If you've never heard about Dog Training Clubs, well, now you have! And here we are going to talk about what they are, and help you to decide if joining a club would be a good option for you and your dog.
So, What is it?
Dog training clubs are most often formed by dog owners and trainers to practice training for a specific skill or set of skills. These skills are generally associated with a specific sport or hobby.
While many of the fundamental skills of dog training can occur at home or be taught by the handler, there are many advanced techniques that often require more than one person to help the dog learn these new skills.
That's where the club comes into the picture.
Let's say that you simply wanted to teach your dog how to walk politely through a crowd of people. It would be pretty difficult to try to simulate that in your home, unless you have a pretty big family with nothing better to do. This would also be challenging in a one-on-one setting with a trainer.
You could try to go walk through a crowd of people in the middle of downtown, but unfortunately you never really know what strangers may do. Your dog may be able to walk past a person who is ignoring your dog, but they might really struggle with walking past a person that is trying to reach out and pet them as you pass by.
When you have a group of people dedicated to your training goals, you can explain how you want your fellow members to help you in a staged training scenario. You might need to start by having people stand still without making any noise, or maybe your dog is ready for people to be talking and moving around.
Dog training clubs allow you to completely control the training environment so that you can appropriately challenge your dog to achieve your training goals most effectively.
Why have I never heard of these before?!
Sounds pretty amazing to be able to control the distractions to help your dog be more successful in training, right?!
You would think that everyone would want to participate in something like this to help their dog learn all of their skill more easily.
Like I mentioned earlier, most dog training clubs are associated with a specific sport or a specific skill set.
Almost all dog sports have clubs dedicated to their specific set of skills. Most official sports actually have organizations that govern the clubs and have regulations and bylaws that dictate many of the rules for the clubs.
American Kennel Club
Protection Dog Sports
Field / Hunting
FastCAT / Lure Coursing
And so many more!
So how do I find a training club?
Since most dog training clubs are associated with a specific sport or dog related activity, you should start by finding an activity or sport that you're interested in. Then a great way to find club dedicated to that activity is actually by finding Social Media Communities dedicated to that sport or skill.
You should comment or post in these social media groups that you are looking for places to practice or learn about your new activity, and you'd be surprised at those people who are excited to help get you started and put you in contact with clubs in your area!
I've Found a Club! Now What?
Great! Don't be afraid to reach out to the club director directly and ask to visit the club!
Visit the Club
You are expected to visit the club you are interested in at least once, or even a few times before officially asking to join.
When you visit, it's a good idea to talk to the members and ask lots of questions. You should ask questions about the club, how the club operates, and if you have questions about the sport.
Plan to Stay a Long Time
Club meetings can often run for several hours and it is frowned upon to leave before everyone has completed their training for the day.
Many clubs will ask new members or visiting members to participate only at the end of the club meeting. The club members want you to be able to experience the complete club culture and want to encourage you to stay for the complete meeting.
Every club member should try to be available to assist with every other club member's training. By leaving early, you may send the message that you are only interested in helping yourself and not the other members of the club.
Ask About Other Clubs
Most members of dog training clubs are familiar with other clubs in the area, or even further away. Dog sports promote the establishment of far reaching communities or people who have a passion for training dogs.
When you ask about other clubs that people have had experience with, pay attention to positive stories, or also stories or information about negative experiences with other clubs.
Each club may have its own unique culture and training atmosphere, and it may be challenging to find a club that is the right fit for you and your dog.
Ask to Have Your Dog "Evaluated"
Even if you have never participated in the sport or activity, or if you have been already been training for a while, it is important that the club gets to know you, but also YOUR DOG!
Trainers who are experienced in the sport will be able to evaluate how well your dog will likely perform in the activity. If you dog is not a perfect fit, that's okay! Great trainers love a challenge.
However, some dogs may not be suitable candidates for all sports for a number of reasons. After your dog is evaluated, take time to talk with whoever evaluated your dog to understand what they saw and what their assessment is of the dog.
You visited, you loved it!
Great, now you can officially ask to join! When you ask to join the club, you should speak with the training director of the club personally and in private. This allows you to be open and honest about your intentions for joining as well as get honest exceptions of your participation if you are accepted.
Many clubs may have a probationary period as well are required attendance rules. Understanding what is expected of you if you join is a very important part of your decision to join or not. It is better to be honest about what you expect you can dedicate to the club than to be accepted only to realize you may have bitten off too much to handle by joining.
Common Club Expectations:
-Pay your club dues/fees (duh!)
-Training Outside of Club
-Expect to compete
-Continued education (lessons, seminars, resources)
-Help with club-hosted functions
-Communicate through group chats
-Participate in other member's training
-Help ensure the safety of all club members
-Help clean, organize, maintain training spaces and equipment
-Attend sport specific events
-Be an ambassador of the club
Be Prepared to be Refused
While more often than not, if you've visited multiple times, and enjoyed the club, and you've decided to ask to join the club, they will likely say yes! However, there is always a possibility that you might not be allowed to join.
This can occur for many reasons:
-Your dog is not a suitable candidate for the sport
-The club members did not feel you were a good fit for the club culture
-You expressed or demonstrated a lack of dedication to the training
-You may have demonstrated undesirable behavior during your visit
-You may have demonstrated undesirable behavior elsewhere and your reputation preceded you
-Or the club was just full already
Whatever the reason, if you are denied the option to join the club, it is important to understand that in the vast majority of cases, the decision was made with your best interest and the best interest of the members in mind.
Don't take the decision personally as it was made because it would have been an unpleasant experience for you and the rest of the club to have added as member. You should ask about other clubs in the area where the director may believe you would be a better fit.
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