All things in life need to grow and develop. This applies to our relationships as well. This also applies to our relationships with our dogs. Whether you just got your furry best friend and want to plant the seeds of a harmonious long-term friendship, or you have been living together for a while, and want to take your relationship to the next level, we all need guidance sometimes. And just like you would go to a specialist if you wanted more out of your relationship with your partner, you would go to a… dog training school if you needed to work on your relationship with your dog.
The question is, how do you find a good specialist? Now, if you were just feeling under the weather, you would probably go to a general practitioner. But what if you had a toothache? I bet you would go to a dentist instead! Same with dog training. First, you need to decide whether you want to work on general obedience, aggression, separation anxiety, or maybe you want to take on therapy dog training or a protection dog training course. And then you got to read on because we created a list of local hidden gems in San Diego area that specialize in exactly the kind of dog training classes you want!
Now, what types of dog training schools are we going to look at exactly?
- Dog Obedience Training
- Aggressive Dog Training
- Protection Dog Training or Guard Dog Training
- Behavior Modification Dog Training – Dog Separation Anxiety Training
- Therapy Dog Training
- Service Dog Training
We will also take a look at such training types as a dog training camp, group classes, in home dog training and online dog training.
All of these gems have 5-star ratings on Yelp, tons of happy clients and they are local, oftentimes family-owned businesses, so you can make great friends among your neighbors while doing some training as well!
First things first, there are plenty of options out there in regards to dog training. How do you know which one is good for you? Here are 6 tips.
6 Tips For Picking the Right Dog Training School
1. Know That the Dog Training Industry is Unregulated
That means that virtually anyone could call him or herself a trainer, sadly. However, there are certifications and organizations that can help you identify those who actually have the right designations and experience. Always check to see if the trainer has some of the following certifications: The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), The Academy for Dog Trainers (ADT), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT KA), the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior (KPAATB), or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Being the primary educational organization for trainers, APDT has a very useful resource called Trainer Search that allows you to find trainers in your area based on your city or zip code. Great tool! Note that if a trainer is certified by the APDT it does not necessarily imply that he or she uses a specific training method, which brings us to the next tip.
2. Know the Training Methods Used
Now, all trainers have different training methods, but here are a few basic things that would help you swim confidently in the sea of trainer jargon. There are currently 4 basic methods of training that stem from behavioral psychology: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. Now, the words positive and negative aren’t representing the concept of “good and evil” here, they function more like they would in math, with positive meaning addition and negative meaning subtraction of something. It will become clearer in a second.
This is the most popular method today, and, sure enough, you are all familiar with it. Positive reinforcement has, at its core, rewarding a dog for desired behavior usually with a treat, a toy or play time, depending on what motivates your dog the most. The trick is to pick the right timing: just as your dog does the desired behavior, reward him or her right away, and supplement the treat with a high-pitched “good dog”, to make sure your pet realizes how pleased you are with this behavior. See how a treat is added here? This is the positive part, the addition.
This technique involves taking something unpleasant away to reinforce the desired behavior. That is how electric fences work, for example. When a dog gets too close to the perimeter, it gets a shock, but the shock disappears the moment the dog moves away from the boundary. This way, the dog learns to stay away from the perimeter. See the subtraction here – the unpleasant sensations are taken away to reinforce a behavior, this is negative reinforcement.
With punishment techniques, the trainer is trying to make a particular behavior happen less often. With positive punishment, the trainer adds some unpleasant stimuli to discourage a behavior. With excessive barking, for example, a trainer can add a spray bark collar to the training, so that every time a dog barks, it gets sprayed. The dog will associate nuisance barking with being sprayed, and this will discourage him or her from barking all night long again. Did you see how with this technique a trainer would add (=positive) something to discourage a behavior (=punishment).
This technique implies taking something away (=negative) in order to discourage a behavior (=punishment). A good example would be if a trainer turns away from a dog that is jumping on him or other people to get attention. He takes the attention away from the dog to discourage undesired behavior. This method is often used together with positive reinforcement to reduce the unwanted behavior and reinforce the desired behavior.
Ah, that was quite a bit of information, right? Did it become somewhat clearer what the different training methods do? Great. There is still much debate around the best training methods in the trainers’ world, but what you choose remains up to you.
Now that you’ve learnt more about the behavioral psychology, do you start seeing some similarities between how we train dogs and how the government trains us? On to the next tip.
3. Choose the Training Type
Group Classes, Boot Camps, In House Training or even Skype chats – there is every type of dog training you might need under the sun. Consider the benefits and drawbacks. With in house dog training the obvious advantage is that you will get more personal attention. If your dog has some socialization issues, in home training won’t be as effective as group dog training classes, where both you and your fido can learn to be around other dogs and work around so many tempting distractions. If you want your dog to get the experience of a full immersion, then a dog training camp will be the best option. Whereas, if your budget is tight, online dog training might be the solution you are looking for. Deciding on the type of training you need will make the task of finding a good dog training school way easier.
4. Watch a Class Before You Sign Up
Once you picked a class or a training school, take some time to come to one of the training sessions and just observe. Pay attention to the following:
- How big is the class size and whether you will be getting enough attention,
- If puppies and adult dogs are trained separately,
- How many levels do the classes have (basic, intermediate, advanced),
- How the trainer interacts with the dogs,
- How dogs react to the training,
Whether everyone seems to be having fun and enjoying the process.
If you ticked all the checkboxes here, and are comfortable with the environment, you have found a good candidate.
5. Don’t Forget About Vaccinations
Safety first! Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated before you start any dog training and get the green light from your vet. Next, ensure that the training school requires every dog to be vaccinated and is asking for a proof. This way you can rest assured that the safety aspect of your training is covered.
6. Ask About the Follow Up
Now, what happens after you have completed the course? Do you get a lifetime membership and can come any time for future “tune ups”, or are follow up visits limited? Maybe there are no follow up visits in case a problem does arise. Make sure to ask the school or the trainer about what happens once you are done with their program.
Great, you are all set for the dog training school of your dreams. Now, we are introducing you to the 10 hidden gem schools with 5-star Yelp ratings that specialize in the type of dog training you are looking for. Go ahead and find the one for you!
Top 10 Dog Training School Hidden Gems in San Diego Area
Let’s start with puppy training. The best time to start training is when your pooch is between 3 and 14 weeks old, it doesn’t mean that your pup doesn’t learn well afterwards, but it is just the juiciest time when he or she absorbs new tricks like a sponge, so take advantage of that if you can! The next stage at which pet owners often need assistance is the 6 months mark, when pups transition into adolescence, and this time is much like the teenage years we’ve all been through – rough. Puppy training to the rescue!
1. Woofingham Palace – Puppy Training San Diego
Woofingham Palace is our 5-star hidden gem for specialized puppy socialization and puppy training in San Diego. It is a family-owned business run by Samantha & Jon Mears, who both immigrated from London 11 years ago. Hence, the name of their dog training school. Samantha Mears is a certified professional dog trainer, who passed her CPDT KA (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainlines) exam with distinction. Samantha has worked with dogs every day for over 10 years. She is also a Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and is a qualified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG).
Woofingham Palace offers plenty of different puppy training options for you and your pooch all held within a fenced training area in the shade of large sails. The classes are small, so you will get that individual attention. This dog training school puts lots of emphasis on puppy socialization, and notes that pups who have been socialized young tend to show less behavior problems in the future than those pups who haven’t. The prices for group puppy training classes vary from over $100 to over $300, so you have plenty of options.
2. Total K9 Training – K9 Dog Training/ Dog Obedience Training San Diego
Now, an all 5-star hidden gem for dog obedience training in San Diego is Total K9 Dog Training. Its trainer, Shannon, is a Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), and is CPDT Certified. She also holds a BA in Psychology and started training animals in 1991 at Sea World. Total K9 Dog Training offers a range of classes, but specializes in dog obedience training, both beginner and advanced.
Total K9 Dog Training teaches the owners how to become good leaders for their dogs without using any intimidation or domination techniques. They focus on building the trust and communication that would allow the dog to follow the owner… even when he or she doesn’t have that tasty food handy. Shannon puts a lot of emphasis of training the whole family on how to work with their dog, as this strengthens the bond between all the family members and ensures that everything a dog learns at school will be further reinforced at home. The prices of classes vary, but the general range is between $100 and $165 for group classes.
3. Think Pawsitive Dog Training – Service Dog Training and Therapy Dog Training
Interested in Therapy Dog Training/Service Dog Training? A service or therapy dog certification requires you to take a number of steps along the way. Think Pawsitive dog training school can help you throughout the process. Its founder, Vanessa Melrose, is a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), certified by ABCDT (ABC Dog Trainer) and KPA CTP (Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner). She has been working with dogs since 2003.
What Think Pawsitive offers in terms of service dog training and therapy dog training: it offers to help you with the entire process, from basic training to preparing and passing the CGC Certification and Therapy Pet Certification, which you must get in order for your dog to become an official service/therapy dog. To start the program, your dog doesn’t need to be a specific size or breed, it needs to have a calm, friendly temperament. You know, a therapy dog – boy, that patience! Therapy Dog Evaluations are $30, and Think Pawsitive offers extended discounts for referrals or recently adopted pets, so you can email Vanessa directly to learn more about the program and the pricing.
4. Behave! – Aggressive Dog Training San Diego
Behave! – another hidden gem that specializes in aggressive dog training in San Diego. Its founder, Alexandra Gant, graduated from ACBDT animal behavior college, and since 2012 has been working with “unworkable” or “last chance” dogs who are on the verge of being euthanized or re-homed due to aggression issues. Alex focuses on teaching owners in need of dog aggression training how to train the dog by themselves, without relying on professional help. Behave! trainers are knowledgeable about the different forms of aggression and believe that aggression is a symptom of a much deeper problem, so they focus on fixing the problem, rather than just the symptoms.
Behave! realizes that dog aggression training is a big commitment, so it encourages all owners who work with them to consider packages instead of sessions. The classes are $80-$125 Per Session, and they currently offer a 10% package discount.
5. American Canine Training – Dog Protection Training San Diego
So you were looking for guard dog training in San Diego? We found a hidden gem for that too, all 5 stars – American Canine Training. Chris Moredock is the head trainer, certified by APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and the Pro-train institute of California.
American Canine Training has a number of different options when it comes to dog protection training. You can choose Security Alert Training, which will teach your dog to watch out for strangers and warn you should they be up to something spooky. It will also teach your dog to stop aggressive responses on your command. Or you could go for a Personal Protection Training (on and off leash), which will teach the dog to protect his or her humans and property, learn “attack” and “release” commands, etc. There you go, you are on your way to getting that cool police-style dog you’ve always wanted.
6. Legends Dog Training – Behavior Modification Dog Training/Dog Separation Anxiety Training
If your pooch needs some professional behavior modification training, this is your local 5-star professional dog behaviorist – Legends Dog Training School. They specialize in dog separation anxiety training, training for dogs with impulsivity issues, fearful response to other dogs and many other behavioral problems.
Alyssa Rose (Lapinel), the founder of Legends, is a CPDT-KA certified Canine Training and Behavior Specialist with 15 years of experience in the area of behavioral studies. She is also certified by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and by Triple Crown Dog Training Academy. Alyssa is an AKC Citizen Evaluator, and a Professional Member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). She applied her degree in Phycology to work with children and adults diagnosed with serious disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorder, and later used this experience to start working with animals. Alyssa designs behavior modification dog training programs that address the root cause of a behavioral problem and provide a systematic framework for improving communication and strengthening the bond between the dog and his/her owner.
One consultation costs $150, but it is included if you decide to pursue a training package with 5 classes for $575. Mind you, different options are available, so check Legends website and see their contact info below to learn more.
7. Pawtopia – Dog Agility Training San Diego
You have sure enough heard about this dog training school – Pawtopia. But did you know that they had a specialized dog agility training class? Yep, this one also made it to our hidden gems list. Its founder, Colleen Demling, is an accredited trainer with 16 years of experience. She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, is accredited by the CBCC-KA and CPDT-KA, as well as IABBC. Colleen also designed the Temperament Test for the Naval Medical Center’s Therapy Dog Program here at San Diego. Colleen is actively involved in many professional organizations, including the International Association of Canine Professionals, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and the Animal Behavior Management Alliance.
Service areas: South Park, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, North Park, Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs, Mission Valley, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Mission Bay, Bay Park, Morena, Kearney Mesa, Linda Vista, Clairemont Mesa, Normal Heights,University Heights, Clairemont, Coronado, San Diego, Lemon Grove,, Linda Vista, Serra Mesa, Tierrasanta, Sports Arena, La Jolla, Bird Rock, UTC, Sorrento Valley, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Scripps Ranch, Mira Mesa, Rancho Santa Fe, Crosby, Del Sur, Carmel Valley, Torrey Hills, Del Mar, Del Mar Heights, Solana Beach, Fairbanks Ranch, Cardiff By the Sea, Encinitas, Encinitas Ranch, Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Penasquitos
8. Devotion to Dogs – In Home Dog Training
For those of you looking for in home dog training, Ben of Devotion to Dogs offers just that, and takes a place in our list of hidden San Diego gems. Ben is a graduate of Northridge Animal Behavior College, is AKC certified, and is a member of IACP. Ben has been a dog trainer for 15 years, and trained dogs with a variety of behavioral issues. He also works with local rescues and believes that every dog can be trained and successfully rehabilitated. His specialty is in home dog training: a personal, one on one type of training that allows him to assess the environment and find the right solution. And allows you to save time on commute of course.
Devotion to Dogs offers a variety of packages. The starting package includes a 2-4 hour in home session as well as a 1 hour follow up session, which goes for $500. Call Devotion to Dogs for more information.
9. Tully’s Training – Online Dog Training
If you need some flexibility or are on a budget, Tully’s Training offers not only private in home training and group classes, but also basic obedience positive-reinforcement online dog training – via Skype.
Tully’s Training team is comprised of trainers with experience in exotic, domestic, and marine mammal training, which allows it to look at animal behavior from different angles. One of their most titled trainers is Meghan McLeod, who reportedly trained with a number of well-recognized behaviorists such as Karen Pryer and Dr. Ian Dunbar. Meghan is also a certified CGC evaluator. Check out Tully’s team of trainers with a whole spectrum of different backgrounds here.
According to Tully’s, online dog training has been working great for them and their clients, as they are able to get that same individual, one on one session that you would get in person for a fraction of the cost. So, if online dog training suits your needs, this is the school for you. Training packages are highly customizable, so get in touch with Tully’s for more information.
10. Specialty Dog Training – Dog Training Camp San Diego
Were you looking for a dog training camp in San Diego? Then this is the place for you – Specialty Dog Training. It is a family-owned dog training school founded by Graham Bloem, a professional dog trainer with 17+ years of experience and a recipient of numerous awards, including American Red Cross Real Heroes Award and the Honeywell Life Safety Award presented by Larry King himself. Graham’s team consists of a number of seasoned professionals that together have accumulated numerous accreditations, including certificates by IACP, APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), NADOI, ABSCDT and others. Graham and his wife, Kyrie, also actively support nonprofits, shelters and rescue organizations.
Specialty Dog Training focuses on using positive reinforcement and discipline in their training. Their dog training camp, i.e. in-kennel training, dog board and train or a boot camp is a structured environment where your dog will be taught all the obedience basics he or she needs to be a great companion. Being away from the usual environment is a good opportunity for your dog to “reset”, while the trainers can work on his/her behavioral issues in a controlled environment.
Specialty Dog Training offers plenty of packages, they also have a Boot Camp Special for the month of March, with 25% off all dog training camps. The price varies between $1575 (with the discount) for a 2-week program with 2 private sessions, to $5400 for an 8-week program with 2 private lessons.
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