Our Philosophy

Santa Maria Valley Humane Society trainers focus on understanding why dogs exhibit specific behaviors and learning how to communicate with dogs. By strengthening the relationship and improving communication between humans and dogs we can create a healthy, happy, and lifelong partnership between dogs and people and we can create a community where people and pets thrive together. We employ positive reinforcement-based dog training to build confidence in dogs and trust in the human handler, which elevates the bond between dog and owner. Our approach teaches dogs what they should do instead of focusing on what they should not do.

Basic Manners & Skills Class

This small group class is five one-hour modules that can be taken in any order. Classes are every Sunday from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. Orientation for the Basic Manners & Skills Class is required. Orientation is one hour before your first class, 10:00 am Sunday. Attend the orientation without your dog so that you can be set up to succeed in this class.

Class enrollment is limited to allow for individualized instruction for dog and handler teams and provide them with the skill set necessary to navigate everyday challenges at home and in public. In addition to traditional skills, real-life applications will be covered. Concepts and behaviors learned in this course lay the foundation for any future training. Open enrollment allows you to enter class at any time as long as you have attended the orientation. Classes are structured so that each week does not depend on the previous week which means you can begin attending classes whenever you want and finish up to 8 weeks after the first class. Instead of waiting for the start date of the class you want, start right away!

Recurring Weekly Modules:

  • Attention and Focus (Name game, recall, settle, targeting, and wait / let’s go)
  • Communicating with Your Dog (Capturing and shaping, name game, settle, sit, target)
  • Public Appearance (Polite walking, settle, name game, recall, sit)
  • Teamwork (Capturing and shaping, polite walking, settle, sit, targeting)
  • Teaching Self-control (Down, mine / take it, recall, settle, wait / let’s go)

Basic Manners & Skills Class “Fine Print”:

  • Dog handlers must be 14 years of age or older. Dog handlers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • For children observing the class, there must be an adult present for every child under the age of 14.
  • Dog handlers must wear closed toed shoes.
  • Dog handlers must bring a six-foot, non-retractable leash.
  • Dogs must wear a flat collar, cloth Martingale or harness (no choke chains or prong collars). We will assess your equipment during the orientation.
  • All dogs must be up to date on their vaccinations. Please bring your vaccination records to your orientation.
  • Please do not feed your dog 2 hours prior to class; a hungry dog is a motivated learner!
  • Please bring plenty of your dog’s favorite treats to class! Around 2 cups of pea sized treats.
  • Treat pouch (or something other than a plastic baggie in which to store your treats). The pouch shouldn’t make noise and should be easily accessible to you, but not your dog.

The Basic Manners & Skills classes are designed for dogs who are comfortable meeting other dogs and people. If your dog is reactive or becomes overexcited around new dogs and people, we suggest you register for our Reactive Rover class.

Class Structure:

  • 5 Weeks of Class – $189
  • Orientation Every Sunday at 10:00 am
  • Class is Every Sunday from 11:00 am to 12:00 Noon
  • Attend for Five Weeks to Complete All Modules
  • It’s OK to Miss a Week and Take that Module Later
  • You Must Attend One Orientation Prior to Starting Your Class
  • Register Online – Start Anytime

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Reactive Rover Class


This class is specifically designed to teach handlers how to manage dogs that bark, lunge, growl, or pull towards other dog’s or people while on leash. Handlers will practice and be coached on strategies to manage their reactive dogs. Dogs are visually separated for most of the class and the aim is to keep dogs within their comfort zone when working in the classroom. If interested in registering for this class, please complete the Reactive Rover Questionnaire.

All family members are encouraged to attend the Reactive Rover Class. All dogs must be spayed or neutered prior to class. Class size is limited to 4 dogs and orientation is required prior to class. The first reactive dog class is also dog-free.

Class Structure:

  • 6 Weeks of Class – $250
  • Individual Orientation Scheduled with You and Your Dog
  • Class is Wednesday from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
  • Register Online – See Calendar for Start Dates

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Brave Dog Class


Shy or fearful dogs often cannot enjoy common dog activities due to their anxieties. Our Brave Dog class provides a calm, quiet classroom environment that is uniquely suited for safe and comfortable relationship-building between owners and their shy dogs. Classes include focus-to-handler exercises, mat work, confidence building and searching games.  The instructor will coach handlers on reading their dog’s body language, prioritizing safety and going at their own dog’s pace.

The classroom setup provides a quiet environment in which dogs are visually separated from other dogs and people for most of class. These classes are designed for dogs who may withdraw, avoid, cower, shy away, stall, or hesitate when uncomfortable, or who may be overwhelmed or shut down when in a standard group class setting. All family members are encouraged to attend the Brave Dog Class. All dogs must be spayed or neutered prior to class. Class size is limited to 6 dogs and orientation is required prior to class.

Class Structure:

  • 6 Weeks of Class – $250
  • Individual Orientation Scheduled with You and Your Dog
  • Class is Wednesday from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
  • Register Online – See Calendar for Start Dates

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Private Consultation


The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society offers affordable private consultations where you and your dog can receive one-on-one attention to address your dog’s behavior issue(s). Common behavior issues we work with during private consultations include, but are not limited to, aggressive and reactive behavior toward people and other dogs, shy and fearful tendencies, and separation anxiety.

For most issues, we will need to see you and your dog for an in-person 60 minute consultation to determine the particular issues you are facing and what methods to implement to help you get the best results. We will develop a written behavior improvement plane for you and your dog after the consultation. After the consultation, two one hour private training sessions with you and your dog will be scheduled. All consultations and training sessions are held at the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society by appointment only.

Class Structure:

  • 3 Weeks of Class – $300
  • One-Hour Scheduled Consultation with You and Your Dog
  • Written Behavior Improvement Plan
  • Two (2) One-Hour Private Training Sessions Scheduled with You and Your Dog
  • Register Online – Trainer Will Contact You

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