Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on Petco Dog Training

Last Thursday Athena officially graduated from her basic obedience class at Petco.  We were very proud of our little girl and the progress that she made.
The training room at our local Petco
During the seven weeks that Athena was enrolled in her class, many people would ask us, "where is your dog training at?"  I found that I was often embarrassed to admit that we had signed Athena up for classes at Petco and would usually respond with a "*cough* Petco *cough*" under my breath.  When researching online about dog training classes at Petco and Petsmart, I found that most people were underwhelmed with the training experience at both stores.

Despite my embarrassment of admitting that we were training Athena at Petco, here is a list of reasons why we opted to enroll in a Petco basic obedience (AKA Adult Dog Level 1) course:
  • Money - The course is $110 for 6 one-hour classes (the first class is humans only), but we were lucky enough to score a $20 off coupon making the course only $90 (so that's $15 per class).  Somehow we also ended up getting a 7th class for free.
  • Trainer - One day while shopping in Petco I was approached by the resident dog trainer who gave me the $20 off training coupon.  Before signing Athena up, I was able to talk to the trainer about her experience with dog training (she actually had a long history of dog training before becoming a trainer at Petco).  Also before committing to the course, I brought Athena in to meet the trainer to make sure that it was a good fit.
  • Positive & Rewards Based - We like that Petco's training philosophy focuses on positive reinforcement through the use of rewards because today's research shows that this is the best way to train a dog (especially pit bull type dogs).  For the most part, the training was very positive.  The trainer did deviate a little from the positive method in teaching us about Bitter Apple.  However, this spray has been a life saver in dealing with Athena's mouthiness and leash biting.
  • Training Facility - I can guarantee that we wouldn't have paid $90 for the course if the Petco in our neighborhood didn't have such a large and private training room.  Most Petco and Petsmart stores have a very small area (reminds me of a cubicle) in the middle of their store dedicated to training.  The Petco where we received training had a large room for training that wasn't accessible to costumers shopping in the store.
The usual Petco & Petsmart Training Cubicle
Now that we have completed the basic obedience course and Athena is an official graduate, I am able to reflect on our overall experience.  For the most part, we enjoyed the training at Petco and believe that Athena (and us) learned quite a bit during the seven weeks.  However, I don't think that our Petco training experience was the norm.  Our first 4 classes were private because no one else signed their dog up for training during our time slot.  This allowed the trainer to focus on Athena's specific needs.  When we finally switched time slots, we were in class with no more than two other dogs at a time (every time they were different dogs).

So, we give Petco training a four star rating out of five based on our personal experience.  Athena learned many commands including sit, down, stay, come, leave it, and heel and received some great socialization and practice with distractions.  Our one criticism would be that there didn't seem to be a real plan for what Athena would be able to do once she graduated.  When first meeting the trainer, she told us of all of the amazing commands that we would learn throughout the six weeks.  Petco's website even describes that the Adult Dog Level 1 course will teach skills such as "leave it," "wait," and "walking on a loose leash" and will also address challenges such as jumping, barking, and digging.  However, we didn't learn all of the commands and ways to deal with behavior that we were promised.

Read about Athena's progress during each week's class at Petco hereherehere, and here

What have been your experiences training your dogs at big box stores or elsewhere?

We are looking forward to beginning the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) training through Regarding Rover beginning in October!  More about that to come this week...


  1. Congratulations on graduating! I've never done one of these classes, but a long time ago I did an agility class which was SO fun. I'd love to do that or flyball with Kaya.

    I saw this trainer do a demo at the Pet Expo last year, I was blown away! For a while, I considered paying a fortune for training for Kaya when she was pretty much out of control and getting into fights at the dog park. Luckily I was able to figure it out on my own, but if I had the funds I would still love to do it to polish up their training!

    1. Thank you!! I am hoping that we can start Athena in agility classes some day! They sound like so much fun for the dogs and the humans!

      At this point I'm really glad that most of Athena's issues have been worked out without the need to bring in an expensive one-on-one trainer!

      Way to go for figuring out solutions to Kaya's issues on your own!

    2. Right now you’re probably reading this message because you’re desperate to finally learn how to not only train your dog quickly and effectively, but you also don’t want to have to spend a huge chunk of cash on professional dog trainers or read yet another dog training book that doesn’t get you results.

      Don’t worry, you’re NOT alone in your frustration!

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  2. This post will gonna be a big help to those who have dogs and wants to get to know about dog training courses and dog behaviour. Continue posting!

    1. I'm glad that you found it helpful! Thanks for the feedback!

  3. let me tell you i just loved this post! Positive dog training is defiantly the way to go! Some people believe that they have to train the 'alpha' way & that there dog wont listen to them if they dont. It's funny cause dog's are WAY smarter than that and pretty much know that you are the one in charge (or parent, thats what i think). I recently got into an argument about this & how someone believed that there pit bull type dog is 'different' than any other breed, dude there all just dogs (I put it a little more elegantly than that though,lol). I believe that you should let the dog use their brain, it's kind of like the, teach a man to fish, quote. I love it when my dog uses her brain, she's much more tired at the end of training compared to when she just exercises. Plus she gets this 'omg! That's what you want me to do! WOW now I'm gonna do that all the time so i can get more treats, you dont even have to tell me to do it anymore. I'm to smart for that.' LOL!
    You also informed my about Pecto trainers. I thought they were pretty much off the streets trainers with a Pecto certificate. Thanks for that. I shouldn't have judged so easily!

  4. Awesome, review! Even I (as a trainer) am embarrassed to say that I work @ Petco...however, hopefully I am changing the stereotype.

    I would like to mention that only the words were changed (the naming convention.)for the commands that you feel were missed in class. i.e.: "Petco's website even describes that the Adult Dog Level 1 course will teach skills such as "leave it," "wait," and "walking on a loose leash" and will also address challenges such as jumping, barking, and digging. However, we didn't learn all of the commands and ways to deal with behavior that we were promised." "Leave it" we definitely covered, with the same naming convention. "Walking on a loose leash" is "heel" and "wait" is "stay"... :) Athena was a rock-star, though!!! And she wouldn't be the amazing dog that she is - if she hadn't had you two adopt her!

  5. That's a great reference of dog training tips. Thanks! It was really helpful. I'm still in the process of training my dogs and hopefully some pet products have helped me on this.

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  6. i have a pit that found us on "black friday" and considered getting her trained at petco - since she found us i have no clue what shots she has (if any) so in addition to the classes I have to have a vet look at her, which we all know isnt cheap. do you pay per class? or one lump sum? I can handle $15, but $110 at one time is a little rich for me now.

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  18. I just finished the Adult Level 1 class tonight with my little Cattle dog/Terrier mix and was very pleased! I don’t think you can beat the price for what you get but I agree I’m sure depends on the trainer and that will vary store to store. It was a 6 weeks class focusing on the basics: sit, down, stand, stay, leave it and walking on a loose leash. I took the class at the Bellevue store in Nashville, Tn Debbie is the trainer and she is great! She offered s lot of training tips and advice along the way. There were 5 other people with their dogs in the class although she tries to keep it at 5 sometimes the people up front sign up more. She gave me some advice unique to training my dog that was very helpful. The night we were working on stay I didn’t get a lot of help but we also didn’t need it. This is my 3rd dog, I did private 1 on 1 training with my other 2, my other dog is a therapy dog and I work with the training committee in the pet therapy group I am in so I have helped others work on “stay”. Debbie walked over to check on us a couple of times to see how we were doing and said we were fine next to try going around the corner out of sight and see if she would still stay and not get up. The lady in the next aisle over was having a lot of trouble with sit and Debbie was spending time helping her I was totally fine with that! I am planning on signing up for the Adult 2 class next. I am confident Ms. Debbie will get us whipped into shape in no time : ) I would highly recommend her class!

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