Individual Or Group Sessions OK As Dog Training Classes

Hey, guys. I was recently asked; Would individual or group sessions be best for my dog? As you can imagine, each have their pros and cons. But, both can be beneficial to your pup. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. Each professional canine behaviorist or dog trainer has their own preferences, too. There are some who don’t offer group classes because they don’t see them as beneficial, and vise-versa.

The Group Setting

The dynamic of a group session can be exciting for both the dog and the pet parent. Pet parents benefit in a group setting because they’re able to bounce ideas and questions off one another. They’re also able to see how other dogs react to different situations.

Groups also provide pet parents with an extra source of encouragement, enthusiasm, and support. There are many dog-pet parent teams who continue ongoing education sessions to remain sharp on their skills (or learn new skills). This also sometimes leads to scheduled play dates with their dog’s ‘training friends’ in the future.

As for the drawbacks of a group setting, there are times where group training can be more challenging than private lessons. There could be a dog who is more vocal than others, who needs more attention than others, or has some type of other behavioral issue. In these cases, the trainer may have to veer of course for a moment to ensure the group, as a whole, is on track (Hidden benefit here: this will help your dog understand how to focus on you regardless of distractions).

Generally, group classes are recommended for puppies for socialization purposes (rather than adult dogs). Group classes can provide puppies with the skills necessary to become a well-rounded dog.

Individualized Lessons

Private lessons have a much different atmosphere than group classes. Many times, private lessons take place in the pet parent’s home which means the trainer is teaching in unfamiliar territory. This can be challenging for some trainers. And, if your trainer has their own teaching area, the dog is in a different setting than she is accustomed to.

Private lessons can provide an excellent start to training. And, they’re particularly helpful for dogs who experience separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, fear, and/or aggression.

Even for new puppy parents though, professionals generally suggest attending at least one private session prior to enrolling your pup into puppy kindergarten.

One of the main benefits of private lessons (and somewhat negative) is you’re in a distraction-free zone. Your puppy or dog can build a foundation without worrying about unfamiliar noises, people, or other dogs.

There are some trainers who will recommend a “semi-private” lesson where two dogs are being trained at a time. In those instances, dogs are able to socialize with one another but aren’t in as distracting as an area as the group setting.

With private lessons, people sometimes schedule them too far apart so having an “accountability” partner in your training can help you be more consistent and therefore more productive with training your dog.

Or, another option! You can try both at the same time. Enrolling your puppy or dog in both individual and group classes can hone their skills, provide socialization opportunities, allow her to become accustomed to distractions, and increase the bond you share with one another. Remember, your dog counts the time spent together.

Of course, you’ll want to discuss your options with your trainer (or behaviorist if your dog is experiencing any type of behavioral issue) to determine the best route. You know your dog best so between both yourself and the professional, an effective plan should be developed to get your dog where she wants to be and where you would like her to be.

Choosing the Correct Trainer

Choosing the correct trainer can prove difficult and could be an article all on its own. You want to make sure your dog will receive training that meets your dog’s needs and specifications.

I have had hundreds of local dog lovers ask if I still offer basic training services. Unfortunately, I no longer offer face-to-face training; that department of my company has been closed for quite some time now as other departments have become overwhelmingly large (don’t worry– that’s a good thing). Most of my time is now focused on research in canine behavior and canine cancer, interacting with CEO’s of various pet corporations to ensure their company is providing clients with the best education possible about their products or services, and writing.

Here’s my advice on how to choose a trainer. Ask the trainer about her methods and philosophy. Make sure you’re comfortable with everything she is explaining to you. The most important part is searching for a trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods. This means he or she is rewarding your dog for good behavior and teaching alternative behaviors to replace inappropriate behaviors. There is no punishment involved. The positive reinforcement method has been proven scientifically to increase the bond you share with your dog.

And, just a little tidbit of advice from me personally, make sure you choose someone who has passion for what they’re doing. Those who love what they do and are passionate about what they do are usually the best.

The Bottom Line

I suppose to answer the question as to which method is best, I would have to say both are very good options. As you know, every dog is different and has their own personality and preferences. Decide with the trainer of your choice as to what’s best for your individual dog.

That’s all for today. Until next time.

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