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Whether you’re looking to sharpen your dog’s training skills or get started in obedience trials, it can help to focus on specific obedience skills. Getting started can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to begin, or how to find a dog obedience class. Once you find an obedience class in your local area and register for obedience school, you might be wondering what to expect.

It can be nerve-wracking to start something new with your dog, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect. If you’re considering signing up for obedience class with your dog or have registered your dog for obedience school, here are tips for how to prepare and what to bring with you for your first class.

Finding a Dog Obedience Class

Obedience classes for dogs range in skill set and age. You might be looking for a class for your new puppy, or maybe hope to sign your senior dog up for an obedience refresher. It’s important when choosing an obedience class for your and your dog, you take into consideration your dog’s age and skill, as well as your goals for the course.

Your local obedience club is a great place to start with finding a training class for you and your dog. You can also search AKC CGC Evaluators near you and see if they hold obedience classes. Before signing up, check the trainer’s website or social media to get a sense of who they are and how they structure their classes. This is a good way to ensure the trainer’s methods align with your values and what you hope to get out of the class. For example, you might look for a trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement training methods to teach your dog or puppy.

Robrex's Mr. Chili Pepper (Toy Fox Terrier) and handler Sherry Bohman. 2023 AKC Obedience Classic, Dec 16-17, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL.
Photo by Pix 'n Pages ©American Kennel Club

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the trainer and ask questions about their training approach. You can also check a trainer’s references or testimonials from past clients before signing up. It’s also helpful to check for any certifications and affiliations a trainer might have, including if they’re an AKC CGC Evaluator, an Association of Professional Dog Trainers member, or certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Although none of these affiliations or certifications are required, they can provide insight into a trainer’s professionalism and specific skills. Look into the training and certifications of the trainer you’re seeing to make sure you’re comfortable with their experience.

Getting Ready for Your First Class

On the day of your first obedience class, give yourself plenty of time to get to the training center. You’ll also want to have enough time to give your dog the chance to go potty before you go into class. When in an unfamiliar environment, your dog may take longer than usual to pee. A potty break before class can help your dog be in the right headspace to learn and help prevent accidents during class. Before going into class, tell friends, family, and work commitments that you’ll be unavailable during class. This will let you put your phone down and focus on having a fun and positive learning experience with your dog.

What to Bring to Class

German Wirehaired Pointer being trained with a clicker.
©rodimovpavel -

When attending obedience class with your dog, it’s essential to come prepared. Once you’ve signed up for your first class, your trainer will likely send a list of supplies to bring to class. If your instructor doesn’t provide a supply list, here are the basics of what you’ll want to bring:

  • Your dog’s vaccination history, if you didn’t provide it when registering for classes
  • Lots of bite-sized treats. Bring a variety of high-value treats, so you can switch your treats up during class. It can be helpful to have options for when your dog isn’t in the mood for one kind of treat
  • A Clicker (if you’re clicker training)
  • An appropriately sized harness or collar
  • A 6-foot leash
  • Poop bags, just in case


Once You Arrive at Class

When you arrive at your first obedience class, your trainer or their assistant will likely greet you and your dog at the door to help you get set up. Upon entering the building or training area, chances are both you and your dog will be very excited. Your dog might be overstimulated by being somewhere new, along with the sights, sounds, and smells of other dogs.

When you get to your obedience class, use treats to keep your dog’s attention on you. It can be helpful to keep your dog’s leash short, so that they can’t approach the other dogs in class. Even if your dog loves to “say hello” and is very social, there may be other dogs in class that dislike attention. We also want our dogs to build the understanding that coming to class is a fun opportunity to “work” and focus on you, not a time to play with dog friends. This will help later with keeping your dog’s focus during training.

AKC National Obedience Championship 2019
Photo by Pix 'n' Pages ©American Kennel Club

Always Ask Questions

At obedience class, never be afraid to ask questions. Your dog trainer is there to help you and your dog learn new skills. Your trainer’s priority should be ensuring that you understand the skills they’re teaching. A responsible and ethical trainer shouldn’t be causing your dog discomfort, pain, or fear.

If at any point the trainer asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask more questions. You can also opt out of any activities you feel aren’t appropriate for your dog. Learning should always be fun. Most importantly, obedience class should be enjoyable for you and your dog.