Max and I are attending two different puppy classes, not because he needs them, but because I was interested in comparing the two classes, and because it's a way to get him out in the winter. (That's Max on the way home from class last night, when he pushed open his unlatched crate door and had his way with a roll of paper towels.)
One is a pet store class, taught by a trainer educated in the pet store training methods, just a dog owner who owns pets and works in a pet store, although her sister shows dogs. She's definitely better than your average pet store dog trainer.
The other class is taught by a dog person, someone who shows in breed, obedience, and agility, and is a member of a national dog trainers group.
The classes both use modern methods, and reward-based training, no corrections, no chain collars, lots of treats, and they have similar goals - a happy pup who can do a Sit, Down, Stand, Recall, Stay for a short period of time, and walk reasonably well on lead. Both classes include a Puppy Playtime. Both classes last for 6 weeks, consist of weekly one-hour sessions, and cost approximately $100.00. That's where the similarity ends.
The pet store class consists of 5 pups, one trainer, and the ring is a portable thing about 10 by 15 feet. The flooring is the store's regular tile, slippery when pups are playing. The other class is held in a dog training facility, the class is limited to 15 pups with two trainers (the second trainer is also an experienced dog trainer), and the non-skid flooring is safer for pups. In the pet store class recalls are limited by the size of the 15 foot ring, and walking on leash is through the store with the distraction of customers, dog treats, birds, ferrets, and food. The dog school class has the large enclosed ring ring for longer recalls, and lead walking. The pups are also exposed to tunnels and low jumps, just for fun, to keep the class interesting.
The pet store class is fine for socializing pups as long as there are no aggressive dogs in the class, but is far too small for the Shepherd/Lab mix. The dogs are learning to sit, down, and stand, but the lack of space makes recalls rather useless. We sit on chairs for much of the class, and listen to pet care tips, some of which I want to question or challenge, but I don't. One trainer for 5 dogs works well, and everyone gets plenty of time, but it's tough to work your pup when the dogs on both sides want to sniff him, or engage in a barking match, and there's no way you can get away.
The training school class is more interesting for the dogs, and I find Max pays attention better because we stay busy, and have more space. Recalls are much easier to work on when you can call your pup from further away, and it's easier to find a place to work your pup without being nudged by another dog.
Four weeks completed in the pet store class, fourth lesson coming up at the training school class. Stay tuned.