As a PetsMart training instructor I am offended. The number one thing most people have against our training instructors is they think they are either A. Part time trainers who work in other areas of the store, or B. Inexperienced and can't get a job for a more reputable training firm.
Let me just say the best thing about being a PetsMart trainer is the fact that most programs focus on distractions. If you've ever been in the store on a adoption day, in a busy city, you know it can be loud. The fact that your dog will not only be able to do a 20 foot down stay off-leash, but will be able to do that with everything going on is a great tool for training.
Most of our trainers are under-paid , and under apperciated. The reason class prices are "cheap" is that we are trying to make training affordable for everyone. The thing most people don't realize is that 1 out of every 5 dogs remain in it's original home. Behavioral problems are the number 1 reason most animals are given up for adoption. By offering an no-kill adoption center, and trainers working with those centers we help ensure that those pets will not be put to sleep because someone couldn't spend the money for classes. So you know, most trainers at these stores make less than 8.00 an hour, and only make a VERY small percentage comission wise for their time. For most doggy boot camps, the 800 dollars you spend to send your dog away goes right to the trainer.
Personally I wish we were paid more, but I stay with PetsMart because the ideals they stand for. I have been with the company for 7 years. During the hurricanes that hit Florida they gave money to help their associates who were homeless due to the storms. These same associates that came in everyday to work, not because they were getting paid great, but because they enjoyed it.
Another thing I've read a lot recently is that puppy classes are just that, they aren't obedience classes, and that you can learn everything from a book. Yes, that you can, but the majority of people I've dealt with have already tried a book, and need a bit more help to show them what they are doing wrong. We teach several different levels of obedience classes, from a Puppy Headstart and Basic class - for those dogs learning basic commands, to Clicker training, and Advanced classes with AKC Canine Good Citizens.
Each PetsMart trainer has to go through a training program, and then be evaluated by their area trainer. Sure a few bad ones do slip through, but the best way to find out, talk to the other associates within the store. Ask the trainers what level they are, we have from area trainers down to level 1 trainers. Each store generally has a Senior ,who has been training for at least a year, and evaluated by their students, and corporate.
I look at PetsMart this way, they are regulated , so you know what is taught. Sure each trainer does it a little differently, but generally we keep it pretty much by the book. And the program itself was written by renowned pet behaviorists as well, so you don't have some guy who has just had some luck with his own dog , that is teaching at a fair ground or park.
Overall the best thing you can do with any trainer is ask to sit in on a class, if they refuse, you know that trainer is not right for you. See how the teacher responds to your dog, if you tell them it is fearful of strangers and it goes to pet your dog over it's head look for another trainer. It really doesn't matter where you go, as long as you go to a good trainer, and work with your dog at home to reinforce the things you learn in class.