If you're reading this, you hopefully already know the benefits of training your dog. Sometimes though, it's hard to determine the best format to use for the training goals you have. There are lots of options these days. You can train on your own. You can join a group class. You can buy a book. You can get a dvd. You can find video clips online. You can hire a trainer for private training. It's great to have a variety of options to choose from, but sometimes with too many options, it's hard to decide the right one for you.
In this post, we'll discuss the benefits of a group class:
- You get the benefit of in-person help from a professional trainer. This is a pro over options such as dvds, books or online options. Though you won't get as much personal attention as you would in private training. Be sure the classes are small enough that you do get some attention!
- Group classes are less expensive per session than private training. If budget is an issue, this is an important consideration. Though keep in mind that for specific issues, sometimes private training really is more cost effective in the long run.
- If you want to work on general issues, basic manners, or other things that many other people want to focus on as well, you can cover many of these things in a group environment. If you have more specific issues to focus on, then sometimes private training is the more effective option.
- If your dog is already social but needs more opportunities to be around other dogs, group classes can be a great option. When people want to socialize their dogs, in general group classes work well if the dog is already social but needs more opportunities. If your dog is not social, friendly or at least very tolerant of other dogs, then group classes are often NOT the best way to start.
- It's a great opportunity to learn how to focus on humans first and dogs second. If your dog gets overly excited about other dogs, group classes can sometimes be a great way to help temper that enthusiasm. For example, I often see dogs who go to day care or dog parks and are so overstimulated by other dogs that they have trouble focusing on anything else. Group classes are a good way to temper that by teaching dogs that we are here to work not to play.
- If your dog is a bit shy (but not overly so, and not aggressive) a group class can be a great way to begin to get more comfortable around other dogs (or people) without the pressure of all the attention on your dog. By working in close proximity to others while others are focused on working, it can help to build confidence in a somewhat shy dog. For extremely shy or fearful dogs, I recommend starting with private training with the goal of perhaps moving into a group class later.
- If your dog already has a good start with basic manners or skills but needs more work around distractions, a group class can be a good place to work on his/her focus around other distractions. This is the “he does it perfectly at home, but as soon as we're away from home. . . ” scenario. Group classes are a way to provide a more structured environment to work on those outside-the-home distractions.
- If your dog loves to learn and you want to try some new things, a group class can be great for dabbling in some new territories. For example, our Fun & Games Class gives you and your dog a chance to try out some different dog sports, activities and tricks to see what interests both of you. Once you find something you both get excited about, then you can follow those interests more intensely if you want.
- If your goal is to have a dog who is polite and well-behaved in public, or if you want your dog to eventually be a therapy dog (as an example), then some group classes can really help toward that goal. Once we're through the early stages of training, for example, our Polite Pooches in Public or Canine Good Citizen Classes are great ways to work on public manners in the supportive environment of a group.
- Training with your dog in a group class is a great way to build both of your skills, to have fun and to continue to strengthen the bond you've built with your dog.
- Group classes can be a great way for you and your dog to make new friends. Some groups mesh so well, they continue as a group to take classes together. Not only is your dog bonding with you, but he's making friends who you might even get together with outside of class for play dates, walks or training sessions.