Training can be difficult. It is a time-consuming and often thankless venture that can easily see an owner turn to classes for an expert’s input. This can speed up the process of owning the dog you have always wanted to, but lessons can be expensive. In this post, I will look at PetSmart Dog Training Class to see if it is worth it in 2021.
I will outline the costs of PetSmart classes, look at the different types of classes available and see if this is a cost-effective, beneficial venture for our dog owners to consider. I will also look at some alternative courses and programs and look at the popular FAQs about PetSmart.
PetSmart is certainly not the only company out there specializing in dog training classes, but they are popular, and we will look into why. I will provide some information in the post that I have sourced from previous consumers about their own experiences with PetSmart and look at other methods for training that don’t involve the financial outlay of a class.
It is then your decision how you proceed with the necessary or desired training for your dog.
Firstly, What is Petsmart?
PetSmart is the largest specialty retailer of pet services and solutions. They operate around 1,650 pet stores across the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. In addition to this, they have over 200 dog and cat boarding facilities. PetSmart retails pet food and pet products and pet services, including pet adoption, doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, and training.
PetSmart works with almost 4,000 different animal welfare organizations and has so far facilitated over 9 million rescue pet adoptions through events such as in-store adoption days across the US. It is clear this company is a compassionate one that has the animal’s interest at heart.
How Much Do Dog Training Classes Cost?
There are many different classes available, from group sessions to one-one.
- PetSmart group training classes run for 6-weeks and cost $119 (around $20 per class)
- Private Training Sessions cost $45 for 30-min, $89 for 1-hour, and $219 for 4 hours – as aggressive dogs are not allowed into group training classes, and they may be too much stimulation for dogs suffering from anxiety private sessions could be a suitable alternative.
The Classes Offered by PetSmart
- Puppy Training (10 weeks to 5 months). This is a 6-week introductory class to help owners communicate better with their pups and hopefully result in a more cemented bond. Classes focus on basic obedience commands like recall and leash walking.
They also address socialization to prevent some common behavior problems and provide good fun for the pup too!
- Beginner Training (Over 5 months). Ideal for older puppies and dogs who have experienced no previous training. This class teaches focus, control, manners, and basic commands. There is also an onus on socialization and owner to dog communication.
- Intermediate Training. This class is for dogs who know the basics and benefit from further mental challenges or more dog-to-dog socialization.
- Advanced Training. Includes learning manners while in public, advanced heel and leash walking, and strengthening skills for more consistent and faster responses.
- Therapy Training. Dogs will learn the skills required to take a Therapy Dog Evaluation. Owners will learn how to read the body language of their dog to demonstrate positive interactions.
I feel the range of classes is comprehensive and the pricing reasonable, if not slightly on the cheap side. PetSmart is strict on its policy of no aggressive dogs being permitted into group sessions; this is unwavering. But, they offer a 15-minute consultation where their trainers will meet with any dog to assess their level of need and advise on an appropriate training structure.
Although 15 minutes doesn’t seem long, this is completely free of charge and time enough for an expert to read a dog’s body language, run him through a series of mini-behavior tests, and speak with the owner one-on-one to learn about any problems they are experiencing.
The Structure of PetSmart Classes
If you’re wondering how a training class plays out with PetSmart, this is the general format for a standard 1-hour class.
- Part 1 – Owners and dog students arrive at the class and settle in. The instructor explains what the lesson will be about and how (in theory) it will go. The instructor will then demonstrate the lesson with a dog. This is done in around 5 to 10 minutes.
- Part 2 – For around 10 minutes, owners will work on practicing the lesson.
- Part 3 – Owners and their dogs will enter the PetSmart store and practice the lesson using the aisle spaces. This is a great concept as it removes the distraction of other dogs from the dog’s eye-line, but the instructor walks the length of the store to check on each student’s progress periodically. This activity runs for around 20 minutes.
- Part 4 – Owners and dogs leave the store and go back to the training room – for around 15 minutes – to begin practicing a new skill or training method or building on something previously worked on.
- Part 5 – For the last five minutes of the lesson, homework is set by the instructor on things to work on for the following week, a guide is given with detailed instructions. This is the de-stress and mingle time for dogs and when a lot of the essential free-play socialization occurs.
PetSmart Classes Reviews
So, what are people’s experiences with PetSmart classes? On the whole, they are hugely positive with terms being used such as ‘life-changing’ and ‘the greatest investment,’ but for balance, I have managed to find a few owners who were more critical of the classes. Below I have included a range of reviews that I have discovered on several different platforms.
Karen left a review on K9ofmine.com stating her experience taking a 6-month old Golden Retriever to an intermediate class of PetSmart’s. She found the dog training guide, along with store coupons, a welcome gift that came in useful. Karen found her trainer to be well-experienced, friendly, and approachable. However, she felt the class was a little overwhelming for her puppy initially.
Shan also left a review on the same website and was a trainer for PetSmart (I am unable to authenticate this, so it’s important to take it with a pinch of salt). She said to have enjoyed her time working as a trainer for the organization but claims that it is not suitable for dogs with difficult behaviors.
Emily is a blogger who writes about her life with her two English Setters and has posted her personal experience of PetSmart’s beginner class at myenglishsetter.com. Emily and her dog, Ivy, attended the 6-week course with positive but no concrete results. Ivy grew in confidence and became more controllable on the lead, but Emily feels that more training is needed following this course.
Katie writes about her PetSmart experience with her rescue dog Riley at pagenine.co/Petsmart-training. As an experienced owner, I feel that her journey could have been more positive had her confidence been more so, but she readily admits as a first-time dog owner, this was not her comfort zone.
Reddit was an interesting source, where I found a higher number of critical reviews, including an interesting disclosure from a previous employee (again, I cannot verify this). Consumers say, on the whole, it is the trainer who makes or breaks the experience. Two attendees drove out of town to another store for a better training experience.
The previous employee declared her training as ‘abysmal’ and said it was little more than 2-3 months of computer training. Check out the whole thread here. You can see what other previous employees of PetSmart classes are saying here.
The Quality of PetSmart Training
The general consensus is that the quality of training you will get depends significantly on the instructor you get. All PetSmart trainers, according to their website:
- Are Certified dog trainers
- Use positive reinforcement methods
Trainers indeed have to undergo training themselves before being able to take on a class. This should include computer learning and in-house training, as well as being in attendance of experienced instructors running a class. All instructors are advocates for punishment-free training, of which I am a massive supporter of.
The instructors are knowledgeable, with a genuine passion for dogs – if they didn’t have this, they’d be in a better paying field for sure – but it seems that they’re almost reading from a script with their classes. Instructors lay out what will be taught, with no explanation of why or how this benefits a dog or owner. Generally, people learn better when they know the point of the task, and often this is not laid out.
Owners are not corrected if they handle a dog inappropriately or not following the lesson, possibly through misunderstanding. It may be that there is a tight schedule for the instructor to stick to, but if you’re an owner paying a lot of money for a lesson, you would want to know that you’re doing it right.
PetSmart Training Pros and Cons
Let’s break down the classes by looking at their pros and cons.
PetSmart Training Pros
- Dog Socialization: You are introduced to other owners who want their dogs to mingle, this often isn’t the case down the local dog park and so the opportunity for essential dog socialization is provided on a weekly basis.
- Cruelty Free Training: I am a huge supporter of positive reinforcement and cruelty-free training, so are PetSmart. Their methods are kind and humane.
- Fair Price: For around $20 per hour, classes are reasonably priced and generally affordable.
- Dog Friends: If you click with another owner, or your dog does so with another dog, you have a new dog-walking buddy in your area which is great for continued dog-socialization.
PetSmart Training Cons
- Instructors: They make or break the experience, with some people leaving town to find more supportive and approachable instructors. This has popped up a lot, and so seems a very sizable issue.
- Limited Time: The mixed classes are run on a schedule which gives owners little time to ask questions, or to receive explanations for the training they should implement. Guidance is often poor.
- Space: The classrooms are often small spaces, which can be overwhelming and very distracting for dogs on the whole.
- Lack of Feedback: Owners are not corrected during lessons and so when they fail the course at the end they may be clueless as to why, if instructors provided more guidance this would do away with this problem.
What to Take With You to a PetSmart Class
Here’s a list of necessary, and handy, things to take with you on the first day of class:
- Treats: The more enticing the better! Training treats will be used a lot, so opt for affordable products like Pet Botanics Treats, where you get 500 treats for a little over $10.
- Vaccination Records: Proof of vaccinations will be required. For dogs over 4 months this includes shots for Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza.
- Treat Pouch: If you have a fanny pack or small shoulder bag this will be adequate, a treat pouch means a small bag held conveniently that you can access quickly. These treat pouches are a good buy and have a handy built in poop bag dispenser!
- Collar or Harness: PetSmart does not allow choke chains, prong collars, pinch collars or electric collars.
- Leash: The leash must be non-retractable and 4-6 foot in length.
- Clicker: If you are clicker training then a clicker has its place in the class and is fine to use with PetSmart. A clicker with a wrist-strap is a more convenient option.
- Your Wallet: You cannot ignore the large amount of products in-store when attending classes, lessons are conducted in the store and some down the aisles. PetSmart retails some very cute toys that are sure to catch your eye!
Is PetSmart Training Right for You and Your Dog?
PetSmart classes are a good option for some dogs, but not all.
If you want to bond better with your dog, work on basic obedience skills, polish up existing skills or practice regular dog socialization, then PetSmart could be a good choice for you.
However, PetSmart is by no means a one-size-fits-all – whatever is in the dog world?! If you have an unsocialized, aggressive, highly anxious dog or a dog with more severe behavioral issues, then PetSmart is not only not the right choice, but they also are likely not to accept you and your dog into their programs.
Alternatives to PetSmart Dog Training Classes
Brain Training for Dogs – Best for Virtual Lessons
This is an online dog training program, so you aren’t getting dog socialization here, but you do get a lot for less than $50. Brain Training for Dogs is one of the best-reviewed online dog training programs out there, and you get a lot for your money. There is also a 60-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with this program.
Ten years in the making by professional CPDT-KA certified dog trainer Adrienne Farricelli; this program is designed to eliminate undesirable dog behavior and unlock his natural intelligence. Twenty-one high-quality videos help to complete the drills and a members forum where you can virtually interact with other owners.
There are seven modules to complete from home:
- Preschool – the foundation to the whole course, which involves target training and instant bonding techniques.
- Elementary School – improve on the skills learned in preschool with fun games and activities to try with your dog.
- High School – teach your dog the skills of patience and impulse control.
- College – develop your dog’s motor skills and concentration levels with mental agility games and more.
- University – work on your dog’s patience and intelligence, as well as strengthening impulse control and improving manners. There is a hide-and-seek game that aids anxiety and improves owner-dog relationships.
- Graduation – an advanced level for motor skill improvement and unlocking to deeper intelligence – this provides surprising results!
- Einstein – ‘genius level’ where you can teach your dog to tidy up, a range of games, and even play the piano!
Petco Dog Training Classes – Best for PetSmart Rival
PetCo offers in-store and online training, with programs that are very similar to PetSmart. They run group lessons, as well as private classes.
Private classes cost $89 for a single lesson, or you can buy in blocks of 4 sessions for $229 ($56 per session) or 6 sessions for $299 ($50 per session).
Group classes can be purchased on an individual basis (for $149) and include:
- Puppy Level 1 and Level 2: for puppies aged between 4 and 6 months, these lessons focus on socialization and basic behavior training.
- Adult Level 1 and Level 2: for dogs over 6-months to improve dog-owner communication and an introduction to more complex and advanced training.
Or, you can opt for lesson packages:
- Essentials Package $249 ($298 Value): 2-class package includes 12-weeks of training. You can choose two classes of your choice in this package.
- Complete Package $379 ($475 Value): a comprehensive program that runs over 19 weeks. You can choose three different group glasses and are provided with a private lesson in addition.
- Online Classes: New for 2020 4 virtual lessons for $99 with a maximum of six participants.
PetCo is more expensive than PetSmart, but there is the ability to gain the Good Citizens Award, which can be a major perk. It seems that with both programs, it is the instructor you get that makes or breaks the experience.
PetSmart Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Leash Do I Need for the Classes?
As long as the leash is 4-6 feet long, any leash is fine. But remember that you will be in very close proximity to other dogs and people, so a smaller-than-normal leash would be best. I use this leash with my large breeds for excellent control, and I like the extra strong material and comfortable padded handle.
How Many Dogs are in Group Classes?
PetSmart teaches group classes of 4 to 10 dogs.
Can I Try Before I Buy?
PetSmart offers a free 15-min consultation, but there are no free lessons or trials. A good tip is to go in-store when you know a class is running; you can find out when this will be in your local store here. This will show you what the lessons will be like for you to decide if they’re appropriate for your dog.
What About Guarantees?
There is a 100% satisfaction guarantee, with the organization citing that they will do all they can to achieve this with their clients. They will offer free revisits to a class if you are not fully satisfied.
Are PetSmart Dog Training Classes Worth it? My Verdict
If you want to properly and regularly socialize your dog, then having a class to go to weekly (paid for in advance, so you cannot slack off!) is a great way to do it. The classes are of a fair price point, and the locations are often very convenient. There are free guides and coupons provided too. But, the level of guidance given by many trainers seems questionable.
The general feeling is that you’re watching a trainer go through a training routine that you follow with your own dog. This can be done for absolutely no money and within the comfort of your own home by watching YouTube training videos. Or by looking at any one of our training guides that appeal to you.