Training FAQs

My Dog’s Behavior

My dog barks at and/or pulls towards other dogs while on leash. Should I bring him to a class or schedule a private session?

If you know your dog does not get along with other dogs and barks incessantly at the sight of other dogs, then a private training setting would be more appropriate.

My dog is shy and nervous out in public, but I want to teach him/her basic manners. Should I bring him to class or schedule a private session?

If your dog is often too nervous in a public setting to be able to focus on you or care about treats, a class may be too overwhelming and thus prevent your dog from learning. A private training session is recommended to give you tools to build your dog’s confidence.

I want my dog to be better socialized around other dogs and people. Would a class be good for this?

Classes are a great way to build confidence in the presence of other people and dogs. The classes focus on individual training between you and your dog. Classes are arranged so there is space between each dog to minimize the distractions. If you have specific concerns regarding your dog’s behavior around other dogs, we recommend a private training session.

Types of Classes

I would like my dog to become a service dog. Can I have him or her certified at the SPCA?

The SPCA does not test or certify dogs to be service dogs. A service dog is "any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items." Service dogs that perform these necessary functions are required by law to be permitted in all public places. There are organizations that train and certify the dog, specific for the disability (such as Guide Dogs for the Blind in Santa Rosa trains guide dogs, Canine Companions train dogs for people who use wheelchairs, etc).

A Therapy Dog is different in that a dog visits rest homes, hospitals, etc simply for companionship and socializing. This process could be first started with our Canine Good Citizen course, which includes testing on the last day. Therapy Dogs are not required to be allowed in public places.

Visit Delta Society's website for more information! 

I can’t make the Small Dog class. Can I take Mind Your Manners for my pint-size pooch?

Small Dog Smarts 1 and Mind Your Manners 1 offer the same basic curriculum and training methods. Mind Your Manners 1 usually has dogs of all sizes enrolled. The only difference between the two classes is the trainer may receive and address more questions specific to small dogs, such as housebreaking, barking, training a down behavior, etc.

My puppy is 6 months of age. Should I take Puppy Kindergarten or Mind Your Manners 1?

Both of these classes mainly focus on basic manners. There will be some discussion in Puppy Kindergarten specific to puppy behavior and socialization, and play time if there is time permitting. If your dog is a large breed, we encourage you to enroll in Mind Your Manners 1.

Dog Owners

Can I bring family members to class with me?

We definitely encourage family members to be involved in the training process for your four legged family member. However class may not be appropriate for very young children. Please review our Class Policies.

Can my teenage son/daughter be the one taking our dog to class?

If your child is at least 12 years of age and excited to be the primary trainer for your family dog, absolutely! If you are unsure whether taking the class is right for your teenage son or daughter, we would recommend at least attending the first class with him or her, where we review basic information and requirements for the class.

What to do if I miss a class?

If you are missing a class that you know about in advance please let your instructor know so you can get the scoop on what you will be missing. If you have to miss a class due to unexpected circumstances, you can contact your instructor via email to see what you have missed before the next class.

Since our class start dates are scattered throughout each month to offer a variety of start times, it is hard to unlikely you will be able to make up your class in sequence. We apologize in advance for that!

Requirements for Classes

What vaccinations should my dog have before coming to any class?

We are very interested in the safety of all the dogs that attend classes, therefore we ask you to have at least 2 DH2PP vaccines before coming into any class. This shot should include Distemper and Parvo. We encourage a Bordetella shot for puppies but it is not a requirement. For adult dogs we also ask that your rabies vaccination be up to date. Please bring in your vaccination papers to your first class.

What should I bring to the human only Orientation?

  • Copy of your dog’s Vaccinations
  • Copy of your confirmation email

What should I bring to classes that meet with the dog?

  • Standard, Flat Collar (no choke or prong collars)
  • 4’ OR 6’ Leash
  • Yummy Treats
  • Kong, Bully Stick or Greenie – these will serve as a “doggie pacifier” for the many times in class when you wish to encourage quiet behavior.
  • Dog’s Mat.

Why do I need food to train my dog? What kind of food?

Food is a popular motivator for most dogs which is why we prefer this for training. We want to make training fun and exciting to the dog. The more enticing the motivator the most inclined the dog will perform the behavior. We also use food to lure the dog into position, such as a sit or a down. This way we are not making them sit instead we are showing them what we want with the food.

We use food in the beginning of training to communicate what exactly we want and if the behavior gets reinforced many of times with good things for the dog the behavior is more likely to happen again. If you were to go to work and get a raise for doing a great job in the office you would be more inclined to keep it up. That is the way we can look at food as a motivator to increase wanted behavior. Eventually once your dog “gets” the behavior, you can start to wean he or she off the food and have the reinforcer coming at random to keep the dog guessing.

The best kind of food as a reinforcer is soft, small easy to chew bits so the dog can eat it fast and you can continue training. The dog only needs a small taste of the treat on his or her mouth to be rewarded. Example of high value treats, Natural Balance food logs, and meat, meat based baby food and cheese.

What is a clicker?

A clicker is a device that marks the behavior the dog has done correctly. For example if you were reinforcing a sit, the click would happen when the dog’s bum hits the floor followed by a treat. It lets the dog know what he or she is being reinforced for and acts as a promise that the reinforcer, ie.treat is coming! We highly recommend using it since it is a fast way to communicate to the dog exactly what behavior you are looking for. Class students receive a clicker at the Orientation of each class.

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East Bay SPCA is a member of Maddie’s® Treatable Assistance Program