With about 1500 locations in the US (including Puerto Rico) and Mexico, Petco is a familiar name to most pet lovers. Many (not all) Petco stores offer puppy classes for pups under six months old as well as adult classes for older dogs. If you are curious about Petco puppy training, we’ve got a first-hand review with our puppy Isla.
Let’s look at the puppy training classes at Petco–from class size and trainer experience to curriculum and price–to see if these classes might be a good fit for you and your dog and if we think they’re worth it!
Which Puppy Classes Does Petco Offer?
Petco offers two group training classes for puppies:
Puppy Level 1: Basics and “how to make furry friends” 101. This class is for puppies 8-16 weeks old.
Puppy Level 2: More like the advanced “manners class” with real-world skills. The prerequisite for this class is–you guessed it–Puppy Level 1. This class is for pups 16 weeks to six months old.
They also offer private classes (either in-person or virtual).
What to Expect from Petco Trainers
Petco’s trainers all use solely positive reinforcement methods, which I love and which is one reason I selected these classes for Isla.
Most trainers are not CPDT-KA certified trainers; they have completed a Petco science-based training course. Petco’s National Manager of Pet Services Dog Training Education, Darris Cooper, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) trainer as well as a Fear-Free Animal Trainer.
All Petco trainers are AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluators which means that you can also take the test for the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy award with a Petco trainer; you can later advance to adult classes and do a CGC test at Petco.
We had an excellent trainer; he was great with the puppies (and later dogs when we moved on to adult classes). Of course, the quality of trainers may vary from store to store so it pays to go in and talk with the trainer before enrolling to access if the trainer is a good fit for you and your puppy.
Where are Classes Held?
Petco’s training classes are held in the stores in small, partitioned areas. At various stores, I’ve seen them both at the side of the store and in the middle of the store.
At our local store, the training area was beside the glass wall that looked out into the grooming salon (as you can see above, puppies and smaller dogs could not see into the grooming area).
A moving “door” portion of the wall swiveled to allow entry into the training area from the store floor:
Will this kind of setup work for your puppy? Maybe so, maybe not.
Isla did great with the half-wall arrangement. Our class was on Saturdays so the store was typically pretty busy, which is just what I wanted. Since we live in the country, Isla doesn’t get a lot of exposure to other people, traffic sounds and just general activity, so this was perfect for her.
For other dogs, the noise of the store (from people talking to dogs barking) might just be too much distraction.
As you can see, the training area is small. Classes are generally only a handful of puppies compared to larger training centers.
We started out on the first puppy class with three puppies but one dropped out about halfway through so we finished with just two puppies. Isla is fairly large–and the other puppy was a German Shepherd–and they had enough room but it would have been a squeeze with more puppies or if either had been really excitable.
Isla’s not super excitable–and she’s not shy (which our other dog Barli is). If she were either, this would not have been a good choice for her because of the small training area and the noise from the store.
Our Experience with Puppy Training Classes at Petco
I enrolled Isla in Puppy 1 class at our local store. The first class started off with the trainer checking everyone’s immunization records. One puppy did not have his records so he was sent home to then make up the class during the week.
As a puppy class, this started off with the basics, getting Isla to look at me when calling her name and treating her for that behavior. From there, we advanced on to “come” with more treats and fun; Isla loved it.
For the last 10 minutes of class, the puppies were taken off-leash and allowed supervised play which really was fun; Isla burned off some energy and learned polite play at the same time.
At the conclusion of class–and every class afterwards–we were sent home with “homework,” a review of what she’d learned in the class and tips for continuing that training through the week until the next class.
Isla gave new meaning to “the dog ate my homework!”
As Isla grew older, I started arriving for class about 15 minutes early and walking her in the store to get her accustomed to loose leash walking around other people and teach her polite shopping etiquette. I love to shop with our dogs so learning those skills in a pet supply store is great. (In Adult classes, dogs do much of their work on leash–and later long leashes–out on the store floor but Puppy classes are taught within the confines of the training area.)
Before we knew it, we had completed all six weeks of classes and Isla had earned her “diploma”:
We later went in for her S.T.A.R. Puppy test which we passed, too, showing that she could do sit, down, come, stay, accept greetings, walk near strangers and more.
After her Puppy I class, we had planned to move on to Puppy II but the trainer suggested we go ahead and move to Adult II since Isla knew many of the commands. Stay tuned for our Adult training review as well.
I think the Petco Puppy Training Class we took was very much worth the money. Isla was much more comfortable being out in public after the class and walked better on leash in public situations (so much so that we started going to farmers’ markets and festivals before our next round of classes.)
Pros and Cons of Petco Puppy Training Classes
- Price: Petco’s training class prices (below) are great. I was able to purchase a package of two classes and the S.T.A.R. Puppy exam for less than the price of one class at a more expensive training facility. That allows me to get in the basics with Isla at a low price so I can save money for taking specialty classes with her later at more expensive facilities.
- Small class size: Classes are typically just 2-4 dogs so you will get more attention from the trainer.
- Extra socialization: Having the class in a store means extra socialization opportunities for your dog.
- Schedule: Puppy classes are scheduled frequently and, with the many Petco stores, you have a good chance of finding one that fits your schedule.
- Small class size: The small class size means fewer dogs for your puppy to socialize with. As in our case, if any of the puppies drop out and don’t complete the class, your dog is not getting as much exposure to other dogs during this critical socialization period.
- Small classroom size: The small size of the teaching facility means puppies don’t have much room to work on commands like “come.” The small size can also be an issue for overly excited puppies.
- Distractions: If your puppy is easily distracted, nervous, shy or overly excited, the noise and hustle and bustle of the store may be too distracting.
- Trainer certification: We had a good trainer but quality can vary between stores. If you have any behavioral concerns with your puppy, we’d recommend finding a CPDT-KA accessed trainer in your area or behaviorist.
The 2023 price for Petco puppy classes is $179 for six classes. I purchased a 12-week package which covered both puppy classes as well as a private S.T.A.R. Puppy test; that package is currently $279. (Petco also frequently runs specials online; I had a 20% off online coupon for further savings.)
They also offer an 18-week package of the two puppy classes, an adult class, a 45-minute private lesson and the S.T.A.R. Puppy test for $409. (Again, watch for coupon codes.)
Your puppy needs to be current on vaccines for his age before attending class (and you will need to show proof of vaccinations at the first class.
If your puppy hasn’t received at least his second round of boosters, we’d recommend carrying your puppy into the store and straight to the training area–don’t stop and greet other dogs in the store or allow your dog on the floor until you reach the training area. (And that means no potty stops outside the store either.)
For the first class, you will need to bring your puppy’s immunization records. Your puppy will need to wear either a flat collar or a harness. (Martingales, choke collars, etc. are not permitted.) Bring a 6-foot leash (actually I brought a four-foot leash because of the small class space).
I use a Martingale with Isla when we are out in public since I’m afraid she might get out of a collar; for class, I switched the leash from the Martingale to the flat collar.
Be sure your leash is a fixed leash, not a retractable. Also, bring a LOT of tiny treats to every class for training. I brought mine in my dog walking bag along with poop bags.
Each of the classes runs about 50 minutes. Classes run for a six-week duration.
Along with puppy classes, Petco also offers:
Adult Dog Level 1: For dogs 6 months and older, this class covers basics like sit, stay, and recall.
Adult Dog Level 2: This is a more advanced class focusing on behaviors like heel, wait, and more advanced recall techniques practiced on long lines in the store.
Canine Good Citizen (CGC) preparatory course: After Adult 2, your dog can take this class to work on the manners that are demonstrated in the CGC test.
Petco also offers private lessons, in-person or virtual for adult dogs.