Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog who could use some training, you may be wondering if enrolling your dog in classes at PetSmart is worth it.
Life with a dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences we give ourselves, but without proper training, it can also be one of the biggest challenges. Helping your dog learn certain social skills and commands is integral to a healthy coexistence, but many dog owners get overwhelmed with all the different dog training classes available and even wonder if it’s best to just train their pup on their own.
PetSmart can be an excellent choice for you and your dog when looking for training classes. PetSmart has a variety of classes to choose from, reasonable fee structures, a welcoming environment, and high-quality instruction that can be tailored to your needs.
Deciding to enroll your dog in a training program can be a big commitment and a bit overwhelming. Not only is it a financial investment, but it is also one of time, as most classes need to be attended regularly for several weeks or months in order to be effective. Finding the right program for both of you will ensure you haven’t wasted your money or resources and that it will benefit both you and your four-legged bestie for years to come.
I am the proud owner of an older dog who I adopted from a shelter. She is sweet and loving but has a lot of anxiety around other dogs, and I want to find a program that can help her with that. PetSmart seemed like a logical place to explore first, given all the great reviews their programs get and from knowing other dog owners who have had successful experiences with their training techniques. Dive in with me and decide if you think PetSmart can offer the training classes you and your dog need.
Dog Training With PetSmart: Are The Classes Worth It?
Like us, our furry friends have their own personalities, their own strengths, and their own areas that could use a little help. If you are just starting a training program with a puppy, your needs are going to be very different than if you are thinking about enrolling in one with an older dog.
There is some debate as to whether a formal dog training program is more effective for a dog than a do-it-yourself program through reading manuals and watching online videos. Like I said, each of us has individual needs, based on the amount of time and money we have available, but the strength of a program like PetSmart’s is that it provides weekly consistency that you can’t necessarily get when trying to train your pup on your own. It’s like a weight loss plan – sure, some of us do great working out solo and have the discipline to keep up a regular routine, but many of us find that joining a gym, going to a regular class, or hiring a personal trainer gives us the additional accountability we need.
You know yourself and what works best for you. But remember, in order for your puppy to learn the important basics or an older dog to be able to redirect away from certain behaviors, a regular time and training period will be necessary. I think a program like PetSmart offers will help keep you accountable and will give your dog the consistency he needs to really excel. Plus, going to a class with other pets and their humans can be a fun way to expand your social circle and hopefully meet some like-minded, dog lovers!
1. So Much to Choose From
PetSmart has got pet care down to a science. As the leading pet store in North America, PetSmart has been around since the mid-80s and is known for selling high-quality pet supplies and food, providing reputable grooming and boarding services, and now dog training classes. This privately-owned company knows a thing or two about pets and the people who love them.
Though their options are many, PetSmart focuses on two main areas of dog training: classes for puppies and everything their new owners need to know about them, and classes for older dogs who need some obedience training and their owners who need some direction.
Let’s look at some of these classes and how PetSmart structures them in very specific, easy-to-understand ways.
(Note that most classes are 1-hour long for 6 weeks.)
The Basic Training Classes
These are PetSmart’s regular classes. They will move through the basics of dog ownership and teach various skills based on your dog’s physical age, past training, and maturity level. Most dog owners will start with one of these courses, and expand from there.
StartSmart: This class is for pups who are 10 weeks or older. It is a class for the complete beginner and will teach you everything from potty training, crate training, socialization skills, and how to have a positive relationship with a vet and/or groomer. Though your puppy will benefit from the socialization, this class is really designed for you, the new dog owner, in mind.
Puppy: This is the class for you if you are not completely new to dog ownership, but you want to make sure you are on the right track with your newest pooch. This course is for puppies that are 10 weeks to 5 months old. Yes, you will learn some basic commands, but this class is going to be best for giving you the tools you need to really bond with your puppy and know what he needs to be the positive pack member you and he is both striving for.
Beginner: Once a puppy is 5 months old, he’s ready to move into the Beginner class. At this age, pups are coming into their true personalities and traits that are specific to their breeds. This class is going to do a deeper dive into basic commands and spend a fair amount of time learning about impulse control, something that starts to be problematic with puppies at this age. This is also a great class to help address any problem behaviors that may be starting to present themselves. For many puppy owners, this is the class they find themselves in first. Note: This is also the class where you will start if you have an older dog who is coming into PetSmart’s training classes for the first time.
Intermediate: At this point, PetSmart’s puppy series classes start getting a bit more complex, and there is actually a pre-requisite to take them. For example, with the Intermediate class, you and your pup need to have already gone through the Puppy or Beginner classes in order to enroll. This class is going to focus on a lot of the skills your puppy worked on already, and start introducing some new, more complex ones. This is still a great class for younger dogs, but they will be more mentally and physically stimulated and expected to do more, for longer, than in the past classes.
Advanced: As your puppy continues to grow, both physically and emotionally, the advanced class is going to help them learn more complex skills and challenge them to do more. Your dog has to have finished the Intermediate class in order to take this one. At this level, you should expect your dog to be able to follow all of the basic and many complex commands, with very little reassurance or rewards from you. For those pet owners who are really committed to having a dog that is in sync with them at a high level, getting to PetSmart’s Advanced class is a goal you may want to set for yourself.
PetSmart also has a whole list of specialty classes as well. Some of these are to help deal with problematic issues that have been ingrained in your pet’s head and behavior and need to be addressed. Others are for fun and stimulation – mentally and physically.
Potty Training Class: As the name implies, this class is going to focus on one, very important (and sometimes very frustrating!) part of dog care, potty time. You will learn some effective techniques for teaching your pooch where to go, when to go and how to communicate his needs. This class isn’t just for puppies…it can also be very effective for older dogs as well!
Stress Less™: This class lasts for 3 weeks and is geared specifically toward those furry friends who struggle with being left alone. Whether your dog has a tendency to bark all day, engage in self-harm or destructive behaviors, or act up upon your return, this course is going to help both of you find ways to curb his anxiety and help him feel better when left alone. Any dog over 10 weeks can be enrolled in this class.
Brain Games™: This is one of PetSmart’s newest classes and is a cool way to engage with your furbaby when you are ready for something a bit outside of the regular dog training courses. This is a 6-week course and is full of mental and physical games that are going to stimulate your dog and challenge both of you to communicate on a whole different level. This is a great course to consider if your dog has a lot of hyperactivity or is not getting enough exercise throughout the day. It’s also a good bonding experience for both of you, as you learn to navigate different activities together! Know that, in order to enroll in this class, your dog will need to have completed the Intermediate regular 6-week session.
Trick Training: Similar to the Brain Games™ course, this is a fun addition if your puppy or young dog is ready for a bit more mental and physical stimulation. This class runs for 6-weeks and will help both of you learn some basic tricks like Spin Around, Roll Over, Crawl, and others. This is a creative way to not only teach your dog some new tricks but encourage the bond between the two of you to grow. Your pup will have to complete either the Puppy or Beginner class to sign up for this one.
2. Fee Structure
PetSmart’s training classes are reasonably-priced and easy to understand. There are no hidden fees, and they have a 100% money-back guarantee to any customer that isn’t fully satisfied. Here is how they breakdown their prices:
Regular Classes (6 1-hour sessions of any Basic Training classes) - $139
StressLess Classes (3 1-hour sessions) - $79
Brain Games Classes (6 1-hour sessions) - $139
Advanced Training (6 1-hour sessions) - $124
Therapy Dog Training Classes (6 1-hour sessions) - $139
Virtual Classes (1, 4 and 8 sessions available) - $35 to $238 depending on length
If you look online, your local PetSmart will oftentimes be running specials. You can also put in your zip code, find the nearest PetSmart to your location and see what classes they are offering and when. They keep a very detailed, up-to-date calendar with not only the dates and times but also the names of the instructors and how full the class already is. This is a great feature for someone who is looking for a specific instructor they’ve already heard about, or if they want to find a class they are hoping isn’t going to be as full, (though they could fill up more after you sign up.)
3. A Welcoming Environment
If you’ve never been to a PetSmart before, you should do yourself a favor and go check one out. (Take your dog along – four-legged customers are always welcome!)
The stores are bright and airy, with wide aisles that make it easy for pets to give each other plenty of distance. The merchandise is well-organized and boasts easy-to-read descriptions and price tags.
And, even though it’s a large retail store, you get the feeling that the staff genuinely want to be there. They are helpful and very knowledgeable about the products they sell, (and the ones they don’t!) I recently went to my local PetSmart looking for certain dog food. I was informed by their staff that they were no longer carrying that brand because there was some concerning information that had come out about it. I appreciated this information and it helped me choose a similar brand that my dog enjoyed just as much.
So, what does all this mean for the training classes? A lot, considering the stores is where the classes are taught, and the staff is the ones that teach them.
Depending on the class, most have a 20-minute period where you and your dog will wander through the store, practicing some of the techniques you’ve been covering during that session. Having an aesthetically-pleasing environment with lots of space to spread out is helpful when trying to train your dog as others wander by. The airy feel of the store is especially helpful for any dog (or human!) who may get anxious in closed quarters or when they feel like they are being crowded or confined.
4. High-Quality Instruction
As I mentioned above, PetSmart seems to intentionally seek out dog lovers when they are recruiting their staff. I’ve never walked into a PetSmart and have not been greeted by a warm smile and a big pat on my dog’s head. These are pooch people.
Having said that, a staff who is friendly and knowledgeable about pet supplies is great – but having a staff who can actually teach you and your dog some things is invaluable. After all, that’s what you came to class for.
The PetSmart staff is accredited in dog training and knows the ends and outs of dog behavior. They are skilled at assessing a problematic situation and know when to reinforce certain training techniques that will make your dog training a success. Not only that, but having trainers who truly have the heart of a teacher is important, and PetSmart seems to focus on that with their staff. Having a trainer just tell you what to do is a lot different than having them show you and encourage you through the process.
I’m sure there are some trainers that aren’t top-notch, as with any industry. But PetSmart seems to focus on finding the people who are true dog lovers and have a desire to teach appropriate dog behavior that will stay with you and your pooch long after your last class is over.
And don’t forget, every class, regardless of the price or level, is 100% guaranteed. If you walk out and don’t feel your trainer has done an adequate job throughout the sessions, PetSmart will work with you to make sure you are satisfied, whether that means finding an instructor that’s a better fit for you and/or your pup, or refunding your money. This is a business model that’s all about repeat customers…they want you to walk away happy and satisfied.
What Do I Need to Know Before I Sign Up for a PetSmart Class?
As I’ve outlined, PetSmart has done the research, invested the time, and put a program in place that will address a multitude of pet owners’ needs, depending on what you are hoping to gain from a dog training class. Whether you are just starting out with a new puppy in your home, or have an older pooch who needs some behavioral help, PetSmart can certainly help you meet your goals.
There are some specific things you’ll want to know before you sign up for one of their classes. Make sure the following are things that work for you and your fur buddy.
It’s Rude to Ask Someone’s Age…(Except When They Are a Dog)
Age is an important part of all of PetSmart’s training classes. As I outlined above, each class has very specific requirements as to how old a dog can be before they advance to the next level.
This makes sense…a puppy’s brain is going to develop differently at various ages and a class that has been created for a 2-month-old is going to look very different than one created for a dog that’s already hit his one-year birthday, or another who is significantly older.
PetSmart does an excellent job of clarifying their age requirement and explaining why. It would not behoove you to try and enter a class that your pet is not ready for, based on his age or emotional maturity.
Get Your Shots!
PetSmart is steadfast about this one…and most pet owners will appreciate that.
They will not let a dog come to a class that can’t provide an up-to-date vaccination record. They will want to see that your pup has had its whole set of vaccinations, based on what’s required at his age. Rabies vaccination for all dogs over 4 months old is a non-negotiable.
They will not take exception to this. This is good for all participants, and shows they are a credible organization that won’t cut corners and is focused on the health of all involved.
Don’t Be a Jerk
This is another big one. PetSmart will not allow dogs to stay in a class who are overly aggressive, or their owners can’t control them. They understand that you might be bringing your dog to class to help them tame this behavior, but they aren’t going to risk the health or well-being of another dog – or human – if your dog’s aggression is inappropriate.
If you want to sign up for a series of PetSmart classes, and you’re worried that your dog won’t behave himself, consider signing up for their one-on-one classes or even virtual ones. These courses aren’t any more expensive than their other classes, and will give you a chance to let your furbaby get comfortable with some training before he has to interact with others.
Another nice part of taking classes at PetSmart is that they will assess your dog when he first comes in and determine if he needs some individual training before you start the regular classes. This way, you will know ahead of time what your dog’s needs are and how those fit into their overall training plan.
Do Be An Early Bird
As I mentioned earlier, each training class is one hour. The trainer will spend a few minutes introducing themself, then have each pet owner do the same.
You will then spend about 10-15 minutes working as a group on whatever skills are on the day’s agenda, then you and your dog will have about 15-20 minutes to practice those skills on your own. Participants will be encouraged to use the whole store as their training facility at this point.
The final 10-15 minutes of class will be used to come back together and reinforce the skills practiced that day or work on correcting any issues you and your pup may be having. The class will end with the trainer giving everyone some “homework” to work on before the next class.
At the end of class, participants are welcome to spend some more time perusing the store but will be asked to leave the training area, as there may be another class coming in.
You are highly encouraged to try and show up to class a few minutes early. This will allow your dog time to settle into the new environment and familiarize himself with his surroundings and the other dogs. It’s highly disruptive for the whole class if a member comes in late.
Here’s another big one. PetSmart’s training philosophy is built on rewards. You will be asked to come to class with small treats for your dog, something you know they love but are not given except when in training. This lets your dog know that training time equals take-this-seriously-time.
Make sure the treats are bite-sized and fit in the palm of your hand. You will be amazed at how often throughout the hour-long class you will be sliding these to your dog to reward him for even the smallest positive behaviors. Again, this is a method that has been highly effective for many dog trainers and is the preferred method at PetSmart.
You are asked not to offer these treats to your dog for the rest of the week unless you are in training mode with him.
If you are unsure what a good training treat should be, consider popping by PetSmart before your first training session and have them help you pick out something suitable for your pet. I promise, that having the right training treat will make a huge difference in your dog’s ability to keep his focus on you when you are in a class with a lot of other four-legged distractions!
PetSmart will also ask that you bring a nylon or leather non-retractable leash and the appropriate-sized collar or harness. They do not allow pinch or choke collars or any sort of electric collar to be used during training.
Finally, you should wear comfy, movable clothing and some sort of closed-toe, non-slip shoes. Dog play can be messy play, so this is not the time to dress to impress.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright