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Group classes vs. Private sessions

Group classes or privates??

I get this question a lot.

Group classes focus on obedience, socialization, and listening to owners in the midst of distractions. Obedience training involves teaching your dog to reliably respond to commands that you give them. AKA what most people think of when they begin the process of training their dogs. Common commands are sit, down, stay, come. They help your dog see you as someone to take direction from and it also helps you bond with your dog because obedience training is fun.

Group classes are beneficial because they help build a working relationship between you and your dog. The commands taught can be very useful in everyday life to manage your dog. I sprinkle obedience training into my daily interactions with my dogs. They sit before meals, down/stay outside of Starbucks, come when I need them. Being around the other dogs in class is great for socialization. Obviously socialization is great for puppies but it has also helped dogs that are mildly dog reactive feel better about being around other dogs. The dogs in class are only allowed to interact when given the OK by me so you don't have to worry about your dog having to meet another dog when they are not ready to. Almost every dog can benefit from group classes, however group classes do not focus on specific behavioral issues. Obedience training is only part of the puzzle.

The other piece of the puzzle is how your dog acts in your daily life. This is where the private sessions can be used. Yes, you could constantly give your dogs commands to follow so they don't get into mischief but that gets old fast. I'd rather your dog default into good behavior. An example of this is jumping on you when you walk through the door. You could tell your dog to sit when they start jumping on you, OR you can teach your dog that keeping all four feet on the floor is the only acceptable behavior without having to give them any direction.

If your dog has very specific issues such as fear, aggression, anxiety, accidents in the home, and bad habits, this would be better suited for a private session. When your dog first comes into your home, they don't know the rules of your home. You must teach them what is expected of them day in and day out. You can't just put them in a stay 24/7, you must show them how to be a part of the family. This includes not jumping on people at the door, going to the bathroom outside, not eating the furniture, waiting politely at doorways. This is the stuff that can't be taught in a class setting. You must teach this in the moment. It's not fair to your dog when you don't make it clear what is expected from them in their home, and it confuses them when we lose our temper with them. You may think you were clear in teaching them what to do, but you must remember that we are humans and they are dogs and A LOT of what we do gets lost in translation.

To decide on what route to take for training your dog, you want to look at your goals. After a short conversation I can usually direct you to the option that will work best for you and your dog. The majority of my clients love a combined approach where we meet for one or two private sessions so they can tackle any issues that are specific to their particular dog. Then when they are feeling more confident, they will join a group class to practice what they learned in the presence of distractions and learn some helpful obedience commands.

Don't hesitate to contact me! I'd be happy to discuss a training plan so your dog can become the well behaved member on the family you knew they could be.

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