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Tuesday, Oct. 22nd 2013

Group Classes vs. Private Sessions (Dog Training)

OK, so my dog training business offers both group and private instruction… and some of my clients are confused on which is best for them and their dog… Well I am not only going to tell you about the differences but also things to consider when choosing a training option for you and your dog…
Let’s start off with group classes… Most are taught on an ongoing basis, usually once a week for a period of time, commonly 6-8 weeks in duration ( mine last upwards of 20 weeks but you gotta call me to get details J) They tend to focus on basics and are geared toward basic obedience. This is because of the fact that multiple dogs attend the class and that there is usually not time to get too specific on personal issues or requests… They also tend to be cheaper due to the fact that with multiple students in the class the trainer can charge less.
Private training is usually (but not always) held in your home so that the trainer can see issues where they happen… This gives the trainer and the client the opportunity to work on skills and problem behaviors where they occur naturally. These sessions also allow for more one on one time with the trainer and along with time to ask questions and see and practice techniques with the trainer individually. Keep in mind since the trainer is coming to you and the training is one on one the cost of these session are usually quite a bit more expensive…
All of this being said, for me the main difference or way to choose the right option for you comes down to what you are trying to accomplish… If you have specific problem behaviors or issues you want to address or correct with your dog then private sessions are probably your best choice. While if you are wanting to learn basic obedience or train preventatively (before problem behaviors crop up) then a group class is most likely the best choice… Now let’s look at one of the common mistakes folks make when choosing a training option for their dog:
·         They consider nothing but price and not what they are really wanting to accomplish… Many times folks will try to force a round peg in a square peg  only because it is cheaper and expect to let’s say deal with dog-dog aggression in group class because of cost and figuring that 6 weeks of training is better than a 1 hour private in home session.
·         Reality is that a private session is actually better because of the one on one time allows the trainer to teach the client techniques individually needed to improve behavior… They then leave practice up to the client between sessions and offer guidance and follow up in future sessions.
·         Choosing the wrong sessions actually creates poor customer service for everyone involved… If a dog like this signs up for a group class, that dog will bark continually throughout class creating havoc not only for you and the trainer but also the other dogs in the class. In fact in many cases dogs like this are asked to leave class which helps no one…
·         Trainers should discuss fully and upfront their expectations for the dogs in their group classes but at times the lack of communication comes from the trainer not the client… Discuss the options and what happens if your dog is disruptive in a group class? For example I will always credit the amount spent for a group class to private sessions if I feel that is the best choice for the dog and owner… After all they can always sign back up for the group class once we get some of the basics and leadership down…

In the end this issue as well as all others in life are solved with communication and realistic expectations! As I have said before there are not magic pills or Jedi mind tricks in dog training there is only hard work, consistency and frequency of practice… So the moral to this story, ask a ton of questions and make sure to talk to at least 3-5 trainers before making up your mind on method, cost and which trainer you will choose for your furry four legged friend… 
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