In today’s dog training world most professional trainers offer a number of different training options. As a dog owner you can be sure that you will see results (provided you listen to your trainer!) regardless of which format you choose. The primary differences in the various options will be cost, time/duration, behaviors and commands covered, and the level of training received (how well is your dog trained).
Before picking a program you must first select a trainer. A professional trainer will not only teach commands but address behavior issues as well. A professional trainer will look for permanent fixes to all of your concerns, and not just apply a quick and easy “bandaid”. Professional trainers also work toward building respect between you and your dog and will avoid bribing your dog or treating commands as if they were tricks.
The following formats are some of those more commonly offered by professional trainers: group classes, private lessons, and residencies. The following is a brief description of these formats and their associated pros and cons.
Classes can range in size from very small (2-3 clients) to overcrowded (10+ clients). While the cost may be very appealing don’t expect much personal attention as the trainer will be bouncing around between clients. Behavioral work cannot be accomplished in this format as each client will have their own set of issues and there will not be enough time to cover them all. If your are looking for behavioral work private lessons or a residency may be more suiting. Group classes will also require a decent amount of work outside of class. How well your dog is trained is primarily up to you with this option.
- Cost effective
- A good source of socialization
- Good option for well behaved dogs
- Little to no personal attention from trainer
- Spaced out over 2-3 months
- Requires a lot of owner’s time between classes
- Results vary based on owner’s time commitment and dedication
- Everyone in class may be at different levels
- May be too much distraction at an early stage in training
- Cannot address behavior issues
- Considered by many trainers to be the lowest form of training
A great option for the dog owner who wants to teach their own dog. In private lessons a trainer is teaching you how to teach your dog. As a result, the level of training is dependent on the time and dedication the owner has to put into the training between sessions. Because life has a way of interfering with an owner’s ability to train enough between sessions there is always the risk that more lessons will be needed than originally expected. While this may mean a higher overall cost of training most trainers will allow you to schedule lessons at your convenience (however, some trainers may require you to purchase a package of lessons with time restrictions). Teaching advanced commands and addressing behaviors between lessons can become frustrating for many owners. Private lessons can address some minor behavior issues, but aggressions, separation anxiety, and containment or leash phobia are best handled in a residency.
- Lots of personal attention
- Trainer will work the dog and demonstrate techniques for owner
- Can often be performed in your home
- Can address minor behavior issues
- Owner will learn how to train his or her dog
- Schedule at your convenience
- Overall cost may add up
- Not for aggression, separation anxiety, or other extreme behaviors
- Some commands and behaviors can be hard to address in home environment
- Results vary based on owner’s time, commitment and dedication
- May be required to purchase a package of lessons
Considered the highest form of training, this option gives you the most for your money. A trainer will do all the hard work (training your dog) and all the owner has to do is maintain the training. Residencies are also the most expensive option, but results can often be seen in as little as 7-14 days. In a residency a trainer can teach any command, address any behavior issue, and even teach things like retrieval, scent detection, and assistance/support work. Most residencies include several private lessons in which the trainer will teach the owner how to handle the dog.
- Highest form of training
- Trainer does all the work
- Amazing results in a short period of time
- Can address all behavior issues
- Follow up support by trainer after residency
- Most expensive option
- Some programs may be lengthy
People are most familiar with group classes as a result of large, chain pet store advertising, however, this format is the least effective form of training. Residency programs are the most effective and trusted form of training amongst knowledgeable dog owners. Residencies allow for the greatest results in the shortest amount of time. If you are not sure which program to choose, contact a local trainer and set up an evaluation. A good trainer will help you pick a program that is best for you and your dog.