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Discussion Starter #1
I was in Petco today watching a training session with a large breed puppy. It was about 20 minutes into the hour. The owner and trainer were both young. I watched the trainer hand the owner a long strip of jerky and say, Make your dog sit. The dog didn’t have a clue what the owner was asking, and either wasn’t hungry or hadn’t yet been trained. The boy kept saying Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit and the dog looked confused and didn’t know what to do. He had no interest in the food. After 20 minutes, I can understand why. The dog wasn’t hungry. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t, so I eventually went to the register.

A minute later I heard a loud, angry barking and the owner was begging his dog to Come. I glanced over and it looked like the trainer tried to make the dog sit and the dog had enough and sent for her. She is lucky it was just a bark. I commented to the cashier on their training method, still being very polite, and she didn’t say anything so I left. I thought about going back and handing the young man my trainer’s card, but technically that would have been interfering with their business so I left.

Don’t these large companies have some responsibility to the community and their customers not to put an inexperienced person into the role of trainer and then take money for it? I am still upset. Some breeds are unforgiving of bad handling. I saw no connection between the dog and owner. No eye contact, no communication and no understanding. I almost wish I had gone over and showed that owner how to make a dog sit in about 2 seconds and earn his dog’s respect at the same time.
 

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I have seen some pretty awful trainers. You did a better job then I would have. I couldn't have kept quiet.
Sit is the simplest thing to teach a puppy. Head goes up butt goes down. Lol.
 

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ah I tend to go ahead and make some type of comment about how it's sad that they allow such crappy training. Loudly. In hearing of the client.
I've occasionally laughed at loud.
 

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ah I tend to go ahead and make some type of comment about how it's sad that they allow such crappy training. Loudly. In hearing of the client.
I've occasionally laughed at loud.
My favourite was when a Petsmart trainer walked by Ryka and I with her dog, and her dog was lunging and barking at Ryka while she was in a sit. Then she picked up her dog and started petting him telling him to stop... lol.
 

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I was at a petco where the trainer was teaching leave it. She lined up treats spaced about 2 feet apart all the way down the isle. Then told the owners to walk past the treats while saying "leave it". That's all you could hear "leave it..leave it.. leave it....." every dog pulling and every owner dragging them on. The kicker, when everyone was done she told them they did a good job. I could tell by the way she was talking that she honestly did not have any knowledge of what she was trying to teach or realize that the exercise did not teach owner or dog anything. I think that's just as sad/bad.
 

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About a decade ago, I used to frequent PetSmart. And from time to time I'd watch the trainers do their work. It was so hard to watch them. First of all they're in a little "pen" which is smaller than my living room, at the back of the store. They crammed in somewhere between 12 to 15 owners and their dogs. The trainer couldn't have been more disinterested...just repeating instructions like a robot. Hard to watch.
 

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Let's see: several years ago, when the store first opened, I was there with Rayden. He was trained in English, German and hand signals. Head trainer (guy is still head trainer) walks up to me and tells Rayden to "sit" Of course, Rayden glances up at me and then looks at the guy like he's a moron. Man then tries to grab the leash out of my hand while telling me that he is in charge of training at the store and that he can help me get my dog under control before he becomes too much for me to handle. Excuse me? I tell him that my dog is trained and he says "well, he didn't sit when I gave the command" so I go through his basic commands in English, then in German and then in Hand signals "No, he just doesn't listen to morons"
To this day, that man turns and walks away when he sees me in the store.
Another time, we're working puppies in the store. Watch the trainer doing a private lesson. owner: "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit" Dog is just staring around the store and then lays down, probably out of boredom. "Give her a treat! She's getting the idea because she's not standing up anymore"
 

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Once upon a time at PetsMart, I was listening to a training session that I was not a member of. And the young trainer had a can of pennies and a clicker and was trying to mark some form of behavior, but her timing was so bad, and the pup had no clue, and the owner wasn't getting any of it, and I wanted so badly to walk up, rip the leash out of the trainer's hand, and give the owners my trainer's business card. But I didn't have any of my trainer's business cards. And it wasn't my place. I walked away. I don't know if there was anything better I could do. But I don't think I handled that too well. I felt sorry for the dog, and the owners of the dog. The thing is, at that time PetsMart classes cost $119, whereas the same number of sessions at a real trainer's was $90.


It's not like the owners are being cheap to go there for classes. They simply do not know better. I can go there for classes and get something out of them even if the trainer doesn't know anything. Because I am just there for the dog to experience the environment while I work on a few things with the dog. I don't do anything I am uncomfortable with.
 

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One time I managed a low income property in CA. One of the residents was was an “advanced” trainer at Petsmart. She had gotten so “good” that she did all the training sessions for the newer trainers.

She owned a male shepherd herself, and it was on a tiny patio 24/7. It pooped and peed on the concrete slab, and once a week she would just get a large bucket of water and just flush the patio with it.

She eventually stopped paying her rent and we had to evict her. When we got the go ahead from the sheriffs constable, we entered the unit. She had left the shepherd inside, and abandoned him there. He was inside by himself for 2 weeks while we waited for the proper paperwork. We didn’t know he was inside, and the apt was trashed, he hadn’t been fed, and he peed and pooped everywhere. We called AC per the constable, and they picked him up.

He had sever malformations in his legs from growing up on the tiny concrete patio and had difficulties walking. He had severe scarring on his muzzle and ears, and was missing large patches of hair from flea infestation. He was so scared, he trembled constantly. His foster mom ended up keeping him, because he would have been deemed an unadoptable dog at the shelter for all the behavioral issues and for the intensive physical care he needed. I stay in touch with her, and he’s made amazing progress, but he’ll never have full movement without pain because of the way his joints formed.

If this is how an advanced trainer trains their own dog, it doesn’t surprise me one bit to hear your stories!

I’ve gone through a lot of dogs (rescue, rehabilitate, rehome) and it is well known in our town to avoid the Petsmart trainers. I’ve never seen it occupied once, and we go there a lot for small soft training treats, and mice for our snake.

Wish there was something we could all do to get those “training sessions” shut down across the board. And @selzer, who would shake a can full of pennies at any dog?!?! Great way to give them fear of loud noises! They should hand out thunder shirts to the owners on the way out of the door.
 

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It’s funny even when I was a kid, my parents found a fantastic professional trainer who helped me and my dog compete and do well even when I was like 12. They knew nothing about dogs and still don’t but even they knew to avoid PetSmart
 

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Petsmart training is doomed from the start, and that's coming from someone who works at one of their grooming salons. I'm continuously frustrated with the "trainer" we employ. I get that they're handed a book that outlines the same purely positive (not allowed to say no???) method that they have to follow every time for every dog. The company doesn't seem to understand that dog training is not copy & paste. "Working with the dog in front you" doesn't exist there, and it's frustrating. We get plenty of problem dogs in our salon who are supposedly "in training" with our trainer, and it's very clear to see where the confusion and conflict comes from in these dogs. They're getting all sorts of mixed messages because of the outright awful reward timing, or just not being rewarded for correct behavior altogether.

There was a time I saw a dog in a private session with our store's trainer. The trainer looked like he asked the dog for a heel (this was inside a separate room so I couldn't hear) and began walking with the dog. The dog was periodically giving excellent eye contact and its loose heel looked really nice. And the trainer completely ignored the dog. Didn't reward for the eye contact or engagement, just kept walking in a circle until the dog became disinterested, broke eye contact and began pulling to sniff the floor mid walk.

This trainer also frequently lays on the floor to talk to the owners while the dog wanders around the room. He also told me I was doing heeling wrong when I was working on a "fuss" around distractions in store. I told him where he could stick his "correct" heeling - same place where he'd find his fake training "certificate." He doesn't come help us in the salon anymore. ?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
@Spetzio that is discouraging. If they are going to offer training, they need to get someone who knows what they are doing or get out of the training business. A friend’s daughter is being trained to be a trainer. I emailed the mom a list of videos to watch and books to read and to be sure to tell her daughter to learn when a dog is more than she is able to handle. I also suggested a few local trainers they should pay to let the girl shadow them for a few years. There is no reason a trainer must be stuck using big box methods.

I think those box stores can be good for socialization with puppies. I did that once with my rescue when the Petco trainer offered me a free session because there weren’t enough puppies to hold a class. It was funny, there were three dogs and I spent the hour showing her how I trained my dog and how to read behaviors. She thanked me and said as soon as she became competent she was going to go out on her own. That is half their problem. Once someone learns how to train, they leave.

Our PetSmart has one good trainer who is older and has been doing that a long time. She came to the store already proficient and everyone knows to ask for her when they take a class. Those who don’t end up regretting it.
 

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Actually, I have had both bad and good training from PetSmart. The bad trainer was a young man whose claim to fame was owning a bloodhound. There were no other dogs, and he didn't know what he was doing and it was a waste of time. But it got me out with the dog and the dog learned what I wanted for her to learn.

The good training was a lady who showed her dogs in obedience. She had to follow the PetsMart guide, so she couldn't allow prongs, even thought the store sold them. And the one family and their dog probably would have gotten him under control with a lot less fighting. But she did know what she was doing and she did a pretty good job. Because of all the hub-bub there, it isn't the best place to hold a beginner's class. But I did get what I needed out of that class.

I got what I needed out of the lady who body-slammed her GD puppy to get him to lay down, and told me he didn't have the work ethic of my pup, Babsy. too. I normally do. I keep expectations in line, and my reason for going to classes is exposure moreso than reaching training goals. If I find my dog bored, I find a way to make it more fun for them without distracting the others.
 

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@LuvShepherds

It really is. I'm sure there are some good trainers at petsmart, but I am unfortunately not at a location where that exists. And they are also all unfortunately limited to their book, and while it can work for some, it's absolutely not for every dog. I wish I could say that even petsmart training is better than no training (as it relates to our store only, I'm sure there are more competent trainers at other stores - it's not hard), but with everything I've seen of our trainer, I always recommend against it when people come into our salon asking for help. I try my best to direct them to other trainers I've personally had great experiences with, or know of their reputation through a friend I trust.

Though as you say, the stores are good for training with distractions, so that's a plus! I often work on his heel or engagement in front of the daycamp area we have.
 

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In our town, one of the lures to me about Petsmart training was the class hours. They offer training sessions on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoons. The "good" training school here only holds sessions on weekday nights ... tough timeslots for a person who works and has to feed the family. So I can see why a lot of people are attracted to the convenient Petsmart schedule and location.

I saw a really good training class once in our local park. 9 dogs widely spaced in the unused end of the parking lot, and they were all calmly sitting. My dog and I walked by, and every dog remained in the Sit. 9 heads turned silently to watch us go by. After all the lunging barking dogs we pass, it was a truly eerie experience! :) . I wanted to run over and get the trainer's card, but I thought I'd disturb his class too much!
 

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When we got Wolfgang because of the timing - Petsmart was our only option. We actually had a trainer who wasn't awful - and because we had done a dog club with sasha - we did kind of know what we were doing. We had him there more for the socialization. Now with Marco we are with the local Dog Training club - they are absolutely amazing! I'm so happy that we were able to find them. And they have everything here. Obedience, Rally, Conformation, Agility and flyball. So as long as we are living here, we're going to be heavily involved with them!
 

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I've heard from Petco employees that they can actually be "promoted" from being cashiers to being dog trainers -- they have to go to a weekend training seminar to learn how to do their training classes. So the class might be taught by someone who was just a cashier last week.

I don't know if PetSmart is different in that regard, but the local PS trainer I've had a run-in with was flat-out bonkers. At a "National Adoption Weekend" where there were booths in tents in the PS parking lot, she ran up and exploded (yelling) at rescue volunteers when she found out one of our volunteers had recommended our regular trainer (i.e., not recommending PS training). She also was furious that we had our dogs in prong collars and were showing others how to fit and use them as she thought they were abusive (even though PS sells them...?). This was the first and only time we met her. Instead of introducing herself, letting us know about what she could offer, and her background to ask us to consider recommending her -- or even offering free classes to fosters as our other trainer does -- she thought yelling at us was the right approach. The ironic thing is that our rescue's dogs are routinely complimented as the best-behaved of any groups at adoption events -- we don't do those events often, but we actually select really good breed ambassadors to be in the booth. They don't bark or cause chaos in our booth, they've already got basic OB before being up for adoption, and they're well exercised -- she was too upset to notice how much better our dogs were than those of other groups. Needless to say, we decline to participate in anything hosted by PetSmart now -- and warn adopters to avoid their training because of that volatile lady with her anger issues. At minimum, PS probably needs to exercise a little more discernment over who they put in the training position of their stores.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Maggie, I had that same chat with another pet store manager who was telling someone that e collars are dangerous and lethal. I asked, then why do you sell them?

I gave feedback to management. I suggested they look closely at their training program because what I saw was a strong example of bad training. They are a big corporation and nothing is going to change until a tragedy happens or they are sued and lose, but if more of us speak up, maybe they will decide to look at their own policies.
 

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I worked at Petsmart briefly between jobs once and my initial goal was to be a trainer. They require a week long (5 days) training with a master trainer before you are certified, but that is it. The training manual they use is really poorly done.

It depends on the trainer and how much they are willing to learn themselves. But in general I'd avoid Petsmart unless you know the trainer is good or you just want to go to the class to socialize your pup. It's too bad, because even going to a training class as Petsmart is far more than most pet owners ever do for their dog so it shows they are making an effort- and may get some terrible advice instead.

What really bothered me also was that any dog entering the store was mobbed by the women at the salon, which I thought was just not a great idea- some dogs won't like that. I didn't last long at Petsmart- I found a job in my field first of all, but also I just don't have the right temperament for a job where you have to push various promotions, training classes, etc. and have to wear an earpiece around the store at all times, and the whole retail scene just wasn't for me. I am not outgoing enough for that type of work, but it sure was an enlightening few weeks and gave me insight to the pet parent mindset.

Edited to add: the main issue I saw at Petsmart was treatment of the small animals sold there. Please don't buy any critter from Petsmart, it's horrible watching a poor creature shipped all the way from California suffer and die slowly in the back rooms...
 
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