It is useful to get away from the word trainer – if there is any element of training it is all directed at the owners and not at the dogs! But this is an informative, teaching environment: knowledge is shared and individuals draw the appropriate conclusions and behaviours appropriate to their own human / canine partnership. The kind of harsh methods and aversive devices such as you mention, are never used under any conditions and are not accepted behaviour from students with their dogs.
This is very important, Sheila and her team have your dog's interests (and yours) at the centre of the course. Flat collars or harnesses are recommended where appropriate and long-line / loose-lead walking is taught and encouraged. Sheila would not allow any mistreatment of a dog in the ways you describe – it is entirely against her philosophy and ethos.
Shouting promotes stress and sends the wrong signals out to a dog as does any form of manhandling, startling or scaring. There are no circumstances where this type of behaviour would be acceptable as it is completely contrary to the well being and the protection of dogs.
Is clicker training used at all? I've used clicker training with great success with my dog.
Sheila covers this during the course, but the emphasis is not on the method, rather the needs of the dog. Sheila does not promote the sit / down / stay culture. The concentration is on having a positive and gentle development with your dog - you are a team - so that you can both enjoy your life together in a stress-free manner.
Another question is how trainers handle difficult situations. Describing a specific situation would be very helpful, something like or dogs barking or whining excessively, running off or not returning when called, shows of aggression, etc.
Members of the team work calmly and quietly so as not to frighten the dog or the student. They use techniques such as creating barriers or increasing distance. In the early stages of the course, a team member will be there to support a student and dog so that both will be confident and comfortable in a situation. Dogs are not allowed off lead in the immediate environment and you will experience a different way of thinking about the lead and lead work. The issues you have mentioned above are all discussed and you are helped with whatever problems you perceive your dog has. (Mostly they end up as being recognised as owner problems not canine problems!)
You and your dog are never forced into anything and you can question all that you like. There is never any judgement about what you say or what you do.
How did you find the daily schedule? E.g., how many hours a day were dogs expected to be kept in cars?
Sheila is an excellent facilitator and recognises the fact that both humans and dogs need comfort breaks. Be sure to alert Sheila well beforehand if your dog has an issue with being in the car. Dogs may be allowed in some of the venues but Sheila only encourages dogs to meet in the right environment and circumstances, so it will be one at a time (unless from the same family group). Dogs are not tied up.
Not all students bring their dogs every day. I travelled to and from home each day so sometimes left my dog at home - but not often because she is very happy in the car with breaks and walks during the day. You can volunteer your dog for appropriate practical sessions during the day, so the time in the car is up to you. Sheila has frequent breaks so that you can see to your dog.
The structure of the days is well thought out. There is a mixture of theory, practice, discussion and reflection. No one activity goes on for too long and the work is sometimes done in smaller groups, which are regularly changed around, to make sure everyone gets a chance to interact with each other.
Also there are usually a number of supporting members of the team at each session as well as the tutors, and this helps students get even more one to one support and attention.
Were dogs allowed to socialise with each other?
If Sheila considers the environment and the circumstances to be appropriate. Each dog is treated on its own in as stress-free an environment as is possible. As many stressors as possible are eliminated from your dog's experience. Any meetings or socialisation were, and must be carefully managed! For example if there is a problem with a dog’s socialisation skills, Sheila may suggest looking at this in detail during a future case study if appropriate, where any meeting or socialisation will be carefully organised and structured. Meetings will only occur if it is considered to be appropriate and to the benefit of each dog concerned.