My dog needs training! What are my options?
Written by master trainer Sam Ivy
Are you frustrated with some of the things your dog does?
Is their behavior annoying or causing problems?
Do you want help but aren’t sure where to look or how to get started?
Do you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re not getting anywhere?
You’re not alone.
The good news is that you have several options when it comes to getting your dog trained.
The trick is finding what works for you and your dog.
As with most things in life, there are pros and cons that come with each option. We’re going to go over all of them in this article.
Group classes at pet stores or training facilities.
Group classes are just like school for your dog. It’s not just the part where you go to class and the teacher teaches you things, but also the part where you socialize with all your peers.
In this setting, there’s generally one dog trainer and multiple dogs being trained at once.
Being with other dogs. Dogs love socializing with their peers. They love being with the group and making new friends.
It’s cost-effective. When the dog trainer can teach multiple dogs at once, it’s cheaper for everybody. You only need to pitch in a little, along with everyone else, to make it worth their time.
Being with other dogs. Socializing is a good thing for your dog – but it’s also distracting. When your dog is there with all the other dogs, she just wants to play. She wants to get to know everybody else.
That makes it harder for her to pay attention to what the trainer is trying to teach her.
Other distractions. The obedience class you sign your dog up for probably doesn’t take place somewhere your dog has been before. It’s new to them! You know what dogs love to do when they’re someplace new – run around and sniff everything! How’re they supposed to focus on the teacher when there are so many things to look at?
Inconvenience. There are a lot of training options that come to you and your dog. This isn’t one of them. You have to drive both you and your dog there – and we all know that sometimes dogs don’t do as well in the car as humans.
The other inconvenience is that the class times available might not always fit your schedule. Unlike personalized training sessions, class schedules tend to be fixed.
Limited skills taught. Classes with several participants that you find in pet stores often already know what skills they’re going to teach no matter who they get or what your dog’s specific issues are.
There’s a set course and it doesn’t change. This can be unhelpful if there’s a certain behavior your dog has that you want addressed.
Even issues that a lot of other people are dealing with aren’t always taught, such as: counter surfing, jumping on guests and furniture, excessive barking, etc.
Often, these classes cover the basics but don’t dive too much into the issues that brought you in in the first place.
Your dog can get kicked out for bad behavior.
In a twist of irony, you can take your dog into a class to improve their behavior, and they can get kicked out… for their behavior.
It makes sense why the instructors would need to do this, of course. You don’t want to take your dog into a class and have them get attacked by another dog.
That said, it’s hard for your dog to get training if they’re kicked out of their training class.
This is one of those cases where you get what you pay for.
Your dog might love it – they get a wild “dog party,” but did you get out of it what you needed? Did you walk away with advice that has a lasting impact on correcting your dog’s problematic behaviors?
Online dog training courses and apps.
There are certainly perks to taking courses online – being able to accomplish something while in your pjs comes to mind.
These days, there’s no shortage of video courses that you can watch at your leisure on just about any subject at all – including dog training.
You’re training your dog yourself. There’s a common misconception when it comes to dog trainers. As the saying goes, the best dog trainers don’t train dogs – they train people. That might sound insulting, but that’s not the intention, at all.
Dogs respond to the person giving them the commands. They know that different people expect different behaviors.
That means that if someone else trains your dog, those new, better behaviors might not stick when it’s just you.
The good part about learning how to train your dog from a YouTube video (or elsewhere) is that you wind up being the one to do the actual work with your dog.
When you train your dog yourself, you build trust, respect, and a better relationship with him.
Convenience. You get to train your dog on your own schedule. You don’t need to rearrange your day to fit around the hours someone else set.
There’s also no need to leave the house, no need to even get dressed if you truly don’t want to!
And no tricky car rides for your dog!
Being in your own home. Aside from the comfort of being at home, there are other advantages to training your dog in her home.
There are fewer distractions. Everything in your house is already familiar to your dog. She’s less likely to be running around, sniffing everything. If there are other dogs around, they’re dogs that the one you’re trying to train already knows.
The added benefit of training in your own home is that other family members who your dog will be interacting with are there, as well, and can participate. This increases the chance that your dog will get uniform instruction from their whole pack.
Cookie cutter videos. Obviously, someone making dog training videos on YouTube isn’t going to be able to know your own unique dog’s behavior. The video they’re making can’t be tailored to the personality of just your pup.
Not only do they not know your dog, they don’t know the whole situation your dog finds themselves in. Every family has their own dynamic and that dynamic will influence your dog, as well. The video creator also has no way of knowing your dog’s temperament, or their history.
Narrow focus. Most online or video dog training courses focus exclusively on obedience and positive reinforcement. They don’t always go into the more serious issues that a dog might have. Even moderate issues often don’t get addressed in these videos.
These videos also often won’t get into behavior modification techniques which could be effective at managing behavior.
Lack of guidance. When you’re basing your dog training off an online course or a video, there’s no one around to guide you if you get “stuck.” Dogs don’t always respond as expected.
When you use online courses or videos for dog training, you’re on your own. If something’s not quite working, it’s up to you to figure it out. On the bright side, however, it’s an opportunity for you to work on your relationship with your dog.
Boarding and training – a.k.a. doggie bootcamps.
One of your options is to send your dog to what some people call a “doggie bootcamp.”
This is where you board your dog with a trainer who then trains your dog for you. These can last for a couple of weeks.
While it might seem like there are pros to this approach initially, in the long run, there aren’t really any upsides.
Typically, when people choose to send their dog away for training, they do it for the following reasons:
- It’s convenient. When you drop your dog off to be boarded and trained, you don’t need to go to the trouble of training your dog yourself, which can sometimes be a frustrating experience. It also takes less time on your part. Training a dog can be time consuming as they don’t always pick up on what you’re trying to teach them right away.
When you use a doggie boarding school, it can seem like you’re able to just drop them off and have your problems solved. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work this way (which we’ll get into in a minute).
- The other reason people sometimes use doggie bootcamps is because they think that if the dog has more serious behavior issues – e.g. aggression – they think they need to hand over the problem to a professional to get it “fixed.”
- The fact of the matter is that boarding your dog with someone else and having them fix all those problematic behaviors is just not how it works! A dog is not like a broken car that you can drop off and get fixed and then it runs properly again.
If your dog doesn’t listen to you, you have a RELATIONSHIP problem and that needs to be addressed at home between the two of you!
You have to put in the time and the effort, or it will never get better.
It’s expensive. Sending your dog to a bootcamp for 2 to 3 weeks can easily cost as much as a luxury vacation.
Separation. Some dogs don’t react well to being separated from their family for extended periods of time. Remember – you are the only family your dog has. If they don’t get to be with their pack, it can cause anxiety and/or depression.
Uncertainty. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors at the training facility. While most dog trainers love animals and have your dog’s best interests in mind, at the end of the day, you’re not around to protect them. You have no idea what could be happening over there.
Poor quality of life. When in a boarding situation, your dog will most likely spend extended periods of time in a crate waiting until it’s his turn to get “trained.”
It’s not you. When someone else trains your dog, she learns to respect and listen to the trainer – not you. Trust and respect can’t just be “transferred” when you pick your dog up.
When the person who trained your dog isn’t around, your dog will go back to their old behaviors – including the behavior issues you wanted taken care of – within weeks or even days.
It’ll all be forgotten. Unless you learn how to maintain the training and put in the time and effort, anything your dog learned will soon be forgotten.
The behavior changes that a dog will have when they’re at the training facility often don’t last when you bring her home.
What may seem like a convenient and easy solution at first might turn out to be a very costly mistake. Our advice: Don’t do it!
In-home or personal dog training.
You can hire a dog trainer to train your dog one-on-one. Sometimes you’ll need to go to the trainer, but often, they’ll come to you and train your dog in your home while you’re there.
Individualized training. When a trainer is working with your dog directly, they can tailor everything they know about dog to your needs and your dog’s temperament. They can work on solutions to the exact problems you’re experiencing.
Convenient. Most of the time, you won’t have to load your dog into the car and drive them to their training.
In-home. The environment your dog is in will have an impact on what they do. When you use a personal trainer, behavior problems can be addressed where they happen – at home.
Accessibility. Not everyone lives in a place where a dog trainer is readily available. If there is no experienced trainer within a 5-10-mile radius of where you live, you are out of luck.
Having someone else in your house. When a stranger comes into your house – ie: your dog’s territory – your dog can get excited, nervous, or even aggressive. You also might not be comfortable with a stranger in your house for various reasons, including Covid.
The problems could come back. As we’ve talked about before, dogs often behave differently around different people based on that person’s behavior and the dog’s experience with them. If the trainer focuses on training the dog and not you, the behavior problems will probably come back once the trainer leaves.
Personal dog training at home is hands-down the best way to address any behavior problems. If there are no good in-home dog trainers in your area, or if you don’t want someone coming into your house – go virtual!
Virtual dog training.
A lot of people aren’t aware that this is an option.
This is a situation where you can meet with an experienced dog trainer online. They’ll get to know you and your dog and work directly with you to resolve any problems you’re having.
As you might already know, virtual dog training is our business. We're proven experts with 1,000s of happy clients we've had the pleasure to help with all kinds of dog behavior related issues.
Although we know that this is the safest and fastest way to solve all dog behavioral problems, it still might not be an option for everyone.
That's why we'd like to be as upfront as possible and start with the possible downsides first.
You'll need to be a bit of a tech-savvy person and know how to work with Zoom on your device of choice (phone, tablet, laptop, smart TV, etc.).
You'll need to have a fast and reliable internet connection with enough bandwidth for making video calls.
You'll need to be willing to actively participate in the work towards the loving, well-behaved dog of your dreams.
Convenient. You get to stay home, you don’t have to drive your dog anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about someone else coming over to your house.
Effective. Your dog is used to your home making the training experience less distracting.
No stranger in your home. This is safer for you and, in a lot of cases, more convenient – especially if you’re someone who likes to make sure the house is extra clean before having someone over. Plus, you don’t have to worry about how your dog will react to someone new.
You’re the trainer. When you use a virtual trainer, you get the guidance of someone whose expertise is in training dogs, but you get to be in control of the process. Your dog learns from you and you’ll strengthen your relationship.
Long-lasting. You’ll learn first-hand how to manage your dog’s behavior and will be able to maintain the training and all its benefits for the rest of your dog’s life.
Options. You won’t be limited to just the trainers in your local area. You’ll have access to the best trainers no matter where you are.
Virtual, private dog training combines all the benefits of personal in-home dog training (plus the added bonus that your dog will be learning from you) with all the accessibility of online courses.
We hope this article has helped you get a deeper understanding of all the options available to you if you want to get your dog better trained.
Why not book your free consultation with one of our dog behavioral experts today?
There're absolutely no strings attached, and you'll guaranteed walk away with an even better understanding of your best options when it comes to turning your dog into the loving, well-behaved companion of your dreams.
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I am so happy with Sam Ivy K9 Consultants and our trainer Maribel. I enrolled in the virtual proper pack course and I wished I would have done this so much sooner!
I loved the flexibility of the zoom classes. You have to be willing to put in the work, but my dog seems so much happier with structure in his life. Thank you Samy Ivy!