Virtual dog training vs. in person dog training

Over the past three years, many people have been using online or virtual programs, training classes, courses, and such due to the pandemic’s limitations.

I’d like to think that this caused a positive movement in a few industries including the teaching and learning industries, especially in the dog training industry.

Depending on how you look at it, many dogs were adopted or bought over the pandemic period. There were some pros and cons of dogs being adopted so fast. Pros were that dogs were given homes and the cons were that everybody was adopting dogs and most people were unaware of what they were getting into.

This helped many dogs to be homed but they came home with packages. Many dogs developed behavioural issues when living with their new humans. The humans just adopted or got the dog just because they could. People were staying home. Not working and needed something to do. Some had the urge to get a dog sooner or later so this was the perfect opportunity to get one.

The dogs caused dog owners to get overwhelmed with the dogs they had adopted so they started to look for solutions. One of the solutions was to return the dogs to the shelter but many decided to keep the dogs and look for alternative solutions including looking for dog trainers.

All dog trainers were limited. They could not provide in-person training or group training classes, so they relied on online tools such as Zoom to provide information and training to dog owners. I was one of the dog trainers who was limited. So, I started using online tools to help dog owners.

This was an eye-opener for me and my students. We could learn to train dogs at home and get great results. I got better results with my clients using online training courses than in-person or group classes. Why was that?

Let me explain. The information that you are getting here is coming from me. I used to be a regular dog owner that attended group classes and then became a dog trainer. I used to run group classes besides providing private training sessions for my clients. So, I have been on both sides and know how it feels.

Traditionally and still today, there are a couple of ways that you could work with a dog trainer. You can work in person with a dog trainer or hire a dog trainer for one or some private training sessions. This option is more expensive because you are working with the dog trainer one-on-one, and the dog trainer is invested only in you and your dog for a certain time. You are paying by the hour.

You can also register and attend a group class which can run for six to eight weeks. With this option, the dog trainer is working with a group of dog owners and dogs which can add up to eighteen dog owners and dogs in a group class setting. This is a cheaper option for the dog owners as the expenses of the time that the dog trainer needs to invest in the students is divided among the students. The time that a dog trainer can spend with individuals is limited as well.

These two options are the most popular forms but here is what happens when you attend a group class or work privately with a dog trainer.

Besides, that time becomes your enemy and you are rushed to learn or train your dog, the most important thing that we need to address is the state of your dog’s mind. Your dog whether a puppy, young or adult, would feel either overwhelmed and anxious or excited and exuberant to be with a group of dogs and strange people in a group setting. Your dog may also feel frightened and anxious being among a group of strange dogs and people or your dog may be very happy and excited about being among them. When a dog is in any of these states of mind, it would not be able to focus on learning. The mind gets distracted and avoids learning. It is just too much for a dog and it is also too much to ask a dog to learn in such an environment and situation. Even humans and kids don’t do well in situations such as this. So, most dog trainers and dog owners require to use treats or food to get the dog to focus on the task at least during the class. Most dog owners get overwhelmed and frustrated when their dog is not paying attention to them and does not do the required task, even though they are using treats, especially when time is limited.

The reason for that is that when dogs are overwhelmed or excited, they tend to refuse food. Food is not a primary need for a dog in times of instability. So, the dog owner is forced to press the dog to accept the food as a reward when it is not willing to accept it naturally. Therefore, food is not a great source of reward for dogs because there is a flow in the ideology of dog training using treats.

These issues also can happen when you hire a private dog trainer who either comes to your home or if you visit the dog trainer at their own facility. The dog can become overwhelmed by strangers, by their deminer, by their energy, or what the environment produces.

Either way, the dog is not going to take in the information as it should be or the way you want it and on your expectation level. These situations and environments not only are stressful and unpredictable for your dog, but they can also be for you as a dog owner who wants to get some results when investing in hiring a dog trainer or attending a group dog training class. Once again, especially that you are limited in time because you have hired a dog trainer who is going to spend a certain number of hours working with you or maybe you are attending a sixty-minute class every week. You will feel overwhelmed and anxious, and you should know that your dog will feel the same way as well and maybe even more than you.

So, the moral of the story is that we should not place a dog or you in situations such as these as they are not effective, and I think it has taken us a long time to realize it. We need to update the way we approach dog training, and this simple change is one of the ways that we can start updating the old broken dog training system and method. Would other dog trainers and professionals realize this as well? who knows? I did and I am sharing my thoughts with you, now.

So, what are you supposed to do when it comes to training your dog? How should you approach your dog training?

As you learned here, the reason we should not place our dogs in situations and environments such as group classes or asking a dog trainer who is a stranger to work with you is that it can cause difficulties for your dog to learn or for you to teach your dog. So, the best way and the best approach is to train your dog in an environment where your dog is comfortable, relaxed, and familiar. Where could this environment be?

If you answered your home, you are really in tune with me and your dog. Your home is the most ideal place to train your dog or at least where you start to train your dog. But that is only one-third of the solution. Providing the perfect environment is only part of the solution. What are the other two third of the solution? If you guessed, training the dog owner, then you must be a mind reader or a genius.

The dog owner needs to learn most of the basics of dog training before starting to train their dog. The reason you are attending a group class or hiring a dog trainer is to get information about how to handle your dog and how to deal with all the weird and unwanted behaviours of your dog.

Imagine, you are trying to learn how to handle your dog and your dog is clueless about what is about to happen and has no idea what is about to come. You are in a room full of strange dogs and people. You and your dog are bombarded with sounds, smells, and sights. The class is full of cute dogs, aggressive dogs, weird dogs, dogs that are afraid, and dogs that are just dying to jump up on you and kiss you and lick your face to death. Meanwhile, a strange person, the dog trainer, is giving you some important information as is walking around the class but a dog is staring at you and your dog. You are either scared of the dog or just want to go and kiss that fluffy, cute face, and meanwhile, you missed what the dog trainer was saying the whole time. Your dog is also thinking what is going on here? Why can’t I go and play with that dog? Or how can I run away from this situation because that dog is about to kill me?

Do you find this situation ideal to learn or train your dog? I doubt it. Since you and your dog get distracted easily, you end up not learning and not understanding exactly what you need to do. I often saw dog owners just copying the techniques or what they saw in the class and not really knowing or understanding what or why they were doing even though I had lost most of my voice explaining all the lessons. When dog owners were not able to repeat what I and shown or thought, they would over-use treats expecting to see results and yet they wouldn’t. They would only see something similar only because they had used treats. Later, the lesson was forgotten or performed differently. So, they were back to square one.

As a dog trainer also, it is very hard to teach dog owners who are not focused and not able to learn. Overall, there are many factors that can cause a dog owner not to be able to focus and learn. Maybe when attending the class you don’t feel good, maybe you had a bad day, you need to be somewhere else right after the class, you don’t like one or some of the students in the class, your dog is out of control, your dog didn’t have enough exercise, your dog is not hungry, your dog is hungry, you are hungry…It is just not possible to provide the ideal results when many things can affect the process.

So, how should you get the information that you need to get? The best and the most logical way is just focusing on getting the information as fast and as clear as we can to a dog owner. We just want the dog owner to learn all that they need for now. The best way is by learning everything in the comfort of your home where you spend probably most of your time where is at your computer or your phone.

Enter online learning. The best place for you to learn and understand what you need to learn and once you are confident and familiar with what you need to know and do, then you can apply that information to your dog and practice them with your dog. 60% to 90% of dog training is dog owner training. The rest is what you teach to your dog or what your dog learns from you.

You are the best trainer for your dog whether you want it or not. The dog trainer that you hire is only providing information and providing support. You are the individual who must do most of the work and the labor. That is because you have chosen to own a dog and one part of the deal is that you need to train your dog 24/7 and you need to know what to do and how to do it.

So, all you must do is simply learn all the basics and needed information that you need online in the comfort of your home and then teach, train, and practice them with your dog in the comfort of the home as well for some time until you have some form of control over your dog and have established a communication system with your dog. There is no time limit and you learn on your own or at your dog’s speed that is needed. You don’t rush because there is no time limit in the program.  Once you achieve that, you can then move on to the next levels of training your dog.

Is there a place and time to attend group dog training classes or hire a dog trainer? Yes, for sure. When you have some ideas about dogs and technically you can control and manage your dog slightly. A classroom is where you practice techniques with your dog that is familiar with the cues that you give, and you know what to do and you know what your dog is exactly capable of. You can use the classroom as an environment to practice techniques while working with some controlled and minor distractions.

When would you be able to attend a dog training classroom? Whenever you and your dog are ready. That can be six months from now or a year from now. It all depends on how often you train your dog at home. How you train your dog at home. When you train your dog and if you train your dog at all.

So, take advantage of the technology and advances that we have now and start learning about your dog and how to train it today by joining one of Saro Dog Training online courses or joining the “perfect dog plan” and working with a certified dog trainer one-on-one for life. Learn more here.

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