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Discussion Starter #1
Oona and I have embarked on a new training program and I am so excited about it.

The program we did kindergarten with and had paid for a beginning obedience session had suffered a fire and numerous delays in getting back to classes in an alternate facility. They had finally called offering us a spot in a session that had already begun that was once a week at 8 pm (not a great time for her, and we paid for a full session, not 5/7 classes), and we declined, hoping for a full session at a better time. Long story short, they have not been communicative and I have no idea when we would be able to get back to class, or which Oona really needs, or get our money back. I signed up for a new program and I can't say enough good things about it so far.

We can sign up for slots in person classes (indoor and outdoor) and online classes, as well as organized off-leash walks several times a week. Oona will finally, hopefully, get some regular play practice with other well trained dogs as well as some supervision from experts who can tell me whether to worry and how best to manage her when she gets obnoxious and barky/pushy with other dogs. The walks all include training activities and they are structured, unlike the dog park. I also really like the trainers, a couple who are endearingly into their dogs and each other as well as highly qualified and experienced.

Their classes are super small - only 6 dogs for in person and 12 online, which is what I had hoped for from a COVID-era dog class, but our old school was somehow running classes with 25 dogs and handlers and just spreading us really far apart. There was also a lot of lecturing in our old class, and only a little bit of practice time. And zero puppy socialization or handling practice, "due to covid" (but now it seems more likely due to the way they chose to run a very large class program).

The new school's online resources and materials are extensive and excellent from when they were forced online in the spring and again this winter, and their online classes look like you will still get individual attention. I'm looking forward to using these to help my daughter get a bit of practice handling in, since she can't come to class (age restrictions as well as COVID restrictions). In contrast our old school, which posted just a few YouTube videos and then made lots of empty promises to get more content online when things were closed. The old school, which was also a daycare, has had a rough time between lockdowns and a respiratory outbreak and the fire, but in spite of sharing the same training philosophy, they have also been running their business and program very differently. I feel we would have been so much better off at the new school which really seems like a very careful labor of love rather than high volume/fast food delivery model.

I am sad I didn't sign Oona up for the current school's puppy program when she had the chance in the fall. We could have done proper puppy socialization and practice handling with strangers, who she is still quite shy about - she hid from the male trainer at our orientation yesterday so we all know what she needs help with! I can't help but wonder if things would be different if we'd started off in the program that is way more hands on with more opportunities for interaction. And I hope we get to take advantage of some of these opportunities before the next and hopefully last inevitable lockdown! Thanks for letting me vent!
 

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Mia, Christmas in June 2010
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I'm so excited that you connected with such a great program! It sounds really well set up for this time. I bet if you talk with the trainers they'll give you some ideas for encouraging socialization safely. Don't kick yourself over it, we're all doing the best we can, and you're way ahead of the curve with identifying needs and opportunities.
 

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Great to hear that you've found a program that works. One of my friends has a new puppy (4 mos.) and part of her post-Puppy kindergarten socialization includes regular visits to stores. Now my agility practice group has jumped in, and we're all going to Farm & Fleet with our dogs after regular agility practice (2 mornings/week). It's been satisfying watching the new puppy bloom. And all of our dogs can use the extra socialization these days. I bring a pocketful of treats these days on walks and store visits. Strangers are usually happy to visit with the dogs and dole out the treats for good behavior.
 

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It sounds like a great program. Don't beat yourself up over could have beens. Pat yourself on the back for being one of the minority of people that even recognizes the need to train and socialize your dog. Pat yourself on the back for recognizing your current situation needs changing. Covid has upset a lot of plans. You aren't where you want to be, but you are ahead of where a lot of people are right now.
 

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That sounds like a great training program.

Normie and I go to PetSmart or Petco to practice his dog school homework once a week. He's still too easily distracted.

And after hearing about Bobby's adventures in a big box store, we're heading for Home Depot and the garden centers.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks all! I'm trying to keep looking forward instead of backward. Oona is super smart and willing, and I'm feeling very reconnected to her already even since practicing a bit of new homework and getting her used to the clicker. Aside from the obvious benefits of regular practice outside the home/neighborhood, I know I benefit from externally imposed structure and activities so it feels great and takes some pressure off me to not have to be fully responsible for "curriculum" in terms of researching and trying out new exercises. Things had been getting a little stale at home with our training routine and this is just what we needed. Oona was still pretty into any and all practice, but it's harder to be interesting to your dog when you yourself are bored.
 

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Sounds like a much better training facility for you and Oona. Don’t worry about what went before. Poodles are smart and they learn quickly so what you might have missed in your previous class, you’ll get and catch up in this one.

I’m like you. I benefit from the imposed schedule of a class and fresh ideas too. It’s good to take classes at different places.
 
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Ugh that previous class setup sounds awful. I've never been in a group class with more than 8 people even before covid. Our training facility caps classes at 6 I think. So glad you've found a new one that works for you! I like to have a more individual experience where trainers get to know the dogs and their quirks.
 

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Ugh that previous class setup sounds awful. I've never been in a group class with more than 8 people even before covid. Our training facility caps classes at 6 I think. So glad you've found a new one that works for you! I like to have a more individual experience where trainers get to know the dogs and their quirks.
Yes! At our last class the most personal attention you would get is if you happened to get your dog picked to demo something, or if your dog was so distracted they needed a divider dragged between them and the other class members. It did provide the curriculum and philosophy that was helpful in the early days, but I could have easily gotten the same thing from videos. She did get some practice with doggy distractions and on different kinds of floors though so it wasn't a total waste.
 

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I observed one of their structured walks today without Oona (the requirement before joining). It was awesome - started with a ten min down stay (treating), loose leash walking away from the entrance/road, and then releasing intermittently recalling all the dogs for a down stay break. Lots of patience for the other younger adolescents/older pups - "everything is a work in progress". Hoping Oona does not totally embarrass me when we join the group next week, but I also feel like everyone gets it and will be patient with us, so it feels ideal.
 

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I observed one of their structured walks today without Oona (the requirement before joining). It was awesome - started with a ten min down stay (treating), loose leash walking away from the entrance/road, and then releasing intermittently recalling all the dogs for a down stay break. Lots of patience for the other younger adolescents/older pups - "everything is a work in progress". Hoping Oona does not totally embarrass me when we join the group next week, but I also feel like everyone gets it and will be patient with us, so it feels ideal.
What a great class. I wish we had something like that here.
 

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That outdoor walking class sounds excellent. I wish I had something like that. Enjoy! Great things lie ahead.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
That outdoor walking class sounds excellent. I wish I had something like that. Enjoy! Great things lie ahead.
I can't believe I didn't hear about it when I was first searching for puppy classes in the fall. I'm going to be shouting its praises from the rooftops. Unfortunately we are going into another lockdown and depending on the restrictions this time, the walks and in-person classes might be suspended for a while. I hope they are allowed to keep them going: 6-7 people outdoors and masked and distanced feels about as safe as you're going to get, since I have to take my dog out to parks and trails anyway! I wonder whether we could organize similar walks to keep it going with a small group of students/local dog people if the program's walks are cancelled.
 

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So happy you have found better trainers and classes! I willingly lost a lot of money walking away from a trainer I had prepaid when I did not like his methods. I have always been glad I did. Hopefully there will not be another lockdown before the classes are over. Would the trainers be willing to do some one on one training then? It would probably cost more, but may be worth it. Best wishes:)
 

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So happy you have found better trainers and classes! I willingly lost a lot of money walking away from a trainer I had prepaid when I did not like his methods. I have always been glad I did. Hopefully there will not be another lockdown before the classes are over. Would the trainers be willing to do some one on one training then? It would probably cost more, but may be worth it. Best wishes:)
We are good for now, as dog training is currently deemed essential, but a stricter lockdown is inevitable (because the current one is a "mockdown" and ICUs are on the brink of being overwhelmed) so we all anticipate that in-person classes and walks will be put on hold before these 8 weeks are up. However, they have a very good online program from the last pivot, and it includes a couple of drop in zoom training sessions a week, that can accommodate up to 12 participants, but the one I attended this week only had 4. So still lots of time for personal attention. If we go into a stricter lockdown the in-person classes will be replaced with extra online ones. And they seem to have a big enough community and are encouraging people to pair up and attend the online classes together outdoors (together in someone's yard), as well as organize informal (no instructor) walks in pairs to provide the dog exposure part. And if we pivot, they will give us extra online sessions to make up for the in-person ones we would have missed that we paid for. The only trick for me (and I'm sure some others) is that I already spend a lot of time in online meetings for work as well as socializing, and I share the living room and internet with the rest of my family, and between those limiting factors I may not want or be able to plan for more than one zoom training a week.
 
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