Editor’s note: To celebrate National Train Your Dog Month, we got together with the Association of Pet Dog Trainers to run a series of posts through January. Read others in the series: “Dog Training Is Important,” “5 Time-Saving Tips for Training Your Dog,” “How to Find the Perfect Dog Trainer,” “Train Your Dog in Nose Work,” and “I Got a Puppy I Didn’t Want — But Training Her Helped Me Grieve the Dog I’d Lost.“
In my most recent Dogster post, I talked about how to find the perfect dog trainer. I hope you were able to pick up some useful tidbits to help you in your search for great training for you and your dog. So what you can you expect next in your journey to courteous canine ownership?
Group or Private
Whether you end up in private training sessions or group classes depends on a few factors. Knowing what to expect can help you make the decision.
Private sessions are typically best suited to dogs with specific needs or goals, such as housetraining or anxiety. You may also option for private sessions when relevant group classes (such as agility or dog-dog reactivity) are not available in your area.
Group classes are well suited to training that several dogs can benefit from at once. A variety of classes can be available:
- Puppy socialization, manners, and play
- Basic, intermediate, and advanced manners as well as competition obedience
- Sports for fun or competition, such as agility, nosework, rally, and freestyle
- Feisty fido, reactive rover, or growly dog classes for dogs who are aggressive or reactive toward other dogs or toward people
- Shy dog or wallflower classes for the less confident canine
- Classes where dogs earn certificates indicating specific sets of skills or behaviors, such as Canine Life and Social Skills (APDT’s C.L.A.S.S.), Canine Good Citizen (AKC’s CGC), and pet therapy
Group classes typically take place in dog training facilities or outdoor community parks, but can also be held in animal shelters, community center basements, or any large space where dogs are welcome.
Private sessions typically take place at your home, but can be held at training facilities, shelters, veterinary clinics, or any agreed upon location appropriate for your needs, such as an outdoor café or a park.
When it comes to dog training, the adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily apply. In general, rates are higher in urban areas, where training may be more concentrated and in demand. The only way to really know what to expect is by researching rates in your area. With private sessions, rates are often hourly or by the session, with packages available.
Private sessions are often more convenient for location and scheduling, and can be customized to what you and your dog need. Private sessions are excellent options if group classes aren’t available, if your needs are relevant to your own home (such as aggression on the couch), if your pet gets carsick, or if your dog is just not ready (or happy!) being out in public.
Group classes on the other hand are often a flat rate for a specific number of classes, or they may be set up as “drop in” or single sessions, pre-pay for a block of classes, or pay as you go. They are typically less tailored to your specific needs than private sessions, but are also less expensive. And never under estimate the benefits of getting your pet out and about are priceless and exactly what the doctor ordered.
When it comes to all dog training, your time commitment depends on the severity of your dog’s issue, the skill of your trainer, and how much homework you put in. Group classes typically last six to eight weeks, with one hour of class per week. Private sessions typically last one hour, with the number and frequency of classes varying widely.
In both cases, you will be expected to do “homework” with your dog for best and fastest results. But keep in mind: Modifying extreme behavior (such as aggression), will require much smaller steps depending on the severity of the issue. Most, but not all, issues can be resolved in a few sessions. Some take time.
This is the biggest “it depends” component of all! Like with any services — whether it be a doctor, realtor, or even a personal trainer — your results will be influenced by the skill of the professional and your available resources.
If you choose a great trainer, you will be much more likely to get optimal results — and get them quickly. Likewise, having (or making) available time, space, or money will affect the outcome. Laying a strong foundation of quality training, effective communication, realistic expectations, and solid commitment is the best way resolve the vast majority of training needs.
And in 2013, APDT urges you to resolve to celebrate Train Your Dog Month every month!