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PetSmart Dog Training Review

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Dog Training By Meg Marrs 14 min read May 16, 2020 21 Comments

petsmart training review

Thinking about signing up for a PetSmart dog training class? We’ll talk about how much PetSmart classes cost, which types of classes are available, and discuss our personal experience with PetSmart’s classes.

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How Much Does Dog Training Cost at PetSmart?

  • All PetSmart group training classes are $119 for 6-weeks.
  • How long are Petsmart dog training classes? Group classes each run for 6-weeks, with each weekly class running for 1 hour.
petsmart puppy training

PetSmart Training Classes Offered

PetSmart offers a number of dog training classes, each running for 6-weeks. All group classes are $119 for 6 weeks (breaking down to about $20 per 1 hr class).

  • Puppy Training (10 weeks to 5 months old). An introductory class that teaches how to communicate with your pup & basic skills like come & loose-leash walking. Also great for general socialization with other pups!
  • Beginner Training. (5 months & older). Similar to the puppy training class, but for older dogs with no previous training. Teaches basic manners, impulse control, and skills like focus, loose-leash walking, recall, and leave-it.
  • Intermediate Training. Designed for dogs who already know basic cues. Works on building training commands through situations with more distance, distractions, and longer durations.
  • Advanced Training. Works on strengthening skills for faster and more consistent responses. Includes manners while out and about, advanced heel, and more.
  • Therapy Training. Learn the skills needed to take a Therapy Dog Evaluation. Learn to read your dog’s body language & demonstrate positive interactions.

This pricing is pretty standard (in fact, slightly cheaper) compared to other group training classes I found near me.

While group training classes sit in the $15 – $30 per 1-hour class range, private lessons with a trainer or behaviorist are closer to $70 – $90 per hour.

In addition to group classes, PetSmart also offers private training to work on individual needs. Private training involves working one-on-one with an accredited trainer and is $45 for 30 minutes, $89 for 1 hr, or $219 for 4 hrs (which can be split up). The curriculum can be customized for what you want to work on with your dog.

Free 15-Minute Consultation: Not sure what your dog needs or if he’s a good fit for group classes? PetSmart offers free 15-minute consultations, during which a trainer will assess your dog and help you decide what classes will work best for him.

PetSmart Class Structure

Wondering how a PetSmart training class plays out? Here’s the general format for a standard 1-hr class:

  • Part 1 (5 – 10 minutes). Classmates arrive, get settled, and the instructor explains what today’s lesson will be. The instructor demonstrates the lesson with one of the dogs.
  • Part 2 (10 minutes). Owners work on practicing the lesson in the training room, with input from the instructor.
  • Part 3 (20 minutes). Next, owners take their dogs into the PetSmart store and practice the lesson walking up and down the aisles of PetSmart to get more space. The instructor periodically walks around and checks on each owner’s progress.
  • Part 4 (15 minutes). Students and dogs return to the training room and begin working on another lesson or building upon what was worked on previously.
  • Part 5 (5 minutes). The instructor gives homework for the owners on what to work on for next week.

PetSmart also provides a handout guide that will explain what owners should be working on each week, with detailed instructions.

Petsmart Training Review: Our First Experience

Remy and I signed up for PetSmart’s Intermediate Training since he already had a handle on the basics like sit, lie down, wait, and basic recall.

PetSmart dog training class review

Having never been to a PetSmart obedience training class before, I imagined a large hall in the back for us to practice, but the training class actually took place in a small sectioned-off room (probably around 15 x 15ft) within the store.

The training room has walls that go about 5ft high, not reaching the ceiling, which means there are plenty of noise, smells, and distractions coming from the PetSmart store. This may be a bonus or hindrance depending on your pooch.

When I first entered the training room, I was quite nervous about the tight quarters. Remy is a 50lb pittie mix and we’ve been working on his leash reactivity around other dogs. I knew sharing such close quarters with other dogs might be tough for him.

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Even worse, these dogs were tiny (we’re talking under 10 lbs)! I wasn’t very optimistic about how Remy would handle such tiny classmates.

The good news is that there were only two other dogs, so we were each able to have our own little corner.

Just as I feared, Remy was barking and pulling towards the little dogs a lot in the first 10 minutes of class. However, I simply kept luring him into his corner and asking him to lie down in exchange for hot dog slices.

Sure enough, hot dogs eventually won over Remy, and after a while he was able to focus more on me and less on his furry little classmates.

For our first class, we brushed up on the basics (sit, lie down, stay, and leave it). We then moved onto our first lesson – heeling. Our teacher showed us how to get out dogs to heel, had us practice in the room, and then we went out into the store to practice down the aisles.

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Again, this might be difficult for dogs who are overwhelmed with all the toys, treats, and food at eye-level in the aisles, but for others it might be valuable when it comes to working with distractions.

petsmart obedience training class

After about 10-15 minutes of practicing in the aisles, we went back into the classroom and worked on the “leave it” command around toys.

Remy didn’t care much about the toys – all he wanted to do was check out the little furballs!

Instead we started working on the “leave it” command when I dropped cheese on the ground.

Finally, we were told our homework for the week, which was to work on our heeling.

After class I had to treat Remy to some toys. Unfortunately with all the other dogs milling around the store, he started to get bark-y and was pulling me all over, so we had to leave shortly after.

How is the Quality of PetSmart Training?

As with many classes, a lot depends on your instructor.

All PetSmart trainers, according to the official PetSmart training page:

  • Are accredited pet trainers
  • Use positive reinforcement techniques

Our instructor was knowledgable and actively advocated for punishment-free training (which I’m a big supporter of).

My only gripe is that I felt she could have been a better teacher.

She was definitely a skilled trainer, but I didn’t feel there was much education or teaching beyond the essentials of what you needed to know to complete a given task.

We rarely got corrected during practice, and I’m a student who really likes to be shown what I am doing wrong. Instead, it was up to me to ask the instructor for more guidance or details when I wanted it.

There were also times where I expressed confusion about various tasks and didn’t get as much guidance as I would have liked from the instructor.

One example was, when Remy was barking at the other dogs, my mother (who joined us at the training session), grabbed Remy’s mouth and held it shut. After she asked the trainer, “is that what I should do when he barks?” to which the teacher said no, she should regain his attention with treats instead (this was my feeling as well).

I was a little confused as to why the trainer wasn’t going to offer this advice until prompted, but I do recognize that people can be very sensitive about having their training methods corrected (just as people don’t like to be told how to parent).

However, when you’re at a training class, it stands to reason you’re open to suggestions!

While our teacher was knowledgeable, I didn’t witness her going out of her way to explain why we were using certain methods or adding any kind of explanation outside of “OK, now do X”.

Now, this could be because as someone who is very interested in dog psychology, I was curious to know more. It’s certainly possible than un-necessary details could confused other owners or result in getting too far off track in the lessons.

Still, it was something I found a bit lacking.

Is PetSmart Training Worth It?

Ultimately, I didn’t feel that I learned anything at the PetSmart training class that I couldn’t have learned online. In fact, our 30 Things to Teach Your Dog in 30 Days video course from certified behavior consultant Kayla Fratt covers a lot of material in the PetSmart Beginner Obedience Class.

However, this doesn’t mean that the PetSmart class is not worth consideration. In fact, I think for most people it’ll be well worth attending.

Some (I’d say even most) of us simply aren’t great at self-management. We may say we’re going to watch tons of dog training videos and read books on dog training, but without someone instructing us or holding us accountable, we’re liable to slack off.

Having a class you go to each and every week, where someone will be evaluating your progress will certainly force you to practice and commit to training your pooch.

PetSmart Training Pros and Cons

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of PetSmart training classes:

PROS

  • Accountability. Going to a regular weekly class will keep you accountable to learning and practicing new skills with your canine.
  • Socializing. A classroom with other pups gives your own dog a chance to socialize with other four-legged buds.
  • Knowledgeable Trainer. Our trainer was smart, experienced, and advocated for cruelty-free positive reinforcement methods.
  • Potential For Doggy Buddies. If your pup really clicks with another dog at the class, you may end up with a new doggie pal for your pooch to play with!
  • Discounts For Multiple Classes. If you choose to sign up for additional PetSmart classes (such as their Advanced Training or Therapy Dog course) you can get a discount.

CONS

  • Small Space. I was taken aback by how small the classroom space inside PetSmart was. While I can’t testify that all PetSmarts use a similar-sized classroom, most likely do (with the exception of PetSmarts that have daycare facilities built-in).
  • Mixed-Sized Dogs. Our class was a mix of small and large dogs, which could be problematic depending on your dog’s feelings towards various-sized canines. I believe some classes are separated by size, so be sure to ask your local PetSmart before booking a class if this is a concern for you.
  • Distracting Environment. This actually could be considered a benefit if you’re working on training in more distracting environments. However, if your dog is easily spooked or thrown off by noises (other dogs barking, workers moving products around) and smells, the PetSmart store might prove too challenging of an environment.
  • Strict Lesson Plan. You won’t get to simply ask the trainer about issues specific to your pooch – there is a training plan in place, and you’ll have to follow the structure, even if you don’t consider the skills valuable (for example, I don’t care much about heeling, but that’s what we spent a lot of time working on).
  • Quality of Trainers May Vary. While I felt our trainer was certainly knowledgeable and helpful during class, now that I’ve worked with more advanced dog behaviorists, I do see some areas where our PetSmart trainer could have improved. She didn’t put in any extra effort to explain training theory, provide more detailed explanations, or do many corrections with our class. Now of course, your mileage may vary depending on the trainer, but I think it’s not too much to assume that the trainers doing these classes are usually young, not as experienced, and probably not the most practiced educators. Still, your milage may vary.

Teachers vs Trainers. I want to make a point of distinguishing a good teacher vs a good trainer. Many people can be incredibly skilled dog trainers, but not be very good at educating or explaining those training concepts to others in a teaching session.

What to Bring to PetSmart Class

Wondering what you’ll need on the first day of class? We have you covered!

  • Stinky Treats. Boiled chicken, hot dog slices, or string cheese are all great and affordable training treats.
  • Vaccination Records. Pretty much all training classes will require proof of vaccinations. DPP (Distemper, Parvo & Parainfluenza) & Rabies vaccinations are required for any dog over 4 months old.
  • Treat Pouch. You’ll need a handy treat pouch to store those stinky goodies you’ll be bringing to class.
  • Collar or Harness. Bring any flat, rolled, or no-slip collar, face collars, body harness, or no-pull harness – those are all allowed. No choke chains, prong, pinch, or electronic collars are allowed in class.
  • Leash. Any 4-foot to 6-foot non-retractable, non-chain leash is approved. You may want to use a smaller-than-normal leash since your dog will be sharing close quarters with other canine buddies.
  • Clicker (optional). Clickers are really handy for training – while they aren’t required, we recommend grabbing one for class and start clicker training!
  • Your Wallet. You’ll probably see some pretty cute puppy toys as you make your way to the store exit after class – I made the habit of almost always buying Remy a toy after class (I just couldn’t help myself, since there were always toys going on sale).

How can I say no to this face when he finds a toy he likes?

petsmart training

Obedience vs Behavior Training: Is PetSmart Training Right For You?

PetSmart classes will be fine for some dogs, but not for all.

PetSmart group classes are great for:

  • Working on basic obedience skills like sit, stay, leave-it, lie down, etc.
  • Polishing existing skills and working on commands while surrounded by more distractions and challenging environments.
  • Socializing a new puppy with other puppy-mates.
  • Learning how to bond with a new dog or puppy.

PetSmart group classes are NOT a good fit for:

  • Dogs who are not socialized or comfortable around other dogs.
  • Fearful or anxious dogs who do not handle new or strange environments well.
  • Dogs with significant behavioral issues like resource guarding, leash-reactivity, or aggression.
  • Owners with specific issues or those who have unique training goals.

Why I Should Have Gone to a Behaviorist Instead

As our PetSmart class went on, my situation with Remy began to get quite stressful.

Remy was beginning to display increased nuisance barking, as well as pulling at my clothes and even nipping at me during walks and in the home.

These behaviors continued to get worse, even while attending PetSmart’s Intermediate Training Class.

It started to get quite overwhelming and stressful for me to work on an extended 1-minute stay and polished heeling when my dog was having much more immediate and problematic behaviors that the PetSmart class wasn’t designed to fix.

After the class, I ended up working with a private behaviorist and saw significant and immediate improvements in Remy’s behavior.

This wasn’t PetSmart’s fault at all – it was mine for not understanding the kind of help Remy and I needed.

PetSmart group classes are a solid choice for obedience training. But their group classes are not designed to treat behavioral issues.

  • Obedience training involves nailing down and polishing commands. Think leave-it, come when called, lie down, extended stay, place commands, heeling, etc.
  • Behavior training involves working through problem behaviors like incessant barking, leash reactivity, resource guarding, etc.

If your dog doesn’t have any major behavior issues, then PetSmart’s group obedience classes are a great and affordable way to build your skills.

However, obedience training classes will not resolve behavior issues. In fact, you may find that working through behavior issues while you tackle advanced obedience training to be far too overwhelming and may hinder your progress with either (this was the case for me).

The PetSmart trainers are following a structured lesson plan and – even if they have the knowledge – they’ll likely be unable to help you with behavior problems.

Instead, if you have a dog with some issues, get going with a certified dog behavior consultant first and save the obedience work for later. Or – consider trying PetSmart’s private one-on-one training sessions.

I really regret waiting as long as I did to work with a behaviorist with Remy. If I had reached out to a behaviorist before trying to enroll in PetSmart’s class, I think we would have had a lot more success and I wouldn’t have felt so frazzled and frustrated.


In short, PetSmart group training classes are a solid option for owners who want to improve their dog’s obedience skills.

The classes are reasonably priced and may even be slightly cheaper than other similarly-structured group classes.

There are also significant discounts for owners who continue on to additional PetSmart training after the first class, so you could save a fair bit of money if you plan on doing extensive training.

The trainers seem knowledgeable and – at least in my experience – they practice force-free, positive-reinforcement training methods. They may not all be the most skilled educators, but they are knowledgeable enough for most needs.

The only reason to avoid PetSmart classes will be if you have a dog with behavior issues (for that, hire a behaviorist instead), a dog with aggression, or any other issues that might make it difficult for your dog to train in a PetSmart store around other dogs.

Have you taken a PetSmart training class? How did it go? Share your experience in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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21 Comments

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Gay Clarke

I really appreciated the information you gave re: obedience classes vs behavioural classes. I never even knew that there was a difference. I am the new “mom” of a 5 1/2 yr old Havanese. He is a wonderful, gentle little dog, but has little knowledge of obedience commands and a severe anxiety problem with being out in the car (panting, shaking and crying)with me, or staying alone (even for 5 minutes). What would you recommend I do?

Reply
Ben Team

Hey there, Gay.
You could start by checking out our article on separation anxiety. Hopefully, the tips and strategies shared there will prove helpful.
But if they don’t, you should probably look into working with a canine behaviorist.
Best of luck!

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Karen

I took a 6-month-old golden retriever to PetSmart’s Intermediate class a few days ago. One thing I’d add is that they gave each of us a nice booklet with store coupons and 62 pages of dog training information, to go along with each of the six weeks of the course. // Our trainer is very nice, and has a young dog of her own. // I should have taken my puppy there before our class, because it was overwhelming for her to come into a store for the 1st time, ever, and then try to settle down and focus on the tasks at hand. There’s food, people, and dogs in the store — and the floor is shiny and slippery — and part of the class is spent walking our dogs in the store aisles (in addition to working in the training area, which has partial walls, and a door).

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Jane

This was soooo helpful in thinking about what I need for my puppy! Thanks for posting this review.

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Ben Team

Glad you found it helpful, Jane!
Best of luck with your new pooch.
🙂

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Monique

Thank you for this feedback!

This helped me realize that I really do go above and beyond for my students and their owners. I strategically changed the petsmart training plan to fit whats important but also include what’s supposed to be taught in each class. I give everyone my undivided attention and focus a bit more on the pups that have more issues than others. I have great reviews and always do my best. I would have talked to you after class and invited you to start private training with me one on one to assess your dogs issues as I have never turned a dog away. I love a challenge it helps me become more knowledgeable in my future after petsmart. I love what I do and I love training dogs and helping people. I just realized that sometimes you helping so many at a time and focusing more on the pups that need more assistance others may feel left out. We are only one person in the class and I try my best to assure all per parents that they are just as important as the others but sometimes its just not enough.

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Shan

I agree with you in most cases I was a PetSmart trainer until covid hit and was terminated I spent time with my clients and helped with many issues they had with their pets if I realized PetSmart was not good for their pet I sent them to a behavioral trainer a lot of dogs do come with baggage and need special handling which PetSmart trainers are not equipped to do. I have spent my life around dogs training for show rings grooming etc and every dog is different and must be handled differently. PetSmart is great for puppies and continued training but not always a good place for some rescue pups or dogs that have never been socialized Since leaving PetSmart I hv taken more certification classes ie cgc -support training and now working on therapy dog certification. PetSmart trainers take a 3 week certification class to learn the basics of each training level and that’s it I have had years of background foundation training wish you had been in my class I would have moved you to a private class first then maybe a small group

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Ben Team

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Shan!

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Tania Rerecich

I’m glad I read your comments about the training.
I’m in almost the same situation as you. My dog is young (not even 2 years of age yet) bu huge. He’s fine With other dogs in the dog park , but he’s leash aggressive.
After reading your article I think that I need A dog behaviorist .
Do you mind giving me an idea of how much it is for that kind of professional ?
I would be very grateful.
Thank you for the article.

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Tania. Glad you enjoyed the article.
🙂

We’d love to give you an idea of the costs involved, but they just vary so widely that it is nearly impossible to do so. Behaviorists all have different rates, the logistics of the sessions will vary (in-person or via Zoom? do you live in a big city or the country? Will you visit the behaviorist or expect him or her to come to you?), and the amount of work your pupper will need may vary from a couple of sessions to months of on-going work.

But just to throw out a number, we’d suggest that you’ll likely pay at least $50 per session, although some behaviorists may charge several hundred dollars for each visit.

Just start working the phone and inquiring about rates. Best of luck!

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Tia

Great review, thanks so much! My puppy’s barking it out of control and I didn’t even think about a behaviorist.

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Minn

Thanks so much for offering the pros and cons of PetSmart training! As a PS Trainer, I really appreciate your balanced assessment. In our beginner class, we do talk a lot about problem prevention and management, but sometimes it is a better for to go straight to a behaviorist.

Thank you for emphasizing that all trainers have different teaching styles. I try my best to make sure that everyone understands why we do things, not just how. I also like to share personal stories of my own dog.

I love my students, and I consider each of them my own dogs!

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Ryan

My experience so far.

12 years ago I took my Sheltie to Petsmart and it was enjoyable and we learned a ton. By the time he was done with his class he had the basics down. They always started with Sit and lay down. One of the things the trainer liked to do was what she called, Puppy pushups. A consistent Sit, lay, Sit, lay, Sit….rinse and repeat. When I was done, he was able to sit or lie down pretty much on command. Still to this day I work my new pup that way and he is getting better.

Now, my new experience with my trainer, at a different store, is completely different. 12 years apart and their training now is, lets bond with your dog. Lets lay down and teach your dog that it’s ok to be touched. My pup is 7 months old, has gone to the vets and groomers several times, has complete trust in me. Wish we could skip that part. She started teaching last night and she just immediately says, this is how you hold your leash. No reason as to why, or the method behind it. This is our second class and it just seems like she is more interested in showing off what her dog can do, than actually teach. Small training room, and the instructor made it even smaller because her dog has issues around other dogs. I guess it snips at other dogs if they get to close…so about half the room is marked off as do not enter.

Our classes has been mostly her getting organized and checking paperwork than actually teaching. First 10 minutes she is checking the roster and asking questions from each owner even though she has asked the same questions the class before. Now I do understand that she probably teaches 4 or 5 classes a day, and probably teaches 6 or 7 days a week, and has lots of dogs and owners in and out of her class, but she approached me on the 2nd class asking for my dogs shot records….even though she saw them, and supposedly marked down that his were good.

Overall, I think the classes are basic, and help those who want to do the basics. If you want more serious classes, then I would look for alternatives. Even now, I am contemplating looking for better or longer training classes. But I am looking to get my dog (An Aussie) into Agility and perhaps herding classes.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Gave me credence to what I am witnessing.

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Cheryl

PetSmart training has been the very best investment we could have made since we have added 3 Aussie pups to our family. They go to separate classes and the positive reinforcement training has taught us all how to behave. Having the best Miss BeBe trainer makes every trip to PetSmart like going to see family. She is so knowledgeable and patient. She is a true dog lover and wants to see that all of her students succeed.

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Pam Johnson

I have had great experiences at petsmart. My border collie was 16 weeks when he went to puppy class. The classroom is good sized and we had between 5 and 8 dogs in each of the classes. Our trainer had been there for years and she gave great feedback, as well as after class an opportunity to ask questions…i enrolled my 2nd pup straight to the last class, (I’m more knowledgeable) and he is excelling..i know not all Pets mart are equal but mine is great

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Basil

I not sure I understand what your goal is ? “quality of the training is not a consideration for me”
a lot many people don’t have $100 wast! If thats all your looking for? Take your pooch to a dog
park, me myself I want the very best I can get ! Thats why I’m reading this too see that I get the
best training I can other wise why even bother?
My goal is to make life better for Shadow My wife and anybody that should visit. And keep him
from hurting himself.

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SCF

I always take my dogs (and puppies) to Pet smart for multiple levels of classes. Not because their training is the best…it isnt…but because i like the fact it’s in a busy store with lots of distractions, people, and other dogs around. It exposes them to things they don’t experience in more “serious” training environments. I take them to “serious” obedience classes elsewhere for real learning, but like to supplement with the Pet smart classes simply because of the environment. So, the quality of the training is not a consideration for me. If it were my main consideration ….I probably wouldn’t recommend them.

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Beverly

I started out at Pet Smart when my bulldog was a puppy. Comppete waste of time and money. I did not have the same instuctor twice in a row. Always a different one each time. They tried to give me all kinds of excuses why this happened.

The place is a joke. I finally trained ger myself, as I did my first bulldog.

Reply
Meg Marrs

That’s strange, we definitely always had the same trainer. How odd. That certainly doesn’t sound like a good experience.

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Anthony Masi

It sounds like your trainer was not working there very long, as that lack of knowledge or feedback is not typical. A training class is only as good as it’s trainer. Making sure you found a store with an experienced trainer would have been wise, prior to writing a review that broadly paints a picture of a country wide training program spanning sixteen hundred stores. Yes, in a reatil world with turnover being common practice, you may not get the experienced trainer you expect…but once again, this kind of lack of knowledge is not typical among PetSmart trainers.

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Meg Marrs

Well unfortunately I can’t travel around to every PetSmart class across the country, so I can only review based off my own experience, which I provided. It seems like you’re implying you have had good experiences with them, in which case I’d welcome you to share your experience. I think I also made it clear that I was largely happy with our trainer’s methods and practice, but I would have liked more insight and exploration of dog behavior. I still think many people would be very happy with PetSmart’s training classes.

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