Is it better to go to dog training classes or take private lessons? Let’s look at some crucial questions to ask yourself…
How’s your budget?
Classes are almost always less expensive than taking private lessons. Dog trainers generally set their hourly rate and if you go with private sessions then you will be paying full freight. If you’re in a class you’re obviously sharing that hourly rate with others.
Cheaper isn’t better, but most expensive sometimes isn’t either….classes should be affordable, but cheaper classes often have many more students in them. More students could mean a lack of personal attention from the trainer.
How’s your dog?
What are your dog’s issues and what do you really want to work on? If you’ve got one burning issue and it is something that occurs at home then private sessions will give you more bang for your buck.
Classes are devised to cover a wide range of “must have” topics, so if you’ve got a dog that is barking out your living room window (easy to fix by the way), then a 6 week basic obedience class that talks briefly about barking in the first class will not be that helpful to you.
But if your issue is coming when called, then a 6 week class that does lots of work with recalls and that teaches you how to work around distractions is going to be just the thing you need.
Some dogs simply do not do well in a group setting. An unsocialized dog that whines, barks and yanks on leash, throughout the class ruins the class for other people and dogs.
A dog that stress pants, paces, drools or sheds the whole time is simply too stressed for learning. And why put a dog through that when you can accomplish what you want by training in the comfortable atmosphere of your own home?
Does your dog hate other dogs? Then the only appropriate class for your dog is a “growly dog” class in which the whole environment is set up for the safety and well-being of all the dogs.
In my 20 years of professional dog training, I’ve only had to remove about 3 dogs from class due to their severe stress reactions. The well-being of the dogs had to take priority over the desire of their owners to attend a class.
How’s your time?
Do you work shifts? It’s going to be extremely difficult for you to attend a class, because working 4-on, 4-off is not conducive to getting to a Sunday morning class each week, for 5 straight weeks.
A busy family life can really hamper class attendance. Little Susie has tap on Wednesday nights; Johnny has baseball on Saturdays; you’ve got yoga on Thursdays and your partner works weekends….now what?
Have a look at upcoming vacations – there is no point signing up for a class and then missing weeks 3 & 4 because of spring break.
Private lessons are perfectly set up for busy families. They are on your timetable – free on Friday afternoons, or Tuesday nights or Monday mornings? Any time that works for you and the trainer is going to be the perfect time to get Polly-poodle trained.
How’s your work ethic?
There is no doubt that commitment and consistency is the hardest part of dog training.
Believe me – I understand busy. It’s hard to fit dog training into your already full day. I tell class students to pick what is the most important thing to them and work on that during the really busy weeks. No dog will be fully trained in five weeks anyway – take your time and take the information gleaned from class and work on it over the next few weeks or months. You’ll get there with consistent practice.
Private sessions – I hold my private clients accountable to the homework they were given the last time I saw them. If they were to work on focus exercises for the last two weeks, when I show up at their home for the next session I expect to see what they have worked on, and to see some improvement in the dog. Otherwise they are just wasting their money.
How’s your personality? Do you dig a group vibe or are you a loner?
If you’ve ever done the Meyers-Briggs personality test then you know whether you are an Introvert or an Extrovert. Introverts are defined as people that get energy by being on their own and having quiet, contemplative time. Extroverts get energy from other people and groups of people (sometimes the more chaotic the better).
Know thyself – are you overwhelmed in group atmospheres? Do you find it hard to assimilate information when there is extraneous noise? A group class will probably drive you crazy, while private lessons will allow you to learn.
Do you need lots of one-on-one instruction to really learn or are you more of a self-starter? If you feel like you can get a few juicy tidbits of information from a group class instructor and really work with those bits then group stuff is for you.
Do you learn from watching other people? Even if you learn what NOT to do by watching your classmates, that can be useful information.
What have you decided?
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this, only what is best for you, your family and your dog. Be honest about your budget, your time, your dog, and yourself…then you’ll get the dog training that works best for you.