the back room of the store...but found that when alot of people came out into the real world, things fell apart. They felt the training was more effective when the dogs were used to distrations around them. I found the classes to be alot of fun...and of course, you get out of them what you put into them. Mya was a 5 year old rescue with severe separation anxiety. You had to see her blossom through the classes. She was a different dog by the time we were through. When we started, Mya would get frantic if I left her for a second...by the time we were done...I was able to leave the store and she would calmly sit and wait for me. Mya was able to get her CGC there. (quite a fete when you're taking the test and people with shopping carts are cutting across the course...lol). I took Ava as a puppy for the socialization and some basic manners. I was not looking to get a show dog out of it...but just nice socialized well behaved dogs...and we succeeded. If I were you, I would visit your local store, observe some classes, talk to the trainers, know their qualifications and make your decision based on that. I'm sure it does vary from store to store. But, I do feel you can get some good training there.
 

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I suggest you go observe the class. Talk to the instructor - what does he/she do away from Petsmart? What is his/her experience with dogs? How has he/she been trained to be a trainer? I absolutely lucked out - the person we had at Petsmart bred/raised/showed Fila's. She was a big dog person and was fantastic with Gracie. We've moved on to more specialized training now but the foundation we got in puppy and intermediate will be with us forever. Good luck!
 

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I also got lucky with our Petsmart trainer. She was actually experienced in SchH and worked and trained GSD's. Molly was the only Shehperd in class, so she was teacher's pet
We went thru the puppy class and intermediate class there and I liked the foundation it set for us. After those classes we did move on to training at a local GSD club, but I think Molly benefited from the socialization at the Petsmart classes.
 

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I normally dont like PetSmarts trainers, but I met one through a group we are now both board members of, and after talking to her the first time, realized that her training views were similar to my own. I had stalled out on my GSD's training because I didnt know what else to teach her, and after getting to know the trainer a bit, enrolled in her class and she has now graduated the advance class! My recomendation is to get to know the trainer, talk with them to see if their training methods match what you want. There are some people who only like clicker training, others who to leash corrections, others who use E-collars (shock collars) and so on. A really good trainer knows when they need to adjust their methods to the dog, not force the dog with a method not suited for it.
 

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Here Here on finding the method to fit the dog, this is where your trainer is invaluable. Most training methods have value, but not always with a particular dog. My current dog laughed at clicker training, but I have a foster dog who is great with it.
 
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