Lucky and I went last night to his first AKC puppy training class. What a mix of dogs: an Irish Wolfhound, A Burmese Mountain Dog, a chocolate lab and golden doodle and a few other pups-adorable little dalmation. We were in a large gym in a circle around the teacher (who is great) who demonstrated things with her enormous black dog (started with a k I thought but don't know the breed) that is a breed that famously doesn't like other dogs. So we had to stay away from the teacher's dog and most of the puppies were younger than Luck (who is now 8 months) and while Lucky knows a few things like sit (which he sometimes interprets as down) and stay (he's great at that) and dance (twirling on his hind legs really sweet) and "lie down like a good boy" (which command he can do easily for an hour at a time--during dinner, when you are not ready to get up in the a.m. etc. etc.)-just learned from our homework sheet that that was a goal ANyways, it was chaotic, the little puppies were piddling as they walked around, eating half the treats their owners were lavishing on them and Lucky was completely distracted by the smells and chance to grab leftovers. So....I don't think we accomplished much-even socializing was a bit odd because he so wanted to say hello and folks were kind of retiscent. Anyways, I'll go next week but do those of you with experience think a private trainer is better (we had one for a short while when he was very little and it was helpful) or should I just get down to the 5 minutes three times a day of one on one with me and see if class makes more sense next time we go? And this treat thing...will it work if I don't use them? He was stuffed last night when we rolled home. Love your input. Underwhelmed here in autumnal New Hampshire.
You have decided to start with puppy classes rather late. To be most useful, puppy kindergarten is for puppies between 8 - 16 weeks. Most schools won't even allow pups over 5 months in puppy classes. Yes, there will be some accidents in puppy classes, because of the age of the pups. It happens, and should be cleaned up quickly. When puppies are this young, it is generally safe for all of them to play off leash together. (with supervision and guidance, of course!). By the time they are Lucky's age, they are well into adolescence, and their reactions to each other are much less predictable. So by his age, there is typically no more off-leash play in classes. And dogs should NEVER be allowed to socialize on leash in a class situation... They are there for one hour to WORK.
It might be better for you to ask if there is a pet dog continuing education class that would fit Lucky better than the puppy class, considering his age, and the fact that he already knows some of the things being taught in the puppy class.
Are you at All Dogs Gym? If so, they run a very good program there. I don't think you'll find a better one anywhere in southern NH.
As to whether you'd be better off with a private trainer, I guess my question would be, "What are your training goals?" if you have specific behavioral problems at home, I think a private trainer is a great option. Fortunately, it sounds like Lucky is already well socialized, so from this point forward, that is a maintenance issue. (which includes that he needs to learn that pulling toward other dogs in a class situation is not acceptable) if your goal is to continue his obedience education, then classes are the best place to do it. Part of learning to be an obedient dog is to be able to do it with a lot going on around you. We often hear, "but he does it great at home!". The fact is that a dog, SHOULD be able to behave properly and do what he is asked, regardless of the setting. Class is a place that is a LITTLE more distracting than home, but MUCH more structured than the real world, and you have a trainer there to help you!
As far as training without food is concerned, I don't think you will find a positive trainer anywhere that doesn't use food in training. The AMOUNT of food varies... If the task (or setting) is new and challenging you will likely use more food than if you are brushing up on a known skill in a comfortable setting. But for most dogs, food (and for some dogs, play) is a primary motivator for learning. The only real other alternative is force, and no good trainer wants to go there! The food used in training should be factored into your dog's daily caloric/nutritional intake, in which case, he won't get "stuffed". Many training places ask that dogs not be fed their dinner before class so that they are motivated to work for their food. For some dogs this works well. For Kodi, I've found that it really doesn't make a huge difference, except that if he's TOO hungry, he gets over-excited about the treats.
I'd suggest that you give it at least another week, and if it still doesn't feel like the right setting, talk to the trainer about switching to a different class. If this class isn't a good fit, by that time she will have probably noticed it too, and an help you find one more at Lucky's level.