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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

Petco & PetSmart Training Classes are a SCAM

I am in the process of turning the 2008 DVD  (and video stream) titled THE POWER OF TRAINING DOGS WITH MARKERS into an online course. Since 2003 we have considered ourselves reward based balanced dog trainers (thanks to Michael Ellis)

The key word in that description is “BALANCED”. Which means that while our learning-phase of training is 100% reward based, I know (through my 55 years of studying and training dogs) that every dog needs to go through a correction phase (proofing phase) of dog training which follows the foundation of reward based training.

What bothers me are companies like Petco and Petsmart that run local obedience classes that scam new dog owners into believing that their all-positive dog training classes are all pet owners need. It’s a damn hoax and a con.  I can take every dog that has gone through their classes and put that dog into an environment that contains distractions that will effect that dog enough to make it not come when called.

Don’t get me wrong here. We 100% believe in Marker Training. What follows is the description I have written for the online course. But i make it clear at the end this marker training (reward based training) is only the beginning not the end of a dog training program.


The goal of my course is to introduce new dog trainers to the world of reward based training in dogs. Reward based training is simple but it is not easy. Learning to correctly apply the concept of markers will set the stage for all of the dog training videos and courses we have produced since 2008.  This includes the series we have with Michael Ellis.

Marker training goes by a number of different names that all mean the same thing. They are:

1- Clicker Training

2- Reward based Training

3- Conditioned Reinforcer

4- Bridge

5- Verbal Marker

6- Moment Marker

7- Marker Training

8- Clicker Training

In laymen’s terms, marker training is a way to bridge the gap in time between the instant my dog does the right thing and the time it takes me to deliver a reward.

Reward based training is one of the most powerful systems of training dogs that I have seen in my 55 years of owning, breeding, and training working dogs. In its most basic form it’s a method of communication that is very clear to the dog. They learn the marker language quickly and when its done correctly our dogs love training.

In the 1990’s I was pretty vocal about how stupid I thought clicker training was. Boy was I dead wrong. Those comments were made from a position of ignorance and a lack of understanding. I didn’t understand the details of how reward based training worked nor did I know how it changed the relationship between my dogs and their outlook on training sessions. In 2003 I went to my first training seminar with Michael Ellis and was introduced to the concept. It only took one seminar for me to realize how stupid I had been and I was hooked.

Once trainers grasp the concept of reward based training and develop perfect timing their dogs become problem solvers and they love the work because they understand the communication system.

The concept of markers can be applied to every level of animal training. It can be applied to 8 week old puppies or 11 year old rescue dogs. Because it is a purely positive method of training its 100% non-confrontational which is why it can be a tool to work with dominant and aggressive dogs. This system builds or repairs the bond between handler and dog.


We are not All-Positive Dog Trainers

Training dogs with the reward based methods is hands down the best way to train a dog,  but this work must be balanced by introducing corrections into every advanced training program.

35 or 40 years ago we used to call this the “PROOFING” stage. That simply meant that the dog needed to learn to comply under distractions. In the proofing stage we gradually increased levels of distractions to a behavior that we 110% knew the dog understood. When it failed to comply it got a correction that fit its temperament and the situation we put the dog in. The goal being to get a behavior change that resulted in compliance.

All-positive dog trainers believe that dogs never get a correction for anything. That only works in sterile environments.

To get 100% reliability on recalls under every conceivable distraction requires a dog to go through a correction phase of training.

Trainers or training companies like Petco or Petsmart that advertise all-positive dog training are a hoax. The best advice I can give is don’t buy into their advertising scam – their training doesn’t work.


  1. Avatar
    Billy A.
    March 20, 2019

    The ‘instructors’ at these Pet Store classes a week earlier were the cashiers. They watch 3 company videos and take a short test, and off they go to teach the dogs. If you ever watch when one of these ‘classes’ as it lets out, they take everyone on a store shopping spree. Hmmmm, wonder if that might be their motivation, to take their money coming and going!

  2. Avatar
    Tish Mason
    March 31, 2019

    We currently have our dog in an intermediate/advanced class at Pet Smart. We feel the classes have been benefecial to us in keeping us accountable in spending training time with our dog. I also feel that they are there to “feed the masses” with a system that covers their a**** which allows pet owners to at least dip their toes in the water on training.
    I am so grateful that I discovered Leerburg and have immersed myself in the videos and tools. I have already learned far more than any Pet Smart class could begin to teach and see my dog (s) far exceeding anything I could have imagined. We also have a dog that competes in Dock Diving, the videos are creating a wonderful change in him as well. After 2 years on the Dock struggling with him to drop the bumper…..within 1 week he is “outing” the bumper with consistencey!
    Thank you so much!!

  3. Avatar
    April 3, 2019

    Not all PetSmart trainers are the same . There are a few that know what it takes to train a balance dog . I have trained 5 with PS , one was high drive and without her help in the beginning I would not have been able to get IPO 3 . I know this is just one PetSmart trainer who has over 15 yrs and did SDA compition . Two were aggressive with each other , we trained them together and solved the problem . It wasn’t easy , no it wasn’t all positive . Now my pack is balanced thanks to her .

  4. Avatar
    April 15, 2019

    Ye many are cashiers
    Clicker is the best of all

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