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What to Look for in an Online Dog Training Class

OnlineDogTrainingCover, Online Dog Training, What To Look For In An Online Dog Training Class, Dog Resting His Head On His Owner's Laptop

Since the COVID-19 pandemic inspired many dog trainers to take their course offerings online,  we have seen an explosion of online dog training classes.

With so many options at your fingertips, choosing the right online training program can be overwhelming – there are online courses available to every dog owner, from new puppy owners to seasoned dog trainers.

We have already looked at some reasons to love online dog training classes, but how can you ensure you choose the right course? Training is an investment, so you want to do your research.

Let’s explore some of the ways that you can narrow down the right online dog training class for you.

Is Online Dog Training Effective?

I have taught in-person classes and private training sessions for two decades. And while I have taken online classes for my own study, most of the classes I have taken with my dogs have been in person.

My perspective was skewed toward in-person classes because that was my experience. I have not had as much personal experience with general online dog training

Woman and puppy looking at a laptop for online dog training courses

So, I reached out to a few people I knew who had taken classes and to a few trainers who teach online.

I met a number of people in some Facebook dog groups who told me that with online classes, they were more relaxed working with their hyperactive or reactive dogs.

So both the dog and the human could stay more calm and more focused throughout their class.

Jill Hassevoort, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, is the owner and trainer of Jack and Jill Professional Dog Training, LLC, and all of her private training and classes are virtual. She has found virtual training more effective: 

“We know that dogs and humans learn best when they feel comfortable. Online training allows you and your dog to begin your training journey from the comfort of your home environment and sets you up for success to learn new skills without having to worry about what’s going on around you.”

I used to tell my students that they came to class so I could teach them. They would teach their dogs at home and then proof it the following week in class once they had done the initial work. But Jill is combining these steps with her approach.

I also often take the leash of my student’s dogs to show them how to teach a specific exercise. Jill has found that without being able to do this, training becomes more efficient.

“The biggest benefit is that we don't lose time transferring skills from trainer to guardian. When we work in person, we're tempted to take the leash and demonstrate with the dog first, then hand things back to the guardian,... With virtual training, we skip that first part and go right into building the handler's confidence and skill, and that's much more efficient.”

Two types of dog training classes: online and in-person

Another colleague wondered if the humans would do the training outside of class. But honestly, that is an issue dog trainers have to deal with no matter how they present their info. 

Those taking any dog training class must realize that the more they put into the class, the more they will get out of it.

When I asked Jill about obstacles she has encountered while teaching online, she says that sometimes the tech doesn’t always keep up. But she has found many workarounds when that happens, including sharing videos that students can review after their online lesson.

Online Dog Courses Mean You Get More Options

A friend of mine lived in a rural area of Michigan when he got his dog. I encouraged him to find a class, but unfortunately, he had no good options within driving distance.

I have also met novice dog owners at ClickerExpo, an exposition focusing on the science and application of training with a clicker (or marker). They couldn’t find local clicker trainers to coach them, so they came to the expo to learn more about training their own dogs!

3 things to consider when looking for a dog trainer. Quote on an image of a woman using clicker to train her dog.

Looking at online programs available now is almost overwhelming! Gone are the days when you were limited to trainers within driving distance. 

With such a vast array of choices, it is essential to do your homework to make sure the virtual training you invest in is the best choice for you and your dog.

What Are Your Dog Training Goals?

With so many options available, you need to determine your dog training goals.

Are you looking for basic training? Do you have a puppy or an adult? Is your main goal to get your dog housetrained?

Suppose you are more focused on a specific behavior. In that case, you might get frustrated by a basic training class and prefer private training. 

What To Look For In An Online Dog Trainer

Whether you are trying to find a trainer to work with online or in person, my advice is: to never pay for a class until you do your research.

3 things to consider when looking for a dog trainer

First, you want to ask a trainer what methods they use. You want to make sure that the trainer you use is well-versed in a method you are comfortable with and avoid trainers using outdated methods.

The dog training field is unregulated, so you want to be sure that the trainer you use is well-educated in the science of learning and how to apply it.

I am a positive reinforcement trainer (where the core of my programs are based on the principle of positive reinforcement) and advocate. However, if you work with a trainer who claims to use positive reinforcement but doesn’t know how to use it correctly, you may think it doesn’t work for your dog.

Read the trainer biographies. While there are no universal certifications, a trainer who has earned their Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed has worked a minimum of 300 hours and passed an exam.

There are also more thorough certifications that require more thorough study and application, such as what I consider to be the gold standard, the Karen Pryor Academy.

And lastly, read their website or social media accounts. Most trainers I know will offer some free advice on their website or blog. You can get a great feel for a trainer by reading their advice.

What To Look For In An Online Class

One of an online program’s most significant benefits is access to videos and articles. Training can be overwhelming, so being able to refresh the steps of each exercise during a training session with your dog takes a lot of stress out of that session. 

But in addition to these tools, you want to make sure any online class you take has an interactive component. That could mean live class sessions where you can interact with the trainer and other students.

Or one-on-one coaching to tweak any skills that you may be struggling with. E-mail support and online chat rooms with other class students are also great options.

Online Dog Trainer Reviews

Reviews are powerful. How many of us go to Amazon simply to read a product’s reviews before purchasing something? It is helpful to hear about other people’s real-life experiences with a product or service before making our own investment.

Keep in mind most trainer websites will only post their positive reviews. And while that is a good place to start, you want to dig deeper. Google reviews are a great place to check.  But you can also ask people on online forums for personal experiences. 

Some Yellow Flags

Beware some online training schools with slick websites that overpromise and make it hard to locate pricing.

Another trick of the trade is sites that promise you a free seminar that will solve many of your problems as long as you submit your e-mail. I signed up for a few of those as I was looking at different online training sites, and they are just trying to get your info for marketing.

The videos have no more info than you could find in a web search. Although they tell you that if you sign up for their program, all of your problems will be solved.

Yellow Flags to watch out for when looking for an online dog training class

A Special Word About Puppy Classes

Most in-person puppy classes include free play time for socialization purposes. So, are online classes creating a social deficit for our puppies?

Actually, proper socialization is confused with puppy playtime too often. While puppy play, when done correctly, can provide some behavioral benefits, there are so many more things we need to be doing to help grow confident puppies.

When looking for an online puppy program, check with the trainer to see how they address proper socialization, as it is one of the most important aspects of puppy training.

Socialization needs to include proper exposure to different sights, sounds, surfaces, and people, to name a few. So a skilled trainer could coach you through proper social experiences in the real world.

Authors

  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

    devene@dogtrainingnewbie.com Godau Devene
  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

    morgan@dogtrainingnewbie.com Messick Morgan

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