Thursday, 17 March 2016

Review: Waggie's Dog Obedience Training School

Disclaimer: this post is entirely based on my personal experience. I paid for the class with my own money and the following opinions are based solely on what I went through.

Why Waggie's?

Waggie's is one of the more prominent dog training schools in Singapore. All dogs are trained with Patrick, who has, according to his website, trained more than 15, 000 dogs in over 1000 classes.

I chose to go with Waggie's after doing a ton of research. Waggie's is one of the (if not the most) expensive dog obedience class around, but his ratings on Pets Channel is also one of the highest.

Granted, the reviews on the forum were outdated since the latest post is in 2013 (as were what little of other reviews I can find online), it still seemed more reassuring.

Waggie's uses the P-chain collar during trainings, which may be sit well with everyone, I also thought about this a lot before enrolling since my dog was still a very young puppy back then. But I thought that effectiveness is more important in the long run, especially since I was going to pay so much.

The Sign Up Process

The sign up process was very fuss free and simple. You just have to fill in the form online and opt for either online payment or cash/cheque.

I opted for the cash option but almost everyone else opted for the online option. This is listed on the attendance form that they tick on the first lesson.


The Classes

Generally, I feel that the classes were quite effective. But you really have to train very hard, about an hour a day.

Patrick has a very sequential progression laid out and the instructions were relatively easy to follow.

However, I wouldn't say that attending his class is fool proof and your dog will come out 100% obedient, ready to listen at the snap of the finger. Patrick's dog can do it, of course, but it doesn't automatically apply to the rest. Also, towards the last few weeks, I got a bit lazy so the training slacked off a bit, and this is immediately evident because you can see that she's not as attentive as before.

For my dog, she managed to do most of the commands but she refused to "down". It got so bad that every time you approach her by squatting down, she would anticipate that you're doing to "down" her so she'll jump away.

One possibility that Patrick gave is that she is a stray (I adopted her) and she don't feel safe and comfortable going into the "down" position in front of other dogs. I also think that this may be true because she "down"s perfectly at home, especially when there's food involved. But since Patrick doesn't allow treats for the training, we can't bribe her with that.

So because she can't "down", she couldn't do the "down stay" position as well.

Other than that, I would say that she managed to do the other commands fairly well. Some of the things that she can do includes "heel", "automatic sit", "stand", "stay" and "recall".

You can see most of what he does during the lessons in this video:

We passed the examination with a much higher score than what was expected, when initially we were so afraid that we'll be the bottom few who fails. Haha. So that's a relief. We even managed the off-leash portion of the examination, which was really a surprise.

Also, you have to continue with the practice even after you graduate otherwise your dog will slowly forget the commands or think that it is okay to not follow.

My dog is going through it now because we no longer reinforce her behaviour as strictly as when we were attending the classes, so now she doesn't really "heel" when I walk her already. I'm slowly trying to correct her again.

So is it worth the money?

At $530 (excluding the approximate cost of $50 for all the training gear), the price of the lessons are quite steep.

Although my dog cannot do all the commands laid out in the lesson, I would still say that the course is really worth it.

Firstly, my dog got to socialize with a lot of other dogs, which is important for her, especially in her growing up years.

Secondly, I now know how to better handle my dog. When I first adopted her, I was so lost because I have never had dogs before. A lot of times I didn't know whether I was doing the right thing, being too soft, being too hard, etc. So the course gave me a lot of confidence towards how I should be interacting with her.

Also, I would say that the rest of the people who attended the courses found it very worthwhile as well. There was this dog that would growl and pounce on any dog that approached it (even golden retrievers), even though it was like tiny. But after Patrick's correction, the dog became so much tamer by lesson 3 and was okay with other dogs approaching and sniffing already. There was also this other Border Collie that barks like crazy at dogs that walk past, that was corrected as well. So I would say that even though they were not able to do all the commands perfectly, it was already money's worth to correct all these more urgent behavioural issues.

Of course, there were some dogs that managed to master all the commands in the lessons. That is not impossible. So I would say that at the end of the day, you must really be consistent and hardworking.

If you're still thinking about attending Waggies, I would say go for it!


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