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With COVID-19 continuing to ravage communities and the vaccine rollout moving slowly, many people continue to social distance, avoid gatherings, and wear masks. At the same time, there’s been a spike in the number of people adopting pets as they spend more time at home.
The combination of more people at home with untrained puppies and the desire to socially distance has meant a boom for online dog training. Some dog trainers started offering online training for the first time last year, while others offered this option pre-pandemic.
COVID-19 aside, there are plenty of reasons to explore an online dog training class instead of an in-person program. Maybe your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to drive out to a training school frequently. Or perhaps your dog struggles with car rides. Whatever the case, you can choose from a wide variety of training programs you and your pup can enjoy from the comfort of your living room.
There also may be learning advantages such as the ability to go at your own pace, re-watch training sessions, and involve more family members in training. The Bark lists other pros of online training.
What kind of training is best for you and your dog?
Before you start searching for a dog trainer, it’s essential to define what you are looking for:
- Do you have a new puppy that you want to train and build a good foundation?
- Do you have a newly adopted dog that lacks manners, and you need to break unwanted habits?
- Or do you need help with behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety, jumping up, bolting through the door, reactivity to dogs or people, or fear of visitors?
Find someone who uses a training method you are comfortable with
When searching for a trainer, make sure that their training style is in alignment with your belief system and the way that you want to treat your dog. Not every training approach is kind to your dog. Fear-based trainers use force, control, and vibration or shock collars to stop a behavior, which can cause stress for your dog and damage your bond.
All training should be based on a loving, kind, and respectful approach, using reward and encouragement as your dog learns, rather than punishment for mistakes. You should never need to use a stern voice or yell when teaching your dog. Dogs, like humans, learn best when they feel safe and are addressed in a friendly, kind tone.
The dog training industry is unregulated with no licensing requirements, so anyone can call themselves a dog trainer without any certifications.
The best way to vet trainers is to check out online reviews on sites such as Google, Angie’s List, Facebook, and Yelp. Veterinarians, groomers, pet stores, or rescue groups can also sometimes recommend trainers.
Before signing up online, it’s smart to have a phone conversation with the trainer so you can get a better sense of their style and their commitment to helping you with your dog. Does the trainer appear interested in finding out what you need help with, and do you feel a sense of passion from them about their work with dogs? You can also ask any specific questions you have about your dog’s particular issues.
What kind of experience does the trainer have?
How much experience does the trainer have teaching in person? This is so important, because, without years of experience, they may not have enough knowledge base to help you with all the areas of training. Every dog learns differently and has an individual ability to focus because they all have unique personalities. What’s possible for one dog to learn in a week may take another a few months to learn due to their personality, experience, and learning environment. Also, ask if the training program addresses what to do if your dog isn’t performing like the dog in the training video and how to handle it.
What are the training expectations of you and your dog?
Are you required to be at a certain level of performance before the next scheduled training session? Is there pressure to move through the training program in a certain time frame? If so, this may not be the best option because if you feel pressured and stressed about the training and your dog will sense this anxiety from you. That will make it difficult for them to focus and concentrate, and they are likely to get nervous and confused, making it impossible for them to ‘get it right’.
What is the length of the online training session?
How long are the training sessions with your dog? When training, it’s best to do short training sessions for a few minutes at a time as you teach your dog something brand new. You want to make it easy for them to get it right. Short training sessions with praise and ending on a good note will make the experience fun and enjoyable for you and your dog.
What topics does the online training program cover?
If you need help with a puppy, does the training program address?:
- Potty training
- Mouthing, nipping
- Chewing on the furniture
- Dropping items out of their mouth
- Leaving items alone, like your shoes
- Barking for attention
Training a dog with behavioral issues
Do you have a newly adopted dog that you need help with? Not every trainer is equipped to help you effectively address behavioral issues, such as fear of visitors or separation anxiety.
Typical ‘obedience training’ focuses on verbal praise and treat reward. Behavioral issues need to be resolved from a place of understanding and respecting the dog’s behavior and psychology, as they cannot be resolved solely with treats and praise. If you need help with behavioral issues for a dog who has been previously abandoned, abused, or neglected, I recommend hiring an expert who specializes in working with behavioral issues.
If you have a dog with behavioral issues, the training should cover:
- Manners with visitors
- Demanding attention
- Excessive barking
- Jumping up
- Separation anxiety
- Anxious/nervous behavior
- Bolting through the door
- Leash training
The listed topics address every area that dogs are looking for comfort, guidance, and leadership and each topic must be addressed in order to resolve behavioral issues. No matter the age, a puppy, or an adult, your dog can learn how to walk nicely on a leash, and you can resolve separation anxiety with the right training approach.
How much additional training support is provided?
- How long do you have access to the materials?
- Is the training material only offered to you for a certain time frame, or can you go back to reference it when you need to?
- If you have any questions or need individual help, is that additional support offered?
Training never ends, and you will likely need help after your sessions or class. Check to see that your trainer and the resources you paid for are available after your formal training is finished.
This article is copyrighted by Sarah-Anne Reed and Pack Dynamics® LLC, and no reproduction of this article without the express permission of Sarah-Anne Reed is permitted.
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