Dog Training FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Safety and Dog Training update

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, HSSC will be making changes to our in-person training services to help keep everyone safe.

WHO CAN ATTEND? While we encourage everyone in the home to be involved in their dog’s training, we must limit the number of people attending in-person group classes in order to operate in accordance with Sonoma County requirements and CDC recommendations. Please choose one adult in your household to attend your group in-person class with your dog. We recommend the same person attend class with their dog each week.

HEALTH:  We ask that you only come to HSSC if everyone in your household is healthy. You will need to stay home if you or anyone in your household has been sick in the last two weeks. We may ask you some health screening questions when you arrive to class. Please contact us if you will miss class or need to reschedule an appointment due to illness. Please refer to individual class requirements for more information about bringing your dog to a group class at HSSC.

WHILE YOU ARE AT HSSC: Our instructors will be wearing masks and all clients are required to wear a mask or another face covering as well. During your visit to HSSC, please practice physical distancing and leave at least 6 feet of space between you and other people you may encounter – indoors or out. We ask that you remain in your classroom for the duration of your visit and exit outside following the instructor’s directions. You will not have access to a water fountain. Restrooms are available outside in the front parking lot. Unfortunately, inside restrooms are not available for public use at this time.

Classes will be kept to a minimal size following the CDC occupancy guidelines in order to adhere to social distance protocols of six ft. between people.  Currently 113 square ft. per person is allowed.  Barriers will be used to keep dogs separated. Outside classroom options will be utilized as much as possible.

SUPPLIES TO BRING: To help keep everyone safe, we will no longer be able to offer clients extra treats to use, toys, puzzle toys/kongs, mat, or a water bowl and ask that your bring everything you need for your class with you. Please check your email for more specific information

DOG SOCIALIZATION: Our Drop-off Puppy Play classes offer puppies the opportunity to interact with other dogs. We ask that dogs not specifically enrolled in Drop-off Puppy Play do not greet or play with each other while attending classes at HSSC.

VIRTUAL OPTIONS: We are continuing to offer virtual classes, webinars and one-on-one sessions using Microsoft Teams. Please consider our Homeschool for the Dogs if you are not able to attend classes in person.

What training methods does HSSC follow?

We are offer humane, evidence-based and fun positive reinforcement dog training classes. We strive to offer force free classes with the least intrusive methods of modern dog training for both humans and canines. We do not support aversive, dominance or “balanced” training philosophies. HSSC trainers believe that reward-based dog training is the best way to build a trusting relationship between humans and their canines. For more information on why we believe science-based training is the most effective and ethical method, read the Dominance Position Statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

What is the age range for a puppy class?

All the puppy classes with the exception of Pawsitively Puppies Level 2 are designed for puppies between 10–16 weeks. Pawsitively Puppies Level 2 allows puppies over the age of four months if they have completed Pawsitively Puppies Level 1 at HSSC.

What vaccinations are required for a puppy class?
  • Proof of at least one distemper/parvo combination vaccine at least seven days prior to start of class.
  • Proof of current rabies vaccination if puppy is over four months.
  • Proof of current Bordetella vaccination.
  • Please take a photo of vaccinations and email to dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org
  • Photo proof of vaccinations must be emailed two days prior to the start of in-person classes or your dog will not be able to attend class.
What is the age range for adult dogs?

Dogs are eligible for an adult class once they have reached 4 months.

What vaccinations are required for an adult dog class?
  • Proof of current rabies vaccination.
  • Proof of their last distemper/parvo combination booster. (First booster given one year after completion of puppy vaccinations, following boosters given every three years.)
  • Proof of current bordetella vaccination.
  • Please take a photo of vaccinations and email to dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org
  • Photo proof of vaccinations must be emailed two days prior to the start of in-person classes or your dog will not be able to attend class.
Do adult dogs need to be spayed or neutered before taking a class?

HSSC highly encourages all dogs over the age of 12 months to be spayed/neutered prior to registering for a training class. For more information on our low-cost, spay/neuter clinic please visit humanesocitysoco.org/spay-neuter-clinic

My dog is in heat. Can she still attend class?

Unfortunately, dogs in heat are not able to attend class due to the distraction created for the other canines in class. Please contact dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org for more information.

Are there any dogs that shouldn’t attend a group class?

Your dogs must be free of any signs of communicable diseases in order to attend a class. This includes coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or display any other potential symptoms of illness within 24 hours of class. If you have to miss class because your dog has a communicable disease, please let us know. In order to return to class, we may ask for a note from your veterinarian stating that your dog is no longer contagious.

Dogs that have a history of aggression (snarling, snapping, biting) towards people or other dogs are not appropriate for our in-person group training classes. In addition, dogs that are reactive towards people (growl, barks, lunges) should not attend in-person group training classes. If your dog is reactive on-leash towards other dogs, please start their training with our Reactive Rover class (in person or virtual) or one-on-one training sessions. Your trainer can recommend next steps for training when you complete the class. If your dog is inappropriate for in-person group classes, we can still help. We offer virtual services, one-on-one training consultations, and can provide help over the phone. Please send us a message dogtraining@sonomahumanesoco.org

Can I bring my family to class or to my private session?

While we encourage everyone living in the home to be involved in their dog’s training, we must limit the number of people attending our current training classes due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please select one person to be the primary trainer and to attend every class. We do offer online training for those who want to include the entire household.

I have two dogs. Can I bring both of them to class?

Each dog needs to register separately and have different handlers. Our online Home School for Dogs is per household, but we recommend a separate handler for each dog.

Where are training classes held?

Both our Santa Rosa and Healdsburg campuses have several inside and outside training locations. You will receive the specific training location when you register. In case you forget where to go, the location of your class will be posted outside the main doors of the shelter.

I was told I would receive an email. Why have I not received it?

If you are expecting an email and haven’t received one, it is possible the message was sent but went into your inbox junk/spam or promotional folder. Emails from your instructor, the Canine and Behavior Training Department or other staff will have an @humanesocietysoco.org address. If you cannot find an email that you are looking for, please email your instructor directly or contact us dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org.

Will I be notified if my class is canceled?

Occasionally, classes may be canceled due to wildfires, weather conditions, low enrollment numbers or for a Stay in Place order. We will notify you through email and give you as much notice as possible. If the decision to cancel is made two hours or less from the start of your class, we will text you.

If a class is canceled due to wildfire, weather or a SIP, HSSC will do our best to offer a make-up session at no additional cost.

Will I receive a phone call to confirm my class enrollment?

No. We ask that all clients register and pay for their classes online. Prepayment is required to register for a class. For virtual classes you will receive a link to your Microsoft Teams class. Please contact us 24 hours prior to class start date if you have not received a link.

I’ve been added to a waitlist. What happens next?

If there is a last minute opening (less than 48 hours), we will contact you via phone/text as well as email. Our classes can fill up to a month in advance, so we recommend registering for another session with space and then adding yourself to the waitlist for your preferred session. We can easily transfer your registration fee should a spot in your preferred session open up.

I need to miss a class. Can I make it up?

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer make-up classes. If you need to miss a class please inform the instructor ASAP.

I need to cancel my registration. How do I get a refund?

If you have registered for a class and need to cancel, you must notify the Humane Society of Sonoma County no less than ten (10) days prior to the first day of class for a full refund. If notification is received less than ten (10) days prior to class, we regret that we will not be able to offer a refund or credit. No refunds or credits will be given once the class has started or for missed classes in a series. It is not possible for us to offer make-up classes. Contact: dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org to cancel a registration.

NOTE: The On-demand Pawsitively Puppies Orientation and the four-week Kinderpuppy Training Level 1 class included in your HSSC Pawsitively Puppies Adoption Package is a non-refundable part of your adoption package fees.  If you choose to enroll your puppy in another class, you may request that a credit be issued to be used within 90 days of the adoption for another training class.

Is it possible to get a credit?

If you are eligible to receive a refund, then you may request a credit instead. Credits must be used within 90 days and are subject to the same terms and conditions as a refund.

Do you train service dogs?

HSSC does not offer service dog training. Service Dogs are trained to be a companion to one person who often has a specific disability. You can find more information through Canine Companions for Independence or Assistance Dogs International.

Still can’t find an answer to your question?

Contact us! Please send us an email dogtraining@humanesocietysoco.org.

Do you offer training or evaluation for therapy dogs?

HSSC is not currently offering our Animal Assisted Therapy training class. We want to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep our community safe. Unfortunately, the requirements for both the Pet Partners Team Evaluation and the Canine Good Citizen Test involve getting much closer than the CDC’s recommendations — putting vulnerable populations at risk. We also want to feel confident that the people and animals involved in our AAT training programs are properly prepared to enter a bustling community, hospitals, schools, care facilities, and libraries. At this time, we do not feel we can safely offer the real-life training that potential canine good citizens and therapy dogs need.

More Resources!

Did you know that HSSC offers a Free Dog Reference Library for our community? New information will be added periodically. Please let us know if there is a topic that you would like to see added.

Contact a Dog Trainer!