Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  We just got a new puppy.  How old do they have to be before we start classes?

A:  Puppies must be 12 weeks of age to start puppy class and must be up to date on their vaccines.  Rabies vaccines are not given until 16 weeks so they are not required until that time.  To start a Basic Obedience class puppies must be 6 months old or older.

Q:  Why are your classes so cheap?

A:  We are a 100% volunteer-run, nonprofit organization. Our volunteers are all dog lovers dedicated to training and improving the lives of dogs and their families. Our dedicated instructors have years of experience training and competing with their dogs and are eager to help. 

Q:  I’d like to sign up for a class but I don’t know what class to take.  Can you help me?

A:  If you have a young puppy you will want to start with any of our puppy classes.  Older puppies (under a year) may attend puppy classes too, but if you have a larger breed puppy they may be better suited for Basic Obedience. If you have an older puppy (at least 6 months), young dog or older untrained dog, you will want to start with Basic Obedience.  Basic Obedience is a prerequisite for many of our other classes. 

Q:  What kind of collar should I use while training my dog?

A:  That will depend on many factors.  Your instructor can help you decide what may work best for your dog.  Many trainers find a martingale collar is a good place to start.  It’s a gentle collar that applies slight pressure when a dog pulls.  A large dog who is pulling and lunging a great deal may be much more manageable with a prong/pinch collar.  Choke chain-style collars are more likely to cause injury to a dog than any other.  Certain classes may have specific requirements; for example, agility classes require a flat buckle collar.  Harnesses are ok for small puppies and are sometimes used by advanced agility students. Obedience classes prohibit harnesses because they provide little control of your dog and don’t allow for leash corrections.

Q:  How can I stop my dog from barking and lunging during class?

A:  Out-of-control, disruptive behavior such as barking and lunging means your dog is not ready for an indoor class environment--it’s too stimulating. Your dog needs gradual exposure to crowds and to proximity to other dogs in order to lower his arousal. Find another enrichment activity that causes less stress--walks in parks, outdoor classes. Set your dog up for success! A resource that might help is Leslie McDevitt’s  Control Unleashed.

Q:  Won’t training with treats make my dog fat?

A:  We recommend that you not feed your dog a full meal prior to attending a class.  If your dog has a weight issue you will want to address the issue with your veterinarian and adjust their diet accordingly.  

Q:  What training methods are used?  Is USDTC a “Purely Positive” training facility?

A:  Most of our instructors are “balanced trainers.”  Balanced trainers use a combination of positive reinforcements and redirections/corrections.  However our job is to teach you how to train your dog and it is ultimately up to you to decide what works best for you and your dog.  The difference is, in purely positive training, all desired behaviors are rewarded while all others are ignored.  For example, with purely positive training while teaching a dog to greet you calmly with a sit, you would ignore the dog until they calm down and sit and then reward them with attention and/or a treat.  With the balanced method you would ask your dog to sit and reward them when they do so.  If you know they understand the ‘sit’ command but do not sit when asked you could then lure them into a sit with a treat or give a leash correction.  

Q:  Will you train my dog for me?

A:  No, sorry, we are here to teach YOU how to train your dog.  It’s important that they see you as the leader of their pack.

Q:  Can you help me with my dog who has a history of aggressive, reactive, or fear-biting behavior?

A:  Group settings can be over-stimulating and therefore are not the place to work on aggressive or reactive behaviors.  Dogs who exhibit moderate to severe reactive or aggressive behaviors should work with a private trainer to get these behaviors under control before attending a group class. We can help you work on mild reactive behaviors in our Puppy and Basic Obedience classes as long as your dog is not overly disruptive to class. If you’re unsure of the severity of your dog's behavior, we’d be happy to evaluate your dog.

Q:  What is the difference between STAR puppy and Puppy Kindergarten/Trick Puppy?

A:  Either class is a good first class for young dogs and puppies. Both introduce age-appropriate obedience and grooming and introduce  Agility, Rally, and Therapy Dog. STAR Puppy follows AKC guidelines and culminates in the STAR Puppy test on Week 7.  Trick Puppy is based on Connie Cleveland’s  Tricks that Transition  techniques with the option of a Novice Trick Dog test on Week 7. Documentation needed for a STAR Puppy certification or a Novice Trick Dog title (TKN) from AKC is provided upon successful completion of either test.  AKC requires a fee to receive title certificates. 

Q:  How long will it take to train my dog? Is one 8-week session enough?

A:  All dogs and students learn at their own pace and some may learn faster than others.  Those students who do their homework and practice with their dog frequently tend to advance faster.  While some dogs will move up after taking 1 session of a class others may benefit from repeating a class if behaviors have not been mastered.  Each class has graduation criteria that will be explained by our instructors.  You will get out of each class as much as you put into it.

Q:  Do you offer CGC testing?  My landlord says this is a requirement for my dog to live in his building.

A:  Yes, CGC testing is typically completed at the end of our Sub-Novice Obedience classes or during occasional events.  However, any of our approved AKC Evaluators can test you and your dog for any of the CGC tests when you feel you are ready.  Ask your instructor if they are an evaluator and if they are, when you could complete the test.

Q:  Can my dog take the CGC test if they are not currently enrolled in your Sub-novice class?

A:  If space is available, yes, testing is completed during the last class of each session.  However your dog will be more likely to be successful if you have taken classes in our facility.  We do have a drop in Sub-Novice class during the day where you could come in and train a time or two and then ask to have your dog tested when you think they are ready. We do ask that you sign up for drop-in classes on our website when you plan to attend.   Occasionally we have CGC testing events which you will see on a banner on our website home page. 

Q:  If my dog already knows basic commands that I have taught him at home, can I sign him up for the Sub-Novice Obedience class?

A:  Unless you are an experienced Obedience trainer who has taken classes before or maybe even entered Obedience trials the answer is probably “No.”  Basic Obedience is much more involved than just knowing the basic commands.  Students need to have a good understanding of all formal Obedience commands and heeling patterns before moving up to the next level whether you want to compete in Obedience trials or not. Dogs must be able to perform a sit and down stay in a group setting which is challenging for most dogs trained at home.  We’d be happy to evaluate you and your dog if you’d like.

Q:   What do I do about class when my dog’s in heat? Can she just wear panties?

A:  Dogs in heat may NOT attend classes as it can be too distracting to other dogs in the class.  If your dog comes into heat during a session we’ll be happy to move you to a later session and/or apply a partial credit for the classes you will miss.

Q:   Do members have to volunteer to get a discount on classes?  If so, how many hours do they have to volunteer?  

A:  New members receive a 20% discount when they become a member.  Any member who completes at least 12 volunteer hours before the next renewal time will receive a 40% discount on classes.  If you don’t complete your volunteer hours by renewal time then you will still be a member but will not receive a discount for the following year.  Memberships renew on February 1st each year. 

Q:   How do I buy  items for sale in the cases in the club lobby?

A:  Any of our instructors can help you with purchasing items available at the club before or after class.

Q:  How do I sign up for a class?  Can someone help me?

A:  Our website is your best resource for class information and availability.  While on our home page click on the “CLASSES” tab.  Right under where you clicked the CLASSES tab you will see a line of categories for our classes including, Puppy, Obedience, Agility, Conformation, etc.  Click on the type of class you are looking for and information will come up.  On the left side you will see the names of the classes and what sessions are available.  In the middle you will see the class descriptions and requirements. On the right side of your screen you will see the names of the instructors listed under the days they teach.  For more information on our instructors, click on the “Our Instructors” tab.

Q:  Why are you only allowing 1 trainer to attend class with each dog? 

A:  In an abundance of caution, we are limiting capacity in our building at this time to promote the health and safety of everyone.  We encourage all family members to participate in homework to practice the exercises learned in class at home between classes.

Q:  The classes that I want to sign up for are all full.  How do I get on your wait list?

A:  Some of our classes do fill up rather quickly.  If you would like to get into a class that is already full, please sign up for the next available session. If openings come up in the earlier session our registrar will contact those who are signed up for the following session to ask if they would like to switch to the earlier session or remain in the session in which they are registered.

Q:  Aren't prong/pinch collars harmful to my dog?

A:  Used correctly a prong or pinch collar can be a very useful tool for some dogs.  Any training collar used inappropriately can be harmful.  We encourage using the least amount of pressure necessary to get the desired behavior with any collar you choose.  A dog may pull much less with a prong/pinch collar, hence reducing the likelihood of injury. However a dog who is prone to aggressive behaviors may not benefit from the use of a prong collar.

Q:  How can I get my dog to pay attention in class when he gets so wound up he won’t even take treats from me?


A:  Your dog may be too stressed by the classroom environment to be interested in food, and therefore may not be ready for an indoor or group class environment. Set your dog up for success! First, your dog might associate treats with stress if you often use food during stressful situations, such as luring your dog into having his nails trimmed. Instead of using food to lure your dog INTO stressful situations, reward with food AFTER it. Also give lots of treats during low-stress training. Reward calm and happy behavior. Prepare your dog for the classroom environment by engaging in enrichment activities that gradually and safely increase your dog’s tolerance of other dogs, people, noise, and commotion.  Be sure to bring “high value” rewards to class to help keep their attention on you, as coming to USDTC is like going to Disney World for your dog!  

Q:  Won’t positive reinforcement training spoil my dog?

A:  No, positive reinforcement means you deliberately reward desirable behavior, making  your dog more likely to repeat that behavior. Positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful educational tools.  Studies show dogs trained with positive reinforcement learn more quickly and remember what they’ve learned much longer. These techniques will make your dog more resilient, confident, and optimistic. Positive methods are used in all our classes, and some, such as Tricks and Agility, encourage positive-only to foster high drive and joyful enthusiasm.

Q:  Can I attend classes with my dog if she has a history of aggressive, reactive, or fear-biting behavior?

A:  For the safety of students, dogs and our volunteers, aggressive dogs are not allowed in our classes.  Private training is recommended.

Q:  How can I know if my dog is ready to attend your dog training classes?

A:  Most dogs are ready to attend a group training class and enjoy the interactions. However, if your dog is very nervous or reactive (lunging and or barking) to other dogs or people they may need a few sessions with a private trainer first.  Any training you do with your dog will help enhance their behavior and boost their confidence.

Q:  Do you offer private classes?

A:  No, we are a volunteer-run organization and only offer group classes.

Q:  What’s the difference between Therapy, ESA, and service dogs, and do you train or certify dogs?

A:  Please see the following chart for the differences.  We can teach you how to prepare your dog for therapy work in our Therapy Dog class and can help you train your dog to perform some of the tasks your service dog may need to do.  However, in order for a dog to be considered a service dog you must be disabled and your dog must be trained to do certain tasks for you.  Your service dog must also be under control at all times while in public.  There is currently no certification for service dogs in the United States.

Click image for printable PDF version.

Q:  What class should I take first if I want to do agility with my dog?

A:  Graduation from Basic Obedience is the main requirement for beginning agility training.  We recommend that you take Sub-novice obedience as well but it’s not required.  The more obedience training you and your dog have completed the easier agility training will be.  Lack of obedience training could hold you back from advancing in your agility training.

Q:  Which obedience class is best for me if I just want to train my dog and don’t want to compete?

A:  Many of our students train their dogs for fun and bonding and don’t necessarily want to compete.  You can attend any classes that your dog qualifies for and can continue attending our drop in class for as long as you want if you do not want to advance.

Q:  What is the AKC ACT program and what are the criteria for the ACT agility titles?

A:  The AKC ACT (Agility Course Test) is an entry level event designed to introduce and welcome beginning dogs and their handlers to the AKC sport of agility.  More information including criteria for titles can be found here:

Q:  How do I become a member? What are the benefits?

A:  Anyone who has taken at least one full session (7-8 weeks) of classes with us can apply for membership.  You must be in good standing with AKC.  Members can earn discounts on classes and can earn class cards by volunteering. (That’s how we pay our instructors & cleaning crew.)  Members also get to participate in our awards ceremonies, holiday parties and other fun events.

Q:  Can I just drop into a drop-in class?

A:  We ask that students sign up for drop in classes on our website as class size is limited.  If you do not sign up for a drop in class you could be turned away or may waste class time processing your enrollment on your phone.  We can help you with that if needed; check with an instructor and/or plan to get to class a few minutes early.


Q:  Where are you located?  Do you have office hours when I can come by and see the club?

A:  We are located at 2101 Logan St, Clearwater, FL.  We only have staff in our building when classes are in session.  Due to Covid 19 please contact us to make an appointment if you wish to come by to see the club but are not enrolled in a class.

Q:   I still have a question that wasn’t answered here.  How can I get help?

A:  If you didn’t find the answer to your question here you can email us at or call us at 727-238-5953.  Remember we are all volunteers, but someone will get back to you as soon as they can. 

Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club

2101 Logan Street

Clearwater, FL  33765