Clients ask me if I have a preference for teaching private lessons or group classes. My first response was something along the lines of “Well, I really like both.” But, I could see by the look on his face he wanted a bit more detail. As with everything in life, there are potential pros and cons to group classes and private lessons. And of course, we each have personal preferences. I know plenty of trainers who don’t offer group classes because they have such a strong preference for private lessons, and vice versa. I continued by explaining that the dynamic of a group class can be exhilarating. I love the variety of students all in one place and the challenge of helping each dog/handler team. I also find that students can greatly benefit from each other’s presence (as a source of encouragement, enthusiasm, support, and just a pinch of good natured competition).
Private dog obedience training classes, on the other hand, are conducted with just one dog. While every dog is different, there are certain advantages to private dog training classes. Unlike group classes, with private lessons you are not locked into a specific time for your classes. The most easily found group classes are run on a part time basis by pet stores. This means that you often have only a few class times to choose from. If your schedule is busy with work, kids, and/or home responsibilities, your schedule might not match up with the pet store's schedule. By scheduling private dog obedience training classes, you can usually find a time that is mutually convenient for both you and the trainer.
Of course, teaching group classes can at times be more challenging than some private lessons. There may be an especially vocal dog in class, or a person who is already beyond frustrated once they arrive at the first class and on the brink of giving up. These situations require special attention that is balanced with providing equal time to each other student. It requires the ability to temporarily veer off from a set curriculum and then get back to it so that everyone in class benefits as much as possible. While some might see these sorts of situations as distractions, I believe that even if some of the students are not dealing with a particular issue (such as a dog who barks excessively) they will benefit from hearing how to handle it. Group classes generally only cover the most common commands that every dog needs to learn. If your dog has a particular issue, you have to hope that it is common enough to be covered in a group class. If not, your dog will have to go without.
In general, group classes are especially advisable for puppies as they provide an invaluable opportunity for the pups to learn in the presence of other dogs. This means they develop the skill to focus on their owners and play with other dogs when allowed to. Trainer moderated puppy play in group classes is a valuable part of a pup’s education.
Private classes can be customized to your and your dog's special needs. Classes can cover those lessons your dog needs to learn and skip those lessons your dog already knows or are not applicable to your situation. For example, if your dog knows the basic commands like sit, and stay, the trainer can skip those commands. If your dog, on the other hand, has some behavioral issues, like barking, jumping, biting, or aggressiveness with other dogs, a training plan can be customized to specifically address those unique issues.
Private lessons can be a terrific way to help someone get started with training, especially when there is a need for concentrated work on specific issues such as separation anxiety, fear, or aggression. But, even for new puppy parents, we often suggest a private lesson or two prior to enrolling in a puppy kindergarten class. This way they can get started with effective management, handling exercises and teaching manners asap. One of the positives of private lessons, working in a fairly non-distracting environment, may eventually become a bit of a drawback. Once the dog/handler team has developed a good training foundation, working in a classroom setting around other dogs and their people can be a superb way to begin to practice around a variety of distractions that are still somewhat controlled.
As is true with most things in life, there are trade-offs. Private lessons offer some very specific advantages over group lessons. Your dog can be trained with customized training at a pace that will ensure the effectiveness of the training. Your dog will be trained in an environment with minimal distractions that could disrupt training and instill bad habits. Finally, the training classes can be fit to your schedule.
Advantages to One-On-One Training
How does it work?
Step 1. Initial consult. Quick phone consultation to discuss the problem behaviors and prioritize them according to your training goals.
Step 2. The training. We meet for subsequent private dog training sessions and work with you and your dog for 1 hour. You learn what is maintaining your dog’s bad behavior and what needs to be done to change it.
Prerequisites: For dogs & puppies 14 weeks and up.
Duration: As many as needed
Payment: After pressing the submit button you will be taken to a
confirmation page where you can prepay for your class. If you choose
to pay by check, please note that all classes must be prepaid prior to the
start date unless otherwise arranged.
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